Some of you have asked how we designed, planned, and built the potager this past spring, despite navigating our move between GA, SC, and NC. The simple answer is, we just did it – with me being the dreamy, design and flower girl, and my other half being the practical engineer and veg guy. This post outlines a series of "steps" we went through that we think you could easily do the same to make your dream garden into a reality!
1. Get Oriented: Use Your Compass and Follow the Sun
Whether you live in a house with a yard (front/back/side) or an apartment with a balcony or sunny windowsill, get familiar with when and for how long the sun reaches the area where you will plant your future garden. The amount of sun exposure the area receives will greatly influence your plant selection and dramatically affect their happiness. For example, mint will thrive best in an area with afternoon shade, while your thyme and oregano won't even skip a beat under the hot, southern sun for hours on end.
If you have a smart phone, the compass app will quickly tell you where you are directionally. In general, south-facing areas of your living space will receive stronger and more direct sunlight, while north-facing areas will likely be shaded all day. As the sun rises from East to West, you will see your east-facing areas receive more sun in the morning, and west-facing areas with more sun and heat in the afternoon.
Beyond getting the general directions, you WILL want to spend a day on a weekend and follow the sun every few hours. Stand where you plan on growing your plants and vegetables and jot down how it feels and how intense the light is – that will give you a good idea of what will thrive there when you're ready to pick your plants!
2. Break out your measuring tape and notepad.
Now that you've gotten your orientation down, it's time to decide on the size you want to work with. I firmly believe in starting small – an impactful 4'x4' will forever be more enjoyable than a 10'x20' that you don't end up filling or being able to take care of. The same goes for a windowsill or a balcony. I will just admit it now, I am a lazy gardener. The fewer pots to clean between seasons, the better. For container gardeners, think about whether you want a few large pots or many small pots. Remember, you might have to move some of your plants and flowers inside to overwinter.
3. Dream On: It's All About You
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” ―
With so many plant choices all around us, the best rule of thumb is to go with what makes you happy.
Have you always wanted a green area that's an extension to your living space, where you can have your morning coffee and catch up on the day with your partner? Or is it a balcony you've been looking forward to sprucing up? What about that empty or weeds-laden strip beside your house where you'd rather see veggies growing? Whatever your dream landscape may be, jot it down. They key here is, have fun and focus on ideas that you and your family will enjoy.
4. Embrace Your Inner Copy Cat, and Artist!
Go ahead and pin all your dream garden pics on Pinterest, follow a few Instagram gardeners (ahem... @the_cuttinggarden), or walk around your local nursery and home improvement stores to take note of what you like, what you don't, and their prices!
If you're a hands-on kind of person like me, even better – break out your pen and colour pencils and draw it out, perhaps with your partner, children, or friends over wine or beer.
The key here is, find what floats your boat. Play and have fun with it.
You will likely go through multiple iterations, sometimes for multiple seasons and years. Through the years, I've gone from cut flowers to vegetables and back to flowers again, from a cottage-esque style to a structured, monochromatic perennial sensibility.
Part II: Helpful Tools & Resources
We live in an age of abundant choices and ubiquitous information at our fingertips anytime anywhere. So how does one get started exactly? I'm a forever planner, researcher, and experimenter — scouring through the internet for resources is second nature. However, I know that it could be daunting to start from nothing. In my next post, I will share a list of resources including a planting spreadsheet that will help get you started right away!