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Garden Planning

Since the beginning, I’ve been pondering the long term options for laying out the garden. Permaculture requires some long term planning ahead, so that plants are placed where they will thrive and grouped in ways that allow them to help each other.This week, I decided to go ahead and start sketching out a visible plan to make it easier to think through those larger design elements. I created this layout by taking the Google Maps satellite image of our house to get the dimensions and angles of the lot and house just right, as well as the locations of some of the trees. It was an OLD image, so several things have changed, but the oak trees, grapefruit, loquat, and tangelo were all on the old image. And I estimated the location for the fence, the peach tree, our three crepe myrtles and the little avocado seedling, and placed them accordingly.

The total size of our homesite is a quarter of an acre. Most of the front yard is fairly shady, getting filtered light just about all day. The exceptions are the area to the left of our driveway, the area to the far right of the yard between the fence and the street, at the curb down at the street corner. Most of the backyard is sunny, with full sun at least 6 hours of the day. The fence itself shades things about an hour longer than before it was installed, and the grapefruit and tangelo trees both give some shade, but overall it’s very sunny.

My vegetables so far have been focused in the upper right and upper left corners, since they were big areas with full sun and little existing vegetation to clear out. Heading into the summer, I’ll be expanding into a few more areas so I can add our warm weather veggies without needing to rip out what’s growing already.

Watering is easiest if I stick to the back yard, so I don’t have to drag the hoses back and forth. Anything outside the fence will need to be extremely drought tolerant. With that said, for this summer I’m considering planting my sweet potatoes past the fence along the street – they are drought tolerant once established, and that spot gets the sun they want, and would be improved visually by the lush ground cover sweet potatoes provide.

Cowpeas (also called Southern peas and crowder beans – a heat loving family of legume that includes blackeye peas) are drought tolerant, partial shade tolerant, and can grow in ridiculously poor soils – so I’m thinking of putting them in the corner of the backyard below the bean and tomato bed, at the lower right corner of the fence, where there is some shade from the grapefruit tree and the soil is extremely sandy. They should do better in that spot than anything else will this year. I love blackeye peas but I’m eager to try some new varieties, so I’ve purchased seeds for two types that come highly recommended (Purple Hull and Mississippi Silver) to sample some variety.

To the left of the bean and tomato bed, there’s an oddly shaped area of full sun before you reach the corner of the back patio where I think I may grow a few calabazas (a sub tropical curcurbit sometimes called “Mexican pumpkin) to extend my squash growing season.

To the far left of our house, I may try growing some peanuts, but I’ll have to keep an eye out in the next few weeks to see if there’s enough sunlight there. The tangelo shades some of the yard there at different points during the day, and lower down the fenceline, between the fence and the house, the yard is shaded alternately by the house and then by the fence. It’s full blazing sun in the middle of the day, but I’m not yet sure how many hours, and that will be the deciding factor. (If not there, I’ll pick a spot in the front yard for peanuts).

In the front yard, I eventually want to plant attractive perennials between the curb and the house. I’ll probably mix in edible plants and ornamentals – perhaps some fruit trees, blackberry brambles, and butterfly friendly perennials like lantana and porterweed. I will mostly look at low maintenance options for the front yard.

But I make an exception for the pathway from the driveway to the front porch – I hope to put in a little herb bed there. That way, I’ll be able to run out to snip herbs for dinner without tracking through the sandy back yard (it’s impossible for me to step out of my back door without getting my shoes and feet covered in sand). I’ll dig part of it lower and build part of it higher to accommodate the differing water needs. I’m thinking through the design for it now but I’m optomistic that I’ll be able to blend it in with the existing plants and the curve of the sidewalk in an attractive and functional way. And it’s close enough to the house that I expect watering by hand to be a fairly easy task.

These are mostly the short term plans, but they get me planning for the summer and working to expand the areas of viable soil in the garden (as I’ll build up more and more areas with manure, compost, leaves, mulch, and coffee grounds). As time goes on, I’ll add more fruit trees and perennial edibles and find a good system for rotating the seasonal veggies in and out of available space.

Those are my thoughts so far. 🙂

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