Friday, 22 February 2013

How To Go From Lawn To Garden In 5 (Easy?) Steps...

I have blogged before about how to make a fabulous potager, aka kitchen garden, from scratch....

But this post is different.

This post breaks it down into just 5 basic steps.
I would like to say easy, but of course it is not.
It is labour intensive and back breaking work to get it all set up and the super hard part (I always find) is making all those decisions.

So, here goes...

Step #1

Decide on the overall lay out of your potager

This is the hardest part...
Figure out where all your hardscaping is going... the pathways, the raised beds, garden beds, fences, garden shed, pillars, posts, trellises for grapes, pergolas to sit under and enjoy the view, fountains, ponds, etc.. any structural stuff that you want to add to make your garden work for you.

Make it work according to your lifestyle and how you intend to use the space... want a place to sit and enjoy the setting sun? Create a seating area that faces west. Want to soak up the morning rays with your cuppa java? Plan for a space that fits a small table and chairs, with no trees in the way to block your morning sun.

Even if you do not build everything in the first year, maybe it is a 3 year or even 5 year plan, if you have planned for it, you will have the space and place for it when you are ready to go.


Step #2

Build your garden beds... whether you decide to go with formal raised beds, or informal ones made by mounding the soil, or maybe you decide to dig down deep, adding good garden loam and removing the existing hardpan, rock, or clay soil.
Whichever style you choose, the planting depth needs to be at least 12" deep but as much as 24" if you can.
12" is enough for most fruiting shrubs and also for root crops such as carrots which need at least 10" of loose friable (crumbly) soil in order to grow straight and long. Also allows you to hill potatoes and grow asparagus.
Invest in good quality garden loam. Please do not skimp here, this is not the place to save money. If you go cheap you will pay and pay for years to come. Amending poor soil takes years, lots of money and is extremely frustrating as nothing grows well until you have finally amended with loads of organic matter.

Step #3

Plant your perennial kitchen garden plants.
This requires some thought as they will be there for a really long time.

These guys add the 'bones' to your garden, pull it together and make it look fabulous.

This includes your ..
- fruit trees .. apples, pears, cherries, plums....
- fruiting shrubs and vines ... blueberries, grapes, currants, gooseberries, rhubarb, raspberries...
- perennial vegetables that come back year after year, like asparagus, artichokes,  horseradish..
- herbs ... most herbs are perennial in our garden zone (7) and so will remain usable throughout a good portion of the year.

You can also add strawberries to this step, even though they are not actually perennial and will need to be replaced every 3 years. It still is wise to plant for them, if you like to grow them, eat them and jam them.

Do not plant fruits and veggies that you/your family does not like to eat! Everyone else in the family prefers strawberry jam while you like raspberry? It is much cheaper to buy a few raspberries or an occasional jar of jam than it is to plant a row of raspberry shrubs... and is a waste of space that can be used for something everyone actually enjoys eating!

Step #4

Plant some perennial flowers

Some folks will want to skip this step.
I say, please plant some lovely colourful flowers that will bring in lots of bees to pollinate your fruits and vegetables, plus add fragrance, beauty and ambiance to your lovely new landscape.

Plant some fragrant roses by the sitting area to enjoy while you sip your wine, some dianthus, irises, daffodils, etc.. to add early colour to your garden, some echinacea to add long lasting summer colour. Monarda brings in hummingbirds and butterflies, yarrow brings in the good bugs that eat the bad bugs, plus butterflies and hummers.

Step #5

Plant your annual edibles, herbs, and flowers

Again, plant mostly what you like to eat, leaving a bit of room to trial a few new things each year (to find new favourites).
No point in wasting space by growing broccoli if the family hates it, grow lots of peas, beans, carrots, or corn instead.

Some herbs are annuals, like dill, cilantro, basil... plant those from seed or starter plants.

Add annual flowers to bring in pollinators and the good bugs like lady bugs to eat your bad bugs and keep it organic. They also add colour and are great for a cutting garden, to bring blooms indoors. My faves are marigolds for pest repelling, gladiolus, dahlias, and zinnias for fall colour, nicotiana for scent and hummingbirds, and nasturtiums for companion planting and pretty colour.



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