Do-it-yourself (or DIY) garden design seems like a daunting task, but that’s not really the case. It is relatively easy to plan a healthy vegetable garden yourself. Here are some tips for the budding garden designer:
Use the tools that you’re familiar with. There are a lot of new computer tools you can use for do-it-yourself garden design. While using these tools has its benefits, only stick to the tools that you know. If you prefer to design your garden on graphing paper with a pencil, go with that. By using design tools that you know, you’re lowering the learning curve and you spend more time actually designing your garden instead of learning how to use a new tool.
Know your priorities. When designing your own garden landscape, it’s important to know your priorities. What do you value the most: accessibility, plant health, aesthetics, conserving water, or variety? List your priorities in order. This list will guide you when you need to make tough decisions, such as choosing between the fruits and vegetables you eat the most or the ones that are the most pleasing to the eye.
Plan in terms of zones. In permaculture, they have a concept known as “growing zones” which allow you to design proper plant placement in your garden. Zone 1, or the zone within a few feet of your doorstep, should be the place for the plants you need to visit everyday – whether it’s because they need more maintenance or you use them a lot in your home. Zone 2 is for plants that also need a lot of attention, but not as much as those in Zone 1. These may include fruit-bearing trees, trellises, and vegetables that you don’t need to harvest regularly.
Think outside the “box”. Stop thinking of vegetable plots and garden sections as squares or rectangles. Although these shapes are more practical to plan and easy for the beginner, there are other types of shapes that give you the most workable gardening area. For example, a “keyhole” plot is a circular patch with a narrow path going into the center, which is vacant. That narrow path and vacant center is enough for you to tend to the plants and harvest their fruit. At the same time, you’re conserving surface area since you don’t need a longer walkable path to reach the plants.
By using familiar tools, knowing your priorities, and being creative, you can come up with a good DIY garden design that you’ll be proud of. Hopefully, it will also provide you with healthy, delicious produce for several years.