Mapping your garden to plan for a better harvest

April 25 | Guest post by Renee

Renee is a long-time urban homesteader from Portland, and as homesteaders know: you need to PLAN if you're going to harvest.

We moved into our homestead back in 2006 when it was just a blank canvas of lawn, with a couple old rose bushes here and there. After six years of major landscape changes, it's about time I got around to making a decent planting plan of the homestead.

I used AutoCAD to create the above plan showing what we currently have growing on our 1/10 of an acre city lot. What isn't shown on the plan are the ground covers. We have flowering bulbs and tubers like crocuses, alliums, tulips, daffodils and irises. There are also swaths of lamb's ear, euphorbia and perennial herbs that I cut and divide each season to slowly carpet the ground. Any bare spots by late spring get filled in with vegetables like potatoes, squash, etc.

I've spent many long hours distracting myself with dreams of our perfect planting plan. Our homestead is filled with edibles, but this dream plan packs it even fuller. It is a real challenge to keep the plant palette small when you are a plant lover, so my list is a little too long. However, there is still some good repetition to keep some sense of consistency in the garden.

The above plan is harder to read, but created with Illustrator. Sadly, this is a plan that will probably never come to full fruition. It's fun to dream about, but I just don't see myself having an extra $2,000 bucks laying around to actually fill the garden out according to plan. That said, having a loose plan keeps me on track with a few things. It prevents me from picking up random plants at the nursery that are not already on my palette list. It also helps me know where to plant new additions as I get them.

How do you map your garden beds?

  1. For me, mapping our garden was one of the first things I did after moving into out new home. I'm been dreaming of a permaculture garden with forest garden elements for years, and since it was too early to actually do anything yet (february), drawing a map kept my enthusiasm up and prepared me for spring.

    So this spring, I decided to do the part of the garden where the veggie patch would be, and MAYBE do the herb spiral. I was able to get straw for free from a neighbor and I made a list of plants I wanted for my birthday, so I won't have to pay for all of them, at least. Whenever it makes sense, I prefer to grow my plants from seeds (some future ground covers), which saves tons of money.

    This autumn I'll probably get most of the fruit trees and bushes, and next year I might do the part where the pond will be, or maybe the part where the PawPaw tree will be… We'll see. There's lots of time. :)

    Anyway, enough talk. I'll just show you my plan – I scribbled this in a drawing program.
    It's in Spanish (and part German), but this is what my rough layout looks like: http://img189.imageshack.us/img189/2971/jardinl.jpg

    And here's as far as I'm now: http://img803.imageshack.us/img803/9996/img4683e.jpg
    Now it's ready for planting!

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  2. I love it! That helps it mean you don't need $2000 all at once to get it done, you can just buy whatever you can when you have the money for it and fill in as you go along. Maybe something like this would help me convince my future mother-in-law that she doesn't need to FIND something to buy just because we have an extra pot sitting around…

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  3. Last year we took possession of our house in March, which meant a mad scramble to rip up our yard while moving/painting/etc. so we didn't plan our garden at all and just put seedlings in as they were ready (some went in waaay too late).

    This year I've been trying to plan my garden for months, but this is my first time doing it and I'm completely intimidated! There's just too much to think about in terms of successional planting, rotating crops so they're not in the same place as last year, companion planting, and then figuring out how to compensate for the fact that some of our seedlings are thriving and some are certainly not, so I won't actually know numbers until later.

    However, this post is inspiring me to open up Illustrator and just do my best! We also need a plan for the back yard, which will forever be mulch since our dog tore up the grass immediately. Lots of potential regardless!

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  4. Oh how I would love to get organized enough to do this. Im lucky enough to have a HUGE backyard, but have only managed a dismal few square meters of veggie garden and a few bare (mulched) beds with nothing planted in. So, im spending this winter (Australia) drawing up a plan and when the weather fines im gunna make a start. Thanks for the extremely pretty inspiration

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  5. Now I so wish we had a garden… it looks really great and so many edibles packed on a piece of land! Inspirational.

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  6. Thank you! We take possession of our new house next week. It's far too late to get everything started for this year (that, and since we're also getting married this year, major gardening projects are not high up on the priority list), but this is definitely inspiring me to make a plan for next year.

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    • Heya Kim! I so hear you. We're taking possession in 2 1/2 weeks (!!!), getting married later this year, and planning to start small and dream big with our garden. I need to draw a map too!

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