I love this time of year for so many reasons — cozy fires, soups and stews for dinner, and a wee bit of a lull in my gardening activity. You read that right — although I love gardening, I appreciate these slower times of year because they give me a much-needed opportunity to make some plans for next year’s garden. Sometimes new garden features and ideas need a little time to think through and plan out — not something easily accomplished when you’re in the thick of garden season. So sit back, and arm yourself with paper and pencil, garden books and magazines; we’re getting it done.
10 Easy Steps to Plan Your Spring Garden Design
1.Take stock. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again, and again. You can’t plan and create a truly unforgettable and successful garden if you don’t take the time to figure out where you’ve been, what worked, what didn’t, why it didn’t work, and what your goals are moving forward. Beautiful and healthy gardens don’t just happen — so make a list of things you didn’t like this past year, put some thought into how you can do them differently, and then create action plan.
2. Add Dimension & Variety. If you started with an in-ground garden, you now know the pros and cons of growing in your soil. You may have to amend your soil quite a bit, you may have battled some of those digging critters more, or you might have been limited on what you could grow in your soil type. Raise those garden beds! This is a great time to look at incorporating raised beds into your garden, you can control the soil composition, perhaps improve drainage, and add in barriers to deter those diggers. Shrubs and trees are another great addition, offering a perfect backdrop to your dazzling flower display and give the eye a place to rest. Reach for those evergreen shrubs and trees recommended for your area that can naturally coexist with the growing requirements of your flowers. Ornamental grasses add a contrast of texture and form, while adding in flowers with new color schemes and can introduce a new mood to your garden!
3. Create More Space. Do you need more space? Go vertical. Look at your fence or areas that are being underutilized and go up! You can use hanging pots, felt bags, or you can get creative and repurpose rain gutters in which to grow. If you had some plants that got too much sun last season, put up an arch or trellis and grow some sun-loving plants over them. You will give them some shade and increase your garden yield, not to mention add some beautiful, bountiful height to your garden.
4. Get Efficient. After a season or two or three, you start to know where you want to spend your time and where you have to. The offseason is a great time to add in time savers. You can incorporate better water usage and distribution systems into your garden, with drip systems that are on timers or raise up one area so the water trickles into another, or add rain barrels and water capture areas. How about your compost? If you don’t have one, this is a great time to make space for one. You’ve probably accumulated quite a few garden tools that you would like to have handy. This is a great time to add in outside storage with a small (or not so small) shed.
5. Perk Up the Pollinators. Gardens grow faster, stronger, and have higher yields when there are plenty of pollinators present. Entice those beautiful pollinators into your garden with food and water. Look at planting just for your pollinators; bring in flowers and plants that will attract and keep pollinators around. Don’t forget about all of those good bugs that help keep the bad bugs away! Plant for them as well. Water is not only important for your plants but your pollinators need to be hydrated too. Add in some water features that will add purpose and beauty to your garden.
6. Extend Your Season. In planning your garden for next year, going bigger is great but how about going longer? This is a great time to research how you can extend your garden season by growing different plants at varying times, rotating your garden a bit more, or by making room around your garden beds to incorporate cold weather cover. In your planning, also look at adding in cold frames, lean-to’s, or other smaller structures to keep your plants protected for expected and unexpected weather changes.
7. Plan Your Offseason. Gardening doesn’t stop when there are no more plants to tend to. Plan out how you are going to better utilize next offseason. The offseason is a great time to enrich and amend your soil. What does your soil need that it doesn’t have now? In the offseason, you can work on getting your soil the nutrients and minerals it needs to create the perfect environment for microbes to flourish. It’s also a good idea to incorporate different types of plants like flowering shrubs and ornamental trees that will bloom throughout the year, not just in the spring. This will give you something to enjoy during the offseason while you plan your big comeback!
8. Get crafty. Don’t worry, it’s not too crafty. I use graph paper with ¼” squares, tracing paper, a soft pencil, and an eraser. That’s it. Now go to town drawing out new garden beds, bed extensions, and garden features. Your scale can be ¼” = 1’ (that’s what I use in my professional designs) — just be sure to make notes of where existing trees and other structures are, how the sun rises and sets, and any other information that will help you plan. Now you know how large your bed will be, where plants will go, and how many plants to order/buy.
9. Create a Pinterest board. I do this all the time, for myself and for every design client. I search for plants that I like, garden features, materials, color schemes, and layout options. Use it for inspiration, knowing that the final product will likely look different that what you started out planning. Remember to give the board a name like “New Garden 2019” rather than simply “Gardening” — you won’t ever remember where you pinned that fabulous rock garden or rose image if everything goes onto generic boards.
10. Get some paint. Landscaper’s marking paint, that is. It’s an inverted spray paint can available in the spray paint section of the home improvement store, and it allows you to spray out the lines of new beds and features. This is a great option if you are very visual and need to see something in real time and space. What looks fabulous on paper often winds up being way too small, too large, or impractical in real life, so take a trip out to the garden and spray away! Then step back and make any necessary adjustments. When you’re happy with the final layout, measure and take notes so you won’t forget.