When starting a new garden or growing project it is very tempting to get stuck in, clearing the ground and start planting. However time spent early on considering the design can save a lot of effort later, whether it is simply deciding where to put individual plants or something more substantial like the positioning of a greenhouse. Using plans, sketches or notes we can look at the scheme as a whole, allowing us to assess how well things will work together.
Understanding the basic process can help all of us achieve our goals no matter what our skills or experience.
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is represented as a circle with one stage informing the next, recognising that
any successful design, particularly one involving plants and natural systems,
will be constantly evolving, allowing for the inevitable tweaks and adaptations
Observation – This is a crucial first step and involves gathering as much information as possible about your plot. A base map is useful noting what grows where and any significant features. It is good to make observations throughout the year to understand microclimate and also what parts are shady and how this changes with the seasons. You will also want to assess what the soil is like and possibly undertake some more detailed analysis.
Evaluation – Review your observations and consider other issues like resources – not just financial but also materials, knowledge, experience, time and energy both physical and mental. Also consider any challenges that you may have identified and set out your goals. Are there specific plants that you are looking to grow? Are you looking to be self-sufficient in vegetables or fruit? Create a garden for wildlife and biodiversity? You may also have other priorities like; low maintenance, regenerative, aesthetically pleasing, drought resistant and productive.
Plan – This is the stage to develop the design and make decisions about where you are going to place things. It is a good idea to record your thoughts as either notes or drawings. Drawings really help visualise how the design is progressing and can be developed as overlays on a base map of the existing. You could also use cut outs to make moving things around easy and help you consider various options - but remember to record the final layout. Some things to consider :
start to implement your scheme you will inevitably make further observations some of which may lead you to re-evaluate and tweak your original plan and
possibly lead to some major changes.
This is a natural part of a resilient and sustainable design process - a continuous cycle of observation, evaluation, planning and implementation. Like the turning of the seasons the growth of a garden never ceases.
For more design tools, inspiration and reference sources visit the Permaculture Association website.