We started building our garden at this home we live in now just a few weeks after moving in. That was mistake number one, ha! It was March of 2020, just one single week before the global pandemic and I was insistent on getting the garden design going and set up first thing. I’ll explain why this was a mistake here in a minute.
As we now tear down what we had originally built, I am a bit nostalgic over it all. This garden, knowingly temporary, allowed me to be thrifty and experimental. I wish now that I had taken even more risks. I wish I had cared less about some things and more about others – ah hindsight, you fickle fellow.
Mostly when I think about my garden, I think about a Virginia Woolfe quote that is actually about writing. Her quote is, “A woman must have money and a room of her own is she is to write.” Forever I thought it was just about how a woman needs a room of her own – for life. A place that is special to only her. I’ve thought of my garden as that. A room of my very own, to do as I please.
Now, the garden is being designed as a room for us all, which is indeed differently beautiful. There will be aesthetics for my husband and guests, tiny magical touches for the children, and some practical choices for … practicality’s sake. We will add some water for birds and insects, and there will be plenty of compromises.
While the temporary garden was great for this in-between time and great for learning our space, the biggest thing I didn’t do was revel in how much it was only for me. Alas, I just didn’t really think about it.
All that being said, here are mistakes that I made that I definitely
would have done differently no matter who the garden is for.
Garden Design Mistakes I Made
- I built a really big garden bed before fully knowing how we would use the entire backyard space. Originally, I wanted this u-shaped bed and then to put in a dining table in the garden. However, after a few months it became eveident that it was more practical to have that table elsewhere, and I wanted more bed space.
- I didn’t give it time. You need to live in a space before changing it. You need to know how the sunlight hits through the seasons, how the wind impacts things, where the critters go, how you enter and exit each day, and on and on. Before I knew our use and nature’s demands, I started building when I should have just been observing.
- The U Shaped Bed. I don’t like it because it’s one giant bed and that is harder to control when it comes to soil and pests, like grubs. Once the grubs get going, they go everywhere. With seperated beds, that’s easier to control.
- I built berms too far apart. After the u-shaped bed wasn’t enough for me, I built berms. You can read about it here. I wish however, that I had built them closer together. I left about three feet between them like I would with a raised bed, but when you’r just walking in and out (not using equipment or a barrell, you don’t need that much space. Also, no one else walks out there because it’s not that pretty/ inviting. I could have left one foot wide paths and tripled my grpwing space.
- I didn’t get row covers sooner. Even though it would have been temporary, I should have installed row covers immediately over my berms. They are so effective at keeping pests out and I struggled with pests throughout my four seasons.
- I didn’t think about ground cover. There was mulch all over the plot I grow on, and I removed it all by hand myself so that I could use the space to grow. I wish I would have left it for ground cover instead of just leaving a ton of hard exposed dirt (which is ecologically not great). I removed it to help me get to know the soil, as well as remove soil, but it would have been nice to sonehow salvage. Thinking about ground cover and pathways should be a part of any plan.
Now that I’ve had time in this space, I know three things for sure:
- I want it to feel enclosed. I’ll be adding a lot of border plants for this, and creating an outer layer that is tall and full – a bit wild. I want it to feel like a room, and giving the room some walls will help.
- I want it to be inviting. Smelly and pretty blooms at each entry point will bring people in. So will a fountain with it’s calming ambiance and pretty curves. The garden will in theory be beautiful, asking people to see it.
- I want to grow as much food as possible. There will be 10 raised beds, and then each tree will have an edible guild beneath it. Ill even use a lot of edibles that look structurally like landscape plants (like lemon grass to add height), to add unique touches that are multi-purpose.
With so much thought and deliberation going into the new garden design, I return to the above goals, as well as lessons (mistakes) as navigators keeping me on track. I am thrilled to have gotten some time to play and now get to go to work on a project that will serve our family beyond my wildest dreams.
There will be more to come!