Designing an Edible Garden Master Plan

While everyone is planning for Christmas during the terrible ice storm, I’ve been planning for Spring: my edible garden. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing ALL summer and fall. I’ve been researching, reading, watching videos, again and again. This only means one thing, I’m an expert in gardening or landscaping. I’m just now happy enough with my master plan, that I’m ready to share it and how I got there.

With all of my new found knowledge, it took me just about as long to get my garden designed. After I built the most recent beds, I ended up disappointed. I felt like I was just adding square boxes to my to my backyard. It was starting to look nothing like my inspiration. I wanted a garden oasis. I wanted this natural looking, homie, sit here forever, kind of place where you can see all kinds of nature. I needed to stop and rethink my plan. I needed a master plan.

With great ambition, I sat in my backyard with an overwhelming sense. Lucky for me, observing is a key component. After a confusing few months of inspiration and an overwhelming amount of work ahead, I was ready to put to pen to sketch paper to create a garden plan.

Here are few tries at a garden plan. It’s pretty close to a garden plan from Gaia’s Garden. I was just so happy with this plan at first. I was strangely stuck and determined to have a stone or brick keyhole raised bed located front and center. I wanted curves above center, but couldn’t make anything stick. I ended up just fitting things in around the key hole, above left.

I landed on the above right garden plan. It was settling, but I talked myself into liking it. I showed one of my friends with little enthusiasm. I was confused, it was brilliant?! Before I started digging, I bought a few cans of landscape spray-paint and started to draw my garden on my backyard. After I was complete, I walked the paths through the garden. After a few days of test driving the paths, I hated it. At the end day, my friend was right, I was wrong, and I didn’t have a garden design. Honestly, I erased (mowed) that design two or three times and it never got better. The straight lines were just not working for me. There’s nothing natural about the sharp edges, and it wasn’t much better than my boxie design I was headed for. Like a true artist, I was officially stuck.

I ended up trashing the whole idea and just started sketching. I sketched without any property lines or boundaries. As the above left image shows, I was to the point where I was just drawing. I was starting to like where this ‘leaf’ idea was going. As a principal in permaculutre you’re suppose to mimic nature. It was a light bulb moment I had been waiting for. The sketch paper continued to fly! It was the negative and positive art game that was my true success. It was the paths that I sketched, not the beds. Then I laid the same tree pattern from the other plan (above above right) and it generally fit. The last step was to draw the above right beds. This plan was friend approved.

I’d like to think it’s good to know where you’ve come from and where you’re going. The above left is a very first try that is almost too embarrassing to show. What was I thinking? It would have taken forever to get to the different parts of the garden without walking through beds. It was not functional. The above center plan incorporates a little bit of a grass area. I have two pups, so I’m not sure what I’ll do without grass, but I don’t see that happening very soon. This was truly my key hole movement. It was 200 square feet of a brick or stone key hole bed design. Straight lines were of plenty. The photo above right is the perfected leaf design. It incorporates swales, an herb spiral, two ponds, key hole designs, a secret hide out, water catchment, hugulkultur beds, trellis arbors, annual and perennial beds, and my existing greenhouse.

I’ve been in the process of fine tuning my plant selection and continuing to learn about guilds. I’ll be back to better explain The “Leaf Heart” design.

One of the greatest quotes that stuck with me from this summer: “The forest floor is a lake” -Geoff Lawton.

credits & resources: Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway // Geoff Lawton  // Eric Toensmeier

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