Garden Design - Knowing Where To Plant
A long time ago, as a young bride, we were both in the Air Force and stationed at Dyess AFB, in Abilene, Texas. I can distinctly remember thinking, “Lord, don’t plant me here!”
Texas back then, in my mind, was no place for a California girl. It was a land where they had blue laws that prevented you from even buying pantyhose on Sundays, and only three television stations at the time, all going off the air at 11:00 p.m. It was about as foreign to my naive thought process, as the Vietnam War was at the time.
I wrote my Grandma Daisy complaining of this and that, and how much I hated Texas, and her reply included:
“Bloom wherever you are planted. Work with the soil you’ve got, with the weather you’ve got, and with the talents you have. Don’t just survive — thrive.”
It took me awhile to understand the whole “bloom wherever you are planted” part, and even longer to love Texas (it’s now one of my favorite states) — So, I guess you could say, it gave me a foundation for putting myself in the place many plants and trees are — being planted against their wills in places they don’t belong naturally.
I was thinking the other day about how back then I had to design a whole new life, working with what I had been given. Sometimes, gardening is like that. You have to work with the land, soil, and weather you are given, in order for your garden to bloom where it is planted.
Now, more than in recent years past, getting the garden plan right the first time is crucial — we don’t have time or money for newbie, or even seasoned garden efforts to fail. The ability to be self-sufficient out in the garden is a financial security concept whose time has come. Putting in a garden to offset grocery prices or shortages is now a priority for many Americans. Gardening is a way of growing money, or at least knowing how to save money.
Because of these facts, everything we should have learned in primary education and high school science classes suddenly becomes more important. I’m sure as kids many of us weren’t always taught necessary agricultural practices and considerations in a practical manner that would stick with us into adulthood enough to apply those principles to real life. It’s time to review now!
Don’t Plant Me Here! - Knowing Where Not To Plant Is Just As Important As Knowing Where To Plant!
Frost in Your Garden Pocket
We probably all learned the concepts in high school science, but by the time we actually had our own ideas about planting that first garden, the fact that cold air is heavy and dense — wasn’t on our radar screen, when thoughts were turning to planning our vegetable and fruit gardens.
Most properties are not flat (unless you live in certain areas like here in Florida). Your home can sit on land that slopes, in part either by natural means or by walls, hedges or other obstructions. These create “frost pockets.”
In your garden planning, you must take into consideration that possible reality because cold air is heavier than warm air, and it sinks to the lowest possible point. This isn’t the place to plant anything, but the hardiest, deepest-rooted plants — unless you want to be running out and covering them with blankets or burlap, building fires and tending fires, or putting outdoor heaters into high gear.
Additionally, man-made dense barriers — like walls, fences, hedges, etc. also are frost pockets in the garden. They too, have to be taken into consideration when designing a garden that works for you, not a garden that makes extra work for you.
Don’t Plant Me Here! - Gardening on Slopes
Slippery Garden Slopes
The best way to deal with an unproductive slope in the garden is to add plants that like this kind of condition. Surprisingly, both rosemary and thyme are ideal candidates for these spots.
Another pleasant surprise on gentle slopes, is that they are ideally suited for planting fruit trees — provided they are on the south side, and receive a full six to eight hours of sun per day. Gentle slopes also promote good air flow and hence prevent disease in fruit trees. Caution: Don’t plant fruit trees too far down on slopes in the frost pocket area.
There is another solution — an ancient one that the Chinese and others have used for centuries — terrace the slope or at least terrace the upper steepest part of it. It’s not the easiest solution, because this involves building retaining walls to support the soil.
Another consideration with slopes, is understanding that the soil can be washed away by heavy rains. That’s one of the reasons slopes should be planted to keep them from washing erosion gullies into them.
Other things to remember with garden slopes are that warm and sunny slopes will develop flowers very early, sometimes too early for pollination. Some slopes can be wet, and in that case are candidates for terracing.
Don’t Plant Me Here! - Wind Tunnels
Wind Tunnels in the Garden
Most days when I sit at my computer to write, I listen to the very loud and almost constant roar of the wind tunnel outside. Visitors will often be startled by the sound, which is comparable to a hurricane’s howl. Our wind tunnel is man-made, and we are victims of a sub-division gone awry in the shaky economy of the times — we sit on a hill, with two vacant lots on both sides — ripe for the wind to run its course.
Man-made wind tunnels are the gaps between buildings and other obstructions that invites wind to pass through at great speed. This is extremely damaging to crops. It will scorch them. It will break them and it will dry them out beyond their ability to survive.
If you have such an area and still want to utilize that area for vegetable or fruit gardening — you will need to make a windbreak. This should not be a solid barrier, but rather something that will deflect the wind up, and then back down again. You will need to reduce the wind through the area at least by half.
Don’t Plant Me Here! - In The Hot Sun!
Hot Spot Gardening - How Hot Is It In Your Corner of the World?
In many parts of the world, gardeners face an extra challenge when living in climates that receive a lot of sunshine and heat. Even more challenging, is that areas within such a garden, sometimes cannot be cooled down by any breeze or winds, because they are sheltered — such as with south facing walls, fences, buildings, or obstructions.
Special Planting Considerations! - Sea Side Loving Vegetables
Even some vegetables and fruits enjoy the beach. One example is asparagus, but as most of us know, this is a slow growing crop that you’ll need a couple of year’s patience, just to get to harvest on.
Surprisingly, rhubarb and kiwi also are avid beach and seaside lovers in the plant kingdom.
Otherwise, between wind, salty air, and salty soil any gardener in coastal areas needs to be a little more cautious about site selection, soil testing, and soil amenities.
Probably the best advice for the coastal vegetable gardener is to buy local seed and varieties that are proven to your region. Additionally, concentrate on low growing plants that will suffer less from coastal winds. Remember that during periods of high winds, that they will have an extreme drying effect upon your crops. Don’t choose plants with tender leaves.
Salty Air and Salty Soil Can Make A Garden Spoil
To me, the wonderful taste of salt spray and small in the wind of a coastal garden is invigorating, unfortunately vegetable and fruit crops don’t feel quite the same way. Salt sprayed heavy winds not only damage crops, but over time; the accumulating salt in the soil will kill all but the hardiest of plants, from the root up.
Salt can also come from unexpected sources. If you live down below a major highway or downstream of one, salt that is used during the winter to de-ice roads can leach into your soil and make for some interesting growing problems.
Selecting salt-tolerant plants is not easy, when you are trying to grow a cash crop or supplements feeding your family — but it is a must for growing a good garden in coastal regions.
Polluted and Soiled Areas in the Garden
Pollution from the air, water, and soil is becoming a serious problem world-wide. Add a nearby factory or power plant, or a busy road nearby your garden — and you could be gardening in a heavily polluted area.
Gardening where known nearby sources of pollution may not be a good idea. Still there are precautions you can take:
- If you are worried about air borne pollutants plant dense and tall plants around the entire edge of the garden.
- Plant the intended garden area in sunflowers the season before you plant a vegetable garden.
- If you suspect pollution problems, be sure to have your soil tested, before planting.
Here’s an example why — I once owned a house in Maryland that had been built back in the 1940s. It was only after planting vegetable gardens two years in a row and consuming the fruits of this effort — that we were informed that the site where the homes had been built — had been a former municipal dump for years. The soil tested to be quite unsafe.
All of the above are just different micro-climates that are found typically on a lot of properties. Frost pockets are one kind of micro-climate. Slopes are another type of micro-climate. Wind tunnel areas (natural or man-made) are still another kind of micro-climate. Shaded areas are also a form of micro-climate.
They can be small or large areas that become miniature gardens — with completely separate growing conditions, than that of the rest of your land. Micro-climates need special thought when planning your vegetable and fruit crops.
While you can think of them as “problems,” part of “blooming where you are planted” — is having your garden actually bloom, wherever you might decide to plant it.
It’s all about thinking instead, not being a problem but rather as opportunity to learn to garden in a new way. Or, perhaps it is an opportunity to learn how to use your land to its best purpose or most natural purpose. It’s really all a matter of being aware that micro-climates exist, and choosing the right plants for those spots.
In case you think this is something new, this awareness of micro climates — is as ancient as the native peoples who knew long before others came to their land that certain crops grew better in certain areas. It’s only when outside invaders decided otherwise, that we lost a lot of this natural knowledge.
“The success of your vegetable or fruit crop, will hinge on you understanding and taking into consideration any micro-climates that may affect your planning decision of where to plant certain crops.”
In the Shade - Under the Shade of Nature’s Umbrellas
There are basically four kinds of shade and none of them are the best places to plant your vegetable and fruit garden:
- Shade found under large overhanging trees
- Shade found near buildings or walls
- Moist shade found at the bottom of slopes or depressions in the landscape
- Dry shade found under trees, walls, fences, buildings or other obstructions (especially true of concrete or block structures)
If You’d Like To Know More About Garden Design and Planting Tips!