Designing an Edible Garden: Before You Start

The perfect garden is as individual as the person who dreams of it. Each of us has our own style, our own tastes, our own desires. The perfect garden cannot come from a template. It has to be created individually each time like a work of art. And like a work of art, before you sit down to create — whether you are creating the art for yourself or someone else — you have to make a few decisions: what medium will you use? What colors? How big will it be? What will be its purpose? The same is true for a garden. Some of the questions will be about the garden itself, while others delve into the person who will be using the garden, to help make sure it fits their personality, style, tastes, and needs. Before you embark on any gardening project ask yourself the following questions:

  • What space will you use for the garden: yard, patio with containers, a few pots in a sunny window?
  • What kind of garden do you want to create? If you’re here on this site, chances are you want it to include some kind of food, but how? Do you want a few strategically placed edibles or an entire garden dedicated to food? A traditional raised bed vegetable garden or an eclectic mix of flowers, fruits and foliage plants?
  • Are you starting with a blank slate or are you trying to incorporate edible plants into an existing garden plan?
  • What do you love about the garden you have?
  • What do you dislike about it?
  • What plants do you love?
  • What plants do you dislike?
  • What fruits and vegetables do you love to eat?
  • What things may impact where you place your plants: sun exposure, existing structures,desire to have food plants as close as possible to the kitchen?
  • Do you have any special requirements/considerations (access, kids, pets, pests, possible polution)?
  • What styles appeal to you (garden, architecture, interior design, clothes, cars…)?
  • Do you consider your tastes formal, casual, ecclectic, exotic, minimalist, or other (specify)?
  • How much time/energy do you have to devote to gardening?
  • What is your favorite type of cuisine?
  • What is your favorite vacation location? Why?

If you’re looking to create an edible garden experience rather than just adding a plant here or there, or if you are especially space constrained, you may want to make a garden plan before you start planting. Consider starting an inspiration file and fill it with photos of parks or neighboring gardens, postcards, pictures from books or magazines, wallpaper samples, you name it. Anything that captures the look or feel of what you’re hoping to create.

Once you’ve pulled these pieces together (along with a gridded map of the existing yard and structures), you’re ready to start designing. And that’s where the fun begins. With a little planning and preparation, your edible garden can be as beautiful as it is functional.

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