February 7, 2010

Fine Tuning The Master Plan

One of the things on my winter to-do list has been to work on my herb garden plans. Getting my seed order in has prompted me to set about this task in earnest, because I need to decide where to plant those seeds!

To help with this, I've turned to two of the volumes I mentioned as being on the nightstand, Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke. These books are similar in content to two other books I read last summer, Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community, by Heather C. Flores, and The Self-Sustaining Garden: A gardener's guide to matrix planting by Peter Thompson. Neither of these are nearly as extensive as Jacke's books, but they served as a good introduction to a concept which has been a goal of ours for as long as I can remember -- to steward every square foot of our land for function as well as beauty.

I set about to plan my herb gardens by taking a look at the Edible Forest Gardens chapters on design process (ch. 3, vol. 2). As I read through the section, "How to Articulate Your Goals: Four Options," I quickly realized that my first step needed to include a consideration of our land as a whole. Even though I had previously drawn out a master plan, we now needed to refine that plan to better fit the herb gardens into the big picture.

Copies of all our master plans are available in my book, 5 Acres & A
Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient
. For more information, click here.

The new master plan is similar to my first sketch, but more accurate I think, in terms of building size and placement, and the yard. Some things, like the fence line, are still approximate, but you get the idea. Some things on the sketch have already been implemented, others are future.

What this exercise did for me, was to more clearly define the separate "landscape" areas for which I need to plan:
  • Herb gardens in the front yard
  • Bird garden to the right of the house
  • "Orchard" between the veggie garden & zig zag fence
  • Almond tree area across the driveway from the herb gardens. This is where last summer's garden was.
  • The "backyard" left of the house, which will serve as a recreational area
Here are my thoughts on these areas at present, including an update of what we've done so far:

Herb Gardens

This is actually my target area at the moment and I'm working on a separate post for that. Details soon!

Bird Garden

  • Bird Garden is the view from our kitchen and dining room windows, also from the back windows of my studio.
  • Has two bird baths, two seed feeders, and one suet feeder
  • Is shaded
  • Is fairly private from the road
  • Serves as a walk through area to the vegetable garden
  • To develop it as quite area / bird sanctuary type shade garden.
  • Benches for seating
  • DH would also like to put a solar fountain there. I wonder though, how well would a solar fountain work in the shade???

Does four fruit trees qualify it to be an orchard??? I just don't know what else to call it.

  • Have planted two dwarf pear trees and two semi-dwarf apple trees.
  • Added the zig zag fence to define the area.
  • Planted elder bushes in two of the "zigs" on the garden side of the fence; daylilies and daffodils planted on the road side.
  • This area needs the drainage tended to. We almost planted the almond tree at the bottom of the tree row, but fortunately discovered an underground rain puddle there before we put it in (which is why we planted it where it is now). It needs a series of swales to direct rain runoff down the slope, and a cistern/pond at the bottom to collect it away from the trees and shrubs.
  • This spring I'm going to plant a mix of orchard grass and ladino clover there, for ground cover, for some nitrogen fixing (which the apples and pears will appreciate), and for whatever small amount of hay we can get.
  • Plant more flowering and fruiting shrubs in the fence zigs and zags (on order).
  • Also need to consider the strip of ground on the side of the road. I don't want to have to maintain it by mowing. Maybe plant a short perennial clover there, like White Dutch? (Also considering this for the shoulder of the road near the Leyland Cypresses.)
Almond Tree

This is where I had last summer's vegetable garden.

  • Area defined by a concrete border
  • Almond tree newly planted
  • Daylilies and daisies planted along the roadside edge
  • Original plan was to plant a big shade tree here to shade the house's southwestern facing windows and front porch. This plan was upset when we needed a quick place to plant the almond tree. The almond tree will not be as big, mature height of 15 feet, spread the same, so I'm not sure how much shade to eventually expect for the house.
  • Still need to shade those windows. Currently thinking, muscadine vines on trellises(?) One thing I've discovered is that these windows only get setting sun in summer. In winter the sun sets directly to the front of the house.
  • Not sure what to do with the rest of this space. On the original master plan, it was labeled "shade garden."
  • Will put my strawberry plants there in the spring, where last year's green beans were.
  • Also considering putting my forsythias along the line farthest from the house, to provide some visual privacy from cars coming from that direction.
"Backyard," Recreational Area

I have "backyard" in quotation marks because it's really a side yard, but will serve as a backyard would.

  • Shaded by the big old oaks.
  • Open with little to no shrubs or undergrowth
  • Easily accessed from the back door
  • Fire pit for camp fires
  • Recently transplanted azaleas to define the area and create a privacy hedge
  • DH wants to build a barbecue pit and smoke house here.
  • Maybe I can get an outdoor oven into the bargain???
  • Will be the only area with "lawn"
  • Need to consider growing replacements for the oaks. They are old and we don't know how much longer they'll last.
  • Need to consider seating and dining. Picnic table?
I should mention one other book which has been helpful in planning these areas, What Plant Where, by Roy Lancaster. This book was recommended to me by Canadian reader, Val. Though it doesn't deal specifically with edibles and medicinals (the qualifying feature for what I plant), it has been helpful nonetheless, as it divides plants according to specific landscape categories such as size, shape, color, soil, sunlight, position, seasonal features, etc. (Plus, being a Dorling Kindersley book, it's a treat to look at.)

Other areas of consideration

  • Field #1 - will be used for grazing/browsing for livestock (goats and chickens)
  • Field #2 - we're hoping to have at least part of it plowed this spring for field corn and ?
  • Researching eventually alternating the two for growing and grazing
Other new features in the Master Plan
  • Greenhouse - the best idea at present is to put it next to the carport. My clothes line is there now, so this will have to be moved. A greenhouse location has been something of a problem, because the sunniest places on the property are near the road, and I don't want the greenhouse near the road.
  • Rainwater catchment tank - behind the greenhouse(?). Possibly others?
  • Bees - hives on the south side of the coal barn where they'll be shaded in summer by the magnolia and fig trees, and protected by the barn from northern winter winds
  • Pond - well, that's not new but it still is a future project
  • Coal barn & animal shed - these were replaced by a barn in the original master plan. We're rethinking this and are leaning toward replacing the respective buildings in their current footprints. Unanswered question - are they large enough to meet our needs?
Undecided - not on the master plan
  • Rabbits - we've discussed these in terms of meat and manure. The hesitation stems, I think, because I used to have Angora rabbits for fiber, (more on that here), and these were pets. It would take a mental adjustment to see them as livestock and to butcher them.
  • Pig - for meat, manure, and lard. This isn't on our radar yet, so to speak, but something we mention from time to time as a possibility.
  • Hay storage - can use the coal barn car port, but need to think of a better location. This is a consideration in regards to building a new barn or replacing current sheds.
Fine Tuning The Master Plan text and photo copyright 7 February 2010
by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com/


Benita said...

Well, I am impressed. You have come up with a most comprehensive plan and the use of your space is very well thought out. The fact that several areas are already in the works is a big bonus for you and I am looking forward to seeing how your plans work. I am in awe. Seriously.

Katrien said...

I did make it and I love it!

You have so many possibilities and are definitely going to make the best of them.

You said in a comment that you have poor soil (bad CEC?). Where is that?

Janet said...

With all that planning for your acres how do you have any time for textiles?
I unpacked my gardening gloves and trowel and spade and will get to the weeding soon. The garden is miniscule but I'll plant something or other.

Leigh said...

Benita, I confess that the whole thing seems a bit overwhelming. However, taking it one section at a time, one step at a time makes it seem more manageable.:)

Katrien, I've had two soil tests done. First one was for last summer's garden and it wasn't too bad. You can see that one here.
The second was where the fruit trees and next summer's garden are located. That one was poorer. Analysis here and CEC with recommendations here. You can see my CEC in only 4.3 there. So that's the area we've focused on most. We applied the recommended amounts of dolomitic limestone, triple superphosphate, and muriate of potash last fall and later planted annual rye for a green manure crop. If it ever stops raining and drys out, we'll till that in along with some kelp meal we bought. It's a large area (60x80) so anything not planted in vegetables will be planted in buckwheat or another cover crop.

I still need to have field #2 tested. That's on my to-do list.

Janet, you're right, there isn't much time for textiles at present, expect for knitting in the evening! My mindset though, is that for everything there is a season. I've had three years of nothing but textiles, and for the next couple of years, there will be a lot of preparatory work here: planting fruit trees, putting up fence, new floor in the dining room, remodeling the bathroom, etc. Yet these are things I love too. It's the other side of me that I haven't been able to share until now.

I look forward to hearing about your little garden! Even a small garden can be a joy as well as quite productive.

Woolly Bits said...

what a job to get all your ideas done! it helps to think it all through - if I had done my thinking properly - I wouldn't have to move my herb spiral now! when we put it up everything in it grew extremely well (a lot of herbs want well drained soil and it's perfect for this) - but eventually all the trees/shrubs around it grew so large that it's shaded now for at least half of the day! and given the fact that a lot of herbs don't mind poorer soil - as long as they get enough sun... I have to move it to the veggie plot, because that's the only area which will not be shaded at some stage. very annoying esp. as it could have been prevented:((
and where do I put all the stones from the spiral now? my idea is to put them up in form of a bench-like heap, which will in time be covered with roman chamomile - a scented seat does sound nice:))

Theresa said...

As always I am just about out of breath reading your post on garden things. I love that you have a plan and if in doubt where to go for clarification. I have yet to find a helpful book on our funky mountain area that has information about elevations and what works well in a place where it is soggy and wet for 5 months and bone dry for the rest of the time. If you come across one, let me know. It's also hard because the deer are plant predators up here and then of course, the Oregon list of plants that can't shipped into the state...
Your plan looks great though! What a beautiful place it will be in a few years time!

Julie said...

You have such a good plan, I really need to get busy and draw up a plan for mine spring is coming fast!

Laura said...

You are so organized!! I refuse to even make a list since it would send me quivering under the covers with them over my head!

A note about pigs - you have to have 2. If there's only one, it won't grow as fast as if there's another to compete with for food. Besides, they are a hoot and a half!

Leigh said...

Bettina, that's exactly what I'm trying to avoid. I too, have planted without a plan and regretted it in the end. Since these are permanent fixtures for perennial plants, I hope to get it right the fist time around.

Theresa, I have a Month By Month Gardening in the Carolinas book that divides the area into 3 regions. There's one for Oregon too, it may be worth a look into, Month By Month Gardening in Washington & Oregon

Julie, I have to admit that with all this, I haven't gotten down to the specifics of my veggie garden yet! A must do soon!

Laura, I only look organized! :) Thanks for the info about pigs! They are yet future, but we need to know these things.

Theresa said...

Leigh, Your suggestion prompted a search on Amazon.
I found one book that actually might address the problems we have right here. Many of the books cover the Pacific Northwest as it is in the land mass between ocean and mountains( wet, hence the references to folks growing webbed feet), others the high desert of Eastern OR, few cover the micro climates we get in the mountains proper, but one addresses mountains in Northern CA and elevations ranging from 2000-6000 feet, accounting for snow loads, poor soil and the wet followed by months of unending sunny dry. Let's hope it's useful. :-)
BTW, I know you are busy but check over on my blog, another give-away in progress.

Leigh said...

Theresa, the only other thing I can think of is to contact your county extension agent. You may already be familiar with their office, but just in case, you can look them up by county here.

Anonymous said...

WOW! sounds great. i love the bird garden especially. how about a couple humming bird feeders too? the hum-zinger works great. hummers are very entertaining, and good little bug eaters too.

Leigh said...

Anon, thank you! Yes to hummingbird feeders! I have one, but we won't see hummingbirds until spring, and I'll put mine out then, somewhere near the kitchen window. Just as well as I don't want the contents freezing. We only have Ruby-Throated hummingbirds in our little corner of the world. Still, they are one of my favorite birds.

Annie said...

Have you also planned a dyer's garden? That will be the way to combine gardening and textiles!

Leigh said...

Annie, yes, dye plants for certain. I will probably interplant things though, mixing edibles, medicinals, and dye plants. Actually, that was the reason I kept the nandina, it's a dye plant. :)

Lee said...

Have you read Bill Mollison's Permaculture books? They go into planning in depth, talking about zones, and are generally really useful when planning what goes where. I've found them invaluable in planning gardens in size from a few dozen square metres to a few acres :-)