In January, especially on blustery cold days, the season calls for some inside garden design time. A cup of tea and some gardening books or magazines can get the ideas percolating and the plant wish list begins to grow. Exploring seed catalogues is also a great way to get inspired and prepared for a fresh, new gardening season.
With Ceres Edible Landscaping, our garden designs are based on the principles found in permaculture and ecological design. When we are going through our plant books we are often looking for edible and medicinal plants as well as plants that help build soil health.
In our gardens around Cowichan Green Community’s building, The Station, the design concept was: Food Forest. The food forest design sought to imitate the ecology of a forest where plants, microbes and fungi are working together to create synergy and harmony. Under and around our fruit and nut trees we planted nitrogen fixers, mulch makers, pollinator attractors, nutrient accumulators and soil stabilizers. For example, around the pear trees, we have lupins and clover (nitrogen fixers and pollinator attractors); and comfrey (nutrient accumulator, soil stabiliser and mulch maker).
Plant selection is a big part of garden design and it takes a fair bit of time to do plant research. It helps to focus on what your objectives are for your garden and then seek to find plants that fulfill those desires. For example, you may already have fruit trees growing in your yard, but want to plant more pollinator attractors to help with fruit production. Or you may want to beautify the front entrance of your home with plants that require minimal time to take care of.
Once you have your garden design objective in mind, you can start thinking about matching up the right plant to the right place. For example, while looking through your plant books you may have come across a fig tree and been reminded of how much you love fig jam. Let’s say your design objective is to grow as much of your own food as possible with minimal maintenance. So, a fig tree would suite that objective beautifully because it doesn’t require too much watering. Great, you’ve decided, a fig it is. But, do you have a place to plant it?
Your research shows you that figs require full sun, they love hot spots and require good drainage. At full size it can get up to 15 feet tall. This may or may not fit in your yard. You may only have a small area that is full sun, so if your objective is to grow as much food as possible, you may prefer to grow a year round variety of herbs and vegetables instead of one fig. Back to the books. More tea needs to be brewed and then while its pouring rain outside, you come across a beautiful photo of an elaborate herb garden and think, wow, it would be wonderful to have year round herbs to add to every dinner I make! So then you can research which herbs require the lowest maintenance and start a list of your favourite tasting ones. You also realize that you can save money by growing your own herbs instead of buying them at the grocery store.
It may take several cups of tea over a few winter months of pondering to find which plants truly fit your needs, but it’s so worth it, and in the process your gardening and plant knowledge will improve in leaps and bounds.
Ceres Edible Landscaping offers organic horticultural services from garden design to maintenance, utilising the principles of permaculture. Book a consultation for guidance on creating new gardens, renovating old ones, or adding edibles. Call Nora at 250.748.8506. We’re here to help you realize your garden dreams.