Garden design on a budget – Part 1 “The Plan”

I am finally making this little garden design I created a reality.  I rent so I don’t want to invest a lot of money.  Join me on the journey as I make it a reality.

This project was spurred on by a few things, one of which is reducing this huge lawn.  I don’t have small children or a dog so this much lawn is unnecessary.  My husband would rather do other things than cut the grass.  I don’t have enough garden space.  This year I’m going to make it happen little by little.

Backyard goes all the way to the Spruce tree!

Berry beds were first phase and built last year. New beds to be built marked out in orange paint.


This weekend I calculated the linear feet of lumber and we purchased it.  I marked it out to make sure it was how I want before we build.  This is how I did the first phase.


Layout tools...  Measuring Tape, Measuring wheel, rope (great for curves and long stretches), and orange marking paint (not shown).

Layout tools… Measuring Tape, Measuring wheel, rope (great for curves and long stretches), and orange marking paint (not shown).

Start with a rough basemap of the area. Draw a quick aerial view sketch of existing features in pencil before you start so all you have to do is plug in numbers as you go around measuring. Mine was very rough and quick, not to scale. Start off of a known point (tree, shed, house) where you are building your garden.  I started at the back corner of our house and measured across the back of the house, window and door locations of first floor, included sidewalks, concrete pad, cellar door, and clothesline poles. They were all pertinent to the layout.  Knowing dimensions will help you calculate quantities and cost of materials and will help in your layout and planting plan.  I needed 134 linear feet of lumber.  I was able to determine how many 10′ and how many 12′ reducing the amount of leftover wood because I had dimensions on my layout.  Lots of 3′ cuts meant 12′ long boards.  4, 6, and 10′ lengths required 10′ boards.  I ended up spending roughly $80 to get 2 x 6 pine lumber.  I’ll talk about how to treat the lumber later.  DO NOT BUY PRESSURE TREATED FOR GROWING EDIBLES!  It leaches toxins into your soil and is more expensive.

Back of our house, we’re on the right (it’s a semi-detached).


My rough basemap. Most important part of the dimension is patio, sidewalk and clothesline poles.

Clipboard makes the job easy. My rough design and plant list is on top.

I chose an axial layout centered on the backdoor.  I knew I wanted 3′ wide raised beds so I could reach into the middle of the bed from both sides without having to walk on the soil, which compacts it.  Raised beds are the quickest and easiest way to make new rectilinear gardens.  Pine 2 x 6 lumber is somewhat inexpensive, they prevent me from breaking my back digging up grass (more on that method later), and less weeds creep in from the lawn.  I wanted to create a semi enclosed garden room with easy access from all points with a seating area in the middle.  I wanted to be surrounded by my plants on all sides.  I wanted to add on to the concrete pad and have a view from the sunroom, kitchen and living room windows.  I wanted to retain my clothesline which gets used a lot.  I can use the line to hang garden lights or even fabric for privacy during garden parties.  I needed to be able to reach the clothesline after the garden is installed.  It’s not my dream garden, but it will be practical, cheap, and usable.  I’m focused on not breaking the bank or my back to get more space to grow plants. This should satisfy all of the above until I buy a property where I can plant my dream garden.


Wildflowers at Monocacy Hill

Luckily we have been getting some rain, even though it made today’s walk cool and damp.   Finds of the day were One-flowered Cancer Root and Squaw Root, Showy Orchids, and Yellow Ladyslipper Orchids.  The Rue Anemone and Spring Beauty are still flowering and the Mayapples were blooming.  We also spotted Silene Caroliniana and Jack in the Pulpit.Image



Showy Orchid

Yellow Ladyslipper Orchid

Squaw Root

Jack in the Pulpit

Rue Anemone

Antietam Lake Botany Walk

What’s blooming in the woods at Antietam Lake?  We saw alot of different flowering species today including Wake Robin Trilliums, Spotted Geraniums, Solomon’s Seal, Mayapples, Marsh Blue and Long Spurred Violets, Trout Lily, Bishop’s Cap, Wild Yams, Bellwort, Rue Anemone, Pussytoes, Wild Azaleas, Spring Cress, and several species of ferns.  The finds of the day were Swamp Saxifrage and Leatherwood.



Cinnamon Ferns


Blackhaw Viburnum


Canada Mayflower


Cinnamon Fern Fiddleheads


Dwarf Ginseng


Hooked Crows Foot Buttercup (yellow flower)


Howell's Pussytoes (tiny white flowers, forms a groundcover)


Indian Cucumber Root


Leatherwood...a rare shrub

Enchantment in the Forest


Every week the Berks County Nature Society has a Botany Walk that is open to everyone.  I was recently turned on to the outing by a fellow native plant enthusiast.  Lucky for me, this week we met up at one of my favorite natural areas in Berks County, Nolde Forest.  The weekly two hour adventure is led by a botany professor from Albright College named Susan, along with my cohort’s husband, Mike Slater.  Mike has a website called PaPlantings and really has a wealth of knowledge about the natural world.  What a reallyfantastic way to expand my native plant vocabulary and just be around passionate plant lovers!  My favorite find of the day is pictured above and is called Gaywings or Fringed Polygala.  Had I not been with a group of people looking for this plant, I probably would’ve walked right by it because of it’s diminutive size.  If I can figure how to make a gallery I will post more photos.

The Kitchen Gardener

Spring has sprung early in PA this year and lucky for us gardener types this means a longer growing season.  The plants seem to be about a month ahead of schedule so this year we are being reminded that even though the rhythms and patterns of nature are somewhat predictable, they will not always be the exactly the same.  Change is inevitable, and it is ever so apparent here in the Piedmont Region of the Eastern Deciduous Forest.  We need to adjust according to the change.  Spring is a time for rebirth and renewal.   Ayurveda, which has been around for 5000 years, even speaks of spring being the time of year that our bodies respond to nature by going into cleansing mode.  If you have participated in the spring cleaning ritual, then maybe you have felt the desire to cleanse the outer world in response to the changing season.  We do this because we are a part of nature.

This year I am responding to spring by further aligning my knowledge of nature healing the soul with my service in the community.  I am focusing on creating and supporting holistic and healthy living in my community, which is why I’m promoting my newest service called The Kitchen Gardener.  The Kitchen Gardener designs, builds, plants, maintains, and harvests organic vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers for the busy homeowner.  It’s a harsh reality that we live in a fast paced culture, so at the end of the day most of us are too exhausted to think about what to make for dinner, stop at the store to do shopping, cook when we get home, and cleanup after dinner.  So much so that eating packaged processed food or ordering unhealthy takeout becomes the logical choice, even though we know that it’s not the healthiest.  We all want to enjoy what little free time we have so it seems that we have to choose health over convenience.  That’s where The Kitchen Gardener comes in.  Imagine arriving home to your fresh picked organic produce, herbs, and cut flowers waiting for you at your doorstep…including recipe cards on what to make.  Since we have shaved off some grocery time and decision making, you might even have time to sit in your garden and relax while you listen to the birds or watch the butterflies.

Gardens can be so much more than something pretty to look at.  Kitchen gardens have always been my favorite to cultivate.  Gardening is a sensory experience so to be able to touch the soil, see the plants grow, smell the flowers, AND be able to eat what is grown completes the cycle of nature giving us what we need to survive.  It’s really miraculous that nature has the ability to strengthen and heal at every level.

The Kitchen Gardener service is also great for foodies who love to cook with gourmet ingredients that are difficult, expensive, or impossible to find in the market.  Every kitchen garden is custom tailored to the palate of the homeowners.  Studies show that children who are engaged in growing their own vegetable are more inclined to eat them.  Teach your children where their food comes from.  Take advantage of the extended season this year.  Don’t let the season’s bounty pass you by.  You have to spend money on food anyways.  Why not make it healthy and convenient so you can spend more time enjoying what you love?  I know I’d much rather spend my precious summer evenings sitting in the garden than standing in line at the grocery store.