I spent too much of my life caring about what other people thought of me.
Especially people who didn’t really seem to care too much about what I thought of them.
I still care too much sometimes.
But I try every day to make decisions based on what I want and what will be best for the people I love, rather than what looks good to the rest of the world.
Many of us spend too much time living our lives for the people who don’t really care about us.
That makes for a sad life.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who figure out there’s another way to live, it can be a blissfully powerful revelation.
Many gardens are created for people who don’t really care about us, in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses or to increase the resale value of the house.
That’s one reason why so many properties have a tall, slender cedar hedge for a privacy screen.
Not because it’s the best choice, but because everyone else does it (side note: it is often the most affordable choice, so I can’t knock it entirely).
I’m not saying you should forget about resale value altogether. If you’re planning to sell in the next 5 years, that will influence your garden design decisions and perhaps you won’t tear up the whole front lawn in favor of a pumpkin patch.
And I’m not saying ‘sod off’ to the neighbors. Indeed, a big organic vegetable garden in the front yard can be a great way to build community. It’s just that in this case you’re doing it from a place of love instead of a place of fear or shame.
So yes, you can design your organic garden for the folks who will be tending to it after you’ve moved up the hill, or for your neighbors as they take their dogs out for a morning walk, but let us expand this narrow list to also include those people who matter to you most:
- Housemates. This could mean your husband, wife, live-in relatives or roommates. Most of them would probably appreciate having a say in the design process, especially if you make it easy for them by painting a picture of the possibilities, and giving them some choices: Do we want a barbecue and eating area? What are your favorite fruits and vegetables? What would you like to spend time doing in the backyard?
- Little kids. Your little kids and grandkids need a little place to play. A lawn is good for that. A sandbox too. Swings are a hit, and with some foresight, can be converted to an exercise area when the kids get older, and then a tomato trellis. If you can, build them each a small raised bed that will be their very own organic vegetable garden. Give them a chance to develop a passion for gardening, food and nature early in life.
- Big kids. Need a bigger place to play. If your yard is small, the street or the park down the street will have to do, but a “cool” hangout area in the back corner can be great if you want to encourage them to spend more time around home. Of course, if you want to encourage them to spend less time around home, make it decidedly “uncool” and sing Irish fishing songs while gardening in your underwear.
- Companion animals. They like to run, dig, stretch, chew… fetch, chase, sleep, poo. Give them a place to do as many of these as you can. The rest of your garden will be left unscathed, or at least less-scathed. Of course if you have a cat, you need to find a way to keep the birds safe (while perhaps still giving her dibs on the mice, depending on your love of mice).
- Other animals. If you’re fond of fauna, you have a great opportunity to provide birds, butterflies, insects, earthworms and many other animals with food, water and habitat. That takes some planning: you’ll want to use a mix of plants that provide year round food for them, a mix of water features that allow each animal to drink and bathe the way they prefer, and a mix of plants/rocks/water/other that allow them to live where they like to live. To me, building an animal sanctuary is such an inspiring opportunity.
- Self. We musn’t forget the gardener. What do you want to see when you look out the window? Which foods and flowers do you want to harvest? What do you want to do in the garden besides gardening? A couple of weeks ago, I asked why grow a garden. Be sure to have a meeting with yourself about that one before you start planning this year.
The first step to designing your garden is to figure out who it’s for.
I’d love for you to tell me down below – who is your garden for and what do you do (or what will you do this year) to make it special for them?