garden · nature · Uncategorized

Awaken Your Space: How to Begin your Backyard Garden


The shady sitting spot overlooks garden beds ready to be planted with Japanese Indigo and Dyer’s Coreopsis. Tobacco, Hollyhock, Lemon Balm, Siberian Comfrey, Lemon, Apple, and culinary and medicinal herbs are scattered throughout.

It’s warming up and I’m out in the garden mostly weeding and attempting to tame the jungle out there. While I drew a dye garden design earlier in the year, part of the fun for me is allowing it to evolve, once I’m out there in the sun, yanking out an enormous crop of Borage (leaving some behind, of course) to install a bamboo teepee to plant with Runner Beans for kids to hide in this summer.

A shady seating area emerges by the hedge and a walking path organically takes shape around the sunny beds where I’ve planned for Japanese Indigo and Dyer’s Coreopsis. Hollyhocks and Tobacco plants are sprouting up wherever they like, and I’m inclined to let them be, allowing other plants and paths to appear around them. I’ll harvest the fallen Hollyhock flowers later in the summer for dye.

Maybe you have meant to start a garden, or have yet to begin this year. If you’d like to create an alive space that you can enjoy this summer, and have a dye garden be a part of it, then read on.

Gardening books and courses are so inspirational, but can be overwhelming, especially for a beginner, and especially when they begin asking you to consider water flow and types of soil, etc. It’s all important, but let’s start with the basics, getting you out there. My recommendation is to skip garden courses and books at first and follow these four steps:

  1. First, go out there and sit in various places until you decide on your shady seating spot. Allow for two chairs. It’s probably a place where you can see your garden and where things you don’t want to see are shielded (or will be soon) with plants or trees. Make sure it’s pretty easy to get to.
  2. Once you have that figured out, sit there for a while over a couple days—maybe you’re doing a little weeding too—you’ll begin to notice where existing plants are that you want to keep.
  3. From your shady sitting spot, figure out a walking path through the yard that you would naturally walk, and make sure it goes past your shady sitting spot. Add some path mulch or outline the edges with logs or stones to differentiate it from the rest of the area. Make it wide enough for walking. Work around or modify existing irrigation if there is any.
  4. Take out plants that are shading out ones that you want to grow better, or in areas where there are too many plants (huge borage patch!) or plants you just don’t think work in the space. If irrigation is already there, add your new plants around those spots. Plant small things by the path and taller things away from the path.

Once you’ve done even just the first three steps, you’ll have a pretty good idea of your space, and you’ll feel comfortable modifying the space to fit your needs too. This is a great time to read a garden book (like this one) or to take a free class, (like this one).

It’s so nice to go out in the garden, harvest a plant, and begin a dyepot, with über-local plants that you have watched grow. Or pick a sun-ripened tomato and eat it right then, or gather blue borage flowers for your dinner salad. And sometimes you don’t use the plants at all, and they are still nice to have around.

And after you have listened to your space a bit, try these great garden resources:

Book: The Garden Awakening by Mary Reynolds

Podcast Episode: The Garden Awakening with Mary Reynolds about her book on podcast Being Boss

FREE Garden design workshop with Daily Acts on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 from 5:30pm until 8pm

at the Petaluma Historical Library, downtown at 20 4th Street in Petaluma, CA


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