Hopefully by now you have chosen an ideal location for your garden or orchard. Don’t start digging yet, though! You still have a little more planning to do, and one of the things you need to think about is how to make your garden as navigable as possible. You will be spending a lot of time out there in the near future—you might as well make things easier on yourself!
This means that you will need plenty of room to walk. If possible, allow for paths at least two feet wide throughout the garden. These paths don’t have to be elaborate, just wide enough that you won’t trip yourself up. Make sure you give yourself plenty of walking space in these key areas:
- Between rows of plants.
- Between raised beds.
- Between boxes or blocks in a Square Foot Garden.
- Between the fence and the plants or beds.
How you make your paths will depend on the circumstances. Temporary paths through the row garden can be mulched with straw to prevent them from turning into a muddy mess whenever it rains. Grass will be sufficient for a permanent path—as long as you keep it mowed. If you want something a little more elaborate, consider wood chips or rock stepping stones.
With raised beds or cold frames, make sure that you don’t make the bed so wide that you can’t reach the middle of it. Ideally, your beds should be separated from the fence by a path, but if you must put a bed flush against the fence, make it narrower to compensate. Two or three feet wide is probably ideal in this situation, while a free-standing bed should be about four feet wide.
Finally, think about how you will get vehicles in and out of the garden or orchard. If you have a very small garden, this may not seem like much of a concern, but you may think otherwise when you have to bring in the lawn mower. On a larger scale, it’s very handy to be able to haul in a pickup load of mulch without running the risk of sideswiping the fruit trees, or to be able to back the tractor up to the garden to add topsoil without damaging the fence. Place gates strategically, and give yourself some extra room to maneuver if you can.
Map your grand design out on graph paper and make a note of the beds, paths, fences, and gates. But don’t shove the map into a drawer and forget about it. Refer to it often as you modify or expand your garden or orchard.
Next week: Plant Selection
The Family Garden Journal
This Homestead on the Range book includes a map for planning your garden. Learn more.