Know Thy Land: Mapping your Garden



Video Transcript:

So, before I go overboard this year planting starter seeds, I need a garden plan that follows the garden commandments I outlined last week:

1.    Know Thy Land

2.    Know Thy Family 

3.    Know Thyself

4.    Know Thy Community

5. Know Thy Purpose


This week’s focus is Know thy Land! 


To begin this process, I went into the wonderful world of Google Maps and found the satellite image of our lot and I took a screenshot. While I am using Adobe Photoshop for this video, you can use Google Docs or Word using the drawing and shape tools for free. In Golden, I did this and made a printable that I could draw and brainstorm on off the computer while referencing my garden books.


Google’s satellite images are always presented north-south, so I know what my cardinal directions are in relation to the photo. 

For this video, I turned my satellite image 90 degrees, so north-south is now represented right-left. Google Maps also shows a small bar on the lower right indicating the measure of 20ft. This makes it easier to approximate distances in the scale map of my lot that I plan to build today.

My first step is to create an outline of the property lines, the driveway, the sidewalks and walkways, the house, the yurt, and the decks. Next, I can drop in shapes for the different trees on the property. 

This satellite image is a bit old so not all the trees on this image are currently in existence. I can add our three Siberian elms, our four apple trees, and the ornamental plum in the backyard over the image which gives me a pretty good idea of their span. Next, I will add the pear trees, maple tree, and lilacs along the driveway. Finally, I will add the crab-apple and aspen grove in the front yard.

Once I have a good outline of the structures and trees, the satellite image can be a bit of a distraction, so I can turn it off and I am left with a plan view of the property and all of its growing spaces. You will notice that I have mapped the runoff directions for water falling on the roof of the house and the yurt. The north-south line can help me determine where the sun will be falling throughout the year. 

One of the permaculture design lessons that I took to heart after our many wasted efforts in Golden is the concept of Zones. Zones are a way of planning a garden from close proximity to your home to the areas furthest away and how best to use these efficiently. Zone one is the zone closest to your home where you see the plants you are growing every time you enter and exit. Zone two is in the next concentric ring away from your home where one would find their way in daily life. In this Zone, you might grow lower maintenance perennials, locate the compost bin, or keep the chickens. Zone three is the next furthest away from the house and one where what is planted does not require a daily visit, for example, fruit trees and berry bushes. In a suburban yard like ours, it is unlikely to find a Zone 4 where one might pasture large livestock or a Zone five that is untouched and left to nature to do what she will.

In the coming summer (2022) my focus will be on making the soil in my Zone 1 beds as healthy as possible, getting to know the water situation throughout the season, caring for the existing perennials, planting what food I can in this limited space and protecting what we grow from the deer. I consider either side of the front walkway, the back deck, and the back walkway to be Zone 1. I am adding the yurt deck to Zone 1 because it gets sun, the deer never venture up the stairs, and it will be the only area I can grow tomatoes and peppers next season.


So, there you have it, my first steps in getting to know my land, a map that I can revisit and use over time to maximize what I can grow while minimizing the expense, time, and labor I put in. What are your plans this winter to better get to know your land and forge time for the garden?

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