Advice: Edible Garden Planning: Do’s and Don’ts

A Great Guest Post By Mil Apostol*

When my partner and I were offered the chance to appear on HGTV’s show Superscapes for a garden makeover on television, I didn’t exactly jump at the chance.  I’d been barely tolerant of roommates’ various house projects, and I didn’t want any of those headaches at my own home, thank you very much.  Plus, I knew nothing about gardening, so I had to be cajoled into the project.

I now love the garden and am happy that we have food growing on our property.  The abundance of such fresh food has spoiled me.  I find it difficult to eat food bought in stores because very fresh tastes the best.  Don’t you agree that a just picked, sun-warmed tomato cannot be beat in flavor?

Even though I am glad we are growing all this food, I am also well aware of the many mistakes we made in planning and executing the creation of our garden; I wish that we could rectify our most glaring mistakes, even if it all looked great on TV!  I hope my mistakes will serve the greater good by helping you plan with foresight and thereby avoid later regrets.  Our mistakes:

1)    We tried growing plants that were not really appropriate for our climate.  Being a complete newbie, I tried to plant some papayas.  Since I live in a Mediterranean climate, it came as no surprise when they died in the chill of winter.  When I went to Hawaii and saw papayas thriving, I realized how different the Hawaiian climate is from my own.  Which plants did do well?  All the trees that grow well in our neighborhood!  I wished I had taken more notice of this and planned accordingly.

2)    We took our first trip to our local nursery after we’d planted most of the garden. The host of the show had taken us to his own favorite nurseries, and had directed us to buy exotics online, but in hindsight I wished I had visited our local nurseries first.  Of course, even local nurseries will carry greenery that will not do well in your locale (because nurseries have to carry plants that people request).  I have found though, that local nurseries carry many plants that will do well, and put up signage recommending one variety over another or have staff who can reliably direct you to the good stuff.  That is how I picked our Sunshine Blueberry, which, in our locale, outperforms our two other varieties year after year.

3)    We didn’t account enough for the sun/shade requirements for our fruit trees.  We have a Bearss lime that isn’t doing well.  My parents, who live about an hour south of me, have flourishing citrus trees.  I then realized we hadn’t put the poor Bearss lime in full sun.  Instead, we had put planted it under an avocado tree where it is shaded a good part of the day.  I wish we had minded each tree’s sun requirement better.

4)    We didn’t sketch ahead for the garden’s growth for five, ten, or even twenty years down the road.  Instead, we planted the garden for the present—how it looked for that month.  Three years later, I see we have crowded many of the trees and plants.  I wish we had given them more room because now I might have to pull some plants out.

5)    We planted some of our trees too close to structures and didn’t account for root and branch growth.  We had bought many dwarf varieties, but even with our dwarves, we didn’t provide a large enough area for balanced growth in all directions.

I hope this helps and happy gardening!

*Mil Blogs at:
You Can Find Her on Twitter: @urbfarmbeehives
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