The Indecisive Gardener

How to Make Decisions in Your Garden

by Sandy Swegel

Making decisions about where to plant things in the garden is one of my biggest challenges.  Hard to imagine when I spend most of my time in other people’s gardens. But because I rent, my own garden is a blank slate.  And that makes it really hard for me to know what to plant where. I know what the plants need but I can’t decide who should live next to whom or even make simple decisions about succession planting.

If you’re an indecisive gardener, whether you’re a new gardener and aren’t sure where things go, or because like me there are so many possibilities you just can’t decide, here are a couple strategies I use:

Square Foot Gardening is the friend of new and indecisive gardeners.  You can just make the garden squares and plant whatever happens to be in your hand at the moment.  Mel Bartholomew who invented the idea of square foot gardening has simplified plant spacing in his latest refinements of the process.  Each square is still a 12-inch square.  Little plants go 16 to a square, medium plants 9 to a square. Large plants 4 to a square and really large plants 1 to a square.  I can just fill a square and move on to the next square.  Hardly any decisions except to remember to put the tomatoes to the back of the garden where they don’t block the sun. 

I love herbs but worry about where to put them so they are in the right conditions and so that the perennials ones survive without taking over. In my mind, I divide the herbs into categories: Mediterranean herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano), invasive herbs (mint, lemon balm), and tender herbs (basil).

 Mediterranean herbs go in the hottest driest part of the garden with more sun and not so much water because the flavors of these herbs are best if they aren’t pampered with too much good water and soil.  Invasive herbs go next to concrete…either a wall or a sidewalk….somewhere there is a natural limit to how far they can spread. Tender herbs go in the vegetable garden.

These are the most difficult ones to decide on. Many a perennial has languished in its tight pot waiting for me to decide where to put it.  I learned from another indecisive gardener that the perfect place is a “Nursery Bed.”  The nursery bed is for the plants that are young and need extra attention and for the ones that don’t yet have a home in a permanent bed.  They’ll eventually graduate to the grown-up garden, but now they at least have a home in the ground in the nursery bed where they get some extra attention too.

Don’t let the desire to have a perfect garden or the fear of making a mistake keep you from having a great garden.  Set some simple rules like these. And if that doesn’t work…then the whole yard can be the “nursery bed!” 


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