Establish an Area for your Garden

May 11, 2013 in Gardening, Urban Farming

Techniques to establish a garden

When deciding to establish a backyard garden, you could simply hire a landscape artist to design the different zones in your backyard for several thousand dollars, bring in a team of professional landscapers for multiple thousands more, consult with a professional gardener for a few additional bucks, and literally overnight: ‘Poof’, you too can have an oasis in the desert or garden sanctuary ‘of your very own’ to show off to all your envious neighbors.

This Post is a continuation of a previous post titled, “Starting your background garden.”  Please feel free to return to that story before reading further.

However, if you are cost conscious, watching your pennies, on a budget, or merely want the genuine satisfaction of a Garden of Eden, consider incorporating your own blood and sweat and saving thousands of dollars by designing and building a garden yourself.  You may agree that would be much more rewarding.  At the end of the day you may earn the envy of your neighbors, and you will certainly feel a sense of pride and accomplishment having created the area yourself.  Follow my trials and tribulations that may provide insight and a bit of inspiration.

We may discover that success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.  I know I have shed much blood and sweat already through my attempts at building an urban farm in my backyard since starting the adventure in March; it is only May!

The Planning Phase

An urban garden can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose.  It may be a good idea to write down some descriptive words to capture your desires or purpose.  Is my purpose to entertain in the backyard, or grow my own vegetables to eat healthier? Will it be a part time hobby or a full time business?   Whatever your decision, it will be the right one for you.

What is the purpose of your Plan?

With your purpose in mind, try sketching the area available to work in.  Start by rough-sketching your backyard or other area in a two-dimensional environment (on paper).   This can be prepared anywhere, on any scrap of paper, such as on a napkin in a restaurant while waiting for a table, or in your home office while waiting for the computer to boot up. I recommend using square grid-lined graph paper. 

In your sketch, identify permanent items such as existing structures including patios, air conditioning units, or other fixed objects.  Layout the remaining area into rough zones such as potential walkways, raised flower bed, ponds, other water features, sitting area, grass, potted plants, trees and vegetable garden areas. I will share my sketches in a later article.

Contemplate your design by sleeping on it overnight, discuss it with friends and other members in your family. Others may provide insight or design elements you didn’t initially consider.  Is there enough room to move between your design elements, do you need a walkway or a barrier between areas, do you need a gate or fence to separate a pet area from the garden or the kid’s area.  The idea is not for accuracy, but for  a general idea where to start, what portion to start first, and will each area interact or fit well within the space available and does it meet the purpose you have pondered?

The sketch doesn’t have to be to scale and can always leave room for change as you implement your plan as you go.  Remember, an urban farm can be as simple as placing small pots with herbs in your window sill (look for a later article about a very simple kitchen window bench).  By putting basic ideas on paper, it may allow you to visualize and contemplate available area roughly, how much of that area to devote to a garden or other features in order to meet your purpose, and what tools, time, and supplies may be needed to begin.

Once you decide the general design fits well with your ideas, or if you want a more precise layout, or think it would just be kewl to see a 3D concept view of you design, consider obtaining an off-the-shelf landscape design software tool such as Punch! Home and Landscape Designer ( or Realtime Landscaping ( to name only a few popular programs at a price tag between $50.00 and $400.00 depending upon the features you need and the version you choose.  The average price you can expect to pay is probably $79.00.

Since the topic of these articles are on gardening an Urban Farm, my goal is to design a yard that is pleasing to the eyes, can be used to entertain guests, to grow herbs, vegetables and fruit organically, incorporates natural stone to maximize longevity, and to do it inexpensively and over a period of months on my own and with the help of my family members.  That may seem a tall order; with my purpose in mind and a few sketches to ponder, let’s see where we go from there.

Weather Update

Arizona is famous for its extreme summer temperatures.  This year in Phoenix, the weather has been very mild compared to previous season.  I just accept that it means the weather is cooperating with my plans and will allow me a good start on the basic foundation for my urban farm, instead of finding hundreds of excuses why not to start… or… well… 100 plus degrees of excuses.  Without 100 degree temperatures the first day of spring, I have been given an opportunity from March to May of this year to explore my gardening passion unencumbered by my lack of experience and uncertain execution.  In fact, March and April were down-right pleasant with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s, which is lower than normal for this area.  Only this week has it reached 100 degrees.

With 100 degree days, progress definitely slows, but I will share my efforts all the same. Stay tuned, and happy gardening.


Gill Blu

Amateur gardener at BluGill Urban Farm
Amateur urban farmer learning and sharing his experiences in the Sonoran desert of the arid Southwestern North America.

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