April 20, 2020

planning an urban garden

From early sketches to finished product, here are the steps to planning and planting raised beds for aesthetics and maximum yumminess.

Shannie McCabe
April 20, 2020

Spring is upon us in Georgia, which means we’ve spent the last several weeks planting up the Johnny Appleseed Urban Garden. Taking a garden from the dreaming stage to planting day requires a bit of organization and garden know-how, and we thought sharing our process might help those of you who find yourselves at the beginning of the journey.

Assess your Space and Make a Map

When deciding what to plant and how to design your garden, take note of the physical aspects of your garden like orientation, plot size and the number of beds, as well as shady spots and fencing. Creating a simple hand drawn map will help to keep your ideas organized.

I typically make a sketch of the bed design, then determine how the garden is oriented against the cardinal directions. I record the size of each bed, then read the seed packets for everything I’m planting to help figure out how many plants to squeeze into each bed.

The urban garden at the Johnny Appleseed Organic Village consists of 64 raised beds constructed out of aluminum siding, with large hanging baskets overhead. The beds are arranged in a horseshoe shape along the perimeter of a tall fence, with a smaller horseshoe shape in the center of the garden.

Before planting, we prepare the beds with a bottom layer of crumbled limestone for drainage, and a custom blend of coconut coir, pine bark, rice hulls, sand and worm castings. Feel free to use our soil recipe, or make up your own mix.

From Dreaming to Designing

Once the blank garden map is created, it is time to draw up the design! When designing, always remember to take note of your plants’ characteristics, like the height and size of the varieties. This will help you decide where to place them in the garden. Then, arrange the plants by height, placing tall crops against the back of the beds and short, stocky crops toward the front of the beds. 

Tall plants in our urban garden include Thai Roselle, sunflower, and vining crops. Medium height plants include eggplant, pepper, squash and bushbeans. The short plants arranged in the foreground include marigold, nasturtium and various basils.

In order to capitalize on the vertical space afforded by the iron fencing surrounding the garden, we lined the outer edges of the beds with climbing vines like mouse melons, butterfly pea, long beans and cucumbers. We chose heat and sun-loving vines like long beans and bitter melons for the sunniest, brightest spots. Small, pocket sized melons like tigger melon and charentais will also grow up the trellis.

The massive hanging baskets are filled with herbs like mint, rosemary and bee balm, while smaller baskets will be filled with petunia, Mexican sour gherkin and climbing nasturtium. You can refer to the planting chart on the back of your seed packet to determine how far apart to space your seeds and plants. 

Planting Day 

This summer garden consists of mostly frost sensitive, heat loving plants, so it was essential to wait until any chance of frost had passed and the soil had reliably warmed before planting. Once the weather permitted, we chose an overcast, warm day and headed out to the garden with seed packets and our map. 

The planting is often the easiest part of the project. Once you know ideal plant spacing and seeding depth, the sowing of seeds was quick work. It is essential to keep newly sown seeds and transplanted seedlings well-watered, so we used a hose to hand water early on, then installed an automatic drip watering system. 

Stay tuned for updates on the urban garden as the season progresses! We plan to discuss more growing details, organic pest control, harvest updates and even a few recipes! Happy gardening!

Got garden planning tips to share that you didn't see here? Do you still have questions about how to approached planning and planting your raised beds? We'd love to continue the conversation.


Shannie McCabe

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