15 Inquiries to Ask When Designing Your Backyard

There are lots of issues to consider when beginning a backyard: When to plant, the place to plant, easy methods to plant, and so forth.

With a purpose to reply these questions, you first should reply a wider one: “How can I work with nature to make this backyard regenerative and sustainable?” If we let go of the ability we’ve (or suppose we’ve) over nature and as an alternative work with it, our gardens prove so significantly better. Step one on this course of? Asking questions on your atmosphere to correctly design your backyard.

The next is an excerpt from The Ecological Gardener by Matt Rees-Warren. It has been tailored for the online.

(All pictures courtesy of Matt Rees-Warren.)

What To Ask When Designing Your Backyard

There isn’t any one single option to design a backyard. Kinds and traditions might have affect, however these are solely motifs from which every backyard inevitably departs. Each backyard is exclusive, reflecting the atmosphere and panorama it exists inside in addition to the hand of the gardener who dreamt of its creation and raised it from the bottom. Gardens are dynamic; they develop, develop, reproduce, decompose, freeze, bake, dry out, and flood. Mammals, birds, bugs, reptiles and microorganisms all stay, breathe, maintain and perish inside them. Not solely do the seasons change however the local weather is altering as properly, and our gardens will transition with it, nevertheless excessive or unpredictable its results. Gardens are, in brief, ecosystems.

Wealthy, biodiverse environments are complicated, however to design a backyard ecologically is easy. It requires observing the area we presently backyard, or plan to, finding out its singular rhythm and distinctive patterns. It additionally means letting go of design concepts of the previous by letting go of our want to carry dominion over nature, permitting it as an alternative to cleared the path. We should recognise the cycles of upheaval and regeneration which might be already ongoing within the backyard and work with, not in opposition to, them. Nature is able to producing infinite selection, however as gardeners and designers we maintain grave energy to decrease its divergency. With considerate imaginative and prescient and a light-weight contact, nevertheless, we will rebalance the scales. If we design our gardens to be regenerative, the consequence can be useful, stunning areas energetic and vigour, sturdy sufficient to face the challenges of the longer term and stylish sufficient to beguile all those that stroll amongst them.

Elemental Statement

Design begins within the eye and the thoughts lengthy earlier than it’s sketched on paper or realised on the bottom. To start, it’s vital to grasp the numerous and different components that make up a pure area. The ecological framework of a backyard ought to be the inspiration from which your design arises, and inform your gardening strategies thereafter. You don’t must turn out to be a biologist or geologist, solely a easy observer, gaining information about your panorama as solely you’ll be able to, and imagining the chances from there. And nothing may very well be easier than imagining your backyard in accordance with the 4 wild components: earth, air, fireplace and water.

The Wild Parts

Observe your backyard (or future backyard) inside the framework of the 4 components by asking questions. The solutions will then additional information your imaginative and prescient and design.


  1. What’s the topography of the backyard? Is the land on a slope or is it flat?
  2. What’s the predominant vegetation of the native and wider atmosphere? Is the land boggy and low-lying or is it by the ocean? Does it sit inside a temperate forest area or a dry steppe?
  3. What’s the underlying subsoil? Is heavy clay, or is it primarily sand and even chalk?
  4. What of the life inside the topsoil – does it include many worms and invertebrates, or is it lifeless and inert?


  1. From the angle of the home wall, what course does the backyard face – south or north? Which space of the backyard receives essentially the most mild?
  2. Is the backyard overburdened by bushes, excessive partitions or different buildings, limiting its mild? Will the decrease winter solar attain over these obstacles?
  3. Do inside partitions naturally acquire and accumulate warmth? And is the ability of this warmth vitality detrimentally intense and desires calming, or comparatively weak and desires amplifying?


  1. What’s your backyard’s prevailing localised local weather? Is it situated in a valley that holds morning fog? Does it expertise excessive ranges of humidity?
  2. Are there microclimates inside the backyard the place frost pockets develop, and does dew acquire within the mornings?
  3. What of the broader climatic zone – is the backyard inside a coastal area or a temperate forest?
  4. What course does the prevailing wind come from? Does the backyard require safety from common robust wind, or ought to your design encourage wind to chill it down?


  1. How a lot rainfall is the backyard more likely to obtain – is water naturally considerable or do you deal with it as treasured?
  2. The place within the backyard does water acquire essentially the most? Does it pool and linger or shortly drain away?
  3. Are there any watercourses that run by means of the backyard? Any wells or springs?
  4. Does the water desk come excessive within the winter or keep low the entire yr by means of? Does the backyard expertise flood or drought, and if that’s the case, which areas are affected most by these extremes?

I’ve discovered that backyard designers typically overlook these concerns in pursuit of aesthetical magnificence. I too might be seduced by the ability of kind and craft, however I’ve learnt to coach my eye to see past the floor to the foundations of backyard building. I’ve learnt this by seeing design not as patterns people impose on nature, however the material of how nature itself works. Each design I’ve ever drawn has been improved the longer I’ve spent attending to know the area the backyard will occupy. In your individual area, gaining information of sure situations in your backyard might require barely greater than passive commentary. For instance, to higher perceive your underlying subsoil, you’ll be able to conduct two easy soil and water assessments outlined in The Soil Take a look at and The Water Take a look at.

The Soil Take a look at

  • Dig a gap 50 cm deep and take a handful of soil from the underside. Be sure you dig beneath the topsoil stage (determine 1).
  • Observe the soil. Is it sandy, or dense and heavy? Does it have rock in it or really feel moist?
  • Take a thimble-sized quantity, add a small quantity of water or spit, and roll it right into a ball (determine 2). If you happen to can’t do that, you have got a sandy soil.
  • Take the ball, roll it right into a sausage form and loop this right into a circle (determine 3). If it breaks aside, then you have got loam.
  • You probably have been in a position to kind a loop with no cracks in it, then your soil is clay.

The Water Take a look at

  • Dig a gap 50 cm deep and a spade’s width large. Be sure you select a website on stage floor.
  • When no rain is forecast, fill the outlet to the highest with harvested rainwater and test repeatedly (determine 1).
  • If the water drains away shortly, the soil is free and free-draining. But when it lingers for a very long time, the soil is heavy and saturated.

Beneficial Reads

5 Rules of Soil Well being

How a lot meals might be grown in a small area?

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