I am certainly not an expert gardener. However, I am a researcher and planner at heart and know how long the planning stages take prior to truly diving into any new project to do it right. In hopes that I can save you the countless hours of research I (and Amber) have gone through in order to begin executing our dream garden plan, I have pulled together all of our favorites: our favorite books, our favorite sources for inspiration, and our favorite practical tools that even include a spreadsheet I created to easily help you plan your own garden starting NOW.
Those of you who are not gardeners at heart, like me last year, may be wondering why on earth February is such a crucial month for gardening. As I have learned, winter months are the absolute best for planning. For one, most plants are dormant or waiting to bloom again in the following spring/summer. The best time to move shrubs or trees is when they are dormant in the winter and not at a high risk for damage. I also love and have learned to embrace how bare the garden looks in winter. In the South, summers are HOT and weeds are rampant. With these and other thick foliage gone in the winter, it really gives us a chance to actually see what we have without other distractions.
Let’s get planning!
1. Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein
I am sure many of you know about this from the amazing Floret Instagram. The flower farm has a cult following and for good reason. This is an outstanding compendium of information about all things flowers. It has information in regards to plant care, planting bulbs, sowing seeds, and even Erin’s favorite gardening tools. This will absolutely be invaluable for us as we start to sow our spring and summer seeds indoors within the next couple weeks.
2. The Layered Garden by David Culp
This is perhaps my absolute favorite gardening book at the moment. It is perfect for planning, inspiration, and practical information. David walks you through his entire garden section by section and shows how they are each unique but still created as part of a larger concept. One of my favorite parts, as indicated in the title, is how eloquently and practically he talks about creating year-round layers within a garden for that lush look. Looking for plants that easily hide dying bulb foliage? He has an answer to that! The pictures are also stunning which never hurts!
3. Gardening in the South by Mark Weathington
This book is a bit more niche to the South. However, if you live in a different region, I am sure there are similar books out there catered more to your area. It covers almost every plant imaginable and gives you peace of mind knowing that all the plants covered in the book can grow in the South. Because our gardening knowledge was limited at best until last summer, we’ve relied on this book to identify the vast majority of plants in our yard.
4. The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal
Amber is the vegetable gardener of the two of us and loves this book. It contains everything you need to know about growing food in a small urban space, walking you through everything from how to select the best site in your yard to how to maximize planting space. It’s packed with plenty of drawings and step-by-step instructions.
Sources of Inspiration
Unless you just happen to know exactly what you want, inspiration is important but can take a long time to gather. Here are a few of my go-to sources for inspiration.
1. Our Garden Pinterest Board
You can see our garden Pinterest board here. As I said, we have spent countless hours researching garden ideas, inspiration, and other practical information to get the ball rolling on our dream garden. This is our go-to place for inspiration as we have found SO many beautiful images out there that really capture what we are looking to create. As we live in a smaller tudor, we are looking to create a cozy English cottage style garden. Especially if you are in the same boat and interested in the cottage garden style, check out the board and follow along.
2. Our Favorite Instagram Accounts
There are many talented people out there and some of my favorites to follow for garden inspiration are Charlie McCormack, Forde Abbey, Gardeners’ World Magazine, and Debby Tenquist. I could spend hours browsing these four accounts alone and know you will love them too.
3. All Things Monty Don
If you have been on Instagram at all recently, Monty Don has become quite the craze. He is also visiting America to film a new show set in American gardens. Maybe he wants to visit the Happy Tudor? Hmm… Back to the point. Monty has a series of shows that are inspirational and informative. If you are short on time and looking to make a big difference in your garden this year, I suggest you save the French and Italian Garden series for another time and go right into his more practical shows. Big Dreams, Small Spaces is on Netflix and shows you specific, real-life examples of people transforming their small gardens over a specific period of time. I love that it actually shows that gardening takes time and that the people have to put in the work. Gardeners’ World is incredible and my personal favorite as it takes you through an entire year season by season with Monty in his own garden where he walks you through a series of tasks every episode all while giving you golden nuggets of gardening wisdom. Gardeners’ World is on Amazon Prime with the Britbox subscription.
1. Cooperative Extension
Your state’s Cooperative Extension is a valuable resource that provides research-based education to the public. Extension offices are housed within each state’s land grant university with agents working in counties throughout the state. Extension offices work to provide evidence-based resources, information, and classes on all agricultural related topics. They are one of the best sources of information for your area, detailing common invasive species, diseases, native plants, plants for your USDA zone, etc. Tennessee’s Extension Office put together a Year-Long Garden Plan that we have found to be invaluable. It looks like you could find extension resources by state here.
2. Excel/Google Docs
Never underestimate the power of a good spreadsheet. They are well worth the time it takes to put together and, in the case of gardening, also allow you to sort by type of conditions a plant prefers or even what season it needs to be pruned. If you want an actual example or if you simply want to save a lot of time, HT Garden Plant Care is our Excel document that lays out the details for most the plants in our yard. You can also download a blank version where you can input your own plants here: HT Garden Plant Care Blank.
Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of gardening expertise, we hope you find these materials as helpful as we have. In particular, if you have been holding off on gardening for fear that you don’t know enough or won’t get it just right, let this serve as your motivation to pull some triggers and get planting. Any questions you have for us about garden planning?