Designing a Holistic Garden

Drawing of holistic garden by Barb Allen

The following is the first few paragraphs of a new page added to the website. It’s an excerpt from the book I wrote called The Holistic Garden:

Even if drawing isn’t one of your strong suits, doing a sketch of your property can be extremely useful in helping you to use your space efficiently (especially useful if it’s small) and to help to plan realistically what you can fit into that space. The primary purpose of a plan is to help identify the priorities for your outdoor space and choose the best places for those activities to occur. Then you can determine how many plants and features (chicken coop and pen, compost bin, annual veggie beds, greenhouse/hoop house, frog pond, etc.) you can comfortably fit into the space available. A plan will save wasted space, time, money and overcrowded plants. Don’t worry if you can only fulfill parts of the plan each year. Having the plan will help you to create something that will all work together in the end and save lots of mistake that might be made along the way.

Knowing, for instance, where we were going to put the main orchard allowed us to take advantage of neighbor’s leaves the fall before it was planted, and when a tree trimming crew showed up on our road, we talked them into dumping several loads of wood chips next on the edge of it. We spent the winter spreading them before we planted the fruit and nut trees.

Here are some questions you will want to ask yourself – and the rest of your family – before you stick a shovel in the dirt:

  • What wild plants, animals and their habitat, such as meadows, woods and wetlands, exist here already and how can I best preserve them?
  • What can we do to make this a better habitat for other life forms?
  • Do we need more shade for a part of our house or yard?
  • Do we need a windbreak for some area?
  • Do we have a great view to preserve?
  • Do we have a terrible view we would like to screen?
  • Do we need more privacy? For the whole yard or just a part of it? Which part?
  • Do we need to keep pets, small children, or wildlife in or out of our yard?
  • Do we need more room for parking? (Vehicles are a part of life even in a natural landscape!)
  • For bicycles, RV’s, boats, etc.?
  • Do we have a low wet spot on the property?

To read the entire section CLICK HERE


  1. Great sketches! Did you draw them? I did several when I bought my property. Then I began creating a digital 3D rendering in SketchUp. Still working on it, but man! It sure makes things easier. I can actually walk the yard with it. Move everything with a few clicks.

    I also used it to design my chicken coop. Opened all the virtual hatches and everything. Got it so dialed in that I had zero wasted lumber. Building it twice in this fashion allowed me to work out all the kinks before anything was cut.

    Nothing beats a solid strategy!


  2. Hi James! Yes I did the drawings… I was a landscape designer from back in the 70’s when we didn’t even have computers… So it was always by hand… But SketchUp sounds wonderful! It must be a whole new ballgame doing landscape design these days! But as someone who loved to paint and draw since I was a kid – doing it by hand satisfied that creative need. I don’t think a computer program would have been the same. That said — it looks like it would be fascinating in a whole different way. My youngest son will be coming soon to build a little cottage my land – and this program might be really useful for that! Thanks for telling me about it.


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