Fall is a time of great transition. As the nights start getting cooler and the school buses start traveling the streets, our thoughts turn from the outdoors to in. There are a lot of changes in a short period of time. If you have school-age kids, days become more disorienting as the hours pass at a different pace.
This is a great time to get your previously-organized self back on track. Though the best of our intentions kick into gear for a short period of time (organizing closets, cleaning out the pantry, and finding items to donate), we can’t help but give in to the wanderlust of the outdoors.
This year make it a priority to create an outdoor "room” for yourself and your family. It is a place to garden, grow food, teach, feed your family and entertain friends. A mix of flowers and vegetables organize themselves in raised beds of varying heights.
Hanging baskets adorn the fence posts, and white twinkling lights create the festive promise of a party waiting to happen. The garden is bordered in a mixture of Rocket snapdragons and French lavender which guarantee a variety of pollinators will visit.
Decorating the outdoors is not much different than decorating the indoors. The same elements come into play: pattern, texture, color, structure and lighting. If you’re finding it difficult to adjust your focus to the indoors, give yourself a reprieve. There are plenty more days and nights of outdoor living with warm sun and stars.
[See: 10 Ways to Save While Gardening.]
Set the Stage
If you are fortunate enough to have a raised-bed garden, you’re halfway there. Or if you’re willing to build one, early fall is the perfect time. Raised beds make sense for so many reasons. For one, they make it much easier to plant, dig and amend the soil. You don’t have to bend over as much so gardening becomes a much more comfortable experience.
Since the beds are raised, the sides are exposed to the sun, keeping the soil warmer, thus extending your growing time. If arranged and tiered appropriately, and nicely fenced to provide critter control, the beds and the plants growing from them provide the most pleasing organic growing walls.
Choose an area of your yard that provides sun, but is currently underused. Plan out your space as you would furniture in a room. Take into consideration the height of the fence – a recommended 7 to 8 feet to keep deer out. This will emulate ceiling height. The varying bed heights create visual interest and allow you to plan the appropriate plants for the different beds based on their root systems (I like to use 36-inch, 24-inch and 18-inch beds).
Plants need air to keep them healthy and mildew free. Get creative with trellising to add support for the vegetation. Visit your local antique stores to find old iron gates that your beans can grow on, and open iron urns that can help organize your tomato plants. It may take a couple of years to decide which plants grow best in your various beds, but that discovery is part of the fun.
Pay close attention to the structure of your garden. It should be an architectural feature in your yard. Remember that when the growing season is over that the structure will be the focus. Plan carefully, allowing for an interesting style gate, pergolas, trusses and supports.
Take time each season to make adjustments that make the structure more appealing and easier to use. Perhaps it makes sense to add small benches or foot supports between beds. Maybe you find that your strawberries would grow better in shallow, vertical tiers.
Anything can be done as long as you have a couple tools. A great resource for ideas is Houzz.com, where there are endless inspirational pictures of the most fabulous gardens. Don’t let them discourage you – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your garden. It’s a work in progress.
Take Advantage of Early Evenings
Pattern and texture show themselves in the plants you choose, the colors of your flowers and the material on the ground, whether it be mulch, stone or grass. Treat flowers like accessories in the garden and work them between the vegetables to fill out the space and add color.
For the finishing touch to the structure, string up some white lights. Put them on a timer to turn on at dusk. In the fall, this lovely time occurs closer to dinner. For full effect, add a picnic table that fits the family. If the weather is clear, bring a table cloth, candles and real dishes and silverware. Spend dusk having dinner outside.
The view of your garden is transformed when you are sitting within it. The towering tomato plants and cucumber vines envelop the walls and create the most intimate of spaces. When dinner is over, light the portable fire pit and make s’mores with the kids. Cuddle around the campfire and close out the evening.