Northwest Missouri Master Gardeners
Featured Article January 2009
Charting Your Way to a Perfect Garden
By Sherry Taylor: Master Gardener

Gardening is probably the most relaxing, frustrating, calming, aggravating yet satisfying activity available to all people of all ages. Whether in simple containers or on acres of ground, opportunity abounds. As winter is upon us and spring seems so far away, what pleasures we can have looking through garden books, checking ideas on the internet and planning that special area yet to be completed.

There are many available articles on designing your garden to meet special needs such as shade, sun, soil type or curb appeal. Once planted, those trees grow, adding more shade, ice storms remove shade, a plant we were sure would grow in that special spot was not happy, and that tiny start someone gave you is now a monster.

This year I would like to suggest trying a technique known as “charting” your garden. Once completed, you will have an ongoing reference that will simplify the development of the established garden you desire. You will need a measuring tape, ruler, graph paper and pencil. With this method, you look at each garden spot separately.

Measure the width, length and depth of your first garden spot. Chart it out on a separate piece of graph paper. Now, write in the names of all plants within that area. That is all there is to it! You are ready to move on to the next garden spot and repeat the process.

If you have a large garden area, you will need to divide it among two or more pieces of graph paper. Remember to include those container gardens that you want to repeat or tweak. Label and slip each chart in a separate plastic sleeve to preserve it.

I transferred mine to my computer for easy updating, using simple lines, circles, squares, etc. on a Word program. I also add the number of annual plants used in a particular area to aid my shopping in the spring. You now have a working chart for future reference.

In the fall, take your charts to the garden along with some sticky notes. Jot down plants that need to be moved, split, added, etc. and you are ready for a well informed planning time next spring.

Samples of charts and a picture of one of the gardens are below

Sample Charts of two of Sherry's gardens

Oak Tree Garden

Perennial Starestep Garden

Terrace Garden
Click this link to view the Terrace Garden Chart


About our author: Sherry Taylor

Sherry has been a part of the St. Joseph community for many years.
Member of the Flower Society of St. Joseph.
Graduate of MU.
Married to Errol Taylor.
Retired school teacher in the St. Joseph School District.
Co-chairman of the YWCA Gardener's Festival for 8 years.
Her garden has been on the St. Joseph Garden Tour twice.
Plans and gives programs and presentations on gardening.
Was introduced to gardening by her mother many years ago.
Proud grandmother of two.