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LANDSCAPING THE FARM

by Mike Pembry

We talked a little about landscaping in our last issue. Here are some ideas I've collected over the years from various landscape architects and gardeners which members may find thought-provoking.

How many times have you planted a tree and then five years later wished you had planted it five feet further to one side, or perhaps on the other side of the house? This can be avoided. Just as it's good to have plans for your life and family, it's good to establish plans and goals for your home and farm landscape.

Some people immediately think they can't afford landscape material and so why have a plan. And that is exactly why they need a plan. This way, if you can only afford one bush or tree a year you won't have to guess where to put it and your landscape in ten years will have an appealing, planned look.

Another factor is that you often come across opportunities such as sales or someone giving some plants away. Without a plan these plants often just get put somewhere "for now" and this is an almost certain recipe for future moving.

If you have some spare money it's a good idea to get a professional to draw up a plan for you. Once you have this plan you can decide which areas you want to tackle first with your present budget. You may not even need a budget--just some time to dig a few cedars out of the bush for a windbreak.

Those of you attending last year's Fall Conference perhaps saw the landscape plan Bev and Brian Jeffray had done for their property.

If you think you can do it yourself, try to divide to landscape into the various uses. You might want a more formal entrance that channels visitors to the front door or which ever way you want them to approach the house. Then there would be another path or parking area for tradespeople or friends who drop by for a coffee in the kitchen.

The entrance to the farm homestead should have a welcoming feeling so that people feel as though they have entered the home before they even reach the front door. A house in the middle of a field leaves visitors and residents with a cold feeling, especially in the winter, until they get into the house.

When you are thinking of the other areas--recreation for children and adults, a vegetable garden area, and entertaining area and so on, try to separate these areas with trees, bushes or flower gardens so that they almost become rooms without a roof.

Added Value

Although some of the material that you use for landscaping your home must be purchased it's a worthwhile investment. Not only does it add value to the home, but it also makes you feel better. A good landscape can give a warm, comfortable feeling on the coldest days. Just think of the number of times you are either working around the homestead or looking at it through the window. Wouldn't it be nicer to feel good about what you see.

Environmentally Good

Another benefit of a good home landscape is that it can be protective of the home and garden.Strategically placed windbreaks will keep the house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Garden produce may ripen several days earlier if a sheltered microclimate protects them from cold winds.

Including fruits and nuts in the landscape can yield food for the family and attract wildlife too. An intense bird life around the home adds another interest for window gazing during meals and other breaks.

Easy On The Workload

A common mistake that many of us make is going overboard on our plans for flowers and other gardens. A good landscape should be designed for low maintenance on most areas. Including huge flower beds means a lot of work and the result may be large areas of overgrown weeds. Better to make some select area displays of colour that can be managed easily in the time you can allow for that.

Some areas may lend themselves to mass plantings of low bushes with a heavy mulch to hold back other plants.

Ponds An Added Touch

Some people are lucky enough to have a pond right near to the home. There's something special about water that makes you feel good just to sit near it. Care must be taken that these aquatic gardens don't become a danger to young children.

If you don't have a natural pond or pond site you might want to drop into the Arboretum area at the University of Guelph and wander over to the nature centre. They have a very small pond set up there with a liner which is full of interesting frogs and other wildlife and plants. It's designed for low maintenance and is a wonderful place to just sit and enjoy.

Start Your Plan

There never seems to be a really slow time around the farm, but starting your landscape plan now could be a good move, even if it's just a rough sketch. You may even want to get some plastercene and build a model. This is an easy way to get a view of the farm the way you would like it before digging a hole or building a fence. You can make little trees from cedar twigs or tooth picks and cotton wool. Get some kids involved. Just the modelling can be fun.

Copyright 1993 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


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