Know Your Space

“Space. The final frontier.”
Or is it?
Well at least in the garden, space is the important frontier.
It can be the final say regarding what you plant and how you plant. The smaller the garden, the more important the amount of space you have. And the more important it is to utilize it properly. One of the first steps in using space properly is to know how much space you there is to work with.

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Nothing is harder to do than to figure your space without taking measurements-inevitably you’re wrong. When you take those measurements, it’s important to be as accurate as possible, because in a small space an inch can mean a lot. A foot can make a difference with what type of plants you plant, and a yard to make the difference in the type of material you use for hard-scaping.
When taking your measurements, it is imperative to find out where the building sits on the property. While it is important to measure the windows and doors, don’t forget to look for the other little things you might not consider. The downspouts, hose bib, gas meter, utility area; all of these must be considered in your drawing. If you don’t incorporate them in the drawing, you will be in for a big surprise when you go to plant a six-foot plant in front of a 3-foot window. It’s a little hard to explain to the customer why their view is blocked because you didn’t measure properly. I’ve learned through my own mistakes and experience that it never hurts to take an extra measurement or two, because inevitably when you get back to the office and sit at the drawing table, there is a missing measurement somewhere. With other measurements, you can triangulate and coordinate where you will be planting and approximate that missing measurement.

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But only knowing the measurements of the  length and width of an area isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Look up over your head. Are there power lines in the way of where you will plant that oak tree? Is there an awning you need to consider, or are you going to be blocking sunlight for the new planting? These are other considerations you need to think about when you’re measuring your space. If you’re adding hard-scape to your landscape, you also need to consider the physical movements of both people and items such as wheelchairs, a golf cart, a stroller or a gardening cart. Take into consideration not only the straight path these items will take, but the curves and arches they need to take to turn safely without damaging your landscape or your property.

There are some great tools on the market for measuring other than the good old-fashioned measuring tape. There’s even a battery powered one that automatically retracts for you. Some are measuring tapes that can electronically figure out your space by doing the math for you. And there’s even some new tapes that can visually measure and figure out your space without the use of a physical tape.

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Need a simpler tool? Try the walking measuring stick. The handle is attached to a counter and wheel, and it calculates the feet as you walk. When you’re measuring long distances, there’s nothing better, because let’s face it, a measuring tape will not go much farther than 100 feet. A walking measuring tape can be as sophisticated as you would like to spend the money on. They can electronically figure out your square feet of the area. For a larger project. you might need to hire a surveyor and get the site plotted out in more detail.
Don’t forget those underground utility lines. Many municipalities provide services where they will come out and mark the utilities for you. A good rule of thumb, is to always mark before you dig-there’s nothing worse than sticking that shovel in the ground and cutting off somebody’s cable, telephone or worse yet, breaking a waterline.

So remember to take all things into consideration when planning out your garden space. Get it right the first time and then you can enjoy the planting experience, rather than being frustrated. Once you’re all finished, grab that cold glass of iced tea and head out to the hammock to sit and relax and enjoy that beautiful space you just created.

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