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Late summer harmony - honeysuckle, butterfly-bush, purple-loosestrife and honesty seed pods
Late summer harmony

- so easy on the eye

All you need to sketch a light and shade plan for your cottage garden - (measurements in brackets = if you live in a country with non-metric weights and measures) - are a:

  1. Pencil - no, it doesn't have to be sharpened - and ruler.
  2. Self-retracting pocket tape measure - 5 meters (15 feet) will do nicely.
  3. Sheet of paper: A4 size divided in 1 centimeter squares (½ inch squares) is perfect and easy to work with.

Step by step, here's what you do:

Measure the Available Space

  1. Measure the outer border outline of your entire plot of land and draw it using a scale of 1 cm = 1 meter or ½ inch = 1 yard.
    Example: 30-09-2006
    Link to larger sketch: 287px x 537px, 9.54 KB
    Cottage garden
    land sketch
  2. Do the same for the outer walls of your house and their position in relationship to the outer border of your land. Add these measurements to your drawing.
  3. Finally, measure and add to your sketch any additional buildings which you want to retain e.g. garden shed, construction features e.g. pergola or terrace.
    N.B.: If you don't want to keep any of these features, remove them before you fill in the sections below as they create shade which you won't have anymore.
  4. The space that remains empty is what you have available for cottage gardening. We have about 250 square meters of available gardening space.

Make copies of this drawing or scan and save it (we did as land_sketch.bmp and land_sketch.gif) on your computer and print several copies - you'll need them.

Sketch the Shade

Choose a sunny day in spring or autumn - the best periods - or summer if you have to - winter's difficult, not much sun around.
Example: 30-09-2006
Link to larger sketch: 287px x 537px, 20.6 KB
Cottage garden
light / shade

Lightly pencil in the areas covered in shade - measure the shady areas as much as possible, don't guess them - three times, at 08:00/09:30, 12:00/13:30 and 17:00/18:00.

At the end of the day, you'll see that there are areas with:

  1. No shading at all: Full sun for the sun lovers - they'll do well in these parts.
  2. One shade overlay: Light shade for plants who don't like to bake all day and many, but not all, sun-loving plants will thrive in these areas.
  3. Two shade overlays: Half shade, many cottage garden plants, such as foxgloves, grow well in the shade.
  4. Three shade overlays: Deep shade and believe it or not, there are plants that thrive in these conditions, they just don't need as much light as other plants do.
  5. Example of the cottage garden light / shade sketch in colour.

Make a copy of this drawing or scan and save it (we did as morning_midday_afternoon.bmp and morning_midday_afternoon.gif) on your computer for reference - it's a great help if you want to make changes to your garden design in the future.

Finished! Take a breather and ask yourself - as I did:
"How does this help me?"

Take the next step and decide your cottage garden objectives and you will see that your light and shade sketch is the foundation of your garden layout. - a Gardener's Practical Guide to Natural Cottage Gardening

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