How to Make a Basemap

An abundant, easy to work vegie patch relies on smart placement decisions, and smart placement decisions rely on knowing all about your little corner of the world first.

Learning all this stuff takes time, it means waiting a bit ok. Be the 2 chocolate fish kid and you’ll be rewarded in spades with a garden set-up that hums, minus the yukky doubling back to un-build + re-build.

Bill Mollison (co founder of permaculture) wisely advises us to “protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour”

Things you need to know

Kathand Matts Basemap

Get a big square of cardboard or paper and make a rough sketch of your place on it. Draw in houses, sheds and fences + any underground wires, and the septic tank or drainage field.

Leave the sketch out so its easy to note down all your observations as you learn them. Use pencil – there will be changes!

  • Where do the seasonal winds blow and swoop?
  • Where does the sun shine summer through till spring?
  • Where is the winter shade? This is particularly useful knowledge for locating greenhouse and citrus who need winter sun.
  • Does frost hang out at yours, and if it does, when and where?
  • What’s the rainfall at your place?
  • The low + high temperatures?
  • What’s the soil like in all the different corners?
  • Where does the ground go soggy late winter/ spring?

Get outside in big winds and cold southerlies and identify all the sheltered spots.

If you are on ex farm/ horticulture or industrial land, use this pause to check your soil is safe. Free tests are available at Soil Safe NZ

Make a wishlist

Here’s another bit of knowledge well worth figuring out before leaping in – what do you want to produce on your land? Permaculture calls this making a wishlist. It’s tempting to want to grow everything! I still fantasize about rice paddies and oats, but with limited space and/or time + limits of climate, it’s smart to be targeted here. Leave a sheet of paper out for the family to doodle, colour and jot wishes down on.

  • Make your garden a reflection of your favourite things to eat + preserve.
  • Focus on stuff you cannot buy locally + organically, and crops that suit your climate.
  • Plan for tonnes of herbs and leafy greens and a lemon too if your climate allows. These are the best value nutritionally and also the easiest to grow.
  • Plug the gaps by joining your local veggie swap or community orchard.

Once your basemap and wishlist are finished you’re ready to make some very smart decisions about what goes where. If it’s still a bit tricky this is a really great time to get someone like me in to help you.