Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Building UP

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The northwest region is well-known as a gardener's paradise. However, I've yet to meet anyone who can simply stick a plant in the ground and get great results. Many around here have hard clay soil that needs a LOT of amending. In addition to the clay, we face another challenge, as our home was built on an old rock quarry.

Every time we dig down to plant something we are guaranteed to hit rock. Some are small, but others are quite large. This one (about 12" long) is a sampling of what we find. Since our home was the last to be built on our cul-de sac, our side yard was used as a dumping ground for a lot of the rock that was dug up. Needless to say, you simply cannot dig into or till this part of the yard.

So, when it came time to landscape our side yard, rather than dig down, we decided to build up. I designed it to have 1 large (20' x 4') raised bed for veggies, and two smaller (4' x 4') beds on the shadier side. I also wanted a patio area with a table and chairs, as we spend a lot of time out front with neighbors. We had a retaining wall put in, and included steps from the driveway up to the patio.

We hired landscapers to do the hard up the side yard, level it out, frame the patio (which we paved), build the retaining walls, steps, and raised beds. After that was done we got to work, completing it ourselves.

(As soon as the beds were ready, I spread perennial seeds in them. You see, after the side yard was completed, the next project was the front yard. While we worked on that, the perennials grew in the side yard beds.)

We did this in spring/summer 2006, and ever since, this has been one of my favorite areas. I feel free to add splashes of color, some yard art, and get a little funky.

Here's a tour of the side yard for you, from the beginning:

Sadly, I didn't take a complete "before" shot. But you can imagine a 12' wide sloped side yard (from the back fence down to the sidewalk) full of rocks and weeds. That's pretty much what we started with in May, 2006....

In the picture above, you can see some of the rocks we have come across as we landscaped other parts of the yard. They came in handy as fill!

The pictures above are the framework that we started with. This is what we hired landscapers to do. From this point, we started filling in behind the retaining wall, getting it level for paving.

We brought in good soil/compost and filled the raised garden beds. Next, I sowed perennial seeds...shady (in small square beds) and sunny (in the larger bed). These plants were all transplanted by the following spring ('07) and placed throughout the front yard.

The smaller, shadier beds were turned into shady flower beds with hydrangeas as the anchor. The climbing vine in the photo below is a Blue Passion Flower (Passiflora caerulea).

In the spring of '07, we started our first vegetable garden in these beds. However, a lot of dormant flower seeds also sprouted! I moved these to the front/back yards as they came up, though many stayed right there with the veggies!

Below are pictures of the front yard that is just below (east of) the side yard. These were taken in the spring and summer of '07:

To add interest to an otherwise boring gate/fence (yes, one board is missing!!), I started collecting and stripping the branches from our plum trees as I pruned them. I have a whole other post on this (soon to be written...) as it was a pretty cool process. I formed an arch, and started growing clematis on both sides of the fence. I can't wait to see what this looks like when the plants have matured!

To add to a more inviting gate look, I added this sign which I purchased at a local garden faire:

On the pavers, I'd hoped to be able to put a small table with four chairs, but it was really too cramped. So the original set that I'd purchased on clearance (end of summer '05) stayed in the backyard. I found this little set at Lowe's and it fits the space much better. Someday I'd really like to add a third chair though, as there are three of us in the family, and we do sit out here to eat and read.

Here's a close-up of the left side (a rhododendron bed). I planted evergreen creeping thyme between all the triangular spots between the retaining wall blocks, to soften the edges. Because this wasn't a perfectly square patio, we had a lot of little bricks custom cut to fit. You can see some of them in the picture below. My neighbor had a wet-saw and was kind enough to cut them for me.

And, below is what the side yard looked like this past spring ('08). The photo at the very top was taken in August '08.


KraftyKerilou said...

That Passion flower is awesome! That is something that is new to me. All your hard work has paid off, your area in beautiful! I loved to see all your pictures!

Ample Goddess Jewelry said...

Beautiful gardens! I hear ya about the PNW. The rocks we have are rediculas for being so close to the mountain. I end up using the big ones as features.

binders said...

Great solution to a complex problem. Your yard looks great! I'd love to have 'landscapers' do the last of the hard work in our yard overhaul- but I AM the landscaper. LOL!

Are you familiar with the book Square Foot Gardening? It's about raised bed veggie gardening- just like you're doing. The hard work is done- now sit back and enjoy the flowers.

helmet hair 365 said...

Wow-- you've done a lot of work. It looks fantastic!

I'd like to something similar in my backyard. I live in a townhouse, so raised beds and the square foot gardening method would be perfect for me.

glitzen said...

Wow, a lot of work! I love the gate, you are so creative and the little sign is so cute.
Glad you like to take pics..loved them all!


dg said...

Thanks for the nice comments.

Yes, I do know about Square Foot Gardening, and that has been my plan from Day 1. I have the book, and keep meaning to implement it! But, as much as I like the structure and "willy-nilly" veggie bed also appeals to me!

Christina said...

Wow, thats a lot of hard work. It looks so great though. I bet it's so nice to sit out there.

The Empty Envelope said...

How fun! We have a couple of friends doing the raised beds and they turn out so nice. We had some reconstruction work to do on the lawn, but I'd like to do something like this someday!

Your yard is gorgeous!

Cookie said...

Gorgeous garden! I have a black thumb, I feel lucky if I can keep the bushes alive.

Angelina said...

You took such a long break from blogging-I missed your posts... now I see that I'm behind in reading them.

Your garden is gorgeous and is making me quite jealous!

I actually have time to work on my raised beds tomorrow so I think I ought to finish them.

You've inspired me.