Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back yard transformation part I

I am a gardener in a time of simultaneous trouble and incredible opportunity. Due to a concrete problem, I am currently faced with a lack of gardening space, but will soon have a blank slate to work with.

Last spring my husband and I started a search to find our first house. After months of looking, an adorable craftsman bungalow, in a great Seattle neighborhood, dropped into our price range. Upon walking into the house we fell in love: tons of light, appropriate updates, great energy, nice size, amazing views of lake union and the downtown skyline from the master bedroom. I was in love. After walking through the kitchen door to peep the back yard, however, my heart sank... just a little bit. What could be called the yard was completely paved over in concrete, mostly covered by a strange shed-like structure, and surrounded by a rotting fence.

 Our back yard on the brink of demolition.

Knowing that a lack of gardening space was a deal breaker for me, my husband glanced at me with that all too familiar look as if to say, "too bad this one won't work either". I surprised him when I said, "we can work with this". I knew that all we had to do was tear down the shed, rip up the concrete, build some raised beds, and I'd be in gardening paradise. By mid summer we were unpacking boxes in our new house. I dropped a couple tomato plants, lettuce starts, and several herbs in the front lawn area to get us through the first year transition (it didn't feel like home until I did that).

Now the boxes are unpacked and we're getting around to the demolition.

 Here is Jacob immediately after taking down the shed.

Our dear friend Brandon Peterson, landscape designer and owner of the Palm Room in Ballard, has been giving us tons of pointers and design ideas. He is amazing!

Our new neighbors across the street are architects and own a concrete cutter! Here is one of them showing us how to use it... the first step to concrete removal. The plan is to define the concrete removal areas with the cutter, and then jackhammer it into chunks that can be picked up and moved.

A few days ago we used some of the demo lumber from the shed to make raised beds along the side of the driveway. They're ready to plant now! The white PVC inserts along the 4 corners are there to hold hoops for the soon-to-be hoop house... a great way to extend the growing season.
It was Brandon's idea to make multiple boxes in different sizes and to offset them from one another. From a design perspective I really love it. I'm envisioning clumps of nasturtiums growing along the lower borders of the beds. Colorful chard, kale, sugar peas, radishes, arugula, and other spring veggies up top in the beds. I want to make a third box specifically for strawberries. That way the dogs won't trample the berries, and are less likely to pee on them... things I have to think about since I am able, and fortunate enough, to enjoy sharing my life with dogs.

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