Our New Kitchen Garden Plans

23 Mar 2016


 

When first checked out our new house in person this past August- after having stalked the house photos of it up online-  I remember taking a walk around the property and coming to the sad realization that most of the sunlight was in the front yard and that there was probably no way we would be able to get vegetables to grow in the (fairly shady) back yard.  The house layout & size was kind of perfect for our family, I felt like the exterior could definitely be charming with some paint and landscaping, and we couldn't beat the location, but the yard was (is?) a tough one for me to swallow.  Our  new property is much smaller than the property our last house was on (an acre to now around a quarter of an acre) but we're lucky enough to border parkland so the kids have lots of space to play in, so it works out for them, but there really wasn't a great spot to put a vegetable garden, something that I really love having and I feel like has kind of changed our way of living for the better.  That first day walking around the property, I realized that the only place a vegetable garden would happily grow was the front yard.  

 

{The view of our house from the street}

I was both bothered by & intrigued by the idea which pretty much hit me as the only solution the moment I walked the property.  I'd been to our friends' Brooke & Steve Giannetti's old Santa Monica house which had a front yard potager and thought it was amazing:  

 


But their garden was really private, and hidden by trees and shrubs, whereas our garden would have to be pretty exposed.  So though I loved how having a front yard vegetable garden would make the house look and feel, I didn't love the thought of gardening with the new neighbors.  (As a sidenote with possibly too much personal info, we used to spend pretty much all of our free time on nice days in our last garden...  I'd come back from runs all sweaty and jump right into weeding and was pretty much always a hot mess and Dave would work shirtless, so we really didn't see that happening in a front yard setting either.  Also, lots of just special family time, private conversations, wine & cheese and that sort of thing.  )


As you can see in the photo above, our house is on a hill and a retaining wall  separates our house from the dead end street we live on, so if you were walking on the street itself, our front yard actually would be above your head at its higher points, which does provide a little bit of its own kind of barrier from the road.  

I felt like if we could flatten our the front yard- which turned into a fairly steep hill on one right end of the house- that we could actually make it feel a bit more like an authentic Cape Cod with a fence around the front garden like many of the authentic Colonial Capes once had.  In the photo below (where Dave is taking down the 'for sale' sign the day we closed on the house) you can see how if you were to keep walking straight from the flagstone path you would end up walking down the hill:

{It was steep and so dry in the Fall that I literally went skating down the hill in my flipflops on the grass multiple times...  fun stuff ;)}

We decided to think about it over the winter, and we found ourselves sitting on the front stoop of the house on sunny days to feel the warmth of the brick and just soak it in for a few minutes, and playing with the kids in the front yard simply because it was sunny.  We got to know our neighbors more since moving in, and have became more and more comfortable with the idea of a front yard vegetable garden, so we are doing it!!   eeeeeek


{ I love this image from here of a Colonial-style fenced in front yard}

And I'm so excited!!!  So yes, some of our habits will change (no more shirtless weeding for Dave... maybe there's some that needs to be done in the back yard?? ;) but I think we can keep some of the others and still get a lot of enjoyment out of it.  And we'll be sort of killing two birds with one stone here since it's in the front of our house, we'll actually be maintaining our front yard as we maintain the garden.  (And we'll probably be much more stringent since it's the front yard!! ;)  We've basically just shifted our expectations a bit- no we're not getting exactly what we want but we're hoping to really love it too.  I'll let you know how it goes as the season progresses.

So, design-wise, here's the plan:


 

We're keeping the split rail fence design currently in place because I love how rustic and simple it is but are replacing the (crumbling) fence with a fresh one.  We had a second brick retaining wall built coming off the existing brick retaining wall so that we could flatten out the front yard area to turn it into one big massive garden bed with a brick pathway:  

{in this pic you can see the cinderblocks from the inside of the brick retaining wall as it was going in.  Dave is digging up the holly trees on either side of the front stoop to move them to our side yard where we needed a little more greenery for privacy.}

 

{in-progress!  Thanks to Jorge & his team!!}

 

We used reclaimed brick so that it would fit in with the existing 70s retaining wall.  I didn't know this but older bricks were actually a slightly different proportion (longer) than today's standard bricks.  When the new retaining wall went in, I honestly wanted to brick up my life I loved it so much.  


 

 

 

I'm not usually a brick-lover but I love how old the new wall looked (which you can pretty much only see from the side yard) and I really see hardscaping around this property to be an important design element in getting it to feel older, established, and give it more of an authentic Colonial vibe.  I've been pouring over images of Mount Vernon for inspiration and really love how GW used brick mixed with more natural & rustic elements like "living fences" and split rail fences throughout the property...

{The kitchen garden at Mount Vernon.  Perfection.}

{Here's another image - of Colonial Williamsburg from here by David Kozlowski- that really illustrates how they mixed the brick in the gardens and I love it}

 

On that note, my mom and I have always loved the espaliered fruit trees planted at Mount Vernon to make living fences so I decided that to make the fence special, more private and edible, we could line it with espaliered apple trees...  

{Image by Robert Foley from Ron Wade's article with really great instructions on growing espalier apples here}

We picked up a bunch the other week and I was so excited to see that each apple tree has four different types of apples growing on it! They grafted branches from different varieties because A) it's awesome and B) there's no need to have to have a second tree nearby for cross pollination because the branches with different varieties do the trick.  I CANNOT WAIT!!!  I expected to go buy twigs and have to wait four years before we could get any fruit or they'd take on any sort of shape, but we found some big boys and we might even see apples this year!!!  They'll line the street and driveway side of the garden.

{grow pretty babies, grow!!}

 

We've re-routed the entrance to our front door from our driveway to up closer by our house (easiest to see this in the plan above} to make the yard a bit more private and to corral the little ones and pups in a bit better.  A new brick walkway with the reclaimed bricks arranged in a basketweave pattern will lead from the driveway to our yard & past our mudroom- where I plan on doing some sort of trellis and flower garden- and then on through the vegetables with a turn to the front steps and then on straight to a small patio with just enough space for a little bistro table and chairs.  We transplanted the old boxwood from in front of the right side of our house to the area where the new retaining wall is.  I can't believe how much green & privacy that little move brought to the garden!  We plan on filling in with a little more boxwood to thicken it up some.  It'll hopefully eventually become a pretty backdrop for the table and chairs.  Here it is today:  


We've put in an irrigation system so that we don't kill the whole thing when it's in and I might be most excited about that.  No more leaving the hose out all the time and coming home from trips to dead things!!

Most of the rest of the messy things are happening this week and I can't wait to literally dig in and get the soil happy & the plants in the ground this weekend.    Though I'm a decorator and mostly focus on the interiors at work, at home, I really don't feel like things are right until I have some good exterior space to hang out in and I've got my garden going.  Having a vegetable garden is something I never really thought much about - I really thought I'd be strictly flowers and a few tomatoes and herbs here & there- but having one really changed the way we live, eat and think about food in general.  It's so great for the kids to be able to help in the garden and they really love trying food from it.  (Want to see a kid excited about celery?!! ;)

And because this post was pretty much filled with scary in-progress photos, here's a look at our last garden (photos by taken by Helen Norman) which was filled with all of our favorite vegetables:

 

{I used a ton of microbasil mixed in with small boxwood to border the beds.  The willow edging was found online and we cut it down to a low height.  It wasn't enough of a barrier for us between the grass and the garden beds though.}

 

I can't wait to get the vegetables growing!!!

{Totally posed picture with us looking way more put together than we normally do in the garden... Oh my gosh, it just hit me--- is this how we're going to have to be in our new garden?!!!! eek}

I'll be back with progress pics!!  To see things as they're happening, check out my Instagram feed LaurenLiess.

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