Garden Party

Before

Everyone in the City is so busy 24/7, right? We can barely “make time” to see friends, much less to, say, totally re-do a medium-sized backyard in a mere day. See where the permaculture adage, “The problem is the solution” might come in handy here? A garden party!

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In this case, Elisa’s friends had recently bought a house near Duboce Park. After doing some necessary prep work – mowing and mulching, mainly – the day before, they invited about 20 people over to build and beautify their new outdoor space.

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There was a project for everyone, from laying ground cloth and painting outdoor furniture to planting and spreading a lovely layer of shredded bark.

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The transformation was quick, fun, and dramatic. Stock a cooler of refreshing beverages, grab some tools, and call your friends.

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Just Pebble It

Ugly concrete floors and patios often, unfortunately, go with the territory of a garden. And though it’s usually feasible to break it up and haul it away (or, of course, re-use the urbanite in some creative way on-site), this extra labor isn’t always appealing. So consider this simple, attractive solution by simply by covering it with pebbles and adding a couple of pavers. This is an example from a tiny courtyard, but the same quick-fix could be applied in an outdoor space by adding edging to contain the pebbles.

Reclaimed Containers

Using reclaimed wood is another way of incorporating an ethic of no-waste into your garden. The look of planter boxes built from reused wood can span the spectrum from super rustic to more chic and sleek.

One of our favorite places, Building Resources — San Francisco’s treasure trove of reused construction materials – made this box of old doors. This, obviously, falls under the “super rustic” category. Keep in mind that using large pieces of wood, just as they are, can be a good strategy because it means assembling the box is a relatively quick and simple project. Needless to say, there are tons of old doors out there that can be diverted from the landfill and creatively reused.

In a more stylish garden, it’s typically best to have only one or two really rustic elements — more than that begins to transform the design into something haphazard and messy (which is the antithesis of stylish, unless you’re into that “carefully-cultivated messy look”, of course!). Reclaimed wood still has a valid place in sleeker gardens, however.  For example, Elisa sanded and stained slender pieces of reused wood to make these container covers. The thinner wood would rot quickly if soil was placed directly in them, so instead the plants are kept in the plastic pots and just set inside the wooden boxes. The boxes are a perfect disguise: You can’t even see the ugly plastic containers.

Wild Wood

Using untreated, naturally-worn wood in the garden can offer a sense of warmth and a seamless integration into the surrounding landscape. This is almost a no-brainer, considering wood-as-a-building-material was once wood-the-body-of-a-tree.

At Merritt College’s permaculture garden in Oakland, an herb spiral is shaped by short, uneven pillars. The wooden outline can also double as seats while the gardeners pick their thyme and oregano!

This is a wild grape vine that Elisa’s parents placed in a blank spot in their home. The twisty nature of this plant in inherently sculptural; it’s not hard to imagine using a dead, woody vine as a trellis for a more delicate plant, such as peas in a veggie garden.

And check out this simple way to create a fun, different-looking path. Simply cutting one- or two-inch pieces of log, then filling in the gaps with sand. Very pretty and woodsy (and easy and cheap!).

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Rope sidewalk garden barrier

Planting in a city sidewalk is a noble endeavor but almost always a gamble. Between the car doors, peeing dogs, and rambling drunks, these plants endure a constantly threatened existence. Protective sidewalk barriers are often flimsy and get beat up quickly. But build one out of half-inch thick rope and four pieces of rebar, and you have a sturdy, inexpensive, and easy solution. Even better, the plants remain in full view and the design complements the small square landscape.

Insanely low budget garden

This is one of the most creative and interesting gardens I have ever seen.  It’s a bunch of jade and aloe cuttings stuck into red painted plastic containers and aluminum cans.  The plants have a reddish hue and the combination against the blue is incredible.  Cheap, bold, compact, recycled, creative and on top of all that it’s all on a tiny plot covered with concrete.  Maybe not classy but definitely beautiful in its own way.  The dripping rust stains even work.