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Exciting - time to design!

Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 20, 12 at 16:51

Hi all -

I've been cogitating on this for a while, and I'm finally ready to set down a design and begin working!

The good news - I've decided to loosen up the purse strings and spend a little money! Yay!!!!

The bad news - I don't know where to begin! And I'd like to hear your thoughts! I need to determine 3 points and then I can start putting together plans....and I'll find a way to post some plans for review - anyone know how to put an excel sheet into a message?

The space is going to be 22/3x18/20 feet. There is a 2-3' sidewalk down the yard, and I'll build out 10 feet on either side of it with the existing sidewalk down the center. I'm going to frame it in a 3' high lattice cedar fence, thinking large lattice, like 6-8 inches. Framing it out but letting in a lot of light and giving a bit of support for peas and such.

I can make some adjustments with the sizing, but the sidewalk is exactly 10' from the property line fencing, and I wanted to have the fencing start flush with the garage (garage is to the south of the house, at the end of the lot) and there is a large row of very old lilacs at the end of the property that I'm going to trim hard back as they have creeped out with there young shoots about 10 feet inwards.

Would it be best to square the space, 22x22 or 23x23, or no biggie? (point 1!)

I initially planned on putting a 2' perimeter bed around the entire fence (maybe little gates at the sidewalk), 2' paths, and 4 beds in a square which would be 4 6x4' beds.

But the portagers I really love have a little irregularity in the shape, like a diamond center bed, and then the 4 surrounding beds cut off in the center corners to match up to the diamond center....or circular ones. Traditional - but with a little jazzing up.

but I've got this sidewalk already there, so not sure how jazzy I can get. Any ideas? (point 2)

also - material for the beds - I really love stone, and wouldn't mind having some poured concrete beds for a stonish, but cheap alternative. But I really worry about if I have to sell the house for any reason how that would affect, it's be a nightmare is you wanted to take it out.

I'll likely just do 2x12 boards cut to length. For cost, and easy removal if necessary. Would certainly like to hear you experiences with different materials. (point 3).

Thanks all!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Exciting - time to design!

I like rectangular beds and gardens, over square. So, I'd probably go with your 22' x 18' size and 6' x 4' beds. If you have space for a perimeter bed...that's a great space for perennials, to bring in beneficial bugs and have flowers for cutting, edibles for salads, etc.

If you want a center bed (which is very nice) just take the angle off the inside corner of the main beds and adjust your walkway. The center bed can be framed in, over the sidewalk. I'd build a bit of a raised bed and maybe put in a birdbath or large pot...and have small herbs/annual flowers, planted around it.

Sounds like a very pretty and functional garden. Can you take any pictures, of your space? Just make sure 2' is going to be wide enough for your paths. And, be careful trimming back those lilacs. It sounds like they'd make a beautiful addition to your potager. Maybe dig up some of the smaller shrubs and move them to another location? It's nice to repeat plants, throughout the space, for continuity :)


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RE: Exciting - time to design!

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 24, 12 at 11:09

Thanks lavender, I do love lilacs, and will be leaving the "original" ones, but they have been pretty untended for 10-15 years, and have crept forward, so I will just be clipping them back to their original 3-4 main trunks.

I've been living with 2' wide paths, and they do sometime get cramped as the beds explode in later summer, but being in a city, the lots are small and there are sooooo many things I want to grow, so paths are such a waster to me!

I should take some before pics, although it will be very shaming for me. I will be getting some help with labor, and one thing is that I may only do the south half of the garden this year, as I have many veggies going both in the existing beds that need to be redone, and the heat lovers in pots inside.

I'll ask the kids to help me with photos today. I also have a preliminary of the more traditional design in excel that I saved as html, so just need to figure out how to post that.


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I knew there was a 4th question!

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 24, 12 at 11:13

Another issue affecting the design - greenhouse!

I'm unsure weather to locate the greenhouse in the portager, or directly outside.

Does anyone have any thoughts on that? My portager area is relatively small, do to the many constraints of the lot, existing plantings I want to keep (such as the old lilacs and grape vine), and the shade from the garage.


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RE: Exciting - time to design!

I don't think it makes much difference either way on the greenhouse on a city lot, you will not be traversing huge distances. If possible, you could try putting the greenhouse as part of the boundary but that would really be dictated by other factors. I would designate a location for the green house and design your potager.

I also would not worry about the impact of the concrete on re-sale. Some buyers may be attracted to the fact it is not more lawn, others may just want lawn, but you cannot appeal to all buyers so just hope for the best there. My beds are lined with stone because that is free to me but had I been able to spend money on the bed linings, I would have built them with concrete blocks, 2-3 feet high and then I would have stuccoed the outside and placed a nice cap ledge for sitting/kneeling on. My house is stucco so that would have been a nice continuity, but, an expensive one.


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RE: Exciting - time to design!

My big mistake was not making the paths wide enough to turn a wheelbarrow around easily without either stepping in another bed or hurting myself! I've worked around it, but if you have enough room, think about that! Nancy


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RE: Exciting - time to design!

I am working within the confines of a smaller lot too. My potager is only 12' by 16'. I have 2' beds all around the perimeter, and a 4'x8' island bed in the center with 2' wide paths all around. As stuff grows, that may become a little narrow. If necessary, I can make the center bed a little smaller to allow more room for the path.

I had to go with lumber due to budget constraints, but would love stone and may go with that once the wood rots away. One advantage to lumber, besides the cost, is that you lose very little space to the walls of the raised beds, only 1.5" per side. In my very small potager, that makes a big difference.

I would love to see some pictures of your space, and a diagram if you can post it. I converted my Excel design into a picture format then posted it on Photo Bucket so I could link it here. I don't know if that is an option for you or not. If all else fails, you can always open your design in Excel, take a screen shot (Alt+PrintScreen) then paste it into Paint and save it as a JPEG.


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RE: Exciting - time to design!

I had my first raised beds built 3' and 4' wide with 2' paths between and I found them very difficult to work in and around. I've now taken the narrower bed and wider path approach, 2' of dirt is plenty to support a good-sized root system and a large plant (like a tomato) will simply grow into the open path space if it needs more room. It's also a lot easier on the back to reach into a 2' wide bed than a 3' or 4' wide bed. As a reaction to not liking the narrow paths I've made my new paths 4+ feet wide and I love them, but I have the luxury of space.

One thing I don't have (yet) that I really want to add is some form of shade for sitting in, like an arbor with a chair or bench below it. That would be a very attractive central feature for your garden, maybe one of those arbors that's made with benches integrated into the sides that arches over the path so you can either walk through it or sit under it...

Whenever I'm designing a garden I like to draw up a few different variations of a plan so I can compare and choose the best, it's easy to make changes on paper - not so much once you've installed things.

One last thing, if possible it's helpful to orient your rows so that they are running north-south, that way the plants shade each other less in the morning and afternoon.

Good luck and enjoy your new garden!


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