Simple steps to turn your yard into a go-to snack bar
Written byElizabeth JardinaJune 10, 2016
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Fresh off the vine
When photographer Rachel Weill decided to transform a dry, rocky corner of her backyard into a series of raised bed gardens, it turned into a place that the whole family could enjoy. To fill the boxes, Weill looked to landscape designer Leslie Bennett, who came up with a plan that included trellised cucumbers, red lettuces, summer squash and more.
Plan for beauty and bounty
Designer Leslie Bennett chose plants with edible flowers as well as culinary herbs in purple, silver, chartreuse, and dark green to give the functional garden an ornamental look. Garden workhorses, such as zucchini and cucumbers, produce a summer’s worth of salads from one or two plants.
Build the beds
Weill hired a contractor to build four raised beds of untreated redwood into the hillside. Because of the sloped location, the boxes were secured with long bolts, and the supporting posts were anchored into the soil with cement.
Prep your soil
Weill and her family filled the beds with fresh garden soil after first laying wire landscape mesh to discourage gophers and moles from chewing on tender roots. At Bennett’s suggestion, they set up irrigation with micro sprayers, which they run for a few minutes every morning on hot days.
The backbone of Bennett’s design are trellises made of thin bamboo poles and twine, which are so easy to construct that the boys were able to help. The trellises allow the beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers to grow vertically throughout the boxes.
Everything was planted as a nursery start, except for carrots, which the family grew from seed. Above, handpicked seedlings wait for their transfer to soil. During trans-planting, Weill watered them while they were in their pots and again in the ground.
Pack it in
Weill and her family laid the seedlings in place before planting to make sure everything would have adequate space, but she packed her plants in a little more tightly than nursery tags recommended, to create a lush look.
Care for your bed
Taller plants found homes toward the back of beds, against the slope, while shorter plants and those with trailing habits stayed closer to the front. Although plants looked tiny on planting day, it was only a matter of weeks before the garden seemed to explode. Weill kept the garden growing steadily by adding a layer of mulch to retain moisture, and applying organic fertilizer every few weeks.