Garden (2018): Building Paradise

This was it. This was the real deal. We had bought our first house and the large back and front yards were blank slates ready for my design visions.


I spent the 2017-2018 Winter designing a permaculture garden for the backyard. I wanted it to have plenty of space for annual vegetables, ample perennial foods, and a plethora of colorful flowers throughout the seasons.

The first thing I did was make an accurate representation of the entire yard, front to back.

Map of the yard, each square is a square-foot.

I then took this map and started mapping how much light each area was likely to receive based on what I had observed and measurements of the sun angles and obstructions to that light.

I had been reading Edible Forest Gardens (both volumes) by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. It is the best design book I have read for setting up an urban food garden. I used their process to help guide my choices and put together an extensive list of species that I thought would work well in my limited climate.

Using the solar map, I started mapping out patches and zones, based on the permacultural design principles.

Mapping of patches and zones and future infrastructure for the gardens.

I knew it would take a few years to see the vision come to life, so I decided to focus on the back yard, really wanting my annual beds to be available for the planting season. I picked a number of plants that would best fit each zone and work well with their neighbors. I also thought much about creating various layers: herbs, shrubs, trees, vines.

Here’s an image of the map as I was adding plants to it. This wasn’t a definitive plan, as things in the real world never match what’s on paper. However, it served as a good design tool as I began to create the real space.

Work-in-progress mapping of placing individual plants into the patches, planning out each layer and purpose.


April had arrived and the soil was just ready to be worked. Now the back-breaking labor was upon me. Thankfully, I had spent all winter working on my upper body, knowing I would have many beds to dig in the Spring.

I also wanted to try hugelkultur, a technique of adding wood into the soil. As the wood decays and breaks down, it invites beneficial fungi to the party and helps keep the soil moist and full of nutrients. So, as I dug the beds, I added some logs, branches, and twigs deep into the beds.

I double-dug each bed, flipping over the contents as deep as I could. While digging out the beds, I dug out so many large rocks and stones. I started filling containers with rocks. I tried to cover the beds with tarps as I dug them out, hopping to keep them moist and avoid direct contact with the sun.

I then had a truck-load of compost dumped on my drive-way and covered each bed in a thick layer of the compost. I then covered each bed in a layer of newspaper and cardboard. This would ensure weed suppression for a couple seasons and help the soil to attract plenty of worms. I then ordered a truckload of mulch and covered the newspaper with mulch.

By the first of May, my backyard garden was set-up and ready for planting.

I spent the next several months filling in all the plants that I had designed. I had to make a few changes and had trouble finding some of the species I wanted. Unfortunately, I lost many of the photos I took over that summer and only have a few from October.

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