Amyitis recently installed a private educational garden for a client in the NOPA area this past week. The homeowner was keen to have us try to create as much space as we could for vegetable cultivation. Her adolescent daughter is inspired and anxious to start producing food there. The inspiration comes from her school program which offers a bit of garden education as part of their regular curriculum.
Their backyard space is relaxing and elegant. The space was ornamentally landscaped at one time for sitting around a gas fire pit and enjoying the sound of the swaying bushes all around. Amyitis saw the potential to keep that type of tranquility and yet produce a good amount of food at the same time. The backyard is a circular “room” sandwiched between the main house and a renter’s in-law apartment. We decided to work with the circle theme by adding a raised swale made from sheet mulch. This sheet mulch technique allowed us to increase the amount of planting surface by mounding. It also allowed us to re-use materials and garden “refuse” harvested from the site during prep. I was inspired to start using some permaculture techniques that I have been learning through the San Francisco Permaculture Guild’s fall design training. Sheet mulching was one of the first lessons we learned. The photos below demonstrate the process a bit.
To add more gardening space to the small backyard, we built a raised bed in contour with the set of stairs running from the back yard to the exit. Since the whole yard is sloped toward these stairs, some rainwater should run from the main garden to this small bed in heavy rainfall events. We designed the bed for ergonomic ease as well. Because gardening often can have you hunched over or kneeling, placing the bed on the stairs allowed for multiple points of entry to the bed for planting and maintenance.
We were excited with the results of this project and for the opportunity to add some permaculture ideas into our list of skills. In the future this garden should be ready to produce a great deal of food for its residents. We’ll keep you posted.