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Three Little Gardens Part I: A Playhouse Garden in the Suburbs

The storms of June 2013 huffed and puffed but they could NOT destroy these three little spirited starter gardens!  Growing Green Hearts was able to coach (and coax) gardens into all three backyards and the hearts of families that play there.

First is Janine who wanted to enhance the backyard play zone with a garden for her school age children who love to play outside.  The family corner lot in the suburb of Blaine, Minnesota is spacious with decorative yet basic landscaping.  From the back deck you can see a few medium-sized trees add shade, especially around a darling playhouse and the majority of the yard is open, grassy green space for soccer, cartwheels, and silly sprinkler time.  Over coffee in May, Janine asked great questions about timing, varieties of plants, spacing, and location.  Since the kids utilize the open space and backyard fenceline by the road was on a gentle northward facing slope, we decided to use the sunny south-side patch of grass by the fence.  In order to make lawn mowing easy, I designed a quadralateral-shaped raised bed area that transitioned into a wood chipped pumpkin and squash patch that flowed into the existing playhouse landscaping, cute stepping stones and all.

A bean tunnel for the beans to climb on and kids to tuck under can be made of the thickest metal fencing is durable, cheap, and decorative.  Wooden trellis can be purchased and combined to make stylish tunnels too.  Janine loves doing projects with her Dad- by the end of May they had the raised garden bed ready to plant!  She and her kids even made vegetable plant markers with pictures and words in English and Spanish.  A languages list of common garden veggies is here if you’d like to make markers for your garden.  Soon after plants were growing some exotic creatures showed up, including miniature plastic tigers and garden gnomes.

Possible next steps for Janine and her family might be to upscale their backyard outdoor play into engineering challenges.  Add a water pump, bamboo tubes, and some stumps to the sand box or kiddie pool and the next thing you know, the bigger kids will be creatively exploring fluid dynamics, slope, and Newton’s Laws under the summer sun.   To really reduce garden weeds next year:  1)purchase a straw bale in the fall when they are readily available for fall decorating 2)leave it outside all winter 3) tear into soggy chunk after snow melt and place them onto the garden soil surface 4) Push aside small sections of straw or dig into it when planting tiem arrives.


Summer 2013