Thursday, March 15, 2007

Family Backyard

Lately I've been reading about how to make your backyard into a lush, child-friendly garden.

Right now, when I look at my window, I see a metal shed that's falling down, a stark, uneven yard, a big metal swingset and my neighbor's garage. Ick.

I grew up in the country and spent about half my childhood talking to trees and cows, and making little flower sacrifices to the creek. My family grew vegetables and my grandmother had a whole green hand that she used to grow anything and everything green.

I can grow vegetables. And I could grow tobacco. Otherwise, I'm useless when it comes to gardening. So, I'm not sure where to begin when it comes to create a beautiful backyard that will give my child a place to play, a place to hide and the sort of wild freedom I had growing up - all within the confines of an fenced 50-feet by 50-feet backyard, (roughly).

So far, my favorite book is Home Landscaping Southeast Region, because it gives me various garden designs in two versions - shade and sunny - and tells me what will live in my area. I actually recognize some of the plant names. It's full of gardens that will provide a rich, very treed-look to a backyard.

I also like A Child's Garden: Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents. While I couldn't reproduce what's in this book - many of the gardens are large, public spaces with lots of space and money - it does give me plenty of ideas about how to make gardens more fun. It also has inspired me to try to put in a pond.

As for online resourches, Better Homes and Gardens offers lots of great stuff, and it's mostly free, including a Family Backyard plan I found that I'm using as a loose model for what I do in my backyard.

Here's what I plan to include in my backyard:

* A wooden fence (currently, it's chain link)
* A sandbox - preferably sunken into the ground with a cover.
* Lots of small trees and bushes
* Some hiding spots for children - perhaps amidst the bushes or under some small trellises with bean vines. A weeping mulberry tree for hiding.
* A pond. And eventually, a waterfall. I actually found plans for creating your own creek! I'd love to do this - and the plans are based on a yard about my size - but my yard's flat and I'm thinking it wouldn't work too well.
* Lots of decorative grasses
* A few fruit trees (already have a peach tree, although I may have killed it)
* Place for growing vegetables.
* Lots of cute little garden decorations that kids would like, such as a flower whose petals spin, a yard gnome and colorful butterflies.
* Perhaps a compost area.
* A better shed - perhaps something very cottage-looking
* Eventually, a playhouse made of wood.

We have a huge deck for sitting already, so I feel like the adult part is pretty well taken care of.

It's a lot for a small yard. But I think it's doable. It'll just be very...busy. I don't know. I'm going to start planting and digging and see what happens. I can always cut things down.

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