Originally posted August 2020, Updated January 2022
Let me start off by saying, “good job!” You’ve made it to August. Holy moly, 2020 has been a long year already and it’s not over yet. As I have said before, I am so thankful that I have a garden. It has provided us with so much fresh air, food, and entertainment. We have been taking social distancing seriously, so we have been spending a LOT of time at home.
You might remember from a previous post, that we had our while front yard scraped away to start fresh. That was before the pandemic turned our lives upside down. Since the first days that I stared at that blank slate, my garden design has evolved. I have strongly held the belief that gardens should have something to offer; they are not just pretty things to look at. They should provide food, places to play, wildlife habitats, feed the birds, or feed the bees. I am not one to envy a prim and proper rose garden. Concerns about food security prompted me to incorporate a vegetable patch and foodscaping elements. We added a beautiful rustic split rail fence to give our yard a park-like feel and to help contain our 2- and 4-year old kids.
This new garden gets much more midday shade, so we have found ourselves playing out front much more often. Inspired by our local park excursions, I decided to incorporated natural play elements in the garden to make it more fun, interactive, and inviting for the kids. So I set to work.
Let me begin by saying that I am not a landscaper, landscape designer, landscape architect, or even a horticulturalist. I am a gardening enthusiast. So please excuse my rudimentary illustrations and non-technical terms.
The above illustration represents the front-most portion of my garden bed. It is large; approximately 26’x10’. First of all I needed to determine the trail through the bed that the kids would use to move through the space. I used some dusty old soil to mark the path they would use. Then I let them play in the partially planted bed to see where they tried to enter and exit the garden naturally, and marked those paths as well. I also wanted a circular element which would allow them to run circuits within the bed without exiting (i.e. the trail around the large tree). I ended up with five entrance and exit points. I cleared the routes of this paths and entrance/exit points of any plantings (don’t worry, I transplanted them elsewhere).
Next step I needed to determine the elements of play on the trail. I’ll describe them sequentially by number according to the illustration above. I've also included some photos if your scroll down.
These hardscaping features were installed quickly and easily. Since this was a relatively new bed, I completed this projected over the course of a week. I am pleased that all of the features that I added were free and created from found and discarded materials. You may use the same concepts as I have but with other materials. This little garden trail has already provided the kids with HOURS of garden play. Being outdoors is important to me and I want to foster an appreciation for nature in my kids. This feels like another way to encourage this.
While you are creating your new landscape design, there are other things that you may want to take into consideration: