Re-imagining the Back 40

Who doesn’t love the idea of a veggie garden? Even if there’s a grocery store 10 minutes away, you still get a thrilling sense of self-sufficiency from growing and eating your own food. Plus, you know its history, what’s been applied to it—if anything, how fresh it is. Fortunately, you don’t need a plow or a mule or acres of land to accomplish this at your home. (Overalls are optional.) Your veggie garden can be designed to complement and enhance your landscape.

One of our clients knew she wanted a vegetable garden when she called on us for help developing her landscape dream, so we included it in her design plan from the beginning. There were only a couple of stipulations:  It needed to do double duty as an entertaining space, and it had to be fenced and gated to keep the deer out.

We identified a sunny spot that was convenient to get to from the home and staked out an area proportionate to the size of the yard. Easy access for planting, tending and harvesting was a priority, so I designed two raised beds and made them each 4 feet wide, just right for reaching across to grab that green pepper hiding on the other side.

The site we chose, like most of the lot, wasn’t level, so a retaining wall was built on the high side of the slope. The opposite wall is low inside the garden, but high off the ground on the outside, so fencing wouldn’t be needed on that side to keep deer out.


Jason created custom design features, like the stately arched entrance, to elevate what could have been an ordinary veggie garden to an elegant outdoor living space. The client requested stone for the beds to complement stonework on other areas of the property—a great decision.

I designed the garden with form and function in mind, providing plenty of room to maneuver around the beds and ample space for entertaining, leaving space for a table and chairs at the far end.

Insets of gray crab orchard stone, dry stacked vertically at the bases of the archway columns, add a creative, modern touch to the timeless stonework. We chose substantial, Craftsman-style light fixtures suited to the scale of the project to carry the entertaining possibilities into the evening hours.


The old adage that the journey is as important as the destination can be taken literally, too. Our design included a boulder pathway connecting the home and garden, appropriately heavy and substantial but informal and natural. A huge slab of rock bridges a dry creek bed created to manage water runoff on the property. Plantings to follow would soften the landscape.


Now, for the gate. Our eclectic client wouldn’t go for just any old gate. This wonderfully whimsical work of art was discovered in Gainesville at Cottage Garden Antiques, whose owner, Jane Taylor, created it. (If you haven’t been there, you should go!) It’s a one-of-a-kind piece made of recycled metal pieces with garden elements—a perfect choice for our project.


The client also chose an oversized, earthy iron table-and-chairs set from Cottage Garden Antiques. Brightly-colored, custom-upholstered seats provide a nice contrast to the rugged metal.

Obelisk-shaped boulders set into the corners of the beds give the garden a sense of grandeur. Since the earliest obelisks are believed to have been associated with sun worship, they are fitting architectural elements for the garden. The thriving vegetable crops get a little assistance here from irrigation installed inside the beds during construction.



The finished project offers a lovely spot to plant and tend a manageably-sized vegetable garden, enjoy a relaxing meal al fresco or host a delightful garden party.

The garden is still a work in progress but is a great example of how the idea of old-fashioned farming can be re-imagined to harmonize with your lifestyle and your landscape.

Do your veggie garden ideas need a plan?




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