The standard vegetable garden most of us visualize requires little, if any, design per se. It is normally nothing more than a rectangular area plowed out of the earth that is level with surrounding soil. This can create both environmental and aesthetic problems for properties within the city limits. Pesticides and fertilizers designed specifically for food crops are often highly toxic to native plant life and animals. When heavy rains wash them into surrounding areas, they frequently poison flowers, exotic plants, native grasses, and even wash down the Houston bayous into sensitive ecosystems and wildlife areas.
Furthermore, because so many of our clients live in neighborhoods like West Houston Memorial, River Oaks, Westbury, and Rice Village, the typical vegetable garden behind the house appears too rural of a design for such properties. Vegetable gardens in these neighborhoods must be designed with a touch of sophistication and a number of special elements that will protect both food crops and surrounding ecosystems from flooding.
In order to accommodate these many needs, we construct elevated planters for all vegetable gardens we design. The average planter is a self-contained structure that has a bottom and surrounding walls that rise approximately 15” high above the ground. In most cases, we build these planters out of pressure-treated pine for two reasons. First, it has a much greater longevity than other types of wood. Secondly, its higher density makes it ideal for containment of the soil. Planters also prevent soil in the vegetable garden from mixing with surrounding soil, so every section of the garden can be filled with a soil mixture made just for the specific food crop being grown.
Another advantage we create by planting a garden within a contained structure is convenient access to the plants themselves. With crops and ornamental vegetation elevated to approximately knee level, a gardener does not have to stoop down and strain their back or get down in the dirt to tend the crops. He or she can sit on the edge of the planter, or pull up a lawn chair and tend the garden from a relaxed and comfortable position.
Irrigating a vegetable garden that is contained with a planter can be done unobtrusively and much more effectively than it can be in ground-level equivalents. Concealed pipes constructed into its design that will inconspicuously deliver water underneath plant leaves. This fungal growth makes and looks much more aesthetic as well. When people stop by to look at your new garden, they will see only an attractive planter and healthy plants without the eyesores of generic, retail garden hoses that blast water in all directions out of their sides.
Once these practical concerns have been addressed, the aesthetics of vegetable garden design open wide to a world of endless creative possibilities. A vegetable garden can be built as a simple square or rectangle that is located adjacent to an arbor, patio, fountain, or outdoor seating area. It can also be built as a series of separate planters, with each planter containing different types of food crops. Still others are built in the style of traditional European forms such as the parterre gardens, with rosebushes and other flowering plants lining the interior walls of the planters with colorful decoration.
The actual size and style of garden we can design has no real fixed limit, aside from the fact that its basic functional requirements must work both environmentally and aesthetically, and provided that it respect home architecture and the theme(s) of the surrounding landscape.