side yard: gravel to garden.

Well, I’ve held out on you long enough – it’s time to share a little spring project we did in our side yard! Um, actually, more like a complete overhaul.

Some planning and elbow grease took it from useless and gray…

To this…

a charming raised-bed vegetable garden paradise. I am SO happy with how it came out! Before I get into the details, let’s look at it from the other end of the walkway.

From this…

To this…

It’s an understatement to say I love my new garden. I REALLY love it. So much. CAPS, Bold, Italic, you name it, it can’t begin to express my joy about a wormy, soily garden spot to call my own.

I have planned to do something with our little side yard space ever since we bought the home in 2008. But it wasn’t high on the list of priorities (read: it was actually dead last), so it languished in its gray-gravelness for four years. Oh, and that gravel? Useful for keeping down weeds, but A) very ugly, B) very sharp and impossible to walk on barefoot, C) very sharp and impossible to use our handtruck for orders to and from the shop and D) very, very ugly. Wait, did I say that already?

Chico is a fantastic place to garden. Plants love our just hot enough summers and tomatoes are to die for. Plus the soil around our house is simply fantastic stuff.

At some point during the past four years I realized that side yard gets full sun. All day long. It may have been the sun beating in our master bedroom windows from sun up to sun down that clued me in on that part. 🙂

Well, full sun = vegetable heaven! But was it wide enough to plant vegetables and put in a hand truck pathway? Well, we were determined to make it work!

First, I found some salvage brick on craigslist. In its former life it had been part of a lumber mill in Oroville, California, which burned down more than 50 years ago. Some guy had stacked it all neatly in his backyard and was selling it bit by bit. I loved the craggy edges and real white mortar (not paint!) and history of the bricks. Plus, they were cheaper per brick than buying new. Score!

We didn’t lay the path or build the raised beds ourselves, as it’s been far too busy around here at Wild Ink Press to DIY something that big! Instead, I planned out every last bit on the computer and we bought all the supplies then a local landscaper came and installed it for us. This saved $$$ instead of having someone else plan out the yard, and made it doable and seemed to be a good balance of saving money vs. losing time. I laid out the brick in a herringbone pattern (which if you know me, you know I love herringbone and chevron! Exhibit A: master bedroom floor) and I think it just adds a little extra special happiness to the pathway.

Along the sides of the path we planted a creeping thyme ground cover…

It grew in so quickly and is so lush and green! I love the stuff.

The raised beds I designed are 2 feet by 8 feet and 2 feet by 7 feet, depending on the box. They line the path on the sunny side and there are six beds total. In between the beds we put citrus trees in containers:

They seem to be very happy in their sunny spots!

Next up was planting…

11 tomato plants, 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash, 1 cucumber, 4 eggplant, 4 lettuce, carrots, 1 red bell pepper, 1 jalapeno, 6 strawberries, cilantro, basil, oregano, chives, sage, parsley, mint, thyme, rosemary…

So far they are all so, so happy in this little garden. This is my first real vegetable garden, so I’ll let you know how they grow!

Cameron and Lance have their own garden bed which they planted themselves. I’ll let you know how that one grows too! It was great to be able to hand them their own shovels and say “go dig in your bed” as I planted in mine. And Cam comes out every day to check on his strawberries.

One last shot of the sun setting on this happy side yard:

Hope you’re having a fantastic Monday! Before and after of the rest of our backyard is coming up next!!


Leave a Comment

  • Tina Dahl says:

    Just fabulous Rebekah! How great that you were able to turn a smallish space into something so beautiful, practical and useful! Whoop-whoop!!!!

  • erica p. says:

    This turned out great! I love the herringbone brick path!

  • kelly grago says:

    Looks Amazing…CAPS, bold, italics, underline… I am a teensy bit jealous (come see my side yard sometime…)…and REALLY jealous of your soil…we moved from that soil to the hard clay that grows rocks…very nice job. Enjoy the bounty! (What citrus did you plant?)

  • Sharon says:

    we need to do this. I kinda skimmed, so may have missed it, but what was the total width of this side yard? looks similar to our size…

  • rebekah says:

    Hi Sharon! Our side yard is 6 feet wide. 3 foot path, 2 foot planter, remainder is filled with wooly thyme. If you get sun, YOU CAN DO IT!

    Thanks for all the nice comments, everyone. 🙂

  • rebekah says:

    Kelly, we planted clementine mandarin, lime, meyer lemon, and we have a eureka lemon around the corner… Matt’s mom has naval oranges and kumquats so we get plenty of those from her. 🙂

  • Love the transformation from useless space to lovely garden!! The reclaimed bricks are awesome!!! Where did you get the pots for the citrus trees? I love them!

  • Diane Anderson says:

    I just love you, Rebekah. You are so endlessly creative, and hard working. Marc has enjoyed being with Lance and Cameron. Matt has found the perfect mate. 🙂

  • Anne says:

    What a beautiful garden, Rebekah! I can see why you’re crazy about it.

  • Beth says:

    Love the garden! Every year I am amazed that the seeds I plant actually grow! This year I added a trellis to the back side of my boxes for the peas, cukes, and beans to grow up. Looks Like you have room for upward growth too… My kids will eat any veggie they plant, such a great idea to include them. Have fun!

  • rebekah says:

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks! The pots we got locally at Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise. I really liked them and they were less than the big box stores. Good luck!

    Oh and Kelly, that’s the best part about raised beds – you can cart in better soil if you want to. We supplemented with soil from Sutherlands.

  • Karen says:

    What a perfect use of space AND sunlight! How lucky you are to have great soil, too (speaking from here in Virginia where we have nothing but icky clay). Your watering system looked very interesting. Can you explain what it is. Love your blog!

  • rebekah says:

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks! Our watering system is a black drip line which has tiny spray sprinklers coming out from it (they each have a stake that you can drive into the ground) and then you twist the little top to adjust the spray level. Hope this helps!

  • Tara says:

    Just curious how much the landscaper charged to lay it all out. Who did the fence staining?

  • Anita says:

    It looks very nice! I have the same side yard and I think I will steel your design:). What wood did you use for the boxes?

  • Julia says:

    I love this look. I myself have a side yard that needs some love but it is also low on the things that need to get done in my house. I found a link to your post through pintrest. What I find the most interesting is that you live in Chico. Just 30 minutes north from us here in Gridley. I mean what are the odds lol. I’m going to keep this look into consideration for future reference when we are finally able to spruce the side yard up.

  • Hailey says:

    So happy and lovely!
    I have that same ugly gravel in my yard.
    Did you remove it or just lay sand over it to put the brick in and soil over it where you planted the creeping time?

    I’m not sure what to do with all my gravel, would much rather keep it for drainage and work over it… Thoughts?

    • rebekah says:

      Hi Hailey! We removed it. Back to dirt to begin. Yard guys took it away for free because we said they could keep it.

  • Aimee says:

    LOVE! This is years after your post but someone has it on Pinterest and I had to stop by to compliment, as this is very similar (minus the raised beds) with what we’re aiming for on the south side of our house, where we removed our driveway this year ( and right now have a makeshift path until we get our brick path laid in the Spring. Thanks for the inspiration – looks lovely!