Sunday, January 24, 2016

Custom metal outdoor garden beds, with a bonus babbling fountain

This post is about another of our long-term, seemingly never-ending house and yard projects, custom metal planter beds in the backyard. The difference is, this one is actually done!

There is a reason this project took so long. We put up a nice new garage in 2007, which pretty much demolished the already shameful backyard.  We did a lot of landscaping close to the house in 2008 and 2009, and then in fall and winter of  2009 we built the trellis around what will become our "outdoor room".

It's not quite there yet; it needs "flooring", which I have vowed to do this coming summer.  I really couldn't do it before now because (1) the room needed to be cleared of bricks and boards, which finally happened when we recently completed the reclaimed brick paths around the garden, and (2) the metal planter boxes had not been in.  The planter boxes and fountain were actually completed in the first half of 2014. I just never got around to blogging about them.  So here goes.

Before pictures

This is the space to the side of the garage in October 2013, just as I submitted my hand-sketched plans to a metal shop to build us some shallow planter boxes. The round rocks piled in the center of the flowers are granite cobbles that were on the property when Drew bought it. I had a co-worker drill holes in them the size of a piece of copper pipe I had been hoarding. That's the start of the fountain.

This is the space at the back of the garage where the veggie garden beds will go.

Before the ground froze, I dug down to where the bottom of the metal pieces would go.

Then I covered the space so that snow would not saturate the ground through the first couple of big snow storms while waiting for the metal guys to do their work.


It was January 16, 2014 by the time the pieces were ready and the crew could come out and attach the borders to the concrete foundation of the garage. 
Installed and nearly ready to accept plants in the spring of 2014!

The sprinkler pipe runs under the metal edge into the bed.

I back filled with pea gravel under the metal to provide some drainage.

Post-metal installation

May 2014: First garden in the new beds! Peppers did well on this south facing, elevated bed.
I don't have a great picture of the smaller of the two back side boxes, but this one shows the red rock mulch, hose reel stand, and the place for the rain barrel.

So while I had good veggies growing in the big south bed, the side yard, which I wanted to plant with ornamentals to bring us joy when we finally do get to sit in the outdoor room, needed more work.

A blank slate

 A Water Feature

Drew especially wanted a water fountain to bring the soothing sound of flowing water to our urban setting.  I was all on board because, at the time, we had some pretty loud young kids living next door, and I thought the sound would drown them out. Ha ha, get it.
Pre-positioning the fountain
I didn't really follow any specific directions to make the fountain, but I've read probably 30 step-by-step instructions in various home and garden magazines over the past 20 years, so I just combined them.  We decided not to have open water because it can harbor mosquitoes (West Nile Virus!) and I didn't want the cats drinking rotten pond water. Like I said, my co-worker drilled holes in the cobbles for me.  Next, I needed a reservoir and some way to support the very heavy stack of cobbles.
A smallish pond liner was the only thing I could find that was shallow enough and fit in the planter bed.  Then I added concrete blocks and a pump I had from a patio fountain I had made several years ago. 

Wire mesh topped by some sort of plastic coated concrete reinforcement mesh would keep out the pebbles. 

When I put it all together and plugged in the pump, I was delighted to see it worked!

Once that was in, I transplanted the bamboo from another area in the yard and added some blue mondo grass and annuals for color.


After pictures

Add the finishing touch of my favorite Mexican beach pebbles and mulch.

A poor panorama picture, but you get the big picture. 

So that was in June, 2014.  The plants are still alive and the pump still works. In the heat of summer, I have to fill the reservoir with the hose for a few minutes each time I plug in the fountain. We don't have it on unless we are in the backyard.  I have to drain the reservoir each winter, which is kind of a pain, but the sound of the fountain is lovely to hear as I work in the garden.  This space is going to be great once we get the patio built around it.

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