Tag Archives: Eve’s Garden Design

Incredible Edibles

When designing with edible plants, my goal is to create a beautiful garden that doesn’t look like a ‘vegetable patch.’  I use edible plants in the same ways that I use ‘regular’ garden plants.  By incorporating a mix of edible trees, shrubs, and groundcovers I can create a sequence of spaces and frame hardscape areas like patios, pavilions, decks, meditation nooks.

I rely on deciduous and evergreen perennial edibles that live for years or decades.  Many deciduous fruit and nut trees thrive in the North Valley.  They can provide the shade, screening, blossoms, and fall colors of typical deciduous landscape trees such as magnolias with the added bonus of fresh fruit.   Evergreen trees such as citrus and olives provide year-round green, fragrant blossoms, and, of course, fruit.

Edible perennials, including persimmon, daylilies, herbs, roses, and strawberries, enhance this courtyard

Edibles that serve as shrubs include evergreen types such as bamboo (roots are edible), tall rosemaries, and dwarf citrus and deciduous types such as blueberries, rhubarb, and roses (the petals

make a lovely addition to salads!).  I use shrubs to define spaces within a garden, provide screening, and as a backdrop for art.

Herbs like creeping rosemaries, thyme, oregano, and chamomile and perennials such as daylilies and strawberries can be used as groundcovers in place of standard plants like ivy or junipers to soften the edges of walkways, spill over walls, help suppress weeds, cool ground temperatures, and prevent erosion.

By using perennial plants in the place of traditional landscape plants, I can create a garden that looks good all year and functions on many levels with places to relax, play, and entertain.  It can even include a vegetable patch!  But it won’t remind you of a farm.

Part of the fun is being able to graze on your home grown delicacies as you wander through your personal Eden.

An Artsy Touch

Once all the plants were in, the garden still needed something.  First thought: a grouping of native lichen-covered boulders.  Second thought:  how the heck would my 78-year-old Dad and I pull off a boulder placing project (I am quite the pencil-neck).   Then: DOH!  How about some art?  I’ve been telling people I’m an artist; here was a chance to make good on that claim.

What the garden needed was something vertical and fairly big to add visual weight and to provide a link between the large existing maple tree and the low growing grasses and perennials that we just planted.  A sculpture, weather proof, subtle to respect my Dad’s complete lack of ostentation.  And something that would be specific to this particular garden.

A Sculpture to Reflect My Father's Personality

To generate ideas, I spent a bit of time brainstorming and writing with my left (non-dominant) hand.  In her inspiring book, Visioning, Lucia Capacchione discusses how this technique can greatly improve access your right brain and subconscious.   I’ve been using it for several years for everything from garden design to portrait paintings and am always amazed at the unexpectedly creative results.

For this project, I wanted to develop a concept that would reflect my father’s love of sailboarding.  Yes, my Dad – who hosts two prosthetic knees – is a big-time windsurfer.  My right brain took the idea of a sail-inspired wire sculpture and ran with it.

Sail On, a wire sculpture reflecting my father's passion for windsurfing and aviation

The final sculpture has the basic form of a sail, sort of, with a mast and metal strips that suggests the ribs of the sail.  My right brain thought I should play with the shape to suggest a wing with ‘feathers’ of bent wire to reflect my Dad’s career as a pilot as well as to refer to a seafaring bird, the Royal Tern, that visits my dad’s favorite windsurfing mecca, Bonnaire.  And, add abstracted wave patterns to reinforce the windsurf element.  The whole thing is made out of twisted metal, much of it salvaged, with no welds. The wire and rebar had to be thin enough for me to hand bend so the piece has a very light, open appearance that, with its gentle rust color, does not overpower the garden in spite of its 7′ height.

The Front Yard Evolution Begins

A Resource Devouring Lawn

My mission to convert lawns in Chico into native and edible gardens began with a death.  My kind and gentle father agreed to let me murder his front lawn.  This wasn’t a limping, half-dead lawn, either.  He’d been carefully mowing, fertilizing, and watering it into a state of lush greeness for the past nine years.  In fact, that was the only time he ever spent in his front yard.  And, being the supportive guy that he is, he not only approved of the proposed killing but acted as my accomplice.

Solarizing with Clear Plastic

We started Solarizing in late July.  Solarizing is a simple, non-toxic method for killing lawns that UC Davis has researched extensively, ceamador.ucdavis.edu/files/942.pdf.  We thoroughly soaked his lawn with water (I mean, really soaked it, for hours) then rolled 4 mil clear plastic to completely cover it.  We used 1×4 boards and stones that my Dad already had to securely fasten the plastic.  Total time: less than 2 hours.

Six weeks later, we removed the plastic.  Ta da!  Nothing but dead lawn except for a couple of small spots in the shadow of the large maple that grows in the center of the lawn.  I used a hoe to peel these out, roots and all.  We left the remains of the former lawn where they lay so they can compost into humus.

We were ready to start Phase 2: planting.

Here’s a step by step description of our Solarizing process.

The Lawn is Dead


1. Widest clear plastic sheeting you can find – least 10′ wide, clear plastic. Wider is better although more cumbersome to use. You can use one to four mil thickness plastic for solarizing. We used 4 mil thickness because we were concerned that wind might tear a thinner plastic.  However, thinner plastic does allow more heat to get to the soil.  Painting stores and hardware stores carry all types. It’s sold in rolls.

2. Fastening materials: Clear plastic packing tape (the strong, wide kind) to hold the plastic sheets together at the seams.

3. Fist sized stones or narrow boards to weigh the plastic down to prevent billowing.

4. Marking spray paint. This is the kind that sprays upside-down.

5. Utility knife to cut the plastic.

6. Two people (three is even better) on ‘plastic day’


Solarizing is a non-toxic method to kills lawns and annual weeds.  It works best in full sun.  Use solarizing to kill fescue, rye, and bluegrass lawns.  It is less successful for Bermuda grass.

Day One: Preparing your lawn

1. ‘Scalp’ your lawn with mower set at lowest setting.

2. Mark the location of your irrigation heads with the spray paint. Spray the grass around the head, not the head. If your irrigation heads are hard to find, turn them on briefly so you can spot them.

3. Using a trenching machine, cultivator, or a shovel, dig a trench 4″ deep by about a foot wide around the perimeter of the area to be solarized. Bevel the inside edge of the trench so that there is not an abrupt ‘drop’ into the trench.  Pile the dirt along the trench outside of the area that will be solarized. Watch out for your irrigation heads!

4. Water your lawn very thoroughly. This may take a whole day or more if you don’t have automatic sprinklers; you need to soak it deeply with about 12″ depth of water. Put several cans on your lawn to keep track of how much water you are putting down.

Day Two: Plastic Day

5. Put plastic down: Starting at one of the outside edges, roll plastic out one row at a time. Use dirt stockpiled from your trench to anchor the outside edge of plastic. At seams, overlap by 6-12″ and use a several inch long piece of tape every few feet to fasten the top layer to the bottom layer.   To prevent billowing in wind, place boards or stones on the plastic.   Success depends on a snug fit and tight seal!

6. Wait 4-6 weeks. It will take longer if the weather is not consistently hot (above 80 degrees) during the day or if there is shade cast onto the area.

7. Remove plastic. Dump trench soil onto the interior of the dead lawn so that you retain your trench. The trench will help prevent mulch (added later, after solarizing is complete and plants are in) from spilling from your planting beds. If any patches of lawn show signs of life, use a hoe to peel back and remove the sod.  As for the dead lawn; just leave it in place.  Eventually it will compost.



Welcome to My Garden

Although Eve’s Garden Design is a new venture for me, it’s been a nearly 20-year journey getting here.  Over the years, I’ve designed a lot of interesting places, from intimate gardens to parks, streetscapes, and plazas.  Each project has helped define my sense of  purpose as a landscape architect and has honed my design sensibilities.  And now, I find myself knowing precisly what I want to be doing.  I want to work with people who are ready to move from the usual toward the unexpected, who want their outdoor spaces to reflect their ecological ideals and their personalities, and who want to surround themselves with artistic, sustainable, life-giving beauty.  The crazy economy is already giving us a nudge (a shove?) in a less-consumptive direction.  I’m going to run with that.