Kentucky garden designer Jon Carloftis remembers starting his career trying to sell Manhattan millionaires on the idea of creating rooftop vegetable gardens. "I'll never forget my first client saying, "Okay, I'll give it a try, but it has to look good every time I look out of the window,"" he recalls. "So the garden had to have year-round structure and something growing all the time—even in the dead of winter."
Years later, Carloftis kept these "musts" in mind when he and his partner, Dale Fisher, bought Botherum, a historic but dilapidated property in the middle of Lexington, Kentucky. In the process of restoring the house and digging through the past, they found all the structure a new, beautiful kitchen garden would ever need.
While you'll probably never garden on the roof, keep in mind the following tips when you are designing a small vegetable garden in your yard.
Watch the sun work its magic.
Botherum's shady backyard wouldn't do. Instead, Carloftis and Fisher placed the garden on the sunny side of the yard, a short distance from the front entry.
Set your garden apart.
The pair found sections of an old, rusted iron fence that the previous owner had left in the basement. The total length of the fence determined the garden's size: 18 feet wide and 30 feet deep. That's more than enough to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Maintain a beautiful space with year-round appeal.
Carloftis and Fisher converted a neglected outbuilding into a tool-and-potting shed. It sits atop a new stone foundation built high enough to fit old limestone steps they found buried in a corner. A path of salvaged bricks runs from the steps to the lawn.
Inside the fence rest six planting beds (6 by 5 feet each) edged by cedar timbers. Because the original soil contained poorly draining heavy clay, the duo excavated a couple of feet of it from each bed. They then backfilled with nutrient-rich garden soil amended with lots of sand for good drainage. Gravel spread around the beds reduces maintenance and keeps things tidy.
Adorned with evergreens, flowers, and pots, the kitchen garden is enticing year-round. One client's demand proved great gardening advice.