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Children's Farm Garden

A vegetable garden, sand box and farm-animal cutouts transform an ordinary yard into a kid-friendly farmyard.

Homeowners Tim and Mary Dalton built a play area in their backyard for their children but are disappointed in how it turned out. So, they enlist the help of Landscape Smart to make it more usable, safe and comfortable for the kids.

The First Meeting

The Daltons meet with landscape designer Jeff Allen, who plans to move the retaining wall farther from the swing set to create more space. He also designs a semicircular play area for sand, dug into the hillside and edged with a low boulder retaining wall.

Near the sand area, he also plans for three small raised beds for the kids to garden and play in between. The sand area will be surrounded by lawn and a new stepping stone path to the swing set. Low-maintenance plants will dress up the area. To disguise the chain link fence, he will add plywood cutouts of farm animals.

Day One

The crew starts by clearing the hillside, while contractors Fred Norgaard and Mike Meehan unload the material, with the help of the kids. They tear out the redwood steps and dig out the sand area.

Tim had built a retaining wall into the hillside to contain a vegetable garden, but when he finished, he noticed a sticker on the lumber that read "arsenic-laced." So Fred decides to replace it with redwood that has no chemicals, but cedar works well, too. First, though, they dig out more of the hillside to move the wall back a few feet and create more usable space.

Meanwhile, Mike draws large cows, sheep and sunflowers on 1/2-inch-thick plywood. He says that anyone can do it with a little imagination. The designs are cut out with a jigsaw, and the cutouts are primed with white paint.

A compound miter saw is used to cut 2" x 4" planks for the vegetable garden boxes, which are placed at the edge of the sand area near the swing set.

Day Two

The second day brings wind and hard rain, so Mike and Mary work indoors painting the cutouts.

Day Three

The boulders, which cost about $900, are placed at the edge of the sand area, opposite the raised beds. Jeff's simple planting plan includes Iceland poppies and flax, which provides year-round yellow, red, green and brown foliage. He also plants a variety of vegetables in the raised beds.

Jeff attaches the painted sunflower cutouts to the fence using copper wire. For the animals, he attaches cement stakes and wood stakes to the back of the plywood, and places the stakes in the ground to anchor the cutouts.

To finish the project, sand is added to the sandbox, and the stone path is laid leading to the sand area and swing set. A sod lawn replaces the homeowners' patchy grass.

The sand and boulders are great for climbing or sitting on, with cows and sheep dozing by the sunflowers nearby.

The raised beds are packed with colorful vegetables. Paul presents a basket of kid-sized tools and a watering can for the kids to maintain their garden.

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