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From Pavement to Permaculture Garden

North Carolina homeowners removed an underused paved parking area to create a family-friendly oasis for growing food and attracting pollinators.

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Photo: Erin Adams

Problem: No Space to Grow

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, travel writer and mom of two Kim Dinan felt a deep urge to plant a garden. "I had a physical desire to get my hands in the dirt," she says. She wanted a place where she could teach her kids where food comes from, and a retreat for herself, too. The trouble on their mountainside lot in western North Carolina? No flat, sunny space in which to grow.

So Kim and her husband Brian Patton looked to an underused patch of pavement for a solution. They called up local ecological design company Gardens of Eatin to draw up a design that would include the principles of permaculture, which aims for a sustainable, self-sufficient garden. As part of that, Kim and Brian committed to doing a lot of the labor themselves, including removing the expanse of paving using rented equipment and building the raised beds.

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Photo: Kim Dinan

Before: Pavement Without Purpose

Kim, Brian and their two children weren't using the large paved area beside their house — their only available flat spot — and needed an at-home space for connecting with nature for themselves and the kids. So the pavement had to go. While they were a little concerned about losing an area where their kids would ride bikes and play, they felt like they'd gain far more than they'd lose.

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Photo: Erin Adams

After: Welcoming Permaculture Garden

And they were right. Replacing pavement, the new permaculture garden softens the look of the house and, more importantly, provides ample space for growing annual and perennial plants that feed the family and their non-human neighbors, including pollinators and birds. "The most fun part for me is seeing the kids in the garden, because we were worried about them losing their play space," Kim says. "They’re so into it, they help us plant and harvest whatever we have. It’s the happiest part of my day."

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Photo: Erin Adams

Overall Design Viewed From Above

A view from the deck stairs shows the shape of the garden design, with raised beds for vegetables on one side, an in-ground bed for perennial pollinator plants on the other, a bed constructed along the retaining wall for tomatoes and other vining plants, a large V-shaped herb bed with seating and flagstone pathways that lead through the space.

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