THE HOW DO GARDENER: The ‘Court’-yard garden project



The court-yard garden project. (Photo by Rick Bickling)

After playing basketball for the past 45 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that my knees are much better off gardening than they are jumping and running around on a hard surface.

With this realization in mind, and with the kids pretty much grown and done playing basketball, I now have a 30-foot by 35-foot concrete slab in the backyard for which I need to find a new use. Rather than looking at this as a negative, I decided to get creative and make the most of it. It’s time to start my new landscaping project, The “Court”-yard garden.

It’s a little sad to see the basketball court go away, but I think the finished product will go a long way toward providing a functional, and useful garden area.

The project has several key design elements that I want to incorporate such as raised beds, vertical features, an enclosed perimeter, a seating area, and room for possible future structures such as a green house or chicken coop.

My current garden has 10 raised beds in which I utilize the square foot gardening technique. For my family of four, this just barely produces enough produce to eat as it’s harvested. It does not yield anywhere near enough to can or freeze for use over the winter months. I plan on adding another 10 or so raised beds in the “Court”-yard garden, placed around the outside edge of the plan.

To avoid having a huge area with nothing but 6-inch-high raised beds on it, I plan on incorporating several types of vertical features to add interest and help define the space. A 6-foot tall by 4-foot wide trellis, made of a cedar 2”x 4” frame with a cattle panel insert, will be attached to the outside edge of each raised beds to allow for vertical growing and to act as a barrier.

As my dog views running through a raised bed full of vegetables the same way he views running through the grass, the entire area needs to be enclosed to keep him out. The area between each trellis will be fitted with a fence section. These 3-foot-high sections will also be made of the same cedar 2”x 4” frames with cattle panel inserts.

I’m going to incorporate a seating area with a pergola on one corner of the plan to give the feel of an outdoor room, and as a structure to grow grapes on. I’ll leave some space near the pergola where, somewhere down the road, I can add an outdoor fireplace.

The starting point in the actual construction of my “Court”-yard garden project was an arbor entry made of cedar 4” x 4”s with 2” x 6” horizontal cross pieces on top. This was placed diagonally across one of the corners of the court, and the other fencing, raised beds, and trellises around the outside edge of the court will flow outwards from this entry.

I used a hammer drill, with a ½” diameter carbide tip masonry drill bit, to drill holes in the concrete where I mounted two 4” x 4” standoff post bases using ½” x 3” concrete wedge anchor bolts. The end of a 4” x 4” post was then firmly seated into each post base where it was nailed into place once plumb and level.

Next, I built all of the raised beds out of 6-inch wide composite deck planks, and made them 4-feet wide by 4-feet long. These were spaced around the outside edge of the area with a 3-foot space between each row of beds to allow for easy access.

After some careful planning and experimentation, I came up with the most efficient technique and processes for building the fence and trellis sections out of cedar 2” x 4” and cut down pieces of galvanized cattle panel fencing. In a future article, I’ll go over the specifics of this modular method that can be adapted to a variety of different uses.

Well, I’m off to a pretty good start on this project, and it looks like I’m “all in” now as the arbor entry, raised beds, trellis and fence make it a little difficult to play basketball. I’ll just keep chipping away at it as I have time and I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

Rick Bickling is a certified Master Gardener in Williamson County. He has been designing, planting and maintaining landscapes and gardens for more than 30 years. 

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