Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Berry Garden Addition: Planning and Sketches

The Berry Garden planning started in 2008, when we first did our landscaping layout.  Originally, it was a horseshoe pit.  It sounds odd, but we had a horseshoe pit at our first house, and loved it.  The area behind the garage was just long enough to put a Junior pit, and so we thought it would make sense here.

But, as we created the OctoGarden on the South side of the house in 2009, we realized that in order to grow all of the things we wanted to grow, we would have to make use of other areas of the property in order to make it all fit.  One of the things that we missed dearly from our first house were the strawberries and raspberries.

We created a protective box for our strawberries because we had a difficult time keeping the squirrels from eating them all - and we had several that lived in nearby trees.  Raspberries were easier, but since they weren't in a spot that was touched by the irrigation system, they had to be hand watered.  So, our fate depended on how well we watered, combined with how often we traveled during gardening season.

In addition, Deb is amazingly hooked on the nutrition in blueberries.  While we regularly use them in smoothies, she's found a way to add them to all sorts of things from salads to desserts.

As a result, we have a need to devote a significant area to production of berries, and the horseshoe pit became history.

So, over the years of 2009 and 2010, we've often walked that barren and desolate side of our house hoping to finally fulfill our dream of having a berry garden that would produce quart after quart of fresh berries, year after year.  We added to that the dream of having an asparagus bed, as well as a living fence.

Every good plan begins with a sketch, and so did ours.  I drew out a concept in late March that I liked, but after some discussions with Deb and Tim, we decided to abandon both a 5-sided and 6-sided multi-level planter due to the nearly impossible criteria of maximizing growing space, having easy-to-assemble construction (ie right angles), and ensuring that wood warpage would not destroy the look within 1-2 years.

I did the sketch back on March 26, after walking in the area, and sighting it from end to end.  I try to see what it will look like in 3D in my mind, and then look over the landscape to see if I can align objects that will be there in the future.  Then, I try to sketch them out, and take some rough measurements.

I have found that my process involves putting an idea on paper, and then going to sleep on it for several days.  Sometimes, but not always, I dream about designs in my sleep.  When I made jewelry, I did the same thing.  It's an important part of my creative process.

Over the next few days, I started to have other ideas about how to make the planter for strawberries.  I came up with a Pentagon box that was pretty neat in my mind, and even on paper.  The base level was a pentagon, with a star inside the pentagon, and that left a smaller and higher Pentagon as the top level

Neat and all, but it was just a ridiculous concept with the materials we were using.  Either you would have to make very precise angle cuts that the wood might or might not hold up to - this is pine after all.  Or, you would have to live without 4x4s in the corners, and then have angled wood fastened in some way that was hard to imagine let alone spec.

In the end, this design will have to just be a fantasy for a while till I can figure out other details.  Hopefully there will still be room on our property to build this one day.

I eventually redrew this sketch with more detailed dimensions on March 31, with the help of my friend Tim to get dimensions and think through the design some more.

What I ended up with was a take-off drawing, where I actually created my shopping list.  We bought the parts at Lowe's and had to get some lumber at Home Depot because Lowe's didn't have enough 16-foot lengths of 2x12.  It's amazing how little they stock in store these days.

As you can see, the Sexagon (now that would be a cool website name ;) in the original sketch gave way to the Pentagon, which then gave way to a square box.  Boring?  Well, we decided to add two levels that would also be squares, but they would be turned 45 degrees to create a diamond within a box.  Twice over.  The effect will be to have a terraced effect with our strawberries, and have triangles to match the triangular shape of the overall land on this side of the house.

I hope this gives you an idea of the process by which an idea turns into a concept, which then gets scribbled into a sketch, which then gets updated into a more official-looking sketch, which you can then create a shopping list to go buy the materials to finally build.

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