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Japanese / Vegetable Garden in Sierra Madre

This spring, Gardenerd has helped many new gardeners get on their way.  Whether it be through classes, consulting or food garden design, it’s been a delight to watch people get bitten by the gardening bug and begin growing their own food.

One such delight came last month, when we finished installing a new garden in Sierra Madre.  At first it was going to be a simple, straight forward garden with a few raised beds to maximize growing space.  But as the process went on, the home owners realized that they really wanted to incorporate their dream garden – a lush Japanese garden with a water feature and meandering path.  They sent me a few pictures and I re-swizzled the design to encompass the idea.  And then installation began.


This is what it looked like before.  The home owners wanted to remove the grass, and grow as much food as possible, while still allowing a little space for their absolutely adorable dogs to roam and rest.  The pile of rocks in the corner presented an opportunity to incorporate the boulders and stones into the new landscape. 

We went shopping together for some pots that would serve as a focal point and also as a home for the herb garden in the center.  We also talked about adding citrus trees to the deck and on either side of the garage (not shown).  As the project continued, the grass was removed and the design was mapped out in the soil.


You can see one of the cute dogs in the background, curiously looking around and wondering what happened to all her grass.  We created raised beds using the stones from the pile, and edging that we fabricated to look like the borders used in many Japanese gardens.  The beds and pathway had a free-form feeling that flowed and yet allowed access to all the beds.

We added our super soil mix, after planning out all the irrigation, and then planted all the seeds and plants.  We used bamboo trellises (an obvious choice) for the tomatoes and cucumbers and placed drought tolerant plants along the river rock pathway to soften the lines a bit.  Finishing off with decomposed granite, the Japanese vegetable garden came to life.  In the end the home owners were thrilled with their new back yard and look forward to harvesting the bounty of their garden.  They dubbed the garden, “A River Runs Through It”.


As a footnote, Helen – one of the adorable dogs, was rewarded for good behavior with a patch of grass in one of the raised beds.  A few days after completion, the home owner sent me a picture of Helen enjoying her grass patch.


This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Christy Wilhelmi

    Hi Theresa,

    Sure you can use the photos, as long as you credit on them.

    Thanks for your interest and good luck with your ag program!

  2. Theresa Gallo

    May I please use your photos for education purposes? I’m a math professor at a San Diego City College. We’re in the process of getting curriculum for an urban ag. program, and I’m developing Math project for future urban ag students. Love these photos!

  3. Anonymous

    Beautiful yard/art work! I especially like the rock “river” flowing through the middle. Thank you for the inspiration, we’re going to use a couple of these techniques while we’re designing our backyard this summer!


  4. Christy Wilhelmi

    Sure thing!  I’ll shoot you an e-mail in a few minutes. 

  5. Christy Wilhelmi

    Sure thing, Holly, I’ll contact you separately.

  6. Holly

    I have been suffering with trying to design an “Edible estate” out of my front lawn that would not be the eyesore of the subdivision. I am trying to embrace a “Japanese garden” theme and couldn’t figure out how to do an edible estate in Japanese garden style. Thank you thank thank you for posting these pictures! They are definitely along the lines of what I’d like to do. Could we exchange a few emails?

  7. John Rigby

    I was just thinking about Vegetable Garden in Sierra Madre and you’ve really helped out. Thanks!

  8. Maraya

    I love the bamboo trellises and will be borrowing that idea. We need an easy solution to use in our garden.

  9. Anonymous

    What a joy this whole thing is! Congratulations, Maria and Jim, for having the initiative to do this and for the gardenerd who made it possible! Obviously, this space is going to nourish both body and soul. Lucky ducks, all of you!

  10. Sister

    I want a garden with a river running thru it too!

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