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Garden Rooms

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm contributor

Friday, June 11, 2010

Garden sink

Photo by Rick Gush

The garden sink we use is perfect for washing freshly harvested produce.

I’m a big advocate of making gardens legitimate living areas, and not just wild areas that are separate from the homes where we live. These days, with wi-fi connections so easy to establish, lots of folks enjoy being able to use their computers outdoors. I already take advantage of that sometimes, and we have a big table and several chairs that can be used for garden work, writing work and outdoor lunches. The surrounding trees provide nice shade, and the place is comfortable enough that I take naps up there sometimes. (I’m also a big fan of afternoon naps.)

Back when I was designing gardens, two of my favorite projects were for clients who allowed me to construct their gardens as a series of outdoor rooms. For the first clients I built a deluxe outdoor kitchen, complete with a beautiful, tiled sink; permanent barbecue, refrigerator and a set of waterproof cabinets. Next to the outdoor kitchen was an outdoor living room with a set of couches, tables and chairs that made for a wonderful entertaining area. Outdoor functions were more convenient there without the hosts having to go back and forth inside the house. 

In the second garden, I built a whole outdoor office for a busy lawyer who enjoyed being able to work outdoors for many months of the year. It wasn’t much of a trick to run power and telephone lines out to the office, and we built a big desk and set of waterproof bookshelves waterproof that could be closed up easily when the weather was bad.  There was even a discreetly hidden outdoor bathroom through a side gate. The client told me that this was his favorite feature. When I wrote my garden book, Gardening for the Criminally Negligent, the bit that got the most positive response was the page that advised garden designers to "make a place to pee in the garden.” Admittedly, it was mostly males who appreciated this practical advice.

In our own garden, one of the most useful features is the garden sink up on the top level. This garden sink is really useful for washing freshly harvested produce and very nice for scrubbing pots, muddy tools and dirty hands. It’s an unusual sink — really, just a pair of slate tablets surrounded by bricks, which that make a basin. There’s no drain, and the water just runs off into a pile of rocks at one end. The water runoff then flows into the soil of the adjacent raised bed, where we grow lettuce. The kiwi vine planted above the lettuce bed also likes the water, and the mints planted right next to the edge grow well in the moist conditions.

The one thing that we don’t yet have in the garden is electricity, but I have a couple of ideas as to how I can arrange to run a power line up there. I’d really enjoy being able to have a music system up there, and perhaps a gurgling fountain. Who knows, if this all works out, we might be able to rent the house out to tourists and live up in the garden during the warm months!

Read more of Rick's Favorite Crops »

Give us your opinion on Garden Rooms.
Submit Comment »
I like the sink idea.
Carl, Livermore, CA
Posted: 4/19/2012 10:52:52 AM
great ideas, I look forward to trying some
Kristin, upper sandusky, OH
Posted: 11/19/2010 9:32:27 PM
Nifty! I'm in favor of using pavers to make your surface with pavers. I like the contrast between nature and construct.
I had a yard with a big old oak tree once, and I remeber we dug holes to put in slow feeding tubes for the oak, and we also really tried to avoid putting a bunch of water on the root zone, because this can often cause trouble for an old oak accustomed to a drier root zone.
Rick, Rapallo, YT
Posted: 6/28/2010 8:05:31 PM
This has been very informational and given use some insight as to what we still need to do. We are in the process of doing a small garden room in the front yard under an 100 yr.+ oak tree, we have put a small smoker and put in a small water feature, we are doing container plants as well as hanging baskets from the tree. we are trying to decide if we want to set the furniture on pavers, and which set to use, (we have a set of iron tubbing furniture with a table and a set of antique furniture).
robert, lebanon, OK
Posted: 6/17/2010 11:03:05 AM

About the Blogger

Rick Gush
Rick Gush has long been a staunch organic gardener. While a student at the University of California at Davis he worked at local tomato and sugar beet farms and continued in the agricultural and horticultural industries for many years. A career move in the 1990s led him to design computer games, but no matter how much of a techie he’s become, gardening and farming remain his principal passions.

In 2000, Rick moved to Italy, where he writes to you about his cliff garden and other experiences in Italian urban agriculture.

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