Let it Grow: Bucktown Town Urban Farmers

With a mix of older single family homes, new builds with edgy architecture, and converted industrial loft spaces, this client wanted to combine a modern landscape design, with a more traditional home. The number one priority: space to grow vegetables.

In the front yard, we installed a slat cedar fence, a limestone walkway with brick edging in running bond, creating a sharp, clean line pattern that went well with a contemporary garden, and new stairs with a larger landing to help ease traffic entering the house. To reinforce the natural, modern look, we installed low light trees and shrubs and low growing groundcovers. The tree was a columnar variety to help scale down the house without taking up a lot of horizontal space and the main groundcover was a grass like sedge that created a mounding effect like waves. We complemented the front yard with an espaliered Japanese maple for the color contract with the greens.

The existing front yard was sloped from the sidewalk back to a lower retaining wall near the house. To address this, we Installed pressure treated timbers to the top of a retaining wall, leveling it with the sidewalk. We also used an organic soil blend to bring up the soil level and increase fertility.

To draw on the simplicity of the backyard, we reworked the existing deck to incorporate it better with the landscape, added privacy screens and a small sitting area. To maximize planting space for growing vegetables, we removed the existing stairs that came straight down the backside of the house. We re-installed half the stairs making them wider and designing them to enhance the area. We added a stairs landing to help increase space. Underneath the deck, we added horizontal cedar slats to help screen the storage area.

On the perimeters of the yard, we extended the cedar fencing from the front. The fencing on the west side was solid on the bottom to screen an existing retaining wall and then opened up to slat style at the top for more openness.

To help the client create a thriving vegetable garden, we used raw steel to create raised vegetable beds and installed a custom organic soil mix with high fertility and good drainage. We also installed an irrigation system to make sure the vegetables were watered properly. Over time, the raw steel rusted to create a patina look.

The walkway on the side of the house was small, unpractical and Chicago’s inclement weather can really damage this area. To minimize damage and maintenance in this narrow space, we paved the area and the backyard using pea gravel.

From the start of the project to completion was one month.