Bridlewood Rear Yard
About this project
- Location: Bridlewood, Calgary, AB
- Scope: Design and Installation
- Timeline: 2016 to 2017
The owners of this property in Bridlewood had been planting edible trees and shrubs in their backyard over an 8 year period. While planting many useful species, they had come to realize that the ad-hoc nature of their plantings created a space that was difficult to maintain, and wasn’t optimized for food production or for the health of their existing plants. Their desire was to remove much of the resource-intensive lawn in between the existing plantings, and create dedicated food forest areas using permaculture principles, water harvesting strategies, and plant community design. They wanted to build upon their existing plantings to create a dense, healthy, self-sustaining habitat, while enhancing the aesthetics of their yard and providing natural play opportunities for their four children.
We were delighted to work with all of the plantings the clients had previously completed, and for the opportunity to redesign their rear yard, and help with the first phase of implementation. We identified an overall pattern for dividing the yard into several distinct zones based on themes to engage with the children. The themes were Adventure Island, Food Forest, Rainforest, Secret Fort, Alpine Mountain, Kiwi Land, Kananaskis Dry Creek Bed, and more! It was also important to maintain some lawn for the family to have play area and gathering space. During the site survey we discovered opportunities to channel rainwater from the downspouts into these areas, which lead to subtle berms and terraces that turned most of the slightly sloped backyard into water harvesting basins.
A combination of shallow sod removal (as to not disturb the roots of the existing plantings) and a rigorous sheet mulch was used to start the transformation of lawn into food forest. We forecasted the growth of the existing plantings 20 years into the future, and several of them were then relocated to harmonize with their mature size, sun, and moisture requirements, although most stayed in place. Stacked stone retaining walls, nature-inspired rock ridges, logs, and stumps were used to define the terraces and pathways, and provide opportunities for exploration, seating, and natural play. The client then used our detailed plant community design to plant out many new perennials and shrubs to maximize food production, as well as provide ecosystem services such as attracting pollinators, building soil, and minimizing weeding.
After the installation, the client’s children have been seen actively exploring and playing in the space, and the maintenance requirements have already dropped significantly. The space is now set up to grow harmoniously into a diverse, productive, and beautiful food forest for many years to come.
Design for this project began in 2016, with the groundwork for phase one of the installation happening in 2017. In 2018, the clients planted out the new selection of perennial plant species from the design.