To create the garden, Haeg and Ridgley smothered the lawn with thick layers of newspaper and then topped it with a soil-compost mixture. Circular mounds of the mixture function as unframed raised beds. Wood chips define pathways. The plants make up the design of the garden; the lack of paving, structures, and other elements of hardscaping is a choice. Haeg calls it a deliberate move away from materialism and an obsession with things.
"It's not about super-fancy, aspirational, perfect garden designs," Haeg says. "I try to make the gardens real and modest, so people with modest means can do it."
As for what to grow, Haeg's palette is broad: any plant that grows in that climate. It's as diverse as possible, and takes into consideration the likes and dislikes of the family. The first year, the garden is mostly Haeg's vision. After that, it becomes the owners'.
The artist believes that growing food in front of the house is an opportunity to welcome and interact with other people. Ridgley says that neighbors he didn't know pre-garden stop to visit and comment on its progress. It's an experience to watch it transform from bare dirt to an attractive, productive garden. And it takes time. "It's not reality TV—instantly there," he says. "It's seeds. People watch it grow from nothing into something."
"People make their gardens more complicated and expensive than they need to be," states Haeg. "I keep it simple, cheap, and easy, so people think, 'I can do that, or better.' "
Photo: Rob Cardillo