Peek Inside This Amazing 5,000-Square-Foot Edible Garden in Santa Ynez

October 09, 2017
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Santa Ynez Edible Garden
Photo credit: Joe Dodd, original photo on Houzz

Cradled by the rolling foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, this ranch property in California’s sunny Santa Barbara County encourages outdoor living and farm-to-table meals. The 5,000-square-foot edible garden — filled to the brim with vegetables, herbs, flowers, tree fruits and berries — offers plenty of planting and design ideas that one could implement for a kitchen garden of any size. We caught up with William Carson Joyce, one of two landscape architects behind the project, to fill us in on the details of the design and construction.

Yard at a Glance

Who lives here: A professional couple from the Northwest who use the home as a winter retreat
Location: Santa Ynez, California
Edible garden size: 50 by 100 feet; including 10 raised beds, a shaded seating area and an orchard
Design team: William Carson Joyce and Michael Douglas Brennan of Carson Douglas Landscape Architecture

At the garden’s entrance, one is greeted with a handsome custom-made metal gate softened with border plantings of edible pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana), edible grape vines, mounds of yellow yarrow and small echeveria succulents tucked between the concrete stairs.

The gate...consists of a steel frame and heavy-duty wire mesh panels, anchored with redwood posts. The mesh, also used for the 8-foot-tall perimeter fencing, allows light and air to move freely through the garden while keeping deer and other wildlife away from crops. A thin redwood threshold beneath the gate and an electric wire running along the top of the fence also help keep out squirrels, rabbits and other animals.

At the rear of the edible garden, where some minor regrading was done, the team constructed a 5-foot-tall retaining wall to help hold back the slope.

Layout and Raised Bed Design

Joyce and Michael Douglas Brennan designed the edible garden with a roughly symmetrical layout along a center pathway made up of 24-square-inch concrete pavers set in gravel. The walkway leads from the gate to a shaded seating area.

They arranged five raised beds on each side of the central pathway, for a total of 10 beds, in the following sizes:
Two 4-by-4-foot beds
Two 4-by-8-foot beds
One 2-by-15-foot bed

All raised beds are about 20 inches tall — a comfortable height for tending and harvesting — and constructed from rot-resistant 6-by-6-inch redwood timber. 

Fruit trees (shown bare in this winter photograph), such as apple, fig, plum, pluot, peach and nectarine, were planted on both sides of the raised beds.

To further protect crops and extend their growing season, the landscape architects came up with a unique A-frame design for an interchangeable bird screen and cold frame. “The design was based on maximizing light and space inside for plant growth, while still being easily manipulated and opened for bed maintenance,” Joyce says. 

They built two A-frame cover designs: one for the warm season made of chicken wire (shown here) and one for the cold season made of Plexiglas. Both models have hinges to enable the frames to be easily opened when tending the beds and to lay flat for storing.

In spring and fall, the chicken wire frames protect seedlings of summer vegetables and leafy crops, such as lettuce, kale, chard, and cabbage that can be a target for birds. 

In summer, once seedlings have matured and most tender greens have been harvested, the covers are removed to leave the beds open.

In winter and early spring, the chicken wire frames are replaced with those made of lightweight Plexiglas. The Plexiglas covers are propped open with galvanized poles (as shown here) during the day to allow air circulation and to prevent the beds from getting too hot.

On chilly nights, the poles are removed and the sides come down to trap heat and moisture in the bed — effectively creating a mini greenhouse and protecting tender plants from frost damage.

Edible Plants

This system allows the homeowners to grow a wide range of vegetables, greens, herbs and berries throughout the year. With the help of an edible gardening team, the homeowners rotate crops and plant different types and varieties. Crops grown in past seasons include: 

Cool season: Asparagus, chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli, onions, chives, carrots, radishes, mustard greens, peas and lettuce
Warm season: Artichokes, strawberries, pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, eggplants, and zucchini
Warm-season and perennial herbs: Basil, oregano, thyme, sage, dill, parsley, tarragon, and rosemary


All areas surrounding the raised beds, save for wells kept clear around the bases of the orchard trees, are covered in quarter-inch pea gravel. Not only does the gravel have a nice finished look, but it’s also practical to maintain. “Most of the soil and vegetation drop can be easily raked up or washed through,” Joyce says. Plus, it’s hard enough for a wheel barrow to be rolled over.

All beds are set on an automated smart drip irrigation system, which adjusts for weather conditions and increases or decreases water accordingly. The system allows the edible garden to make use of water as efficiently as possible — an important consideration in drought-prone Southern California.

In the center of the edible garden, Joyce and Brennan added a seating area under a redwood shade pergola covered by fragrant honeysuckle vines. It’s nice to have a shady spot right in the middle of the kitchen garden, Joyce says, “to enjoy the splendor of your crop in its setting and for those working to have a place of respite.”

"Tour an Inspiring Edible Garden in the Santa Ynez Foothills" by Lauren Dunec Hoang originally appeared on, the leading home design platform with colorful outdoor cushions and pillows for sale and connections to award-winning fence professionals. Photo credit: Joe Dodd, original photo on Houzz.

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