A Beginner’s Guide to Growing a Bountiful Garden

A Beginner’s Guide to Growing a Bountiful Garden

Photo via Pixabay

By Carrie Spencer for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

Want to start a garden? Planting a garden is a wonderful way to spend more time outside, enjoy some good exercise, and have access to healthful food right in your backyard. But if you’ve never grown a garden before, it can be difficult to know where to start. From choosing the right plants to keeping weeds and pests at bay, there are several tips and tricks that experienced gardeners use to ensure a bountiful harvest at the end of every growing season. Keep on reading to learn how you can earn your own green thumb!


Start with Raised Beds

As opposed to planting straight in the ground, gardening in raised beds is a lot more manageable for beginners. This is also a great way to optimize your use of garden space. According to Savvy Gardening, raised beds prevent soil compaction and provide good drainage, so your plants will be less susceptible to root suffocation and rot. Not only that, but raised beds may deter pests like slugs and snails, which can eat up your adorable sprouts before they even get a chance. Finally, raised beds offer a more ergonomic gardening option to reduce strain on your back and neck.

Know Your “Sunset” Zone

You might already have an idea of the kinds of vegetables you would like to grow in your garden, but don’t go buy seeds just yet!  It’s important to be aware of our growing season in the Pacific Northwest.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a numbered system to divide the country into frost-hardiness zones based on climate, but Sunset Magazine offers a more finely-calibrated zone chart for our region.  Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue, and the Puget Sound lowlands are in Sunset Zone 5, whereas the Cascade foothills are in Zone 4.  Determine your zone and be sure to read your seed packet labels to check when it’s best to plant to ensure a good crop. Working with plants that will thrive in your climate zone will be much easier than fighting against an early frost or high summer temperatures.

Learn About Companion Planting

The easiest way to grow a garden is to let your garden take care of itself. Select plants that like to grow next to each other—they will provide a natural source of nutrients, shade, and pest-control. As The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains, three common plants to grow together are corn, pole beans, and squash. The squash provides ground cover to reduce moisture loss and weed growth, the corn provides climbing support for the beans, and the beans help make nitrogen available in the soil for the other plants. Some other great companion plant combinations include radishes and carrots, tomatoes and basil, and lettuce and garlic.

Fertilize Your Garden

Just like us, plants need food. Fertilizing your garden properly will play an important role in its success, so spend some time learning the ins and outs of fertilization. In short, you want to provide your plants with three primary elements—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Providing these nutrients will help your garden flourish! However, you also have to be careful to avoid overfertilizing your plants, which can damage or even kill them. To find out exactly how much fertilizer to feed your garden, bring a sample of your soil to a testing lab and have it analyzed before amending it with any added nutrients.

Enjoy Your Harvest!

One of the largest benefits of growing your garden is having all of that veggie goodness right at your fingertips. To make the most of your backyard bounty, find recipes that showcase the flavors of your homegrown vegetables. For your tomatoes, consider an heirloom tomato seafood platter or make your own sauce. Whip up a homemade pesto with all of that beautiful basil or use it to add flavor to your weeknight dishes. The opportunities for healthful and delicious meals are truly endless!

Gardening might seem like a lot of work, but it’s a worthwhile hobby that just keeps on giving. Once you get started, you’ll quickly find that digging around in the dirt, pulling weeds, and watering your sprouts is an incredibly therapeutic activity. You’ll always be looking for new ways to expand your backyard plot, so get outside in the fresh air and get your garden started today!

Ask for Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to get started, consider working with a professional landscape architect to help you out. Brooks Kolb LLC can guide you through the process of designing the perfect garden. All key elements will be addressed, from construction materials to the plants you want to grow.

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb can help you create the perfect garden that seamlessly blends form and function. Contact us at (206) 324-0858 for a free initial consultation!

 Garden writer Carrie Spencer can be reached at carrie@thespencersadventures.net.


Five Popular Outdoor Renovations That’ll Add Value to Your Seattle Area Home

By Evette Zalvino, Freelance Writer for HomeLight, for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

Top Agent Insights for Spring 2021: Seller’s Market Sizzles Across U.S. (homelight.com)

Renovating your backyard is a great way to prepare for a summer of entertainment, and these five renovations will add a lot of value to your Seattle home.

2020 was one heck of a year, wasn’t it? Now that 76% of Seattleites are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, it’s time to make plans to invite guests over for barbecues, parties, and a good ole’ game of volleyball (or whatever your family and friends like to play). It’s also the perfect time to give your backyard a complete overhaul and turn it into a fun and beautiful oasis that everyone will want to use and enjoy.

The question is, where do you even start; or if you’re looking to sell your home, which projects will add the most value to your home?  After gathering some insights from real estate agents and landscape architects in Seattle, these landscaping renovations are what many homeowners want the most:

1. Outdoor living space

Homeowners are treating their backyards as an extension of their homes, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that nearly every homeowner wants an outdoor living space. This renovation isn’t just popular in Seattle, 52.5% of surveyed real estate agents from all over the country report clients say this is on their “wants” list.

These outdoor spaces can be as elaborate as you’d like, but many people opt for a simple seating terrace, with a separate dining area. It’s important to note that these spaces are not just relegated to the backyard – you can create a beautiful (but private) front garden where you can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.

2. Lawns for playing

If you have young children (or you’re a child at heart), having a luscious lawn that’s large enough for playing outside is important for at least 50% of residential landscape clients, and can go as high as 100% for people with young children). The best types of grass for the Seattle area include Fescue and Ryegrass. These varieties are extremely resilient and, the right soils, sun exposure, watering, and regular mowing program, can withstand rigorous game-playing.

Having a large grassy area for games doesn’t mean that the rest of the landscaping must be boring or drab. You can use hardscaping to create a path that separates the lawn from garden beds filled with your favorite perennials, annuals, and shrubs.

3. Outdoor grilling setup

You may have a charcoal grill that’s seen better days, so why not plan a renovation suited for the grill master that you are? An outdoor grilling station will give you a place where you can whip up delicious barbecue while entertaining your guests – after all, who wants to be left out of all the juicy gossip or life updates?

There are a variety of options when it comes to creating the ideal grilling station that suits your needs. Many if not most people prefer to keep it simple, locating their grills on the edge of a patio, against a wall.  However, you could consider erecting a pergola over your grill for rain protection, or you could install a built-in brick, wood or stone grilling station with a countertop for food preparation. There are a lot of possibilities to tailor the set-up for your particular needs.

4. Outdoor fire feature

While everyone calls them fire pits, “fire feature” is a more accurate term to describe all the various design options available to people who want to enjoy the heat and light that an outdoor fire can provide. Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb reports that at least 35% of his clients request a custom fire feature, while nationally 76.8% of real estate agents represent clients who either have or want fire pits. A fire feature is a great place to relax on the cooler nights while enjoying your garden or chatting with friends and family.

One affordable solution is to purchase a catalog-order fire table, which can double as an outdoor coffee table for your conversational setting, but if budget permits, custom-built fire features can incorporate masonry that matches or compliments your home’s architectural design.

5. Raised garden beds

There’s nothing like fresh herbs and vegetables to take your cooking up to a whole new level. However, bending over to tend to the plants or harvest them can be difficult for some homeowners. To remedy this or to provide an easy way to cut flowers for indoor bouquets, many people ask for raised garden beds to be a primary feature of their new landscape design.  Moreover, if your garden has heavy clay soils, raised beds are almost a necessity, as they facilitate bringing in a loamy topsoil.

Whether you want to spend more time in your garden, you’re looking forward to entertain guests outdoors, or you just want to boost your property value, these landscaping renovations are a great way to start. With a little bit of imagination and planning, your landscaping is sure to be the talk of the town!

If you’d like more specific suggestions or recommendations on all these garden design features, please contact Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb, at 206-342-0858.

Starting a Garden on a Budget Can Be the Best Retirement Activity

By Carrie Spencer, Garden Writer, for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb



Seniors with an inordinate amount of free time after retirement are wise to spend it in productive and enriching pursuits. Undoubtedly high on the list of such worthwhile activities is gardening, as its well-known benefits are varied and plenty. Research shows that it’s a hobby that can help you live to be 100, as it offers you regular physical activity and copious amounts of outdoor time. Moreover, it’s wonderful for your mental and emotional well-being.

Your garden also has the potential to yield fresh food that can contribute to keeping your diet a healthy one. The best part is, it’s an activity that’s quite cost-effective and may even save you money in the long run. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how you can start.

Do Your Research

No doubt, your road to a green thumb starts with due diligence since gardening has a great many nuances you’ll need to learn from the ground up (pun intended). These are largely reliant on where you are geographically speaking, what kind of garden you want to grow, and even how much time and effort you can put into it.

Luckily, there’s plenty of guidance — often for absolutely no cost — that you can find after a quick search online. For instance, if you live in a city, you may want to find out how you can grow a small garden despite space constraints, which, in turn, can give you that much-needed connection to nature. Or, if you’re looking to grow a vegetable patch, research will help you determine which vegetables are best in your area as this will ensure that you don’t waste money on the wrong seeds and time on the wrong methods.

Stock Up on Supplies

Of course, you’ll need to invest in the appropriate garden tools to help you with your initiative. This will run the gamut from trowels to shears, from gloves to wheelbarrows. It also goes without saying that you’ll need to know how each one is used in your gardening efforts.

Now, you can easily buy the gardening tools that you need, even when you’re working on a budget. Ditto with supplies like fertilizer, mulch, etc. When you’re pinching pennies, it’s definitely a great idea to buy gardening implements from retailers like Target, which often has deals on already-discounted items. You can even save more when you take the time to search online for promo codes and cashback offers that you use for additional discounts.

Starting a garden will be hard work and will require an investment, but the fact is, the return on investment you can expect can’t be beaten. At the very least, growing your own food will ultimately translate to savings toward your food budget, while you get to ward off unwanted medical bills as you eat and stay healthy. More than enough reasons to get your garden started, yes?

Are you a Seattle-area homeowner looking for sustainable garden design services? Connect with Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb! Call 206-324-0858 for a free consultation.

Photo via Pexels.com


These 3 Steps Will Help You Plant and Nurture a Productive Garden

By Carrie Spencer, garden writer, for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

Growing a garden is a healthy way to enjoy the outdoors, feed your family, and support your local ecosystem. But tending to a truly productive garden requires a bit of expertise and plenty of planning. These 12 steps aim to help you nurture your garden into the best growth possible.


1.  Outline a Plan Before You Begin

Dropping some seeds into dirt sounds easy. However, for the best results, plan your garden before you start digging.

2.  Adapt to the Space You Have

Know what you’re working with, whether it’s limited growing space or hundreds of acres. Here’s how to work with the space you have.

3.  Deliver Nutrients for Optimum Growth

Your beginner garden needs lots of TLC. Of course, it also needs nutrient-rich soil, the right amount of water, and plenty of sunlight.

No matter your level of expertise, you can learn to grow a garden that is as prolific as it is beautiful. With these simple steps, you can design the perfect garden for your property or apartment. Then, careful tending will bring you vegetables and flowers all season long.


Carrie Spencer created The Spencers Adventures to share her family’s homesteading adventures. On the site, she shares tips on living self-sufficiently, fruit and vegetable gardening, parenting, conservation, and more. She and her wife have 3 kids, 2 dogs, 4 cats, 3 goats, 32 chickens, and a whole bunch of bees at their home in Richmond, Virginia. Their goal to live as self-sufficiently and environmentally-consciously as possible.  You can reach her at carrie@thespencersadventures.net.

Photo via Rawpixel

Creating Curb Appeal for House Sale

by Clara Beaufort, for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb.  Clara is a garden writer and community gardener based in Georgia. She created GardenerGigs to connect local gardeners with those in need of plant care help.   You can reach her at clara@gardenergigs.com.

Any good real estate agent will tell you that creating curb appeal is an essential step when you plan on putting your home on the market. Your home’s interior could be completely remodeled with all the best upgrades, but if the exterior is lackluster, many buyers won’t even walk through the door. The good news is that investing in curb appeal does more than just help sell your house faster. It also improves your home’s value, so you can be confident that it’s money well spent.


Brooks Kolb’s Design for a Laurelhurst Front Living Room

Lawn and Garden 101

When you’re ready to invest in improved curb appeal, the hardest part for most homeowners is figuring out what to do first. Think of this step as Lawn and Garden 101 – you’re getting a feel for what it takes to get your yard in tip top shape. The first tasks to do will vary by season, so we suggest starting with a seasonal checklist. For example, Martha Stewart’s spring gardening tips include surveying your yard first, then deciding how to fill any gaps, reseeding grass, pruning, and preparing flower beds.

Starting with these tips will help you come up with a lawn and garden plan, plus it will help ensure you’re choosing the right plants for the season. Timing and choosing plants carefully is always important with landscaping, but especially when you want to sell your house. This is because plants that are in bloom and have lots of color will make the biggest impact on buyers. To get this maximum effect, The Spruce recommends that spring sellers plant early bloomers, hardy annuals, and flowering shrubs.

Creating and maintaining a beautiful lawn and garden is a lot of work, but you don’t have to do it all on your own. Whether you don’t have a green thumb or you simply don’t have the time it takes, hiring a gardening service is an easy way to get (and keep) the results you’re looking for. These pros specialize in all aspects of landscaping, whether you need help with the planning stage, planting, weeding, or other maintenance needs. And, remember, spring is the ideal time to make your exterior shine.

Tackle Other Exterior Projects

Curb appeal is about more than just your lawn and garden, which is why the next item on your to-do list should be addressing other exterior issues. This includes fixing anything that’s broken or worn looking, plus making cosmetic improvements strategically. Look at things like making repairs, such as fixing a broken deck board, along with cleaning spots you wouldn’t normally think about, such as your home’s roof and siding.

Inexpensive Extras

In addition to doing the necessary work of repairs and cleaning, buyers will be even more impressed if you go the extra mile with curb appeal. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune or a ton of time. Our suggestion is to pick just a few “extra” projects that will make the biggest impact, such as creating a more welcoming front entryway.

If your front door is looking shabby, give it a fresh coat of paint, and don’t forget about house trim and shutters. Along with a spruced up front door, make your front porch even more inviting with a container garden, adding a seasonal wreath, and a new welcome mat.

It’s also smart to think about making the most of your home’s outdoor spaces for the season you’re in. If you’re selling in spring, a birdhouse is a great seasonal accent for your garden, and the beautiful birds you attract are an added bonus. Or if you’re selling in summer, consider staging outdoor spaces to highlight the potential for backyard barbeques.

When you’re getting your home ready to sell, you want to highlight its best features while making house hunters feel welcome. Don’t underestimate the value of curb appeal, which affects your home’s appraisal value, to give that warm impression! From a neat and tidy lawn to seasonal accents, every improvement you make outside will help get buyers through the door – AND a better price at closing.


Recent Work: A Cascadia Avenue Garden

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is proud to announce the completion of an extensive new garden on Cascadia Avenue in the Mount Baker garden. The front garden features six rectangular perennial beds flanking the central front walk, while the much larger back garden boasts a substantial number of amenities: a swimming pool, shed with kitchenette, sports court and children’s play area. A raised hot tub is situated to look out over the flames of a custom, natural gas-fed fire feature to views of Lake Washington beyond. In addition, a custom tree house nestles in an Evergreen Magnolia tree for the owner’s young children. More than thirteen varieties of fruiting trees, shrubs, vines and espaliers are distributed throughout the garden, all without blocking views of the lake. Brooks collaborated with architect Kim Lavacot for the shed and tree house.

Photographs by Miranda Estes Photography

Recent Work: A Mount Baker Garden

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is proud to announce the completion of a substantial new hillside garden in the Mount Baker Garden. Since the main floor of the house is at a much lower elevation than the street, an elegant concrete stair winds down past a dramatic waterfall to the front door. From the main stair landing, a wide gravel path loops around to the back garden, which features a tranquil koi pond and a mahogany observation deck with sweeping views of Lake Washington and the Cascades. On the north side of the house, a second stair descends to a lower level rental unit which has its own lawn. Lush plantings of trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials are distributed throughout the garden, while a variety of erosion control shrubs anchor the steep slope below the deck. Brooks collaborated with Turnstone Construction on the two contrasting water features.

Photographs by Miranda Estes Photography



Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s Inverness Garden published in “New Landscaping Ideas That Work”

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is thrilled to report that his Inverness Garden was just published as a case study in the new book, “New Landscaping Ideas That Work,” by Julia Moir Messervy (Taunton Press.)  Titled “A Backyard Retreat,” Brooks’ garden design is honored with a two-page spread on pages 154-155 in the book, which show-cases nation-wide garden designs.  It is also featured in a full-page photograph chapter heading, “Spaces that Work,” on page 20.  Julia Moir Messervy is also the author of “Home Outside:  Creating the Landscape You Love” and “Outside the Not So Big House” (with Sarah Susanka.)

Quoting Messervy, “Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb created an elegant landscape to meld beautifully with a mid-century modern home built in 1962.  The new owners wanted a private dining terrace on the east side of the house.*  Bands of white Texada concrete pavers alternate with fields of charcoal Texada to give interest to the flat plane around three sides of the house.”

*it is actually on the south side of the house.

For more information, please visit the Inverness Garden project page, https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/inverness-garden/.

Photographs by Ken Gutmaker









Brooks Kolb’s Inverness Garden to be Published in “New Landscaping Ideas That Work”

Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb, ASLA, is thrilled to announce that his Inverness Garden for the “Century 21 Idea House” is set to be published in the forthcoming book, “New Landscaping Ideas That Work.” Written by Julia Moir Messervy, the celebrated author of the “Not So Big House” book series, the January, 2018 publication will include a case study of the garden and a photo spread by Ken Gutmaker.  This garden provides an outdoor living room designed to complement the architecture of the house, which was originally designed in 1962 by architect Jack Morse, who was a friend and colleague of Kolb’s father, Keith Kolb, FAIA.

This garden was published in the Fall Home Design issue of the Seattle Times “Pacific NW Magazine,” in October, 2012, with photographs by Ben Benschneider, and can be found on Kolb’s website, here:  https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/inverness-garden/








Photograph by Ben Benschneider

Brooks Kolb LLC Honored by BUILD Magazine

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb, ASLA, is  honored and delighted to announce that his firm, Brooks Kolb LLC Landscape Architecture, was granted a prestigious award from BUILD Magazine, an international publication of construction and design based in the United Kingdom.  Announced in September, 2017, BUILD named Brooks Kolb LLC “Best Traditional Landscape Architecture Firm – Washington State and Best Washington Residential Garden Design:  Interlaken Park Garden.”  See the link below, page 75 for the essay Kolb prepared, describing his firm for the magazine:


Mike Siegel 9-7-14.7

Photograph by Mike Siegel

Published in the September 7, 2014 issue of the Seattle Times’ “Pacific NW Magazine,” more photographs and a description of the Interlaken Park Garden can be found here on Kolb’s website:   https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/interlaken-park-garden/



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