Gardening around a play structure

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I began building my play structure in 2019 in a bare part of the back garden. It had been planted, but I had a hard time maintaining it. The idea was to create a play area for my two girls, now six and three, so that they could enjoy the backyard as they were growing up. I also liked the idea that I could see them there from the house. My plan revolved around one main structure which was built in fits and starts. It now has a slide, crane, climbing wall and several platforms as well as a catwalk.
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Although I started with the structure, friends and family began to suggest additional features, and helped me build them. A balance beam, 'stepping stones' and a log were added between the play structure and the remaining garden.
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There was already a sandbox on the other side of the structure, which I had built with my dad. I added a blackboard, and just recently, a mud kitchen. This area had already been paved with patio stones, and I built right on them, attaching the blackboard to the side of the existing shed with carriage bolts.
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There had been a stone path through the garden, which was removed when the structure was built. Afterward the stones were laid beside the play structure on a bed of dirt, since that's where the ladder is. You can see the stones in the photo above, and below near the ladder.
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The sandbox was based loosely on a design I found online. It has a cover which opens and folds into a seat.
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Behind the sandbox there's another way to access the structure by a ramp my dad calls the 'chicken run'.
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The structure itself has a few great features. One of my favourites is a crane that was built by a welder friend. It swings 180 degrees and has a big slip hook. As you can see, it is mounted on a tall pole. These are 12 foot fence posts I got from a farming supply store. There is one on each corner of the structure, which is trapezoidal rather than rectangular.
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I bought the slide and the climbing holds off of people who were selling them on Kijiji. I also mounted two brass bells using straps that had been used to secure a new tree in the front yard.
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I had considered a shade sail but since there is already a large maple in the yard and over hanging trees on our neighbour's properties, the structure itself gets only a few hours of full sun each day. I prefer that it is kept open anyway.
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On this picture above you can see that I've added a mailbox as well as a squirrel picnic table that our neighbours built. Here is a picture of the bell.
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Overall, I'm quite happy with how it turned out, especially since I didn't really have the full design in mind at the beginning. The girls enjoy it and it is a fun thing for them to share with the neighbour kids or their friends. The full integration of the play structure into the garden is not entirely complete though. We are presently considering what could be grown on the chain link portion of the back fence, more for looks than anything, although fruit bearing would be a great option. If you have any suggestions, we'd love to hear them!
 

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Welcome to the forums @TimDV :) My word you have made an exceptional job of all that! I wish you had been my dad. I had a sand pit when I was little - about 267 years ago, and just because all the local cats came and pooed in it, the sod filled it in with dirt and grew spuds instead
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Thank you for the warm welcome :). Those sound like some potatoes! Neighbour cats are definitely not welcome in our sandbox. The seat folds down into a cover to keep them out. We get lots of squirrels though. We sometimes put nuts out on their picnic table. As for tubers, we just dug out a whole bunch of Jerusalem artichokes - they're invasive.
 
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I know/knew a chap here who made a very intricate play structure for his squirrels (he didn't have any kids) He made puzzles on the structure for the squirrels to work out how to reach the bits of food he left for them. The puzzles exercised his brain, but the squirrels always worked out how to get the food. He ended up turning the living room around and the sofa faced the french doors instead of the TV.
I've always wished I took photos.

Will you find space in your garden to teach the kids about plants? I think all children should know how their food is grown - and flowers too.

How about a thornless blackberry on the fence, and maybe plant an apple tree to go with them :hungry:
 
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Yes, there's always lots to see in the garden. Sadly, we don't have any puzzles for the squirrels, although they seem to keep busy enough hiding nuts from each other.
We are teaching the girls about plants with the raised beds we started this year. There's two in the front yard, about three by one metre each. The girls each have an end, about a metre square. We settled on a canna lily and some strawberry plants for one girl, and lamb's ear and a canna lily for the other. The younger one is crazy about lambs, she thinks they're precious. Somehow a whole bunch of marigolds got planted in the process as well. We've got tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, radish, beets, spinach, squash and herbs in the rest of the raised beds. Have you ever heard of Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan?
As for planting by the fence, I like your suggestions! We've been talking about getting some fruit trees on our property. We don't have a tonne of space, but there's a grower near us who does dwarf varieties. Likely a project for next year (or maybe this fall).
 

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