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The Tiki Pit

The Tiki Pit at full maturity
I can't think of a better first post on the NidoBeato blog than the garden I labeled the Tiki Pit. At the time we were living in a rental house in the Wellswood area of Tampa, so the majority of my gardening had to be done in pots.

That being said, we had a U-shaped concrete courtyard area between the house and two small studio apartments attached to the house (I believe at one time they might have been a two-car garage). The area was roughly thirty-foot square, and the two open sides were enclosed by a wooden privacy fence with a dirt bed along the side that bordered the neighbor.

The creation of this garden was therapeutic for me, as at the time I was coping with the reality that my mother had terminal cancer and wouldn't be with us much longer. It helped everyday to come home to this space to reflect and unwind.

The garden started with free bamboo I found on Craigslist. There was a house less than a mile away where they had cut down a huge stand of bamboo and were offering it free to anyone who wanted to come by and collect it. Not having a truck at the time, it was pretty comical to watch a crazy lady stuff twelve-foot long bamboo poles into the back of her son's Honda Civic. Even with the rear seat down, they stuck out a good five feet. Luckily I didn't have far to drive that way, and all of it was in the neighborhood.

It took three trips, but I got enough bamboo for the posts and cross pieces of the actual tiki hut I was going to build. Lucky for me, my landlady was a bit of a hoarder. There was all manner of discarded building materials tossed behind the ex-garage on the property, including several empty 5-gallon paint buckets. I bought a couple of bags of cement and filled four of the buckets to anchor the corner posts.

The tiki hut structure
With the frame built, I bought a roll of reed fencing at Home Depot and attached it to the top as a shade.

Tiki hut with roof attached
I picked up some plastic Adirondack chairs and a fire pit for the opposite corner of the courtyard, and started bringing in plants. I started the project in March with a bare courtyard, and over the next five months, it evolved into a lush paradise. I built a bench out of four concrete blocks and some salvaged wood I found behind the garage, but my favorite project was the bar built from salvaged wood and the rest of the reed fencing. I printed out images of beer and liquor labels and epoxied them to the top.
Fire pit side of the courtyard
Fence corner. A friend gave me  the arch as a birthday preset. I planted it with morning glories and moonflower vine.
The plants are starting to make it look lush
Two weeks in and the pit is evolving.

The tiki umbrella added a nice touch

More plants, including some heirloom tomatoes in the orange pots

I transplanted some elephant ears I found growing behind the house

One month in. I covered the apartment windows with plastic tablecloths I found at Big Lots

The bar is added

The corner is coming along nicely. Notice my makeshift bottle tree made by sticking bamboo poles in the ground

Starting to come together

The top of the bar

I added lights for nighttime fun

September in the Tiki Pit. Come on in.

This project was fun to build and proves you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a big impact. Most of the materials used were free or salvaged, and the items I bought new were either discounted clearanced or bought at places like Big Lots. The plants all came from seeds or cuttings or very small plants from a local nursery, Manny's on the Bay. Manny's has great plants cheap, but their real treasure is their potting soil, which is a mixture of organic material that is like crack to plants. Stick 'em that and they grow like kudzu.

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