This yard has come a long way in one year’s time. When I look at where I started compared to where I am now I am quite satisfied. So many of my goals for the year seemed very much out of reach at times. Starting with having the 7 trees removed. I had no budget for that and feel it was truly the universe conspiring with me that brought 2 different couples to my home to collect them. One couple became my friends. They are very knowledgeable on topics that interest me and share my passion for growing food.
They are the ones that gave me the papaya trees I mentioned in a previous post. Once the trees were removed there were tons of large branches littering the yard. They were mostly collected together into large brush piles and there they sat for a month or so as I puzzled over how to handle them. We considered hiring a tree trimming company to come collect them and chip them up, leaving us the wood chips to mulch with but we balked at the $400 quote for such work. Eventually it dawned on me to use them for trellises, the chicken run, hueglekultur, and bed edging.
Another hurtle I surmounted was mulching over the entire backyard. Our lot is about 1/2 an acre, obviously a portion of that space is covered by our home and a small front yard, but most of it is backyard space. It has taken well over 120 bags of leaves and about 8 dump truck loads of wood chips to get it covered and smother all the grass out. The saying “Eating an elephant one bite at a time” was my approach. I focused on certain areas as mulching materials were collected/available. I am able to collected bagged leaves and grass clipping to my heart’s content twice a week. Wood chips were a lot less consistently available. A few times I was able to get loads dumped by tree trimmers working nearby, a few loads came through signing up on chipdrop.com, and recently some tree trimmers agreed to drop a couple loads and ended up dropping 4 back to back. This was overwhelming to say the least, it usually takes 8 hours to move 1 load and between the hecticness of the holiday season and getting sick several times, I struggled to find the time and energy. In fact our driveway still has about half a load that I am chipping at in 30 minute increments. The goal is to be finished by the new year…
Then I will focus on collecting more bagged leaves. I also want to attempt collecting compostable stuff from restaurants like coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable refuse. Because now that I have settled on a layout for growing beds and pathways, I can now focus on building soil in those raised beds. The easiest way I know of is to dump all raw materials in place and let them compost in place. When I plant those beds in the spring I will pull the composting materials back so that the roots of the plantings are in contact with the soil. This is a combination of the methods of lasagna gardening and deep mulching. It worked to remarkable success in the new beds I filled with wood chips last Spring. I had excellent crops of melons, peas, and okra in less than 6 month old ramial wood chips. My expectations were low to begin with, and admittedly not much else did well in the wood chips, but I believe things will only improve with time, especially since I will be topping beds with good compost mixed with aged chicken manure. I’m pretty excited for the Spring Garden. I’ve already planted plenty of cold hardy crops. I’ve had several set backs with those, but I have some successes as well. Setbacks involve seedling munching chickens and pill bugs if you are curious.
I’ve just ordered lots of new seeds. I want to have flowers everywhere for the bees and the beauty. And I plan to start tomatoes in a week or so. I think the reason I didn’t get any tomatoes this past summer is that I started seeds about 2 months too late and night temperatures were too high to set fruit. Anyway here is a picture where we started and another what it looks like today. I am aware that all the brown is not impressive or attractive, however to me it looks like pure potential and excellent progress for year 1 on my 5 year timeline.