To reconcile my suburban track-home existence, far from the true “back to basics” life I dream of, I have transformed my backyard into a food-producing space. Okay, maybe the present progressive form “am transforming” is a better tense choice. It’s far from there … the point I want it to be. But it’s getting there. Time and money both play a huge factor in my inability to make it go faster.
Time. For a mother and teacher, time is always my shackle – that priceless commodity more valuable than diamonds. There never seems to be enough time. Time to plan fabulous earth-shattering lessons that cause students to leave with lightbulbs literally hanging over their heads. Time to grade the endless mountain of quizzes, tests, and essays. Time to plan, prep, and cook healthy all-from-scratch meals, snacks, and desserts for my family. Time to spend quality time with my children. Time to keep a sparkling, shiny, dust-free home. Time to hang laundry. Time to sleep – what is this sleep you speak of? And there certainly isn’t enough time to plan, plant, and maintain my garden. Not to mention that during 2009 and 2012, I was pregnant with about 8 months of “all-day sickness” – whoever came up with the name “morning sickness” obviously didn’t go through what I went through. So, in my garden, I do the best that I can. And that’s all I can ask of myself. Given my time constraints, I’d say it isn’t half bad.
Here are a series of pictures over time of my ever-evolving garden. I should also mention my distain for grass. As my dad has said, “if you water it, it will just grow, and you will have to mow it.” So simple, yet so true. My front yard is that front yard – the one dead and brown eye-sore on the street. And I seriously couldn’t care less. We haven’t watered it in a couple of years. When I have more time and money, I will work on landscaping the front with water-wise drought-resistant California native plants, some edibles, and small trees. But that is for another time and another post.
Back to my backyard. The planting space of my back yard is 110 feet across by approximately 21 feet deep. That’s a lot of square footage to work with, food-wise. When we moved in, it started out completely un-landscaped (brand new neighborhood). After a year or so, we hired a landscaper to do a quick patio and lawn with some dirt space on the perimeter for planting (FYI – never trust a landscaper who drives a Hummer – complete waste of money!). Then in the last couple years, I have begun to dig up all that grass. This was a huge chore because it wasn’t enough for me to simply cover up the grass to kill it due to the fine plastic mesh that ran under the entire area of the sod. The idea of plastic under all my plants is just icky to me. Therefore, I had to dig up the sod, remove all the fine mesh underneath, turn the sod over, cover it with newspaper and cardboard, and bring in truckloads of dirt to cover it up. Let’s just say that it’s a work in progress. Anyway, on to the pictures (I apologize for the poor quality – some were taken with a cell phone camera through a screen):
2010 May – South-East Side of House
2010 May – Backyard
The following 8 photos are from 2013 March – Getting Rid of the Grass: Phase 1
2013 Spring – South-East Side of House (Look how big the rosemary has gotten!)
The following 9 photos are from 2014 Spring – Getting Rid of the Grass: Phase 2
And here are a couple beds. This one has potato plants growing in it. For my son and my niece’s first birthday party, we had a garden theme. For some of the outdoor activities, my sister got two bales of straw to use as seating. After the party, I ended up using them as mulch around my garden (more thoughts on that later).
Here are the two raised beds I decided to keep. We had radishes, peppers, garlic, green onions, bulb onions, kale, and spinach growing in them.
And last but not least, here is a picture of my all-time favorite purchase ever – my wood chipper. It was just a little over $100 from Amazon. The directions say that it can take a small branch up to 1.25 inches or so in diameters, but I’m not about to push it – I definitely do not want this baby to break. I use it for all small branches, twigs, bamboo, and leaves. Since we are moving towards a permaculture set-up, we are actively collecting as much mulch-able material to make into wood chips to use as ground cover (more on this later). Anyway, here’s the green monster: