Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's more local than your own yard?

My houseOur lot is, according to city records, 4,440 square feet. Once you account for the house's footprint, the garage & carport, walkways, chicken run, existing flower gardens, and shady areas, there's not much left for food gardening.

In fact, the backyard has an area roughly the size of a parking space. Its location right outside the back door is perfect for a small kitchen garden. The plot doesn't get full sun all day. After 2 years of trying, I've given up trying to grow heat-loving things like eggplant, artichokes, and corn. Past successes have included all varieties of greens, carrots, tomatoes, yellow squash, and cukes.

At the suggestion of our friends Margaret and James, I tried square foot gardening last summer. I liked the high density plantings to maximize the area and am going to keep using the methods, altered to fit my space. Last weekend I did some test plantings of climbing peas, bush peas, broccoli, chard, spinach, and green onions. All those plants are in the area you see in the pic. I'll probably try groups of three foot-wide rows with a pathway in between.

I've never planted this early, and any peas that have sprouted in the past have always been anemic. Here's to hoping that a new location and earlier planting will bring better results.

I have two little problems. Scooter and Beaker have figured out how to escape the chicken run. The vast expanse of fresh dirt filled with juicy worms was just too much for them to ignore. What sprouts they don't eat, they'll step on or dig up.

We'll have to figure out a way to prevent the criminals' (Gene's term) escapes. I put an old window screen over the planted area to protect it from fowl intentions (heh) and the upshot is that the screen protected the seeds from last night's frost.

When I first bought the house I planted flower beds on the front yard's slopes because I hated mowing the hills. This spring I'm going to rip out the plants I don't like and transplant the ones I do to the left side of the stairs.

On the right side I'm going to plant perennials like asparagus, strawberries, and herbs, and root vegetables such as onions and garlic. I figure that the perennials will be attractive year-round - a plus for the neighbors - and that the root vegetables will not draw attention from passers-by who might be tempted to pluck a ripe tomato or broccoli head.

If you've driven by my house recently, you know that I've got my work cut out for me.


  1. You need to take advantage of your front yard! There's lots of room there to grow stuff. We are expanding yet again this year. I also have a friend that does lots of vertical growing. Hanging buckets for tomatoes and squash for example can significantly expand your space singificantly.


    Also check this out...hobby farms mag. has started an urban farming quarterly. Seems hard to track down, but I think this will be very useful for ideas.

  3. Thanks, James! We're definitely going to take over the front yard. It's not only the "final frontier", it's also guaranteed to be chicken-free.