It’s pretty flat – this .36 acre urban lot. Nothing in the way of the berms or swales that permaculture folks talk about. When we (my husband and I) bought the home-place three years ago, it was a weedy, kentucky bluegrass (mostly dead) mess, with some half dead shrubs and trees. You get the picture – it wasn’t pretty. A bank owned property that had not seen a lot o’ love.
Year 1: We had a newborn and jobs – so gardening had to be easy. We laid down cardboard over the grass, threw a layer of compost over this, slapped some scrap wood (side of the road special) around the whole thing and called it raised beds. I think they came out pretty good (see slideshow below). We started plants from seed and had a decent harvest. Canned it up and started plotting for the next year.
Year 2: We had a bit more time to plan over the winter. In the spring we removed sod creating more garden beds, and covered the grass garden paths with wood chips. We sheet mulched the front yard adding an herb garden and fruit trees, finally making it look acceptable. We worked with our city government (somewhat painful) to change zoning to allow for chickens, and built a chicken tractor for the hens. We also became creative with ‘putting by the harvest’.. (when you have 30 tomato plants to ‘put up’ the last thing you want is to can all of it). I learned how to ferment food (check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig), and started drying quite bit of food. My husband injected some creativity into the garden with a scarecrow and built a beautiful wood fence to replace the old chain-link fences.
Year 3: This past spring, realizing that we had way too many veggies and not enough fruit, we rid ourselves of more grass and planted 25 raspberry canes, and another apple tree. Also in the spring, I built a cob cold frame (more on this later) in order to have winter hardy greens all year long and provide a shelter for hardening off plants in the spring. My husband built a second chicken tractor – a new and improved version of the first one. Sheet mulching (lots of card board and compost placed over grass) resulted in more garden beds and thus a busy fall of putting up the harvest.
This brings us up to now. As much as I adore gardening, anything I can do to make it easier and less laborious is important… and more sustainable. In addition as we pull out more sod and work to get trees and shrubs planted I want a gameplan – so that I know we are making the best choices for the lot. Enter permaculture design – this fall my goal is to complete a permaculture map our property, to use as our master plan, allowing us to ramp up our overall food production and enjoyment of our yard, all while treading lightly on the earth.