Friday, March 25, 2011

Blank Slate to Full Plate, Part 1

Last summer, we moved from a tiny postage stamp lot, stuffed with fruit trees, grapes and berries, to a sprawling half acre of potential.  A few spindly, neglected fruit trees sprouted across the property and some volunteer berries popped up here and there - mixed in with weeds and decades-old azaleas.

I'd seen this property two years ago - the first time it had been on the market in recent memory - and fallen in love.  Here, I could have the best of both worlds - a farm in the city.  When it became available again, we pounced.  We scooped out some space for the chickens, spruced up the fig, apple and plum trees and waited for inspiration to strike.


For months, I would gaze out at the back hill and wonder what I could plant there, watch where the sun fell, ponder where beds might go.  Having come from my tight little front yard garden, though, the space here overwhelmed.  Prospects were endless.  We had room for an orchard, raised beds, a pumpkin patch and pollinator garden.  But where to start.


I blogged about my planting paralysis over at The Green Phone Booth and received some wonderful advice.  Start small, everyone said.  Devise an overall plan and chip away at it.  Oh, and get those fruit trees in the ground asap.

I hired a landscape designer for a consult.  Just to walk through the yard and give me ideas.  Truthfully, he didn't really "get" it.  He talked about a shade garden under the pine trees where I wanted to leave things natural for the wild creatures.  He suggested I rip out two of my three mature fruit trees and replace them with something else or put them somewhere else.  Um, does he not realize how long it takes for a fruit tree to mature?  He talked about bringing in garden art to "catch the eye" when my garden art walks on two legs and clucks.

The consult was almost not worth it - except for his genius suggestion to move the hulk of a playhouse to a high, shady corner where nothing would ever grow.  It would keep the kids from tromping through the garden and leave the playhouse visible from the house, he advised.  Me likey!

Just that one tip, completely changed how I viewed our back forty.  I could then envision where the orchard would go.  The raised beds would line up in a sun baked spot in front of the play house and pumpkins would rove under two new citrus planted along the front fence.  (I'd once read that pumpkins and fava beans are good companion crops for under orange trees so we'll see if that holds true.)

After a busy month, I've got the fruit trees purchased and all but one planted.  I tucked seven thornless berries along the fences and transplanted what I could of the wild ones.  And I've got three raised beds now ready and waiting for tomatoes, peppers, peas and potatoes.  Peas have already been planted in them.



Full plate, here I come.





* No comment, please, on the white cupid statue leftover from a previous owner.  ;-) It will soon be looking to be rehomed on Freecycle.

8 comments:

Jessica Nichols said...

Amazingly different, congrats.

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Dawn said...

Ugh. I am so jealous. I am so uninspired as to what to do with my backyard. I think it's a combination of gardening ignorance and adult ADHD. I do have some seeds sprouting in my bedroom. So we'll see how that turns out. Your yard looks great, though! Best of luck this year!

Green Bean said...

@Jess - thank you!

@Dawn - Ha! At least you have seeds sprouting. Now I'm jealous. I never get it together in time to start my seeds indoors.

Over Coffee - the green edition said...

Wow! This is going to be wonderful. I am so jealous. I keep talking about starting a berry farm on a few acres. You just might inspire me! Can't wait to see more pictures.

Green Bean said...

@Coffee - Funny you say that! My parents and I originally wanted to start a berry farm on our properties and call it "Primarily Berries". I never could get raspberries or blueberries to grow at my last house though and my parents are having similar problems so now its all about the blackberries!

Renee Felice said...

Love this so much. Following now! I'm in the works for a similar situation (albeit located in the desert) so it would be fun to compare the property upgrades climate-wise! (Fingers crossed that we get it.)
For now I am maxing out the patio and community garden space. :)

Green Bean said...

@Renee - How exciting. Hope you get the property!

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