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Side Yard Garden Progress

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

"Among the host of reasons for the losses -- habitat destruction, pesticides, climate change, invasive species -- the average homeowner holds in his or her hands some of the most reversible: in the United States we've covered with turfgrass more than forty million acres -- an area about eight times the size of New Jersey. It's our number one irrigated crop. On these virtual monocultures, we spray tens of millions of pounds of pesticides each year, harming countless animals. We plant species known to invade habitat, displacing essential food and shelter for wildlife. We remove every uninvited plant that could harbor a butterfly in the making, every stump that could give shade and moisture to a toad, every seed head that could nourish a gold-finch during cold winter days.

What happens when we stop? When we spare even the smallest creatures from our sharp blades and stultifying intentions? When we let the fallen leaves be and the decaying logs lie? When we reject the dominant paradigm of three-shrubs-per-acre of suburban lawn? What if we could learn to see the world from the perspective of other species, both plant and animal, and understand that they, too, deserve the chance to make a life here?"

- The Humane Gardener, Nancy Lawson


When we moved here about a year and a half ago -- to a 100-year-old farm house surrounded by lawn, our friend predicted that we'd have a garden before we had a proper bathroom. She knows us and our priorities well.

So that's what we've been doing - replacing the lawn with an ecosystem bit by bit.

While we have been putting heaps of work into the farm house and tiny house too (details in future posts), we've had a pretty good garden since day 1. We started with a little patch near the back door, mainly of perennial herbs we brought with us when we moved (rosemary, oregano, mexican mint marigold, yarrow, artemesia, heartleaf skullcap, red clover, rue, lemongrass). Then we just kept expanding outward slowly and organically, observing and tweaking, adding annual veggies to the mix, making room for the wild volunteers, and tucking other little plants in wherever they fit.

Since we always have something growing, we're never starting with a blank slate each season.

Instead, we've been allowing the garden ecosystem to build on itself, becoming more vibrant and abundant each year. The plants live in community, each serving varied functions that help support each other. In our garden, diversity is celebrated, wild is welcomed, nature wins. And as a result, the whole system is more resilient. It's starting to evolve into a pretty magical scene over here. So much better than a lawn. :)

There's always some element of loss due to armadillos, grasshoppers, and other critters, but...such is nature. And our tactic of building healthy soil, mixing in aromatics, stacking layers and functions, choosing hearty plant varieties, and planting things in multiple places has served us pretty well so far. There's always plenty to share.

So here we are about a year and a half in. We'll post more observations and discoveries as our food forest evolves.

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