Above is the dark side of the house and the last garden area that I recently worked on. That long drain pipe comes off my roof gutter. Soon I will dig a pond where the gray weed barrier cloth is now between the short hazelnut tree in the foreground and the lemon grass in the brick circle in the background. Then I will have an overflow pipe where the wooden pallet is behind the lemon grass so the excess rain gutter water will flow down to the front yard garden. What did all this beautiful brickwork cost me? Absolutely nothing but sweat equity! These were bricks that were not wanted and it costs by the pound to take them to the landfill and it's a lot of work. So the old owners were happy for me to take them for free off their hands. For example about half of the bricks on the path use to be a wall in NE Washington, DC. That wooden shed use to be the gate hanging on that old brick wall. This was a lot of work of course but cost almost nothing to complete. I had to buy some cement and some materials but the cost was negligible. The arch by the way is the one my daughter was married under.
My one year old peach tree. We got about 2 dozen peaches off of the tree and the one just visible on the left.
As you can see we have a corner lot but it is only 1/8 acre.
If you look closely you can see the watermelons in the patch that I threw together. Actually I found some watermelon seeds from fruit I grew 2 years ago and just threw them on the ground in May by the fence. That whole area between the road and the fence was swampy as every property in the area drains through my back yard and flows along the side by my fence. So I put in a french drain right along the fence leading to the street in the front. I dug a small creek bed that flows along my back fence line that channels the rainwater away from my house and yard to the french drain. The red and white stones you see are actually pieces of broken cement and brick from my brick recycling job. I knocked the old cement off my recycled bricks and left the stone debris right where it fell. Now we can park there and not cause muddy ruts. Even better no mowing. Also this and the crushed granite I have between my raised garden beds allows the runoff to drain into the water table rather than the storm drains. It turns out watermelons just love growing over brick debris. It's a good thing too as the Safeway has softball sized watermelons selling for five bucks. My biggest are bigger than a basketball and free!
That's a cap for a pick-up truck right? Wrong - it use to be. Now it serves several functions. In cooler weather it acts as a cold frame for my plants and extends my growing season. It acts like a small plant and seedling table in the Spring and Fall. In the summer, as you can see, it is my weed burner. Any weeds I pull up I throw on top and it kills and dries the weed which then goes into my mulch pile much lighter without the water. Then it breaks down much faster into soil. Soil is my biggest problem here as we are only a couple blocks from the bay. The soil is very sandy and drains too quickly. So I don't throw away any mulch-able plant material and I grab up all the dead leaves in the road in the fall for composting. Soon I hope to have all my garden beds with better soil that doesn't drain so quickly. Good dirt is not cheap and takes lots of work hauling it where you want it. It's better to create a bit of dirt everyday in the course of your gardening and spread it out here and there as it finishes ripening in the compost pile.
Right at the foot of this picture is one of my strawberry gardens which runs along a stone path by the creek. I have two plants that bear fruit from late June till well into August. I'll propagate those so I can have strawberries for months. My corn got planted this year on time and I ate it everyday. It was delicious! Those are Brussels sprouts in the background triangular garden and those big leafed plants in the middle garden are burdock root - a medicinal plant. I had onions and potatoes on both sides. The onions have mostly been harvested thought you can see a couple big ones still. Some animal ran through the bed or the wind knocked them down so they quit growing. Next year I'll fence my onions so we won't have to harvest them until October. As it is we have dozens of onions strung up here and there but they are mostly medium sized onions.
That's my one year-old almond tree. Behind that are my eggplants, peppers and some grape vines.
To the left of the stone path is the creek I dug along the fence line. You can see why the runoff heads through my yard in this picture. So I didn't fight nature but decided to go with the flow. The left of the white trellis in the background is our largest tree - an apricot. A late frost killed the blossoms but we got one delicious apricot this season.
Here you can see runner beans on the right growing on the fence and some grapes and a tomato plant on the left as well as the apricot tree.
This little free patio and path out back turned out really sweet! All around this area are herbs like the basil taking up half the picture behind the flower pots which hold my lemon trees. Way in the background is my newest raised bed garden filled with another bumper tomato crop this year. You may notice two figs planted behind the basil as well. There are lots of figs this year.
This shot is from my deck showing those tomatoes and some more eggplants on the right. I'm going to use my old windows that I replaced with new insulated models to build a greenhouse in the area between the tomato garden and the house on the left. No need to fill up the landfill with perfectly good windows that will be perfect for plants.
Getting hungry yet? Admittedly this whole project was a lot of work to build. Everything, excluding the pond my wife built, cost me a couple of grand for materials. Now however, actually working in the garden is much easier especially having them raised up to an old man rather than the old man stooping down to the garden. So I've been better attending to weeds and the pests and plant diseases this year. Next year I'll be waiting to whack them before they know what hit them especially my fruit trees which have a bit of rust fungus this year on the leaves.
This free winding garden path came out beautifully, don't you think? On the left is the corner of my new shed/workshop made from free pressure treated lumber that use to be somebody's gate.
This view shows the free front patio I built. The circular garden on the right was bordered totally with slate that was here when we moved in. So I replace that wall with the brick one you see in the picture and used the slate to cap my brick wall on both sides of my winding path. You get a better view of my free shed as well.
Here in the front yard are my two, one year-old cherry trees. The plan is to let them grow up shading my house in the morning so we can turn some of our AC electric bill into free cherries. Behind the cherry trees is my wife's coy pond. A few months ago I saw a crane standing on the edge fishing. We thought it ate all the fish because they vanished. Turns out they were just hiding for a couple of days. Apparently they knew about cranes fondness for fish as well.
My eggplants and peppers up close and personal.
My next growing season I will be able to raise all of the vegetables and much of the fruits we require to survive. I walk by those $5 baby watermelons at the store shaking my head and I leave those beans and peppers alone as well. I bought a food drier and it runs none stop now. Maybe everything is going to be fine real soon but I'm not counting on it. I enjoy eating too much. I'll be happier when I have some other way to get water out of the ground rather than the electric grid but other than that I am feeling more secure. My vegetables are even overflowing into the neighbor's yard so they get to eat too. The experts have been totally wrong about the economy but now say all is fine and on course "moving forward." Believe them if you will at your own peril. I'd be happy to answer your questions if you'd like to get busy protecting your food supply. Just post a question here.