Using edible landscaping is one of the best back yard projects for return on investment and increasing your quality of life and why water it if you can't eat it? Just kidding, I like flowers too, but I also like to eat!
The biggest benefits of growing your own are better taste, better nutrition and better prices. (it's practically free!) Varieties available in stores are grown for ease of shipping, not taste, and then picked green. It's no wonder they taste like crap!
Berries are a great example of something that's easy to grow at home with a taste that will blow your doors off! Organic blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries can cost $10. to $15. a pound, if you can even find them.
Meyer lemons are another fantastic thing to grow because you can ripen them to perfection and you don't even need a yard to grow them in!
Not only is the juice sweeter than other lemons, they have an almost perfume like quality, with skins so thin and sweet they can be finely diced and thrown into recipes. Candied they're heavenly!
Growing your own fruits and veggies is a fabulously frugal way to get antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and live enzymes into your families diet.
It's time to introduce you to my sweetie, Eric Furman, whose got a pretty green thumb for a patent attorney ~ must be his PHD in biology. His back yard projects include building raised garden beds, planting edible landscaping, and saving water with micro line irrigation. It's all part of one giant experiment for him, a place to create and observe, unwind, and it's a hobby that's good for the whole family.
It's shocking how much food you can grow around the perimeter of a small lot in suburbia, and all it takes is a vision and a little planning!
Back yard projects for a small space: use vertical space along the fence, terrace a slope, add raised garden beds, use metal garden arbors and trellis to support vines, and mix in container gardens to use space along pathways.
Have you been procrastinating on one or more yard projects, your head and your heart keep pulling you in opposite directions? Well I've been there too, but best thing you can do is envision what you want, then break it down into little steps.
Start from the outside in, and shore up or replace fences. It didn't make sense to work on any back yard projects until we removed all the trashy lanscaping that had overtaken the yard, and replaced our falling down fence.
Next, irrigation. Fix broken sprinklers, pipes, controllers, (a couple caused by the fence installers, but most due to roots from hell)
Conserve water with micro line and drip irrigation. This also protects your wooden fences from the power washing effects of regular sprinkler heads. You may need to install a pressure reduction valve for the micro lines.
Improve drainage. Ours was inadequate to say the least, so we quadrupled the amount of drains and doubled the diameter.
Build garden boxes. We used 2" x 10" redwood lumber plus bolts and built them onsite, but you can also buy kits. The taller your boxes are, the less kneeling and bending that's required, plus making them no more than four feet across allows for easy access to plants on either side.
Fill garden boxes with new top soil or use leftover dirt from other back yard projects and amend it with rich compost, sand or peat, depending on what you need to balance it out.
Create weed free pathways with stone. We used decomposed granite (DG) and set flagstones in between, but you can also used larger crushed stones. (test them out barefoot first)
Follow the sun. With small yard landscaping, it can be hard to grow everything you want, so use the sunny side of fences to grow taller things like fruit trees or blueberry bushes, and the shady side is for vines that will quickly reach the top of the fence to get their sun fix.
Sculpt your garden by trimming trees and tying up vines regularly. When you trim plants to grow more compactly, you actually get more fruit that's easier to pick.
Make the best use of space and fill the edges of walkways with container gardens which will add visual depth and color. Pots are also the best place to contain invasive plants like mint or vines like raspberries.
Remember to feed your plants and trees regularly with the right nutrients for each. Use an all purpose organic fertilizer every two weeks except on things like citrus trees that need their own special mix of minerals. Eric uses Citrus Growers Blend and Tomato Food by a company called Grow More.
Take care of pests by spraying with water a couple times a week and use organic pest control products like, "End All" and "Caterpillar Killer" by Safer, or "Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew" which is made with Spinosad.
What do you do when you get more than you can eat? Freeze, dehydrate, or can extras, make home made sorbets, chutneys, and jams, give some to your neighbors, bring them to work, or donate to food banks and senior centers.
Thanks for visiting back yard projects. I hope you come back soon because Eric's got a lot more garden tips to share with you, like: how to tweak your soil for acid loving plants, amazing sorbet recipes, and our favorite berry varieties.
Here's to a berry good summer :)