Our Edible Backyard

Our Edible Backyard

Before buying our first house, I had dreams of a full garden where I could just walk out back and grab a sprig of mint or oregano, a lemon and a few tomatoes. If I wanted to have an apple for breakfast or snack, I would just pull one off a tree. And being able to pick and choose varieties (since seemingly, almost everything grows well in California!) makes grocery store shopping feel so limiting. With no middleman or shopping to do, this is a dream for chefs and avid home cooks alike!

A gardner and growing plants

A gardner and growing plants

Our backyard space is not huge, but there is some space to play with and we arrived with it already conveniently split into a few distinct spaces. The pergola to the far right and a walking path from the edge of the concrete to it takes up the right hand space. Along the right side of the walking path lives a palm tree (one day this will be removed, but for now, home to birds and hummingbirds). There is a 2×25’ stretch of dirt the runs along the back of the yard and the back fence. There was nothing growing here so it was decided that fruit trees belonged and we chose Pluerry, Pink Lady Apple, Gala Apple and Nectarine (formerly Bing Cherry!) trees. {Note to self and all of you readers: put drain holes in your pots, even if it is just for a 2 week period, as our “formerly Bing Cherry” ended up waterlogged, which we discovered on replanting it from temporary pot to ground.} Between these trees and the house we have a patio and lawn, with 3 terracotta pots where they meet.  In those pots are another collection of trees: green skinned fig called Peter’s Honey Fig, then a Meyer Lemon and Tango Mandarin. I admit to first visiting the nursery and getting very excited about all of the different types of fruit trees. So anyway, there might be more one day.

From the beginning – even before it began, I loved telling people that we have no idea what we are doing, because, well, it is true, yet despite that, we have had mostly successful results & are always learning. Starting with just a few edible items did help with the learning curve and allowed us to develop a routine of care and observation. I found this best to do in the morning – and also discovered: what a glorious way to wake up! What has changed at all since yesterday? Today I found the peas crawling up each other – which means we definitely need to find something else for them to crawl on – ASAP! Do the leaves look good? We discovered apple blossom buds with tiny bugs inside them which brought us down to the nursery. They have cleared up and tree looks happier than ever. Anything strange growing at the base? And of course the developing buds and garden creatures (ladybugs, bees, etc.), you can’t miss those!

The two apples and nectarine are already trying to produce fruit, which we weren’t expecting for a couple of years. We just decided to dramatically thin them since the conventional wisdom is to force them to spend that energy on strengthening their trunks and branches. Just yesterday we noticed tons of tiny new figs budding – from the original 3 figs the tree came with! This means we have upgraded from a fig tart to potentially, an entire meal and then being able to eat these guys straight off the tree.

Pink Lady apples

Pink Lady apples

A visitor to the Meyer Lemon tree

A visitor to the Meyer Lemon tree

To the left of the grass lives a metal shed and a large dog kennel. The kennel has become a storage spot for yard equipment but will one day become a greenhouse. Between the kennel and the edge of lawn there is a packed dirt path leading to the shed, which offers just enough space to build a 4×12 foot raised garden bed which we agreed would be a beautifully sunny place for an array of veggies.

After much research, C wrote out detailed plans by hand, shopped for wood (naturally decay resistant heartwood grade redwood) and necessary equipment, spent hours putting sides together and then doing final assembly with my dad who was visiting for the weekend. I lazily went to our local nursery and bought 40 bags of overpriced soil, which I promptly returned, did a bit more research and bought Gro Pro Potting Soil from Evergreen Supply Company. They showed up with a massive commercial truck to dump this on our driveway. YAY for soil!! The time I didn’t spend on researching soil, I spent on what to plant and when. From this, I ascertained that every type of veg needs a certain amount of water, depth in soil for seed placement, soil composition, soil temperature, etc. Feeling overwhelmed, I decided to let go of all of this new knowledge and plant items that are considered good for beginners – all based on some arbitrary list I found online. So I purchased seeds from Seedsofchange, a well known online purveyor of organic gardening needs and in their own time, each seed has sprouted. Have I emphasized that we have no idea what we are doing? The random tip or comment from garden store employees, family, friends and a bit of common sense seem to have done us well & we just recently harvested our first salad: radish and arugula – simple yet absolutely delicious. We have yet to see how the carrots, peas, tomatoes, peppers and green lettuce turn out, but they are looking happy and healthy so far!

Go Pro soil from Evergreen Supply

Go Pro soil from Evergreen Supply

Raised bed partially built

Raised bed partially built

The completed and filled bed, now to plant the seeds!

The completed and filled bed, now to plant the seeds!

C & Dad lining the bed with weed mat

C & Dad lining the bed with weed mat

Seed Packets

Seed Packets

Veggies!

Veggies!

More Veggies!

More Veggies!

Squint & you will see some green poking through

Squint & you will see some green poking through

If you have even the smallest amount of space, I would encourage you to grow something, anything you can eat. According to this article by Apartment Therapy, all you need is a window! Building and tending to a garden has been so very enjoyable and I look forward to watching it grow!  Stay tuned for recipes and ideas on using backyard produce and please share your gardening stories in the comments section!

Evening harvesting

Evening harvesting

Pickings for our first garden salad: radish and arugula

Pickings for our first garden salad: radish and arugula

 

 

  1. Susie Marosszeky, Sydney Australia

    Inspirational article and great pics – enjoy the fruits (and veg) of your labour!

Leave a Reply