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Eco Level ? Getting Serious in a Rental

 
Posts: 32
Location: Eugene, Oregon, Pacific Northwest USA
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Our family has lived in this townhouse rental for about three years. We never planned on being here that long but as of right now we will be living here for at least another year.

We are a family of five and I have always dreamed of being super eco-conscious. I would like to think we've been doing our best however to be honest I think we can do a lot better. I'm excited to get Paul and Sean's book now that I know it's out, this is the space we are working with and I would love any suggestions on how to get food growing in our tiny backyard in the nearly complete shade of these giant beautiful oak trees.

On the bright side the oaks mean we don't need any air conditioning even during the hottest parts of the summer, we just don't have it. We run fans at night to move the cold air in and hot out then close up the windows around 6 to 7 a.m. we do prepare almost all of our food from home (you kind of have to when you're very broke).

My partner works for an organic soil company which is some great experience in terms of where we would like to go with our careers, however I am a delivery driver, which though it provides a pretty good income with the amount of flexibility at offers this is not what I want to be doing what I'm 55. I am buckling down on producing educational videos, for both adults and children.

We homeschool our three kids, 10, 5 and 3 years old. I'm pretty proud of what we've done on such a shoestring but I am really excited for ways that we could live more environmentally conscious and frugally.

Thanks everyone!
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Little shady backyard
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gardener
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I struggle with having enough sun to grow things due to trees also. Leafy greens like kale would have potential. I'd look for dense nutrition crops and have seedlings ready to go when you pull older finished crops out. Things like beans can follow peas as the peas like it cool in the spring, but the beans like it hot.

Have you considered your front yard? So long as they aren't using chemicals on it, "edible landscaping" could work. For example, hosta is edible, although some taste better than others. There are some really cute miniature fruit trees. Personally, a hanging basket of strawberries looks just fine!

Have you considered foraging? There are some excellent books about edible "weeds" that would add a lot of nutrition even in small quantities. They can be used in soups, stir-fries and smoothies. For example, tonight I made Muscovy duck curry and chopped up dock leaves, comfrey leaves and a bunch of Egyptian Walking onion, along with some bush beans I have growing in a large barrel. The curry flavor disguised everything else! I had figured there'd be "planned overs" for lunch tomorrow, but my son polished off the lot of it.

The important thing is to improve the soil so that what little you can grow has the maximum amount of micro-nutrients.
 
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None of us have "perfect" growing places. One of the permaculture mantras that I hear a lot is "the problem is the solution." You have lot of shade, so grow edibles that like the shade!

Thankfully, there are quite a few edibles that can tolerate the shade, and even some that thrive in it. My favorites are wild strawberries (they produce from May to October some years!) and chives. Hostas are also edible--they're young shoots taste like a mix of lettuce and asparagus. I've found that raspberries and blackberries--especially the wild trailing ones--do well in the shade, too! And, berries are crazy expensive in the store, so you get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck by growing them at home! I love growing chives because they are perennials and keep multiplying, and they are a great way to add onion flavor to things. I rarely ever buy onions, because I've got enough chives out there, and they don't even completely die down in the winter, that I have oniony goodness all year round!

Pansies are also edible, and the flowers and leaves are tasty in salads and just munching on. I've got a list of some other--mostly native--shade tolerant edibles here: https://permies.com/wiki/76253/Edible-Plants-Shady-Wet-Areas

How much son do you get there? You might also be able to grow some herbs and lettuce and sorrel. Parsley also does pretty well in the shade, and so do herbs like mint and lemonbalm and self-heal (you might want those in pots as they like to take over!)

Another thing you can do to save money is to resprout any veggies that you can. So, if you buy green onions, you can use the green tops and then plant the bulbs in the garden and they'll grow and keep making more green onions, and maybe even multiply for you!

Another thing to look for is edible weeds--like dandelion! They're often far more nutrient dense than normal foods, and are a great way to get a lot of nutrition for cheep/free. Generally, I try to grow the food that costs the most and has the most nutrient density. I can get corn, rice and potatoes really cheap at the store, and not have to buy fruit because I have a plethora of berries at home!
 
Rachel Mary
Posts: 32
Location: Eugene, Oregon, Pacific Northwest USA
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Jay Angler wrote:
Have you considered your front yard? So long as they aren't using chemicals on it, "edible landscaping" could work...

Have you considered foraging? ...

The important thing is to improve the soil so that what little you can grow has the maximum amount of micro-nutrients.



Thanks Jay!

Unfortunately we don't have a "front yard" really. The landscapers spray toxic yuck on the rocks and azaleas out front and that's it. It looks like they didn't lay down plastic at least since other people have flowers that have popped back up. I thought about planting pollinator plants out there but then I realized they sprayed and so I'm not sure that would be good for the bees.

I would love to get started on foraging, it would be a fun way to get the kids involved and excited about eating greens, too :D

Somehow we were blessed with awesome soil out back. When we put in those beds the soil was full of worms and nice and dark. The oak leaves work as great mulch, too and the worms go nuts when then start falling and the moisture wicks all the way to the surface.


I was thinking earlier of starting a mowable lawn in the back with clover and other ground covers because the dirt is no fun and it would be nice to at least some carbon into the whole yard. It seems like most ground covers do well in shade?

Thanks again!
 
Rachel Mary
Posts: 32
Location: Eugene, Oregon, Pacific Northwest USA
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Nicole Alderman wrote:...wild strawberries... and chives. ... raspberries and blackberries--especially the wild trailing ones--do well in the shade, too! ....

Pansies are also edible...

How much son do you get there? You might also be able to grow some herbs and lettuce and sorrel. Parsley... mint and lemonbalm and self-heal ...

Another thing you can do to save money is to resprout any veggies that you can...

Another thing to look for is edible weeds--like dandelion! They're often far more nutrient dense than normal foods, and are a great way to get a lot of nutrition for cheep/free....



Thank you so much Nicole!

So right now (off the top of my head) we have two blue berries, a couple varieties of mint and lemonbalm, oregano, basil, chives and some resprouted green onions 😉 our strawberries are store bought starters and a couple years old. Our darn kids keep eating the green berries 🙄 so we haven't gotten to enjoy many ripe ones yet.

That gives me lots of ideas and things to look into! I'm excited about pansies, I love edible flowers! I have a little wild rose potted back there, too, but it hasn't flowered.

The picture I took earlier shows the streak of sun that moves across the backyard. It faces West so the Sun moves from the fence to the patio. We'll start losing leaves by next month then we'll have some more dappled light and we had a kale variety do well into October last year but it didn't establish well so it didn't come back.

I was thinking of planting more density? I think the herbs would do better if they were in thick patched and right now they seem kind of straggly. I need some practice so I can flex this green thumb.

Awesome advice!
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community garden

guerilla garden

Perhaps container gardening in the front yard (sunnier?) is a possibility. I saw an ad on Craigslist a few months ago. Someone was offering a really nice garden spot in exchange for some of the veggies. It appeared to be an older couple who discovered they just couldn't do it anymore. I was very tempted to go plant it for them but simply ran out of time. Car problems didn't help. It was too far away to care for on a regular basis though. Hopefully someone took them up on their offer & it works well for all concerned for years to come. I know of other elderly people that would let someone else have some garden space for a similar arrangement. Finding them & making the connection would be the hard part. Do you know anyone with a large yard or some raw land? Couldn't hurt to ask them about the possibility.

The community garden link has a map that shows several community gardens in the Eugene area. I'm a big fan of that concept. I believe every subdivision & housing area should have one. Equal or more square footage for gardens as for housing. Perhaps you could start one in your community?

Foraging goes hand in hand with guerilla gardens. I'm just saying:) A book called City Farm tells how one woman successfully did that. She basically took over an abandoned lot in the city & started a small farm. Once a person latches on to the idea they start noticing little bits of suitable unused land all around. A few carrots here, a few potatoes there, some mint here, a pepper there, a pawpaw over here, etc.



 
Rachel Mary
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Updates as I examine the backyards and consider what to do now that it's nearly September 🤔
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Our ONE strawberry this year, heh
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Little puffball mushrooms in the garden bed
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Giant poofed puff in the blueberry pot
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Some cute mystery LBM growing in the wood chips
 
Nicole Alderman
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Rachel Mary wrote:
So right now (off the top of my head) we have two blue berries, a couple varieties of mint and lemonbalm, oregano, basil, chives and some resprouted green onions 😉 our strawberries are store bought starters and a couple years old. Our darn kids keep eating the green berries 🙄 so we haven't gotten to enjoy many ripe ones yet.



My kids do that, too! It drives me nuts! But, hey, at least they're getting nutrients and feeding themselves, rather than asking me constantly for snacks!


Rachel Mary wrote:I was thinking of planting more density? I think the herbs would do better if they were in thick patched and right now they seem kind of straggly. I need some practice so I can flex this green thumb.



I'm thinking their straggly/legginess is probably due to the low-light conditions. They're reaching for light. I don't think there's much you can do about it. BUT, they should be able to survive that way until you get somewhere with more light. I had a lavender plant growing in full shade. It never got huge, but it didn't die.
 
Jay Angler
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Would you be able to put hanging "balcony" planters on the fence? Would they get any more sun than plants on the ground? I prefer planters that have some sort of integral water reservoir for efficiency, but I've grown lettuce, dwarf nasturtium and green onion, and I have a friend who grows a short snow pea with cute pink flowers in balcony planters.
 
Rachel Mary
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Jay Angler wrote:Would you be able to put hanging "balcony" planters on the fence? Would they get any more sun than plants on the ground? I prefer planters that have some sort of integral water reservoir for efficiency, but I've grown lettuce, dwarf nasturtium and green onion, and I have a friend who grows a short snow pea with cute pink flowers in balcony planters.



I might be able to put containers out front (no guarantee they wouldn't get sprayed though, I guess) but we can't hang anything from the fences (landlord thing). That is a good idea, though!  
 
Put the moon back where you found it! We need it for tides and poetry and stuff. Like this tiny ad:
Switching from electric heat to a rocket mass heater reduces your carbon footprint as much as parking 7 cars
http://woodheat.net
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