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Noob looking for layout advice  RSS feed

 
Ryan Kuhl
Posts: 7
Location: Kentucky (zone 7)
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I'd like to pursue a few acres that would bring me to come as close to self sufficient as possible. Until I gain the education and money, I figure I should use my backyard to learn and practice!

I'd like to get a jump on things this fall and put in some huglebeds and swales that can start to compost over the winter and be ready for spring.

There are 2 main areas that jump out to me - the east area, and the middle west area.

The northeast corner(photo-1) has a gate for a vehicle, which I tend to use once or twice a year, so I'd like to not plant there. That would leave the middle of the yard. Against the fence you can see an unrestrained tomato plant that went in late (june?) and did better than I thought. I've found the SE corner(photo-2) to get a lot of shade and retain a lot of moisture, perhaps that could be used to my benefit. There used to be 2 great big water maples there, which I suspect is why the hill isn't eroded. It may be a pain to dig, but should also offer some great nutrients. Our southern and eastern neighbors' properties are elevated higher than ours, so ours becomes a bit of a swimming pool when we get a hard rain. I feel with the right design, this is a permaculturist's dream.

The western side(photo-3) may also be an option - I'd like to deal with the excess moisture in the SW corner before moving the shed there, then plant where the shed is. In the summer, the sun sets between our house and the neighbors. The house is close enough to I could route the downspouts to my advantage. I'd love an underground cistern with a hand pump connected to a rain barrel overflow, but am concerned about the weight of people(let alone a vehicle!)

The north side(against the house) does have a few small raised beds, but is mainly home to a rose garden.

In both areas, the soil already looks amazing. The west is very rich and black, the east is more of a dark brown. I know there are a dozen different angles and aspects to cover, and tips, resources, comments are greatly appreciated!
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Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 386
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Can you get one year old cow manure, something similar or compost...?
 
Ryan Kuhl
Posts: 7
Location: Kentucky (zone 7)
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Aljaz Plankl wrote:Can you get one year old cow manure, something similar or compost...?


There are many people offering manure on CL around me. I also see scrap and discarded wood. I don't have a pickup, but there is a recall on my Jeep that would add a trailer hitch. I could borrow a small trailer - not perfect, but probably good enough for the small yard. Hopefully that will come through soon. I have a small compost bin as well, but that's a drop in the bucket.
 
William James
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Posts: 1014
Location: Northern Italy
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Your yard looks small.
Once you start working on it you'll see how big it really is...

With that in mind, my advice is to start small. Let it grow, piece by piece, with your experience. Your tendency will be to overextend yourself and when that happens, keeping up is difficult, often leading to burnout or a sense that it's just not coming together how you imagined. Work at first on small things in different areas and they will come together in the end. Make your paths to and from your small experiments opportunities for cultivation, as you will be walking along them anyway.

If I had taken that advice, I would be thanking whoever gave it to me now.

William
 
Ryan Kuhl
Posts: 7
Location: Kentucky (zone 7)
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William James wrote:Your yard looks small.
Once you start working on it you'll see how big it really is...

With that in mind, my advice is to start small. Let it grow, piece by piece, with your experience. Your tendency will be to overextend yourself and when that happens, keeping up is difficult, often leading to burnout or a sense that it's just not coming together how you imagined. Work at first on small things in different areas and they will come together in the end. Make your paths to and from your small experiments opportunities for cultivation, as you will be walking along them anyway.

If I had taken that advice, I would be thanking whoever gave it to me now.

William


Thanks William, that is great advice and I completely understand. I was thinking of putting in a few mini swales this fall on the east side, then continue as I have time.

I suppose my main question is regarding where to start. For a veggie garden, should I start on the east or west - or does it really matter?

Thanks!
 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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I would go for the thing that erks you the most. Usually it is a good design practice to work on the difficult areas first, since the easy areas will remain easy down the line.

Getting cultivation raised above the seasonal rain water line should be a high priority, as would digging even a small swale (6-10 inches is fine) on contour to slow down that water coming into your yard. It's amazing what even a small ditch can do to improve the water situation immediately downhill.

Try to find out where the water is coming from. You can find incline and contour with a bunyip, which you can make yourself. Once you get an idea of where the water is coming from, block it with swales. In the swales add biomass, chips would be optimal choice, grass less optimal but it works. On the land between swales go vertical. This could be simple earth mounds you cultivate on top of, neat and pretty raised garden beds, or hugelkulture. In the other areas go with nitrogen fixers like clover, dandelion, and the like to create a walkable area that does something for you. As time goes on work in hardy dwarf fruit trees that can stand wet feet, perennial edibles, and helper perennials like comfrey.

Getting things vertical is probably going to be the most time and money consuming. Raising earth less easy if you're already in a depression, but it can be done.

That's what I would do if your yard was mine.
William


 
Ryan Kuhl
Posts: 7
Location: Kentucky (zone 7)
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Thanks again William!

The city beautification program had a fundraiser, so I figured today was as good as any to get started!

They've since been covered in mulch. I'm thinking of seeding it in winter wheat. Please give any feedback or suggestions, they're my first ones.

William James wrote:I would go for the thing that erks you the most. Usually it is a good design practice to work on the difficult areas first, since the easy areas will remain easy down the line.
Getting cultivation raised above the seasonal rain water line should be a high priority, as would digging even a small swale (6-10 inches is fine) on contour to slow down that water coming into your yard. It's amazing what even a small ditch can do to improve the water situation immediately downhill.

Try to find out where the water is coming from. You can find incline and contour with a bunyip, which you can make yourself. Once you get an idea of where the water is coming from, block it with swales. In the swales add biomass, chips would be optimal choice, grass less optimal but it works. On the land between swales go vertical. This could be simple earth mounds you cultivate on top of, neat and pretty raised garden beds, or hugelkulture. In the other areas go with nitrogen fixers like clover, dandelion, and the like to create a walkable area that does something for you. As time goes on work in hardy dwarf fruit trees that can stand wet feet, perennial edibles, and helper perennials like comfrey.

Getting things vertical is probably going to be the most time and money consuming. Raising earth less easy if you're already in a depression, but it can be done.

That's what I would do if your yard was mine.
William


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Ryan Kuhl
Posts: 7
Location: Kentucky (zone 7)
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More pictures!

All in all, I don't believe I have large issue with water (grass is the most hardy here throughout the property) or soil quality. This may have been more than I needed, but good practice The biggest thing I think will be the lack of sun due to the shading from the house and trees, but it should still get 6-7 hours of full light in the summer. I also need to finalize the overflow areas within the swales. There is expected to be some rain tonight, if so I'll watch it then.

From start to finish, everything took around 7-8 hours of labor (1 person). From here, I'm contemplating what to do with the downspout coming off of the house. An underground cistern with a hand pump is still stuck in my head!
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William James
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Posts: 1014
Location: Northern Italy
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Ryan,
Something tells me you're neighbors are going to hate you. Good job. You might want to bake them some cookies as a peace offering until food starts popping out of your yard.
William
 
Ryan Kuhl
Posts: 7
Location: Kentucky (zone 7)
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I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I planted lettuce and arugula today, hopefully it wasn't too late in the year. I'm considering winter wheat in case they don't take hold, I'd have to order it online. I'll keep you posted on the progress, I think the neighbors will get a nice salad and home cooked meal.

William James wrote:Ryan,
Something tells me you're neighbors are going to hate you. Good job. You might want to bake them some cookies as a peace offering until food starts popping out of your yard.
William
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Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
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On the water storage front, remember you want to minimize the amount of work needed to operate your system. An underground cistern for your roof runoff will require a load of digging, will place water storage near your foundation (not a best practice, generally), will need some kind of liner. All of that is work you could be applying someplace else. And then, you will need to pump the water from your below ground cistern. More, and regular, work.

But if you arrange a series of food grade 55 gallon plastic barrels on a low platform, with overflow lines from one into the next and faucets low on the front of each barrel, you can have a modular storage system that you can increase easily and you can let gravity pump your water to your plants. Loads less work for you at both ends.
 
It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood - Fred Rogers. Tiny ad:
learn permaculture through a little hard work and get an acre of land
https://permies.com/t/59706/permaculture-bootcamp-boots-roots
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