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Beautiful Permaculture For Front Yard Gardens

 
Emily Cressey
Posts: 45
Location: Lynnwood, WA. USA
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I am working on my own (first time) edible front yard garden - pursing a permaculture approach.

One concern that is in the back of my mind is - will it be beautiful and thought provoking in a front yard setting.

As many city dwellers probably face - I share the challenge of limited sunlight in my Seattle Lot. My front yard is about 65' by 65' which includes a concrete driveway.

I see urban permaculture as an opportunity to stack as many functions into as SMALL a space as possible - dense, and well-planned are the name of the game.



My plan includes:

1) 3' tall berm on the road side of the property which will be planted to multi-variety fruit trees (cherry, apple, pear, plum, mulberry) and understory shrubs. This should block noise and views, at least in the winter... Some of this is fill dirt from the foundation and some is hugelculture with wood stumps from a landscaping company and stolen-from-neighbors brown bags of leaves and evergreen boughs.

View from on top of the roadside berm:

Future raspberry, etc. bed covered with leaves:

Here's the log-foundation of the Hugel end of the bed (south side).



2) The road-side of the berm will feature a "community herb garden" - I will plant my perennial herbs here and label each one as well as putting a "help yourself" sign of some kind.

3) I also want to have an "honesty stand" of some kind near the driveway - I like the idea of selling or giving away excess produce and plant starts and also collecting neighborhood greenwaste and perhaps even dog poop for some sort of worm bin or soldier fly composting operation, to feed the ...

4) Chickens - I will have a front yard coop, utilizing chicken tunnels through the perimeter of the property and the shady 6-foot side yard on the north side of my house where we will work on "compost feed" to get the chickens fed without grain as much as possible (probably using scraps from grocery stores, restaurants, etc. (I may even chicken-tunnel the chooks to the honesty stand in front where they can "meet the people" as permaculture ambassadors...

5) On the top floor of the chicken run will be a trio of rabbits for additional meat production. I have to figure out how to feed these guys (from the garden/forage, etc if possible) without killing them. It sounds like many breeds of rabbits get very sick if in contact with the soil.

6) Near the driveway we will probably have an herb spiral that is accessible from the pavement (for ease of harvesting in wet weather)

7) The interior of the sun-trap in the yard will have some annual vegetables and herbs as well as raspberries (!!!)

I'm trying to decide where to locate the 2 beehives I'm allowed on my property. I've heard a place in full sun is ideal, so they will probably be in the front yard or sunny/south side yard.

I"m building one Warre and one Top Bar out of left over 2x4's.



9) Along the north property line I will have an espalier fence with 18 varieties of apples which I grafted 2 years ago at a fruit tree fair. Should screen out the neighbors and still allow them some light.



10) on the South side of the property we have a shade-making fence, but in high summer, the plants should still get enough light here to maintain my 5-foot wide drive-way bordering fruiting hedge featuring asian pears, blueberries, honey berries, aronia, a linden tree (for perma-greens), tree collards, currants, gooseberries, and an evergreen huckleberry.

11) We need to leave a road-way easement through the partial shade backyard. I'm planning to have this area be sort of a wild-flower/meadow/groundcover planting of some kind. I have to figure out what will be low-growing and shade tolerant, and driveable once every few years. It's on a steep slope and visible (primary view, 10 feet away) from my living room window so hopefully will look nice....

This is the view out my window. We own to the cedar trees to the EAST and the cars have to come down from the right (South) and go between the cedars and the neighbor's shed.



12) I'm covering the whole property with woodchips, on which I hope to grow edible mushrooms (winecaps). I have also been innoculating mushroom logs (taking longer than i thought to drill and pound in dowels and wax over (the worst, as I don't have outdoor fire, and my wax cools too fast... I'm also innoculating all my bare root plants with a mycrorhyzal dip before planting.

My mushroom "helper" ... ahh kids...



13) I decided to take the place that was the "sunny patio" on the landscape plan, and plant it with annuals, so I'm figuring we'll use our big driveway/courtyard as a picnic area, or go down to my parents property (adjacent) and use their patio.

14) I want to dig a small pond/puddle 2-3 feet wide, but haven't figured out a good/natural way to line this yet... maybe a garbage can lid, or a small plastic liner, but would prefer something more natural.

15) For water drainage, all our downspouts are feeding into buried pipes around the perimeter of the property and leading/dumping in a "dispersion trench" which is basically a 30' long rock-filled hole at the bottom of the property. From there, the water is picked up in a downhill "cistern" which is a vertical concrete tank that ground water seeps into. it was full of water all last summer, even with my dad siphoning it out (he doesn't like the puddle that forms on his lawn on the other side. So, for the cost of electricity I can pump this anywhere up onto my property, and hopefully it will be someone "cleaned" after seeping through the ground from the dispersion trench to the cistern.

16) I am also trying to do on-contour raised beds with the idea that the pathways in between will act as swales to slow the water.


I'm going to be documenting this fun at my website. http://naturalhealthforlife.com/

I would welcome any thoughts on what to add (more functions) or how to implement.

Current considerations/questions are:

1) What design for the chicken coop. I am currently looking at The Garden Coop. I also love this idea: https://lemoncraft.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/chicken-tractor/ I want something cute because the chickens will be close to the neighbors... close quarters in the city...

This is my front yard from the driveway, looking over to the neighbors' porch. I am planning to put the chicken coop along the side of the garage (right) in this picture, near where the gas meter is. I REALLY hope a well-tended deep litter coop don't stink!



2) How to cage and feed rabbits. I would love to do something more natural than stacked cages and pellets for the rabbits, but this seems to be a dicey issue. I am also looking at guinea pigs and quail for meet in the garage or dirt floor basement.

3) How to make it look "attractive" and not "weedy" with the whole chop-and-drop and things going to seed, etc. Having gardens that look to "wild" and "foresty" seems to be a big objection/concern for those first getting into gardening the permaculture way. I am planning to use a lot of awesome coneflowers and daisys for awesome summer color - Love Them!

4) How to grade the 150' x 5' downhill sloping bed that is adjacent to my driveway. I anticipate a fair amount of water coming down this narrow pathway, and I dont want to have a big erosion problem here. I'm trying to decide if I should make a million terraces or do some kind of serpentine ditch/river bed, french drain underneath... struggling here...

Here's the steep end of the fence that we have to terrace or something...



And here we are looking up the fence toward the driveway and road. (Opposite direction)



5) How to build a little pond...

Any other feedback would be great!

How do your neighbors like your edible front yard?

Emily
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Emily Cressey
Posts: 45
Location: Lynnwood, WA. USA
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P.S. Image help? I am trying to share pictures from my drop box account. I right-clicked my photos and said "get link" but apparently the images aren't posting here...


This is an example of the link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/btnsscj6b9v1tjg/2015-01-06%2011.47.43.jpg?dl=0

Test:
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 543
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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something for food for thought or for reference -- homeharvest.biz -- they do edible lanscapes in the Boston area, really beautiful work. I didn't read your whole post but if you haven'tkept in mind the principle of doing one thing at a time and getting that piece solid before proceeeding, that's a good one. Aesthetic sense can change as you're in process.
 
Emily Cressey
Posts: 45
Location: Lynnwood, WA. USA
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Thanks - I love checking out "professionally designed" edible gardens!

And yes, it is a bit overwhelming, but this is new construction, so we have bare soil all over the place. Eeek!

Emily
 
Juliet Kemp
author
Posts: 25
Location: London, UK. Temperate, hardiness 9a, heat zone 2, middling damp.
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Wow! Would love to see the photos (not sure how to help with the links though ) but that sounds like a big and very exciting project!

As poster above says, might be worth trying to timeline it out and delay some things a bit to give yourself a slightly easier time of it... Even on a much smaller project I thought I had my garden all planned out but 3 years on I'm still adjusting things as I go...

Really great ideas though & will be amazing once it's established!
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1268
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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For pictures, you can do 3 at a time if you go below the message box to "attachments" and upload them. It's how I do it at least. I'd love to see the pics.
 
Tegan Russo
Posts: 34
Location: Maritime Northwest USA, zone 8b
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I also live in Seattle and am working on replacing my grass front yard with food plants. I live on a steep east-facing slope with the house blocking morning sun to the front yard and afternoon sun to the back yard and the south neighbors have a hedge in the front and a tall fence in the back, so I feel your pain on the lack of sun. I'm going to try putting in about 150 square feet of hugelkultur beds in the parking strip and the very front of the lawn because that's the only place on the property that gets full sun.

My neighborhood is relatively affluent and stuffy, but I walk around a lot and I've noticed a plenty of food gardens in front yards and parking strips. One of my neighbors has the parking strip area mounded up about 2' tall, possibly hugelkultur, one has a non-raised bed that had beautiful artichokes last year, and multiple people on the sloped streets have terraced beds in front.

Wish I could see your pictures!
 
Ferne Reid
Posts: 98
Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a average rainfall 52"
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Emily, I'm not sure where you got your rabbit info, but it's not true that rabbits get sick from contact with soil. We've raised rabbits for years ... everything from meat rabbits to show bunnies. We always feed them on pasture in moveable cages, and we've never had one get sick. If it's too hot to put them out ... and remember that rabbits are sensitive to heat, not cold ... we give them garden produce or things we've picked from the property. They only get pellets when there is nothing growing.

I'm wondering if the person who told you that might have just put the rabbits out without any transition? Like any other animal, an abrupt change in diet will cause diarrhea, which can be fatal in rabbits. If the rabbits have been getting pellets, just use a little common sense ... increase natural food and decrease pellets gradually. I also wonder if losing a litter prompted that comment ... rabbits always lose their first litter, no matter what you do. It's a rabbit thing. :/

Anyway, I don't see where putting the rabbits on the top floor of the chicken run is a problem, as long as it's not too hot up there.
 
Corey Vaughan
Posts: 27
Location: Seattle, WA
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Another Seattlite saying hi!

I wish we could see your pictures, but I'm glad you're trying the fruit trees! I'm in the Central District, and apparently fruit trees here can't be too close to the sidewalk/road due to fruit fall on the sidewalk... but maybe smaller trees would be OK? I've got a spot for an apple tree in mind

The yard is pretty small, and tucked between two houses. There's some morning sun, but not much direct sunlight throughout the day... However, I've had luck with everything from tomatoes to squash, so I assume there's enough for the plants to work with!

Here's a picture of what the front yard looks like today versus a couple months before I moved in. This site has been a huge help in learning, it's been really valuable to learn how to capture water in the land, since I don't have a faucet outside...

FrontYard_sideby.jpg
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2015 vs 2013
 
Tegan Russo
Posts: 34
Location: Maritime Northwest USA, zone 8b
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Corey Vaughan wrote:AI'm in the Central District, and apparently fruit trees here can't be too close to the sidewalk/road due to fruit fall on the sidewalk... but maybe smaller trees would be OK? I've got a spot for an apple tree in mind


According to the city you're not supposed to plant fruiting trees in the parking strip, but I've seen some gorgeous apple, plum, and peach trees around Capitol Hill and Madison Valley where I live. My next door neighbor just planted an apple tree. So I wouldn't worry about it unless you think your neighbors are going to complain for some reason. Unless you leave fruit on the sidewalk, I don't see why anyone would have a problem with it.
 
Ci Shepard
Posts: 16
Location: Vancouver Island, BC
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Do you folks in Seattle have deer in your neighbourhoods? I want to start looking at my city lot front yard for food production as well, but need to address the "attractive 8' fence" situation first ...
 
Tegan Russo
Posts: 34
Location: Maritime Northwest USA, zone 8b
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Ci Shepard wrote:Do you folks in Seattle have deer in your neighbourhoods? I want to start looking at my city lot front yard for food production as well, but need to address the "attractive 8' fence" situation first ...


Emily might have deer in Lynnwood. The areas where Corey and I live are only 2-3 miles from downtown, no wildlife that big. My neighborhood has rabbits, but they haven't been a problem in my front yard.
 
Corey Vaughan
Posts: 27
Location: Seattle, WA
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Tegan Russo wrote:
According to the city you're not supposed to plant fruiting trees in the parking strip, but I've seen some gorgeous apple, plum, and peach trees around Capitol Hill and Madison Valley where I live. My next door neighbor just planted an apple tree. So I wouldn't worry about it unless you think your neighbors are going to complain for some reason. Unless you leave fruit on the sidewalk, I don't see why anyone would have a problem with it.


Thanks Tegan! I think I'll try it out, I can't imagine the neighbors complaining about free fruit I'm lucky to have a uniquely large parking strip to play with.
 
Tegan Russo
Posts: 34
Location: Maritime Northwest USA, zone 8b
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Update on what I'm doing: I built two hugelkultur beds and then ended up framing them like regular raised beds and filling the sides with imported soil. My neighbors were very curious during this process – at least five people stopped to ask me what I was doing with all that wood. I didn't intend to frame them but my housemate who works on the garden with me was really anxious about how they looked. When we did the framing, we also added two traditional raised beds right over the lawn. I'm sure they think I'm weird (talking to a neighbor about his garden: "oh, you're the one who was putting wood in the garden to hold water... you're the house with all the motorcycles, right?") but the interest can also be helpful. Yesterday I was examining my seedlings' progress and a guy came by and asked if I needed any nutrients for the garden. He came back with half a wheelbarrow of composted manure.
 
Bill Erickson
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Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
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Emily Cressey wrote:P.S. Image help? I am trying to share pictures from my drop box account. I right-clicked my photos and said "get link" but apparently the images aren't posting here...


This is an example of the link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/btnsscj6b9v1tjg/2015-01-06%2011.47.43.jpg?dl=0

Test:


Emily, the issue is with using a secure HTTP in the link address. If you drop the "s" from "https" your pics will likely show. I went to your dropbox for this an did a right click, selected "copy picture url" and it seemed to work better. The address is much longer but did capture the picture. Hope that helps.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm excited to see how this project turns out. I think permaculture in cities can have a super impact on a large number of people.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Hi This is interesting to me. I started early this year changing my garden (front and back) to real permaculture. Before I had some edible plants inbetween garden plants. I am not in Seattle, but in the Netherlands (western Europe) I think the climate here is almost the same.
My way is more like 'one step at the time'. First, last autumn, I started composting. Next step was creating a herb spiral. Because of that step, I had to do some more changes in my front yard. I found out there were too many slugs eating my young plants. Some shrubs (without edible products) were blocking the sun, while others gave too much hiding place for the slugs. So I did some serious 'cutting away branches'.
Then there was the rainwater coming from the roof (of the apartment building, we live at the ground floor) ... vanishing underground ... So I made a rainwater harvesting system with a small pond. I hope some frogs or toads will be attracted to it.
I'm a little surprised no-one complained about what I did to the rainwater pipe Don't you think someone will complain about the chickens? And the bees? I do not dare to keep bees in this neighbourhood and I am still having too much doubt about chickens. I think the upstairs neighbours won't like the sounds of chickens in the morning.
 
Honor Marie
Posts: 21
Location: San Francisco area, USDA zone 9
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OP asked, "How do your neighbors like your edible front yard?"

I get a lot of attention because of my edibles. People stop and talk to me, ask if they can pick things, look at the plants as they go by. I think the people who think it is ugly are too polite to say anything. Or else nobody thinks it is ugly because I've done a good job making it look nice!

My advice for you is to plan around dog pee, particularly with the herb garden near the sidewalk.
 
Raine Hogan
Posts: 28
Location: Salt Lake City
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Have you looked at Roselyn Creasy's work? She's a landscape architect that has edibles, flowers and chickens in her front yard - and it looks cute.
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