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Small Backyard Sustainable Garden - How to Begin?  RSS feed

 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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Hello All,

I have been reading about permaculture for a few months, and I'd like to begin a small food forest to the degree possible in my backyard.  My yard is about 15-20 feet square, to the north of my house.  I have taken a few photos and drawn a rough diagram to show the orientation and layout.  The ground is primarily dry soil partially covered in gravel, with some paved areas.  I would like recommendations of what to do with/how to build the soil (remove gravel from soil, some sort of mulch etc?), what to plant (I would like as many edible as possible), when and where, and and generally any steps I should take to move forward.  The tree in the center of the yard is quite large and shades much of the yard.  Thank you so much for your time!

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Yard 1
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Yard 2
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Overhead Diagram
 
Tristan Alexander
Posts: 11
Location: Panama City, Florida, USA
bee forest garden fungi
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How much sun does the property typically get? If you want to keep that tree, and you dont get more than like 4-5 hours or so, you might have to just go heavy on shade-loving plants. What kind of tree is that in the center?

For building the soil I would recommend picking up waste organic matter from your neighbors (leaves, branches, wood(untreated), logs, clippings, etc.). You'd be surprised how much good mulch gets picked up by the city trash in urban/suburban lawn communities. Just pile it all up, heavier goes on the bottom. Thats hugelkulture! It breaks down, you get little bugs, microbes, fungi, soil retains more water and good for plants in longterm.
 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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I am not sure what kind of tree it is honestly, I will get a better picture soon.  As a renter, I am unable to remove it so it is there to stay.  I do have a decent sized compost heap (relatively) of weeds, branches, leaves etc.  Should I just spread it as mulch,  also, any recommendation on the gravel?  Shall I remove it completely?  The property gets plenty of sun from the east, but is shaded by the house to the south and the large tree to the west.  Thank you so much for your input!

R
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2344
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
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As long as life has lived on land, it's been growing just fine with gravel.

 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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Haha, point taken.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9697
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I've found a lot of design help by looking at other people's designs.

Here a few links to urban permaculture designs:

http://www.happyearth.com.au/garden-design/

Video tour of an example on this page:  http://vergepermaculture.ca/blog/

Urban rain harvesting design: 


I also find this guy really helpful and encouraging for growing in small urban spaces:   [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/user/growingyourgreens[/youtube]

(please pardon the excessive enthusiasm of those guys!)
 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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Thanks for your input, Tyler.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9697
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
176
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Happy to help! 

Here's a list of shade-tolerant edibles:  http://www.edible-landscape-design.com/shade-gardens.html

Another list:  http://www.oregonlive.com/hg/index.ssf/2009/07/shade_edibles_you_can_grow.html

If the gravel bugs you, you can fairly easily sift it from the dirt with a piece of 1/2" x 1/2"  hardware cloth.  I had to sift literally tons of rocks and gravel from my garden area.  You might decide there are some places you want gravel for better drainage or as a mulch around some permanent plantings.   http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/plants-for-gravel-gardens-pictures
 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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Nice lists there.  Honestly the gravel only bothers me because it is uncomfortable to walk on with bare feet (my dog thinks so too )
 
Tristan Alexander
Posts: 11
Location: Panama City, Florida, USA
bee forest garden fungi
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Awesome links, Tyler.  Thanks a bunch. Your feet get used to it
 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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I'd like to work blackberries and alpine strawberries into my yard, any tips of location and timing based on my diagram/pictures?
 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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So, I raked up all the gravel/rocks and used it to make a footpath.  Yard has been seeded with "Fall Green Manure Mix
Cover Crop Seed" from Johnny's Selected Seeds, and subsequently mulched with organic matter/compost.  Will post some pictures soon, though it is not much to look at...
 
Ron Flora
Posts: 8
Location: Greater NYC Area
fish forest garden urban
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Here's a couple pictures, post seeding and mulching.
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