Deb Stephens wrote:I think your yard looks like a lush oasis waiting to happen. It has a LOT of potential and it shouldn't cost more than sweat equity to make it into a beautiful productive space. But ... first things first. Before you get started, you really have to consider several things.
#1 -- Where are you? Not just what state, but what USDA plant hardiness zone (for example, I am in 6b to 7a). Knowing that will help you narrow down your plant choices. You can't plant tropical fruit trees in Montana and apples won't do well in Florida, so it is important to know what your weather extremes may be.
#2 -- What is the aspect of your front and back yards? (Meaning which way do they face?) Sun isn't always full sun and there are many types of shade (light, dappled or full) and the amount of sun or shade each day is more important than the mere fact of having one or the other.
#3 -- What kind of soil do you have -- acid or alkaline? (You can take a soil sample to your local extension office to have it tested or buy a home pH testing kit and do multiple tests in different parts of the yard -- it won't be as complete or accurate, but it will give you some idea.) Do you have clay, sand, loam or some combination? There are some really simple ways to get a general idea without spending money. For example, clay soil can be rolled into a pencil shape and then bent into a thin donut -- if it bends easily and doesn't crack too much, you have clay. The easier and quicker it crumbles or breaks, the less clay it contains. If it feels gritty, it contains sand -- the grittier it feels, the sandier the soil. If it looks really black and contains bits of leaves and bark or other vegetation (and usually smells the way you'd expect a forest floor to smell) its loam. Most soils are some combination, but in general, sandy soil drains well, clay soil retains water and loamy soils are just right (like In Goldilocks and the 3 bears). Any soil can be worked (and improved) but you need to know what you have in order to know what you need or what you can expect to do well in it.
#4 -- What sort of things do you need to do in your yard? Do you need a play area for kids? Do you have pets? Will you be entertaining (i.e. backyard BBQs with the neighbors)? Do you want to relax and sit in the yard or do you prefer to turn it all over to edibles? How about a water feature or rain garden for the wet spaces? Do you want to create habitat for birds, bees and butterflies? There are loads of things you can do no matter how you use the spaces, but you should spend some time identifying your needs and desires before planting something you will regret. (Blackberries or nettles near a play area, for example!)
I would love to contribute plant ideas, but it would be a waste of time at this point -- until we know the answers to the questions above, it is all too speculative. One thing you may want to look into though, considering your drainage problem, is a rain garden. That way you can turn something that is a problem into something beautiful, functional and attractive to both yourself and the animals who will appreciate a place to drink, rest and forage in the heat of summer. You may want to look at these links for some ideas ... EPA: Rain Gardens, How to Build a Rain Garden, This Old House: How to Build a Rain Garden to Filter Runoff
Another thing you may want to look at is a plant database for your area to get ideas of things that will do well under your exact conditions. If you live in the south, The Ladybird JohnsonWildflower Center has a great online database you can use. You plug in your requirements for sun/shade, water conditions, height of plants, whether you want annuals, perennials, etc. and it retrieves plants that fit all your parameters. Start on this page ... LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database. If you live somewhere else, look for a database for your state or region -- such as these ... Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database, Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder. There are so many. Just do a search with your state's name and the words "plant database" and I'm sure something useful will turn up.
When we know more about your situation, I'm sure you will get more good ideas than you can possibly use. It sounds like a fun project!
Dc Brown wrote:I see leaf litter for mulch. Lots of leaf litter talk to the neighbors and get theirs too. This is very good you can garden with little to no weeding.
I see a large conifer. You might get away running some berries at the dripline of this the soil will be more acidic there.
If the ground is rocky - rocks make excellent walls, garden retainers, thermal mass...
You are in the right place. Now you have a property to play on, try those books again, your level of interest will be magnified, you might find yourself engaged.
Keep asking questions, the folk here love to help.
Mike Jay wrote:Hi Brianna, welcome to Permies! I hear burr oak makes for really good firewood Just kidding.
Which compass direction does your back yard face?
One book I thought was a good beginner read is Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein. Maybe your library would have a copy.
Approximately where in the world are you located? That might trigger some ideas for people.
For your numbered questions, here are my $.02
1) Shade sucks but partial shade can still work. There are a number of fruiting shrubs that can handle shade (elderberry, currants, gooseberries, etc). Hazelnuts can also handle some shade.
2) Where is the runoff happening? In the front view of the house is it to the right or left of the house?
3) That looks like a fun back yard. Is the rock staircase something you want to keep? If it works, from there on down I'm imagining you could do a windy path that makes the grade more flat. Kind of like switch backs on mountain paths.
4) I'm not sure what to do about mosquitoes. I live between a lake and a swamp and we hardly have any mosquitoes. 1/2 mile down the road they are horrible. We do have dragonflies for a month or two in the first half of summer but I'm not sure that's the secret. I wish I knew so I could bottle and sell the secret.
Pruning the canopy - I'm guessing it wouldn't be cheap but it depends where you live. In my part of the world there is something called "oak wilt" and it's spread by cutting oaks when their sap is flowing. In that case you'd only want to do oak trimming in the late fall through early spring.
Lucrecia Anderson wrote:Also regarding mosquitoes, might try putting in a little water bath to attract dragon flies. They supposedly eat their own body weight in mosquitoes and other small pests daily.
Look up how to create a little water area for them (with sticks etc....so the dragon fly larvae can emerge from the water and turn into adults). I want to try that next year as I can't go in the garden in the evening either without getting eaten up alive (morning is fine, but the days are sweltering hot in the summer so morning/evening is the best time to be out there).
Oh and bats are good too if you have any in your area. Maybe put up a couple of bat houses? At dusk our sky fills with flittering little bats scarfing up mosquitoes and everything else they can find. I love watching them they are such neat animals.
Lucrecia Anderson wrote:Can you plant veggies in the front yard too? You can make it look somewhat ornamental if you lay it out and choose attractive plants (peppers, peas, etc...). Might need to add a low fence if you have a lot of neighborhood kids/dogs etc...
Instead of feeling overwhelmed I would just start small. Maybe cover the soil where you want your vegetable garden so the grass dies and it will be ready for spring planting (or maybe even plant a few winter vegetables depending on your climate). Start on the part you are sure about, your 200 sq of garden plot, and the rest will work itself out.
You don't need to do everything at once, baby steps will get the job done and this should be something you ENJOY.