This is my garden in April. Some plants are just starting to wake up while others are in lush growth. It’s time for spring bulbs, the first asparagus, fruit tree blossoms and planting seeds. The weather alternates between showers, sudden hail and warm sunshine. Come on a little virtual tour of my organic garden.
Having even a small green house makes year-round gardening easier, and it’s nice to have a space to overwinter tender plants like Citrus, lemon verbena and lemongrass. The 6′ x 9′ greenhouse was designed and built by my partner Michael and is constructed of a concrete foundation, gravel floor with worm bin vault (an idea I stole from fellow permaculturist Walker Leiser,) and a mix of new cedar and reclaimed lumber. The windows are all recycled; the large divided lights were Salvaged from the old Lincoln highschool. The roof is clear corrugated polycarbonate.
There are over 60 varieties of perennial food plant in the yard, like these ‘Blue Crop’ blueberries. Edibles that come back each year require less embodied energy and are better for providing habitat and building healthy soil ecology. I think of my garden as a ‘food forest’ with tree, shrub, vine, herb, ground cover and root layers of food bearing plants. Perennial crops also help extend the harvest season. In very early spring greens like nettles and miner’s lettuce are a welcome treat and tonic, and soon rhubarb and asparagus are ready to pick. In the fall after the leaves have dropped, persimmons are the last sweet. Read about some of the perennial edibles I grow here:
The Raised Garden
About a third of the back yard is a raised bed that was conceived in out design phase when we decided we wanted an elevation change to add interest to the blank-slate back yard, and that we were going to have a LOT of soil left over from excavating around the house to create positive grade to solve a drainage problem. The concrete wall with its layers of natural lime wash is the only element in the garden we hired a contractor for. It is the right height for sitting on. This view shows a ‘Van Deman’ quince arbor that produces 20 pounds of fruit each year.
This zone combines compost bins, a coop for small poultry, a potting bench and a tool shed. The roof of the structure will hold a green roof.
These two 55 gallon barrels collect rain water from our roof to hand water veggies and new plants.
Space for every one
This scene shows how our compact back yard has areas for everyone in the family. The eco-lawn with a pen for our rabbits is also a place to kick balls and have dinner outside. Michael’s fire place chimney is on our patio that doubles as a gravel pit for our kid to dig in. When we want to have drinks at the little table there we just do a quick sweep. Pots add extra space for quick spring crops like lettuce and arugula.
The Shade Garden
The cool bed on the North side of our house is planted with tea camellia, ostrich ferns (that have edible fiddleheads) and a variety of shade loving species including many Oregon natives.
A dwarf box hedge makes a neat border for a collection of minor spring bulbs and Willamette Valley native meadow plants like Chocolate lily and Roemer’s fescue.
We’re working towards certification with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program that involved planting over 5% of your property in local natives and enhancing habitat value and land stewardship such as managing rain water on site. You can see the ‘Certification in Progress’ sign here.
This winter we planted a narrow bed next to our driveway with Willamette valley native meadow seed mix and planted Western milkweed, Douglas aster and wild strawberry. The plants are still tiny, but ground bees are using the bare soil as a nesting site!
This container planting is a place our kid likes to play and is lower maintenance than annual flowers.
Pesticide Free Zone
We use natural gardening methods, not products, to keep a healthy balance in our garden. This means planting flowers for beneficial insects, mulching to discourage weeds and choosing the right plants for the site.
You’ll see a lot of these lady bug signs around my neighborhood. We’re doing a project to become the first Pesticide Free Neighborhood to make our area safer for kids, pets, wildlife, pollinators and everyone.
Water from winter rains is routed off our roof into rain barrels to store it for irrigation. The excess is managed on-site in this rain garden planted with native rushes, sedges, camas and other wildflowers.
This 250 gallon tank is hidden by grape vines and flowering quince. The water is used to irrigate annual vegetables during our dry summers. From June to September, expected rain fall is 0-4″. This amount of water lasts a couple weeks and we hope to increase storage capacity at some point with additional tanks or a cistern.