Tuesday, May 31, 2011

backyard garden planning

I'd mentioned that there is an entirely new plan for turning the backyard into a more useful space. While there were some large raised beds a few years ago, they were poorly placed, and also too wide for me to easily reach across. So I took them down, intending to reconfigure the garden into a better arrangement, and then the distractions of life intervened. The only current "hardscape" is the somewhat ratty garden shed, (annoyingly located in the very best growing spot, that gets almost all day sunshine), and what I persist in calling the "stupid deck" a 10 x 20 unshaded wooden expanse that has no real use...

This is how I had been intending to eventually organise the backyard, rather a lot of small easily-reached square raised beds, for growing veggies; with the possibility of expanding them into longer beds by filling in the spaces between. but it is a design with a whole lot of squares and angles, and not terribly interesting as landscape.
former backyard plan

For the last year or two, the yard has consisted of primarily lumpy weed-covered hillocky bits, interspersed with random bits of salvaged fencing, abandoned garden stakes; all in all the backyard has been looking more like a rubbish tip than anything else. The hens do not mind, it is a giant chicken playground; they have their various favored foraging areas, and have created a hen "spa" underneath the arborvitae, with scooped out dust bathing places, and shelter from both rain and hot sunshine (assuming we get some this year!) But as my friend Sharon pointed out, I can certainly put the Speckeldy Sisters to work for me, they will scratch up and fertilise any space that I enclose them on.

The new plan is to create garden beds and spaces that have more organic shapes to them, and to work to integrate the existing structure and soften it, so that the yard will eventually have a sense of flow to it, becoming beautiful to look at and walk about in, as well as provide useful foodstuff for increased resilience. It should be no more work to create curved garden beds than square ones, and hopefully I can source free wood chips to use as pathway mulch. This is probably at least a five year plan, but it looks much more appealing than my original idea...

Today I moved a bunch of the old fencing scraps to start making a new henyard, the plan is to let the chooks kill off the grass where the future backyard garden beds will be . Let them run all this year, then next spring, build the new beds and plant, with all the nicely enriched soil. Will be turning the chicken coop around this coming weekend, with help from Crafternoon friends (the dang thing is heavy) so as to complete the semi-circular enclosure.

The long range plan:
The former chicken yard has rich soil which should be ideal for an asparagus bed, and a bed for annual herbs like basil and cilantro. At least one more fruit tree, an Italian prune plum, and S says that strawberries can be growing underneath, at least 'till the tree gets big enough to cast shade. The hens will be clearing the space off the back deck, which will eventually become a kind of sun-and-rays shaped garden, with the central bed for perennial herbs and flowers, and the rays alternating annual veggies and cover crops.

The chickens will eventually get a henyard that is the perimeter of the yard, allowing them access to their favored corner hangout, but keeping the garden protected from their depredations. Another exciting idea is to pull off the front of the garden shed, with it's horrible flakeboard double doors, and re-frame the front for a single central front door, a side front window (oooo daylight in the shed!) and on the other side, an interior hen coop. That way it will be very secure, protected from the weather, and easy to clean; there will still be a sliding hen door and ramp, but into the perimeter henyard.

Have not yet figured out how, but would like to use at least part of the deck for clothesline space, preferably in a relatively frugal fashion. The east edge of the deck would be a great place for flowers, including favorite edible ones. If I put up my canvas sunshade it will create a sheltered-from-sunshine place to actually sit and enjoy the yard, watch the silly hens and suchlike.

It will be interesting to see how these ideas take form over time....

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