The Yardstead - Farm Your Yard!

Edible Front Lawn Kathleen sent me this article today from about a man who has ripped up his lawn and planted a garden in its place.  It is really a good idea and Kathleen has been trying to do the same thing for a long time now (or trying to get me to do it).  We are firm believers in edible landscaping and have edible plants in our 'flowerbeds' and most of our trees bear fruit, but we still have several large patches of green lawn that we have not replaced with edibles....yet.

As you can see from the picture above this gentlemans yard is no ordinary vegie patch.  It's a rather 'artistic' arrangement that manges to produce enough vegetables for the homeowner as well as his neighbors.  He is one of a few homeowners in the US participating in a project called 'Edible Estates'

The gardening 'movement' is seeing growth right now at a rate compareable to the 1940's when the US Agriculture Secretary encouraged Americans to plant 'Victory Gardens'.  According to the National Gardeners Association, 25 Million US households planted fruit or vegetable gardens in 2007. 

Well summer is here and it is HOT!  The temperatures have been hovering around 101-103 degrees F this week.  Today (Saturday, June 20th) it was close to 90 degrees by 8:00 a.m.!  Needless to say the garden has been neglected a little this week. 
We are very excited because two weeks ago our hens hatched 4 little babies. They all seem to be doing well and we are so proud of our first hatchlings.  I will be sure to add some new pictures soon.
Last weekend I read about the farm in California producing so much food on 1/2 an acre.  Jason posted a link to their video in the forum.  Of course this made me think of how much more we could be doing here at the yardstead.  So I've been reading and planning.  I added a new article I found this week to the Home page, titled Raising Catfish in a Barrel.  This is a project I really want to try.  First I will need to find the supplies.  I'm hoping to find these at little to no cost.
We've also decided this year we will cut a 100 ft x 50 ft area in the backyard for additional gardening.  We can use it this fall for onions, garlic, and other winter vegetables.  Then in the spring, I believe we will have our own pea patch.  We often put up quite a few quarts of peas in late summer when we have access to a pea patch grown at our Uncle's farm.  Why not try to grow these in the backyard?  I love the idea of rolling out of bed into the backyard to pick peas very early.
Also before the year is over, Jason will be building to areas in the backyard for growing vining plants.  One for a grape arbor that I've always wanted and another area for melons and gourds.
I did get the Colocasia (elephant ears) planted this spring.  These are edible if you need them.  They must be cooked appropriately as they have a high percentage of calcium oxalate crystals in the tubers and stems.  The water used to cook (boil) the tubers or stems must be changed often to remove this chemical.  I love the way they look along the front of the house and we probably will not cook any until they are very well established.
My water chestnut corms are doing very well in a 5 gallon pot.  I believe it will be very crowded in the pot before harvest time this fall.  I will be sure to add pictures of those soon too.
The sugar cane we planted last fall has come up and is already looking like it will be a nice privacy screen along the side fence in the backyard.  I've never seen a tastier looking privacy screen.  I'm looking forward to introducing this tasty treat to the boys in the fall.
In a few weeks I will be starting seeds for our second "summer" garden.  Here in our neck of the woods we can plant another round of zuchinni and other summer vegetables to produce on into the fall.
I will be sure to have Jason add the many pictures we have taken to the forum.  Keep checking back for more articles and information on making the most of your yardstead.

The text and illustrations of this article are from
Organic Gardening and Farming October, 1973

Philip Mahan demonstrates how a fish is transferred from the fry tank to the barrel.

A biological food chain in the back yard produces fresh fish for the table and compost for the garden.

By Philip and Joyce Mahan

After some study and experimentation, we have set up a productive food chain-- table scraps to earthworms to catfish--in our back yard. The project is satisfactory in many respects, utilizing waste materials to produce fresh fish for food and at the same time yielding ample compost for a small garden. The material cost is minimal. The whole operation can be set up for less that $15.00. The equipment occupies only about 12 square feet of space, and the entire assembly can be easily moved if necessary.

The materials can be very simple: Two 55-gallon steel drums, three panes of glass 24 inches square, and a medium-sized aquarium air pump. One of the drums will serve as a tank for the fish, oxygen being supplied by the air pump; and the second drum should be cut in half to provide two bins for the worms. The panes of glass are used as covers for the worm bins and fish tank, and for ease and safety in handling can be framed with scrap lumber.

Onions in heavy mulchWith springtime just around the corner we are in full preperation mode here at the Yardstead.  We have a few veggies in the garden already with plans for many more.  Kathleen has a stack a seed packets ready to go but I havent looked yet to see whats on the menu.  She does all the garden planning and I just provide the labor.  She helps with that too of course.  Anyway, since Im the head of the yardstead labor department I am always looking for ways to minimize tedious labor intensive tasks.  Number one on my list of tedious labor intesive tasks is pulling weeds.  I have always hated pulling weeds since the first time I can remember doing it.  When I was a kid my father always kept a garden going in our back yard.  I always wanted to help with whatever my dad was doing in the garden, especially if my big brother was helping too.  I remember seeing my brother on his hands and knees "playing" in the garden along a row of eggplants.  I asked if I could help and he gave a quick lesson on how to pull weeds without bothering the vegetables.  The weeds were easy to identify because the eggplants were well established so ther was no danger of me accidentally pulling up veggies and   I soon started working down my own row.  I don't think I made it past even three plants before I promoted myself to watering.  I was still just a little tyke so it was a few more years before I actually got assigned weeding as a chore.  I have been trying to get out of it ever since.
There are many ways to control weeds in the garden and I have tried several over the years and have yet to find a labor free technique.  Its not that im anti-labor, after all, gardening and yard work constitute my entire exercise routine.  I do hate weeding though, and there are many occasions when work or other resposibilities keep me out of the garden for days on end.  In our part of the country with the abundant sunshine and frequent rains, thats plenty of time for a small band of weeds to stage a coup, and  whole sections of the garden can be taken over.  So we've tried many ways to prevent weeds in the garden without having to constantly vigilant. 
The first weed blocking technique......

Zuchinni Transplanted to GardenHere at The Yardstead we like to get a jump start on our spring garden.  We are in north Florida so we have spring like weather  as early as February and Kathleen and I get very excited about the spring garden.   We like to get our veggies in the ground as early as possible, but we have to be careful.  Although there are many warm sunny days here in February, we still have some cold days and night as well.  We had a couple of hard freezes in February this year.  In order to get our plants started as early as possible and protect them from the weather.  We start many of our plants in peat pots, peat pellets, or seed flats.  This allows us to leave the plants out on sunny days and bring them inside when it gets to cold. 
There are several other advantages to starting your vegetables in containers and transplanting them to the garden.  Starting the seed......

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