Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Backyard Gardening

Backyard bounty

Using permaculture philosophies we are healing the soil. We used chicken manure and compost to fertilize.

Our garden began with two tomato plants in 15 gallon pots and a naval orange tree. Once established, the tomato plants in pots would become infested with tomato worms. We used many types of methods to rid the plants from worms. They were minimally effective. At the end of our work day, we would manually pull the worms off our plants. Finally, in frustration, we turned the hose on them and sprayed them off our plants. It literally rained worms. We did have amazing tomatoes, in fact, too many tomatoes. Each vine grew very tall to the top of its cage and beyond; producing hundreds of tomatoes. Over time, the raccoons destroyed our lawn in our backyard. In frustration, we tore the whole thing out and planted raised beds. We began composting, planted more trees, had backyard chickens, and the gardening adventure developed. We were known as “farmers” by our friends and neighbors. We learned about permaculture and “Back to Eden” gardening methods. We brought in wood chips, top soil, organic mulch, and used our own compost. We really did begin having our own “garden of Eden”. The birds come every day and eat the worms off our plants. They do not eat our fruit, the raccoons, opossums, and skunks do. There are a variety of insects and the whole yard smells great and is green all year. It smells earthy. The soil has changed over time- from black adobe clay to a spongy airy type. We began with raised beds, but pulled most out since our soil has changed. We have learned to grow certain foods in the micro climates of our yard. We tried crop rotation, but that did not work. There are certain plants that enjoy growing in particular locations of our yard. We perk up the soil every year when we begin our spring planting. We sprout seeds in the spring and fall according to what grows in those seasons. We enjoy tomatoes year round in the right location of our yard. We save seeds as much as possible and like to buy from Seed Savers and heirloom organic varieties. We have a small milkweed patch for the monarch butterflies. Lizards eat the insects too. We use companion gardening methods and have found onion and garlic work well to keep pests and critters out of beds. Our neighbors enjoy hanging out on their balcony and watching the life in our living garden.  The food we grow tastes much better and makes the work worth it.

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