An organic farm…in my backyard!

Just before Christmas, CR surprised me by bringing in a landscape architect to make our yard over into a beautiful urban farm. Perhaps he wants more fresh potatoes like the ones I grew in a black bag last summer. Or maybe he is tired of me complaining about the price of organic produce. Whatever it is, I am thrilled.

The trick is to use vegetables and fruit trees, along with ornamentals, to create a pleasing setting for a backyard barbecue, but also use the land and water productively.   (You may have heard me rant before about watering grass in Colorado, which is an exercise in waste.) The first draft is here, and I am SO excited. I thought you might want to follow along with me on this journey.   This is the draft.

There are many challenges to growing a hearty garden in Colorado. For one thing, the season is short–Zone 4 where we are, thought some parts of the city are Zone 5.  For another, we sit at just over 7000 feet, which means a lot less oxygen and much harsher sunlight.  To maximize my success, I’m starting plants indoors, in waves.  Last week, I attended a class on starting seeds with grow lights, and have stocked up on materials.   I can begin March 1. (Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!!)

What a Christmas present, huh?

Do you have a garden? What are the challenges where you are, and what crops to you most like to grow?

16 thoughts on “An organic farm…in my backyard!

  1. Robin

    Looks wonderful!

  2. That CR is a real keeper. What sweet and romantic gesture. I know you’ll love it. And I’ll love following along with you.

    Auntie L

  3. Evalyn

    Yes, I have a garden. It used to be my water sucking, mow-tillyour-brains-fall-out front yard. Now I have tomatoes and beans and lots of other food and all the flowers I can plant. My biggest challenges so far have been deer, gophers and slugs. I’ll take that over four hours of mowing any day.

  4. We have an organic garden in our backyard. Last year we planted fruit trees (lemon, grapefruit, orange, mandarin, lime, apricot, plum, apple, cherry and fig). We planted six kinds of berries, table grapes and wine grapes. We also planted lots and lots of veggies and I was very busy canning them. This year I’m hoping not quite so many veggies, like one zucchini plant (instead of 3–which made enough zucchini to feed a small village), and fewer tomatoes (we had six varieties). So far this year, we have peas, lettuce, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, chard, onions, leeks, and lots of salad herbs. Since we’re in California we can garden all year.

    P.S. It’s a very loose “we.” My DH does almost all the gardening.

  5. Barbara Samuel

    He is a keeper, Auntie.

    Evalyn, that sound fantastic, and much like my motivations. We don’t have slugs around here (or gophers, at least I don’t think so).

    Swooning over that collection of fruit trees, Gina. I adore the way fruit trees grow in California. I’ll have to come to you for questions on how best to can. Later.

  6. This week, I’m tearing out some old bushes (ugh, roots!) and readying the soil for a small garden. Tomatoes, of course. Some beans. Maybe a melon mound or two. As I discovered last year, the biggest problem will be the racoons. They like to “taste” everything–a bite here, a bite there–before moving on.

  7. CR is a hero! What a fabulous present.
    I used to have a garden but we had severe drought for so long, (13 years) I just let it go in the end.
    This year however, we’ve had record rain everywhere. The weeds are heading for elephant’s eye height, and I’m thinking might be time to pull them out and plant! I love having my own fresh vegies and fruit. Tomatoes from the shop just aren’t as tasty as home grown naturally ripened ones, and picking your own fresh salad greens each day is a treat

  8. I love your plan! What a great gift – and clearly CR is very smart because you’re going to cook him all those fantastic meals straight from the garden!

    My yard was a struggle until I decided to replant with native species (it’s completely inappropriate for human-food gardening, alas) that the birds (and deer) love. Now it’s getting really pretty as the things that are supposed to grow here seed themselves and send out runners.
    I also have a little allotment garden down the road for my own eating pleasure – heading into Year Two and having fun dreaming up what to plant this time. Like Gina, I learned my lesson about squash.

  9. Renee Robinson

    Hi Barbara,
    What an exciting project! It is so you.
    I used to belong to a community garden and recently moved from my house in the hills to a new house, from an Italian chef, which had a ready made organic garden (I think that sold it for me!).
    I have fruit trees including blood plums, apricot, lemon, mandarin, fig and two loquat trees. I also have a small greenhouse for growing tomatoes (the frosts are quite severe where I am) and it’s now a wonderful ‘tomato jungle’ which I’m harvesting at the moment. I have a small plot with bush pumpkins, rhubarb, peas, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage (the latter four have finished their seasons and all been eaten). I’m hoping to expand this plot in the coming autumnal months, ready for next year.
    I have Isa Brown chickens and love them! My biggest challenge is keeping my two little Jack Russell terriers separated from the chickens (as I like to let the chickens out to graze and fertilise around the fruit trees every now and then). No doubt coyotes would be a problem for chickens where you are!
    Best of luck and I look forward to reading about your vegetable experiences.

  10. I love these stories!

    And I am fainting with envy over your garden and greenhouse, Renee! You even have chickens!

  11. I live in Southern California, in near desert conditions, and have just completed phase 1 of converting my entire front yard from water-hog to drought tolerant landscaping (+/- 1500 sq feet)! For nearly every lovely bush/tree/perennial that needs water, there is a drought-tolerant cousin, so don’t think my yard is all cacti and agave 🙂
    Along with 100+ plants, there’s a 55ft dry creek bed, a cedar arbor and 2 cedar bridges, 3 boulders, a bench and a birdbath. A deck will be added in April (that’s phase 3). I did everything to this point (except remove the big tree in the front yard and place the 400lb boulders) but I’m hiring someone to put in the deck.
    Phase 2? Capping the balance of the sprinkler system (or putting the drip heads on some). I never dealt with a sprinkler system ’til I moved to So. Cal. 6 years ago – now I’m learning all about it from the bowels up!
    If you’re interested in seeing what I did, I blogged the entire process – from mid-October thru early Feb — — there’s a “front yard conversion” tab on the right side.
    I can’t wait to vicariously enjoy your transformation!

  12. I would love to have a garden! Unfortunately, I do not have the greenest of thumbs and everything I plant seems to die. God did bless with the ability to choose wonderful produce from the grocery store, though!

    If I were to have a garden, I would want it to look the Ina Garten’s from the Food Network. Her is full of an assortment of herbs and vegetables. So gorgeous!

  13. This looks great on paper and I bet it will look even better when it’s done. Unfortunately I don’t have a garden, but I would love to have one. Please post photos when it will be done. Nice Christmas gift, by the way.

  14. Judy, that’s a terrific project!

    Ha ha, Caitlyn. There you are! 🙂 Everyone, I met Caitlyn when she made the Hearty Berry Muffins from How to Bake a Perfect Life and posted a gorgeous photo essay! I was so thrilled. You must rush over to her website and look at the beautiful, healthy foods she photographs and writes about.

  15. Used to live in a house with a large garden when I was young. THere were mangoes, papayas and some short coconut trees. It was fun waiting for different fruits to ripen throughout the year.

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