When we first moved into our house in April 2013, the backyard was an RV parking lot and the front yard was a shapely lawn. What we saw, however, was the perfect canvas to establish a small urban homestead—a space that would allow us to start working our way slowly toward producing a good deal of what we consume.
A large part of our motivation for buying a home was the ability to begin providing more of our food and resources through our own human power. When we were searching for the right property, two of the most important criteria were growing space and good light. We only have one large tree on our lot, and fortunately it only shades our garden beds for a small part of the day for only part of the year. The rest of the yard is virtually unobstructed, and we have taken advantage of this by putting in a total of twenty-six raised garden beds and eight whiskey barrels.
We chose to install raised beds for a number of reasons. Despite the fact that we both understand and appreciate alternative methods of urban gardening, a large factor that influenced our decision was the hard-packed, rocky RV pad that covered most of the backyard. Instead of digging down and tilling the entire square footage of the yard—which likely contained glass particles and gasoline and oil residue—we decided to build upward by installing cedar raised beds that would allow for two to three feet of soil above the ground (where the beds themselves sit, we did dig close to two feet down, though, moving the river rock and old soil and replaced it with topsoil and compost).
Another reason we decided to go this route was tidiness and organization—with such a small area for growing (our lot is about 1/12 of an acre, including the house and garage), we needed to use the space wisely and deliberately. We have a garden plan wherein we have numbered each box. This has helped us establish a crop rotation schedule, and keep track of what has been planted where and when. One other positive aspect of the boxes is cutting back on pest problems. For instance, we have stapled copper tape on the perimeter of each box and it has greatly reduced the slug issues we used to experience. Plus, also, at the end of the day we really like the look of this arrangement.
What's your favorite garden arrangement? Let us know in the comments.