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My Homework

Oct 14, 2008 -

After many years of apartment dwelling, I was finally able to move my family into a house with a cozy front yard, and a (relatively) nice sized back yard for the kids to play in, and for my wife to have a nice garden.

But the problem looks like this (please forgive the mess, still in the moving-in process):

Front Yard 1 Backyard1

When I was a kid, I used to HATE yard work.  My parents didn’t garden at all, so our maintenance involved raking leaves, watering plants and mowing the lawn—for a kid who likes to see the fruits of his efforts, this wasn’t exactly fulfilling.  Looking out over this relative desolation, I didn’t feel dejected; quite the opposite, in fact.  I saw opportunity, in many forms.

First of all, I have been working at Peaceful Valley for going on 6 years.  When I first started here, I knew zilch about growing.  Nothing.  I’d never so much as planted a flower seed in a pot for Mother’s Day. In my time here, I have gained a vast amount of theoretical knowledge: I knew the hows and the whys, but never had the opportunity to apply what I’d learned.  Seeing this yard sent visions of sugarplums (and other fruits and veggies) dancing in my head.

What I am going to be doing over the next 5 or so months is getting this area cleaned up, put together and ready for growing.  Come Spring, I’m planting a lawn, and my wife is setting up a small vegetable garden, probably with raised beds.  As I do each step, I will be taking pictures and thoroughly documenting each phase.  The goal is not only to do my own yard, but to give a bit of direction for anyone else who wishes to do the same.

Here’s the plan:

Step 1: Do a soil test.  Before doing any planting or amending, I need to make sure that my soil is up to snuff.  While I could certainly buy one of our test kits, this will give me a complete analysis of what I’m working with—those kits are mainly to test for a very few specific things, mainly for mid-season maintenance.  Many people will just toss out some all purpose fertilizer, like Omega or All-Purpose Mix, and assume they have done what they need.  While this certainly can’t hurt, it might not be enough.  Taking this approach to fertilizing is akin to driving to New York without a road map—you’ll eventually probably get where you’re going, but not by the fastest route.

Step 2: Till the soil.  Luckily for me, I have access to a tractor.  Even if you don’t readily know someone who can loan you one, most decent sized cities (Grass Valley is only about 20,000 people) have businesses that rent tractors and trailers to tow them for relatively little money.  to do this size yard by hand would take days, not to mention its toll on my back.  This will take all that dead or dying plant material into the ground, getting the ground ready for…

Step 3: Amend as needed.  I’m going to put in whatever nutrients I need as determined by my soil sample results, then wait a week or so so I can proceed with…

Step 4: Plant a cover crop.  Most likely, our Soil Builder Mix, which is an annual cover crop.  Once inoculated and planted, it will get to work enhancing my soil with organic material and plenty of nitrogen, one of the most common needs of vegetables.

Step 5: Wait.  As with an plant, it needs time to grow.  Cover crops are made to winter over, so this will stay in the ground till at least March, probably later. Once it gets high enough (at least 4 feet), I will move on to…

Step 6: Till.  Again.  Turning under that cover crop into the soil will add more organic matter, decomposing quickly, and making my soil that much more accommodating for the final step.

Step 7: Plant a lawn and garden.  All I know at this point is that I am going to plant the Tough Turf lawn seed.  My wife and I will spend the winter mapping out our yard, planning what we want to grow, and how much, to properly supplement our dinner table.

So stay tuned.  This promises to be an exciting endeavor, one which I can’t wait to share!

In The Loop » Blog Archive » The Grunt Says:
Oct 28th, 2008 at 9:49 am

[...] not really…I was wearing gloves…but you know what I mean).

In The Loop » Blog Archive » Till̵ Says:
Oct 31st, 2008 at 7:43 am

[...] it is.

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