Thursday, September 13, 2012

Garden Expansion Ideas

(Our back yard, from several years ago, prior to new lawn/etc.)

If we were to remove some (the right half, or about 13x21 ft.) of the lawn in the back yard (still hoping I can convince the dear wife and make this happen), we'd finally be able to expand the garden. We rebuilt/expanded the boxes (extreme right in the picture) two seasons ago, but we still don't have enough garden space for what I'd like to see us accomplish. Here are some of my thoughts about the project...

 - Chicken moat running around it, connecting to their existing run/area (currently it's everything to the right of their coop/run, and above the lawn). Possible pro: would increase sqfts of roaming space, they'd get more weeds/bugs, we could take back the upper right corner of the yard to use for whatever (move the compost back there?), since they'd have roaming space around the moat. Cons: messy? Need more/taller fencing? One small breach could lead to chickens eating an entire planter box of garden. THAT SAID, we will probably cage most of the stuff anyway (darned squirrels!)... More cons, can't make it a true moat unless we either always wear chicken shoes in the garden, move some planter boxes, or deal with larger hassles wrt access.

 - Maybe make a diagonal path from corner by the lime tree (lower right, not pictured) to coop (top middle), "cutting through" the planter boxes/raised beds so they have diagonal ends. Would we want a more meandering path? or just go with the more simple right angles?

 - QUESTION: What will the paths be? If not chicken moat, should they be: Grass (leave grass in place for the paths, that would look really cool, but might require watering...)? Spoiled hay? Cardboard? Pavers? Gravel? Need to keep the weeds down, but it should look nice, too. Also, should be mud free in the winter. I'm not usually a fan of gravel, but I can get it fairly cheaply... Spacing? Need a three foot gap between boxes, usually, right?

 - Series of "skinny" raised beds with "horizontal" gaps (from left to right across long part of lawn)? Or maybe smaller (4x4? 3x3?) "pods"? Or how about a "corral" type garden with a single entrance on the bottom center, leading in to central aisle... Turns out there are so many interesting variations, I sketched up about 10 that I liked (none have a chicken moat, though). I think we'll need to compare several factors: aesthetics, capacity/throughput, sun/shade, rotation, winter crops, etc.

 - Pomegranate... Remove? Severely prune? Get consultation from fruit tree expert? Three fruits in 10 years is not a ringing endorsement. It's using up valuable space and although it's my favorite fruit, and the blooms are an amazing color, I think I'd rather plant something there that will produce.

 - RESEARCH: Pomegranate fruiting on new or old wood?

 - Replace pomegranate with our existing lime, mandarin orange, or lemon tree?

 - Build window box planter utilizing the freecycled windows. Honestly, though, how much would we use this? In our zone, we get frost maybe two or three times a winter, if that...

 - Need a corn zone, we know we want to grow it, we just need to find the best place.

 - Find plants to grow inside chicken zone (very top, above the lawn -- in the picture above you can see day lilies and even our old bird of paradise before the chickens dug it up and killed it) for shade/flowers, would have to protect them well, so it's hard for something to look good when it's wrapped in chicken wire or whatnot.

 - Grow sunflowers: 1] in a huge wire cage, 2] as a distraction/sacrificial crop, 3] not at all (darned squirrels!)

 - Espalier? Could remove boxes from "window box planter location" and instead plant an apple/etc. to be espaliered against the fence on the right-most side...

 - Could remove existing lawn section one strip at a time over the winter, letting the chickens eat it.


  1. Have you thought of bark or mulch for the pathways? I have it between my raised beds and it is pretty, easy to walk on, smells lovely (we used cedar) and keeps weeds down.

    1. Oh, right! I forgot to add that one. Yes, I'd prefer to use wood chips/bark for mulch, and if I can get it cheaply enough/"eco friendly" enough, that's what we'll go with.

      I have two large camphor trees in the yard that need to come out still. It would be nice to use them for the wood chips but they're diseased and smell like "Simple Green" all the time. Not sure I want to spread that around... Still, it would be a great option. I'll have to research camphor and how it affects soil.

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  3. Chicken shoes, LOL. I hear you on that one. Fantastic plans I must say. It's amazing how much potential a yard can have, if well planned like you are writing about. I agree you need to expand the corn zone. I'm guessing your corn didn't do as well as it could cuz it needs more plants for better pollination(?) The rest of your harvest though, looked fantastic.

    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      Yes, I think the corn had several things going against it. We started with less than ideal soil and put three plants into each pot (we figured we needed more plants for better pollination). But what happened was the plants didn't grow that well and two of the pots got attacked by insects.

      AND, I just realized that we staggered the plantings (we were scrounging up used pots) and maybe that's partially to blame for the poor pollination! D'oh!