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2016-181d

AJ poses with his hard work! Here are the basic boxes before planting or mulching between. As you can see, we have a really small side yard.

As many of you know, Mike and I live in the Convivium Farmhouse, right next door to Convivium.  So it was important to us when we remodeled the house to incorporate a landscape design that not only looks good, but also is in keeping with the principles and ideas that we are trying to teach through Convivium. Mainly, that with some forethought and just a little bit of space, you can grow A LOT of food in small space and make it look good too.

Luckily, we have AJ to help us with all of this, because as eager as we are, he is much, much more knowledgeable in this arena than we are.

It’s important to note that we have a very small yard – a small patch in front of the porch and then on the side, the rest is taken up with our side deck and the chickens, so when we say our entire yard is edible, we aren’t really talking about that much space. That said, we were able to produce a lot of food this year.

Convivium Farmhouse gardens were the very last thing we did this growing season. With the work on 28th street, our new front bed and the existing box gardens in the back on White Street, time got away from us a little bit. We didn’t get these box gardens in until July – super, duper late for northeastern Iowa.

Oh well! (With everything that we have going on, I am getting really, really good at saying “Oh well!”) The point is, we got the gardens in, they grew, produced a lot of food and due to our really mild fall so far, are still going strong.

We have broken up our yard into some distinct areas and planted a mixture of perennial fruits and vegetables (those that come back year after year) and annual vegetables (those we have to replant every year).

Strawberry Hedge
This hedge is right along the sidewalk in front of the house. We planted it with two varieties of ever-bearing strawberries —  Toscana and Berri Basket Hot Pink.  We figured we’d need to wait a year or two before harvesting any berries – especially since we got them in the ground so late. Boy, were we wrong!  We have had a lot of berries off of the two dozen plants we planted. The berries are small, but really tasty.

Close up of our strawberries.

Close up of our strawberries.

Thank you to our friend Jean-Michel who volunteered his time and skills to build the little wall that holds our strawberry hedge.

Thank you to our friend Jean-Michel who volunteered his time and skills to build the little wall that holds our strawberry hedge.

Strawberry hedge has been planted and Leslie makes sure the new bedding plants are well watered.

Strawberry hedge has been planted and Leslie makes sure the new bedding plants are well watered.

 

A lot of people ask us – in fact, this is the most common question we get – aren’t you worried about people taking the berries/tomatoes/broccoli, etc?

NO!

In fact (ahem) that is sort of the point. We want people to try and taste everything we are growing – and maybe, just maybe be inspired to try it themselves.

Rhubarb/Asparagus Hedge
I wish I would have taken photos of the tiny plants that we put in the ground. They were in four-inch square pots if that gives you any perspective. These rhubarb plants have gone bonkers! The leaves and stems are huge and it’s just the first year.

Here is the ‘after’ of the rhubarb asparagus hedge. Crazy how much that rhubarb grew this season. We are often asked what we use for fertilizer – just compost folks. It’s rocket fuel for plants.

Here is the ‘after’ of the rhubarb asparagus hedge. Crazy how much that rhubarb grew this season. We are often asked what we use for fertilizer – just compost folks. It’s rocket fuel for plants.

In back is the asparagus. Martha Washington is the variety. This is what it looks like if you don’t harvest the spears in the spring and let it keep growing. Suggestions are to let this go for a couple seasons before harvesting, but based on how everything else is doing, we may sneak a few spears in the spring.

Side Gardens
If you follow the Rhubarb Hedge along the side of the house, you will see a small hazelnut bush that we planted. Thank you to our friend Pat who gave this to us!  Then the raspberries –

Here are the raspberry plants in the side garden.

Here are the raspberry plants in the side garden.

which we planted this summer and didn’t really expect to get much from them. Again – wrong! We have had luscious raspberries for a few

months now. These are ever-bearing bushes (sorry, I don’t remember the variety)  that will keep producing small numbers of berries throughout the growing season. We had plans to trellis these, but I think we are going to put that on next spring’s to do list.

Box Gardens
We have three larger, lower box gardens which are each home to a fruit tree – apple, peach and cherry. No fruit from those yet – we’ll see what happens next year. We have herbs and other cover crops planted in the fruit tree beds.

Here are the box gardens at the end of the season. The three larger boxes were planted with fruit trees – apple, peach and cherry. In the foreground is our apple tree, planted with ‘green manure’ – fava beans and rye grass – which will be tilled under to help enrich the soil.

Here are the box gardens at the end of the season. The three larger boxes were planted with fruit trees – apple, peach and cherry. In the foreground is our apple tree, planted with ‘green manure’ – fava beans and rye grass – which will be tilled under to help enrich the soil.

Eventually, we will be incorporating permaculture principles into these beds and planting other beneficial plants that will help with the growth and fruit production of the trees, but for this year we were happy to just get these trees in the ground.

Then we have eight smaller box gardens which will be for annual vegetable plants. This year we had tomatoes, kale and several different types of hot peppers. We’ll change that up next year.

Neighborhood reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve had a few people scratch their heads and say “hmmm…”but Mike and I secretly enjoy being the crazy neighbors, so it’s all good.

Do you have any edible landscaping? If not, what would you like to try?