Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Today in the Back to Eden Garden...

As we have mentioned we are currently building Back to Eden garden beds, and converting to Back to Eden style beds in our other existing garden beds.  This year I am converting almost all of the space in the front yard to garden beds.  We will be removing bushes and converting all the space we have into useful space. 

Now let me state that I started working on this project a few years ago and kept getting distracted, renting out our house and moving to other places.  Renters of our home really destroyed most of the work that I did and we spent this last year restoring as much as I could.  So to give you an idea we live on a hill.  The hill slopes from west to east.  It slopes down from the house out toward the street.

In Colorado where I live it is a very arid place.  We get 16-18 inches of precipitation a year on average.  We have been in a drought for many many years now so we have had very few years where we were average or greater than average.   So to address this you need to find ways conserve water on your property or landscape.  It is illegal in Colorado to capture rain water... YES, you read that right it is ILLEGAL to capture rain water in Colorado... There are some exceptions, but for the most part it is an insane law.  So when you want to "use" water on your property you simply have to get creative.  For example a few years ago when I started this I knew I needed new gutters on my house.  I also knew that this water should be put to use so the thing to do is to move the gutter down spouts from the "traditional" corners of the house to more central locations so that I could direct the water into useful places.  Next thing we did was looked a ways to hold and detain that water as long as possible and as high as possible on the landscape.  This involved digging ditches across the side of the hill to hold up the water as it came down the hill, but also to direct the gutters into as many of these "ditches" as I could so that we could retain that water and slowly release it through the landscape.  Well I had the gutters redone, and I dug the ditches.  I would call them swales, but they really aren't swales.  A swale would have a level bottom so that the water could evenly soak the entire ditch area.  In this case the water moves down toward the center of the ditch in the middle of the yard.  In those locations I put apple trees to ensure they got the water they needed without me having to water them.  Considering it has been a few years and the apple trees are still alive even with renter neglect it must be working.  Now these ditches were dug down about a foot on average.  I then put compost, peat moss, and manure in the bottom of these about 6 inches deep this past year and grew some squash, pumpkin, broccoli, and a few other things in these ditches in the front yard.  I should add that when I dug the ditches on the downhill side I mounded rocks over the top of the dirt mound that was made from digging the ditch.  The rocks act as a thermal mass to help regulate temperatures.  They also help retain moisture.  So they look like mini rock walls as I have 3 ditches like this across my front yard.... YES, you should have seen the look on the neighbors faces when I started "destroying" my yard?!  With a drought fully hitting us we had no front yard to save.  There are water restrictions so watering grass is not allowed.  Watering trees and gardens is allowed.  So now what better excuse than to convert the yard to garden? LOL 

Well this works OK, but now after seeing the Back to Eden documentary and realizing that Paul in the film does not water, yet he gets 16 inches of rain a year I realized there is a lot more that I can do to ensure that I am not watering but on occasions of extended no rain and to just get seeds started.  I have seen others report you still need to water.  So we will see this year how it goes as I attempt to dramatically cut the amount of water we use in our garden. 

So I have been taking a little time each day and hauling manure, rock dust, and wood chips into place in my front yard.  I am converting all the space in the front yard that was not part of the ditches into garden beds.  I am sure my neighbors are like "OH MY GOODNESS, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HE DOING!".  Thankfully I don't live in a place with a home owners association or any restrictions other than watering is restricted... So we are working around those restrictions and maximizing the water that does fall on our postage stamp urban homestead. 

The beds I am working on right now are on the surface of the law.  I put down cardboard, about 6-8 inches of horse manure,  and about 6-8 inches or more of wood chips.  I sprinkled rock dust on top of the beds and then took a little water from a hose to wash it in and get the composting process started.  I then have been adding nitrogen fertilizer to the beds to kickstart the composting process and speed up the process.   Here are some picks which are really hard to make out what is going on, but hopefully it helps to see what I am talking about.  This is what I am working on each day that the weather permits.  I have two more areas in the front yard that I want to make beds in preparation for trees.  I will be a tree planting fool this year!  Then we move to the back yard to start working on beds and the last place will be a small side yard.  Time and weather permitting we will get over there and get that all mulched also and get a tree planted there as well... So lots of plans and lots of things in motion already.   We have to get seeds started here very soon under the lights here in the house.  I have some plastic to put up on the hoops on raised beds so I can start some cold weather plants.  So many projects and so little time to get them done! 

Here are some pics, I hope you enjoy.

This is next to the driveway on the top of the property side from the west facing the street.  These beds stand up above the surface by over a foot.
 Looking from the west to the east down the hill.  You can make out the 3 rock walls.  The above ground or on the surface beds closest are the result of today's work... I had the manure in place the day before, and today was wood chips and leaves.
This is looking from the sidewalk toward the house up the hill where you can see the on the surface beds I made.  The wood chips you see behind the rock wall are about 8 inches deep and anther foot below that is manure, compost, peat moss etc.  So it makes it look like it comes up about 6 inches above the ground but is quite deep.  It is starting to make the yard look like I have made tiers and stair stepping down the hill.
 From the front of the house looking down the hill from the driveway.
 From the front step looking down on the rock walls and ditches that have become Back to Eden deep mulch in ground beds.
 This is from the bottom of the property looking west up the hill near the stree.
 This is from the bottom of the property closer to the house looking up the hill.
 I know it is hard to tell, but I wanted you to see how deep this mulch is around these trees.  This is an apple tree.  It is about a foot deep.  I have a bunch of apple tree pruning to do very soon before these trees start to wake up. This tree is the one at the bottom of the hill.
 This tree is the one more toward the center of the front yard.  It is also an apple tree.
 This is back up toward the top of the lawn where I just built the on the surface beds.  I then laid a layer of spoiled hay mulch down to also retain moisture and control growth between the beds. 
Here is the shot from Google Earth showing when I was building the center and top ditches and rock walls this past year.  It was more of a restore job as I had already dug the ditches, but had not completed putting the rock down.  I had the rock in the driveway ready to be put down, but it didn't get done.  Even after paying people to do it since I was out of state it still didn't get done... Lessons learned don't pay someone to do something unless your there to babysit them.  :-(  Anyway this picture from Google isn't very accurate now, but you can at least see what I am talking about with my ditches, and rock walls. 

So there you have it.   That is what I have been working on.  I will try to get you guys some video so you can follow along.  I hope the pictures help make sense of what we are doing.  I will mark up the Google picture with locations of the new beds and tree plan and post that as we go. 

Have fun, take care, and God Bless,

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