Daily Archives: July 28, 2011

Basic Garden Plans for a Small Yard

If I were to landscape a front-and-back yard – of the postage-stamp size found in most of my neighbourhood, for example – I would want:


Two fruit trees – like a dwarf sour cherry and a two-variety pear, or maybe a weeping black mulberry and three-variety apple or plum tree.  (I’m a big fan of multi-variety dwarf trees, fyi.  There are a lot of fruits – apples, plums, pears – that need two varieties present to fruit well.  If the two varieties are growing on the same root stock, so much the better!)


A berry bush – think red currants (prolific and tasty), haskaps (a super-hardy, early-fruiting shrub whose yields taste a little like blueberries or service berries), or thimble-berries (aka: purple flowering raspberries, which come with big, beautiful purple-pink blossoms in the spring).


A perennial early-spring favourite – such as ostrich ferns (which, in their just-sprouted form are better-recognized as fiddleheads), asparagus, or even rhubarb.




Some large pots for herbs and/or container-loving plants (like bell peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes – even a hardy fig tree, or Meyer lemon, if you’ve got the deck space and can bring it inside for the winter)


A pergola or garden arch or similar that could be used to trellis grapes or some other vining crop (like runner beans, hardy kiwi, or even cucumbers and winter squash)




A sun-lit space for annual veggies, hopefully at least six feet square, but preferably double that, to be grown in-ground (although, if your “yard” has been paved over, which many of them have, there are Things you can do with large containers that effectively simulate raised beds).


This would give you plenty of “dependable” perennial foods – mostly fruit, plus some Very Early vegetables – that you can enjoy as they come off the tree/vine/etc, but that you can also preserve (think jams, chutneys, jellies, butters and compotes) for use over winter. Plus you’d also have the space to grow, for example, hardy root crops that keep well through the winter.



So many front yards in my (centuries-established, working class) neighbourhood come equipped with fruit trees — sour cherry, plum, sweet apple, choke cherry, service berry, pear, crab apple, hawthorn (the list goes on), frequently with grapes added into the mix as well — and so many of my neighbours under-plant their trees with carefully trellised beans, squash, and tomatoes, along with herbs, bok choi, garlic, leaf amaranth, and all sorts of other veggies.  It astonishes me how much food they can grow off six square feet of earth, in partial shade, year after year.

Right now, of course, I’m growing stuff out of rubbermaid bins on my balcony (my butternut squash might maybe-just-maybe produce an actual fruit!  ZOMG!) but, eventually, I’m hoping to get my hands on a yard like the one I described above — the kind that can feed me just by being what it is.


What kinds of food plants do you grow, or dream about growing?


– Cheers,

– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Barter! And Local Food! :-D

I got a lovely, if stress-inducing, surprise this morning. Some co-workers of my partner go hunting a couple of times a year, so she’s arranged to have us barter preserves for steaks. Moose, and possibly deer, specifically.

Other than freaking out about not having enough jam on hand (despite not needing it on hand for another 2-3 months) to do an appropriate trade, I’m really pleased about this.

See, I’m not a hunter. I don’t know how to aim and I don’t know how to shoot and I don’t know how to gut and dress a dead body. While I can see that as a potential in my future, somewhere in the foggy distance, it’s seriously Not There Now. Which means that my options for eating critters are:
(a) factory farm stuff, that I don’t support ethically but can afford
(b) ethically raised smaller farmer stuff, that I LOVE but can’t afford
(c) being vegetarian – which I just seriously Don’t Wanna.

So the possibility of getting Happy Animal Meat (as opposed to factory farm meat) at a price I can actually afford (barter) is an extremely good thing in my world. 😀

Re: Don’t Wanna: Yeah, that. I’ve tried being vegetarian, with short stretches of vegan, and it doesn’t work. I’m constantly hungry (not “I have eaten something light and so I don’t have the heaviness of body that I associate with fullness” but “I am slightly dizzy and my stomach feels like a clenched fist, wtf didn’t I just eat??”) and after a few weeks have trouble stringing complicated thoughts together (this on eggs-&-dairy a-go-go + a wide variety of mixed beans and whole grains, so…). So, yeah. Not for me.

That said: I live in a temperate climate with long-ass winters and an unreliable growing season. I know people can and do eat a mostly vegetarian diet in this area (look at the Six Nations and the Algonquins, hello), but a diet that includes fish-in-summer and mammals-in-winter does make sense to me from an Eat Local perspective.

Anyway. That’s my thoughts on that. With this in mind, i will have to make extra preserves this year (haha “this year” – it’s my first year doing preserves with any intent at all) so I can make some appropriate trades. 🙂

– Cheers,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden