by Heather Dalberg
One great way to support healthy eating habits and save money on food costs is to convert some or all of your lawn into a lush food garden. Turning your yard into a garden can take some time while you experiment with your climate, direction of the sun, and utilization of the space you have, but well worth the effort. The process is ongoing, and the rewards increase with every harvest.
Step 1: Select Your Crops
Investigate what vegetation grows easily and abundantly for your area.
Knowing the best crops to plant will save you time while you learn how to best cultivate your family’s favorite produce. I recently visited a yard garden in the Pacific Northwest, an area that experiences a wide variety of climates and is known for its cool summers. I wanted to learn more about the process from someone who has developed their own yard garden for the last 12 years.
Purchasing the right seeds is an important first step. You want to make sure that the seeds you purchase are labeled as Heirloom Seeds, known for their ability to reproduce their own crops and be harvested. Also, getting starts makes the process much easier. Be sure to ask your neighbors for any perennials they might have. Getting perennials from a neighbor is a good indication of a crop that has done well and will probably do well in your garden too.
Step 2: Design Your Space
The next step is to design your garden. One of the things I learned from visiting yard gardens is the emphasis on creating a walking space around your produce. This can also be considered as a design of a labyrinth. This creates not only a space for you to plant, weed and water, but also provides for a meditative walk around your garden.
Step 3: Prepare the Soil
Fall is a good time to prepare your yard for next spring by using an easy method known as sheet mulching. Leave the existing grass in place and apply a minimum of two layers of 100% recycled B flute cardboard as a bio-degradable weed barrier to the entire planting area, completely covering all existing grass, soil and vegetation. During the next six months the soil microbial does the work for you while it converts nitrogen rich organic material into forms ready for your spring planting.
Step 4: Plant!
In this Pacific Northwest yard garden, the homeowner has planted herbs, kale, cucumbers, beans, lettuce, collards, garlic, pumpkins, tomatoes, strawberries and edible flowers. The planting, cultivating and harvesting process is done in the traditional way according to the moon cycle, which increases the quality and quantity of the crops. There are many different garden techniques, and you can be successful even if you are a novice gardener by experimenting often.
• Let everything grow! Throw seeds into your area and see what produce thrives naturally!
• Start simple, with an herb garden and incorporate the seasoning into your meals.
• Plan your garden around the seasons. You can have dormant vegetation pop up in spring without any effort!
• Be flexible and make do with what you have available to work with.
• Save money by drying all your herbs, canning your fruits and vegetables and freezing any produce you are not able to use right away.
• Kids make great co-workers in the garden.
• Have fun!