Despite the small lot, we’ve figured out how to cram a lot of approaches and styles into our garden. At the core of all of these is permaculture – people care, earth care, future care.
Throughout our space, we are aiming to maximize the resources that we have and close the gaps between needs. Gone are the days of buying bags of compost, potting mix, and fertilizer – and welcome are the days of developing it yourself. When we needed compost and better quality soil, we sought to replicate how nature does it already, with decomposing matter and excrement to provide fertilizer. So we introduced chickens & red wrigglers!
Our chickens help process vegetable scraps and “mow” our lawn, pooping out fantastic fertilizer for the yard and garden (and cleaning out the coop means I have even more for the compost piles). Any vegetable scraps they can’t have, like citrus, avocado, or molding/mildewing vegetables, can be split between our 1,000 red wrigglers farm in the basement or the outdoor compost piles. Excess red wrigglers can be fed to our chickens for a protein boost in the winter that also helps support the transition through their molt. And all their byproducts provide glorious, beautiful fertilizer and compost for our vegetables. Excess vegetables go right back into the omnivore cycle with our ladies and invertebrates.
We also believe in working with the resources of abundant water in our yard, so we have dug a mini-pond and swales (a lovely word for a sculpted ditch) that catch, slow, and/or trap water as it moves through our yard down the steady slope of our neighborhood. Our fruit trees are situated in and around our swales so they can maximize from the water absorption as well.
Another element of permaculture? Guilds! I love the name for this family-style gardening. Every member of this small space contributes to one another – it’s like companion planting on steroids, and incorporates ground cover, herbs, bushes, and trees that all work to benefit one another from the soil up. We have several guilds set up and in design for our front and back yard focused around our swales and dwarf apple trees.
Integrated throughout are my herbs. As a budding herbalist, I’ve been finding ways to integrate everything from easy culinary herbs like oregano to valerian, bee balm, and ashwaganda throughout our space. Our main culinary herbs surround our patio for beauty and ease – and they make perfect companion plants for all our veggies.
While all this provides beauty, medicine, and food to our family, it also provides a thriving habitat for wildlife. We are a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Foundation, even here in the center of town. Our setup provides food through feeders & bushes, cover & safety, water, places to raise young (mature trees and bird houses), and sustainable practices like encouraging native plants, capturing rain water, and organic practices.
All of this on less than a quarter acre. You can do it, too.