Let's start out today's adventure with me being perfectly honest with you: I have a black thumb. I have gone through endless houseplants, only to end up buying more because I'll get all motivated when I see pretty plants and think to myself, "Self, you can make that plant grow and you know it." And then it dies. I've managed to grow a few tomato and pepper plants before, but my former housemate was the primary caregiver, so I really can't take too much credit for those. So, I figured I would never have the perseverance or inspiration even to try my hand at vegetable gardening.
I have always wanted to have a nice backyard but have been stumped as to where to begin in the overhaul process since the forest insists on constantly trying to take it back whenever I attempt to get things under control. I knew I wanted something modern and clean and easy to maintain - definitely not an old English rose garden or something froofy like that. I'm also ridiculously cheap and want to do things myself because someday I fantasize about owning a farm but know that if I'm ever going to get there, I first need to conquer my backyard.
(original drawing circa 2002 - click for larger view).
It was in January that I made an amazing discovery: BARK MULCH. Now, in and of itself, bark mulch is nothing special, but it is the hiding properties of this wonderful recycled product that send my heart aflutter. I spread it all over my backyard and it instantly transformed it into an un-muddy, pleasant-to-walk-around-on, easy-to-scoop-poop-on oasis. Even more, importantly, it INSPIRED me to do more more more in my yard and I finally realized that I don't want landscaping - I want something that produces something in return for all my hard work. VEGETABLES. When it comes right down to it, bark mulch is the reason for and first step in my backyard homesteading pursuit.
Since that eye-opening day in January, I have built and planted a raised vegetable bed with cool-weather veggies, started warm-weather veggies indoors, built a chicken barrow, brought home baby chicks, started whittling down the burn/brush pile in the backyard (and got to use my new chainsaw/tree limber courtesy of my Pops), set up my composting bin, scooped poop on a weekly basis (something I would always procrastinate on because it friggin SUCKS), and started the long process of natural (aka, by hand) weed eradication. Future plans include building a hoop-house style greenhouse (very similar to the chicken barrow), more vegetable beds, a simple, handmade fountain, making hypertufa planters, and a bunch of other ideas that I have bookmarked but am too lazy to provide links to right now.
Another source of inspiration for me is Jan Nelson at The Plantworks Nursery in Ben Lomond. She writes a weekly column on gardening in the Press Banner, and a recent article of hers outlined the correct planting times for various vegetables in our microclimate. I decided to send her an email asking her opinion on my plans to grow vegetables as well as advice on a few inexpensive, easy-care ornamental plants to round out the garden landscape. She emailed me back with a wealth of information and invited me to come see her personally at her nursery. What a gal!
Additionally, I made friends with two of the guys that work at Central Home Supply in Scotts Valley, so it's less intimidating now to go in there and ask their advice on landscaping materials or what I should do next in my transformation plans.