Hi All

As you may have seen in previous posts, I like many others have only a small piece of land 0.2 essentially on the suburban outskirts on the edge of a small city (large town?). Food production is definitely an important part of my prepping, but I don’t have a enough land nor enough privacy to do a large garden. This is not helped by the fact that I have a corner lot, in clear view of everyone, and I have 2 small kids, and they need somewhere to play. So I am not going to row garden my entire back yard, as if I had the time…

So last year I put in a raised garden in the back corner of my property. Its ~13 foot x 13 foot triangle and stuck in the corner of my property farthest from the road. With my lot, this really doesn’t give me any real privacy but its the best I have.  The one mistake I made was using white pine wood, and not treated wood. At the time, I thought I had read about wanting to avoid the chemicals leeching into the soil, but I have since learned that modern treated wood is fine and won’t cause any problem. Ohh well… I did put a small trench under the boards, and put a bit of gravel that I had for another project anyways. So hopefully that helps it drain a bit. I also fashioned some steel bar angle brackets for the end. Probably don’t need them, but it cannot hurt to try and hold the thing together. You can see them in the pic below.

Raised Garden

Since the flowers that had previous been planted in this area of the yard had never lived, I blame poor clay soil, I paid to have 2 scoops full  of topsoil brought in. The closest supplier had really clay brown dirt, so I took a chance and ordered from across town without checking it first. Managed to score on this one, better price, and great soil that has done well. Should have checked first, but was busy, and got lucky. I will mention that in my research you should probably avoid mushroom compost unless you specifically need it for something. From what I read, that dirt has mostly had its resources used up, and has too many salts in it (? need reference). But do your own research on that, let me know. After getting the raised bed set up I went ahead and got a compost drum, and laid it out for square foot gardening. I just used some screws and string to lay out a grid. It worked fine. There is lots of info online about square foot gardening and also spacing guides.

The yield from my 2012 garden was great. Square foot gardening really is dense to say the least, and I probably over did it a bit. The couple carrots I tried were completely shaded by the forest above. My peppers ran wild, literally hundreds piled up at a time. I had multiple cherry tomato plants that just wouldn’t stop. Squashes did good, and I grew an affinity for peas. The broccoli was a challenge at first, kept getting the little green worms. Did some research and finally found Garden Safe Bt Worm & Caterpillar killer. This stuff works great, its completely natural based on a bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, the little worms eat it, then it blows up their guts. It has zero effect on humans, birds, etc… and gets rid of those pesky slimy worm that you can never completely pick out of broccoli and let me tell you, nothing like taking a big bite of broccoli and seeing half a worm.

BT Caterpillar

I had always lover cauliflower, and had several, however this worked out horribly for me. I got tons of black centipede type bugs and slugs, tons of greasy slugs. I tried to save some of the cauliflower, and if it were SHTF I would have eaten it, but just couldn’t that year. The other complete wast was the corn I tried to grow. Only had a dozen or so, but it didn’t grow much. Maybe it was because it was near the side of the box, and that area tends to dry out more. In any case, with where I live, corn costs 25 cents a piece, so its just not worth it, and if SHTF, I will walk to a field and take some corn. There will be miles and miles, that would likely never get harvested if the tractors cannot run for lack of fuel, etc… I did a good amount of dehydrating, and was able to fill 2 X 5 gallon buckets with vacuum sealed bags, plus another Mylar bag. This went well, but was time consuming as I have the Nesco style round dehydrator. It works, but takes longer to clean. I know other preppers who have the larger, more expensive square ones, they rock. I used canning jars to temporarily store my dehydrated food, until the season was over and did one big packing exercise to vacuum seal everything. I found this process to be a bit challenging. When you dehydrate food, it forms sharp corners and points. These break pinholes in the vacuum seal bags really easy. In the end, I just took out a bit of the  air, and didn’t let it pull tight. Then O2 absorbers and mylar bags. Will let you know how it turns out in ~3 or so years when I open it up. I know it should last alot longer, but I probably will just open it up in a few to see how my first try did. I will eventually do a whole other write up on dehydrating, thats another long story, but I will take the time to mention dehydrate2store.com , there is lots of good info their, and I also have a powerpoint  presentation made by a prepper friend.Didn’t do any canning in 2012, but the equipment and skillset is on my list, maybe a little this year. Also the entire year I kept throwing stuff into the composter and turning it weekly.

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So all this work set the stage for expansion in 2013. I started off by emptying the compost bin onto the garden and borrowing a tiller to work it all in. Looks rich for sure, will see what happens. My biggest goal was to take steps to limit the amount of time required to keep the garden going. So I got to work running water drip lines to the garden. At this point I have to take a sidestep and mention my other 2012 project. In 2012 I also put in an 8X12 shed about 20 feet from the garden. This shed serves several purposes, one of them being gas storage, which I will cover in another post. In addition to the shed, we also planted a long row of strawberries, and some raspberry plants along the side of the house. So I need to get water to the garden, and decide to combine projects and make a long loop around the yard. To  double up, I also decided to run electricity from an existing outside/underground outlet to the shed. This was right in line with where the water spigot is. So, since I was going to the shed anyways, it seemed logical to make another small garden plot alongside the shed for peas. I decided to run the underground rated power cable (after GFCI of course) directly to the shed buried only ~6 inches, right alongside the water line. Being only 6 inches under ground I will have to blow out the lines each year, but that’s easy compared to digging down 1.5 feet. My land is essentially flat with no place to have a drain outlet. At first I thought I would put in some access and a valve to be able to reach underground and open up the line, but in the end, I only put one end plug on the very end of the line, and in retrospect, I shouldn’t have bothered, it will blow out without need for this. Might end up digging up the T with plug at the end, putting in a 90 straight to the riser, and filling in the hole. We shall see next years. So anyways, ran the water/electricity to the shed, installed a spigot and turned left for the garden.

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Head toward the garden and dug under the wood wall and installed the next spigot.

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Then made another left and went to the side of the house for spigot 3 to feed the various berries.

Spicket 3 strawberriesRaspberries and herbs

Total length is ~160 feet or so. Then I installed 125′ worth of the rubber drip loop. Note, I found it cheaper to buy two 75′ drip loop lengths then cut to length and connect to short pieces of  old hose via Jerry rigging a coupler and epoxy. 2 long weekends of work and water is flowing nicely. My inlet is a bit on the cheapo side. Literally just a riser, 90 degree bend, and a cut hose, epoxied/clamped to an adapter. Easy enough and looks fine. inlet (2)

Yes that water spigot is in a horrible spot, but when we bought the house there was no spigot in the backyard, and due to internal plumbing, that spot was much much less work. I finally solved the problem off access to this spigot by bringing out the yellow hose to a splitter. One side of the splitter goes to my regular hose, and the other to a timer for the underground water supply, then the black hose seen above, back to the feed point for the underground line. I managed to finally get everything really tight, so there are no leaks, and now I can leave that spigot on all year long, yahoo!!

Once I finished all this up, we also decided to put in two apple trees. Note that you do need two for them to pollinate and produce fruit. Also make sure you get some that bloom near the same time. Reference this chart. I ended up getting a buckeye gala and a zestar. Make sure you go looking early in the season, nurseries sell out quick and don’t want stuck with rootstock they cannot sell. We stuck them right in the open spots in the backyard. We got semi dwarf root stock that hopefully will not get too big for the yard. Will have to keep them well pruned.

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While we were at this, the one tree in my front yard died. So we cut it down and got a Montmorency sour cherry tree. Very few fruit trees can self pollinate and sour cherry trees happen to be one of them, at least some varieties. Would rather have sweet cherry trees but we don’t have room for another tree, just doesn’t fit the yard. Montmorency are a good and very prevalent cherry tree.

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And yes that is an empty chair with POTUS engraved that I carved out of a dead tree.

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So its all set up and working well so far. As you can tell, I planted my garden plants a bit early. Thankfully there has only been one night of frost, and it wasn’t a deep frost. Unfortunately I had spent the whole day working and only checked the weather that morning, and missed the frost advisory issued later that day. Oops. Plants seem to be mostly ok, tomatoes took a bit of a hit, but look alive and growing. For reference, last year we grew everything from seeds, started them in the house way way too early. It was fun/cheap, but in the end too much work in the house. This year I am taking it easy in that regard and just purchasing plants and not planting quite  so densely. I am debating  a fold down tabletop type greenhouse off the side of the shed, over the garden strip. Wonder how well that would work and if I could rig up auto water and just leave the seedling out there and never have to mess with them. Maybe I would need something to warm the greenhouse for really cold nights… Maybe one of those heating wires used to keep pipes from freezing… Something to try next year. We do have some of the heirloom seeds,  just in case, probably going to pull some out in another year or so and try to actually grow them. I think their shelf life is ~5 years in the freezer, so I will let some go three years then give them a try and see how the grow.

Other things to mention about the shed real quick. Since I ran power to it,  I went ahead and installed a double spotlight on the corner, then I went ahead and wired it so that it plugs into a wireless remote. I got the remote at Lowes for 18 bucks, which was much cheaper than trying to run a hardline switch to the house. It works well and now I can light up my backyard including my orchard/garden. There is an ever so small worry in my head that gas vapor from my storage may one day get sparked by this, but I see that as remote. The shed never really smells of gas, there are vents on the shed and I leave the window cracked. But since there is plenty of gas, and also propane stored, ya never know. Should be far enough from the house so that the house wouldn’t catch fire at least.

Also, we are likely going to plan on raising a rabbit or two back on the other side of the shed. Would love to do chickens but just don’t have the room and the township might eventually come and create issues. Since I now have water over there, I should at least be able to rig up auto water, which would be nice. Will have to move some of the wood pile that is behind the boat next to the shed. Pretty decent pile for a guy with 0.2 acres and no wood fireplace. Better to have it than not, and me and the wife like to sit out with a little fire and drink wine anyways.

As a final picture to show the whole back  yard, here ya go. Note the big antennas on the house, its still on my list to set up a quick deploy for a 60 some meter dipole antenna in the back yard for my HF rig. Ohh the prepper to do list.

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So that’s the long story of how I have transformed my 0.2 acre suburban plot into a half respectable garden/orchard while maintaining good appearance and places for the kids to play.