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I’m long overdue for an update on my gardening projects, which, unlike my posts on the subject, have not been on a year-long hiatus.  In my last updates back in 2011, I had been making attempts at turning our back yard into something more than a clear-cut suburban plot of crappy dirt and dead Bermuda grass.  Those efforts continue.

I’ll start with a quick recap of 2012…

After the previous year’s drought destroyed my neglected backyard lawn and left it completely defenseless against weeds, I decided to try seeding some more drought-tolerant and lower-maintenance native grass.  In the Spring I killed off a big square of lawn and weeds with a couple applications of RoundUp (although I generally don’t like using the stuff, it’s too effective to ignore in certain scenarios that don’t involve edible plants).  Then I tilled it up and incorporated a bit of compost before finally spreading a bag of Habiturf over the area.  Thanks to a fairly wet Spring and some occasional supplemental watering, the grass has actually become fairly established. continue reading…

I’m going to try to make these posts more concise as I tend to be pretty wordy Winking smile.  Suffice it to say this time that the 4×12’ vegetable garden I began tilling back in July is planted and the first plants have already risen from the ground!  Here what I’ve done since the last update:

Finished the bed (9/10):

  • Tilled about 6” deep, then put in decorative concrete bricks as a border (raising it slightly).
  • Tilled in 1/2 cubic yard (100 gallons) of garden soil from Natural Gardener (they have a great bag-your-own bulk soil offering).  Also mixed in some rock dust (contains lots of trace minerals which supposedly help flavor and vitality) and more used coffee grounds (source of nitrogen).

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Teri and I both have some form of agriculture or home food production in our background.  Her father owns farmland near Waco, my mom grew up on an Iowa farm, and my dad’s father maintained a substantial garden as a hobby.  When I was younger, my family also operated a garden in our back yard for a few years.  So one thing I was excited to start once I had a yard was a vegetable garden of my own.

After Teri and I agreed on the location, it was just a matter of waiting until it was time to get ready for the first planting.  To do this, I decided a tiller was going to be a necessity to make this doable, especially since every year will involve tilling in any old growth and some compost.  Growing up, we had a serious Honda gas tiller but I figured I could get away with something a bit smaller in our modest yard.  After reading some reviews, I decided the Earthwise Cultivator/Tiller sounded like a great deal (it’s a bit more expensive now at $120 than when I bought it, but after using it, I’d say it’s easily worth it).

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At about the time I had the trees, berries and grapes planted, I did a bunch of reading to figure out how much I should water everything.  I came up with the following document as a guide: Water Schedule.pdf.

Although very helpful, it got really old having to water all 4 plants separately using one soaker hose.  So, next up was installing sprinklers.  I knew I wanted to go with a drip system since they are the most efficient use of water and also good for achieving a deep soak which is best for root development.  My dad had just installed a new drip sprinkler system and had used Home Depot’s drip kits and it looked like an easy to use system.  I did a bit of comparing and decided I preferred Lowe’s competing kit, but the differences between the two are pretty minimal.

Thankfully, our house already had a sprinkler system installed in the front and they ran the pipe around the back along with extra wires for adding zones.  This project would have been several times more challenging if this hadn’t been done, so I was really thankful.

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After planting trees, we next added some berries and grapes.  Teri’s favorite fruit are berries, including blackberries which generally grow well in Texas.  A specific variety of blackberry is the dewberry, which she grew up eating in pies.  And one of my favorite fruits is grapes.  So that became step 2 of our backyard improvement projects.

I planted them near the fence to take advantage of the posts for future trellising. 

Navaho blackberry on left, dewberry on right: April 3, 2011

PICT8930Red flame grapes: April 3, 2011

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