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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…

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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As I mentioned in my last post, my wife and I have plans for growing a good amount of food in our Austin, TX backyard.  One of the things that bothers me most about new suburban neighborhoods is the general lack of mature trees and the “barren wasteland” look of the backyards.  So one of my first home improvement priorities after moving into my wife’s house was to get some plants started back there.  The builder had planted a single (somewhat gnarly-looking) live oak, but other than that, it was just a lot of boring Bermuda.

I love a nicely landscaped backyard.  I have no interest in sitting on the back patio to look out on some dead grass surrounded by a privacy fence, but an interesting arrangement of plant life can make it far more visually interesting, relaxing, and even cooler in temperature.  This isn’t as important to my wife, but one thing we both agree on is that plants that produce food are both attractive and practical, so that’s a common ground which has been my focus in planning the backyard.

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Over a year ago, while I was still a bachelor living in an apartment, I decided I wanted to have a small garden so I’d have fresh ingredients available for cooking, particularly herbs.  After considering a number of conventional ways of growing herbs in an apartment, I ended up reading about Aquaponics.  Fascinated, I built a small Aquaponics system and planted some herbs.  You can read more about that project here.

One year later, the system has been quite successful.  I’ve made some minor changes, such as adding a grow lamp and black light barriers (Gorilla tape) to prevent algae growth, but aside from that I have had to do nothing but add fish food and water.  I haven’t even had to clean out the grow bed in over a year of operation.

Here’s how it looked a month ago, after lots of harvesting over the past year:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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