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Old December 15, 2018   #1
PlainJane
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Default Backyard mini-orchard permaculture experiment

After renting a few places to test neighborhoods we finally found the right spot and I could start turning my ideas into reality.
Up north I focused on veggies, roses and conifers mostly. In north Florida you can pretty much grow something all year and I’ve always wanted fruit trees, so ...

First year I set up my veggie container garden and began planning and saving.
We have a pretty standard yard for our neighborhood but with a little extra space on one side. We also inherited some typical shrubs, all more or less straggly or not worth keeping, plus a mulched area.

We decided to carve out a roughly L-shaped bed across the back and side yards and set it off with a low stone wall. The volume is about 2500 sq feet or so.

As I was researching pollinators I realized I could combine my next goal - hummingbird & butterfly garden - with the orchard so ... more planning and saving.

To get a jump start I ordered most of the fruit trees and put them into 30 gallon smart pots. I started making vermicompost on a larger scale, also in fabric pots.

Figs (3) Green Ischia, Smith, Petite Nigra
Apples (2) Williams Pride, King David
Nectaplum (1) Spice Zee
Pluots (2) Dapple Supreme and a 4in1 combo
Pear (1) Warren
Blueberries (10) assorted high bush plus 6 Peach Sorbet
Bearss lime and a Meyer lemon, both on dwarfing rootstock

We have 3 rescue cats so the hummingbird plants had to be tall enough that they could feed out of reach. I ended up with Hamelias, firespike, taller penstemons and abutilon.

Another hurdle was the line of weedy trees on the back neighbor’s property. Those roots were going to be all through the new garden space. More research...and found a type of plastic barrier used to control bamboo.

I also realized that to add the compost I wanted I was going to have to get rid of a few inches of existing soil from the whole area. Up to this point I was figuring on my labor for the garden and hubby for the irrigation and wall. No way I could do that, so I hired a ‘clean out’ crew.

The clean out team:
Pulled out the old azaleas, ligustrums, etc. Some of them took a little bobcat to get out.
Removed the old mulch, sod, and old weed barrier.
Removed 3 inches of the sandy yucky soil from the whole area. Oh, and hurricane Matthew hit in the middle of this so that stuff was wet. And heavy.
Chainsawed through the roots along the fence line from the back neighbors weed trees. (There was a lot of cussing overheard during this step.)
Installed the bamboo barrier all along the back border. This had to go down 2 feet so more cussing.
Trimmed back all the overhanging branches from said neighbors weed trees. Easiest part.
Ground roughly leveled.

For my tomatoes I had been using organic compost I got through a local sod company, mixed with pine bark fines and a few other amendments. It worked really well and I could get it in giant cubic yard bags, delivered. I decided on 5 cubic yards of that, plus some bulk soil from my local nursery.

Over the planning period I had ‘grown’ about 20 bags of vermicompost using our kitchen waste. These were in 30 gallon smart pots so pretty maneuverable. Each fruit tree got 2 bags and the rest went to the general space. Once the fruit trees were in I also started some ‘dig and drop’ composting.

We’re now a couple of years into this project. The wall is still under construction but you just cannot do that kind of work during the summer here. Oh, and we had 2 more hurricanes. Plus hubby has had 2 back surgeries so he’s forced to work at a slower pace.

All the fruit trees and blueberries are established and growing well.

Some of the original bee/hummingbird plants just couldn’t take the heat and melted away during the second year. This included the agastache, penstemons and some of the salvias. Others did too well - one quart sized salvia Amistad spread to 6 ft wide and 6 ft tall in a few months, engulfing the pear tree. I couldn’t bear to yank it out because the bees and hummingbirds absolutely loved it. I finally just did.

I did discover the all-time best bee plant: African Blue basil. It’s easy to manage, beautiful, and swarming with bees of all shapes and sizes every daylight minute. It’s mesmerizing to watch. Not frost hardy but cuttings root easily in water. Sterile, so flowers instead of setting seed.

I’m still making vermicompost but have had to stop dig and drop composting as the possum found it irresistible. A few times he’s gone after the worms, too, so now I put the raw kitchen waste into a regular sealed composter for a while before adding it to the worm bins.
Before ...
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Old December 15, 2018   #2
PlainJane
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Default Marking out the new garden, making vermicompost

The new garden encompassed the mulched area plus a section of lawn.
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Old December 15, 2018   #3
PlainJane
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Default Clean out complete

That was a multi-day effort by the crew, with hurricane Matthew tossed in for fun.
Bulk compost delivered.
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Old December 15, 2018   #4
PlainJane
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Default Soil Prep Done

Partly power tilled but mostly hand tilled. Sweaty job.
Spencer thinks this is great.
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Old December 15, 2018   #5
PlainJane
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Default Trees Going In

Tucked in with vermicompost and bone meal, plus sulphur for the blueberries.
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Old December 15, 2018   #6
PlainJane
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Default Pollinators and Fruit Tree Guilds

Researching permaculture concepts was a blast. I ended up with guilds of chives, dill, cilantro, borage, nasturtium and cerinthe. I let other herbs like annual basil seed around.
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Old December 15, 2018   #7
PlainJane
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Default Pollinator planting

Planting is so much more fun than weeding.
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Old December 15, 2018   #8
PlainJane
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Default More Planting and Wall Started

We knew this was going to be a multi-year project. Those are fun!
Stone delivered, wall base in, wall in progress. At first hubby wanted to dry stack all the stone but has ended up using a bit of mortar where you can’t really see it for stability.
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Old December 15, 2018   #9
PlainJane
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Default Growing Up and Out

Filling out ...
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Old December 15, 2018   #10
Hensaplenty
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LOVE seeing these types of projects! Thanks for sharing!
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Old December 15, 2018   #11
PlainJane
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Thank you! I agree!
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Old December 15, 2018   #12
jtjmartin
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Great job!

I really miss the rounded glacial stone that was spread all over eastern Wisconsin - farmers let me pick it up from their piles. Not much stone in tidewater VA!

Your border looks great!
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Old December 15, 2018   #13
PlainJane
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I know. And thank you!
We came to Florida via New England; no shortage of stone there. On reason it took 3 years to save for this project was the cost of the stone, but we are both suckers for it.
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Old December 15, 2018   #14
AlittleSalt
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That is very ambitious and good to see.

As a mason, backfilling with mortar works well, and it's popular nowadays.

North Florida has weather conditions a lot like where I live in Texas. Temperatures can be hot one day and cold the next - depending on seasons. Lantanas will bring in the butterflies and can live anywhere in Florida. Most lantanas sold are hybrids, so starting them from cuttings is the easiest way to get new plants. When it gets below freezing - they will look like they are dead, but they are not. They will be back next year after year after year with very little care.
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Old December 15, 2018   #15
Salsacharley
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Thanks for sharing your wonderful project.
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