Lawn to Vegetable Garden, 1 Year On…

One year ago, I had a crazy idea to turn the 13,000 sq ft lawn into a vegetable garden.

After a little work…

One year later and I am feeding my family, canning, pickling, and make chutneys and sauces. I’ve given food to friends, food baskets to our daughters’ school auction, and donations to our local food bank.

There is a before and after photo. set at Flickr Front Lawn to Vegetable Garden or as a slideshow below.

About David Cross

Comments

  1. Mary Catherine George says:

    Curious – how much money did you save and how much time did you have to spend on minding the garden?

    Thanks and awesomely innovative!
    MC

  2. Hi Mary Catherine,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment – you’ve raised a good question. I think as a raw dollar-to-dollar value, I am ahead. But in any case, I had just decided to grow my own food this way wherever possible, rather than buy it, and rear my own meat, fish, hunt, etc.

    Remember that this is a 13,000 sq. ft (1200 sq. m) veg garden (i.e. “big”!), I probably spent about 3 weeks total in preparing the old ground last summer and this spring, taking soil samples, balancing minerals, etc, cover crops, LOTS of horse compost (see http://watertheroots.com/gardening/gold-for-the-garden/), fixing an old well for drip irrigation, etc. before planting anything.

    After that I’d say 30 mins to an hour a day, averaged over the year. Some days, I just look and enjoy it. Other days it’s hours of work in all weathers.

    I’ve spent a total of about $400 on seeds, about $600 on bringing the ground from crappy lawn and hard clay soil to fertile soil, and perhaps another $300 on fixing the old well, drip irrigation, etc. I’ve probably saved about $2,000 at our local organic food store in the last year or so, and I’ve also exchanged/bartered my veg and pickles, jams and chutneys with friends for everything from salmon, halibut and elk to blueberries and plums.

    The food I grow or rear myself tastes infinitely better than the stuff I buy at the store, and I know how it was grown and what was used on it to make it grow. But for me, the main reward of all this is simply spending more time with my kids…whether it be planting or picking veg, making jam or pickles, taking food to our local food bank, or discovering some new insect or bug, or just watching nature do what it does best. I don’t get any of that at our local organic food store.

    Economically it’s made sense, without a doubt. Emotionally I cannot place a value on it.

  3. I love your crazy idea! Wow!

  4. That’s impressive.

    I love it. So many ideas are blowing my mind right now.
    Thank you very much for sharing this.

    What was the hardest part to make it happen ?

  5. Great idea! Willing to do it in my own garden!

  6. i think that is wonderful, what it teaches your children alone is so valuable, i have a question can you put it on top of your septic system cause that is the only place i have grass. every where else is rocky.

  7. @Alexis – I think that just getting on with it a little every day and not becoming overwhelmed with the enormity of the task; it’s easy to dream it but getting out even in prolonged cold, wet weather is tough. Also, I had to learn a lot as I went along – I am a marketer not (previously!) from a farming background – so all this was new to me.

  8. @jen mason – I was amazed at the amount of large and small rocks that I pulled out of there, including some nice pieces of obsidian and a piece of petrified wood, and I used the rocks to build a raised area for some herbs and flowers. You could also build a nice firepit with them, a path, water feature, etc. You can turn any piece of land – even very rocky – over time, into a fertile piece of land, with the right care and attention…and lots of manure! Check Craigslist for horse owners or equestrian facilities who are normally happy to give away rotted manure for free (make sure it’s rotted so as not to transport weed seeds over, or store it for a year until further decomposed).

    The organic farmer and author Eliot Coleman describes how he transformed his Four Season Farm in Maine from a very rocky landscape into an organic farm over the years. I still keep pulling rocks out the more I work the garden.

    You could start small with just one area, or go the whole hog like I did. Also check your local Craiglist; there may be a farmer with a chisel plow willing to work with you on loosening up some of those rocks. You can also rent a tractor with a box tiller. Ironically it’s the smaller rocks you will find the most bothersome…like the small boxes of stuff when you move house!

    As to growing on top of a septic system – it depends where your run-off goes and how far out from your septic you intend to plant. It’s probably not rocky there as they dug up the rocks for the septic system. It may be OK but with this you will have an additional consideration of *possible* microbes in the soil and where human food is concerned you want to be careful.

    I’d start a few containers now and begin the work of transforming that rocky area. Please feel free to ask if you need help – david at watertheroots.com

  9. Dis you have any problems with local critters? (Deer, skunks, raccoons, etc)? How about bugs? If so, what steps did you take to eliminate such problems?

  10. Hi Steve – yes. Rabbits and squirrels mainly, but there are deer, and also a herd of elk not far from here. I made some stews with the rabbits, and with the squirrels I can wrap them in some of my home-cured bacon and grilled them (they’re quite delicious.)

    We’ve a couple of large dogs that tend to keep deer at bay, but should any come round during hunting season I will probably shoot one for meat.Outside of that time I’d look into fences, possibly a solar-powered electric fence. You can set a low wire on the electric fence for racoons, skunks, etc.

    Bugs – I sprayed my crops with an organic soap, planted flowers and companion plants to attract beneficial insects – we’ve lots of ladybugs this year – and for the super-resilient and tenacious bugs that chomped on my lettuce this spring I found an insecticide approved for organic use and used that.

    Moles and voles have been a problem from time to time. The biggest problem this year are yellowjackets, and I normally set non-poisonous traps to catch them.

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