My DH and I bought a fixer upper about a year ago, and after finally getting the worst of the problems fixed inside, we are ready to start tackling the yard/landscaping with more attention than just the mowing we did last year. Since I hated the process of moving and have no desire to do it again, I have a long term plan of turning as much of the property into edible/useful landscaping as possible without eliminating the entire backyard as a play area. (We wanted a big back yard for the kids to be able to run around and bought this house because it had the most property for what we could afford).
What I would like from all of you more experienced gardeners are recommendations for any books, blogs, or websites that would address and of the following (if it makes any difference we are in zone 6b):
1- Companion Planting/Organic Gardening- I know of the one Carrots Love Tomatoes or something like that, but is that the best/most comprehensive? I don't just want a chart, if possible, I want to know why.
2- Edible landscaping- I am waiting for my library to get the one by Rosalind Creasy (sp?) but are there any others? This is especially important because most of my planting is going to be in the front yard since our house kind of divides the property in half with its placement. Pictures and diagrams of layouts would be especially useful because I don't feel like I am very creative and I don't want my planting to reflect that and look out of place in a front yard.
3- Herbs- I want to plant a bunch of useful ones both culinary types and medicinal types but I am a bit nervous about planting anything that might be poisonous so I'd like any book to note which ones are (because some medicinal herbs can be poisonous after certain quantities).
4- Backyard Orchard/Berries- we are going to plant some dwarf fruit trees in clusters as well as some blueberry bushes and I have no idea what we are getting into with that. As a novice I am only looking at the potential homegrown fruit but I need to be prepared for dealing with all the xyz troubles that may come with it.
5- Useful plants- For example I discovered the berries from bayberry bushes can be made into candles and also can provide privacy cover (we have a spot we'd like to do something with along the back fence that they might be ideal for.) But I would LOVE to know about more plants along these lines. Like are there any plants good for making soap? I have no idea but would love to learn and possibly plant them.
6- Seed saving- I don't want to have to spend a lot of money buying all new seeds every year, especially if we find varieties we really like I don't want to not be able to find them again, but I have no idea how to go about this.
7- Crop rotation- I have no idea what can't be planted where, or how long it needs to be before it goes back again. Help!
We will not be having any sort of animals/livestock (the kids are enough ) so I don't need anything there. The goal is to be a little more self sufficient, and little healthier ourselves because we are eating more fruits and veggies, and they will be grown organically, and we will have been out in the sunshine exercising out muscles to do it. Maybe we will eventually save a little money doing it this way too, but I know there will be upfront costs that we won't recoup for a while. (like buying the fruit trees, they won't produce for a few years)
Any recommendations are greatly appreciated!