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!
I have a few ideas for you...
The first is a book - Gaia's Garden. It won't recommend specific garden plans, but it will help you plan a natural, balanced landscape that needs less care and is, itself, more self-sufficient. It will give you an idea of how to plan the garden, and how to put different plants together that benefit each other and make sense for your space.
My other two suggestions are websites. One is Dave Wilson's Backyard Orchard Culture: http://www.davewilson.com/homegrown/gardencompass/gc01_mar_apr_01.html. The other is Path to Freedom, the website/blog of a family of professional market growers on an urban plot is Pasadena: http://urbanhomestead.org/. I think both sites are awesome for getting ideas for things to do with an urban or suburban lot. I live in a very different climate, and always have to assess what will and won't work for me, but I still get quite a few ideas and moments of inspiration from their sites.
How To Grow More Vegetables is a fab book, and does include some companion planting information. Also goes into crop rotation extensively. Invaluable resource! Also gives you ideas of how much to plant for how many people.
This blog is great in general, but in January he did several posts on seed savings hows and whys and has some book recs specifically on that.
I really like the CArrots love Toms book, it is quite comprehensive and easy to digest. There are various web sites out there too if you google for them.
If you've never looked at the Freedom Gardens site you might really enjoy it! It is a family who turned their grassy yard into an AMAZING bounty of edibles of all kinds. They do a lot of seed saving and are just pretty radical in general.
Have fun on your journey!
Thanks for all the recommendations. Dave Wilson's site is actually where I realized that we had plenty of space for trees when I thought we'd only have room for like three. I'll have to look into the rest and see if I can get the books at my library to see if they are worth the investment of a purchase or if they are a one time kind of resource.
You should check out The (New) Self-Sufficient Gardener, by John Seymour. If your library doesn't have either edition they might have The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, which contains a lot of the same information plus info on livestock.
For backyard fruits and berries there is a lot of regional variation even in the same zone in what plants do well, which varieties work best, what pests have to be monitored, and when and how they can be thwarted. I would suggest looking into your state extension service; mine has a lot of really good info for backyard growers, including variety suggestions and good IPM practices. They also have a helpline you can call with questions for free, and all kinds of helpul info like gardening calendars and locations of local community gardens. There may be a gardening club or organization in your area, too. Knowing other local gardeners can be so helpful!