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Fri Dec 23, 2016, 08:06 PM

 

Does anyone have advice on how to plan a back yard into a garden?

I live in a 1950's suburb.

My backyard backs to rowhomes, and I don't use it much because I feel on display. This Spring, I thought I would plant a tree or two (I was thinking of a peach tree...I had one when I was a little girl and know they don't grow too tall as to mess with overheard wires) for privacy.

I have less than 1/4 acre, but am hoping to make some use out of it...maybe some above ground veggie and herb gardens and a few fruit trees. The side yard is pretty shady because of trees, but I am hoping to do something there too.

My house faces N/NW. Does anyone recommend how to go about planning this? I am very green at being green in this way.

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Reply Does anyone have advice on how to plan a back yard into a garden? (Original post)
LaydeeBug Dec 2016 OP
The Velveteen Ocelot Dec 2016 #1
LaydeeBug Dec 2016 #2
The Velveteen Ocelot Dec 2016 #3
OxQQme Dec 2016 #4
mopinko Dec 2016 #5
LaydeeBug Jan 2017 #8
mopinko Jan 2017 #9
Major Nikon Jan 2017 #6
LaydeeBug Jan 2017 #7
mopinko Jan 2017 #10
LaydeeBug Jan 2017 #11

Response to LaydeeBug (Original post)

Fri Dec 23, 2016, 09:21 PM

1. First, do a light map.

Beginning in the spring, draw a map of your yard showing the location of your house, garage, sidewalks, driveway, etc. Make 6 copies of the map. Then, draw on a copy of the map the location of sunlight and shadows every few hours - say, 8:00 am, 10:00, noon, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Keeping in mind that in the summer the sun will be higher in the sky so the shadows on the north sides of things will be shorter, you will have a good idea what species of plants should be planted in the different areas. If you go to a garden center the tags on the plants will show whether they prefer full sun, partial sun, or shade.

Then, contact the Master Gardeners for your location - since you are considering a peach tree I assume you're somewhere in the South. The MGs will be affiliated with your state university and you can probably find them on their extension division web site. Master Gardeners (I'm one) are volunteers who help people grow gardens, including vegetable gardens and trees. Or, you can hire a landscaper, but the MGs are cheaper (free). They will also help you figure out what you need to do to amend your soil and what to do about garden pests.

Good luck!

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 23, 2016, 09:34 PM

2. I am in the Old Line State of Maryland...

 

Huge 60 year old elm tree in the front yard...another "evergreen" kinda too close to the house.

In the back, shrubs have grown into trees and I only have them pruned from the roof because there is a family of blue jays, a family of cardinals, and a family of Orioles who have been nesting here for the last 15 years. I know this is going to sound tin foil hat crazy, but I *know* them. Besides one of the trees smells like HEAVEN each and every Spring. I suspect it to be Sweet Woodruff, but I am not positive. Aside from that, I would much rather look at the mulberries and birds than the rowhomes backing up to me house.

So before I remove those trees, I will need to plant those birds a different home. I will only consider moving or removing them AFTER I see that they've re-homed. Meantime, I've got lots of other things to worry about

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Response to LaydeeBug (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 23, 2016, 09:47 PM

3. It sounds like a really nice yard.

You might have to take out some of the trees (mulberries grow like crazy so you don't have to worry about losing them - I have mulberries and they are almost like weeds). Here is a link to the Master Gardeners for MD: https://extension.umd.edu/mg/program/master-gardener-assistance

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Response to LaydeeBug (Original post)

Sat Dec 24, 2016, 10:21 AM

5. how is your soil?

srsly, i would spend the first year just working on the soil, unless you know it is good. get it tested.

at any rate, i have found wood chips are a great, quick, all around soil builder. if you lay a thick layer down while it is still winter, if you can.
about 50% of it will rot down within one season, and the rest will hold water pretty well.
even if you dont till them in, the worms will come and do it for you.

a peach tree is a pretty good choice. but a lot of fruit trees these days come in semi-dwarf. there are lots of "two-way" trees out there, too. more than one variety on one trunk. or even more.
my "trophy tree" is a 4-way, espalier asian pear. best part is they ripen at slightly different times, so you have them for several weeks.

have a 5 way apple, too, but just planted it this year.

just make sure you clear out a big enough hole to have nice, good, loose soil around it. lots to say about tree planting. read up.
the first fruit tree i planted i did in a hurry. we had just bought the house, but came over and planted it while the other people still were here. was nervous and kinda just dug a hole and plunked it in. didnt clean up the roots that were circling the pot. the tree is still alive 30 years later, w almost zero plums. strangled by its own roots.

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Response to mopinko (Reply #5)

Sat Jan 14, 2017, 10:27 PM

8. I've been taking care of it the past few years...

 

I will get it tested.

I have a clothesline that I *love* so I want to make sure I can still do that.

Everything takes much longer than I anticipated, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

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Response to LaydeeBug (Reply #8)

Sun Jan 15, 2017, 12:50 AM

9. you will get advice contrary but

i believe in woodchips as a soil amendment.
especially in planting a tree, adding woodchips is a 3-5 year improvement of your soil. they might suck a little nitrogen to get going, but about half of it rots down in the first year, and the rest is little sponges in your soil or the next few years, at least, depending on the species.

they encourage earthworms and other soil digestors.
and at the very least every new tree should have a few inches for mulch.

keep an eye out for fungi, and be ready. but this is what is working for us.

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Response to LaydeeBug (Original post)

Sat Jan 7, 2017, 06:40 PM

6. Fruit trees need a lot of sun

Stone fruits generally work quite well in suburban gardens. Most don't get very tall, yet produce an abundance of fruit if they have enough water and light. If you plant multiple fruit trees, look for ones that produce at different times of the season. Even if you plant multiple peach trees, you should be able to find varietals that produce at different times in your area. Stone fruits like peaches do best if they are well pruned and well culled. When my peaches get marble sized, I pull off about 2/3rds of the fruit so the tree produces larger and better fruit. Otherwise the peaches won't be much bigger than the pit and many will grow together because of crowding.

Buy the smallest fruit trees you can find. Even a tiny peach tree will produce usable fruit after the 2nd or 3rd season, but a large one won't produce usable fruit any sooner and might even produce later due to more transplant shock.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #6)

Sat Jan 14, 2017, 10:11 PM

7. The back of my house face south, and gets a lot of sun...the front is shaded by a huge elm tree

 

I had a peach tree in my back yard when I was a little girl and so I am used to them...and I am dealing with electric wires along the back of the property, so I need to keep it smallish.

Because our bees are in trouble, I wanted something that would flower and fruit. Otherwise, I'd be putting evergreens back there for privacy.

I am also considering an apple tree, but have zero experience with them.

Thank you for the advice about the smallest tree. Will do.

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Response to LaydeeBug (Reply #7)

Sun Jan 15, 2017, 12:53 AM

10. evergreens are important, too

they are vital winter habitat in many places.

but i do want production out of my small acreage.

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Response to mopinko (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 15, 2017, 08:18 AM

11. My acreage is small too

 

But I can certainly get more use out of it than I'm getting

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