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Adventures in Urban Homesteading

Diary of a New Garden: Part 1

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For the last many years our family was happily settled in a little home in northwest Denver. Our home actually became more of a homestead, with gardens in the front and back yards (including 6 recently planted dwarf fruit trees), a hoophouse on the side patio, and a barnyard with dwarf goats and chickens. The gardens, through years of care and lots a manure from the livestock, had fantastic soil.


Feeling happy in the front yard.

As much as we loved our old house, my family recently decided to move. The great news is that the new house is on a corner lot, with — wait for it — a 3,000 square foot front yard. The bad news is that the front yard was covered in sod.

Diary 1-1

Half of the front yard space. Lots of very well-cared-for sod, doing well despite it being early April and not being watered for a month or so.

Clearly that wasn’t going to work for our family. We want food, not grass! So, step one was to get the sod cut and rolled. In past days of running an NSA I took part in a lot of sod cutting, but in this case I will confess to hiring someone to do this part for me. I have no regrets.

Diary 1-2

Rolled sod from the east half of the garden. Quite lovely, if sod is your thing.

Happily, we found a couple of families who very much wanted reasonably-priced sod for their properties. Not only did they load up the sod and haul it away, but the amount they gave us for the sod covered the rental of the sod-cutter and the payment to the person who cut and rolled it for us.

Diary 1-3

Post-sod-removal, this is what we were left with.

The next step was to rototill the garden, which I was able to do myself. I wanted to get the soil turned as quickly as possible, before those pesky grass roots had a chance to get re-established. And then came the manure delivery…

Diary 1-5

My garden helper hard at work.

A few years ago I went looking for manure on Craigslist, and formed a relationship with someone who raises horses. I used to order multiple truckloads of manure for the gardens in the NSA, but this year I just asked for two deliveries for my new garden. This will give the tough soil a boost, and then hopefully I can continue to build soil fertility with straw and manure from the chickens and goats.

I mapped out 4-foot garden beds and 2-foot paths. Wooden stakes formed the corners of the bed with twine connecting them. I spread the manure in the beds only. The paths will be seeded with nitrogen-fixing Dutch white clover, which can then be turned under at the end of the season as a green manure.

Diary 1-6

Exciting to see the layout begin to take shape. This is the north garden…

Diary 1-7

…and this is the east garden. Lots of bindweed popped up in this space once the sod was removed, and all of the grass around the edges still needs to be dug up.

Rather than tilling the soil again, I decided that I would work the manure into the soil as I planted. And speaking of planting, you can check out our planting adventures in Part 2 (coming soon!).













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  1. OMG…this is so inspiring! Love this post! And white clover? Who knew?

  2. Sundari, Awesome. Can’t wait for part two and to follow your journey…

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