It’s odd that it only recently occurred to me that much of my yard could be used to grow food for my family. Kind-of a forehead-slapper, really.
Exactly two years ago, I was hugely pregnant with the twins, and a fellow teacher at Adam’s school said she wanted to give us a gift: raspberry plants. Her yard was over-run and she needed to thin them out and wanted to give them to a good home. Her gift was not just the plants, but she also came over and planted them. Adam did the work of ripping up the sod and working up the ground, and they planted them together while I watched.
Raspberries are a bi-annual plant. They grow the first year, go dormant over the winter, then flower, fruit, and die the next year. All the while, they also send out “suckers” with new plants, so eventually you have a continuous hedge of plants. (Warning: they do spread, so it might not hurt to consider that when you plant them.)
That first year we just did the bare minimum to keep them alive, and last year we had a pretty decent crop of raspberries. I could pick a small bowl full for the kids every single morning.
That’s our raspberry hedge in summer 2008, right there between the sidewalk and the fence. This year, it is already thicker and richer looking than that and it’s only May! The raspberries require less maintenance than grass would, and they look nice too. Based on the buds that I can see, I think we will have enough berries this year to even preserve some. (Fingers crossed.)
I am now hungrily eyeing the sunny areas of my yard envisioning what fruit I could grow there. We have a nice sunny perennial flower garden in front, and next year we are going to rip out some phlox that is only marginally attractive and put in strawberries in its place. I like perennial flowers and bushes, but come on, if I can put in plants that are just as attractive but actually provide food for me? No contest.
This spring we added 3 blueberry bushes, some rhubarb, and 10 asparagus plants to the front. So far 2 of the blueberry bushes are surviving, the rhubarb hasn’t come up yet, and 5 of the 10 asparagus are up. I’m not throwing in the towel yet. If these things don’t work out there are others that might.
Want to add shade to your yard? Why not try fruit and nut trees! Some are more high-maintenance than others, so with a little homework you can choose the plant that’s right for you. Want to add perennial bushes around your house? Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are obvious choices, or you could get creative and try gooseberries, elderberries, or currants (all are currently on my wish list). I was surprised to learn that all of those are hardy to zone 3. (The Twin Cities is just at the northern edge of zone 4.) Wondering what zone you are? Here’s a map.
The only thing I’m not willing to give up (yet) is my tulips. I simply love them too much.