Here is an update on our mini farm, as our 5 year old calls it. :)
For the first time since we started gardening we decided to try our hand at starting fruits and vegetables from seeds. I really wish we would have started much earlier than we did, like maybe February instead of April. We didn't have much luck with tomatoes and peppers, but the zuchini, canteloupe and cucumbers did very well. Our 5 year old planted cucumbers inside egg shells by poking a hole at the bottom for drainage. My husband bought me Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners last year, but I didn't get a chance to read it before we started this process. I'm really hoping I can plan better next year.
This year decided to build raised beds for our vegetable garden on the sunniest spot in our yard. It's right at the edge of our property in the back yard. This year we planted tomatoes, carrots, peppers, eggplants and zuchini as companion planting. We have two other 4' X 4' boxes where the boys will be planting their canteloupe and watermelon. The book All New Square Foot Gardening is a good resource to help plan your garden.
Since we live on a hill at the top of a culde-sac, we try to use the back yard for taller crops like corn, beans and peas. My husband leveled off with a shovel different sections of our back yard and made a few beds. We planted these beans 2 weeks ago and they are doing really well. Vegetable Gardening: From Planting to Picking is a great book on how to grow a great vegetable garden.
Here is one of our blackberry bushes. They keep spreading all the way down the yard. My husband added posts to separate the top part of our yar from the bottom and put plastic fencing to hold the bushes and make a natural hedge. We also have raspberries and blueberry bushes as natural hedges separating different other of our yard. The chickens really enjoy grazing all over the yard. We usually let them out in the morning and evening, so they can fertilize and till the garden.
Here we are groing potatoes, beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale. You can some of our raspberry bushes in the background. Unfortunately, the chickens got to this part of the garden and ate most of our vegetables. We're hoping the plants will make it. Otherwise, we will pull them out and give them to the chickens and plant more potatoes, since it's probably too hot for these veggies anyway.
When we moved in 8 years ago, we spent a lot of wasted time and money trying to grow grass. It's been very difficult to grow, so we just let the clover take over in the front yard. The honeybees really love the clover, so it's very convenient.
This year we installed 2 beehives. The beehives are in the back yard near the end of our property between our two neighbors' fences. We should be able to get lots of honey next year if we can get the bees to survive through next winter.
On the right of the beehives we planted 8 fruit trees. We have 2 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 2 plum trees and 2 peach trees. We also have a peach tree in the front yard, but it doesn't get enough sun, so my husband is going to transplant it in the Fall. The boys are going to have to cut back all the weeds, although a lot of those tall ones you are Wild Daisies, whick the honeybees love! The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden looks like a very good book, too.
My husband built this chicken coop under the deck and we have a portable one on the side of the house. Right now we have 15 hens laying about 10 eggs per day and 3 roosters, which we got by mistake from our local feed store. We bought 6 pullets and ended up getting 3 roosters and 3 hens. We have to get rid of them before the neighbors start complaning. Backyard Chickens for Beginners: Getting the Best Chickens, Choosing Coops, Feeding and Care, and Beating City Chicken Laws might be helpful to those of you who live in the city.
This Rosemary bush keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. You can see some oregano on the right side of it. These two delicious herbs are in the front yard in our rock garden. We also have a huge herb garden with sage, basil, lemon thyme and garlic in other places around the yard. Here is another great book about growing an herb garden.
In the front yard we also have a hummingbird garden. The honeybees actually love this Texas Sage, so it's nice to see the birds and the bees together ;-) You can see the honeybees all over the front yard here.
We have a grape vine growing on our front porch. The grapes don't get very big, but it's kind of neat to see this huge vine growing all the way accross the front porch.
We have learned a lot about homesteading from these two books, Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre and The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!