Cedar planting bed box with trellis

For this back yard, we constructed a nice 2’x2′ raised cedar bed. We made a retractable trellis that lies flat when not in use. We used a combination of galvanized metal and aluminum for long life. This is light enough to lock into place with one hand, yet build to support even the heaviest plants. In front, a 3 fingered citrus bed is also planted with greens and a bay as a center piece. This shape provides ample surface area for picking, while properly spacing out the trees.

Brick & Spoon Rosemary hedge

Spacing Rosemary properly creates an incredible hedge without all the disease problems we see in boxwood. This functional alternative will make a full hedge within a year, while there’s space we’ll add some crisp mint lettuce. Check out this progressive little restaurant if you’re looking for a great meal made from local ingredients.

These guys have an impressive garden which always finds itself on the menu. Visit their page for mapping. This location will change into Dark Roux in January, taking their artisan approach to higher level. — at Brick & Spoon Lafayette.

Edible entrance landscaping

For the front of this home, we used a number of different plants, to create a truly, Utilitopian Entrance. This new construction is in full sun with very compacted soil. We elevated the area 8″ with nice soil mixed with rabbit manure. Hedge rows of Rosemary greet with a powerful aroma and a formal display. 7 blueberries occupy the right bed with a strawberry ground cover.

We used a pair of coned bays and a pair of pineapple guava as evergreen focal points with a purpose. A wide assortment of colorful kale and lettuce will fill in fast, they replace annual flowers, placed in easily pickable spots. Expect some amazing follow up pictures as the vegetables fill in.

Cottage Garden backyard food forest

Cottage Garden: Our goal here was to maximize the space while still feeling humble and engaging. Blueberries and citrus are easy to access. An already booming vegetable garden we put in 3 weeks ago occupies the sunniest spot. We had to remove this crepe myrtle to bring in another 4 hours of full sun to the area, but it will be worth it.

We custom built these curved trellises to the size of the lady who will be picking the blackberries. The entire landscape was raised 8″ before beginning. This gives us the opportunity to bring in soils which drain well and retain nutrients well. Thus expanding the palette of plants we can easily grow here. The flowers we’re growing out for this project will be ready and added soon.

Curved trellis panel


10 months ago we installed our first food forest for Bill Goode. He took a leap of faith, allowing us to do something very different with his office landscape. Now we have his and a few other great examples to study when we maintain them. This garden has done amazing this season. All fruit trees have tripled in size, blueberries were loaded, strawberry plants sprawl in front. Since the ground level is so occupied, we’re constructing custom trellis structures to support climbing plants.

Going up. If there’s one thing we strive to do, it’s maximize space. We added a curved trellis wall to the food forest downtown. Using a curve maximizes surface area of the trellis, while making the picking height more comfortable.

This curve also adds strength, and looks very cool. A stainless steal cable anchors it to the wall. It’s strong enough for a 200lb guy to walk around on, yet designed to look minimalistic.

This feature will host many different climbing plants through the seasons. We can also make arches, tunnels, and a butterfly (2 curves opposing each other).

#verticalgardening— at The Goode Law Firm APLC

Stairway entrance edible landscaping

For this entrance we used a pair of pomegranates just in front of the stairs. These will drape with fruit, and resemble crape myrtle shape. Lavender and hummingbird plant were used up front to invite beneficials, the silver foliage is a nice contrast.

A ring of blueberries to the left, easy to pick, right on the edge of the bed. Just off the banister we used bay laurel(bay leaf) in cone topiary form. These will get as big as Christmas trees, robbing the attention in winter, since the deciduous plants in front of them will be bare. 3 different varieties of grapes will grow up the stair case. Under the stairs we utilized shade loving herbs and hummingbird attracting plants, we left a path to include storage. A brick path will be added later under stairs. Like our other landscapes, this one will most likely triple in size in the first year, producing ample blueberries the very first year!

Landscape examples

Although these start out unassuming, in just 1 month these plants will begin to fill this area with unique function.

1. Is in deep shade, we used fire spike and van houti salvia in the back to offer a lush 3′ wall that attracts hummingbirds. Butterfly weed takes care of monarchs, dill, fennel, and parsley all serve dual functions in kitchen and with butterflies. Various thymes line the edges, encouraging the user to step in, maybe bare foot to access a variety of herbs. Our native Beaty berry and spice bush also serve wildlife and provide interesting color. Pineapple guava make great shade loving evergreens that fruit.

2. Has more sun, so we planted blueberries along edge, these will be bare in a few months so Swiss chard and various kales are behind them. Thornless blackberries will climb the stair rail, and malibar spinach is climbing the tree.

3. Opposite angle of 1

4. Several thousand of my closest friends are added to manage the soil.

Cindy’s Backyard Food Forest

February of 2014, Urban Naturalist constructed a food forest in a private backyard for Cindy. Cindy requested her lawn be transformed into a diversely beautiful landscape that would produce food and also create a haven for wildlife.

Converting this bland patio space into a great edible and aromatic experience

This week, we’ll be converting this bland patio space into a great edible and aromatic experience! A hedge row of rosemary up front will provide order and a flood of fragrance. Accents like lemon grass and lavender will work well with the theme. Once in the yard, the bed looks completely different, easy access to vegetables and herbs give it an incredibly functional feel. We also included many provisions for wildlife in the design, butterfly attractants and host plants are centralized since we don’t need to access them. A pair of citrus block sunlight, making this a more pleasant place to sit!

March – Turf Maintenance Plans

“What makes My turf maintenance plans so sustainable and effective?     Because They’re modeled after natural grasslands.”

At the moment some of us are wondering what’s a weed and what’s not.  That’s a great question, it depends on what you designate a weed.  Some weeds will only be here a short time, many spring weeds don’t survive after May.  Focusing on fertilization, and setting up a perfect eco-system for your specific lawn grass(St. Augustine, Centipede, etc.)will ensure the best results.  High mowing is a must in ANY situation, this is also advised by the LSU Ag Center, 3-4 inches for St. Augustine.  This will encourage deeper roots reducing water needs, choke out weeds naturally, while improving disease resistance, and SLOWING growth rate.  Grass isn’t like your hair, if you cut it short, it grows faster in effort to repair itself.

In a grass land, proteins are deposited from plants and animals, these are converted into nitrogen by micro-organisms.  I don’t use ammonia nitrates, they’re water soluble, so most of your money runs down the drain and becomes pollution.  I find it much more effective to mimic nature, high protein meals are added to the lawn, then a coating of Sweet Relief stimulates soil microbes, supplying nitrogen locally, and on demand.

Why haven’t insecticides evolved? Insects have.

Although we have changed the ingredients of insecticides, we’re not changing the approach fast enough.  For 6 decades we’ve used the nervous system as the prime route to kill insects.  The problem with this method is we also have a nervous system, and although bugs and people are quite different, our nervous systems are also effected by things like pyrethrins.  A common misconception is that they’re completely safe, because they’re natural, so is botchulism.  Most companies use synthesised versions known as pyrethroids, you can spot these because the ingredient will have the suffix “frin”, ironic.  These synthetics are more dangerous because they last longer, extending exposure, also synergist an an inert chemical make it harder for any nervous system to tolerate.  I say focus on traits only carried by the bug.  A not so new product, that just hit the market is spinosad, discovered in 1981 by a scientist on vacation, we’re just starting to see this stuff on the shelves.  Spinosad is a bacteria spore, that only effect certain insects, it’s great, effective and selective, comes in a liquid or ant bait, and yes it works well on fire ants when used correctly.  Spinosad is safe for mammals and fish, and most beneficial insects, works on ants, beatles, and fleas.  Bti is a great insecticide that’s been around for a while, cost effective, safe for all when used correctly.  Bti, is also bacterial, effects only on all types of caterpillars, I use a dust blower, very lightly, to apply it only to the plants with pest caterpillars.  For leaf footed stink bugs I mix my own, this can be a hard bug to kill, trap crops planted edges(sunflowers, artichokes, milo) keeps them occupied, and out of the garden.  Orange oil and Molasses spray works great to dissolve the exoskeleton, but completely safe for us, kinda sticky though.  What about mosquitoes?  Mosquitoes are getting tougher every year, in part because our current method kills our natural defence, dragonflies, and it’s much harder to grow a dragonfly, mosquitoes can flourish in a coke cap of water.  With constant non-selective pesticides, all natural predators are killed, creating a constant pest cycle, and a great business structure for the spraying company.  Garlic based products will select only mosquitoes, every year we delay it makes the battle harder, our current sprays are quite effective at killing mosquitoes, but destroy the natural checks and balances and create more work.  The tools are here, we just need to use them.

My Kind of Annual Plant

I plant sun flowers around the garden for several reasons, this year I used mammoth variety, this amazing 12′ tall plant reaches this height in just 90 days.  The first reason for this annual plant is for pollinators and beauty, we tend to have similar taste to bees when it comes to blooms.  Next benefit is for wild life/chicken/people feed, and trap plant.  During the last stage of this annual birds will flock to it for a snack, or you can give it to your chickens (cracked) another neat thing is how much leaf-footed stink bugs love this plant in this stage, instead of your tomatoes.  This is a great opportunity to take em out, large groups of them sun bathe around the blooms, I used a combination of orange oil (2oz), and molasses (2oz mix with 26oz water) to kill them.  Because you will be spraying this stuff up, and possibly into the wind, I recommend using something that can’t effect you, this is safe for us, but will kill any bug that’s sprayed.  Happy hunting, don’t worry about pollinators, they won’t be visiting the flowers at this stage, their job is done.

When it rains, it pours

Growing up this was a common saying around our house, and once again it proves true.  It’s been an exciting month, Ive met some great people, interested in my cause.  People want to return to sustainability, gain freedom, and remember the past.  The Cajun culture I knew growing up was one that didn’t waste a thing, without this mentality much of our culture wouldn’t exist, one word sums this up, boudin.

I was also featured in a local paper “The Independent”, I got my first product on local shelves, and working on some other ideas for providing local gardeners with some innovative nouveau opproaches to improve soil and yield while reducing local waste, and keeping our bayous clean.

We may not be able to grow everything we need in our city lawns, first we can grow what we can not buy.  Nothing’s more fresh than picked off the front porch, put your insect problems in the yolks, grow your own fertilizer and animal feed, nothings more local and rewarding.

Keeping Chickens Is Easy

Chicken Farmer Crash Course – Keeping chickens is easy

Brooding- is simply keeping the chicks in a warm place until they can go outside, a rectangular cardboard or plastic box with high sides will do fine.  Place a lamp on one side, allowing the chicks to control their own temperature by moving closer or away from the light.  Keep feed and water availlable, clean as needed, and keep other pets from eating them.

Constructing a Coop or Tractor-  You want the best possible home for your chickens, but they’re suppose to reduce expenses, look for materials being thrown away.  Using reclaimed material adds character, and this is the perfect project for using alot of things otherwise slated for the landfill.  I prefer to frame with a few new pieces and then fill in with various reclaimed materials(old homes being renovated are a great source), this keeps it square, but eclectic.  I try not to leave any flat boards on the inside that the birds can perch on, they will poop on them, and since the mulch can’t cover it, flies will linger for days.  Making nest box doors makes getting eggs quick, a feeding window makes dumping food in the coop easy.  Of course you should make your coop to accomodate your needs, whatever they may be.  My first chicken tractor, and my most recent coop.

Input/Output-Feeding a half dozen chickens will cost you about $5 a week with grain, of course chickens are omnivores just like us, so try feeding them food scraps, stale bread, pulled weeds, insect pest, unwanted fruit, free range them under the house, in piled leaves, or in cover crops such as clover/rye, they love all of this stuff, and it turns your waste into those lovely country eggs, and saves you money.  From 6 hens one could expect between 2-3 dozen eggs a week, that should be plenty for you, and your nieghbors, friends and family.  Each hen creates a cubic foot of manure every six months, perfect for a gardener or small farmer.

Cleaning the Coop/Harvesting Nitrogen  With chickens, you really can divert alot of waste, and what’s waste to them, is also a valuable commodity.  Chicken Poop is a great fertilizer when properly composted.  It must be piled up, wet, and turned after being removed from the coop, this will start the composting process, molasses also helps activate/stimulate decomposing microbes.  Within 8 hours temperature of the pile should rise to 140-160, to sustain this temp water(preferably with molasses), and turning every 3-5 days will keep your pile active.  In 3-6 months, you’re left with rich soil, this is a sustainable fertilizer plan, with no leaching effects.  After all of the manure/cane mulch is removed, I let it sit for a day empty, perhaps the environment change kills any fungal/bacterial inhabitants, then I reload more cane mulch, and forget about it for a couple months.