Well, it depends what you mean by productive, but for me, I had the goal of growing almost all of the fruits and vegetables my family could eat when we moved into our house in July of 2013. Actually, 80% was the arbitrary number I had written in my notes. So “productive” for me means fulfilling that 80% goal. This year, year four, is the first year that our yard is productive in this way.
It’s a dream come true, to be frank. I had long imagined the pleasure of being able to walk out the front door and pick an abundance of snacks or ingredients for a meal. But why did it take so long?
For one, we started with a blank slate. The yard’s ground was bare when we moved in, save a few weeds here and there. And it’s not like it has taken four years to get anything from the yard. Immediately upon moving in I planted vegetables by the front door, which we ate that first summer.
But it takes time to expand a garden when you’re doing everything yourself, doing it on a limited budget, have to also work, and have small children to take care of on the days that your wife works. Not complaining! I’m a darn lucky fellow, I know. Just explaining.
In addition, I was getting used to the climate. I grew up in Southern California, but to consistently get quality vegetables that your family is excited to eat, you have to really know the particular weather patterns of your exact spot on the planet in order to make sowings and plantings at the right times and in the right arrangements. It took me a few seasons to get tuned in.
In our first winter, I laid out the vegetable beds that I still use today. I simply added compost to the bare dirt surface and spread wood chips to make paths between the beds.
And here is how the beds look today, from the top:
And from the bottom:
We have had no need to buy vegetables at the store this year, though that’s not to say that we haven’t bought any. Just the other day, we bought some celery because the celery in the garden wasn’t quite ready. But that 80% goal is being met.
What about the fruits? It usually takes a couple years for a fruit tree to begin producing, so it has been a necessary waiting game. Even though we planted an apricot that first winter, we didn’t eat apricots until our third summer.
And even though we planted five avocado trees that first summer, it is only this year that we no longer need to buy any avocados at the grocery store.
So it has taken four years for me and my yard to become truly productive, consistent and abundant. And it feels awesome to be feeding my family, as rewarding as I’d hoped it would feel. Bringing home a paycheck is crucial, but there is also something more primitively satisfying about creating food and laying it before the people you love most, finally.