Yardening and Yarditarianism

I’m an eclectic guy, and my gardening techniques reflect that.  I have permaculture inspired guilds in the orchard, I have bio-intensive organic vegetable gardens that are managed using Coleman’s 4 Season techniques.  I also have native landscaping with prairie plantings in the rain gardens and several island beds.  But take it all together, and its a mix no matter how well it flows.  Last year I settled on a term from my youthI am a Yardener.


For better or worse, I am currently entrusted with just shy of .5 acres (.2 ha) and in the 4+ years that I have written this blog I have chronicled the process of taking it from a denuded wasteland to the budding Garden of Eatin that it is today.   This year I will have many plans, but one that I am committed to is to grow as much food as I can in the yard – with a goal of 2000#s (907 kg) in 12 months.  That is gonna take some doing as the fruit trees have years until they hit peak yields, and even with the expanded canning garden total garden space is still under 2000 sq ft (186 sq m) or so.  Expected yield with “good” harvests sketch out to 1200-1400#’s (540-635 kg) which is still awesome.

32'x35' is about 1100 sq ft. Aw, hell yeah!

A big component of this yield will be our newly built (last June) Pimped out Garden.  At 1100 sq ft it gives us the room to grow serious amounts of food for storage and seasonal eating.  I could surely get 2000#’s from this garden alone, but will plan on growing food we eat, rather than cooking the books with huge amounts of cucumbers, roma tomatoes, and potatoes.  This garden will also likely get a 12′ hoop house in it late summer, and will have cold frames on it within 8 weeks of this post for early greens.  The soil is still weak as over half of it was trucked in last June, but I mixed in plenty of compost and vermicompost along with some green manures and deep mulching before fall and laying the ground work for rich soil ecosystems.  Still working through the planting layouts for the year, and need to catalog the seeds remaining from last year and fill holes, but this is all very exciting.

About half the orchard - missing are another pear and paw-paw hidden off camera

Up hill from the Canning Garden is my permaculture orchard.  Complete with 9 trees (Pears, Apples, Peaches, and Paw-Paw) along with well over a dozen fruiting shrubs, a few hardy kiwis, a couple of hazelnuts and a growing understory it is a nutritional force to be reckoned with.  to bolster its productivity while it fills in I liberally add annuals like peppers, garlic, and sprawling squash vines (these are actively managed and pruned to avoid crowding).  This year will also see the planting of 7 more fruit trees (another apple, a cherry, apricots, and 3 plums) and we planted 4 nut trees (from seed) for a protein/fat producing overstory (in a decade or so!) of chestnuts and hickory/pecan hybrids.  The fences will also be drafted into duty as a vineyard with a dozen grape cultivars for table eating and perhaps even wine.  In 5 years of so, the orchard will likely out produce the canning garden, and in a decade it certainly will – heck the kiwis could be up to 200#’s themselves!


Pretty sure I made this word up tonight (the Google can’t find it), but I prefer it to the slightly less obscure “yardavore”.  This is geeky, but -vore typically denotes an eating behavior that is by nature, where “-tarian” usually denotes an eating behavior of choice (herbivore v. vegetarian).  I also like this contrast with Localvore, which has been our “nature” historically, and yarditarian which is more a factor of choice and privilege.  Regardless, if one is gonna slap it on the table and try to grow 2000#s of food in one year from one’s yard, it goes without saying that we will be eating a significant amount of our food from our yard.  From March’s first French Sorrel and cold frame spinach leaves to the final stored potatoes and onions of the following March this will be an outstanding journey as we work to eat our bounty, working through the logistics of harvesting, preparing, storing, and sharing the produce from even this 10% of our yard.  I am not pretending to try to eat *exclusively* from my yard; self sufficiency is not, and never will be, my goal.  But adding 2000#’s of food to my family’s diet will add a significant amount of resiliency to our food supply while also teaching my children and myself incredibly valuable lessons about what is possible on so small a plot of land.

Should be a great year!


16 Responses

  1. Barbara Kingsolver got nuthin on you, mate!

  2. We just purchased the 12 foot hoop house bender yesterday! We are planning on putting it up this February and growing our starts in it this spring, and then Colmenesque greens through the fall / winter.

    Thanks again for you inspiration!


  3. I wanted to share this article with you: http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/20101206_a-complete-how-to-on-farm-am-fungus-inoculum-production

    Love your site…keep up the good work…Tina

  4. Good luck! A relative newcomer, I have enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to following your progress. “Yarditarian” – I like it!

  5. I, too, am an aspiring yarditarian. Yardivore. Whatevs. My poor innocent hubby thinks that this is going to be an amusing hobby that I toy with for a month and then put on the stack of “not enough time”, he’s got no idea how bf insane I REALLY am.

    I asked him if I could build a two meter tall midden the other day and he said yes. WHOO HOO!

    ‘Course he asked me an hour later what the hell a midden was, so we’ll still see if I get it, but muah hahaha- it’s lookin good. 😀

  6. Continuing to enjoy your postings. Have you tried keyhole garden design? It seems so much easier to work with squares.

    • As you doubtless know, keyhole paths maximize space efficiency, while sacrificing some kinds of workflow efficiency; they minimize path space to maximize growing space, but are useless if you want to get a wheelbarrow in. That said, I do use them, but only very specifically. I use them in my hoop houses as space is an absolute premium there and I do not use large tools like wheel barrows. In my Canning Garden everything is straight, measured, and designed to minimize work. At the scale of 1000+ sq ft I have found that this actually increases yields by making the work easier and thus better assuring it gets done. If the garden is not easily accessible, then I get behind on mulching/watering/harvesting/whatever and much is wasted regardless of how efficiently the space is used. I also use them occasionally in my permie beds, but only for areas that get periodic use – say a fruit tree that comes ripe all at once or coppice grove. Areas that need daily/weekly tending I put on my main travel paths to ensure the everbearing strawberries, cherry tomatoes, etc are picked.

  7. Rob – how are your neighbors reacting? Have you inspired any to follow suite and start gardening or do they cast strange looks your way and whisper amongst themselves?

    • Immediate neighbors – no. Members of my larger community in the county, absolutely. It is hard to be a prophet in your home town is an easy excuse, but much more to blame is that I have made a concsious decision to spend far more time preaching to the choir than working on those with further to go on the Change Curve. Have fights picked with me over Climate Change, resource decline, or Obama are a worse than a waste of my time as I have a hard time letting them go and they up my base stress level hurting my productivity.

      That said, I have been almost avoiding encouraging local interest in my immediate neighborhood – and will be upping my outreach here with tours for free to my HOA members, talks at the library etc.

      STrange looks? Well, I am certainly “that guy” in the neighborhood, which will only get worse with the hoop house this spring. Some ask polite, but probing, questions ( What *is* that…. ?) and it is pretty clear that the Midden was a bridge too far. Doing more neighborly sharing of produce is on the docket for next year – we have good relationship with our next door neighbors – babysitting, sugar swapping, etc but after that it descends to the American norm of little to no interaction (“Is his name Eric or Adam?”) to almost strangers (“When did they have a baby?!”).

      Our immediate neighborhood was intended, from day one, to be a bedroom community – we are roughly equidistant from larger metro areas such as Madison, Janesville and Milwaukee and the town has billed that as our single biggest asset. No one *wants* to live here. Until the recession removed the prospect of any of us moving, almost none of my neighbors had even planted a shade tree. In 5 years. It is a rather hostile environment if the goal is to encourage planting chestnuts that won’t produce for a decade or more. Upsides, are that it is entry level housing, so many of my neighbors are tradesmen and contractors so skills run high, and many are frugal, likely by necessity, which means that it isn’t as bad as it seems.

      Very significant obstacles are present on the philosophical side – aggressive denial rules the roost for many: Palin would carry my neighborhood if the 2012 election were held today.

      Long answer to a simple question, but it is one I think on often.

      • Neighbours are interesting creatures. The bottom side ones…all in a row…here leave everything to overgrow: the plums, the weeds, the brambles. Never picking their massive fruit crop or being willing to share it. The top side where I am are mostly retired..all in a row… with immaculate lawns and strategically placed low maintenance shrubs. They spend a lot of time keeping the edges trim. They aren’t impressed with my increasingly jungle of a back yard but at least my new neighbour’s kids said…she has a real garden. No HOA here. Yes they would vote Palin if they were in the USA. I say grow more trees on the boundary and slowly they will start too.

  8. Thanks for your answer. I was curious as a few weeks ago I had to help a friend who built two 4’x8′ raised beds in his back yard. They looked very nice, made from composite decking material. He shared produce with the nearest neighbors all summer. The neighbors then promptly called in the HOA and made him remove the beds. Community building at its finest ….

    I’m planning on obtaining a few laying hens in the Spring (no rooster) and am hoping that I’m not pushing the envelope too far – there is one other guy in the neighborhood who has hens and a rooster – he checked with his immediate neighbors prior to doing so and nobody had any issues. I’ll do the same and we routinely share produce and baked goods with our surrounding neighbors, so I’m hoping that we don’t have any huge issues. I’m also signing up for a bee keeping class and would like to add bees the following year. I figure if I do this in stages, as you appear to have done, then things will work out.

    Have a Merry Christmas!


    • Did I mention I am the president of our HOA? Pro-active attempt to not get kicked out. Of course no one wants anything to do with our HOA and I can’t get off the board now ddespite 3 years of trying, but it means that no one will fine me and I can get a Midden in my backyard. 🙂

      Good luck with the chooks and bees. Both are on our 2-3 yr planning window.


  9. what hickory/pecan did you plant? i’m in the nw exurbs of mn so a bit n of madison wisc area… looking at a northern pecan from oikos: http://www.oikostreecrops.com/store/product.asp?P_ID=337&strPageHistory=search&strKeywords=pecan&numPageStartPosition=1&strSearchCriteria=any&PT_ID=75

  10. Chris – I go with Badgersett


    They push the genetics through active seed selection of natural hybrids and are right over the river in MN.


  11. As I sit here with my seed spreadsheet, ready to plan for next year, I diverged and came across your site. I loved hearing about your plan and even more love the name, yarditarianism. We have ample space, but are every year struggle with how to use the least amount and grow the most food- balancing time, energy and resources. Good luck!

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