How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden | Grow Food Not Lawns

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Here’s the Video Transcript:

Hey everyone! I’m Rob Greenfield, and today I’m going to teach you how to turn your yard into an abundant garden that produces delicious and nutritious food for you, right at home. And I’m going to do that through my example. Where I’m standing, right now, two years ago was just a lawn and now it is an abundant food garden. And this is actually the first lawn that I ever turned into a garden.

So, it shows what can be done. Now, I’m here in Central Florida, and I want to show you what I had to start with. We’re talking about…anybody who lives in Central Florida knows that we’re bascially working with straight sand. Wherever you are, you’re going to have a different situation and you’re going to have to adapt this to your climate in your region. But this model that I am showing today is something that can be, generally, done across the United States. I’m going to keep things pretty simple for you today to help you really get started. Just two years ago I had never really hardly grown any food and all of this came from just learning the basics that I’m going to share with you today.

So there are 6 basic ingredients to this method. Cardboard. Mulch. Soil or compost. Sun. Water. and then plants. Those are the 6 main ingredients. And I want to say, this is my method, but there are many methods out there that you can do. This is really focused on working with nature, rather than against it. So, I’m going to get into each of those 6 ingredients and break them down a little bit for you to help you start your garden. The first ingredient is cardboard. And it’s as simple as getting cardboard and doing a layer all across the whole area that you are going to turn into a garden. Now, you don’t need to buy the cardboard. You can get it from recycling dumpsters. So, that could be grocery stores, liquor stores, or if you want to make your job really easy, get it from appliance stores where they have huge boxes. And, Ideally, take out the tape or the staples. That cardboard is going to suppress the grass and kill it and break down along with the second ingredient which is mulch. What you do with mulch is you get a thick layer, ideally about a foot, and you lay that down over the cardboard everywhere that you are turning the yard into a garden.

Again, this is not a resource that you have to buy. Actually, the idea is to be able to do this in a very inexpensive manner and use mostly wasted, local resources. So, the best way to get mulch is from tree cutting and tree trimming companies. Their waste product is the shredded trees. A lot of the times they take that to the landfill, and instead, you can get them to dump it right on your yard and get it for free. So, why mulch? Well, let me show you. First of all, this is the method that actually kills your lawns so that you can grow food instead. But mulch does a lot of other things as well. So, just pulling this mulch back, you’ve got the woody mulch on top, and just going back a little ways, you can see this mulch already is breaking down into a rich, organic matter. So, the mulch does a few things. It holds in moisture. Every time it rains, rather than it running straight off a lawn, it has all this area to soak in.

This is nice and moist even though I’m not irrigating or anything like that, and it’s very dry out right now. It also creates an environment for important microorganisms and mychorrhizal fungi. Just imagine if you’re out in the blazing heat or if you have a wall in the blazing heat, things aren’t going to grow there. They need protection, so that bacteria that you want in your garden, and that fungi you want, needs protection. Over time, all of this mulch breaks down into the nutrients that you need. Now, the third ingredient is what I am holding, right here. It’s what my mulch turned into, which is soil. Depending on where you are you are going to have very different scenarios. Where I’m from in Wisconsin, for example, there’s a lot of rich soil already.

So soil wouldn’t need to be brought in there in a lot of scenarios. But when I started here, as I said, I just had a sandy lawn. So I needed to bring in compost or soil. So, where can you get compost and soil? You, ideally, want to get organic if possible. Now, what I did, here in Florida, is there is a mushroom farm, or mushroom factory, basically, not far from here.

And their spent material makes great compost. And so I was able to get a lot of that really inexpensively dumped by the truck rather than having to buy bags. You can get it, a lot of times, from your municipality. The ones that pick up yard waste often will turn that into compost that can be picked up for free by residents. So, that may be one of your main expenses to getting the garden going, but it all depends on where you are.

Now, talking about something that’s not expensive, which is ingredient number 4 and that is the sun. It is the simplest and easiest of all the ingredients, probably, but there are still important things to know. Especially for beginner gardeners, I would recommend full sun. Where I am in Central Florida, where it’s a really hot sun, that can be 5-6 hours. But in more of the temperate areas, you’re talking 7-8 hours. Ideally, you also get morning sun and less of the afternoon or the evening hotter sun. So, this garden is perfect because the sun rises in the east over the garden and then it’s falling behind the house in the afternoon. Now, ingredient number 5 is also something that can be free.

You probably have heard of it before. Water. Water, of course, is an absolutely essential ingredient. I’m going to show you the two systems I have, which are rain water harvesting and drip irrigation. I would absolutely recommend rainwater harvesting. It’s extremely simple. You simply need to collect the water off of the roof, down a downspout, like it normally would, and instead of sending it off into the street, have it collect into buckets, barrels, whatever that may be. It’s extremely simple and you and you can rainwater harvest in every climate, even in the desert you can rainwater harvest. In fact, that’s one of the most important places to do it. Now, drip irrigation can actually be connected to rainwater harvesting units, but it’s a little more complicated. Generally, you just have it connected to your hose, your spigot. This is pressured water, whether it’s from the city or well, or something of that sort. And drip irrigation, what’s great about it is it’s super efficient both in water usage, it uses a lot less water, but it also save a lot of time.

And how it works is you can either have it set up without a timer, where you have to come out and just turn it on or off. Or if you have a timer, you can set the days and the times that it waters and the great thing about it is you can even go out of town and your garden is still being watered. So, water comes out through this black pipe and over to the drip irrigation line so I’m going to take you back out to the garden to see where the water actually comes out. So, here are the drip lines. And on this one, about every 6 inches, there’s a little hole and the water, literally, just drips right out. And by doing that, it’s actually targeted where you want it, not spreading water across the whole area. Some of the big keys to watering well, are watering in the morning. Ideally, before it’s even light out, rather than the water evaporating in the heat of the day. And then watering directly rather than overhead. Overhead is the most wasteful way, where you water lawns with sprinklers. That’s the most wasteful way to use water.

Now, when you are establishing a garden like this, it’s generally to say the first 30 days to 45 days, that’s when you need to water the most as you’re establishing the plants. But if you set things up well, then you can do this with very little irrigation or even no irrigation, and that really comes down to what you’re planting. And that is ingredient number 6. Plants. There is an incredible amount that I could go into here, but I’m going to keep it just to the basics of how to turn your yard into a garden. So, first of all, how to plant. With this method, the way that you plant the perennials, is you simply would pull back that mulch that you laid down. Then you’re going to amend that soil that have there with compost and you’re going to plant into that and keep the mulch away from that plant.

Now, if you’re doing annuals, you’re generally going to have much more compost that you’re planting into. But what I really recommend is perennials. Here is one book that I really recommend, Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier. I really recommend getting books that are designed for your area. Now, some key tips. One is to plant densely and then you can thin out later. And that’s going to do a similar thing to the mulch, which is prevent weeds. Now, what about when you do have weeds? What do you actually do with those weeds? Do you ship them off to the city to go to the landfill? No, I’m going to take you over to my banana circle…my banana spot and show you what I do with my weeds to keep nutrients on site.

What a lot of people do with their weeds is they bag them up and they throw them away. But what I do with all of them, is I make a pile, right here, I do it with bananas. In different climates you can do this in different manners, but I do it with the bananas and everything from the garden gets piled up, here. And that way all those nutrients stay in the garden, rather than getting rid of them. And what we are doing, here, by building up this soil and keeping the organic matter on site, is that we’re actually sequestering carbon. We’re taking it out of the air and we’re locking it into the ground. So, why turn our front yards into gardens? Well, you would, maybe, be amazed to learn that lawns are actually the most irrigated crop in the United States. They use an incredible amount of water. 7 billion gallons of water per day! They use incredible amounts of fertilizers much of which run off into our waterway systems and cause huge problems.

And huge amounts of pesticides that end up in our drinking water. So, lawns, as beautiful as they may be to many of us, actually cause a huge amount of destruction. And instead, we can be using that space to produce food. Now, during the World War I and World War II era, of the victory garden movement when the United States government was, actually, promoting people to grow food, close to half of all of our fresh fruits and vegetables were grown right in our own yards rather than being shipped all over the world. So, we’ve seen what could be done in the past. We know that this can continue to be done, which would reduce our dependence on Big Ag, on a system that is causing so much destruction to people, to the planet, and to other species. And, at the same time, we can improve our communities, have healthy, delicious meals with our family, with our friends, and do it right at home and right in our communities.

(Music) So, that is how and why to turn your yard into a garden. I want to thank the Live Like Ally Foundation for supporting this video and helping me spread this message to you, and help you turn your yards into gardens. And if you gained a lot from this, if you gained education, if you’re inspired, then subscribe to this channel, if you haven’t yet. There will be much more to come. Hit the like button to spread this. Comment, ask questions, and turn your yard into a garden! Subtitles by the Amara.org community.

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