Mandy May from Side Yard Farm
I have a little corner of heaven I affectionately call Side Yard Farm. This cute little name came from my sweet hubs, who wasn’t at all too happy about the “farmy” mess I was making on the north “side” of our yard.
My story goes a little bit like this…
We started out as transplants from Colorado to Arizona, just over 5 years ago. Unfortunately, we came here with a sign on our head that said “stupid Colorado transplant” and the local nurseries saw us coming. We listened to their advice and proceeded to plant only xeriscaping and loaded our yard with granite. (This, in my opinion, is just a fancy word for ROCK!) Dedicated hubs was determined to build me some garden boxes so I could try my hand at Arizona gardening. I was a very seasoned gardener back in Colorado, where we hurry and plant on Mother’s Day, pray for no late frost or snow. Fertilize like crazy to get fast growth and try to beat the hail storms and early fall frost. I planted those nice raised beds just like I did in Colorado. My first Arizona garden season was filled with sunburned tomatoes, bug infested zucchini, carrots that never sprouted, and the disaster went on and on.
Fast forward a couple of years.
My citrus trees, which by the way, I was told grew like weeds out here, were doing absolutely nothing. They didn’t grow an inch, let alone supply us with that famous citrus you natives are known for. I was ready to rip them out and throw in the desert gardening towel. Before I went through the pain of removing those trees, I got online and did a search for “saving citrus trees”. That’s where I found a local (fb famous) food forest guy. He had a video on how to save a neglected fruit tree. I joined his fb group and scheduled a consult. First thing he told me was to remove that massive amount of rock and build some berms and water those starving thirsty trees. I asked about why the drip lines the landscape company told me to put in, weren’t working. He looked at my “stupid Colorado transplant” sign and gave me that “look”. You know the one……..the……have you lived in this climate long?……look. “They need water woman!! Not a drip of water…..real, fill up the tree well full, water”. He was actually very kind about my lack of water in the desert knowledge. I, on the other hand felt like I needed a slap on my forehead and a big fat “DHUR!” So my insanity began, right then and there. The very minute he left, I began removing all that rock that we had hauled in. That side of my yard has over 2,000 sq. ft. I am a bit weird in the fact that I love to haul rock (great workout!) Much to hubs delight and relief, I told him I’d handle it. I hauled rock and turned my once ridiculous waste of space, into a thriving food forest. It’s still young, but thriving none the less.
Another reason for the SideYardFarm name, is the fact that I am going to eventually have chickens. I still have to win the battle with my hubs and the HOA, but I WILL win. Hubs may turn me in however, (kidding) so I need to win him over first! So for now, I trade garden excess and sourdough bread for farm fresh eggs. He thinks it’s a win win. I on the other hand, know that chickens have much more benefit to the garden and farm than just eggs. I learned in my Permaculture class that chickens are the urban farms best friend. They assist in bug control, composting and provide excellent fertilizer. I will win. Speaking of permaculture…last fall, I received not only my permaculture certification; I also became a certified Master Gardener, which I am very proud of. To say the least, I have become addicted to gardening in the desert.
Thank goodness for patient teachers. I have learned to plant tomatoes in February, water efficiently, and protect my garden from the heat of the sun and frost of the winter. I have learned that I can grow almost anything and grow all year long. Growing food in the desert is a wonderful challenge.
I am proud and excited to be part of the amazing urban farm community in Arizona.
What a wonderful group of people. I love sharing and interacting and visiting others gardens. I am always learning. I will never be that person who can’t be taught. I learn from each and every person I come in contact with. If I have any advice for someone who is just getting started building their own urban farm, I would say, reach out. Join the facebook groups. Go to events. Talk to people and LISTEN! This is the best community of people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I hope that anyone who has a patio, a standard yard or several acres, will start. Start growing your own food. There is nothing quite as rewarding as knowing exactly where your food is coming from, growing it yourself, sharing it with others and learning new ways to use what you grow. I have even learned to love using my weeds. Not much goes to waste in my garden. If I can’t eat it, make medicine out of it or ferment it, among other kitchen projects, then it goes into the compost bins. I have 4 of the trash can style bins that are always full. I also got hooked on vermicomposting and have taught others how to start a worm bin. My garden gets my homemade compost and worm castings and compost tea. I also use fish emulsion and foliar feed. When I am building a new bed, I get pre-made compost from a local nursery to supplement my own. My garden is 100% organic.
I have 12 raised beds, (4 of which are wicking beds), over 50 fruiting bushes and trees, herb gardens and edible flowers. Someone once told me, after looking through my yard, that he didn’t see much that was edible. I vowed to change that and I have. Even some of the cacti in my front yard are edible. I keep the front yard of my 1/3 acre lot as a desert landscape, to keep the HOA happy.
I love to have visitors. I also love teaching. My 9 grandkidlets are my greatest and most patient fans and great helpers. I have been working on a blog and hope to have that up and running in the next few months. In the meantime, I post my garden and kitchen follies on my Instagram and Facebook page. I will soon be starting an honor market and classroom at SideYardFarm. I hope you will follow along and visit me when you can. Follow me on: Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sideyardfarmaz/ and on Facebook – www.facebook.com/sideyardfarmaz/ I will have a link to my blog on both of my social media sites as soon as it is up and running.
Wonderful write-up on your journey 🙂
I look forward to visiting your garden 🙂
I am also a “transplant” most recently from the Atlanta, GA area. Arizona gardening is challenging but I love the variety of tropicals we can grow here.
Your story is an inspiration to newcomers 🙂