Guest Post by San Diego Urban Gardener, Natalie June.
I have always dreamed of living off the land. I have dreamed of going into my backyard and finding all of the ingredients I need for dinner, canning my own vegetables, making my own pickles, jam and pasta sauce, and sharing my harvest with my neighbors. I think there is something to be said about the good old days, dirt under the nails, and a little labor to produce what a family needs. I don’t live in the country, but that feeling has always been with me.
Our house was built in the 1950s and, although the house has been updated, the little garage that lives in our backyard has seen better days. It always longed to be a garden shed, I just know it. A cement drive goes down one side of our yard leading to this unusable garage and basically the backyard was one big cement driveway. What a waste of space.
Recycling the Concrete Driveway
When my boyfriend suggested we tear out the concrete and build four huge garden boxes, a fire pit and sitting area, it was a dream come true. We never realized though how difficult it was going to be to remove all of the concrete. It was no fun. Concrete dust was everywhere and I don’t think anyone on our street was napping that week. Luckily we were able to recycle it. It was actually cheaper to recycle than to take it to the dump…$50 a ton verses a $700 dump fee. Unfortunately due to a recent decline in home construction, many places are no longer recycling concrete. It would have been a shame for it to have ended up in the landfill.
Raised Beds and Running Kids
The minute the concrete was out, my daughters started calling our empty dirt spot “The Secret Garden.” They were excited for all the adventures the space would hold. We decided on raised garden beds to protect our veggies from running kids and playing dogs and had them built out of redwood which is said to hold up well with the constant dirt and water contact. We placed four boxes around the edges of the driveway, wide enough for all we wanted, but small enough for me to reach all the way into the center for weeding.
Reaping the Benefits
We planted our first crop the other day, released a few thousand ladybugs into the yard, and now sit patiently waiting. I used to stare out at hard useless concrete from my kitchen window. Now I see so many days in my future filled with joy. I see my girls picking strawberries and helping me make jam. I see nights around the fire-pit making s’mores and connecting with my family. I see vegetables and a healthy home.