Side Yard Permaculture Food Forest

man entering side yard gate to narrow garden and stone path
What to do with that narrow strip between your house and the neighbor’s? With permaculture techniques, designer Tyaga Welch of Sustainable Humane Earth put it to good use growing fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, and flowers for pollinators across the year–including an aquaponics system and a wicking bed.
two men chatting in garden
In March 2023, we headed out on a shivery day to visit a design/install he did for his parents, where he also harvests for the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller. Since the backyard is romping grounds for their sweet pup, they gated the side yard.
man in side yard garden with fruit trees and vegetables
An urban permaculture food forest doesn’t require a lot of land. “You can use any sort of space to your advantage, whether small or large,” Tyaga told us of his projects across Central Texas. “It’s always a diverse network of species growing together harmoniously to protect each other.”
narrow garden along side of house with fruit trees, vegetables against gravel path
Starting in summer 2022, they smothered the grass with a thick layer of cardboard topped with mulch. “It not only snuffs out the grass and the weeds, but also that cardboard and mulch activates microbes, biology and the earthworms, and they start coming up to eat the mulch and the cardboard,” he said. Already the garden was thriving just shy of its first anniversary.
man walking narrow path of granite and flagstones against fruit trees and vegetable
They topped the new pathway with granite and Oklahoma Silverstone flagstones.
man standing on blank ground in garden
He controls rainwater flooding by slowing and dispersing it to infiltrate the soil. “We just use the rain gutter along the side of the house, put it underneath the pathway and the rainwater now leaches into a rain garden,” he said.
berms and swales with fruit trees and vegetables
In a series of bioswales (depressions that capture rainwater) and berms (raised mounds of soil), a rock wall gabion directs overflow into the next swale all down the garden.
higher berms of soil and strips for water flow (swales) with fruit trees and vegetables
The rock wall gabion also houses frogs, lizards and other beneficial predators that control plant pests.
raised wicking bed against side of house
To maximize crops in a narrow space, he added wicking and aquaponics beds that grow healthy food with minimal resources.
small raised aquaponics bed against house with small fruit trees and vegetables opposite a granite path
Harvested rainwater supplies the aquaponics system. Whether it utilizes fish, tadpoles, or snails, they all produce nitrogen that is pumped into the media bed with a solar pump.
aquaponics tub with small solar panel and raised wicking bed beyond
Red wiggly worms eat and digest fish waste and plant debris, transferring the nitrogen into a soluble nutrient for plant roots. The roots then filter the water further for the creatures living in the water tank which can even be an upcycled bathtub!
jars of deep golden ground spice
Along with vegetables, Tyaga grows turmeric in the aquaponics bed for Texas Tumeric.
small bed against front yard fence bordered by rocks bound with wire
In the front yard, neighbors would never know that this bed is a water and nutrient-efficient hugelkultur. Tyaga dug down a bit to bury branches and logs. He topped that with a soil mix heavy on wood mulch to absorb and hold moisture. Another rock wall gabion encloses it.
man leaning over waist-high aquaponics bed with SHE sign in front for Sustainable Humane Earth
Find out more about Sustainable Humane Earth and follow along on Instagram.
two women and two men with video camera in a garden
And thanks to our great spring 2023 interns, Nastassja Collack and Stella Yrigoyen, who joined director Ed Fuentes, Steve Maedl and me!
woman, man, and child in a garden
We loved meeting his parents along with his partner Gunjen and their daughter Sriya!

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Thanks for stopping by! Linda