Last year, I started developing a formal plan for my edible backyard. By then, I had the beginnings of a food forest, and my aquaponics system, but wanted a comprehensive master plan. I observed and recorded the sun/shadow patterns, the wind patterns, the water sources and drains, and the yard’s topography in order to determine the water flow patterns. The process took hours upon hours. I knew I did not want to use a paper for the design, so I used a generic graphs program (Boxy SVG, specifically). I wanted to make sure I got all the right dimensions of the plants and structures, so I started with my yard’s plat map survey and went from there. A significant portion of my time went towards getting the details right.
The process was very rewarding for me, but it also took a significant amount of time, something others may not be willing to spend. Is it possible to get the same results with a minimal time investment? I am in the process of answering this question by developing a web application, Edible Estate, that helps you observe your yard, design food production systems, and then implement and improve your plan. And if you're wondering what I mean by food systems, some examples include food forests, chicken tractors, aquaponics systems, bees, raised square-foot garden beds, or all of the above! After the initial implementation, you would continue the observe → plan → improve cycle as your yard starts producing food.
Does this sound familiar? Year after year, you started the process of designing, but it was so painful, you gave up at various stages of the design… again and again. But did you ever stop? No, you kept improving the design in your pursuit of the vision you had in your head. Once you got the design down, you kept changing it, year after year, as you learned more about yourself, your yard, and your neighbors. So, let your imagination run wild about what your yard might look like, a year after you've started using the app to plan your edible yard.
- The food forest doesn't look like much yet, but you're in no hurry. It's the long-term system that will produce fruit, nuts, berries, mushrooms, and firewood for your rocket stove grill. Even though it's only about a thousand square feet in area, there are over two hundred plants growing; fifty unique species all native to your area! You were careful to plant it far enough away from your south-facing roof that they don't cast a shadow on the solar panels, even when fully grown.
- The aquaponics greenhouse with a Ground-to-Air Heat Transfer (GAHT) climate control system is starting to take shape. You've planned two in-ground ponds, eight vegetable beds, and a shelf-type system for the greens. That should produce more than enough food for your family, friends, and even neighbors! You're excited to add a worm composting bin and a Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) container when the greenhouse goes operational.
- Speaking of composting, your outdoor compost is already busy decomposing in the compost boxes. It's looking a bit empty now, only one-third full, but you'll have more than enough material to add once the pruning starts in earnest.
- You would love to add a chicken tractor, since chickens have just become allowed in your town. However, the HOA rules still prohibit chickens in your neighborhood, so you've started a campaign on your neighborhood facebook group to change those rules.
Does this sound like your idea of a slice of paradise? If so, the app would be a great planning and productivity tool for you.
Now that you have allowed your imagination to take flight, let’s ground it with the present situation. The Edible Estate app is currently in alpha, soon to launch with a beta version. At this point, you can add basic shapes on your property after putting in your address. With the beta launch, the app will identify your hardiness zone, and display the plants appropriate to your hardiness zone.
As you are imagining your yard, I am imagining how I can make the app even more valuable to you. The more users the app gets, the faster we can get to the wonderful imagined reality. I'm incredibly excited about offering the app to people passionate about growing their food in their yard, do it simply, and with a computational design tool. Now if you think peaches come from a can, or if all you want to grow a golf course in your backyard, or you hate your computer, the Edible Estate app is not for you. I’m taking on alpha users at the lowest price I’ll be offering. Most of the alpha user group spots are filled, but there are a few spots left. Once they’re gone, I will raise the price for the beta version, and the beta user opportunities will open up. If you’re sick of paper and pencil and you want a garden planning tool that actually uses your yard and not just a generic template, don't delay! Learn more and sign up here.