EAT YOUR YARD JAX

Tuesday I went with some of the ladies from Mandarin Garden Club on a field trip to Eat Your Yard at 8220 Moncrief Road West, Jacksonville, FL. It’s a local, heavily wooded 40-acre farm run by Tim Armstrong to provide cactus and succulents to the wholesale market but he also has edible garden plants, a few farm-raised tilapia, chickens and rabbits. He was also affiliated with a garden project on the grounds of a school for handicapped children. I think it was Berry Good Farms. I wanted to read the brochures we were given but being a perpetual dingbat, I accidentally left them behind and the condition of my memory is beyond hope.

Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard
Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard

Eat Your Yard embraces organic farming, permaculture and any good ideas Tim encounters along the way.

Permaculture - plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Permaculture – plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Close-up of jack bean 14 inches long
Close-up of jack bean
14 inches long

Coincidentally for me, he mentioned something called hugelkultur which uses stumps, branches and twigs thrown in a mound and covered with soil to make a raised garden bed requiring little to no water or fertilizer. I almost missed this nugget because my mind had once again wandered off to orbit the Crooked Moon. It wandered back in just in time to catch the name and see the hugelkultur bed. Near the end of the tour, I saw a hugelkultur sign for another bed and I snapped a photo so I would have the spelling for further research. This was the most important thing I took away from Eat Your Yard. One of the old women in our neighborhood, long deceased, once told Momma that we have “seven years of dry and seven years of wet.” I never doubted the woman but also never paid much attention until I found myself unable to grow a vegetable garden the last two years. My garden sits in a low area that becomes a virtual flood plain when we have a lot of rain like we did this past summer. Just a few months before the Eat Your Yard tour, at another garden club function, I learned about adding pine bark chips to our sandy soil. This nugget of wisdom came from our local County Extension Agent, Terry delValle, who briefly mentioned it. That’s the problem with golden nuggets of wisdom. The people sharing them seldom ever raise their voice, tossing the nuggets out almost as an aside and I often need some hysteria to snap my wandering mind back to attention. Worse yet, these nuggets are usually what cause my mental crayons to start scribbling like a rabid left-handed dog and then I miss the next nugget. Thankfully, I caught both the pine bark chips and the hugelkultur nuggets and I will now be saving my 3 to 5 trashcans of limbs that usually hit the curb every week.

After our tour of his small farm, we were treated to freshly made Yard Soup and bread. He had collected the ingredients from food-producing perennials as he toured us around. He mentioned dozens of plants that can be made into teas, including a cranberry hibiscus and another hibiscus whose name I didn’t catch.

A hibiscus for tea
A hibiscus for tea (this was not the cranberry hibiscus which looks like a red Japanese maple)
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Several ginger varieties
Several ginger varieties

For more information on Eat Your Yard, check out their website.