Creating My Edible Yard – Part 2

Installing The Hardscape: Chicken Coop and Grape Arbor

Written by Trish Michaels1 Comment


In my search for a better way to grow organic food, I’m meeting lots of locals who are gracious in sharing their Permaculture expertise. I never knew there were so many people living sustainably in my little community.  I’m finding a wealth of information and support.  I’m so proud to call North Florida home!


Fall 2011, I replaced my grass with mulch, garden beds, stone pathways, a grape arbor, bird house and bird bath.


I’ll gradually transition my entire yard into an edible paradise. This fall (2011) I started by:

–  Mulching over the grass in half my backyard to plant fruit trees, veggies, herbs and native flowers. I’ll leave the St. Augustine grass in the back half, for now.

–  Installing the hardscape.  For me, that’s a grape arbor, a bird bath, stone pathways and a chicken coop.  Yes, there are farm fresh eggs and homemade wine in my future!

–  Building my first Permaculture gardening beds. I relocated perennial herbs from my old raised beds and have sown seeds for my favorite winter veggies.

Fall 2012. Here’s how it looks a year later. Grapes reached the arbor top and gardens provided tons of yummies.

In the front yard, I planted citrus and fruit trees around the perimeter and mulched around them.  I left some grass in the shaded areas where it grows without watering.



I love the look of the cedar arbor.  As the grapes grow, surrounding gardens will get some needed shade. Although Muscadine Grapes are the authentic native plants for North Florida, I’ve chosen hybrids. Yea, I know – that’s not true Permaculture. But this is my yard and I don’t like thick skinned Muscadines.  So I’ve chosen varieties of California table grapes that thrive in our North Florida heat.  I’m planting Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mona and Lisa’s new home – room to roam under the deck – roosts in the high-rise. The short door on the right makes egg collection easy.


My new Rhode Island Red hens, Mona and Lisa, now have a safe, secure home.  We closed in half the crawl space under my back deck to create their playpen.  We buried aluminum sheets four feet into the ground and closed in the sides with wire to make sure no critters get in.  Then we erected a tall area outside the deck where they can roost and get sun.  I call it their high-rise condo.

We created ladders and various levels of roosts.  They sleep on the tallest one.  It’s fun at dawn to watch them make their way up the levels to bed down for the night.  We built nest boxes near the outside wall with a small wooden door for easy egg collection.  They love their home, but still prefer free-range time to hunt for bugs.



My new pest control system is hard at work.  I let them out to hunt for bugs once they lay their eggs.  My thinking is – do your chores, then you can go out to play.  I don’t want an Easter Egg hunt every day.  I like having them in the garden with me.  They’re friendly and adorable.    I had no idea hens were such great pets.  They even tolerate me picking them up to pet them.  I love how they coo so sweetly at dawn.


Here’s my first fresh, urban farm egg!  While most people raise chickens for the eggs, I got Mona and Lisa mainly to eat bugs and provide free fertilizer.  No more hauling in expensive bags of Black Hen!  So far my only challenge is they like to eat my veggies.  Oh well, small price to pay for all the benefits.  I’ll plant plenty for all.




Mona and Lisa follow me around the yard like I’m their mother.  They even follow me up the deck when I come inside.  Then they peck at the back door trying to get my attention.  What’s up with that?







This article is part of a series documenting my transition from organic gardening to sustainable Permaculture. Click here to read Part 1.



By Trish Michaels

I’ve been gardening organically for 20+ years. I'm mostly vegetarian. I love cooking what I grow and creating recipes to incorporate whole grains, beans and seeds. In my Jacksonville home, I lower my carbon footprint with solar power, rainwater harvesting, composting, waste reduction, etc. I'm eager to do more! I launched Sustainable North Florida in 2012 as a way to donate my digital marketing skills to help promote the many sustainable events and people greening our community - and to connect with other locals who share my passion for protecting natural resources, eating healthy and living green. My vision is a more sustainable community that lovingly supports one another with knowledge and resources. Jacksonville is a great place to call home!

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One Comment on “Creating My Edible Yard – Part 2”

  1. Pingback: Organic Gardener in North Florida transitions to Permaculture