Food is Free Comes to Cherrywood

A couple of weeks ago, we came home to find this letter on our porch:

In what turned out to be a happy coincidence for us, the folks over at Food is Free picked our block to host their second installation of front yard wicking garden beds. Wicking beds are self-contained raised beds that hold a reservoir of water underneath them; the plant’s roots pull water up from the reservoir, acting much like an aquifer.

Our wicking bed, right after it was installed.

The Food is Free beds are made out of easy to source materials, that can ideally be found free. They use pallets to construct a box. The sides of the box are then lined with corrugated plastic (from leftover election signs) and the bottom lined with waterproof tarps. Next, gravel is poured in to the bottom of the bed (in our case, they used tumbled recycled glass that you can get free from the city of Austin). The gravel layer is covered in burlap (or some other type of water-permeable sheeting), and that layer is topped with soil. One larger PVC pipe runs from the top of the bed into the gravel layer, and a smaller drainage pipe is connected out the side of the bed.

Emily painted the bed and we put in our first plants: boxwood basil, and a variety of hot peppers. It’s kind of an off-season time to start plants, as there aren’t many things to plant in May in Austin.

There are nearly a dozen total beds that were installed in our immediate neighborhood, most in yards that didn’t already have front yard food gardens. We’re hoping that a few more homes request and maintain gardens. It should be super cool to have a street full of community garden beds that neighbors help themselves to. You can request a wicking bed for your own home from the Food is Free project.

In other garden news, we harvested some fingerling potatoes and are getting tons of cherry tomatoes every day.

In the fall, we started a field of native grasses and wildflower seeds in our backyard. We got the seeds at the Wildflower Center’s Fall Sale from Native American Seed Company. So far, we’ve had somewhat mixed results – more weeds (and fewer wildflowers) popped up than we would have liked, but the experiment continues. After pulling out a bunch of weeds (the seeds were in the soil already, not from the seed mix), it’s looking pretty good and we’re starting to see some bursts of color from some flowers.

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