The Cherry Plum House backyard plan

May 2015 EDIT:  So, this post is out of date.  And this isn’t my master plan anymore because I moved out of the Cherry Plum House, and now live at Harvest House.  You can see the updated Master Plan here.

Everyone has to have a plan, right?  So here’s what I’m planning.

Updated 30 April 2012

  1. Traditional Garden
    • Consists of 3 raised bed gardens, each is 4′ x 12′
    • Will be planted by the original Square Foot Garden method.  (I’m using “Mark’s Mix” of sandy loam with compost – later I’ll add rabbit and fish fertalizer to the compost mix)
    • Will eventually consist of those vegatables and fruit that need high mineral content.
  2. Kitchen Herb Garden
    • This is made from a “found” planter that we couldn’t pass up.  It’s a foot deep, so it works with the Square Foot Garden method, but it also has a closable clear window on it to allow early planting and protection of herbs and spices.
    • It’s also very easy to work with – I can reach any part of the soil without strain.
  3. Aquaponics
    • I will be starting with two 250 gallon grow tanks, made of “intermediate Bulk Containers” at the North side of my house.  Eventually I will have 5 of these, with one acting as a “purify tank”.  I’ll have a 50 gallon “hospital tank” for incoming fry.  I should be able to purchase the IBC containers for about $100 each.
    • The grow beds are difficult.  There are grow beds specifically made for aquaponics, that cost $350 each.  That is WAY out of my price range!  Instead I will use 44 gallon galvanized watering tanks (purchased from Sears for $85 each!).  These are 2 foot x 4 foot, and are one foot deep.  I’ll start with 2 and add  additional tanks as I can afford them.  In the meantime, I’ll make due with plastic tubs.
    • Grow bed media – washed gravel, about 3/4 inch diameter.
    • Fish – I’m still undecided on the fish I will use.  Sunfish / Bluegill hybrids look good.  They are hardy, and omniverous, and grow fast and deliver decent meat.  Best of all, the hybrids are sterile, so I won’t have to worry about fry in my grow tank.  If this works, I’ll try to own a breeding pair – much like Tylapia.  (Tilapia are unlawful to own in Fresno County).
    • I will grow mostly leafy green vegetables and whatever fruits seem to work.
  4. Rabbits
    • Eventually I plan to have 4 to 6 rabbit cages, with a breeding pair.
    • The rabbit pellets and urine will be recycled back into the system, through compost and vermiculture.
    • I’ve found a really great way to create the rabbit cages and automated watering system.  I’m looking forward to putting it together.
  5. Vermiculture
    • Redworms are easy to get in this area.  And they absolutely love kitchen waste!  (Don’t give them meat or fat – that makes them ill)
    • A redworm eats HALF of it’s weight each day.  So if you have 5 pounds of kitchen waste per day, you need 10 pounds of redworms.  If you don’t have kitchen waste they will be quite happy with other bits of your garden.  Even grass clippings.  Just make sure that if you DO feed them grass clippings or garden waste, that it isn’t tainted with pesticide.  This is because…
    • Redworms are often used as food for the aquaponics fish, and the vermicompost will be added to the garden.
  6. Chickens
    • There is a discrepancy with the City of Fresno over chickens.  The Fresno Municipal Code Chapter 10, article 2 gives explicit instructions on the proper way to keep chickens on your property.  But when asked, Fresno City Hall says that keeping chickens is unlawful.  Until I get this figured out, I won’t have any chickens.
    • This is not going to happen.  The City of Fresno will not allow people to grow chickens in their backyards.  Even though the municipal code is vague on this, City Hall is very clear in saying “No”.  So I won’t have any chickens.  However, I may have other birds…
  7. Shellfish
    • It is lawful to keep crawfish and freshwater prawn of various sorts.  There are a few i’ve got my eye on, for when my system is better established.
  8. Compost
    • A necessary part of the whole operation.  I currently have one, and I hope to have 3 compost bins by next Summer.
    • I compost everything.  However, I’m going to be feeding some of my veggies and fruits to the aquaponics, which is a closed system.  This could lead to a buildup of pesticides or heavy metals, so I’m going to be very careful of what I add to the compost.
  9. Front yard
    • Nothing special here.  Traditional grass and flower beds.  I have a grape vine draped over part of my front porch.  The flower beds will be colorful and aromatic, so there will be Jasmine and Lavender.  I’ve already planted Hibiscus and Pansies.
  10. Quail
    • Fresno municiple code does not say anything about growing quail in your backyard, as long as the cages are within muni code.  I may try doing this – I have always like quail eggs and meat.
  11. Trees and shrubs
    • I’ll be adding fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs around the house, anywhere that I can.

Wow, now that I’ve written all of this down, I have to admit it looks VERY ambitious!  And it could take up all my time maintaining everything!  This is why I’m being very careful to create systems that require very little maintenance.  You would be surprised just how little maintenance is required with Square Foot Gardening, and a aquaponics setup (once it is mature) needs only an occasional checkup.

I’ve already started.  In my next post I’ll show you the Square Foot Garden setup next to the kitchen herb garden.  I’m filling them with soil and mulch / compost now.


  1. Adam Cohen’s avatar

    Mark – that does certainly sound like an ambitious plan, but I think it is a great one. I actually should do something similar for my goals with my house here…

    But about the AP, I do have a suggestion or three… First off — I LOVE IBC’s. They are just about the most perfect container yet for this system. I have two in my home system, one if the FT and the other is the sump. I would actually recommend these instead of the tank you had mentioned for your Growbeds. IMO, you NEVER want to use anything galvanized in an AP system due to the zinc in the metal coating. This is toxic to the fish and more importantly, the bacteria. Since the bacteria are actually what drive the system – we can’t kill them off.

    Another question is fish – personally, my choice is always to try to grow a breed that is herbiverous rather than straight carnivorous. This is because, I can always grow more plants – I actually have two tanks that are devoted to growing duckweed. This is a nutritious and VERY fast growing plant that helps to keep my ammonia levels down in the system. The Tilapia and goldfish LOVE it and by useing this and scrap leave from pruning my system – my feeds costs went down by more than 50%.

    Good luck in your endeavors, and I will check in in the future. Let me know if I can help in any way in the meantime.


    1. calladus’s avatar


      Good catch on the galvanized tanks. I’ll (reluctantly) give them up for something nontoxic.

      As for fish, I actually want omnivorous fish. I understand that is true for Tilapia. I want to be able to feed worms back into the system. I haven’t yet studied the diet of the fish I’m contemplating. Actually, I’m still focusing on getting my raised garden in order.

      One of the questions that I have is what to do with nutrient rich remains of my butchering. I’m going to have fish and rabbit “leftovers” after a harvest. I’m looking at ways that I can recycle this. When I’m done harvesting an animal, I want to use every part in some fashion. To do less is (in my opinion) to be wasteful, and disrespectful to the animal in question.

    2. Joseph’s avatar

      Much appreciated for the information and share!

      1. calladus’s avatar

        Thank you Joseph!

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