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Garden Update: A Banner Year

Things are warming upward hither inwards Seattle together with the flowers are blooming.  I precisely planted my start crops of the year-- potatoes together with strawberries.

2013 was a banner twelvemonth for my 500-square-foot urban vegetable garden, including my start sense growing together with processing a grain.  I never got precisely about to posting close it terminal year-- together with so hither it is.

Interbay mulch technique

The bed on the correct has been mulched amongst leaves, spent java
grounds, together with burlap sacks ($1/sack at the local hardware store).
The beds on the left were planted amongst a rye-clover-vetch-pea
encompass crop.  Paths are mulched amongst woods chips.
In the autumn of 2012, I tried a novel technique for improving the soil called "Interbay mulching".  This is a variation on sail mulching, which involves placing uncomposted organic affair straight onto the garden soil inwards autumn together with letting it compost until the side past times side growing season.  To Interbay mulch, you lot only encompass your sail mulch amongst burlap.  This keeps everything moist, protects earthworms from plane predation together with so they tin munch freely, together with suppresses weeds.  I used leaves (carbon) together with spent java grounds from a local java store (nitrogen) for my organic matter.

When I pulled dorsum the burlap terminal spring, I was initially disappointed.  The java grounds had disappeared completely, but in that location was however a lot of leafage affair left on the soil, indicating that it had alone partially composted.  However, I after decided that it had worked well, because the soil construction underneath was improved together with it seemed to live enriched amongst important organic affair every bit good every bit a large population of fatty earthworms.  The mulch suppressed weeds remarkably well, together with the beds remained by together with large construct clean for the balance of the season.

Those observations, combined amongst huge yields from the mulched beds, convinced me that it was worthwhile.

New tools

Vashon broadfork inwards 3 sizes from the
Meadow Creature website.
Another novel improver to the garden was my Vashon broadfork, locally made hither on Vashon island.  A broadfork is a large, two-handled garden fork that allows you lot to loosen the soil deeply (14") spell maintaining expert ergonomics (as opposed to loosening the soil amongst a regular garden fork or shovel, which is difficult on the back).

The broadfork was expensive, but I actually similar it.  It loosens together with deeply aerates the soil without turning it or substantially disturbing soil life.  This allows found roots to access H2O together with nutrients that are deeper inwards the soil.  The soil construction is improved inwards the beds that I broadforked, together with it goes much faster together with easier than loosening or turning amongst a regular fork, shovel, or hoe.

The Vashon broadfork is, inwards my opinion, the highest character fork on the marketplace position correct now, by together with large because it's virtually indestructible together with tin hence live used to loosen dense or rocky soils without fearfulness of damaging the tool.  I've cranked on it pretty difficult together with it hasn't complained yet.  The sort of the tines also improves its mightiness to cutting into difficult soil.  It's an expensive tool that may live worth it for serious gardeners who direct hold a large garden infinite dedicated to annual crops.

Rogue Hoes "60S" scuffle hoe,
an efficient general-purpose weeder.
Photo is from the Rogue Hoes site.
One of my greatest gardening revelations happened years agone when I discovered that the weeding methods most people usage are pathetic.  For years, I weeded my garden past times paw together with using low-quality hoes from the hardware store.  Then I bought an cheap scuffle hoe from Rogue Hoes, together with everything changed.  If you lot move on this thing sharp-ish using a mutual manufacturing flora file, together with run it precisely underneath the surface of the soil, it zips through weeds almost effortlessly.  Suddenly I could weed all my beds inwards close an threescore minutes amongst minimal bending.  I supplement it amongst a squeamish piddling Japanese carbon steel paw hoe.  The steel on the paw hoe is extremely difficult together with it stays abrupt a for long fourth dimension (in fact, it's together with so difficult my manufacturing flora file won't sharpen it-- I direct hold to usage a diamond stone).

Grape hoe from the Easy Digging website.
2013 saw ii to a greater extent than additions to the weed-dispatching arsenal: a grape hoe together with a grub hoe from Easy Digging.  These are wonderful for heavier weeding tasks (grape hoe), together with chopping inwards encompass crops together with excavation (grub hoe).  They are cheap tools, volition terminal a lifetime if properly cared for, together with you lot could in all probability attain most of your gardening amongst precisely ane of them if you lot had to.  I got the thought of using a grape hoe from Carol Deppe's majority The Resilient Gardener, which is an interesting read.





Crops

I direct hold a few crops that I ever focus on because they yield good inwards Seattle, they're fun to grow, together with I similar to swallow them.  These are potatoes, summertime squash, wintertime squeeze (delicata), greenish beans, together with kale/collards.  Everything else is icing on the cake.

A few of the butterballs.
For potatoes, I went to the local farmer's marketplace position together with picked upward a handbag of small-sized mixed spuds, including High German Butterball, Purple Majesty, together with an anonymous pink-fleshed variety.  I don't purchase commercial seed potatoes because they're together with so expensive it's non worthwhile to grow your own.  I also had some Yukon Gold volunteers sprout inwards some other bed, which I didn't direct hold the view to kill.  In the end, I harvested close fifty lbs of potatoes from close fifty foursquare feet of space.  The High German Butterballs together with Purple Majesties were extremely productive, despite the fact that the Purples died dorsum weeks earlier the Butterballs.  Both varieties were quite tasty, peculiarly the Purples (much meliorate than the All Blue multifariousness that's also popular).  The pink-fleshed multifariousness fizzled, producing annoying clusters of tiny greenish potatoes correct on the surface of the soil.

Potato plants existence awesome. Left, purples together with pinks;
right, butterballs. Note the straw mulch.
The alone pest consequence I had amongst my potatoes were tiny beetles that ate tiny holes inwards the leaves of the plants.  They didn't attain much impairment together with I made no attempt to command them.

For summertime squash, nosotros planted ii zucchini plants that were extraordinarily productive.  I covered the zucchini bed amongst greenish plastic celluloid to warm the soil together with suppress weeds.  Each found produced ii zucchini per day, for a total of 200 lbs over the course of didactics of the season.  We ate them every which way, gave them to friends, together with dehydrated the rest.  We usage the zucchini chips every bit a healthier choice to corn chips.  My grandfather used to say that inwards New Bailiwick of Jersey inwards summertime, you'd direct hold to move on your automobile doors locked, otherwise your automobile would live total of zucchini the side past times side fourth dimension you lot got in!

From left: lacinato kale, greenish beans, delicata squash,
to a greater extent than potatoes.  This was early on inwards the season.
For wintertime squash, nosotros planted Delicata seeds that I saved from the previous twelvemonth together with sprouted briefly earlier transplanting.  I also covered this bed amongst greenish plastic film.  They grew vigorously together with I ended upward harvesting thirty squeeze from 4 plants, which is phenomenal.  They were actually delicious together with they lasted us several months.

For greenish beans, I ever found pole beans because they're to a greater extent than productive, they yield over a longer menses of time, together with they supposedly gustation meliorate than bush beans (I wouldn't know because I don't grow bush types).  I planted my park Blue Lake Pole together with Helda apartment beans, every bit good every bit a newcomer called Monte Cristo, which Territorial Seed states is an improved Blue Lake type.  After a weak start owing to slug predation together with local cats excavation inwards my beds, all iii varieties produced well.  The Heldas ever start earliest, but the Blue Lakes gustation better.  The Monte Cristo multifariousness is nice, amongst long, elegant beans, but the yield precisely couldn't tally my quondam friend Blue Lake.  We harvested close thirty pounds of beans, some of which nosotros gave away.  In contrast to zucchini, people similar it when you lot give them greenish beans.

I'm non rattling enthusiastic close growing tomatoes inwards this area, because they precisely don't attain that good unless you lot nurse them along amongst a greenhouse, which is a lot of move and/or ugly and/or expensive.  I ended upward planting a few tomatoes without using a greenhouse, together with they confirmed my expectations.

Corn! Strong Start middle together with right. Painted Mountain are the
smaller plants to the left. One has a colorful stalk. Potatoes in
the background. 
Another fun experiment this twelvemonth was corn.  Seattle isn't actually a corn-growing mecca, but I wanted to seek a hardy, short-season multifariousness of grain corn called I planted a few of those, along amongst a multifariousness of early on sweetness corn called Strong Start.  Corn is actually fun to grow.  It's a beautiful, odd found that gets tall together with is topped past times lovely tassles.  Painted Mountain plants are scrawny but colorful.







Strong Start corn.
The Strong Start corn grew into large, vigorous plants but the yield was disappointing.  We got close ane ear from each plant, although they were delicious.  The yield from Painted Mountain was also sub-par, amongst ane ear from each found every bit opposed to the ii I expected.  It could live because the plants were selected inwards Montana rather than Washington, or mayhap because the soil inwards that bed wasn't ideal.

Processing together with Eating Grain Corn

The Painted Mountain ears were gorgeous, boasting many dissimilar colors.  We hung them on our wall for a long fourth dimension to dry out together with display them.

Painted Mountain corn after harvest together with shucking.
When the fourth dimension came, nosotros removed the kernels together with basis them into flour inwards my Vita-Mix blender.  Painted Mountain is a flour-type grain corn, pregnant it grinds easily into a fine starchy flour.

Painted Mountain corn kernels.
We ended upward amongst a pint together with a one-half of flour from 4 ears (1 ear per plant), which nosotros used to brand gluten-free pancakes on ii lazy mornings.  They were quite good, amongst a hearty flavor together with texture.  Carol Deppe turns upward her olfactory organ at Painted Mountain corn, but I direct hold to disagree.  At to the lowest degree inwards the context of pancakes, it was delicious.

This was my start sense growing, processing together with eating a grain from start to finish.  It was actually fun together with a learning experience.  Corn is the most productive grain together with also the easiest to harvest together with procedure inwards a domicile gardening context.  Painted Mountain is an extremely hardy multifariousness selected for curt growing seasons.  I excogitation to found a larger bed of Painted Mountain this year, giving it a nicer bed together with wider spacing betwixt plants.  If I direct hold to a greater extent than dry reason inwards a warmer identify someday, I'll found a larger surface area of corn.

Although corn is the most productive grain inwards price of calories per acre, it however can't affect potatoes inwards the domicile garden, peculiarly hither inwards Seattle.  We feasted on garden potatoes for ii months.

Soil

The conditions was cracking terminal summer, but I cry back what actually made the deviation was my soil.  I've been improving it gradually over the course of didactics of the terminal 4 years, together with it's getting actually fluffy together with fertile.  In training for the 2013 season, I focused on adding a lot of organic affair to the soil.  I also used encompass crops inwards some beds together with loosened the soil deeply amongst my broadfork.  I've been consistently using Steve Solomon's organic fertilizer blend, which I brand using seed meal, os meal, dolomite lime, agricultural lime, together with kelp meal.  Improving the soil is a procedure that takes time.

Conclusion

2013 was a banner twelvemonth inwards the garden, together with I'm looking forwards to to a greater extent than of the same inwards 2014.  I eagerly await the hateful solar daytime when I direct hold plenty infinite to grow most of my ain food.


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