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pacific northwest and vegetables (intensive poly-cultural considerations)  RSS feed

 
Evan Nilla
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First off, i'm realizing vegetable farming is totally wrong for this climate, and trees really rule here, forest gardening comes to mind. However, thats not the situation right now, maybe in the near future. Not enough heat for melons, and there seems to be this odd thing with root crops not enlarging(i'm guessing no reason to run deep to find water). However, my real concern is the nutrient situation and soil leeching issue caused by all the heavy rains. I've skimmed through some information and there is a man out here who wrote a book on how to properly grow vegetables in the PNW. Which essentially came down to lots of amendments, a ton of compost, and bare soil(yes bare soil because of a certain soil creature that can eat roots).

However, looking at the weeds, and, being attentive and aware in the fields, i'm wondering why not following their example being is the way to go, and, low and behold, complimentary root structures and mid-high plant density is natures way here. Deep running tap roots, medium level roots and then shallow running roots all intermixed and in close proximity. Right, so, i'm wonder if just following that example is just the better idea, plant densely, intermix root stuctures, include a lot of tap-rooted plants, get a good amount of flowers in the mix and it seems like i should be golden. Unfortunately, i've only really seem something similar in the UK and it seemed to be great, but, haven't come across anyone doing anything similar here. Oh, last note, this plant density also seems to be the only real solution to the vole situation out here is to plant very diversely and intensively. I mean, if you stand still for long enough you can hear them munching on roots, they are thick.

I'm looking at the weeds as my model, but, thats only a guess as to whether or not that will actually solve the issue of various nutrients leeching or being taken back up. OR is the only way to just go crazy nuts with importing various things into the garden and amending like there is no tomorrow... ??
 
tel jetson
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don't despair. Steve Solomon's solutions work fine for him, but they certainly aren't the only option for growing vegetables around here. your emulation of weeds should do the trick nicely.

you'll also want to look at dynamic accumulators. we do have an almost region wide calcium deficiency, so using some plants with deep roots that capture calcium is a good idea. there are several. the second volume of Jacke and Toensmeier's Edible Forest Gardens has a great appendix that lists quite a few dynamic accumulators. observing indicator species may help you determine what else your dirt might be deficient in. failing that, a soil test certainly would.

it may well turn out that you will have to import some material to supplement what's available in your topsoil and subsoil, at least if you want to improve things in a reasonable amount of time. but it doesn't have to be resource intensive and expensive as Solomon would have us believe. it can be food waste from local restaurants and your own kitchen, coffee grounds, wood chips from tree services, ash from wood stoves, et cetera.

personally, I think this is a great part of the world to grow vegetables.
 
Evan Nilla
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awesome, thank you, there is also no to little humus, so, i'm working on that as well(also indicated by various weeds in the garden). That said, i'm thinking i should leave the majority of the dandelion, and its relatives in place. I do have that book on hand, i'll have to give that section a look over, Dave's garden is a pretty great resource to locate which plants to what. Anywho, thank you very much for the reply and the help, i appreciate it.
 
tel jetson
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fortunately, humus is pretty easy to add. it's also easy to destroy, so don't get carried away and start turning soil over.
 
Evan Nilla
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tel jetson wrote:fortunately, humus is pretty easy to add. it's also easy to destroy, so don't get carried away and start turning soil over.

n
yeah, i shant be doing any turning of the soil. and i'll let the weeds and unused vegetable bodies build the soil fertility(with a little compost here and there).
 
Rick Brodersen
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Location: Bainbridge Island,WA
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If your having a vole problem look into bringing in a water feature to attract predators too, a friend had a problem and he made a large pond and that helped bring in racoons and snakes which eat the voles. Also owls love voles too, so bringing them in is a bonus too. Let nature balance it out. I have voles but my dog seems to keep them at bay with all her digging, so that's always an option too. We have lots of root crops intermixed throughout our property...point is not too many in the same area. Can also look into plants that voles don't like, like Goldenrod or Autumn Crocus.
 
tel jetson
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voles can also do some work for you. they certainly loosen up dirt, but they'll also propagate root crops for you. a vole might find a nice morsel, stash it for later, and then it sprouts and grows right where it is. too many would be, of course, a problem.

predators are certainly a good idea. pigs would also do the job.
 
M.K. Dorje
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I've grown vegetables in Oregon on four different properties over the past 26 years and I think that this is a great place for year 'round vegetable gardening!! Although many people here seem to think that buying a few bags of rock phosphate and lime at the feed store every year is a terrible sin, I think that just a little of the store-bought amendments can go long way if you work for long range, cumalative, sustained improvement of your soil. According to the John Jeavons method of biointensive gardening, fewer and fewer amendments are needed every year as your soil improves. Intensive cover cropping during the winter really helps improve the soil and prevents the winter rains from leaching away your calcium and phosphate. I grow a lot of fava beans every year. Fava beans are wonderful at improving soil and retaining minerals. They fix a ton of nitrogen, are high in protein, and they cleanse the soil of diseases and of the dreaded symphylans. (Symphylans are way overblown by Solomon- forget about them, at least I do!) If your root crops are small, I would advise you to plant early and thin early. For example, Chantenay carrots and Winterkeeper beets are adapted to clay soil, can be planted in May, thinned in June and you'll get nice, big roots for winter harvest. Last year, I overwintered and/or harvested over 20 kinds of vegetables in various polycultures and without freeze protection in my main garden, this would be impossible in the eastern US. Gopher snakes and owls are especially good predators for voles, as previously mentioned. After mowing your orchard/food forest, play horned owl, screech owl or barred owl calls on your stereo with the windows open at night. Barred owls are friendly and they love my farm. You can also make nesting boxes out of scrap wood for barn owls or screech owls. I always have gopher snakes lurking around my compost pile area- I even put dishes of fresh water out for them (not for racoons!) and try not to disturb them when I remove the tarps. I also like to use as many free amendments as possible- I even make my own bone meal by burning animal bones in my woodstove and crushing the stuff up. I also harvest seaweed/kelp on the beach and use it as mulch- rinse it and soak it in barrels of water to remove salt. I compost lots of free horse poop/straw and I get it real hot to kill weeds. I save all my urine, too, and then feed it to the compost pile.
 
Eric Thompson
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Definitely keep looking for the best vegetables and techniques for your area and soil. We are all constantly tuning techniques on what to grow and how to grow it.
For me, what I would call my "go to" vegetable crops (in rough priority order) are: radishes, kale, fava beans, potatoes, turnips, mizuna mustard, cabbage, leeks, beets, edible chrysanthemum, onions, garlic, zucchini, carrots, buttercup squash, peas, green bean/scarlet runner beans, fennel bulb
My "iffy" list (which I will try knowing failure is easy) : tomatoes, corn, lettuce (higher with total slug protection!), large squash
Melons don't even make the cut for me -- if I'm going to invest time and babying, I may as well do that in weeding carrot beds -- but I usually don't do even that and half of my carrot beds may get wiped out through weed pressure -- counter-tactic: cultivate lots of beds and save seed by the bucketfull!
 
Thelma McGowan
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Location: western Washington, Snohomish county--zone 8b
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I grow in the Northwest and have similar challenges. It rained almost every day in June, so fertilizing or adding compost tea was a mute point, but everything I planted hung in there (with the exception of the zuchinni and cukes seeds that rotted in the ground 3 times.....seriously, who has a hard time growing Zuchinni! )

here is what I have been doing successfully to keep The soil happy in my garden. I let all edible weeds grow in the pathways and around plants and flowers ....so as to not over crowd the veggies. It works really good for me. There are lambs quarters, wild mustard, pig weed, camomile, shepperds purse, Chickweed and lots of asst herbs that reseed.....cilantro, parsley, dill, etc
I attached samples of how this works in my garden. when it rains the weeds cushion the dirt to keep it from washing away, when it is hot there is ALWAYS moist soil under the weeds, I never have dried out pathways of dusty dirt floating around. I chop and drop when nessesary etc.

I think you have the right idea, but as for root crops they do tend to want to be planted in loose soil, I pile up soil in a row (1 1/2 feet deep) and plant the carrots on top. I get big straight carrots easy. beets, rutabeggies, turnips, potatos are similar. the only crops I can depend on are the root crops around here, they will grow wether it is hot or not. mostly is is not hot here.

I grow what ever will produce.....so melons are loosers for me...but i say a guy in main who is growing short season watermelons...if he can we should be able to?? Maybe it is just getting the soil ready to grow and finding the right varieties for your area.

My neighbors think I am a lazy gardner cause I don't weed! but i never have a sprinkler going in my garden , They can't cay the same.


CIMG3484.JPG
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view of self seeding sunflower, volunteer potatoes, squashes, edible weeds
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bush beans, lettuce, asst brassicas, peas, and edible weeds
 
John Polk
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I don't know your climate, but I agree with Eric. Here in the Seattle area we typically don't get enough summer heat for melons or tomatoes. If you want tomatoes, you need an early variety (which are notoriously bland). My best luck has been with the cherry tomatoes.

Since you are in Oregon, I would recommend http://www.territorialseed.com/
They are dependable and reliable, but best of all, they are local. They trial all of their seeds in Oregon, so you are buying what grows here. They discontinue anything that doesn't do well in their trials. Good selection of seeds.

 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I'm not sure what part of Oregon you are in, Evan, but I agree with all the above responses. I'm in the southwestern part of the state, up in the hilly part of the Rogue Valley. The soil is thin and there isn't hardly any nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium to be found when starting up a garden. My soil tests were pretty clear about that! however, adding in organic matter such as rotten wood, leaf litter, our kitchen waste, and other waste products have started to turn things around. The volunteer potatoes, tomatoes and squash in last year's compost pile are just silly.

We are just finishing up planting our new kitchen garden area, this year. They are slightly raised beds, where the gravel was sifted out and a thick layer of wood chips was buried under the top soil. Planted them up with a polyculture of chick peas, snap beans, limas, asparagus beans, sunflowers, beets and thai hibiscus. Looking good so far!

Good luck with your garden!
 
Evan Nilla
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Thanks again for all the help guys.

Thelma that seems pretty much spot on and that you very much for the pictures, thats more of less what i had envisioned, and Eric, thanks for that list, thats a great help. It seems sunchokes do well here as well. I have heard of terrestrial seeds before, so i'll have to check them out when their website comes back up. Kay, wow, chick peas, i don't think there is the heat here for that, i'm right in between Eugene and Florence. I would preferably have as many vegetable crops as possible, seems some asian varieties like this weather. I'd prefer all the weeds to be edible, but, aside from buttercup, everything in here right now is at least not poisonous. Budget is always a concern and its a large garden, seed saving is definitely in mind, there are volunteers of various things in spots, but, the soil needs some work, lots and lots of turning the soil(but there are worms), there is literally no humus(but i find compost remnants here or there)

Horned owls, snakes, lizards, raccoon, all these things are here. Problem is cats, overabundance of cants, don't have a slug problem/vole problem/etc, have a deficiency in one of these predators(snakes lizards) via an overabundance of cats. thats nether here nor there though.

thanks again everyone for your advice.

Right now i'm trying a few different things, heavy mulching from whatever was in the row/bed before, dense poly-culture based on variations of non similar families and different root and plant structures, intermixed with beneficial weeds based on whatever is growing around. Ground cover with clover or vetch. Thats the basics right now.

anyone have any luck with seeds sprouting by casting on the soil surface??
 
Eric Thompson
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Evan Nilla wrote:Right now i'm trying a few different things, heavy mulching from whatever was in the row/bed before, dense poly-culture based on variations of non similar families and different root and plant structures, intermixed with beneficial weeds based on whatever is growing around. Ground cover with clover or vetch. Thats the basics right now.

anyone have any luck with seeds sprouting by casting on the soil surface??



Evan, I have 2 pretty good techniques working with living white clover mulch, which I like to keep in raised beds:
1. Trim the clover down to 2" or so (I use electric string trimmer or electric mower), transplant in things 6" or higher like kale, broccoli, cabbage etc.. That's about all the special care you need for the year if your clover is thick enough to outcompete weeds. You will need a little more water in drought, but that goes to your nitrogen fixer, so it's a fair trade
2. Peel off the clover sheet like an old carpet - this is really easy if you have loose soil and predominantly white clover with shallow roots. If you do this when dry, you can shake off nearly all the soil and then use this clover sheet for mulch: pathways, borders, or even as a lazy alternative to the cutting in #1 (smother live clover with dead clover..) Now you can direct seed the bare area with things like carrot, celery, leeks, mustards, etc. - this is where you scatter seed, rake the top 1" of soil around, and wish those seeds the best. Make sure you do a fairly bad job of getting all the small clover roots - we want those to come back, just slowly.

White clover is great because it doesn't outcompete anything over 6" and mostly outcompetes everything else - plus the roots are shallow and easy to rip out.

One more thing I've found is that self seeding from the year before still works great when removing the clover carpet and shaking - I try to let things vigorously self seed, and a lot of the polyculture design works itself out...
 
Paul Cereghino
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My favorite weeds are Chickweed, Nipplewort, Lamb's quarters, and Purslane. I understand that the historical calcium and phosphorus reserve was in woody debris, everything around us has cut and burned, most of the earthworms are introduced... there is a local song that goes "for two years I chopped and I beavered, but I never got down to the soil..." So we are reinventing a soil ecosystem, and I'd agree with using lime and rock phosphate in many settings. Oceanic nutrients may also suit you well... shell and seaweed. I'd say that from a survivalist perspective, summer water is the limiting factor, but otherwise, it is a gardening paradise as long as you like cabbage family.
 
Evan Nilla
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Eric thanks again. there is a patch of white clover in the garden/weeds and i notice it does a great job of doing exactly as you described, it even is keeping out the quakgrass. After looking around the forums for weeds in the garden, it seems like i had more or less the right idea. Keeping the weeds around i want in the garden and getting rid of the ones i don't. Found a thread on fighting weeds with weeds, keep the weeds i want, and they will overcome the others in time. Keep a ground cover, living if possible, i have a lot of red clover seeds, but, looking, white clover looks to do a much better job. Chopping and not pulling up roots also seems to be the right idea i had, not turning over the soil, and planting according to root structures as much as possible(with help from the weeds, as it seems most vegetables have very similar root structures as well as visable structure). Finally, keeping plants of the same family well spaced from each other(bassicas come to mind).

I'd rather not import anything if possible, just because of cost prohibitive reasons, and, i feel weeds should do all the work for me if i allow them. Building wider rows, because they are very narrow right now, is a future plan to allow for great diversity and ease of building the soil/topsoil. I'm going to integrate flowers into all parts of the garden, in amongst the vegetables, seems like nothing but a good idea to me, and anyone i talk to in person seems to resonate with this. Allowing as many things as possible reseed themselvse, there are some potatoe volunteers(purple and white) that are very happy amongst the weeds, and some volunteer carrots and beets that are also very happy amongst the weeds. Getting things naturalized helps a lot. Also, as everyone is describing, getting off of plants that just don't like the area(tomatoes) and planting things that do work here.

I've also got a plan for tree crops now (but thats way long term/still slightly up in the air)

thanks a lot guys, i appreciate all the input.
 
tel jetson
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I wouldn't rule out importing stuff. if your dirt suffers a serious deficiency of a vital element, there likely isn't a way to weed that element into existence (with the notable exception of nitrogen). dynamic accumulators can concentrate minerals present in the subsoil on the surface, but if there isn't any in the subsoil either, you would be out of luck.

but, the stuff you import to help out your dirt can be the food you're already eating that you don't grow. just might have to get a little more intimate with what you food becomes. which is to say that your own shit and piss has roughly everything your dirt could need, though not necessarily in the right proportions.

and if you burn at all, wood ash could help with calcium, though some caution should apply there. and if it's in wood ash, it's also in wood, so using wood in any of the myriad other ways it recommends itself in the garden could also help with calcium.
 
Evan Nilla
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yeah, i'm not entirely against importing something and will most likely use a calcium amendment at some point. There are a lot of table scraps that go into compost that end up in the garden, along with egg shells. However, it seems like a mute point having to constantly amend the soil from an outside source, and, i read over it being said that it gets better and better, but, wouldn't it just drop back off after the soil is no longer amended? Ether way, i'm not against adding it to the soil until the point is reached where the various root structures hold everything in place before its leached away.

Secondly, i think living mulch is the way to go, after being out in the garden i came to that today, but i can't remember why.

low roots | medium roots | deep roots ~ legume | barrier plant | food crop. my basic recipe for seed mixes.
However, physically planning/seeding this mix works out to, it just takes longer.

Eric, reading over your post about living mulch again, i've had some really good success with direct seeding this small bed and then laying a thin layer of mulch on top(mostly red clover) and there is a lot of stuff popping up through right now(including beans). The thin layer of mulch was to shade and keep birds and such from eating everything, worked really well.
 
B Warren
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Evan, Territorial Seed is indeed the best place to get your seeds. They have a store in Cottage Grove, and carry tons of good stuff! Their starts are very pricey, though, so sprout your own. Yes, I have had good luck with casting seed on the soil surface, for a few things- usually tiny seeds, dill and carrots or smaller, but the problem with this method is that after they sprout and are a couple inches high, I have to gently cover their roots and lower stem with soil as soon as they sprout, or they fall over from lack of support... because of our wet spring, I suspect they don't feel the need to set deep root systems early. I DO have good fortune with casting quinoa seed around, and scuffing a touch of soil over or among it with my foot. More a kick dirt-in--the-face-of-seed move...they love it, and rise to the challenge, literally. I know that the southern Umpqua Valley is a melon-grower's paradise- a town called Winston in Oregon even has a yearly melon festival. They also grow great tomatoes there, along the Umpqua river, in the floodplain. Great soil, that. They have days in the 90's every summer- at least a week or two of it! Ha! Perpetual spring. I saw some mention of voles in the posts above- I found that running my rototiller around the perimeter of the garden a couple times a week seems to discourage them- they seem to dislike the vibration, I would expect. Whenever I stop or get lazy on that, I get a move-in of voles/moles...little underground rats that chomp the roots off my veggies, and can topple an entire row of young plants in two days! They love the moist, soft soil, so I have to be careful to not water too much... They seem to decrease my earthworm population wherever they run. I water with a soaker hose system, so of course, that encourages the varmints (no love here for them) to run the length of my rows- easy digging, I expect. However, that being said, I always have a good garden, but I grow only for the family's food so don't grow for market, and none of us have starved yet. It is hard to get the garden up and running before June, where I live, and the only things that consistently rot in the ground for me is green bean seeds. I have to plant them about mid-June. Love this temperate rain forest! So lush!
 
Evan Nilla
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Thank you Warren, that was very helpful. What veggies do you grow there or do you have most success with?

i've been hearing June really seems to be key in getting things in the ground. Seemed like the rains were tame enough around here at that time as well.

Thank you for the confirmation, yes, smaller seeds seem to do much better being tossed about vs large seeds.

My big thing is to work with what you have, and not fight things. So if there is something that doesn't like this climate at all, no sense doing battle trying to grow it.

thanks again everyone.
 
B Warren
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Evan Nilla wrote:Thank you Warren, that was very helpful. What veggies do you grow there or do you have most success with?

i've been hearing June really seems to be key in getting things in the ground. Seemed like the rains were tame enough around here at that time as well.

Thank you for the confirmation, yes, smaller seeds seem to do much better being tossed about vs large seeds.

My big thing is to work with what you have, and not fight things. So if there is something that doesn't like this climate at all, no sense doing battle trying to grow it.

thanks again everyone.


I consistently have grown brassicas, (under reemay only, tho, as we have lots of cabbage moths) basil, Blue Lake beans, beets, early corn, carrots, cucumbers, dill, lavender (a tiny pinch of lavender flowers is most excellent in a meat-based stew -I am not vegetarian, I fear) lettuces, mints, potatoes, garlic, onions, thyme, tomatoes, radishes, sage, smaller melons- pac choi, peas, peppers, quinoa, savory, turnips, zucchini -mostly all squash except I didn't have luck with Hubbards. I even have a couple of small camellia sinensis plants (tea) that hang on despite the fact I need to move them, but we do have an easy time growing camellias here. For fruits and nuts, I have black caps, (a small wild raspberry) huckleberries, Oregon Grape, salal berries, elderberries, blueberries, blackberries, thimbleberries, grapes, apples, peaches, pears, prunes, plums, hazelnuts, strawberries, walnuts, sugar maples, My brother, down in the bottom-land near a river has artichokes, nectarines, figs, as well as all types of orchard trees except for tropicals. I am certain I have missed a few things, but its quite late and I am too sleepy to think ... Good luck in your garden!
 
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