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Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades  RSS feed

 
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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Steve Soloman's book "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades" is certainly not a permacultural resource, but I wanted the opinions here of permies who have read it.  He makes a pretty compelling case against some practices like sheet mulching, and he imports lots of ammendments (though fairly benign ones).  He has some great stuff to say about how to avoid irrigation when possible. 

I'd love the thoughts on this book from other gardeners in this region who battle the same conditions he addresses.
 
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I have read the book, and been disturbed by it, a few times.

Here is why I find it disturbing - he 'works' way to hard to achieve 'food" IMHO.  I'm sure earning his living by gardening he can justify his efforts, but I am in search of harmonious relationships that don't require large amounts of time/money/products to achieve results - Permaculture don't you know.

I would love to find info refuting Soloman's opinions. 

All that said, I did take away from the book some interesting ponderings.  Like why our conifer forests are so mineral depleted while other types of rain forests are not.  Soloman claims it's due to all the rain, but that cannot be correct.  So I ponder.... is it due to the acidity and PH produces by conifers..... or what?

Soloman claims compost added to our soils will not do the trick for feeding and such, I just don't believe it.  I believe he tried the typical methods and when they didn't work the same as in other regions he jumped to the conclusion that they won't work here at all.  He then falls back on money/labor/time to achieve his results, because his job was on the line. Instead of experimenting to find what permaculture methods would work, or what tweaks to the typical methods would have to be employed.  I can understand where he is coming from.

I have a very bad city lot for gardening, surrounded by huge fir trees with very little light.  So I haven't been able to run my own tests on his claims. 

For so many reasons I do not want answers that force me to be a consumer, to find and purchase products, to rely on industry so I can grow my own food.

I do not like Soloman's conclusions to say the least, however I do believe everyone gardening in the PNW should read his book so we can find ways prove him wrong 

 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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very well put!  I am also seeking refutations...  I have had limited success with sheetmulching/"lasagne gardening" here in the rainy NW.  I am very tempted to try his "light tilling" approach.  I don't mind the work of hoeing as he puts it, but I also was amazed to see him stating that using less compost is better (provided you use 100s of pounds of cottonseed meal each year). 

I was also alarmed by his talk of needing to rest the garden each 3 years.  I realize this is beneficial, but how many people can really do this?  Similarly, are the Symphlans as big of a deal as he makes them out to be?
 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
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Yes, Symphlans - also disturbing.... I have not found them to be a problem yet for my situation, but who knows.  I do move the soil (light hoeing like) all the time, because I have to plant in the exact same areas year after year.  So I recreate beds.

And I can see the logic behind 3 year resting, and would love to use it if I had the space.  I can also see the benefits of the use of animals which he doesn't employ in his methods.  I wonder how far ducks can go to aid one in the fight against pest in our mild climate.  Incorporating animals would help to offset his use of purchased/hauled manure in any amount.

Hopefully others will join this thread and add their two cents 
 
Posts: 2
Location: Western WA
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In defense of the book, it did lead me to search for new sources of information that I could apply in my own garden.  Searches that only months later have led me here.  I don't even know what permaculture is, but by morning I bet I'll have a pretty good idea after digging through this site.  With what little I've read so far, it definitely sounds like something interesting.

What annoyed me about the book (and most others like it), was a recurring theme of needing to have at least a certain amount of space available (which almost always seems to be more than I have) to do anything worthwhile.  Not only to grow 'sufficient' amounts, but also to be able to rotate/rest.  My garden space is roughly 120 sq. ft., and with the exception of some supplementary space from containers on the deck, where it is, is where it has to stay.  No rotating in my future as far as I can tell.  As far as 'sufficient' goes, the most I can grow of the best/safest quality is sufficient enough for me at this point, not necessarily what someone thinking in terms of portions of acreage instead of square feet says I need.





 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
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Great to have you Brian, glad you found us....

Enjoy looking around, and post back any other thoughts you may have on this topic.

~Jami
 
            
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Hello everyone,

This is my first time posting and I am enjoying the sites.
When I picked up Steve Soloman's book, I was disappointed. Being a foodie, a gardener and a Hort student, it really wasn't fair of me to be critical though. His book is for beginners, and I do not agree with all of his ideas, but it will be a start for some people. I found it in the grocery store, which tells you who it is being marketed to, so I am not sure we should expect to much from it. Brian did mention that he did not know what permaculture was, and it did get him on the path of seeking more info out. If that is what his book achieves then kudo's. The more people get their hands in the soil, the more they will seek and discover what is out there about gardening, permaculture, everything.
Everyone starts somewhere.

Great site and great conversation!

Anna
 
                                            
Posts: 59
Location: Bellevue, WA
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Like all things, it's someones opinion.  Solomon has a lot of ideas, some are pretty good and others are crap. It's the textbook for a culinary gardening class I'm taking (I'm a hort student too, though a restoration hort student up at Edmonds CC)

I'm curious about his Gardening When It Counts book.  Has anyone here read it and, if so, is it any different than Growing Vegetables... ?
 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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I'd love to hear experiences from people who live in the PacNW and what works for them.  I've had an extremely difficult time with nearly all of my permacultural projects.  Between the weather, slugs, mold, and deer, very little makes it here.

In my greenhouse, typical "organic gardening" similar to Solomon espouses has been very productive.  I did reclaim it from a decade of abuse through sheet mulching, but the vegetables grew remarkably better after removing the mulch

Putting food on my family's table is the main priority.  I am defintely not using RoundUp like Solomon suggests, and I cannot rotate plots as often as he suggests either.  However, adding some lime, kelp, and cottonseed meal to my plants seems like a sound idea until I can get my comfrey and nettle plantation going.

I guess I need to get over my guilt and be a "regular" organic gardener in my greenhouse, and keep the permaculture to the yard until I have more skill developed.
 
                          
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Location: Portland Oregon
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grumble, mumble, grumble....great, just great, another book I have to read!! 
I gather from the comments that this book says it's hard to grow veggies in the Pacific Northwest, also known as the nursery capital of the country.
 
Hummm, down where I work, south of Milwaukie OR. we have a two acre veggie garden for the people who live here, a senior living community, 90 some plots, various sizes that has been producing veggies for the last almost 50 years.  Yep, the big 50 is this year.  A huge number of people have gardened on these plots through the years, all kinds of styles and kinds of veggie gardening.  My first try at veggie gardening was last season, I took over 8 plots and dug vast amounts of compost and leaves into the soil, box after box after box of veggies were harvested from those 8 plots.

The only problem I can see with growing veggies here is what to do with all the produce.  And dont get me started on the great tomato flood of '09. 

Growing food aint as easy as falling off a log, but it's not rocket sicence either. Come visit; Rose Villa senior living community, ask for Hank, the master gardener.

Hank
Hank
 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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Hank-

To the contrary, he makes it clear that this is a great region for growing vegetables.  Its just that the low levels of light, lack of truly deep freezing (which "reboots" soil in the east), and intense moisture present some special problems.  He also claims that we suffer nutrient deficiencies with a cyclical momentum.  The soil is poor (mostly due to heavy leaching by rain) and therefore animal feed is poor and therefor manure is poor.  So the typical approach of just adding compost and manure doesn't work so well and over time makes the soil rather imbalanced.  So he suggests adding a mild all-purpose mix of lime, cottonseed meal, kelp, and rock phosphate or bone meal.

His other points are that mulch is bad here; it harbors too many pests in the constant dampness and lack of freezing.  He advocates bare soil, constantly hoed and lightly tilled.  He does reject deep tilling.

The parts of his approach which are incompatible with permaculture seem to be the rejection of mulch, the temporary nature of plots (move them each year and let them return to grass every 3, he says), and the addition of outside inputs (kelp, lime, phosphate, bonemeal as above).

 
pollinator
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Steve wrote "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades" because he found that methods like Ruth Stout's did not lead to growing success in the PNW, a conclusion which I had already drawn by the time I ran across his books. Much of the organic gardening advice at the time was "once size fits all". Deep year-round mulch just doesn't work as well on the wet side of the cascades as it does in other parts of the country.

I have read "Gardening when it Counts", although I have not used it. At the time he wrote it, he was living in the Umpqua River country, and started to wonder about dense planting methods like square-foot gardening. Wild plants space themselves so they can survive all summer on what the rains provide during the winter. So he started experimenting with growing widely spaced garden plants with no irrigation. Very interesting.

Steve now lives in New Zealand. His first wife died of cancer, which had a huge effect on his thinking about the nutrient density in food. The mailing list he runs - the  soil health forum - is subscribed to by many followers of Cary Reams and similar thinkers. It's more than a bit cult-like, but the reason for the off-site inputs is that while composting is necessary, if your soil is lacking in certain minerals, and all your compost comes from your site, or from vegetation and manure that was produced on similarly deficient soils, you will still be growing deficient food. Nutrient density is judged by the use of a refractometer, which measures the solids in plant juices and sap. It's not a direct relationship, but it is a lot cheaper than running specific lab analyses on a particular crop. Many of the list subscribers are also fans of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

Steve's formula for a mix-your-own complete organic fertilizer formula can be googled if you don't have his book. He developed it in reaction to expensive commercial organic fertilizers.

I'm not a blind follower of anything or anyone, but I have always found his ideas to be thought-provoking. He doesn't pull them out of a hat, they are the result of close observation and the willingness to try stuff out.



 
                            
Posts: 32
Location: Vancouver Island, BC
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Thanks for starting this discussion, Mantid!  I too read Solomon's book after reading a variety of other permaculture and no-till gardening books, and found myself very confused.  But my own observations in my raised beds this first year are pretty consistent with his, and I'm finding him quite convincing.

I planted some areas with compost mulch, some with none, and some with straw/sheet mulching from the fall.  The beds growing the best (by a lot) are the ones with the compost mulch.  The sheet mulched ones where I pulled back the straw have been munched to death, but I have hope for the ones I sheet mulched in the fall and have now pulled the straw right off (and into the compost).

I have also observed that EVERY reputable gardener in these parts--even the ones doing some version of permaculture--are adding some lime or other version of his COF.  Certainly I think you could use seaweed and compost in place of the other fertilizer ingredients, but the lime seems a necessity; I'm afraid the rain-leaching particular mineral argument makes perfect sense to me.

I think I'm realizing that although permaculture food production is brilliant, it is still an artificial intervention: we are still trying to grow and arrange nature and exotic plants in a climate they are not designed for.  The true, no-intervention-or-imports-necessary system for the NW is the one that the Native residents were living originally--truly living out of the forest and the sea.  We're in a bind because that's not what we're doing (at least I'm not; I'm growing kiwis and tomatoes and apples and cherries, etc etc), and the environment is becoming so degraded that I'm not sure it would be possible to live according to the traditional system.  At least First Nations communities up here who want to/have to are struggling to do so.  I'm definitely still struggling to find the balance around inputs and intervention.

Rotation-wise, I too found this really stressful--and I've read several accounts of people starting to have nightmares about symphylans after reading his section!  Solomon does do fairly traditional row/section monoculture, and as you know, doesn't have a high opinion of interplanting.  His approach seems to be one of efficiency for weeding, for instance.  So I think that a really different, fully interplanted with perennials approach (which is what I'm hoping to try) is a genuine option for many pests.  Time will tell if the pesky symphylans are indeed the plague he writes about.  My plan is do some annual rotation through the perennial beds, and possibly include some fallow in the rotation.  But likely with green manure.

I'd love to hear more about others' experiences, and I'd be really interested in Toby Hemenway's thoughts on both of Solomon's books--is he still on the permaculture forum?

Sorry for the long post!  This is the topic I've been mulling over for some time
Rosie
Vancouver island
 
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I think the combination of Steve Solomon's "Gardening...", John Jeavons "How to grow more..." and Elliot Coleman "The new organic grower/winter harvest"... make a lovely combination of very thoughful manuals for clean-cultivation growing.

I have horse people nearby for manure - many people import hay from E. Washington, my chicken feed comes from the Canadian prairie, and I assume this adds some nutrient diversity.  I am troubled by the surface mining to get rock phosphate and lime.  Oyster shell is a good alternative for Ca and micronutrients.

I have always found slugs to be a big problem in my gardens, and have never had ducks.  I have always found my slugs lurking in mulch and grass during the day.

I also use my clean cultivation beds for starting cuttings, and growing out perennials.

I understand Mustard and Spinich families don't have mycorrhizal associates.  They are truely early succession weeds.  I suspect I will still grow the bulk of my greens and roots under clean cultivation, but am interested in chicken-using systems.

Maybe some species work better in the perennial garden than others... cucurbits? solanums? liliaceae?

I have a boarder of herbs and stuff around my beds.. this is my testing ground for minimal cultivation.  I move things out to the food forest as they prove they can hack it.  I hope to incrementally move anything that can perennialize out of clean cultivation.

I wait until the rain stops to mulch.

I am unkind to slugs.

I appreciate the water efficiency of intensive gardening.

I think much of permaculture in our region is not necessarily forsaking proven gardening techniques, but rather in diversifying the species from which you get your needs.  My forest garden gives me things I don't grow in my garden.
 
                                            
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I was listening to a guest speaker in class today who has a beautiful native wild life landscaped acre. Part of her property is just a square of tall grasses, nothing else. We all thought that was odd and so I asked her about it.

She said that it's habitat for garter snakes and they just love it.  She says she has tons of them in the grasses (apparently, there are big rocks in the grass that we can't see too).  She then said something I found really interesting...the garter snakes eat slugs like mad.

She keeps the patch of grass to provide habitat for the snakes who eat the slugs, protecting her vegetable garden.  My mind instantly jumped back to this thread and the conversation about Solomon's dislike of mulch because it harbors pests.

I'm wondering now if mulch could work fine, provided you properly plan and plant to attract the predators who will feed on the critters hiding in the mulch.  Possibly a combination of providing habitat for wild predators (snakes) and having domesticated predators that you let rummage through the mulch (chickens, ducks, geese) would offset the attraction factor that mulch has for slugs.

Thoughts?
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
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@Paul,

/I am troubled by the surface mining to get rock phosphate and lime.  Oyster shell is a good alternative for Ca and micronutrients./

By all accounts, phosphate mining is not sustainable. But were I you, I'd be collecting seaweed. I think an ocean-based source of nutrients would be just the thing.

A related factoid - some folks now think that the return of salmon to the upper reaches of watersheds and their death there is a significant factor in the long-term sustainability of old-growth forest, due to the ocean nutrients that are returned to the forest ecosystem as the fish carcasses are consumed by bears and others. And you know how far a bear can travel, and what it does in the woods...

These long-term cycles are, I think, pretty invisible to us short-lived monkeys.
 
                                            
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you're right, the salmon play a large role in the upland forest ecology. We've been talking about that in class lately quite a bit as being a part of what is driving the salmon recovery efforts in WA.

 
Jami McBride
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tentamus wrote:
I'm wondering now if mulch could work fine, provided you properly plan and plant to attract the predators who will feed on the critters hiding in the mulch.  Possibly a combination of providing habitat for wild predators (snakes) and having domesticated predators that you let rummage through the mulch (chickens, ducks, geese) would offset the attraction factor that mulch has for slugs.

Thoughts?



Yes, I've read were piled up hay was used to house frogs which really helped with pest removal.  And I know from personal experience that rocks and mulch are great housing for lizards that also help with slugs and pests.

I would add one caution: cats undermine your lizard, frog and snake population - so easy on the cats 

I would love to use local seaweed, but it's not always available.  However, all of this brings up good points regarding the addressing of our soil's minerals while not relying on processed amendments.

I wonder about mercury and other heavy metals in the oyster shell and seaweed - does anyone know if this is an issue?

I guess a one compromised would be to buy natural amendments from better soil regions as Paul suggests.

 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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HI! awesome awesome book. The most beneficial to me was the stuff about forest soils. I am in the woods, on land that was logged twice(once 70 years ago, and we logged some) otherwise it's how it has been, never was farmed(like row-cropped), has just been woods(oak savannah transitioning to fir forest). I'm at 1000 feet. We get like 80-90" of rain a year, this last winter had to be more because I dumped over a five gallon bucket five times(and it's full again).

Anyways, it's difficult to do a veg garden here--that's why it wasn't farmed ha. WHen I started putting in a garden the neighbors all said stuff just doesn't grow here--between the deer(I have a 10 foot fence), the poor soil, the clay soil that turns to cement in summer when it's exposed, the soggy cold soil, the winds(believe me they are stiffer higher up you go). I just kept plugging away. Solomon's info on forest soils helped tremendously. We heat with wood so I put ALL ashes out on the garden, every year. When we burned the slash from loggin I put ash from that on the garden. That helped so much more than even putting in compost! In fact the first year I grew my garden with new boxes filled with compost and manure--stunted, pale hardly any fruit plants, with COMPOST! ha.

ANyways, MUCH better now. I still pile on the ashes in the winter, mulch big with grass and weed slash in summer, throw on eggshells and coffee grounds, throw kitchen scraps on the beds in winter. That's it, I dont' "make" compost and people tell me I'm nuts. I have great soil now that grows healthy fertile veggies. Very happy.

Other book that made profound difference was Kukuoka's One Straw/Natural Farming, with the forest garden/no till etc structured method. I've been transplanting native species into my garden(silverweed, wild strawberry, indian plum, violet, columbine, iris etc) as cover and to foster the foresty relationship thing. Seems to work great!

I have an early edition book, when Solomon was at the original place near Eugene(?), which is also on the old forest soil and a significant elevation--yes, different than on the valley floor.  Believe me, a 1000 feet makes a huge difference!

I have no real problems with pests--either because I'm far enough from the ag lands, and I have tons of beneficial insects(my God the forest is squirming!) I've got praying mantis, snakes, lizards. Slugs are definately present but just dont' make a dent. If I remember part of SOlomon's thing was having robust plants fed what they need as being a big part of thriving(well, duh)--def got that goin on. PLENTY of full sun--VERY important. Skimping on sun dont' cut it. I interplant lots of flowers which attract lots of pollinators.

One thing that has really struck me about living here in the woods is how fecund the forest is, with plants, birds, insects etc. The burbs of Portland are sterile compared to here. Funny how gardening sucked when I first got here, but I just kept at it and now it's beyond expectation.

ANyways, if you have any questions let me know, I am in Yamhill county in the mountains on the west side.

PS, after working with the forest gardening principles last year, I noticed a huge difference in the sprouting rates of the "bad" weeds, stuff like thistle and curly dock, which hardly any has come up within my garden, where in years past there was lots. This tells me the soil is getting back to balance and good health. (the half acre where the garden sits was logged 20 years ago and has sat baking and compacted in the sun, so plenty of thistle and dock etc still grows OUTSIDE my garden, so it's not for lack of seeds that it doesn't sprout INSIDE.
 
jacque greenleaf
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@ wyldthang /I have an early edition book, when Solomon was at the original place near Eugene(?), which is also on the old forest soil and a significant elevation--yes, different than on the valley floor.  Believe me, a 1000 feet makes a huge difference!/

It sure does. Frost dates are the least of it. The original soil structure, mineralization, and biota are really different. The other thing that my intuition is telling me must be true is that here in the PNW, the original soil biota, since they are adapted to summer drought/dormancy, are not highly effective partners during the growing season. I suspect that part of what you've done to get your forest soil to produce tomatoes is to inoculate your soil with more effective organisms.

Yes, he was originally in Lorane, which is just south of Cottage Grove. I believe that elevation was something like 1500 or 2000 feet.

BTW, since he now lives in New Zealand, he is saying that the current edition of Growing West of the Cascades is the final one he will do. So it would be good to get it.

 
                              
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I sure don't understand all the soil bugs, but there sure is something to it! luckily it seems you can bumble around a bit. Last year my beds needed more soil(you know how they sink), and I added forest duffy soil from my property, about 6" worth, I can tell the plants were nourished and also this year the perennials are especially vigorous coming up, depsite it being a really cold and wet spring. SO I'm eacger to see how the veggies do this year.

I do rotate, but it's haphazard...basically I try to rotate the beans around for the legume bennies, but I dont' keep records(ahem) or rotate anally.
 
gardener
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A real problem with Steve Solomon's book is that he is growing only vegetables.  Why is he so lacking in minerals? He doesn't have trees or bushes that dig deep and get the minerals out of the soil onto their leaves, which when shed, add minerals to the compost. 

A real diverse soil food web will retain soil structure even in heavy rain areas.  Some deep rooted trees and bushes can help with this as well

I think any vegetable gardener would know about rotating. Don't plant tomatoes in the same spot every year.

Personally, as a lazy vegetable gardener, I prefer perennial or self-seeding vegetables.  The perennials don't seem to have problems, and the self seeders go on to other areas.  I think solid blocks of standard vegetables are asking for problems. Get some diversity. Flowers are beautiful and bring in the good bugs.  The Native Americans knew all about this.


I found his book to be intriguing and thought provoking. I loved it, even if I disagree with parts.
John S
PDX OR
 
                              
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We heat with wood cut on our place, so there is minerals in the ash that the trees suck up--fire is a natural way to replenish soil nutrients. Smokey Bear sucks (wink)
 
                            
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I'm going to be redesigning my zone 1 beds for next year, and I'm torn between these different models.  I love John S. ' description of the perennial beds; I can certainly envision large beds with perennial veg, herbs, and self seeders left to volunteer, and then with rotating annuals tucked into pockets throughout.

But Solomon and Coleman make compelling cases for more traditional rows, and I can see from my experiences this year that more intensive beds might yield more, be easy to weed (although I'm not doing much of that ), and maybe most usefully, easy to keep watered with a drip system and harvest systematically.  Part of my dilemma is possible market gardening income--I wonder (and would love to hear) if it's possible to market garden effectively/efficiently in the mixed perennial beds?

Paul Cereghino, I'd love to hear more about how you blend Solomon, Coleman, and Jeavons.  All defintely have compelling visions, but some aspects are contradictory.  Would you mind describing your beds and techniques a little more?

Is anyone out there market gardening without intensive rows/beds?

 
steward
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Rosie wrote:
Is anyone out there market gardening without intensive rows/beds?



I'm not yet, but it's in the works.  won't help you now, but I'll likely be posting about my experience as things get going.
 
                              
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Rosie wrote:
I'm going to be redesigning my zone 1 beds for next year, and I'm torn between these different models.  I love John S. ' description of the perennial beds; I can certainly envision large beds with perennial veg, herbs, and self seeders left to volunteer, and then with rotating annuals tucked into pockets throughout.

But Solomon and Coleman make compelling cases for more traditional rows, and I can see from my experiences this year that more intensive beds might yield more, be easy to weed (although I'm not doing much of that ), and maybe most usefully, easy to keep watered with a drip system and harvest systematically.  Part of my dilemma is possible market gardening income--I wonder (and would love to hear) if it's possible to market garden effectively/efficiently in the mixed perennial beds?

Paul Cereghino, I'd love to hear more about how you blend Solomon, Coleman, and Jeavons.  All defintely have compelling visions, but some aspects are contradictory.  Would you mind describing your beds and techniques a little more?

Is anyone out there market gardening without intensive rows/beds?




This is just anecdotal, but last summer was my first year using the forest garden technique. I noticed that the individual plants(set among a variety of companions) were more productive than doing it in beds before, or even arranging rows as in companion planting.  This year my perennials(so far flowers/herbs/strawberries/raspberries) are more vigorous than ever.

I realize there are issues to consider when you are growing for a market(ease of picking, ease of more uniform plantings etc with the row/bed method).  But I would DEFINATELY bet that for the person growing their own food, forest gardening will boost yeild and quality of the produce. It's not like you can just throw stuff around willy nilly tho, you need to consider relationships and sun needs.  Something else I think is key to rebuilding a soil's natural health is bringing in NATIVE species that were growing there first. I've been trans planting native stuff in amoungst, most of which is edible and/or with medicinal value, and I'm thinking having old friends in the soil(and to mulch) makes it "happy".

ANyways, someday hoping to give the forest garden a whirl on a small market level. Though I can see it would suffer in labor costs.
 
                            
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Wyldthang, I'm really interested in what you're doing there in the forest.  Thanks for the thoughts.  I'm new to all of this, and in my beds so far, the most productive relationships seem clearly to be everything that's planted next to Fava Beans!  And everything that's volunteered.  I'm trying to leave that stuff alone; if that seed has decided it's got ideal growing conditions, who am I to fight it?  I've been tempted to try scattering seed into my compost that goes on the beds in the fall and letting the seeds decide when to come up, rather than me deciding when to plant them .

But you're right about being a little careful--the strawberries, for instance, are out competing everything else!  I will definitely try Ianto Evans' polyculture at some point too.

But the idea of native plants is interesting.  Perennials like salal?  Do you find that some of those relationships don't work?  How do the natives do in the soil conditions that veggies are supposed to like?

I should say, too, that our fenced garden property is all on fill, rather than native or forest soil, as well as in imported topsoil on top of a septic system, so that may affect things too...
 
John Suavecito
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Wyldthang, is there a source of info on forest gardening principles? I may be doing some of this unintentionally.  I try to space trees so that they get enough light.  Mostly I use trees from 10' to 20' tall, so they don't shade too much.  I guess I try to mimic nature in a lot of ways.  I look at how dense nature is, and I try to plant it about the same, except for the fact that the tallest tree I'm growing is 18' tall.

I try to put things where they like to be in certain zones.  The south side of the house has hot sun, so I'm putting a lot of Mediterranean plants there, like mulberry, quince, pineapple guava, fig, fuzzy kiwi, sea berry, crocosmia, grapes, pomegranate, and citrus.  The NE of my place has medium sun, and the NW has shade and more moisture, so I move them plants to where they're most comfy. 

I find with mixing trees in with bushes and raised beds, plants are less likely to get smoked out by hot sun if I go on vacation or forget.  We also want to cool the house in the summer by giving the heat to the plants instead of to our house. 

John S
PDX OR
 
                              
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HI! I will think about your questions and get back with more detail. Mostly I've just gotten ideas from learning about the forest around me(basic ecology and counting species of what's there, being observant), which includes watching clearcuts of various ages(I'm at the western part of Yamhill county, bordering private timber land and BLM, as well as there's plenty of stuff that was logged once way back when the pioneers first settled, and has been left to grow back up).

I have 10 acres, about half of which we logged, either thinning or intending to seed for pasture/meadow(but the native grasses have done quite fine at that). WHere my garden is is the spot that gets the most sun thru the day. It was cleared off about 20 years ago by the previous owner to prevent trees falling on the house when the nieghbor across the road logged off their property, exposing the trees here to more wind stress. The ground was left alone, has a few volunteer trees, or course was compacted pretty well.

PLus 1000 on providing height in the garden. I have bronze fennel that makes airy filtered shade that really helps(and doens't seem to affect plants near it, most veggies aren't supposed to like bronze fennel.  It is a feeder plant for swallowtail caterpillars, so that's why I planted it at first). I also made a trellis I could put stuff on top to make more shade when it was hot(I cut some fir boughs). I planted a pear tree last year, plan to get a few more fruit trees in there. ALso transplanted some indian plum trees(native shrubs) that will grow up to make nice filtered shade and also provide support for beans. THey grow pretty fast.

You can check out my blog(in the sig line) or go here
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=74085&id=616102765&l=072661262e
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=172469&id=616102765&l=9f266da5e8

Also mulch is good, but that bubble of green plants shading the soil makes a huge difference--blocking direct sun, making a cool air bubble with transpiration(?) of moisture from the leaves.

It's also fun to watch all the critters--all sort of pollinators, snakes, frogs, a few preying mantis, birds of course. The rabbits are scared away by my dogs and cats. The deer are kept out by a 9 foot fence(which they can still get over).

One thing that is cool about the fennel too is that it attracts all the aphids to itself--the aphids seem to LOVE the fennel(but they don' seem to hurt it), so I dont' have to bother about aphids.
 
                              
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PS, I haven't been able to find much on local PNW forest gardening(as in using our native stuff, or working with it). I read some of Fukuoka's book, leafed through Gaias Garden. But yeah, there are distinct climate things here with so much wet and soil that takes a long time to warm up, and then the no rain summers. Solomons' book really helped me understand the soil here and working with climate issues.
 
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Here is a link to the book on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1570615349/rs12-20
 
                          
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Hi guys,
I'm new here to portland. I'm a long term organic gardener from the east coast. Perhaps my fresh and often wrong view of my new home can shed some light.

Someone mentioned rainforests and soil depletion and this is a good point.
I spent quite a bit of time when I was young in south and central america.
The warmth in tropical rain forests makes the situation even worse.
Generally rain forests even though they generate such a mind blowing amount of health and biodiversity are also quite fragile. Hack back a section of tropical rain forest and often it just dies and can't rebuild itself.

Imagine if every day you go to the park and there is a guy there handing out hundred dollar bills and lots of food to everyone. That kind of ease and abundant life slowly causes everyone to work less (which is a good thing).
However if you disrupt that then people are going to have problems. More problems than if they had been fending for themselves all along.

In a rain forest nutrients are available via decay from all the moisture in a way that is unusual. No need to develope storage systems such as the way minerals are chemically bound and held in other more stark environments.

sometimes i think the people here are generally unaware of the ways the nutrient cycle has been disrupted.
The old growth nitrogen cycle here for instance is based almost entirely on licens. These licens are not present here at all at least not in my yard. Basically the nitrogen cycle is nitrogen fixers (alder) that sets down so much nitrogen that it does the trick until the licens cycle kicks in.

I think the reason the bio diversity of tropical rain forests is rather famous and well known and not so much here is because unlike any other place on earth the diodiversity here is under ground with soil bugs and critters.
Not cataloged, not understood, most likely lynch pin species going extinct before our eyes without a single human ever giving it a thought or a name. And of course the funguses and truffles and what not.
This of course plays into the symphalin issue steve raises.

My personal take on Steve Solomon's book: It struck me right away as filled with contradictions.
He tells me to think for myself but then tells me my vegetables have poor nutritional value without presenting one single scrap of evidence so i can "think" about it. Apearently "thinking for myself'  involves believing him without question. Often in his book these ideas are hidden under the guise of being scientific. He gives us our pnw soil humus level by deconstructing a stark mid western prarie. (not very scientific) The book contains so many things like this and also a brief section on how we "create our own reality with magic in our minds". Generally this is a symptom of a closed minded form of arrested cognitive developement we all know well and seems to be quite common here in portland. It is caracterized by contradictory statement like "judgement is wrong" or "reality is an illusion". You know what i mean. "All ideas are equal accept for MY idea that all ideas are equal which is  WILDLY superiour  to all other ideas". The people here where i live seem to seriously want to protect and restore the watershed but their version of doing that is to scapegoat "non-natives" and spray roudup poison everywhere. It's just a sad state of affairs all around.

The sad story about his wife fits into this. We all feel for people who suffer so please forgive me for characterizing. There is a need we all have to find a sense of control after a tradgety. We all do it.
We basically make up for a time how we caused the situation. For instance, we caused it by growing food with poor nutritional value. It's a way to psychologically try to explain it and make it not seem so random and cruel.
Almost allway you find kids blaming some little thing they did as causing their parents divorce. It's just human nature.

Interestingly enough he still advocates the use of glyphosphates (roundup) even though glyphosphates have been undeniably linked to cancer by very well respected european oncologists. Steve in this book actually repeats the marketing crap from the monsanto people about how roudup is harmless.  No doubt the mosanto guy came to teritorial and "gave a talk".

so unfortunately the book is essentially nonsense. It does offer some anecdotal evidence from steve about
Symphylan controll should they become a problem but then again we already have very thorough studies published out of OSU concerning the issue. He has a good organic fertilizer mixture that might be helpful in early stages of land restoration.

I look forward to interacting with you all. The soil here in multnomah county is beautiful beyond description and the vegetables i eat people grow here are bursting with life force, health and flavor.
OK so you guys got depleted soil. Must other parts of the country and even the world at this point got no soil at all! I actually love it here. THE SLUGS ARE THE SIZE OF SMALL FISH !! What more can an organic gardener ask for.
 
Jami McBride
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Welcome Gary!

Thank you for sharing about your take on Steve's book.  I really appreciate how well you articulated some of the things that also bothered me when I read his book.

I'm encouraged by your joy for the PNW climate, soil situation (slugs included).
It is true that the nutrient 'value' of rainforests is in their stored plant life above, and soil critters - and not in their top soil per say as in other areas.

I look forward to hearing how you plan on bring biodiversity to your soil/gardens.

~Jami
 
John Suavecito
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Hello Gary,
I agree that Steve's book has some problems.  I do think he has an original point of view, however, and he says some things that are controversial, but thought provoking.  That is also how I view your post.  I like to read articles like that , because I think I can learn more and I can decide what parts I disagree with.  I look forward to reading more of your posts.  I also live in the Portland area, but on the West side, which is culturally very different from Portland proper.  Same climate and soil, however.

What did the OSU papers say about the sympolans? I am very curious.
John S
PDX OR
 
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Generally, I agree with comments here that in small urban settings, rotating our beds into prairies every 3 years isn't practical. And Solomon's bare-earth strategy sometimes feels like a throwback to the way of gardening we're trying to avoid. But he's a good guy, who refuses to budge unless his experiments show him something will work.

I've been hanging out at Steve Solomon's yahoo group, which you can access through this portal: http://www.soilandhealth.org/ There are a lot of permies in that forum who constantly challenge him, and slowly, bit by bit, he's starting to accept some ideas about permaculture. He's experimenting with some no-dig beds now and planning to report the results.

I tend to see permaculture as a double edged sword. It's sort of like probiotics in the human body. Generally, maintaining a diverse, competitive ecosystem of soil life keeps most booming pest populations in check. But if I don't rotate and the pests are too much then I just move to a new bed. Just like you'd take an antibiotic if your life depended on it. I think Solomon's concerns are real, and help me understand the challenges before me.
 
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