Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stone Steps, Blueberries & Metal Veggie Beds


Stone steps were installed in an existing rockery to provide access to a little-used area of this Ballard backyard.


Espalier fruit trees will be panted along the fence. Blueberries and herbs line the top of the rockery. Two metal veggie bins are in the distance. 


Galvanized troughs make great veggie beds! We drill holes in the bottom, put down a layer of drain rock, put landscape fabric on top, and then add planting soil. Notice drip irrigation in beds.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Growing Potatoes

Growing potatoes does not need to be difficult or space-intensive. My favorite technique is to grow the potatoes above ground in wire bins. I simply assemble the bin, place the potatoes on the ground, cover with 3 inches of soil and wait. As the potatoes sprout, I add compost, shredded leaves, shredded paper and other organic matter to cover and encourage the greens to grow up. Once the bins are full, I let the plants flower and then harvest the potatoes. To harvest, I simply open up the bins and sift out the potatoes.

Step One: Purchase seed potatoes (I bought mine from Sky Nursery this year) and cut the potatoes so that each piece has one eye.
Step Two: Place cut potatoes on the ground in the bins.
Step Three: Cover with soil. Once the potatoes sprout above the soil, add organic matter until the greens reach the top of the bins and wait for the plants to flower.
Step Four: Once the plants flower and the green tops start to die back, open the bins and harvest I will post photos later in the year once I harvest. Happy growing!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cedar Vegetable Beds

While spring is quickly slipping away, it is not too late to build raised vegetable beds. I have seen all manor of raised vegetable beds: stacked rocks, concrete blocks, stacked broken concrete, kids plastic swimming pools, bathtubs, wine barrels, 5-gallon buckets, metal feed troughs and even trash cans! However the most popular material is wood, primarily cedar. While 2"x6" or 2"x8" boards with 4"x4" posts is the most common cedar bed, I prefer to use 5"x5" cedar. (To be exact, it is rough cut 5"x5" Alaska Yellow Cedar. And it is a true 5"x5", meaning the wood is actually 5" wide. A cedar 4"x4" is only 3.5"x3.5".)

First the downsides: The larger dimension wood comes in 12'-13' lengths and is both heavy and bulky to work with. This makes it difficult, but not impossible, for one person to build. Plus, unless you have a large saw, you will need to make multiple cuts on each board. A chop saw set on saw horses is the best way to cut, but a regular hand held circular saw will also work. Measure, mark, cut and rotate. Measure, mark, cut and rotate. Measure, mark, cut and rotate. Measure, mark, cut and be done! Depending on your saw it may take up to 4 cuts. And since most saw blades are 4" or 4.5" they will not cut all the way through the board, leaving a center nub that needs to be cut. A hand saw works great for this.

Upsides: Each board is cut out of a single tree and is therefore mostly heartwood. Heartwood is the most rot resistant part of the cedar, so these boards will last longer than 2"x6" or 2"x8" boards. In fact, Alaska Yellow Cedar 5"x5" boards will last as along as treated timbers (not creosote), with University trials having the cedar lasting 25 years in ground contact! Plus the larger dimension will not bow or bend so you can build longer beds. They are easy to fasten together with Timberloc brand screws (available at Home Depot). Put in two screws per long section to fasten is to the board below, one per each short section and one at each corner horizontally. Perhaps the best part of using the Alaska Yellow cedar is that these trees used to be perceived as waste trees. Smaller trees used to be discarded when timber companies clear cut a forest, now they look for ways to use this wood instead of burning, pulping or chipping.

To construct, cut to length (4'x8' is a good size for being able to reach into the middle from both sides and it uses all of a 12' board), drill the bottom boards with a 3/8" auger bit at a rate of two holes per 8' length (no need to drill the 4' boards), level the area you are going to place the bed, put down a base of 2"-3" of crushed gravel tamped firm, screw together the 4 boards that make up the bottom course, place the competed wood rectangle on the crushed gravel, check to be sure the bed is level, drive a 3/8" two-foot long rebar into each of the four holes on the long board with a sledge hammer, re-level the bed (you might have to pry a low side up and pack with gravel to level), screw on the second and third courses and fill with soil and compost.

You can buy the boards at Issaquah Cedar.

Rebar & Timberloc brand screws can be purchsed at Home Depot.

For soil, I suggest Sayer's Fuel in Seattle. Use their topsoil (3 parts) mixed with Cedar Grove Compost (1 part).

Here are a couple photos. I will post some more later this summer when they are full of vegetables!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unusual Edible Shrubs & Trees

Here are three of my favorite "unusual" edible shrubs and trees. All are available from www.raintreenursery.com.

First is the mulberry (Morus alba). Growing up in Indiana we played in thickets of mulberry, emerging with stained hands and full bellies! Illinois Everbearing is a self-fertile mulberry hardy to minus 30 degrees that performs great in the Puget Sound region. It will get 35' tall, but can be kept much smaller with pruning. There are also weeping and contorted varieties that fruit. The berries are 1 1/2" long, turn black when ripe, ripen over a long period (July-Sept) and are delicious. And you will have to learn how to share with the birds, as they adore the fruit as well. (Notice the robin in the first photo!)




Next is the Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides -- Say that 5 times fast!) This Russian native is a large shrub that gets 10'-12' tall and tolerates poor soil conditions. However it does need good drainage. Both ornamental (narrow, silver leaves) and edible (abundant yellow-orange fruit) this shrub makes a great feature plant or hedge. Requires a male and a female plant for pollination. In Europe and Asia the sour, flavorful fruit is prized as an anti-oxidant and a great source of vitamins C and E. Most often used in juices, jams, sauces and liqueurs.




And last, but not least, is the the aronia (Aronia melanocarpa). Rumored to be one of the most productive berries in the world (along with Sea Buckthorn and Goumi), this 5'-6' self-fertileshrub produces clusters of very tart purple-black berries. The tartness is a result of the high vitamin, mineral and anti-oxidant content of the fruit. Use in juices, smoothies, jams, syrups and wine.




Friday, March 13, 2009

City Chickens


These two photos are of a chicken coop in north Seattle. The coop is situated in the vegetable garden under the shade of a maple and a pear tree. The chickens forage in the garden during the day when the homeowners are around. As you can see, there is a waterproof hutch for food, sleep, egg production and most importantly, safety of the hens.  While the plastic bins on the top may seem messy, they serve a function to help waterproof the chicken run during the wet winter. And the bins initially served as home to the new chicks before they moved into the coop.  


Chickens are a wonderful addition to a food garden. Not only do they help with weed and pest control, they provide manure for compost. They will also eat most of your garden green waste and kitchen vegetable scraps. And let us not overlook the most important gift chickens give, the mighty egg. Most breeds will lay at least one egg a day in the summer, less in the winter. So with three chickens, you will have almost 2 dozen eggs a week! Talk about food security. Backyard protein.

If you are interested in adding chickens to your landscape, be sure to do your homework. Chickens are not low-maintenance--egg harvesting, feeding watering and cleaning out the coop is an ongoing cycle.  For more info visit Seattle Tilth's website: www.seattletilth.org. They offer workshops and access to resources for chickens, as well as all aspects of backyard food gardening.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Welcome--Winter Orchard, Hazelnut Hedge, Evergreen Huckleberry

Welcome to Edible Landscape Seattle! My intention with this blog is to share my enthusiasm and knowledge for growing fruits, berries and vegetables in your backyard--edible landscaping. My plan is to post photos of the many edible landscapes that I come across in Seattle and King County. I will also include simple how-to tips to help you get started.

To get the ball rolling, here are three photos of a winter orchard in Kirkland, WA. The first photo shows a front yard orchard after pruning with over eight fruit and nut trees in the photo, including almond, hazelnut, cherry, plum and apricot. Winter is a great time for pruning your fruit trees. They are dormant and it is easier to see the shape of the tree with the leaves off. With proper pruning, you can maximize production and keep the height of the tree down to make harvesting easier. Pruning also increases air flow through the tree that helps keep mold and moisture out. For a great guide to pruning visit www.raintreenursery.com and search for the  "Easy Steps To Fruit Tree Pruning" DVD.



The second photo shows a detail of a hazelnut hedgerow along the road. There is no sidewalk or setback, so instead of a fence to block the road, a hedgerow of hazelnut and service berry were planted on three foot centers. Blueberry, evergreen huckleberry, josta berry, and guomi were planted as understory shrubs with strawberry and thyme groundcover. I recommend buying your edible plants at www.raintreenursery.com.




The last photo is a close-up of an evergreen huckleberry over 6' tall. Joe is testament to its height and tasty berry, which ripens in summer. Evergreen huckleberry (Vacinnium ovatum) is one of my personal favorite plants. This native plant tolerates full sun AND full shade (grows taller in  shade) and is drought tolerant once established. By far the best feature is the abundance of berries, eaten fresh or put in pies or jams.