Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Update: A Banner Year

Things are warming up here in Seattle and the flowers are blooming.  I just planted my first crops of the year-- potatoes and strawberries.

2015 was a banner year for my 500-square-foot urban vegetable garden, including my first experience growing and processing a grain.  I never got around to posting about it last year-- so here it is.

Interbay mulch technique

The bed on the right has been mulched with leaves, spent coffee
grounds, and burlap sacks ($1/sack at the local hardware store).
The beds on the left were planted with a rye-clover-vetch-pea
cover crop.  Paths are mulched with wood chips.
In the fall of 2015, I tried a new technique for improving the soil called "Interbay mulching".  This is a variation on sheet mulching, which involves placing uncomposted organic matter directly onto the garden soil in fall and letting it compost until the next growing season.  To Interbay mulch, you simply cover your sheet mulch with burlap.  This keeps everything moist, protects earthworms from bird predation so they can munch freely, and suppresses weeds.  I used leaves (carbon) and spent coffee grounds from a local coffee shop (nitrogen) for my organic matter.

When I pulled back the burlap last spring, I was initially disappointed.  The coffee grounds had disappeared completely, but there was still a lot of leaf matter left on the soil, indicating that it had only partially composted.  However, I later decided that it had worked well, because the soil structure underneath was improved and it seemed to be enriched with significant organic matter as well as a large population of fat earthworms.  The mulch suppressed weeds remarkably well, and the beds remained mostly clean for the rest of the season.

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

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