Daron Williams

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since Oct 08, 2016
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Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created Growing with Nature to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.
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Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Recent posts by Daron Williams

Straw works as a cover for hugel beds but really any organic mulch is fine. I was just putting a bunch of old tree branches over the top of one of my hugel beds. The key is to get the soil covered. If you broadcast seed the top of the hugel beds before mulching then I would make sure to use a light mulch--branches could be a great option for this. That way the seeds can still germinate and grow through the mulch.

I often use woodchips on mine too but on my taller ones I've noticed the birds kick down the woodchips by scratching around looking for bugs. So I've now switched to covering the bare areas with chop-and-drop material from around my place. Branches, stems, etc. Seems to be working well so far and I will be reseeding those bare areas once they're protected with the chop-and-drop mulch.

But at the end of the day just keep the soil covered. Straw is just one of many ways to do that.
3 years ago
I will share how things go My property is fenced with deer fencing but occasionally a deer will break in... though I'm hoping that is fixed now. It has been quite a while since one has gotten in. Fingers crossed!
I wonder if the point based system could be used for some of the badges where people have felt it was too hard to do one or two of the required BBs? Points could give people 2 paths to earn those badges. One path would be as it is now where they complete the existing core/ideal BBs but the other path could require they complete a lot of small BBs that together add up to one of the core BBs. Might be a way to increase the flexibility on a few badges without undermining them. It could be something that is added to the existing badges as we have time without any big rush.

As an example the gardening straw badge could be modified in this way. People seem to be stuck on the hugelkultur bed BB but the other 2 are fairly easy to complete. What if we switched to a point based system like this where you needed at least 50 points:

- Build a hugelkultur 7 feet tall and 6 feet long - worth 30 points
- Chop and drop (50 square feet) - worth 10 points
- Ruth Stout style composting (2 spots) - worth 10 points

Then add say 6 new small BBs that are each worth 5 points or more that are worth 1 or 2 points each. The easy way would be to just build the hugel bed and get all those points but if someone really wanted to get this badge they could do all the smaller tasks and still get enough points. But it would take them longer and potentially more effort to go that route but it would at least be another option for people.

Just mentioning this particular badge because of the complaints it has gotten though I know the new permaculture for everyone program is supposed to address that too. But this might be a way to add options for people and let more people complete at least the straw level of this and other badges without undermining the credibility of the badge. The wood/iron badges could be left as they are but people would at least be able to get the straw badge to help them get pep1 certified. Are there other badges that have a similar level of complaints about a specific BB that people view as a roadblock?
3 years ago
Nice! Oca is on my list of plants to try growing here. Please share how they grow and produce for you. Are you going to replant right away from the ones you harvest this year or store them until the spring?
3 years ago

Gilligan Caisse wrote:Those look great! When do you usually transplant your tomatoes and peppers outside in your area?

Normally they can be transplanted in the first week or 2 of May but some years as early as late April. The last average frost day here is around May 10th but recently our last frost date has often been in late April. I always have to watch the weather to see when I should plant since it can be so unpredictable. But I did make some simple cloches using empty milk containers to help with any late frosts. But with the amount of fog we get it can be a bit of a challenge to know when to plant the warm loving plants. This year I'm trying a bunch of new varieties of tomatoes, peppers, egg plants and corn that are supposed to be relatively cold tolerant and good at germinating in cold wet soils. We will see but I'm hopeful!

I will likely plant my tomatoes in early May and hold the peppers and egg plants until the middle of May. Corn will likely be direct seeded in late April or early May depending on the weather. Got to avoid frosts but since I picked cold tolerant varieties I want to try getting them off to an early start this year. Still experimenting a bit.
Here is an interesting video about using tree hay--I haven't tried this myself but looks interesting. I found this video a while back when I was researching coppicing and pollarding for a blog post.

3 years ago
One option that might work for you is to use berms as others suggested but instead of regular veggies try planting blueberries on the berms. Often soggy areas will have a lower pH (more acidic). I have a very wet area on my own property and I'm slowly building a series of ponds along 2 seasonal stream channels--1 channel is natural the other is one I've recently started making. The middle between the channels will eventually be a small island (blueberry island!) and I'm going to have small channels to bring water into the middle areas of that island. On the island I'm going to build small berms (for blueberries) along the water channels with paths too for access. The soil should naturally stay acidic and the extra moisture should also help the blueberries thrive. Currently this time of year the whole area is just soggy but by creating a series of ponds and 2 defined channels I'm concentrating the water (while still spreading it out) and then that also creates a slightly drier area that I can still bring water to (through small side channels) in order to grow crops like blueberries on the berms. Your soggy area might be a good spot for a similar setup without the stream channels.

I'm going to add springbank clover and Pacific silverweed around the blueberries on the berms with cattails, sedges, rushes and some other plants growing along and in the channels--especially the northern channel with the southern one kept more open to make sure the berms get plenty of sunlight. There are also some other perennial veggies that like wet areas that I'm exploring/learning about.

Wet areas can be really great places to grow but traditional gardens often aren't the best use of these areas. But that doesn't mean you can't get great harvests from these areas. I hope that helps!
I just got a greenhouse built this winter (un-heated) and it has been great using it to get my veggies started. I have almost 200 starts growing in it at the moment and the first batch (pictured below) are getting close to being ready to plant. I need to get my tomatoes, peppers and egg plants seeded in pots soon but I think I got another week or 2 before I want to do that. I'm using extra covers in the greenhouse to help plants get started and so far it's working great. Good germination rates and growth so far.
I love seeing the first signs of spring each year. Here is a picture I took a couple weeks ago showing one of my native lupines coming up. I love the colors and the water drops on the new growth.
3 years ago
Polyculture is a great way to deal with pests but it isn't just about confusing or distracting pests. Often people plant flowers mixed in with their other plants. These flowers can support beneficial insects that help you by eating the pests. This way your not only relying on pests being confused but you're also helping to increase the number of predators so the pests that do show up are more likely to get eaten.

I also like to take this a step further and plant mini-meadows close by my polyculture garden beds. One way to do this is to plant flowers all around the boundaries of your garden--you can even plant shrubs and/or trees on the northside (south side in the southern hemisphere) of your garden. I like having hedgerows close by my garden beds--and ones planted on the northside can also block cold northern winds which can improve your growing conditions. And if you've got a large garden with lots of defined beds you could set aside every 4th or 5th bed as a mini-meadow for attracting and supporting beneficial insects. Mixing in native flowers and other native plants will provide even more benefits since they support a wider range of insects. I've mixed in native onions and native checkermallows (all edible) in my kitchen garden and I'm looking at adding others.

By having a diversity of habitat across the board you can support a large number of beneficial insects and other predators that can help keep your pests under control. That combined with planting your food crops as polycultures (with flowers still mixed in) can really do a lot to reduce your pest issues. But I wouldn't rely on the pests being confused as the only solution--supporting the predators too is a key part of this method.
3 years ago