Many of us
enjoy growing our own vegetables, Fruits, flowers, and herbs.
By using the right gardening techniques, we can produce plants
we can be proud of while preserving the soil and its fertility,
enhancing the absorption of rainfall, and protecting local streams
from sediments and chemicals.

To get the
most out of your garden, it is important to pick the right spot
for planting. Choose a sunny location with good natural drainage.
Plant your garden on a fairly level site. Whenever possible, avoid
sloping areas and drainage channels which let topsoil wash away
during heavy rains.

your garden is on a slope, use the same techniques that farmers
use on hilly fields. Terrace the site or plant across the slope,
not up and down the hill. Each terrace or row helps keep soil
and plants from washing down hill. On long slopes, it’s a good
idea to leave strips of groundcover or grass that also run perpendicular
to the slope. The groundcover or grass slows the flow of runoff,
allowing it to soak into the soil. Make your strips wide enough
to allow easy access to your plants and vegetables.

Very steep
slopes require special considerations. On such sites, it is important
to maintain a permanent vegetative cover to minimize soil erosion.
On longer slopes, the hillsides can be terraced by building retaining
walls which can provide garden strips on the level areas. For
more information, contact your county WSU Cooperative Extension


is a protective covering of compost, straw, grass clippings, or
leaves placed around plants. Mulching can add nutrients, make
the soil more workable, aid rainwater penetration, help control
weeds, and improve the moisture retaining capacity of the soil
near roots.

Mulch also
minimizes bare, unexposed soil in your garden. Unprotected ground
loses nutrients and needed topsoil much more quickly than mulched
or planted soil. Bare soil places added stress on nearby plants
by expanding temperature extremes and reducing available soil
moisture. You can also help minimize the loss of bare soil to
erosion by closer plantings of different but compatible, plant
species to make the most out of your working garden area.

Winter cover
crops are highly recommended for vegetable plots. A cover crop
holds the soil during the winter and adds organic matter to the
soil when it is turned under the following spring. Rye, barley,
and wheat are suitable for fall planting at the rate of two to
three pounds per 1,000 square feet of ground.


is a dark, crumbly and earthy-smelling form of decomposing organic
matter. Perfect for mulch, compost enriches soil and improves
plant growth. Composting is a practical way to transform yard
wastes into a resource.

cuttings and other yard wastes contribute some 20-25% of throw-aways.
Throwing yard wastes over the bank into streams and lakes, piling
them on the beach below the high tide line for removal by tidal
action, or burning are not acceptable solutions for disposal.
The process of breaking down plant materials competes with marine
animals for the limited oxygen dissolved in our waters. Some plant
materials contain chemical components that can alter balance in
the marine environment. These unsightly wastes can create obstructions
and dangers to boats, divers, and swimmers, and most often end
up on your neighbor’s beach. Finally, it is illegal! Regulations
forbid dumping anything into the Sound or any other body of water.

many landfills reaching capacity, composting lawn and garden wastes
makes even more sense. Composting is also the answer for the 5
– 9% of your garbage represented by foodwastes other than meat,
bones, and fatty foods.

compost pile is really a teeming microbial farm breaking down
anything left over from your gardening activities. Great joy can
be had from a properly working compost pile which produces wonderful
soil conditioner from garden waste. In Seattle, call 684-7666
for information and to receive a no-cost compost bin for your
household. The King County Solid Waste Division can provide plans
for all descriptions of composting bins by calling 296-6542. Local
representatives of Master Gardeners, the Department of Ecology

1-800- 822-9933, and the Washington Energy Extension Service at

1-800-962-9731 can also provide composting information.

Add yard
wastes to bin as they are generated. With no effort besides occasional
watering, compost will be ready in 6 months to 2 years. Covering
with heavy fabric to keep the heat and moisture in and occasional
turning decreases the time considerably.