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Vegetables all year from their front garden.

Front-yard farmer Stephen Holbrook feeds four families year-round with vegetables from his 30- by 40-foot Santa Barbara garden. A man of many methods (and more than a few useful tools he's built himself), he leaves little to chance: he has a system for seeding flats, a system for crop rotation, and separate systems for planting and watering.

Cycles and timing

Using the homemade tools you see in the photographs here and on pages 192 and 193, Mr. Holbrook starts flats of lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli each week all year long. Four weeks after starting seeds, he moves the young plants into the garden where they fill space opened up by an earlier harvest.

To keep the garden brimming with vegetables, as well as to make maximum use of space, Mr. Holbrook plants blocks of crops in succession. For best results, he selects varieties that have uniform maturity, such as 'Copenhagen Market' cabbage and 'Green Hornet' broccoli. Because all cabbage planted at the same time matures at the same time, he can harvest an entire crop of vegetables and plant new seeds or seedlings immediately

Choice varieties pay off

Radishes, carrots, and beets also grow year-round in the Holbrook garden. These are seeded directly in tbe ground. Mr. Holbrook grows more than one crop in the same space simultaneously by scattering 'Cherry Belle' radish seed between young broccoli and cabbage transplants. The radishes mature quickly (in about 25 days), and are harvested before the slower-growing broccoli and cabbage (they take 60 to 80 days).

For a continuous harvest of carrots and beets, Mr. Holbrook plants them at fiveweek intervals. After 10 years of experimenting, he has settled on 'Royal Chantenay' carrots and 'Red Ball' beets as his favorite varieties.

About 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide at the top, the carrots are cylindrical with somewhat blunt ends. Given plenty of water, they stay fine-textured and sweet even when large- and Mr. Holbrook reports that they're easy to pull. 'Red Ball' beets rate high because of their rich flavor and consistent, nonwoody texture. His favorite lettuce variety is 'Parris Island', a tightly folded romaine type.

Water system fits planting scheme

Mr. Holbrook waters with a homemade drip system designed specifically to fit his planting beds. His front yard is divided into eight 10-foot-long beds, four on each side of a central path. All vegetables are planted in 10-foot-long rows perpendicular to the path; 10-foot lengths of 1/2-inch PVC pipe run between the rows. Mr. Holbrook used a 1/2 6-inch bit to drill tbe pipes through both sides at 4-inch intervals.

At the end farthest from the path, Mr. Holbrook capped each length of pipe. The other end was left open. The pipes' accessibility makes it easy to connect the hose and watering timer to them. In summer, most vegetables are watered with low pressure once a week for 10 minutes (carrots need 20 to 30).
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Date:Oct 1, 1989
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