||Gardening Tip of the Month
By Linda Dodds
July Tip of the Month
Sunday, July 01, 2018
Summer is finally here and along with it comes a multitude of garden chores. Number one is to keep after the emerging weeds that seem to spring up constantly around here. We may not have an endless supply of sunshine, but weeds are something we can always count on in the Northwest.
Keeping your blooming plants neat and free of dried blooms is second. Petunias especially need to be kept tidy to keep them blooming longer. Geraniums are another plant that appreciates and blooms more with the wilted flowers removed. Dahlia and daylily blooms should be removed as soon as they start drying up and of course the rhododendrons need to be stripped of their dried up blossoms to keep them looking their best. If you want the rhodyís to continue to grow then be careful when you deadhead them and do not break off the candles that border the blossoms as they house the new growth.
There are some plants that really never need to be deadheaded and that list includes lobelia, alyssum and impatiens so add a lot of these plants to your garden too. Most trailing annuals do fine without a lot of deadheading but an occasional trim will help all plants and vines grow lush with flowers.
Chore number three is pruning. The old way of thinking had people pruning their fruit trees in the winter when they were devoid of leaves. However the new suggestion is to prune in the summer which reduces the chance of branches that grow straight up in the air. These branches are known as water sprouts will bear no fruit. In fact they just take away the chance for other fruit producing branches to grow as well as hurting the look of the tree. Any shrubs that impede your walking paths should be trimmed back too along with any unruly growth on any shrub or tree. Keeping the dead leaves raked up removing your pruningís can make a huge difference in the appearance of your yard.
If you are a vegetable gardener, than you have lots of work to keep your garden producing. Check daily for slug damage to tender new leaves and dispose of them when you see them. A nice bucket of water just works fine for this or a stick with a nail through the end makes and ideal slug defensive weapon. If you use commercial slug bait, read the label to be sure it is safe to use around children, birds and pets.
Peas and pole beans need to be trained to climb and kept from trailing all over the ground. Once they can reach a place to attach their tendrilsí nature will take over and show them the way. Tomato plants also need to have some support by either cages or staked and tied to a sturdy post. And here is the secret for removing the branches that will never produce fruit and just drain the plant of energy and shade the fruit. When there is a trio of branches all growing from the same point, remove the one in the middle. That opens up the plant for better air circulation as well as promoting new flowering branch growth.
Thin out crowded vegetables start such as radishes, beets, lettuce, Swiss chard etc. and add them to a fresh salad. Add a little compost along the rows and work into the soil. Keep vegetables watered and water early in the morning so the sun can have a chance to dry off the leaves before the sun sets in the evening. And now we have come full circle to where we started out withÖ weed, weed and weed.
June Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, June 01, 2018
May brought very few showers, lots of weeds but it also ushered in earlier warmer weather. So if you havenít already done so, now is the time when pretty much everything that you want to put in your garden can be planted. All flowering annuals such as petunias, lobelia, nasturtiums, inpatients and other tender plants can be planted now. For the veggie garden you can put in your tomato plants, zucchini, corn, beans peppers and tender basil. I find it best to not plant the bedding plants immediately after purchasing them at a store as they may not be hardened off properly. Hardening off is a term used by gardeners which translates to slowly exposing plants to the outdoors. Think of yourself going out on the first hot sunny day without any sun screen and working 6 hours in the bright sunshine. Chances are you will get a very nasty sunburn. Or imagine living in central Africa and moving directly to Fairbanks, AlaskaÖin the dead of winter. You would be freezing all the time. Plants needed to be acclimated to the outdoors too so put them out in the exposed weather for a few hours a day and slowly increasing their exposure. Protect them at the nighttime until gradually increasing their exposure to the elements. Once they are acclimated, they can be planted in their permanent homes. I think it makes sense to always ask a vendor at the farmerís market or roadside stands if the plants have been hardened off first as many times small growers donít have the time or manpower to harden off their starts before marketing them.
If you have a compost pile mellowing in your yard, you have the basis of a wonderful garden. Dig in a shovel full of compost into the top inch or so of your soil before planting seeds. If you are putting in bedding plants, add some compost along with a sprinkling of alfalfa meal into the hole before placing in the plant. That is all I ever add to my tomato plants as far as fertilizer. Blooming annuals however and especially those in planters need a regular drink of liquid fertilizer to keep the blooms going throughout the summer. I find Alaska fish fertilizer works well even though it may have an unpleasant odor. However the aroma t dissipates quickly enough from the plants and a shower washes it off you just fine too.
This is the time to get on a regular schedule of spraying to deer proof your garden. I find that Liquid Fence works the best for me but there are other products out there that I am sure would also work just fine. The first couple of times I spray, I do it once a week, then go to every two weeks and max out at three weeks. It seems like every time I go over the three week limit, the deer start eating to their hearts content. It is nasty smelling stuff as it is made out of rotten eggs and garlic but it really does the trick. I always plan on spraying it before I take a shower as the smell really sticks to my clothes and body. If you have another product that works for you, let me know what you are using so I can share it with my readers.
As the Rhody blossoms start to dry up and fall off, itís time to dead head the blossoms. Just pinch off the dried blossoms and try not to break off the new leaves that grow adjacent to them. Of course, if your Rhodys are like some of mine and are so tall that the only way to reach the top branches requires having at least a 6 ft ladder, then donít worry about not adding to the height of the plant.
My last tip is the same one I pretty much give you every month and that is to weed, weed and weed! And enjoy watching your garden grow.
March Garden Tip of the Month 2018
Thursday, March 01, 2018
So March should be entering our lives with a roar of a lion and ending with a baa like a lamb. With the late season snow and cold it will be interesting to see how this March pans out.
Before I forget to mention it, I want to tell you about the flower and garden event I attended last month in the Seattle Convention Center and my quest to ask about the chance for small fruit crops with the early emerging budding of blossoms this year. Several of the gardeners agreed with me and have also been worried about the lack of bees to pollinate the crops as it is still too cold for them to leave their hives. Yesterday on the Cisco Morris gardening show, Cisco talked to a Mason Bee seller who says they are actually better pollinators then honey bees.
Hopefully they will be emerging out earlier than the honey and bumble bees. It is probably is a good idea for gardeners to purchase at least one or two blocks of them and have the bee owner explain when and where is the best time and place to locate the bee blocks. I am going to not put our any more blocks and want to see if nature will take over and reward me with any fruit this year. Hmmmm, Iíll let you know next fall.
Since we had so much windy and cold weather in February, it is a good idea to walk around your garden and cut off any broken or damaged limbs. Just DO NOT cut branches anywhere though. Always cut at a joint and not midway down on a branch. Joint pruning will help keep limbs strong and will be preventing not giving pathogens any area to take over the tree or shrub or cause an inappropriate joint in the balance of the tree.
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to pulling shot weed before it starts to flower. I know that one little shot weed left to flower can make me have a full summer of new weeds to pull and dispose of all summer long. I just didnít feel like running out in the freezing cold to pull weeds. And donít leave pulled up plants lying on the ground where the seeds will still sprout.
Put the pulled weeds along with their seeds in a vegetation trash pickup can.
Enjoy this last month of bad weather until next fall by reading up on the newest and prettiest and easiest to grow plants for 2018.
February 2018 Garden Tip of the Month
Thursday, February 01, 2018
The 2018 NW flower and garden show in Seattle will be held on February 7-11 at the Seattle Convention Center. Its always is an exciting place to see the newest plants available to grow in our NW weather and climate zone along with garden design ideas with displays in the main area. Also be sure to visit the vendor area where you can purchase plants and a lot of ideas to add to your gardens.
There are areas where you can purchase lunch and sit at a table. But the best area is where you can sign up for a lecture. Just go and enjoy. The only important question I may have to ask one of the lecturers is about the early budding of plants and trees. Since it has been a cold winter so far, I think that early budding must be due to more than normal sunny and clear days. I wonder what will happen if the fruit trees start blooming, and the bees are still staying warm in their hives. Would that mean very small crops this year as bees are the main species of pollinator. If I attend the event Iíll find a horticulturist to ask that question and Iíll give my answers in Marchís monthly tip.
The garden show has lots of seeds that you can purchase as several ones can be planted as soon as your soil is dry enough which means you will need to take a handful of garden soil and give it a squeeze. If Water is dripping from your hand and can't hold a ball, donít plant until the soil dries out. Check occasionally for the next several weeks until the soil finally can be planted. Peas, onions, sweet peas and spinach are the best seeds to start early.
Another great plants to purchase in February are roses. Give your loved ones a beautiful and future fragrant rose bush and place a Valentine with it and you will be greatly appreciated for many years to come. But do not prune any rose bushes you may have presently in your garden until in late February or hydrangeas either.
Pull weeds when itís sunny so your garden wonít be overrun all summer with a major weed problem. And ...weeds are sprouting already so try to get them pulled out bfore they start blooming.
Have a great Valentineís Day.
January 2018 Garden Tip
Monday, January 01, 2018
During the usually cold and wet month of January I take some time to think about how my last year's garden thrived or failed. If a plant did not thrive, I ask myself several questions. Did the plant received enough or too much water and did it receive too much or too little sunshine? Did it grow too large for its area or was it hidden by larger plants? Was the plant's color compatible with its surrounding plants, blend in when you wanted it to be a showpiece? Was it planted at the right time of the year, planted correctly and of course the very necessary question of whether it was a plant that would flourish in our local growing zone?
It's almost impossible to grow a bird of paradise or other tropical plants outside in our area so don't waste your time unless you want to go to extreme measures to protect them from our cool winter months. Or even having to move them indoors to protect them from the cold. If you go through those simple questions and determine that you have covered all the bases needed to have that plant, tree or shrub flourish, you will be surprised at how well it can fight off disease and have less bug damage. Compost and perhaps some alfalfa meal is about the only fertilizer most of your plants should need. As the old saying goes... Right plant in the right place will make a huge difference in plant care and maintenance. I was lucky enough to receive several years ago a soil tester Christmas from a garden club member, so every spring will find me out determining the soil acidity of my garden areas and planting or amending the soil as needed.
I'm really excited about the prospect of poking my tester all over my acre of land. Now for the fun part of planning your 2018 garden; Be creative, whimsical and even if you have a very small space to add it, put in something bright, silly or out of the ordinary. Perhaps along the bend in a path, you could place a figurine, a colored ball or a piece of whimsical art. A bowling ball set atop a piece of re bar makes great plant protectors from sprawling hoses and a couple of old bowling pins situated down a line from the ball gives your yard a sense of humor. A brightly painted old chair surrounded by shrubs makes a lovely place to sit and read a book on gardening. An old tool shed can be painted up to be a lovely place to show off baskets of potted geraniums or old garden tools.
Going through garden books and magazines can stimulate a lot of ideas for adding a new area to your existing gardens. If you like a tropical look, there are plants that simulate a tropical look. Musa bajoo banana plants look tropical but are very hardy and will come back every year. Tropicana's have brightly colored huge leaves with iridescent fall flowers and ferns will add a lacy and soft feel. Water is an element that can easily be added to any garden whether you only have a small space for a colorful pot with a bubbling insert or full fledged pond with a waterfall. And you can even simulate a water feature by adding a dry stream. Just take a good look at nature and follow the bends in the terrain to create a waterless stream with larger rocks flanking the sides.
For vegetable gardens, it's a good idea to rotate your plantings so the same plants are not planted in the same spot as the previous year. The bed where beans grew is a perfect place to plant tomatoes or cucumbers as beans and their roots produce nitrogen that will help feed your next plantings. An important rule of thumb is to not replant nightshade plants in the same area. An example would be to not plant potatoes or tomato plants where the other had been planted the previous year. Rotate, rotate and rotate! Any day that is not miserable outside is a good time to go out and check for broken branches and blown over plantings. Broken branches need to be cut off at the joint and shrubs and trees may need to have some staking done to realign them to grow straight. More on early spring plantings next month.
December Garden Tip
Friday, December 01, 2017
Along with writing about an idea for a monthly garden suggestions, OI also sometimes suggest a recipe that you may want to make for a specific month, I also may suggest a recipe that is special to make for for that specific month and one that humans would enjoy enjoy.
But since I didn't want to leave out other ALMOST family members I decided that this month would be a good time to offer a recipe that they (birds) would enjoy. I found the recipe in a copy of Birds and Blooms several years ago, I want you all to know how much they really love it. and how not only tiny titmouse birds, sparrows, blue jays, chickadees,but also the flickers and woodpeckers love these little squares of nutrition.
Start by saving commercial suet blocks. Probably at least ten or even more. Don't be worried about trying to completely clean them as it takes forever. Be forewarned though, that if you start making your own suet, the birds will take a while before they will accept store bought bird suet again for quite a while.
Recipe as follows:
1 cup lard
1 cup crunchy peanut butter ( I purchased a huge jar from Costco)
One cup birdseed
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
Melt lard and peanut butter. Add sugar to the melted mix. Combine remaining ingredients and form into blocks or spread in empty past plastic forms that commercial suet was sold in. Refrigerate and keep cold until placed in blocks.
If the birds were really appreciative of all the quick and easy meals, they would tweet your great meals to the sky and beyond but I guess that is not doable by such small dinosaurs.
November 2017 Gardem Tip of the Month
Wednesday, November 01, 2017
For the sometimes blustery, but also occasionally balmy month of November... Here are your do's and don'ts.
Do fertilize your lawn with a fall and winter fertilizer. The nitrogen will be dormant until spring and then kicks in with a vengeance and start your lawn growing before the spring weeds even wake up. Do plant your bulbs now and that includes tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and the best of all... GARLIC. These bulbs need some cold weather before starting to grow in spring so plant them all now before December arrives.
Do rake up and clean up all decaying perennials and your workload will be easier next spring. Do keep on knocking the heads off all annual weeds and keep the yard as weed free as time allows.
Keep raking falling leaves and either compost them or use them to cover vegetable and annual beds to keep weeds from sprouting in the spring. Tender perennials covered with a blanket of leaves will survive under much more harsh conditions than those completely exposed to the elements. Itís also a great way to protect tender artichoke plants.
Now for the don'ts. Donít prune back hardy fuchsias, hardy hibiscus, hydrangeas or roses until next late February or March. Pruning now may cause new growth to start and the cold weather will just kill that all back and damage the plants.
Do not try to kill weeds by spraying with Roundup. That product only works in 70 degree + weather and will not kill the weeds, but will just return to the soil as nitrogen and eventually make it back into the sound where it would feed plants that kill off the oxygen that the fish need to survive.
Do start planning your garden for next year. Cut out pictures of gardens that you would enjoy in your space and come up with plans to incorporate them into your yard or to have similar plantings that would give you the same feelings of comfort.
Ask yourself... do I want an easy to maintain NW rhody and azalea garden, a cottage garden or a tropical looking garden?
Do I enjoy deadheading petunias and geraniums or do I want easy maintenance plants and then go from there. And one suggestion is to draw out a map of your 2017 vegetable garden with which plats were grown where in your garden.
That way, as you plan your vegetable garden for next year, you will not put the same plants in the same spot again next year. For example, plant tomatoes next year in a different location to keep any viruses problems.
Another good idea is if you plant beans, then plant corn there next year. Beans are nitrogen fixers to the soil and corn is a real nitrogen fixer. The Indians taught that to the pilgrims and their crops did much better with some tasty fish guts in the soil.
Since November can also be blustery, check occasionally to be sure no limbs have been snapped in strong winds. If there are some, cut them back to a joint so the shrub or tree does not suffer further damage and rot.
October Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, October 01, 2017
A few years ago I wrote about how that summer had been the warmest gardening year I had ever had in Washington after moving up from California in 1979. I believe this past summer has passed that in warmth and lack of rain. However the spring months were rainy and cold so my tomato plants have not really been ripening as early as in past years.
I have a dozen San Marzano plants and Black Krim tomato plants and only one ripe fruit of each species so far. I have cut back all the extra non production growth and leaves so the green tomatoes can get some sun and warmth to help them ripen. If they donít get ripe before the real fall chills set in, then I will pick them green and take them downstairs and put them on paper towels on my bar and cover them up to ripen. There will be some that may rot and will have to be thrown away but itís worth it to mostly have seeds to store for next year. However I had lots of French green beans, artichokes, basil, cucumbers, beets and potatoes.
And now I have a clean southern roof on my greenhouse so next years starts should be happier than this past years crops with the addition of more sun and heat.
I also had very few Asian pears, apples and pears but I am sure that is because of the cold spring weather kept the bees holed up in their hives. And the good part of the fewer fruit was that these were the largest fruit I have ever picked from my trees. I guess it shows the real value in thinning your fruit trees.
Anytime from mid Oct to just before Thanksgiving is a good time to be putting down a good slow feeding lawn fertilizer. Then when spring starts showing signs of warmer weather, your lawn will have a good start to overtaking any weed seeds that had hoped to make a home in your lawn also.
As leaves start to fall, keep them raked up and use them as free ground mulch in your garden beds. Tender plants that can remain in your garden all year, such as artichokes, may make it through to another great production for next year. And covering them and other plants with light branches, ferns and non-seeding weeds can also be a great winter blanket for your garden plants that might be a little iffy in the pacific Northwest gardens.
Have a fun fall and enjoy the blessings of colors that show up every year.
September Tip of the Month
Friday, September 01, 2017
So August was a HOT and DRY month which we donít normally have in such abundance. I finally had enough cucumbers so I could start making pickles but because only two of my dill plants grew from seed, I have had to purchase a few bunches of dill and then start pickling. I believe I already gave you my Aunt Olgaís dill pickle recipe last year so I wonít be doing it again this year. However, I also have been making mulled fig and mulled blackberry vinegars along with blackberry cordial this year too. The blackberry cordial is made by taking a quart of blackberries and infusing them with 1 cup of sugar and then adding one qt.of 100 proof vodka. Shake the mixture once a week for up to 2 months. Strain the liquid through a metal sieve and then through a coffee filter to remove the fruit. Pour into pretty bottles. Drink as a cordial or use to flavor lemonade or iced tea or even ice cream. Thanks, Abby Schofield for sharing this recipe!
I donít know about other gardeners, but I have had a fantastic crop of French green beans, potatoes, Swiss chard, beets, basil and cucumbers. I picked 50 cukes from about 10 plants the other evening and then spent the rest of the night making pickles.
To keep annual baskets looking their best, trim the ends to stimulate new growth and then give them a good drink of liquid fish fertilizer or compost tea. Be sure to water the plants well before fertilizing them so that the nutrients will be absorbed throughout the whole pot and not just run along the side of the pot. Water lawns and shrubs less often, but when you do water, water deeply. This will encourage roots to stretch themselves as far as possible into the soil. If you have a lot of run off when you water, stop watering for a bit and give the soil a chance to absorb water and then continue to water until an empty tuna can has 1 inch of water in it. One inch is enough to keep your lawn looking great for a whole week as long as it is not just running off and being wasted.
Enjoy pickling, canning, freezing and dehydrating through Sept and into October.
August Garden Tip of the Month
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Instead of doing a lot of canning This August, you may realize that your produce has not grown or produced as it has in the previous last few years. I think the cold and wet spring kept a lot of us from planting at the usual times or the vegetable seeds did not have the needed heat to sprout or grow as fast as usual. I planted many seeds that never germinated so had to reseed later on in early summer. However this first week of August could change all that as itís predicted we may see over 100 degrees in some areas. Beans should be producing like gang busters soon if not already and tomato plants should be ripening soon. Keep watering less frequently but deeper than you may have been doing. Otherwise in case we should have water shortages, the roots will not have grown down deep enough to search for moisture and will be more susceptible to stress.
August is when I usually start making my flavored vinegars and I want to share with you my favorite discovery of a vinegar I experimented with and made last year. However I may not be able to pick the ripe fruit until mid or late August. After making, blueberry basil, raspberry, mulled blackberry and herb vinegars I decided to try and use up my abundance of figs off my tree. And it was delicious and is now my favorite.
Here is my recipe for fig vinegar which works for most other kinds also.
1 qt ripe washed and stemmed figs
5 cups white wine vinegar, divided
Place figs in a large glass bowl. With a potato masher crush figs with 1 cup of white wine vinegar. Add remaining vinegar, stirring to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in a dark cool place 70-75* for 3-4 weeks, stirring every 2-3 days. Taste weekly until desired strength is achieved.
Prepare hot water canner jars and lids.
Line a strainer with several layers of cheese cloth and place over a large stainless steel saucepan. Strain vinegar without squeezing cheesecloth. Discard cheesecloth and residue. Place saucepan over medium heat and heat vinegar to 180*F.
Ladle hot vinegar into hot jars leaving ľ inch headspace. Wipe jar rim and center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring that jars are completely covered with water. Place canner lid on pot, bring water to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remover canner lid and let jars remain in the pot for 5 minutes before removing the jars to cool and store.
I also tried some fig vinegar with the addition to the crushed fig and vinegar mixture of 2 cinnamon sticks broken in pieces, 1 tbls. each of whole cloves and allspice. It was also delicious!