Fox Island Garden Club

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.

Linda Dodds

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.