Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks

This is the time of year when we all tend to look around us as well as inward, and today as I sit in my warm office looking out at all the snow and ice, I want to say how very thankful I am for the work that you provided to me this year. Whether large or small, garden consultation, design, pruning lessons, or educational programs, I am always aware that "extras" like these are not essential for daily life. Therefore I really appreciate that you have continued to focus energy on your gardens or your public education programs this year, and I hope that over the coming month you have a very happy holiday season of celebration with friends and family.

Winter is a great time to dream and plan for next year's garden, and if you are thinking about adding some fruit trees, berries, vegetables, or other edible plants to your garden, you might be interested in checking out the brand new Edible Garden Design Guide I have recently written for the IPMopedia website, or any of the other Design Guides I have contributed there over the past 2 years.

IPMopedia is a free online resource for home gardeners and professional landscapers, containing organic gardening recommendations, great fact sheets about pests and diseases of ornamental and edible plants, and much more. I feel fortunate to have been a part of the team that has been creating this great resource.

For a limited time, the Seattle reLeaf Trees for Neighborhoods program is offering free trees to plant in your yard. Supplies are limited too, so it is first come, first served. Applications will be accepted until only Dec 6th. Program participants will receive up to 4 free trees per household, watering bags, a bag of GroCo compost, and training on proper tree planting and care. What a deal!

Available species include: (my notes are in green)

  1. Shore pine (Pinus contorta 'Contorta') * This is great "small" native conifer, approx 20-25ft tall with an irregular form is typical for a garden-grown tree of this species. Tremendous wildlife value too.
  2. Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) * This is a splendid fall color tree with heart-shaped leaves, usually grows 30-40ft tall and almost as wide.
  3. Red oak (Quercus rubra) This is a very large tree - only suitable for spacious properties or where deep summer shade is desired.
  4. Western red cedar (Thuja plicata 'Excelsa') * This is a native cultivar that stays smaller than the standard species- approx. 30-35ft tall but only around 15ft wide. Tremendous wildlife value if you have enough space.
  5. Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) This is a mammoth tree, growing quickly to 50-100ft.

To receive a free tree, you must meet these guidelines:

  1. Live in Seattle, and plant the tree on your property (renters must have their landlord's permission)
  2. Plant the trees in your yard, and not as street trees
  3. NOT plant the trees under power lines
  4. Commit to caring for the tree in the future, including watering for the first 3 summers

To get your trees, send in the application ASAP. Questions can be directed to:
Jana Dilley
Seattle reLeaf


King Conservation District's annual Native
Bareroot Plant Sale
This is one of my favorite sales of the year, because I love native plants and I love bare root planting. No heavy pots to lug around, it's easy to know for sure where the plant's crown is for proper planting depth, and bareroot plants are always so much less expensive than container-grown plants. King Conservation sells the plants in bundles of 10 or more, which works
especially great for groundcovers that you need many of for dense coverage. This year they are selling Fragaria vesca, a woodland type of wild strawberry - I think I'll give that a try! The link above will take you to a page where you can download the order form. The pre-order deadline is January 31st and there is a $30 minimum order this year. Supplies are limited and each year they always run out of some species before the deadline, so I recommend you order early.

CleanScapes is running a waste reduction contest, based on waste pickup in individual neighborhoods in their service area, based on collection days. For the next year, whichever area reduces the most waste gets a $50,000.00 project in their area! There's also a scholarship opportunity, an elementary school art contest, and a place to send waste-saving ideas. This is the kind of contest I can really get enthused about- one that benefits the environment as well as supporting the community that gives a business their income!

See you in the garden next year!
Best regards,

Member of the Washington Chapter of Association of Professional Landscape Designers and the Environmental Education Association of Washington

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rake, Remember, Rest, and Renew

The rains of November are now upon us, but so far they have been tempered by a some days of gorgeous sunshine glistening off of colorful leaves and fruits. Case in point is the Beautyberry (Callicarpa) in my front garden, which has put on quite a show, and will continue until the last fruit is devoured by Robins and Stellar Jays in January. Thirty-three years ago this week, I arrived in Seattle with suitcase in hand in the pouring rain, with no idea I had found my lifetime home. So I love this time of year no matter what the weather!

Here are some garden tips for this month, and hopes for accomplishing them in the fresh air on more sunny days!
  • Rake leaves off of lawn areas periodically, and use them to mulch your garden beds. Fallen leaves are a major garden resource that can benefit your plants in two ways: the micro-nutrients they provide as they decompose are essential to plant growth, and they protect the soil from winter rains' erosion, compaction, and nutrient leaching.
  • When mulching in shrub or perennial beds, use no more than a 3" layer and make sure to leave a 3-6" gap around the base of each plant, to prevent excess moisture from damaging bark or crowns.
  • When mulching vegetable beds, use as thick a layer as you want, but put some compost or netting on top so they don't all blow away in the winter storms.
  • If your trees have enormous leaves such as Big-leaf Maples, you will need to chop them up a bit first or they can become a slimy blanket... and not so good for plants or aesthetics.
  • Do NOT use diseased fruit tree leaves to mulch your fruit trees, and make sure to remove all fallen fruit before it decomposes into the soil. Leaves and fruit may contain Apple Scab spores and or the pupae of the Apple Maggot Fly. (these pests affect pear and plum species too) and removing them is the easiest and least expensive way to reduce the chances for future pests.
  • Speaking of fruit, don't feel bad if your trees didn't produce much this year- you are not alone! The extra-rainy and cool spring created a combo effect of reduced bee arrivals and washed a lot of pollen out of blossoms before they could be pollinated. I've even noticed this on some native plants: a less than normal Oregon Grape season (they are early blooming) but good Snowberry production (they are late blooming). According to the latest www.CityFruit.org newsletter, Bob Norton, the northwest's preeminent apple expert, noted: "This has been a very disappointing fruit season, the worst that I can remember." Just like in baseball, there is always next year.
Speaking of baseball, most of you know that besides a garden, a baseball diamond is my second favorite "field of dreams". And so the sudden passing of Mariners' play-by-play broadcaster Dave Niehaus has been hard to accept, but all the great memories of his joy for the game will help temper the sadness... at least until the 2011 season begins without him.

The only other garden "chore" that I recommend this month is to get out there and enjoy the beauty as much as you can. There are so many plants that hold raindrops on their leaves or needles like little jewels like this Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo) and sparkle even on a cloudy day, and many fall-winter bloomers like this Vibernum bodnantense (Pink Dawn Viburnum) that are fragrant as well as beautiful. Perhaps I will see you out there!