Thursday, May 3, 2012

May in the Garden

Rhododendron and Columbine blooms, and Cotoneaster berries almost ready for the Robins
May is a month that brings such delight in the garden, and the beauty of new spring-green leaves and lush flowers is beyond words.  It's also a time when I am typically brimming with hopes for a good season, both in gardening and baseball, and this year is no exception!

Though I can't provide answers on how to ensure a good baseball season (except to remember that every game is a new chance to win), I can provide some tips on how to have a good gardening season...

Shotweed




1.  Get ahead of the weeds: They are growing just as fast as your other plants, and removing and/or smothering them now is your best chance to prevent your soil from becoming a "weed seed bank" for years to come. Shotweed is my personal nemesis at my p-patch plot, and dandelions in my parking strip.  If you see weeds begin to flower or set seed, even if you don't have time to dig them out that day, stop and take a few minutes to nip off their flower heads!


Wren nest

2.  Put up a nest box for expert pest control while relaxing in your hammock: Cavity-nesting birds like Chickadees and Wrens are some of the best aphid-eaters on the planet, and when their young are peeping loudly, they will do a thorough pest-patrol of the entire area around their nest to satisfy their needs.  If you want your entire garden to be free from aphids, putting up a nest box is an excellent place to start!  In our urban and suburban neighborhoods, there are very few standing dead trees for cavity-nesters to build in, so a properly-built nest box mimics a tree cavity and instantly attracts these beneficial (and sweetly-singing) birds.  Build your own using info from Russell Link's excellent book "Landscaping for Wildlife in the PNW", or from his instructions on the WA Dept of Fish & Wildlife site: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/projects/



3. City Fruit's Tip of the Month:  Fruit tree expert Don Ricks predicts that the codling moth will begin flying the second week of May.  This pest can greatly damage Apple, Pear and Plum trees, and Don recommends adding a new non-toxic weapon to your prevention strategies:  Codling moth mating disruption.
 
How does mating disruption work?
The female codling moth releases a specific chemical, a pheromone, that attracts the male moth. The male moth can detect extremely small amounts of the this pheromone and will fly to locate the source, the female, in order to mate.  Mating disruption dispensers release this same pheromone and, when placed properly in the upper third of the tree canopy well before the earliest moth emergence, they inhibit the ability of the male moth to locate and mate with the female.  Mating will be reduced, the number of codling moth eggs laid in the orchard will be reduced, and the number of "worms" in your fruit will be reduced.
 
The full article can be viewed at http://das.wsu.edu/readNewsItem.php?id=145, and here is a link to one of the products recommended there:  www.scentry.com/CM.htm

It's a good time to get started planning your apple maggot strategies too:
Visit http://gardening.wsu.edu/library/tree006/tree006.htm to read "Apple Maggot Control for the Backyard Orchard" - a good summary of how to make sticky traps to monitor the flies, and how to apply the "footies" when the fruit has reached golf-ball-size.  The nylon footies keep the flies from being able to smell the fruit (because they use their feet to smell!) and therefore prevent them from laying eggs on it.

Last but not least, take a break from your gardening and come to a spring celebration!

The Swallows are back at Magnuson Park- come celebrate International Migratory Bird Day event on Saturday May 12th from 10am-3pm!  Our monthly Family Wetland Walk begins at 10am and we typically have plenty of room for drop-ins, but for this walk you'll need to pre-register as it will likely fill up in advance.  For all the details on the entire day of walks, lectures, activities for children, and more, including the dedication of the new Shore Ponds Wetlands, visit www.seattle.gov/parks/Magnuson

 
Best wishes for a great month,
Emily

Sunday, April 22, 2012

There's still time to register for a FREE garden class!

HAPPY EARTH DAY!
Now that spring is in full swing, I hope your garden is bringing you joy with each opening blossom.  I also hope to see your smiling face in the audience at one of my upcoming gardening classes- here is an update to the list you can choose from! 

FREE Natural Gardening classes from Seattle Public Utilities
Make your garden satisfying, beautiful and safe! Dive into these topics with three snappy evenings of classes covering it all - building healthy soil, growing food in the city, choosing the right plants, natural lawn care, natural pest control, and smart watering. This year, the classes are being offered to residents of North Seattle neighborhoods and South Seattle/Georgetown neighborhoods.  Classes still have room, but register now so you'll be able to attend all 3 in your area!


South Seattle/Georgetown neighborhoods
All classes held at South Seattle Community College, 6770 E. Marginal Way 
  • Mon. April 23rd from 7-9pm: Soils and Composting, + Growing Food in the City
  • Mon. April 30th from 7-9pm: Choosing the Right Plants, + Natural Lawn Care
  • Mon. May 7th from 7-9pm:  Natural Pest, Weed, and Disease Control, + Smart Watering
All classes are FREE, but you must register online in advance at www.gardenhotline.org

NE Seattle neighborhoods 
All classes held at University Unitarian Church, 6556 35th Ave NE
  • Wed. April 25th from 7-9pm: Soils and Composting, + Growing Food in the City
  • Wed. May 2nd from 7-9pm: Choosing the Right Plants, + Natural Lawn Care
  • Wed. May 9th from 7-9pm:  Natural Pest, Weed, and Disease Control, + Smart Watering 
All classes are FREE, but you must register online in advance at www.gardenhotline.org

Natural Yard Care Neighborhoods classes are sponsored by Seattle Public Utilities and the King Co. Hazardous Waste Management Program. For more info, contact the Garden Hotline at 206-633-0224.


FREE Savvy Gardener Classes- Sustainable Veggie Gardening
Growing your own organic food is a fun and delicious way to garden in the Pacific Northwest. Vegetables, berries, and fruit trees need special care to thrive, but your time and energy will pay off with great tasting, nutritious home-grown food. Best of all, food crops can be incorporated into your existing landscape, large or small! This class will teach you how to make your yard produce great food for you and your family.
Tickets are FREE, and there is still room in each class, but you must register through Brown Paper Tickets, online or by phone:
Register now to ensure a spot! Savvy Gardener Classes are sponsored by the Saving Water Partnership and Cascade Water Alliance. For more info on Savvy Gardener Classes that will be taught by others, visit http://savingwater.org/savvygardenerclasses.htm


FREE City of Bellevue Natural Yard Care Workshops:
Natural Pest, Weed, and Disease Control for Edible Gardens
Edibles are a perfect fit for any natural yard but they do need special care. Learn how to find the right site for your edibles, choose plants that are well-suited for our climate, and grow them successfully. Take home design and organic care tips, including crop rotation, attracting beneficial insects and pollinators, and other natural pest, weed, and disease control strategies that can be applied throughout your yard. 
  • Tuesday May 8th from 7-9pm at Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Avenue NE, Room 1E-108  
This FREE class is for Bellevue residents only, and registration is required.  To register, Email klafranchi@bellevuewa.gov or call 425-452-6932 

Bellevue Natural Yard Care classes classes are sponsored by the City of Bellevue, King County, and the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program of King County. For the Bellevue Natural Yard Care classes taught by others, visit




Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring has sprung... Celebrate with Free Spring Classes!

Apple blossom and bee
Oh how good a few warm sunny days in a row feels, eh?  My spring fever has grown with each hour I spend out in a garden... whether a client's, a park, or my own...

I am also fired up about all the free gardening classes that I will be teaching this spring, from Bothell to Seattle to Federal Way, and all points in between!  I am honored to have been hired by so many regional municipalities to further their mission of educating Puget Sound residents on natural gardening and landscaping practices that protect our water quality and conserve our natural resources.  Classes begin in just a couple of weeks, and there is sure to be one or more near you! Check out the lineup below, and follow the links for registration info and class details:


FREE Natural Yard Care Neighborhoods classes from Seattle Public Utilities
Make your garden satisfying, beautiful and safe! Dive into these topics with three snappy evenings of classes covering it all - building healthy soil, growing food in the city, choosing the right plants, natural lawn care, natural pest control, and smart watering. This year, the classes are being offered to residents of NE Seattle neighborhoods and to residents of the South Seattle/Georgetown area.  Classes fill fast, so register now to ensure a spot!

NE Seattle neighborhoods 
All classes held at University Unitarian Church, 6556 35th Ave NE
  • Wed. April 25th from 7-9pm: Soils and Composting, + Growing Food in the City
  • Wed. May 2nd from 7-9pm: Choosing the Right Plants, + Natural Lawn Care
  • Wed. May 9th from 7-9pm:  Natural Pest, Weed, and Disease Control, + Smart Watering 
All classes are FREE, but you must register online in advance at www.gardenhotline.org

South Seattle/Georgetown 
All classes held at South Seattle Community College, 6770 E. Marginal Way 
  • Mon. April 23rd from 7-9pm: Soils and Composting, + Growing Food in the City
  • Mon. April 30th from 7-9pm: Choosing the Right Plants, + Natural Lawn Care
  • Mon. May 7th from 7-9pm:  Natural Pest, Weed, and Disease Control, + Smart Watering
    All classes are FREE, but you must register online in advance at www.gardenhotline.org

    Natural Yard Care Neighborhoods classes are sponsored by Seattle Public Utilities and the King Co. Hazardous Waste Management Program. For more info, contact the Garden Hotline at 206-633-0224.


    FREE Savvy Gardener Classes- Sustainable Veggie Gardening
    Growing your own organic food is a fun and delicious way to garden in the Pacific Northwest. Vegetables, berries, and fruit trees need special care to thrive, but your time and energy will pay off with great tasting, nutritious home-grown food. Best of all, food crops can be incorporated into your existing landscape, large or small! This class will teach you how to make your yard produce great food for you and your family.
    Tickets are FREE, but you must register through Brown Paper Tickets:
    Register now to ensure a spot! Savvy Gardener Classes are sponsored by the Saving Water Partnership and Cascade Water Alliance. For more info on Savvy Gardener Classes that will be taught by others, visit http://savingwater.org/savvygardenerclasses.htm

    FREE Family Gardening Class at Molbak's

    Gardening with Kids – Creating an Easy Outdoor Snacking Garden 

    Sunday April 15th from 1-2pm at Molbak's 13625 NE 175th St. in Woodinville

    Foster a love of gardening in children while encouraging healthy eating habits! Learn about fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are healthy, easy-to-grow, and encourage in-garden snacking. I will cover succession planting techniques for fast-growing, tasty crops such as sugar snap peas, carrots, chives, cherry tomatoes, as well as other fun-to-eat-crops like strawberries and blueberries.  Kids are encouraged to attend with their parents!

    Registration is not required.  For more info on Molbak's spring lineup, visit www.molbaks.com/events.html


    FREE City of Bellevue Natural Yard Care Workshops
    Natural Pest, Weed, and Disease Control for Edible Gardens
    Edibles are a perfect fit for any natural yard but they do need special care. Learn how to find the right site for your edibles, choose plants that are well-suited for our climate, and grow them successfully. Take home design and organic care tips, including crop rotation, attracting beneficial insects and pollinators, and other natural pest, weed, and disease control strategies that can be applied throughout your yard. 
    • Tuesday May 8th from 7-9pm at Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Avenue NE, Room 1E-108  
    Classes are for Bellevue residents only, all are FREE, and registration is required by April 10th.  To register, Email klafranchi@bellevuewa.gov or call 425-452-6932 

    Bellevue Natural Yard Care classes classes are sponsored by the City of Bellevue, King County, and the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program of King County. For the Bellevue Natural Yard Care classes taught by others, visit
    www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/natural-yard-care-events.htm




    Registration opens soon for FREE City of Federal Way Storm-Water Solutions Workshops
    Learn about rain gardens, rock trenches, and other storm-water management solutions that are beautiful additions to your landscape, and also moderate stream erosion in our watershed and prevent polluted runoff from entering Puget Sound! 
    • Thursday May 3rd from 6-8pm: Downspout Disconnections 
    • Thursday May 17th from 6-8pm: Naturopathy Approaches to your Landscape Runoff
    Classes are held at Federal Way City Hall, 33325 8th Avenue South
    All classes are FREE, but you must register in advance by calling the Federal Way Public Works Department at 253-835-2700. 

    For more info on the workshops hosted by the Federal Way Surface Water Management Department, visit www.cityoffederalway.com


    Registration opens soon for FREE King County Natural Yard Care classes
    There will be 2 topics per class, and I will be teaching the "Edible Landscaping: Vegetable Gardens and More" portion of each class.
    Wednesday April 18th from 7-9pm in Bothell (location TBA)
    Thursday April 26th from 7-9pm in Auburn (location TBA)

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    The Garden in March

    Mahonia nervosa (Low Oregon Grape) flower bud

    Clematis x jouiniana leaf buds



    March is a magical time in the garden-
    Tiny green buds on the branches of deciduous shrubs and trees begin to open into leaves or flowers, the early bulbs open their cheerful blooms, and others send leaves up so fast you can almost watch them grow.  Little by little, the soil warms enough for tiny shoots to begin to pop out of the crowns of herbaceous perennials, and birds begin to sing more vigorously and start gathering nesting materials.  It's a great time to be out in the fresh air, whether in your own garden  or elsewhere!


    Chives shoots

    Clematis armandii (Evergreen Clematis) 
    flower buds and new shoot
    Gardening Tips of the Month for Ornamental Plants: 
    Plant bare root shrubs. They are so much less $ to purchase, because you are not paying for the soil, nursery container, and shipping weight. You will have an easier time planting them at the right soil height also, because you can see the entire root system at the start.  To give you an idea of the savings, I just bought 100 plants from King Conservation District for the Magnuson Community Center Resource Conservation Landscape project- 40 Tall Oregon Grape and 60 Low Oregon Grape- for $150.00.  This sale was a once-a-year event, but many good local nurseries carry bare root plants at this time of year, and their deals will amaze you too.  There is one word of caution: because these plants are not in soil, they need to either be planted as soon as you get them home, or "heeled in" until you are ready to plant them in a permanent location.


    Rosa 'Voodoo'
    (Hybrid Tea Rose)




    Prune your roses.  Now is the time to prune your hybrid tea roses, floribundas, and climbers.  Also, to remove all of last year's leaves if they didn't fall off in the winter, which helps prevent black spot or other fungal spores from being transmitted to this year's new shoots.  Old-fashioned shrub roses need little or no pruning, and most climbers benefit by pruning only the side branches and not the main canes, but Hybrid Tea Roses typically bloom best when the main canes are pruned to 18-36 inches from the ground. (The one pictured at left grows 6-8 ft tall even though I prune it back to 2-3 ft each March, and is still blooming today) A good rule of thumb for pruning smaller side canes is to shorten them according to diameter: the smaller they are, the shorter they should be cut. Those that are pencil-size or less should be removed completely.  Thinning out branches that cross through the middle of the shrub helps promote good air circulation too.  I found a good rose pruning tutorial with photos here:


    Prune your Clematis:  New shoots are emerging from many types of Clematis varieties now, but there are different pruning methods for different species, and some need almost no pruning ever.  For instance, I only prune the woody, tree-like, Clematis armandii pictured above when it starts growing into it's neighbor, the deciduous Clematis x jouiania (pictured at the top).  This one is super easy for me to make pruning decisions about, because I just look for the healthiest-looking leaf buds in the upper canopy (both of them grow up my deck trellis and its roof) and then I prune off everything above those buds.  But other Clematis species are pruned by being thinned more delicately here and there, or by cutting all vines to the base.  A lot of the info out there in books and websites is overly complex and hard to figure out, especially if you can't remember which species you have and/or you've lost the plant tag.... however, I just found this simple and informative site at organic gardening magazine!


    Gardening Tips of the Month for Edible Plants:  
    Start planting cool-crop seeds, such as lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, carrots, radishes, beets, and the all-important snap peas (only because they are so delicious you can even eat their twining tendrils).  Root crops should always be direct-seeded into your garden soil because they won't thrive if transplanted, but I like to plant my peas and a few other crops in small pots, with the warmth of my refrigerator top or kitchen table providing a quick-start to their germination.  When they are big enough to plant outside, all potted starts need to be "hardened off" little by little before being planted in your garden, so they don't suffer transplant shock. 

    An invitation from Artists for Japan for a special event:
    Join the SUNSET VIGIL event this Saturday March 10th at Golden Gardens Beach Park, from 5PM till 6:30PM. As the sun sets in Seattle on 3/10, and the sun rises in Japan on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami on 3/11, we'd like to gather and pay tribute to the people of Tohoku and pray for the future of japan.

    Please find us at the bonfire on the beach around 5PM, and several musicians from Kokon Taiko will play music to lead us to the water blessing. We'll conduct a silent prayer at the sunset around 6PM.


    The event will take place on the beach either rain or shine. Please wear warm clothing and bring a rain gear. If you have a flash light, please bring one!

    Detailed information is available on our website http://artistsforjapan.blogspot.com/.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Groundhog Day in the Garden

    Hamamalis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' (Hybrid Witch Hazel)
    What a difference a day (or a week or month) makes...
    On New Year's Day it was almost 60 degrees, and less than 2 weeks ago we were still waiting out the thaw from a week of snow, ice, and wind.
    January 2012
    Vibernum x bodnantense 'Pink Dawn' (Dawn Vibernum)
    And even though Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, that won't stop me from enjoying this mild winter day of sun and clouds, made better by the winter-bloomers in my garden!  Unlike the hard freeze and snowstorms of Nov-Dec. 2010, our latest cold snap did not harm the deciduous and evergreen winter-flowering shrubs in my garden.  Having fragrance and flowers at this time of year is something I never experienced growing up in the midwest, and I consider this a major "bonus" to gardening in the Pacific Northwest!  The fact that many of these plants also provide much-needed food for Anna's Hummingbirds adds to the cheer they bring into even the dreariest days.




    Vibernum tinus
    Sarcococca ruscifolia (Sweet Box)




















    Gardening Tips of the Month for Ornamental Plants: 
    Oriental Hellebores will soon be sending up their new flower stalks, so make sure you've cut off all the old leaves.  This will make the flowers stand out more, and also reduce the chances for fungal diseases to spread from last year's leaves to the new growth.  

    Even if you see new growth on your Roses, wait until late February or early March to do your spring pruning. Pruning them now would stimulate a flush of tender growth, very susceptible to cold damage.  

    If you have Japanese Anemones in your garden, leave the spent flower heads on the plants even though they might look funky.  Soon the puffy white seed pods will emerge from the spent flower heads, and be gathered up by Anna's Hummingbirds for a super-soft lining for their tiny nests!




    Gardening Tips of the Month for Edible Plants:
    In a few weeks, the soil temperatures will likely be warm enough to plant snap peas and carrots. Wait until your soil can pass the "squeeze test" before you do any digging though.

    If you want to speed up the soil warming and drying, you can make a temporary cloche for a vegetable bed by covering it with clear plastic or a floating row cover like Remay or Agribon

    Fruit Tree tip from www.cityfruit.org:  This is the month for winter -- or dormant -- pruning. You can see the structure of your tree and identify the 'bad' (dead, damaged, diseased, and de-ranged) branches. Take those out.  Remember, though, that pruning stimulates new growth -- especially at this time of year.  Visit the City Fruit website for the many pruning classes they host throughout the year, including this Sunday's free class at City People's Garden Store.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Happy New Year!


    What an unusual New Year's day it was today.... I spent the afternoon strolling through the Union Bay Natural Area, watching the herons, ducks, swans, and other waterfowl lazily foraging and napping in the sunshine.  It has been predicted that we'd have a milder and more rainy winter this year, and so far at least the first half of that prediction appears to be holding true.

    However.... anyone who has experienced a few years here in the Pacific Northwest knows that our weather patterns can fluctuate greatly from one month to the next especially during the winter months, and can quickly make all predictions change in a flash.  And though the sun and mild weather sure feels great, we do need rain (and snow in the mountains) to ensure plenty of summer water 7 months from now!

    So.... how to prepare your garden for winter no matter what it might bring? Here are some tips:
    • There have not been very many hard freezes in the Puget Sound Basin yet, which for some plants can mean that they haven't totally gone dormant or "hardened off" this year's new growth.  This makes them vulnerable to cold damage if/when a deep freeze- especially one that lasts a few days- comes our way. 
    • If you have any marginally-hardy plants in your garden such as Banana, Loropetalum, Tree Ferns, most of the Hebes, Eucalyptus, Phormium, and others, you will need to protect them if a deep freeze- even for a short time- is on the horizon.
    • Most deciduous trees, shrubs, and perennials have lost their leaves and gone dormant now, so are less vulnerable than evergreen plants, which never go completely dormant and "wake up" more easily.  Even hardy evergreen and deciduous plants can be "fooled" by stretches of mild weather that make it seem as if spring is arriving, and begin to send energy to their leaf or flower buds. 
    • Our worst winter damage comes when a deep freeze is combined with NE winds, so pay particular attention to plants in your garden that are exposed on that side.   You may need to provide protection to them even if they are considered completely hardy here in the Pacific Northwest.
    • Temporary protection and insulation can be as simple as an old bed sheet thrown over the top of a plant, and clothes-pinned to bamboo canes that are stuck deep into the soil.  Surrounding the plant with a chicken-wire fence that is loosely filled with straw can provide longer-term protection.  Marginally-hardy perennials can be insulated temporarily by heaping some coarse mulch over their crowns.
    • If you have climbing roses, make sure their main canes are tied securely to a trellis or arbor so that high winds don't whip them around or break them. If the canes of your hybrid tea roses are over 6 ft tall and you are concerned about wind damage, they can be shortened a bit to prevent this too, but don't do any major pruning until late February or early March.  In the Pacific NW, even winter pruning stimulates roses to begin sending out new growth, which is very vulnerable to freeze damage.
    • Even if we don't get a major deep freeze or snow this winter, the pounding rains that are typical here in winter can do a lot of damage by compacting the soil around any plant.  Compaction means that the air has been pushed out of the soil, which lessens its insulation quality and therefore creates more risk of root damage in a deep freeze.  A 2-3" layer of loose, coarse mulch is good protection from cold and winter rain compaction for the roots of any plant in your garden.  Just make sure you do not heap it over the crown of the plant unless it is for temporary protection.
    • And while the sun and warmth is still around, take a long walk and enjoy... actually, I recommend that in any ol' weather!

    C&NN