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

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

    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

    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

    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 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

    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

    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