Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Winter Months are Great for Planting!

Bradner Gardens Park - Winter Interest Garden

Foggy winter days are great for setting into the "cozy zones" of our homes with a good book or indoor project, but they are also great for adding new plants to our gardens.  The soft, moist soil (as long as its not completely saturated), and the cool air temperatures are perfect conditions for plants to focus all their energy on establishing a healthy system of new feeder roots. Those healthy roots will then enable the plants to withstand the dry times to come in the summer ahead.   

Buying bareroot plants is a wise choice too, for 3 reasons:

1. It's easy to see the root flare on these plants, which is the place where the roots emerge from the base of the trunk(s)It is very important that the root flare not be buried when you plant any tree, shrub, perennial, or ornamental grass.  

2. It's easy to spread out the roots out into the planting hole, then fill in the soil around them, so that you eliminate the risk of girdling or "J" roots that can seriously harm the plant in years to come.

3.  Bareroot plants are usually half the cost of plants purchased in containers or ball-and-burlap.  

Here are some great opportunities for getting bareroot plants this winter, and learning how to care for them!

King Conservation District 2014 Native Bareroot Plant Sale
Red-twig Dogwood

Order online at
Ordering closes February 9th, and pick up is on Saturday March 1st.
The King Conservation District offers a variety of native trees and shrubs for conservation purposes, including wildlife habitat, windbreaks, hedgerows, reforestation, and stream enhancement. The plants are bareroot stock, which means they do not come in pots or burlap bags, but are harvested from the field in winter when the plants are dormant and ready to be replanted. Bareroot plants are affordable, hardy, have well-developed roots, and are easy to handle, transport and plant. 


Sword Fern
Get free plants through the King Co. Native Plant Salvage Program
Join other volunteers digging up trees and shrubs from this site scheduled for a school and housing development in the morning. In the afternoon, we’ll pot-up the salvaged plants for later planting at King County habitat restoration sites. Once planted, these native plants will help reduce erosion, shade streams and provide habitat. Special thanks to the Snoqualmie Valley School District and the Pulte Group for providing the salvage site.
When: Saturday, February 1, 2014
 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m: Salvage plants for King County.
12:00 to 2:00 p.m: Salvage plants for yourself if you salvaged for the County from 9:00 to 12:00.
1:00 to 4:30 p.m: Potting at Holding Facility (Free plants are offered to potters).
Notes: A parent or guardian must accompany volunteers under 16 years old. Dress for the weather and be prepared to get dirty. Sturdy shoes or boots are recommended. The site can be muddy. Gloves, tools and light refreshments provided.
Please call Cindy Young at 206-296-8065 or email if you plan to participate.
For a PDF version of this flier and a map click on the link:


Bare root fruit tree class at City People's
Apple Tree & Bee
On February 16, Jana Dilley, an arborist with the City of Seattle and coordinator of Seattle's reLeaf Program, will teach a class on planting fruit trees at City People's Garden Store.  City People's will donate a percentage of all bare root fruit tree and shrub sales this spring to City Fruit --- so you can buy your fruit trees there too!  Another reason: all berries, rhubarb and other fruit-bearing shrubs carried by City People's are organically grown.

Other winter classes on growing fruit trees
New fruit-related classes are added to the City Fruit calendar every day.  Bill Wanless of brooke/wanless gardens teaches a Winter Pruning class on January 25.  Get a hands-on look at how to prune espalier apple, columnar apple, ancient apple and a young plum tree at Bradner Gardens.  City People's Garden Store 's Second Sunday Series offers ten free fruit-related classes in partnership with City Fruit starting in February.  Seattle Tree Fruit Society, the Western Washington Tree Fruit Foundation, and WSU in Mt. Vernon also offer workshops on fruit tree care by some of the best experts in Washington. 

Pink Dawn Viburnum
'Arnold Promise' hybrid Witch Hazel
Last but not least, if you have some fragrant winter plants that are in bloom right now such as Witch Hazel, Pink Dawn Viburnum, or Sarcococca, spending a foggy day in the garden will have even more of a bonus for you!  Besides breathing in the fabulous fragrances, you may see an Anna's Hummingbird taking a sip, or doing some courtship and nest-building (they are the definition of "early birds" when it comes to nesting).

Other winter projects that will bring the birds into your garden are:
1. Hanging a suet feeder, preferably close to a window so you can watch the fun! This year, I have a flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers taking turns between sampling my suet feeder and stripping all the seed pods off of my Pacific Wax Myrtle trees.  Make sure you hang a feeder that is designed to discourage access by Starlings, Crows, or English Sparrows, so you don't end up with all the songbirds chased away and a rodent-attracting mess of food on the ground.

2. Hang a seed-feeder filled with Black-oil Sunflower seeds, because they provide the highest amount of energy for birds.  Once again, choose a feeder that has no perches in order to discourage the birds listed above.

3.  Install a nest box for cavity-nesting birds such as Chickadees and Wrens.  Though they typically don't start their nesting season until April, these birds will sometimes use the nest box all winter long to roost in during storms and extra cold nights.

One more thing:
I have been poking my finger in areas under the eaves of my house and under conifers, but so far it hasn't seemed dry enough to worry about watering.  You might want to check similar locations at your garden.  Strange as it seems, we all may have to do some winter watering if this dry weather keeps up.

Happy gardening (and birding)!