Fox Island Garden Club

Gardening Tip of the Month
By Linda Dodds

July Garden Tip of the Month
Saturday, July 01, 2017
May and most of June just didnít give us any indication that Summer was right around the corner until around June 23 when the temperature started to soar. It was a relief to see that the sun still could heat our earth but it sure didnít do it gradually or gracefully. In case you havenít already been set on a watering schedule, the weekend scorcher should have made you aware that itís time to set it up. Lawns seem to the most water but watering every day does not keep your lawn green and healthy. Lawns only need about 1 inch of water a week so instead of just sprinkling daily, give your lawn a good soaking at one time. The grass roots will grow deeper looking for water and will be in a much better condition to fight off weeds and grow lush and green.

To test to see how long it takes to water to one inch in depth, try this very uncomplicated process. Place empty cans the size of tuna cans around your lawn where different sprinkler heads are wateringÖturn on your sprinkler and check to see how long it takes to water one inch deep in each location. You may need to adjust your sprinkler to cover all areas equally.

Watering potted plants will take more time as the pots will dry out much faster than plants planted directly in the garden. Flowers in pots need to be deadheaded once a week to keep them blooming. Otherwise they figure they have done their job in producing seeds for the next generation and decide to just grow old and retire since their work is done. Keep them young and healthy by removing spent flowers, adding fertilizer routinely and they will keep looking fresh and lovely. Think of it as a beauty treatment for your flowering pots.

Keep your vegetables producing by picking them as soon as they are ready. Hopefully you staggered the seeds for leafy vegetables so you will have a fresh supply all summer. Even beans, carrots and herbs such as basil and parsley can be reseeded occasionally.

I just emailed a question regarding humming birds to a site to get some information on beak rot. I had a hummingbird that stayed at my feeder, almost living there and was gaining weight so fast, I could see the difference almost daily. He had what I thought at first was an unusually long beak but then I realized that the end of it was floppy. I thought maybe something was stuck on his beak or his tongue was too long. He rocked back and forth on the feeder rest and I was able to get within a foot or two from him before he would fly off. I thought if I could capture him or her, I could take it to a vet but I was out weeding the other day and found him dead. His beak was definitely rotting away so I cleaned out my feeders and rinsed them with hydrogen peroxide.

Thanks and happy Summer gardening!


March Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
This year the traditional ĎMarch comes in Like a Lion and Goes out Like a Lamb Ďis being replaced by ĎOrange is the new Blackí. That seems to have been the theme of this yearís NW Flower and Garden show in Seattle. Several of the display gardens not only incorporated edibles in the landscape but also vibrant displays of the color orange. The hardscape included brightly colored orange pillows and even orange tables. Along with the garden art that included lots of orange hues made the gardens really pop. I was a little disappointed though in the gardens as there were no large waterfall cascading gardens nor new varieties of that must have plant.

However the ones they did have on display were a lot more urban and suburban friendly with edible groundcovers and tons of fragrant blooming plants and flowers. Itís those fragrances that bring me back every year along with the canned bird songs playing.

You may want to incorporate edibles into your own gardens instead of using just a few shrubs and trees and having all that mulch and bark covering your garden beds. Instead of pulling out weeds all summer, it would be much nicer to cut some herbs, lettuces, peas and carrots to add to your meals.

March is the traditional month to plant and prune roses. Beware of sales on roses that are not marked and known varieties to our area. There are books on the care and growing needs of roses and which are climbers, blight resistant, the color or very fragrant. And today with the popular ĎGoogle ití phrase, do some research first so you know which roses to choose and how to plant and care for them.

Iím sure Iím not alone in feeling overwhelmed with the flowering weeds spreading all over our grounds. Just think of pulling them as free exercise. Besides the fact that pulling them before they flower and reseed as a time saver for this summer when you can enjoy putting on an apron, big flouncy skirt, high heels and a big hat for clipping bouquets. Ha ha haÖthat just never happens except in our dreams! Now my side is aching from laughing so hard.

Happy almost Spring.

February 2017 Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Get out your calendars and mark February 22 Ė 26 for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show at the Seattle Convention Center. This year promises to be even more exciting as it not only features garden seminars, display gardens and tons of garden supply and related products for sale but also this year features a display of handcrafted floral designed cakes.

I know that a trip to Seattle may seem daunting to many of you who donít do well in traffic, but just think how lucky we are to live as close to Seattle as we are. The event is the largest gardening event west of Philadelphia and not only draws people from Alaska and Vancouver, Canada to San Francisco and all the states east of us. There are over 100 educational gardening seminars demonstration gardens and a vintage market place as well as everything gardening related items for sale.

Itís a great place to look for ideas that you can reproduce in your own yard, see the newest shrubs and flowers and purchase seeds and plants. Itís a must for most garden clubs and just garden lovers.

I usually start my edible pea pods and tomato plants in mid to end of February so I enjoy shopping for the seeds I may not have saved from the previous year. If you look at the seed packages for tomatoes, they usually tell you whether the seeds are from Heirloom or hybrid plants. Remember that hybrids most likely will not produce the same tomato as the variety that you have saved from the previous yearís crop.

February is a good time to start the Great War on Weeds. Choose a fairly sunny day and focus on pulling out even a few of the shot weed and other flowering weeds that produce millions of seeds. Even if itís only for a few minutes at a time, you will be saving hours of summer weeding. And reallyÖisnít summer meant to be enjoyed instead of pulling weeds all day long.

Roses can be pruned in late February and usually so can hydrangeas. But donít be too severe in your pruning in case we should get hit with a real cold snap for the end of the month and into March.

January Tip of the Month
Sunday, January 01, 2017
Happy 2017 Gardening year!
Most of January tips I have written throughout the years, include suggestions for making a garden plan in January by reviewing what you liked or disliked about your previous gardening experience.
This year I have decided to just focus on making the remaining winter months a more pleasant place for visitors, which would be birds. And most people do not want to have bird seeds scattered all over their yards and thus encouraging rats, mice and raccoons to stop seeing your home as their local restaurant.
Many of those problems can be attributed to using birdseed that is scattered by the birds as they throw out most of the seeds and focus on the black oil sunflower seeds. I just use the sunflower seeds exclusively at the feeders and fill my suet feeders with something really tasty to the birds. In fact, your homemade version of suet can be so delicious, the birds stick their beaks up at prepackaged store bought suet until they realize youíre not feeling so inclined to be their personal chef. This is an easy recipe to experiment with and make any variations to within reason. Iíll occasionally add crushed unsalted peanuts or use different type of, sitting in the cupboard too long, rye, rice or whole wheat flours or different kinds of cereal. Just as long as it can hold a shape and not leek out of the suet cages itís worth experimenting.
Homemade Bird Suet
1 cup of lard
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 cup birdseed
Melt lard and peanut butter. Add sugar to the melted mix. Combine remaining ingredients and form into blocks* and then freeze.
* I save out the firmer of the old used store purchased suet containers and clean them up to store the suet in the freezer. You can easily double the recipe but just remember you will need a lot of plastic forms.

Happy 2017 Gardening year!


November Garden Tip of the Month
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Fall finally arrived in mid October with winds and rain knocking off the beautiful
red and golden leaves. What a gorgeous site we have had with all the fall foliage on the many sunny October days. I have been stopping my car whenever I see some especially bright and interesting leaves and taking them home to preserve them.

It's an easy project to accomplish by ironing the leaves between two pieces of wax paper. Once the wax starts to melt, remove the leaves from the wax paper and press them between the pages of a phone book to dry. I put a small television or several heavy books on top of the phone book and will soon remove the leaves to use as decorations on my Thanksgiving table. According to Juanita Bjork who taught me the art of leaf preserving, the leaves should stay supple and colorful for several years.

If you didn't fertilize your lawn with an organic fertilizer in Oct. then fertilize it with a fall fertilizer the end of November. It is no longer warm enough for an organic fertilizer to work with these chilly November days but the slow working organic fertilizer will stimulate early spring growing root growth for next year.

There is still time to plant spring blooming bulbs of daffodils and tulips as well as garlic. Just choose hard and healthy looking bulbs.

Keep leaves raked up and toss them around plantings to protect the soil around them from washing away in the heavy winter rains. And keep leaves raked up over lawns so the grass won't be smothered. Then going inside and have a hot toddy and watch a gardening program.

October Gardening Tip of The Month
Saturday, October 01, 2016
If you are lucky enough to have fruit trees of a producing age, you most likely have enjoyed an abundance of fruit this year. I have never seen so many grapes, pears, apples, figs, plums and Asian pears as I have this summer and early fall. I have given away sacks of fruit to friends and family and have been dehydrating a lot of it too as well as eating a lot of fresh fruit everyday for a month or more. My cup runneth over with...juice! The local wild blackberries that I picked and also my figs were each mashed, mulling spices added and then put in jars with apple cider vinegar to make my own fruit flavored vinegar. I thought that cooking down the vinegar once the fruit was removed would make it thick similar to balsamic vinegar.... but it really didn't so my project this winter is to look up recipes for turning the vinegar into a balsamic product. Until I perfect the recipe to my satisfaction, I'll just enjoy the products that my family gave me during my brother Paul's and my August trip to Finland and Italy.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting when we were in Finland but it certainly wasn't many of the same native shrubs and trees that grow here in Washington. And we were bordering the outskirts to the Arctic Circle where we visited. In the Italian Alps, we again found a lot of Washington native trees such as fir, manzanita and alders. Just the food was different and delicious to boot.

Now is your opportunity to start cleaning your yard of dried annuals, perennials and other summer blooming plants. It's a good time to cut back hedges and do general maintenance. The only planting to finish this month is seeding or planting winter growing vegetables such as beets, cabbage and Brussels sprouts . Clearing out a lot of dying and used up plants helps to expose winter hiding places for slugs and other unwanted pests. And don't forget to compost rotting fruit where rats, deer and raccoons can't get it. Rake fall leaves and use them to cover and protect the soil in your garden beds. Plant spring blooming bulbs as soon as you see them for sale in your local nursery areas for your best bet for growing healthy plants for next spring. Always check to be sure all bulbs are healthy and not soft and squishy or you will just be wasting your time digging holes and planting a bulb that won't survive the winter. And while you are out working in the garden, you might want to fertilize lawns with a fall and winter fertilizer. The slow dissolving fertilizer will really start to work fertilizing the lawn in early spring after soaking in all winter.

The last chore to share with you, is to make a drawing of your vegetable bed, label it with this years date and keep it in a place where you will remember to find it. Example would be a file for '2016 garden' folder and use it to locate where you planted each variety of vegetable and then rotate your next years crop to a different location. That way, any spores that may spread disease will not be where it's family was located the previous year. I always plant tomatoes where a high nitrogen producing plant such as beans or peas were planted the year before. For Real Estate the saying is location, location, location but for gardening it's rotation, rotation, rotation.

July Tip of the Month
Friday, July 01, 2016
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. Contrarily though, to keep the plants from outgrowing their location and growing up in from of windows, go ahead and break off the candles while you are tidying them up. When we first moved up here, my Seattle cousin told me that if you didnít keep rhododendrons dried blossom removedÖthe shrubs would die but donít believe that for one moment. It would be the homeowner who would FEEL like dying as they would be mortified at how ugly their shrubs look!

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, weed.

May Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, May 01, 2016
Your beds are completely free of weeds, planting beds are turned over and just waiting to be planted but now you don't have a clue of which plants can go in this month. Most of the flowering annuals can be planted but to be on the safe side, wait until at least after Mother's Day. Go ahead and purchase your plants now, but keep them protected from the occasional cold night or hail storm. Move them out into the sunshine in the day time gradually increasing their outside time a little more each day. That way, when you plant them, they will be what is called Ďhardened offí. Many places besides nurseries sell plants but neglect to harden them off properly so when some unsuspecting purchaser sticks them directly in the ground, they literally go into shock and just sit and shiver in the still somewhat cool nights. It actually takes them longer to start growing and blooming than if you just wait for a bit until the plants are more adjusted to the weather.

One of the most exciting gardening events of the year will be held this year on May 7. Itís the Fox island Jeff Feagin Plant Sale located at the Nichols Community center on Fox island at the corner of 9th Ave and Gway. The two island garden clubs have been busy digging up and potting about 2,000 plants from local gardens. You will have a huge choice of well-priced plants from hostas to bleeding hearts and a variety of vegetable and herb plants such as tomatoes, rhubarb, zucchini and fresh herbs. The sale runs from 12:00 noon to 3 pm so get there are on time or you may miss out on finding the plants you have always been waiting to find.

It's still too early to plant corn and beans and tomatoes are definitely a no-no until the very end of the month or until the first of June. Same goes for cucumbers, zucchini and melons.

If you will be planting hanging baskets from fences and the eves of your home and will be filling the baskets yourselves, here are some suggestions: First of all, soak the purchased moss overnight or if using coco mats, soak them too. Squeeze out excess water and then fill a few inches of moss at the bottom of the basket and then line the interior of the basket with moss or coco. Add a few inches of soil on top of the bottom layer of moss. Choose several plants that are compatible in color and leaf texture and gently poke them through the moss and into the basket with their roots resting on top of the soil. I use slow acting fertilizer granules between the layers as they will continue to feed your plants all summer. Add another few inches of soil and repeat the layering and adding fertilizer granules after each layer of plants until the basket is filled. The last layer of plants goes directly into the top of the basket. I always group the plants I will be using to see how the colors and textures look together. And it's always nice to put in a plant that will make your basket pop with color. Finish the basket with a light haircut for all the plants and then a good feeding of a liquid fertilizer to get the shaved plants to really start growing. I know it's tempting to not clip your plants but if you do they will fill in more abundantly and produce a great showing as the summer progresses.

And as always, since I know your gardens are REALLY NOT completely free of weeds, get out there and pull, pull, pull!



April Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, April 01, 2016
Before you even look at April on your calendar, skip to the month of May and mark Saturday May 7 to remind yourself of the Jeff Feagin Memorial Fox Island Plant Sale. This year is shaping up to be the best Plant Sale ever. For one thing, the Plant Sale committee has decided to start the sale again at 12:00 but extend it to 3 pm which will give shoppers three hours instead of two to load up on some fantastic deals. And garden club members are already digging and planting new varieties of plants to purchase.

If you have an abundance of shrubs, perennials or small trees you would like to donate and have removed, call me at 253-549-6655 or John Reese at 253-549-2160 and perhaps we can get a crew over to take them to add to the plant sale collection.

The plant sale is held at the Nichols community Center at 9th and Gway on Fox Island. If you have not attended before, you will be delighted at the number of plants and most of all the prices. This is truly your first stop when looking for some great deals.

But, back to April for now. As daffodils have already started to droop and wilt, gardeners have a tendency to want to neat up their garden so they cut down the tall green leaves to the soil line. The leaves are the source of providing nutrition to the bulbs for the next years flower so instead of continuing to bloom year after year, the blooms get smaller and smaller until you finally either dig them out or they just die away. Instead of cutting the leaves, you can roll them up and keep them tidy with a rubber band or even better, plant a cheery annual or perennial close by so the leaves will be hidden. Once the leaves are brown they will have fulfilled their purpose and can be removed. Since daffodils are not bothered by deer, you can rely on them brightening your March garden for years to come.

Now is the time to get your lawns in shape with a good organic lawn fertilizer and also fill in sparse areas of lawn with new seed. If you have any bald spots in your lawn you might as well resolve yourself that it either will be the next spot for lawn seeding or... a huge and hard to get rid of weed! The old saying of Nature abhors a vacuum is so perfect. There will always be weeds unless every speck of soil is covered in growing vegetation and even then the buggers survive. The only other way to keep weeds out of your yard is to be diligent about removing any blooming weeds before they blossom and to pick every small weed sprout as you find them. It may take a while, but I promise you that there will be fewer and fewer weeds to pull every year.

I noticed in the grocery store plant section, there are already tomato plants for sale. Be aware that even though they are for sale right now, it doesnít mean you can plant them in your garden. If you do, you will most likely end up with a mushy disaster. Wait until mid-May at the earliest before purchasing them and even then, be sure they are hardened off. I usually wait until June 1 to plant mine. Or if you come to the Fox Island plant sale and purchase local tomato plants, you can keep them in a sunny window and move them outside a little longer each day until they are hardened off for planting in a few weeks.

Seeds you can start in your vegetable gardens right now are peas, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, radishes, parsley and most greens. However donít even think about planting zucchini, beans, corn, basil or tomatoes. Even though the weather the last couple of days of March and the first few in April, it is too early to plant the real heat loving plants yet. That list consists of benas, corn, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes.

March Tip of the Month
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
As the saying goes 'March comes in like a lion and goes out lake a lamb' is looking like a true statement as February comes to an end. We will have to wait a few weeks before knowing if it will end gently and balmy or not.

But meanwhile we can take advantage of some of the warmer days in March to start on a lot of gardening projects. The first one that comes to mind is pruning roses and finishing pruning fruit trees before they are so full of leaves that itís hard to see their basic structure. When pruning roses, be aware that if you cut a branch off at the place where a bud is pointing towards the middle of the plant, the new growth will be towards the inside of the bush, which will inhibit the air flow to your rose bush. Instead, cut at the junction where a bud is pointing outward from the rose bush. This will foster a bushier and airier looking plant that will have a better chance of fighting off any diseases or black spot due to poor air circulation.

Pruning fruit trees follows its own set of rules such as removing all damaged and broken branches first, and then proceeding on to crossed or rubbing branches. It makes sense to purchase a good book on pruning fruit trees in order to get the most fruit from your crop. And since hydrangeas are budding out, cut off the old blossoms and take out some of the largest branches.

If you have not been interested in composting before, it is time to catch up with the times. Good gardeners know that dumping compostable cuttings in the trash is a waste of money and energy as it is so easy to put in a compost pile or two. The best compost area I have is one that is a plastic 3ft by 3ft (although 4x4 is preferred) Lego type building boards that can be layered on to a preferred height or removed easily. It has a hinged cover so I donít have to worry about dogs, mice or raccoons invading it.

Another free addition to your soil compost pile or just spread on your garden beds is mushroom compost. There is a mushroom farm on Lacky Rd in Vaughn that is happy to share their compost with anyone who wants to pick it up. Itís packaged in plastic qt or 1 Ĺ qt bags that can be loaded into your pickup. Call first to be sure someone will be there: 253-884-7826. Do not start seeds in it though as it may have salt in there that will inhibit the seeds from sprouting. I just spread some on my beds and then will have them rototilled in to give some structure to my soil and to help keep in the moisture.

February did not give us the dry weather to plant peas and spinach directly into soil but donít worry as March still will provide plenty of opportunities to plant peas, spinach, lettuce and onions. Any other seeds will need to be started indoors and then kept in bright light until it gets much warmer. Since I won a drawing for a hydroponic seed starting kit a few years ago Iíll be trying to sprout bay leaf seeds in the hydroponic system.

Itís time to start tomato seeds in flats which and placing them in a warm dark place such as a furnace room until they sprout and then transfer the flats to the greenhouse or protected area where they get lots of light Wait until they have 4 leaves each before repotting them into single pots where they should be babied, caressed and loved until the time comes for planting outside.
The crocuses have pretty much ending blooming along with primroses and narcissus. Daffodils are opening, up and Camellias are in full bloom early this year.

November Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, November 01, 2015
For the sometimes blustery, but also occasionally balmy month of November... here are your doís and doníts. Do fertilize your lawn with a fall and winter fertilizer. The nitrogen will be dormant until spring and then kicks in with a vengeance and start your lawn growing before the spring weeds even wake up. Do plant your bulbs now and that includes tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and the best of all... GARLIC. These bulbs need some cold weather before starting to grow in spring so plant them all now before December arrives.

Do rake up and clean up all decaying perennials and your workload will be easier next spring. Do keep on knocking the heads off all annual weeds and keep the yard as weed free as time allows. Keep raking falling leaves and either compost them or use them to cover vegetable and annual beds to keep weeds from sprouting in the spring. Tender perennials covered with a blanket of leaves will survive under much more harsh conditions than those completely exposed to the elements.

Now for the doníts. Donít prune back hardy fuchsias, hardy hibiscus, hydrangeas or roses until next late February or March. Pruning now may cause new growth to start and the cold weather will just kill that all back and damage the plants. Do not try to kill weeds by spraying with Roundup. That product only works in 70 degree + weather and will not kill the weeds, but will just return to the soil as nitrogen and eventually make it back into the sound where it would feed plants that kill off the oxygen that the fish need to survive.

Do start planning your garden for next year. Cut out pictures of gardens that you would enjoy in your space and come up with plans to incorporate them into your yard or to have similar plantings that would give you the same feelings of comfort. Ask yourself... do I want an easy to maintain NW rhody and azalea garden, a cottage garden or a tropical looking garden? Do I enjoy deadheading petunias and geraniums or do I want easy maintenance plants and then go from there.

Since November can also be blustery, check occasionally to be sure no limbs have been snapped in strong winds. If there are some, cut them back to a joint so the shrub or tree does not suffer further damage and rot.

October Gardening Tip of The Month
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Itís been one of the warmest and driest summers that I can remember after moving from California in 1979. And it looks to be a lovely October as well. The produce that didnít get nibbled o or destroyed by the deer is still producing. I forgot to mention to my house guest/sitters while I was away for a couple of weeks in August about spraying Liquid Fence. Boy that was a huge mistake.

Since there should still be some fairly warm weather this month, there will still be time to get your garden beds ready for winter. Continue to pull weeds and as your beds are cleaned up, start adding a layer of compost and fallen leaves to protect the beds from windblown weed seeds and to help the soil from washing away if we should have torrents of rain this fall and winter.

If you still need to dig potatoes or pull up garlic and onions, you will need to do it all now. Rinse them well to rid them of pests and attached dirt and let them dry well in a protected warm place. I let my onions and potatoes cure a little in a dry location before storing them for the year. Winter squash should also be hardened off some before storing them in a cool but dry location. Once garlic is dry, separate the cloves and replant them for next yearís crop.

Collect nasturtiums, cosmos and sweet pea seeds and let them dry well before marking and saving them to plant next spring. If you actually still have any green tomatoes left, stop watering them and they will stress out and ripen faster. If a cold snap is predicted, pick even the ones with just a little color, wash and sort and lay out on newspaper in a dark cool place to ripen. Green tomatoes can be canned into all different kinds of pickles and chutneys.
Before everything is pulled out of the vegetable garden, make a drawing of what you planted in each row or bed and mark it 2014. That way, next year you can pull out the chart and not plant certain plants again in the same place.

Crop rotation helps preserve the soil and keeps pathogens from infection the next yearís crop. For an example, do not plant potatoes or tomatoes where either one was planted the previous year. The pathogens will be in the soil and will splash up on next yearís crop. Plant corn where beans were planted the previous year as legumes tend to put nitrogen in the soil and corn needs a lot of nitrogen to produce and grow. Remember the stories on how the American Indians taught the Pilgrims to fertilize their corn plants by digging in fish heads to fertilize their corn crop? It was good gardening practice from people who knew the value of growing food properly and not just some fairy tale.

If you had tomato blossom rot, it would be a good idea to add some calcium to the soil this fall and again before planting next year.

September Garden Tip of the Month
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Wow what a summer it has been for gardening. I almost feel like I'm a novice gardener with the extremely dry and hot weather creating a completely different gardening experience. Some things have just exploded with growth and blooms and others have had a tough time adjusting. An example in my yard is my fig tree. It was so laden with figs and the stress of not enough moisture caused a branch to rip off from the trunk with just a little help from the deer. On the other hand my Plumeria has been in bloom for over a month and the tropical fragrance is divine.

Lawns can be kept alive by just one inch of water a week but need to be watered in the early morning so it has a chance to soak in before it starts turning too warm. Tomatoes actually thrive and ripen better with the heat stressing them out as they feel a call to motherhood by ripening their fruit in order to start a family before their short lives are over. Any leafy green veggie plants such as lettuce and leafy greens probably have or are going to seed by now.

I had mentioned last month that I would add a recipe to deal with some of your abundant produce. I considered giving out a pickled beet recipe or dilled green bean recipe but people can find those anywhere. What I have decide upon is a recipe you most likely will never find in an ordinary cookbook. It's a recipe that is native to northern Italy in the Tyrolean alps and makes a great appetizer or main dish. And it uses produce you wouldn't normally use in canning or cooking. Grape leaves! Not just for putting in jars of homemade pickles to keep them crisp but as a wrap for an unusual and tasty dish called Capone. No it's not named after Al Capone and the E is pronounced like a long A. The problem is that there are so many variations of this recipe that it's hard to figure out what measure someones handful or bushel is exactly so I make it with whatever feels right to me. It can be made with dry salami or even salt pork or ground pork sausage. Amounts of garlic, cheese and bread can also be adjusted to taste. Experiment and have fun serving this unusual dish to your friends and family.

Capone

One large bunch of Swiss chard leaves ( washed, stemmed and boiled until tender
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley
1 lb chopped salami or pork sausage put through a grinder
2 loaves Italian bread soaked in water with salt and pepper
6 cloves of garlic
1 lb. Swiss cheese

Grind all of the above through a food grinder or food processor then mix in
10 eggs
1/2 lb. grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb pkg small dry bread crumbs
1/2 lb butter

Lots of unblemished grape leaves which have been washed and drained beforehand

Measure amount of filling to wrap by using a large serving spoon to portion. Mold in your hand and wrap in several grape leaves with the sides tucked in. Tie a small pierce if twine around each packet to make a package to hold the grape leaves snugly.
Continue filling all the mixture into grape leaves until filling is used. Place a steam basket in a dutch over or large covered pot filled with 2 or 3 inches of water and add two layers of wrapped and filled Capone packages. Cover pot tightly and steam for 45 min to 1 hour. Cool before serving, snip off twine, remove grape leaves if desired and serve with little bowls of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Can also be frozen, with twine and grape leaves left intact and placed on cookie sheet until frozen. Transfer Capone to freezer bags for longer storage.

August Tip of the Month
Sunday, August 02, 2015
The month of August is an artistic delight with a riot of flowers cascading over pots and produce in abundance gracing your vegetable gardens.

The spent blooms of flowering pots need to be deadheaded every week to keep the blooms in force. If you just let the wilted flowers stay on, the plant will decide it has done it's job of raising a family and retire to the nursing home. However if you keep the dried and wilted blossoms pinched off the plant will decide that it still has offspring to produce and will continue to keep healthy and vigorous in it's floral production. And you didn't think that plants had a brain!

Produce is in full swing this month so make daily trips to search out hidden zucchini and look for newly produced green beans. Cucumber fruit are blooming and they also tend to get lost under the leaves growing on their vines so a little searching there is also necessary. You may always be able to find someone who wants a giant zucchini, but no one wants a giant cucumber. Keep tomatoes staked and watch for ripening tomatoes that may also be hiding in the center of the plants. Don't negate keeping a watering schedule of infrequent but deep watering to keep plants well hydrated. Basil is such a tender and delicious herb that you want to take advantage of every leaf so do NOT let it bloom. Once it sets blossoms it will turn bitter and all your mouth watering dreams of a Caprese salad or a bowl of homemade pesto turns into a bitter memory. Next month I'll feature a how to for preserving and drying your own herbs and produce.

Fruit trees need some maintenance also in the summer, It's the perfect time to snip off any water-sprouts off your fruit trees. Water-sprouts are easy to recognize as they are branches that grow straight up at the top of the tree. They do not produce and they actually take strength away from the tree. Easy to do but just be sure to cut them right at the joint of where they are attached to the lateral branch they are growing from.

Berries are in huge supply this time of the year and along country roads you can usually fnd someone with a pail they are filling with wild blackberries. In less than a half hour, a person can pick enough to make a wonderful blackberry pie or in my case...several quarts of blackberry vinegar. My problem is only finding small 1 or 1 1/2 cup bottles to store it in to give as gifts.

This is one of my favorite vinegars to make and give away. See recipie below.

Mulled Blackberry Vinegar
Saturday, August 01, 2015
Mulled Blackberry Vinegar

4 cups blackberries
4 cups cider vinegar, divided
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tlbs whole cloves
1 Tlbs whole allspice

In a large glass bowl, combine blackberries and 1 cup of the vinegar. Using a potato masher, lightly crush blackberries. Add remaining vinegar, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, stirring to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a dark cool place (70 to 75 degrees) for up to 4 weeks, stirring every 2-3 days. Taste weekely until desired strength is achieved.
Prepare canner, jars and lids if using regular 8 oz jars instead of bottles.(See note)
Line a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and place over a large stainless steel saucepan. Strain vinegar mixture without squeezing cheesecloth. Discard cheesecloth and residue. Place saucepan over medium heat and heat vinegar to 180 degrees F.
Ladle hot vinegar into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, center lid on jar and screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove lid from canner and wait 5 minutes before removing jars. Cool and store.

NOTE: When I am using bottles to store vinegar I use a little different process.
Fill bottles with hot water and place in a canner with metal screw tops and boil gently for 10 minutes. Bring vinegar in saucepan to boil for 10 minutes, drain bottles and fill with hot vinegar to 1/2 inch of top of bottle. If using corks instead of screw tops, boil them also for at least 5 minutes and push in to hot filled bottles. Once cool, it is nice to dip the corked tops in sealing wax to add a touch of elegance to the finished bottle. Make your labels to decorate the bottle and you will have a lovely gift to share.

July Tip of the Month
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
July has easy chores to remember: water and groom, water and groom! Plants need to be watered deeply this month to keep them performing their best. And with shortages of water happening all around us, it's even more important to water less frequently, but water deeply when you do. Lawns need about one inch of water a week to look their best so water them about 1/2 inch each time, twice a week. Place cleaned out tuna cans around the lawn and figure out how long it takes to fill each can with at least 1/2 inch of water.

This is also a good way to figure out how well your sprinkler coverage is and allows you to make adjustments to the spray angles if needed. Since our community is on the odd/even watering schedule, it is easy to remember which days to water the yard. Of course potted plants and especially hanging plants need to be watered well every other day..again following the odd/even days for watering. Clip off faded flowers to keep the plants blooming at their best and for a longer time.

Pick vegetables often and early in the day to get the best produce. There is nothing like trying to figure out what to do with a bat sized zucchini that hid itself under the leaves until it becomes inedible. Keep snipping herbs and don't let them flower. Once they do, they become bitter and touch. Enjoy your garden this month and next month I'll share some tips on processing your crops.

June Tip of the Month
Monday, June 01, 2015
The plants and seeds that do best in warm weather can safely be planted this month. That list includes tomatoes, squash, beans, corn, cucumbers, basil, eggplant and peppers. Bedding plants are best for tomato, eggplant and peppers as they take a while to mature and produce before the season is over. As I try to be as organic as possible in my gardening, I do not use any chemicals with my vegetable starts. When planting tomatoes, I add a handful of alfalfa meal into each hole, mix it in with home processed compost and then plant them and water well. Seeds for squash, beans, corn and cucumbers sprout readily in the warmer weather. Basil can be planted either by seed or small plants. Most of the veggies get compost and fish fertilizer except for peas and beans which are nitrogen fixers and require nothing except compost. They make a great soil additive as even their roots contain nitrogen and they continue to add nitrogen to the soil even for the next year.

Corn uses a lot of nitrogen to grow and produce while pole beans need good support so planting them next to each other is a win - win situation. There is one problem though and that is that raccoons love corn and will destroy the stalks along with the corn and beans just about the time the corn is ready to pick. There is an app for that! It's call growing cucumber plants around and within the corn plants. Those little corn thieves hate the prickly leaves on the cucumbers and will stay away from them which gives you the opportunity to actually salvage the stalks for Halloween as well as enjoy the corn.

Never plant nightshade plants of tomato or potatoes in the same place as either of them were grown the previous year. It helps to do a yearly drawing of which vegetable was planted where in the garden. Otherwise it is hard to wait until the next year and just try to guess where they were grown. The cause of the great potato famine in Ireland was caused by growing the same crop over and over in the same spot. The blight spread to epic proportions forcing many of their citizens to emigrate to the US rather than starve to death.

Most annual flowers can also be added to your garden to punch up your yard with sizzling color. Petunias, inpatients, lobelia, fuchsias and begonias are in this group. Give any of these plants a good soaking before removing them from their pots and planting them. Usually potting soil tends to be very porous and will let the water run right through and around newly planted plants so the soaking really gets them off to a good start. Osmocote fertilizer granules are great to add to your plantings along with a solution of Alaska fish fertilizer. The fish fertilizer gives instant nutrition and the Osmocote is a slow release granular fertilizer that continues to feed the plants for several months. Don't forget to deadhead the faded blossoms to not only keep plantings looking neat but also to encourage new blossoms.

Water deeply during the summer months but certainly not daily. Keep pulling weeds, use up produce before it flowers go goes to waste and enjoy the lovely weather.


May Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, May 01, 2015
Now is the time to really get serious about summer gardening. If you have been sitting inside trying to stay away from the pollen filled skies you need to bite the bullet and get growing.

The first step you must take is getting your soil ready to host all your summer plantings. Add compost and composted manure to your soil and work it in by turning over the soil with a spade which you hopefully took the time to sharpen during the winter. Rake out all the weeds and break up any clumps and level out the area. Itís a good idea to read through the plan you hopefully wrote up for your last yearís planting guide. You want to be sure to not plant potatoes, or tomatoes in the same place as last year and in fact since they are both nightshade plants, donít plant one where the other one was planted last year either.

Crop rotation is good for all your vegetable annual plantings. Of course, you are not going to be digging up rhubarb, horseradish or asparagus and rotating it to another area of your garden every year. Do plant corn though where last year you planted peas or beans. The corn will thrive with the nitrogen that the legumes fixed into the soil the previous year. Just hold off on planting tomatoes, beans, squash and basil for at least a few more weeks.

I was talking to a gal the other day and she mentioned that her yard is being overrun by moles. And since I noticed a lot of mole mounds as I drive around and in my yard too, I decided perhaps I should give out Ciscoe Morris' recipe for making a Mole Slurry. The moles are supposed to hate mint and mint grows like a weed around here so it should be a no brain-er to try.

Mole Slurry
Two handfuls of fresh mint... both stems and leaves. Place in a blender with several cups of water and blend into a slurry. Simmer on the stove for 20 minutes and then set aside to cool. Fill six, 1 gallon jugs with equal amounts of slurry and the add water to fill each jug. Pour down the freshly dug mole holes. Makes 6 gallons.

I would love to hear comments on how this works in eliminating moles in your yards.
It should be a wonderful year for gardening so go out and get some dirt under your nails.

April Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Before you even look at April on your calendar, skip to the month of May and mark Saturday May 2 to remind yourself of the Jeff Feagin Memorial Fox Island Plant Sale. This year is shaping up to be the best Plant Sale ever.

For one thing, the Plant Sale committee has decided to start the sale again at 12:00 but extend it to 3 pm which will give shoppers three hours instead of two to load up on some fantastic deals. And garden club members are already digging and planting new varieties of plants to purchase. If you have an abundance of shrubs, perennials or small trees you would like to donate and have removed, call me at 253-549-6655 or John Reese at 253-549-2160 and perhaps we can get a crew over to take them to add to the plant sale collection.

But, back to April for now. As daffodils start to droop and wilt, gardeners have a tendency to want to neat up their garden so they cut down the tall green leaves to the soil line. The leaves are the source of providing nutrition to the bulbs for the next years flower so instead of continuing to bloom year after year, the blooms get smaller and smaller until you finally either dig them out or they just die away. Instead of cutting the leaves, you can roll them up and keep them tidy with a rubber band or even better, plant a cheery annual or perennial close by so the leaves will be hidden. Once the leaves are brown they will have fulfilled their purpose and can be removed. Since daffodils are not bothered by deer, you can rely on them brightening your March garden for years to com.

Now is the time to get your lawns in shape with a good organic lawn fertilizer and also fill in sparse areas of lawn with new seed. If you have any bald spots in your lawn you might as well resolve yourself that it either will be the next spot for lawn seeding or... a huge and hard to get rid of weed! The old saying of 'Nature abhors a vacuum' is so perfect. There will always be weeds unless every speck of soil is covered in growing vegetation and even then the buggers survive. The only other way to keep weeds out of your yard is to be diligent about removing any blooming weeds before they blossom and to pick every small weed sprout as you find them. It may take a while, but I promise you that there will be fewer and fewer weeds to pull every year.

I noticed in the grocery store plant section, there are already tomato plants for sale. Be aware that even though they are for sale right now, it doesnít mean you can plant them in your garden. If you do, you will most likely end up with a mushy disaster. Wait until mid-May at the earliest before purchasing them and even then, be sure they are hardened off.

I usually wait until June 1 to plant mine. Or if you come to the Fox Island plant sale and purchase local tomato plants, you can keep them in a sunny window and move them outside a little longer each day until they are hardened off for planting in a few weeks.

March Tip of the Month
Sunday, March 01, 2015
If the month of March is anything like balmy February, we may have to change our ideas of gardening in the Northwest. Hopefully we don't have any hard freezes now to damage the new shoots poking through ground. I did start my tomato seeds in mid- February but they are started in a warm furnace room in the dark and then moved to a lighted greenhouse once they sprout. Only then do they get moved to the sunny greenhouse. Some seeds can be sowed right in the garden right now. These include lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, peas, potatoes and onions. Also cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach and cauliflower can be planted now.

Too bad weeds aren't as delicate as the desirable plantings in your yards. And remember a weed is just an undesirable plant. There are two major classifications of weeds: native plants such as horsetail, poison ivy and stinging nettle and non native plants like Himalayan blackberry, Scotch broom, English ivy and Canada thistle. The non native ones are considered noxious weeds since they are a threat to our native species.

They are highly completive and difficult to control as they have no known predators or adversaries. Now for the scary news. The non native plants have cost us $137 billion dollars in damage to the eco system or in the control of them. That's a staggering amount! The noxious weeds are further broken into three classifications by the weed control board. Class A weeds are not too common yet and are easier to control. These included Spanish broom, giant hogweed, garlic mustard, knapweed, milk thistle and salvia sage. Class B are very common but can still be controlled with vigilance. These include Spotted knapweed, policeman's helmet, purple loosestrife, tansy ragwort, yellow nut sedge, parrot feathers and water primrose.

Class C weeds are so common that we sometimes think they are native to our area. A partial list of these weeds include Scotch broom, Japanese knotweed, reed canary grass, water milfoil, common St Johns wort and queen Ann lace. All these ended up here because of people. Some have been caused by someone dumping the contents of an aquarium into a lake, (milfoil) or transported into the area with illegal quarantined plants.

Please be aware of the tremendous cost to all of us by such unseemly simple actions. A full copy of noxious weeds and their identification can be obtained from the Noxious Weed Control board in Tacoma. So stay diligent in your weeding and remember that for every weed you pull now, you will be saving hours of work this summer. Especially in the case of shot weed. Once it starts to bloom, which is does quickly, hundreds of seeds from the blooms are spread throughout your garden.

Enjoy the lovely spring blooming bulbs and plants. Summer is just around the corner.

February Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, February 01, 2015
Our crazy warm January weather has made our plants all confused this year on whether it's time to start putting out blooms and new growth or keep slumbering for another month. Don't panic if your bulbs are all growing like (and along with) weeds. Even a frost won't hurt the hardy bulbs and they will soon be gracing our yards with their lovely blooms. And if your Camilla's are blooming early, they too will continue to brighten your yards.

It's time to start getting your garden in shape for 2015 and if the warm weather continues, you will just be ahead of the game with a lot of yard maintenance done a little extra early. Since shot weeds are already popping up, keep after them. If they haven't started blooming yet, just scuffle the earth to uproot them and they will die off. However if they are blooming, you will want to remove them from the ground as they will have already set seeds for the next wave to start sprouting.

February is the time to start shopping for bare root plants such as roses and fruit trees. When you bring them home, soak their roots overnight in a bucket of water before planting them. If you will be adding roses to your plot, purchase only the best brands such as Jackson Perkins. Check the variety out in a resource book to be sure it is the right rose to be planted in your locality. Some roses are very susceptible to powdery mildew and will need a lot of air circulation and good sunlight. You don't want to put them in where other shrubs may crowd them or keep air from circulating around them well. If you want fresh fruit from your yard in a few years, then check out the varieties in your favorite nursery. Be aware that a semi dwarf tree will take up almost as much room as a full sized tree so if your area is small, then choose a dwarf or one that is pruned and trained as an espalier. Even a small tree can produce in abundance with the correct pruning methods.

And if you are new to gardening and are just looking for ideas then pre-purchase your tickets now to the Northwest Flower and Garden show at the Seattle Convention center. The event will be held February 11-15 and is a true indicator of Spring. Experienced gardeners have probably been saving any extra change as they have an idea of what to expect at the show. Take a camera to take photos of gardens that you may want to duplicate in your yard or shop in the vendors section for the newest and best in plants, yard art and anything related to gardening.

There are on going lectures by horticulturist and all kinds of classes to sign up for on gardening both here and abroad. And if for no other reason, go to enjoy the fragrance of blooming lilies and hyacinths. Go early... and stay late or purchase a two day or longer ticket at a reduced rate. that allows you to extend your encounter for days! Breath deeply.... it's almost spring.

January 2015 Garden Tip of the Month!
Thursday, January 01, 2015
Welcome to a new and exciting gardening year. The dreary days of January are just the perfect time to plan a new garden or ideas on how to renovate an existing one. Research first by looking through gardening magazines and when you see a garden photo that make you smile, zero in on incorporating a replica in your yard. Even if it is just a small area of garden and it makes you relaxed and happy just looking at it, think how it might fit it with other mature plantings there may already be growing in your yard.

An existing Northwest style garden probably would be in conflict with the addition of a dry Southwestern garden or a lush tropical style planting. Unless you have a very large yard which can handle different rooms of planting styles, stick with one that will flow in nicely with the garden as a whole. Once you have an idea of what type of garden you would like, visualize how it would fit in in your space and terrain. If you want an easy maintenance yard, do not put in an elaborate perennial or annual garden. Keep it simple with evergreen shrubs in planting beds edging a lawn area. Beauty bark or compost will help cut down on the weeding. And lawns really are easier to maintain compared to multi planted beds. But if you are not afraid of getting free exercise, dirt under your fingernails and a challenge, then plan it, create it and be prepared to maintain it.

The first thing for any garden is to measure out the area you want to design and then make sketches of hardscapes and the plantings you would like to add. Think about how it might look when the plants have grown to maturity and if they will still fit the area. Some plants will grow to be the size of trees and should not be placed in front of widows where they will block out the limited winter sun or grow higher than your gutters. Before you purchase a tree, shrub or plant, check the tag or read up on the size it will grow and the plants specific needs. Also think about the colors and textures of your proposed plantings and check to see if they complement one another. But most of all make sure the place you propose to plant them in is suited for the plants needs as far as soil conditions, water needs and light exposure. And check to see if it will thrive in zones 5-7 according to the Sunset gardening zones.

Dream about how much you will enjoy your yard when it finally finished but in the meantime donít forget to take care of winter damage that December storms may have caused.

December Tip of the Month - Choosing a Christmas Tree
Monday, December 01, 2014
Since the holidays bring a lot of extra chores to occupy my time, December's Tip will be pretty short.

This time of the year, thoughts turn to choosing that perfect tree to decorate with all your favorite treasurers. Whether you spend hours tromping through the fresh, cut your own farms or if you stop by a local previously cut tree lot, there are set rules for choosing your tree. If it is growing at a tree farm, check to be sure the tree branches are evenly spaced and not bent or injured. It is so easy to cut a tree and find out when you get it home, that it is way too large for your dedicated tree space. And even though it may appear at first glance to be a great tree, it may have weak branches that sag when lights and ornaments are placed on it. If you chose a precut tree, the first step is to thump it on the ground to see if most of the previously green needles stay attached to the tree.

If it ends up with more needles on the ground than on the tree, you may want to pass on that particular tree. Again be sure to check to be sure the branches will tolerate the weight of your decorations and are evenly spaced with no empty areas showing through. No matter which tree you decided to get, the first thing to do when you get it home is to cut a little off the bottom of the trunk and place the tree in a bucket of water. If you leave it in the bucket all night, you will be amazed how much water one tree can absorb. Once it is decorated, you will need to keep it well watered so it will last the season and not become a fire hazard.

Your yard may contain a plethora of greenery to decorate tables and doors. And not just evergreens but also twisted and leafless branches, red twig dogwood branches, grape vines, pine cones and dried hydrangea blossoms are lovely in a wreath. If you have lavender, rosemary or bay leaves you can make a wreath that is not only lovely but aromatic and a handy place to steal a few herbs to add to your holiday cooking.

Enjoy the season and take time to start planning next years garden.

November Tip of the Month
Saturday, November 01, 2014
Fall finally arrived in mid October with winds and rain knocking off the beautiful
red and golden leaves. What a gorgeous site we have had with all the fall foliage on the many sunny October days. I have been stopping my car whenever I see some especially bright and interesting leaves and taking them home to preserve them. It's an easy project to accomplish by ironing the leaves between two pieces of wax paper.

Once the wax starts to melt, remove the leaves from the wax paper and press them between the pages of a phone book to dry. I put a small television or several heavy books on top of the phone book and will soon remove the leaves to use as decorations on my Thanksgiving table. According to Juanita Bjork who taught me the art of leaf preserving, the leaves should stay supple and colorful for several years.

If you didn't fertilize your lawn with an organic fertilizer in Oct. then fertilize it with a fall fertilizer the end of November. It is no longer warm enough for an organic fertilizer to work with these chilly November days but the slow working organic fertilizer will stimulate early spring growing root growth for next year.

There is still time to plant spring blooming bulbs of daffodils and tulips as well as garlic. Just choose hard and healthy looking bulbs.

Keep leaves raked up and toss them around plantings to protect the soil around them from washing away in the heavy winter rains. And keep leaves raked up over lawns so the grass won't be smothered. Then going inside and have a hot toddy and watch a gardening program.

October Gardening Tip of The Month
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Fall has certainly made its entrance with rainy weather this past week but it has been appreciated after the warm, sunny and dry summer. And because there should still be some fairly warm weather this month, there will still be time to get your garden beds ready for winter. Continue to pull weeds and as your beds are cleaned up, start adding a layer of compost and fallen leaves to protect them from windblown weed seeds and to help the soil from washing away from torrents of rain. If you still need to dig potatoes or pull up garlic and onions, you will need to do it all now. Rinse them well to rid them of pests and attached dirt and let them dry well in a protected warm place. I let my onions and potatoes cure a little in a dry location before storing them for the year.

Winter squash should also be hardened off some before storing them in a cool but dry location. Once garlic is dry, separate the cloves and replant them for next yearís crop. Collect nasturtiums, cosmos and sweet pea seeds and let them dry well before marking and saving them to plant next spring. If you actually still have any green tomatoes left, stop watering them and they will stress out and ripen faster. If a cold snap is predicted, pick even the ones with just a little color, wash and sort and lay out on newspaper in a dark cool place to ripen. Green tomatoes can be canned into all different kinds of pickles and chutneys.

Before everything is pulled out of the vegetable garden, make a drawing of what you planted in each row or bed and mark it 2014. That way, next year you can pull out the chart and not plant certain plants again in the same place. Crop rotation helps preserve the soil and keeps pathogens from infection the next yearís crop. For an example, do not plant potatoes or tomatoes where either one was planted the previous year. The pathogens will be in the soil and will splash up on next yearís crop. Plant corn where beans were planted the previous year as legumes tend to put nitrogen in the soil and corn needs a lot of nitrogen to produce and grow.

Remember the stories on how the American Indians taught the Pilgrims to fertilize their corn plants by digging in fish heads to fertilize their corn crop? It was good gardening practice from people who knew the value of growing food properly and not just some fairy tale.

But what to do with all the cucumbers that have flourished so beautiful this year? A family can eat only so many dill and bread and butter pickles but if your plants just keep producing, you might do what I did. I made a delicious South Asian Pickle that really isn't a sandwich type of pickle. Rather, it is an accompaniments type relish that would be delicious with rice, pork or almost any plain food. I enjoy it so much I have made 3 batches of them and each batch makes about 7 pints depending on the size of your cucumbers. The rest of my cucumbers went to good homes where someone else ate or made pickles out of them.

September Tip of the Month
Monday, September 01, 2014
The month of September will turn out to be a real puzzle to Northwest gardeners who are used to having fruit start ripening and vegetables producing in abundance. This year most peaches are already through ripening, Asian pears are have been dropping and even pears are already ripe while the usually bright and lush hanging pots with a plethora of blooms are looking old and ragged. All you can do is go with the flow and keep up with your garden chores as needed.

The spent blooms of flowering pots more than ever need to be deadheaded and trimmed back to keep the blooms in force. If you just let the wilted flowers stay on, the plant will decide it has done it's job of raising a family and retire to the nursing home. However if you keep the dried and wilted blossoms pinched off the plant will decide that it still has offspring to produce and will continue to keep healthy and vigorous in it's floral production. And you didn't think that plants had a brain!

Produce is in full swing this month so make daily trips to search out hidden zucchini and look for newly produced green beans. Cucumber fruit are blooming and they also tend to get lost under the leaves growing on their vines so a little searching there is also necessary. You may always be able to find someone who wants a giant zucchini, but no one wants a giant cucumber. Keep tomatoes staked and watch for ripening tomatoes that also hide in the center of the plants. Don't negate keeping a watering schedule of infrequent but deep watering to keep plants well hydrated.

Basil is such a tender and delicious herb that you want to take advantage of every leaf so do NOT let it bloom. Once it sets blossoms it will turn bitter and all your mouth watering dreams of a Caprese salad or a bowl of homemade pesto turns into a bitter memory. The same goes for all herbs to be kept cut back and not allowed to flower but basil becomes terribly bitter while the others, just more or less lose their fresh flavor.

If for some reason your tomato plants still are slow to ripen even with all the warm August days, you may need to cut back on watering them so often and so deeply. When they become stressed, they hurry along the process of ripening so they can produce a family before the season is finished.

Fruit trees need some maintenance also in the summer, It's the perfect time to snip off any water-sprouts off your fruit trees. Water-sprouts are easy to recognize as they are branches that grow straight up at the top of the tree. They do not produce and they actually take strength away from the tree. Easy to do but just be sure to cut them right at the joint of where they are attached to the lateral branch they are growing from.

Berries that are usually in huge supply this time of the year are already petering out so if you want some for jam, pies or vinegar, don't wait too long or you will find yourself with an empty pail.

I guess if all summer projects are finished early, you will have more time to start planning next year's garden.

July Gardening Tip of the Month
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Hopefully your vegetable gardens are all in and are growing like weeds. Sorry but I just couldnít resist that little pun!

If your veggies are just sitting there and donít seem to be growing, it could be several things causing the problem. The soggy and cool June weather could be part of the story but there should still be some growth showing. Did you enrich your soil first with organic compost and natural fertilizer? And are you sure that your plant is getting enough sun? Some crops such as tomatoes, beans, corn and potatoes like as much sun as possible while others like cilantro, spinach, peas and some lettuces do better with a little shade. Cilantro and spinach tend to bolt in hot weather and start putting out seed which makes them pretty much inedible. Thatís why they should be planted early so you have enjoyed the crop before the hot weather sets in.

If you suspect that your soil isnít nutrient rich, there is still time to help it out. Itís called side dressing, and the secret to do it is: First of all, purchase good compost from a reputable dealer. That way you can be assured that the compost doesnít include heavy metals, herbicides or pesticides. A few inches away from a row, scatter some compost and then gently work it into the soil so as not to disturb the vegetableís roots. Of course itís better to use your own compost but if you used it all up when you originally prepared your beds, then you may have to purchase a few bags. Follow that up with a good shot of liquid fish fertilizer and you should see improvement in no time at all.

So letís say that your garden is growing great one day and then starts disappearing the next. Major culprits could be slugs, crows or deer. Slugs eat tiny tender emerging plants pretty much to the ground, crows pull plants up and leave them to dry up and deer nibble the tips and taste a multitude of plants before deciding on which Ďdeer candyí they decide to devour completely.

There are several ways to control slugs; a little beer in a dish that they can climb into will do the job quite well. So does running a copper wire around the perimeter of the bed and I find the best device is to grow things in raised beds with beauty bark for the walkways. If you decide to use slug bait, be sure that it is one that is safe around children, pets and birds.

Of the hundreds of things I have tried to keep out the deer, the only thing that works for me is a product called Liquid Fence. I donít care to have an eight foot fence around my yard and in fact I think it is against code to do so. And 8 feet is how high the fence would have to be so that just doesnít work esthetically in my yard.

Crows are my nemesis as their spies seem to be everywhere. They watch me plant seeds and the minute I leave, they immediately go to the just planted bed and start pulling out the seeds. They only way I have found to circumvent them is to put netting over newly planted seed beds and newly sprouted beans, cucumbers and squash seeds to keep them out until the plant has time to set out some good root growth.

Weeding is very important this month as the seeds that you stirred up while preparing the soil are germinating like crazy and will over shadow newly emerging plants , taking up the water and nutrients and leaving the little sprouts to virtually starve and become stunted. So get out there and weed, weed and weed.

June Tip of the Month
Sunday, June 01, 2014
I have a confession to make. My yard has been a terrible weedy mess this year and that is pretty horrible statement for a Master Gardener to make. I had it pretty well under control until March 20 when I had surgery on my left foot and had to wear a cast for 6 weeks. It was bad enough just walking up the slope on my heel only sideways from my greenhouse, but trying to pull weeds in that position without falling over was impossible. And with the wet and then warm weather and no annuals growing in the empty spaces, the weeds just took over.

So now that I am back in walkable weeding position again, I have been overwhelmed with getting my yard in shape. I started with the front yard where everyone walking and driving by could see my neglect. Instead of throwing my newspapers in the recycling can, I saved them up and spent several weekends spreading layer upon layer of paper on top of the weeds and then covering the whole thing with 3-4 inches of compost. It's a win-win situation as the newspaper gets recycled, the weeds get covered and will die and the empty spots are only empty of weeds. It's easy to bend the paper around existing plants and I'll be able to cut through the newspaper when I want to add another plant to the landscape.

I did cut back as much of the grass as I could before I covered it so as to make the layers of paper lay flat. And on one really hot day I poured vinegar over the worst of the weeds before I started spreading the paper just to ensure that the weeds would die. Eventually the paper will decompose and the weeds will have composted and died away.

It's much better than putting down either expensive rolls of mesh fabric that eventually will poke up through the compost or beauty bark and look unsightly or plastic linings that will not allow the water to drain normally into the soil or even allow the soil to breathe. However, if you decide you want to try this, be sure to have your family, neighbors and even enemies save up their newspapers for you as it takes a lot of newsprint to do a good job. Layers and layers work best or better yet, cardboard will do a great job so use it over deep rooted weeds. Once that hard work is done you will be able to focus on adding colorful flowers and shrubs to your landscape and enjoy your garden all summer long.


April Tip of the Month
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Before you even look at April on your calendar, skip to May first and mark Saturday May 3 to remind yourself of the Jeff Feagin Fox Island Plant Sale. This year is shaping up to be the best Plant Sale ever. For one thing, the Plant Sale committee has decided to start the sale at 11:00 am, which will give shoppers three hours instead of two to load up on some fantastic deals. And garden club members are already digging and planting new varieties of plants to purchase. If you have an abundance of shrubs, perennials or small trees you would like to donate and have removed, call me at 253-549-6655 and perhaps we can get a crew over to take them to add to the plant sale collection.

But, back to April for now. As daffodils start to droop and wilt, gardeners have a tendency to want to neat up their garden so they cut down the tall green leaves to the soil line. The leaves are the source of providing nutrition to the bulbs for the next years flower so instead of continuing to bloom year after year, the blooms get smaller and smaller until you finally either dig them out or they just die away. Instead of cutting the leaves, you can roll them up and keep them tidy with a rubber band or even better, plant a cheery annual or perennial close by so the leaves will be hidden. Once the leaves are brown they will have fulfilled their purpose and can be removed. Since daffodils are not bothered by deer, you can rely on them brightening your March garden for years to come.

Now is the time to get your lawns in shape with a good organic lawn fertilizer and also fill in sparse areas of lawn with new seed. If you have any bald spots in your lawn you might as well resolve yourself that it either will be the next spot for lawn seeding orÖÖa huge and hard to get rid of weed! The old saying of ĎNature abhors a vacuumí is so perfect. There will always be weeds unless every speck of soil is covered in growing vegetation and even then the buggers survive.

The only other way to keep weeds out of your yard is to be diligent about removing any blooming weeds before they blossom and to pick every small weed sprout as you find them. It may take a while, but I promise you that there will be fewer and fewer weeds to pull every year.

March Tip of the Month
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Hope all of you who went to the northwest Flower and Garden show had a great time smelling all the blooming plants and browsing through all the shopping opportunities and then came home believing spring is right around the corner.

And actually March is the transitional month between the cold of winter and the gradual warming of spring. Crocus are in bloom with daffodils right behind. After that hyacinths and tulips will be blooming all the way into April and houseplants are starting to show signs of new growth. That means it's time to start feeding your indoor lovelies and to give them extra nutrients.

One of the best ways to feed them is not necessarily a plant food, but a plant and soil booster. And of course I am talking about the delicious (to plants only) plant booster available right here in the Gig Harbor area. It's called Garden Grog and is made from responsibly hand harvested and promptly cold roasted Alaskan sea kelp. You can contact Andy Dahl who is a local distributor for information and to order some now. Andy is available by emailing him at Primo-Incense.com, or you can purchase Garden Grog online. Two little capfuls makes a gallon of solution.

If your soil was ready to sow seeds of lettuce and spinach, they ,may be large enough to start thinning. Looseleaf lettuce should be thinned 4-6 inches apart while Butterhead, Cos and Romaine should be thinned 6-12 inches apart. Spinach - 5-6 inches and Swiss Chard 8-10. And you don't have to throw away the sprouts you pull up, just cut off the tiny roots and add them to the compost pile, then gently wash and toss the greens into a lovely salad.

Watch the local garden stores now for asparagus roots, Artichokes, potatoes and all the cabbage family seeds or bedding plants.

Turn over compost piles while it's still rainy and turn over often to incorporate air into them. You will be needing a good supply of compost to add to your garden later on.

Lawns need a good Spring fertilizer application to help them fill in any bare spots or weeds fill it in instead. Nature abhors a vacuum. In other words--if there is a bare space in the ground, nature will fill it in if it isn't planted by something else...first. And that translates into meaning weeds and especially into well watered, fed and groomed lawns.

February Garden Tip of the Month
Saturday, February 01, 2014
It's time to start getting your vegetable beds turned over for early seeding of spring vegetables. That group includes, peas, onions, spinach, lettuce, radishes and Swiss chard. Don't even think about starting tomatoes, corn or beans or you will be sorely disappointed. Leave the space you will be allocating for the warm weather vegetables alone for now.

Before you start firing up your rototiller or sharpening your shovels, you need to make sure the ground is workable first. Grab a handful of soil and give it a squeeze. If water drips out it is probably too wet to work over so just wait for a bit. But if it just holds it shape and then crumbles, go ahead and start turning it over. This is a good time to add compost to the newly turned over soil and work it in to add nutrients and texture.

Okay so now your soil is prepared, raked smooth and your plan on what to grow there is complete. If you will be sowing seeds of peas or pea pods, soak the seeds overnight first to soften them up before dropping them in the holes. That way, if there should be a hard rain for several days after planting, the will have the chance to sprout instead of just rotting. The same system applies to sweet peas also for early starting. The other spring planted seeds do not have to have that same soaking though. And as soon as shoots start appearing, it is advisable to start baiting or destroying newly hatched slugs so they won't chow down on the new sprouts.

February is a good month to prune grapes and roses as well as hydrangeas However be reminded that if you prune fruit trees now, there will be more of a chance of them producing water sprouts later in the year which are the branches that grow straight up in a tree. These branches do not produce fruit and they take away from the strength of the tree.

February is also a good month to start weeding all the pesky annual weeds that are coming up all over your yard. I always have to stop and think how I am saving myself hours of work in the summer heat for every weed that I pull in the cold February weather.

The best part of February is not getting weeds pulled, roses pruned or even planting spring gardens. The BEST part is going to Seattle convention center to tour the lovely gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. It really will give you inspiration and ideas on gardening as well as a great venue to purchase seeds and plants. There are educational lectures, demonstrations, huge gardens, seeds, garden art and the newest plants for the year.

And... the fragrance of spring permeates the building in the blooming hyacinths and lilies. The cost of a ticket covers everything there including the lectures. The fragrances though... are free. The show runs from February 5-9. Watch for nurseries that sell tickets ahead of time and save a few dollars and a lot of standing in line time.


January Tip of the Month
Wednesday, January 01, 2014
Welcome to NW Washington's 2014 gardening year! Another year to plan and design a new garden or take on a new garden project. The best place to go for ideas is the NW Flower and Garden show in Seattle from February 5-9 at the Seattle Convention Center. This is the place where you will become inspired to be creative and also to see the newest plants, groupings and ideas.

If the fragrance of blooming hyacinths, lilies and jasmine doesn't make you feel like spring is right around the corner... well then you must enjoy living in a cement surrounded high rise building. Take a camera and take photos of plants and gardens that make you happy and you would like to have gracing your yard. Garden art is also very popular now so settle on a style and theme that especially pleases you, then venture over to the garden art and plant sale area and be prepared to buy some great new additions for yourself.

Once you have an idea of what type of garden you would like, visualize how it would fit in in your space and terrain. If you want an easy maintenance yard, do not put in an elaborate perennial or annual garden. Keep it simple with evergreen shrubs in planting beds edging a lawn area. Beauty bark or compost will help cut down on the weeding. And lawns really are easier to maintain compared to multi planted beds. But if you are not afraid of getting free exercise, dirt under your fingernails and a challenge, then plan it, create it and be prepared to maintain it.

The first thing for any garden is to measure out the area you want to design and then make sketches of hardscapes and the plantings you would like to add. Think about how it might look when the plants have grown to maturity and if they will still fit the area. Some plants will grow to be the size of trees and should not be placed in front of widows where they will block out the limited winter sun or grow higher than your gutters. Before you purchase a tree, shrub or plant, check the tag or read up on the size it will grow and the plants specific needs. Also think about the colors and textures of your proposed plantings and check to see if they compliment one another. But most of all be sure the place you propose to plant them is suited for the plants needs as far as soil conditions, water needs and light exposure.

If you are fortunate enough to have a large yard, you may want to create garden rooms with different themes. My acre plot afforded me the opportunity to create a tropical themed garden, a formal Italian garden, vegetable and herb gardens, fruit trees and a small vineyard. I also have a whimsical cottage garden and my recent addition became a sandy tropical island that only needs a broken surfboard to call finished. The joys or gardening can go on forever!

But except for checking for wind and storm damage in your present yard, the best advice I can give for gardening in January is to research, dream and design.

December Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Since the holidays bring a lot of extra chores to occupy my time, December's Tip will be pretty short.

This time of the year, thoughts turn to choosing that perfect tree to decorate with all your favorite treasurers. Whether you spend hours tromping through the fresh, cut your own farms or if you stop by a local previously cut tree lot, there are set rules for choosing your tree. If it is growing at a tree farm, check to be sure the tree branches are evenly spaced and not bent or injured. It is so easy to cut a tree and find out when you get it home, that it is way too large for your dedicated tree space. And even though it may appear at first glance to be a great tree, it may have weak branches that sag when lights and ornaments are placed on it. If you chose a precut tree, the first step is to thump it on the ground to see if most of the previously green needles stay attached to the tree. If it ends up with more needles on the ground than on the tree, you may want to pass on that particular tree. Again be sure to check to be sure the branches will tolerate the weight of your decorations and are evenly spaced with no empty areas showing through.

No matter which tree you decided to get, the first thing to do when you get it home is to cut a little off the bottom of the trunk and place the tree in a bucket of water. If you leave it in the bucket all night, you will be amazed how much water one tree can absorb. Once it is decorated, you will need to keep it well watered so it will last the season and not become a fire hazard.

Your yard may contain a plethora of greenery to decorate tables and doors. And not just evergreens but also twisted and leafless branches, red twig dogwood branches, grape vines, pine cones and dried hydrangea blossoms are lovely in a wreath. If you have lavender, rosemary or bay leaves you can make a wreath that is not only lovely but aromatic and a handy place to steal a few herbs to add to your holiday cooking.

Enjoy the season and take time to start planning next years garden.

November Tip of the Month
Friday, November 01, 2013
Hello wind and rain...good by sunshine and warm days. At least October turned out to be pretty dry and sunny especially when compared to our soggy September weather.

The colors of the leaves have certainly been lovely but are now in the process of being blown all over the yards and street so I guess that's why we really call it fall!

I have a terrific tip for not only November but for all year. It's a plant booster called Garden Grog and it's made from Alaska sea kelp and Alaskan water. Not sure why Alaska water is much better than Washington's but I guess it would take a lot of money to import WA water to Alaska where it is made. A 12 oz. bottle of it makes 24 gallons so you can use it without breaking the bank. My houseplants flourish and refuse to ever die, which can be burdensome after over 40 years of caring for some of them. It can also be used on lawns, shrubs and vegetable gardens, as a stimulant for compost piles and touts have a fresh sea fragrance. The distributor for this product is local Fox Island resident Andy Dahl who can be contacted at adahl@mac.com or 253-686-2774.

Besides fertilizing lawns with a good fall and winter product and keeping weeds pulled which is fairly easy in the moist ground, the biggest chore is raking leaves. You can compost them, use them to cover and protect plants and bare soil, but whatever you do...rake them off your lawns. Our wet and sunless winters are enough to stimulate the growth of moss in our acid soil without leaving wet leaves on them to kill off the grass and give more moss a perfect hideout to grow in a prosper.

If you should still have any fruit falling, rake those away too. Many composting fruits become a home to disease and insects that will just spread back to your next years crops. And the fruit will encourage rodents and coyotes to make a home in your yard and perhaps invading your home and outbuildings for winter protection.

If you want a Christmas cactus to bloom, put it in a place where it will get at least 12 hours of darkness, stop watering it and leave it until the first on December before bringing it in a sunny room and giving it good shot of fertilizer along with a dousing of Garden Grog.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

October Tip of the Month
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
October is such a transitional month with the first half normally balmy and sometimes quite warm†and the second half cold and windy so it's best if you start preparing your garden for the upcoming†cooler months.†

Start harvesting the rest of your tomatoes even if they are still green.† Place them on newspaper in a darkened area and many of them will ripen up in a few weeks.† The really hard green ones can be used in making anti pasta, mustard pickles or in a variety of ways.† Recipe for green tomato relish to follow.

Once the fruit is removed, pull up the plants and either burn or compost them.† Potatoes should also be dug up in case you have not done so yet as well as garlic and onions.† Swiss chard, beats, radishes, parsley,†lettuce†and spinach can be left and used until they start looking mushy or go to seed.† Basil of course is way too tender so use up any existing plants in either pesto or by dehydrating.† Harvest acorn and butternut squash and pull up and dispose of any moldy looking varieties of squash.† The winter squashes should be hardened off and kept in a cool location for use all winter long.†

As your vegetable and flower beds become bare, protect the soil by covering it with leaves and lawn clippings.† However if you use weed and feed products, do not use the grass either in the compose pile or a winter blanket to cover the beds.† No herbicide treated grass clippings†should ever be used in any beds used for growing flowers or vegetables.† There is no use in planting new seeds or vegetable and flower starts in an herbicide that may stunt it's growth or keep them from emerging from the soil.† Do however use the falling leaves and otherwise discarded plants†to help insulate the soil and†protect the soil from washing away in hard rains.† Using leaves that have fallen on lawns serves a dual purpose.† One...by adding to your compost pile and bed protection.† And 2...by protecting your lawn from being smothered by heavy leaf buildup.

Garden supply stores should be full of spring†blooming bulbs such as tulips and daffodils and hyacinths..† Choose the largest and firmest ones and you will be amazed at spectacular floral spring††floral displays.

Overwinter any tender baskets of fuchsias and geraniums by moving them in to an unheated garage or storage room.† Cut back the†plants to within several inches from the trunk unless you want to enjoy the blooms in a sunny room in your home.† Periodically water the fuchsias but let the geraniums go dormant without water.† Any house plants that have been enjoying their summer vacation outside need to be checked thoroughly first before returning them to the winter homes.† Slugs are especially good at hiding in the drain holes and they are something you really don't want sliming up your floors.

Green tomato relish
Yields approximately 7 pints

4 qts chopped peeled, cored green tomatoes (about 32 medium)
2†qts chopped cabbage
2 cups chopped sweet green peppers
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup salt
1 1/2†cup brown sugar
2 Tbls mustard seed
1 Tbls celery seed
1 Tbls prepared horseradish
4 1/2 cups vinegar

Combine vegetables in a large bowl.† Sprinkle salt over vegetables and mix thoroughly.† Let stand 1-4 hours then drain, rinse and drain again†thoroughly.† Combine sugar, spices, horseradish and vinegar in a

large saucepan and simmer 15 minutes.† Add vegetables and bring to a full†boil.† Pack hot relish†into sterile, hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head-space.† Remove air bubbles by sliding a knife around the inside of the jar and wipe the rims of the jars to insure a good seal.† Place lids† on jars and screw on the rings.† Place in a boiling water bath in canner for 10 minutes.† Turn off heat, remove†canner lid†and let jars sit for 5 minutes before removing from canner.

September Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, September 01, 2013
September really is the major starting month for harvesting and preserving your garden bounty. Pick produce in the morning before it starts to get too warm for get the best flavor possible. Cucumbers, potatoes, beans, broccoli and tomatoes are at the height of the season for production. Continue to check gardens daily to keep plants producing. Even one day can make the difference between picking a tender zucchini or a a huge green bat sized one with huge seeds. The process is similar to deadheading dead flowers as the more you pick, the more the plants produce.

Herbs can still be cut and used as long as they have not flowered. To preserve them for the year you have several different options. Either cut them, leaving long stems that can be bunched and tied together to be hung upside down in a darkened room or strip as many of the major stems off them and dry them on a low to medium heat in a dehydrator. The results are the same except that hanging to dry can take several weeks while the dehydrator only takes overnight in most cases.

If everything in your garden is ripening fast except for your tomato plants, you may need to quit pampering them and hold back on the water to stress them out a little. Just as all species want to produce offspring to carry on he family name, plants do also. If the plant feels that it's time is getting close to expiring, it will put all it's energy into ripening the fruit so there will be new seeds to carry on in the circle of life. Don't completely quit watering, but just water one or twice a week if the leaves look wilted.

It however never fails to amaze me that while most of the plants in our gardens do need occasional watering to keep hydrated, weeds still seem to thrive without hardly a drop. I believe it is because most weeds are native to our area of are so resilient and noxious that they just continue to grow and reproduce.

As September comes to a close and the really hot middle of the month has passed, you may not need to be watering your garden much at all. However, don't neglect any plants in pots as their roots are probably taking up much of the area and will still need deep and frequent watering. Once the cold hits though and plants look like they are about to the end of production times, you may want to be visiting your local nursery for some fall color and start adding mums, winter pansies and kale to give those potted plant areas some new life. If you find any spring blooming bulbs in the store, buy them early even though you probably won't plant them until the ground is softer in the fall. But having the choice of only choosing the largest and firmest of the bulbs will insure you of the finest and strongest plants next spring.

August Garden Tip of the Month
Thursday, August 01, 2013
The month of August is an artistic delight with a riot of flowers cascading over pots and produce in abundance gracing your vegetable gardens.

The spent blooms of flowering pots need to be deadheaded every week to keep the blooms in force. If you just let the wilted flowers stay on, the plant will decide it has done it's job of raising a family and retire to the nursing home. However if you keep the dried and wilted blossoms pinched off the plant will decide that it still has offspring to produce and will continue to keep healthy and vigorous in it's floral production. And you didn't think that plants had a brain!

Produce is in full swing this month so make daily trips to search out hidden zucchini and look for newly produced green beans. Cucumber fruit are blooming and they also tend to get lost under the leaves growing on their vines so a little searching there is also necessary. You may always be able to find someone who wants a giant zucchini, but no one wants a giant cucumber. Keep tomatoes staked and watch for ripening tomatoes that may also be hiding in the center of the plants. Don't negate keeping a watering schedule of infrequent but deep watering to keep plants well hydrated. Basil is such a tender and delicious herb that you want to take advantage of every leaf so do NOT let it bloom. Once it sets blossoms it will turn bitter and all your mouth watering dreams of a Caprese salad or a bowl of homemade pesto turns into a bitter memory. Next month I'll feature a how to for preserving and drying your own herbs and produce.

Fruit trees need some maintenance also in the summer, It's the perfect time to snip off any water-sprouts off your fruit trees. Water-sprouts are easy to recognize as they are branches that grow straight up at the top of the tree. They do not produce and they actually take strength away from the tree. Easy to do but just be sure to cut them right at the joint of where they are attached to the lateral branch they are growing from.

Berries are in huge supply this time of the year and along country roads you can usually fnd someone with a pail they are filling with wild blackberries. In less than a half hour, a person can pick enough to make a wonderful blackberry pie or in my case...several quarts of blackberry vinegar. My problem is only finding small 1 or 1 1/2 cup bottles to store it in to give as gifts.

Mulled Blackberry Vinegar Recipie
Thursday, August 01, 2013
This is one of my favorite vinegars to make and give away.

Mulled Blackberry Vinegar

4 cups blackberries
4 cups cider vinegar, divided
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tlbs whole cloves
1 Tlbs whole allspice

In a large glass bowl, combine blackberries and 1 cup of the vinegar. Using a potato masher, lightly crush blackberries. Add remaining vinegar, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, stirring to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a dark cool place (70 to 75 degrees) for up to 4 weeks, stirring every 2-3 days. Taste weekely until desired strength is achieved.
Prepare canner, jars and lids if using regular 8 oz jars instead of bottles.(See note)
Line a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and place over a large stainless steel saucepan. Strain vinegar mixture without squeezing cheesecloth. Discard cheesecloth and residue. Place saucepan over medium heat and heat vinegar to 180 degrees F.
Ladle hot vinegar into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, center lid on jar and screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove lid from canner and wait 5 minutes before removing jars. Cool and store.

NOTE: When I am using bottles to store vinegar I use a little different process.
Fill bottles with hot water and place in a canner with metal screw tops and boil gently for 10 minutes. Bring vinegar in saucepan to boil for 10 minutes, drain bottles and fill with hot vinegar to 1/2 inch of top of bottle. If using corks instead of screw tops, boil them also for at least 5 minutes and push in to hot filled bottles. Once cool, it is nice to dip the corked tops in sealing wax to add a touch of elegance to the finished bottle. Make your labels to decorate the bottle and you will have a lovely gift to share.

July Garden Tip of the Month
Monday, July 01, 2013
Gardening season is really at it's best in July's garden. Hanging baskets are full of blooms and they will soon need constant deadheading to keep them looking fresh. If you have not done so within the last few weeks, it is worthwhile to give them a good shot of Alaska fish fertilizer to keep them satisfied. And while you are waiting for their blooms to dry up and be deadheaded, you can always start in on cleaning up and deadheading your Rhody's spent flowers and pinching back new growth to keep them from outgrowing their quarters.

Roses need to also be cleaned up to help them with a second blooming. Clematis is winding it's way up trellises and blooming like crazy. Dahlias are starting to bloom this month while jasmine is in full sensuous blossoms.

Early spring planted vegetables may be starting to go to seed, so pull them out and compost them and replace them with starts for you upcoming fall and winter plantings. Beets, cabbage, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce can be planted now for fall and winter harvest as well as Swiss chard and greens. A good side dressing of compost will be greatly appreciated by your tomato plants, corn and cucumbers as they start forming and ripening their fruit.

Zucchini and beans are starting to produce so be out daily picking newly ready produce while they are still fresh and tender. Beans and beets can still be planted from seed to fill in empty spots left in the garden from pulled out spent early spring plantings. If you find your basil starts to go to seed in the heat, pinch back the tops to keep them putting out new leaves. Never let basil go to seed as once it does, it gets bitter. When onions and garlic bloom, bend over and start to dry up, it's time to dig them up. Rinse them well and then let sit in the sun to dry well before storing.

Water all your garden infrequently, but water deeply a few times a week instead of daily. Shallow daily watering only encourages roots to stay shallow but less frequent deep watering encourages roots to grow down deep which in case of a drought will give your plants a better chance of survival.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how dry and abused your garden may be, weeds always seem to flourish under any circumstance. Take time to keep your garden as weed free as possible. Your water, fertilizer and compost will not be wasted on the weeds but will nourish your garden plants that you really want to survive. Mulch will help smother weed seeds and help keep the moisture in the soil to be used by ornamental and vegetables instead.

There's no need to hit the gym in the summer as one can get a lot of exercise by keeping the garden neat and tidy by weeding, mulching, trimming, harvesting produce and cutting bouquets of flowers for your home. Enjoy!

June Garden Tip of the Month
Saturday, June 01, 2013
The plants and seeds that do best in warm weather can safely be planted this month. That list includes tomatoes, squash, beans, corn, cucumbers, basil, eggplant and peppers. Bedding plants are best for tomato, eggplant and peppers as they take a while to mature and produce before the season is over. As I try to be as organic as possible in my gardening, I do not use any chemicals with my vegetable starts.

When planting tomatoes, I add a handful of alfalfa meal into each hole, mix it in with home processed compost and then plant them and water well. Seeds for squash, beans, corn and cucumbers sprout readily in the warmer weather. Basil can be planted either by seed or small plants. Most of the veggies get compost and fish fertilizer except for peas and beans which are nitrogen fixers and require nothing except compost. They make a great soil additive as even their roots contain nitrogen and they continue to add nitrogen to the soil even for the next year.

Corn uses a lot of nitrogen to grow and produce while pole beans need good support so planting them next to each other is a win - win situation. There is one problem though and that is that raccoons love corn and will destroy the stalks along with the corn and beans just about the time the corn is ready to pick. There is an app for that! It's call growing cucumber plants around and within the corn plants. Those little corn thieves hate the prickly leaves on the cucumbers and will stay away from them which gives you the opportunity to actually salvage the stalks for Halloween as well as enjoy the corn.

Never plant nightshade plants of tomato or potatoes in the same place as either of them were grown the previous year. It helps to do a yearly drawing of which vegetable was planted where in the garden. Otherwise it is hard to wait until the next year and just try to guess where they were grown. The cause of the great potato famine in Ireland was caused by growing the same crop over and over in the same spot. The blight spread to epic proportions forcing many of their citizens to emigrate to the US rather than starve to death.

Most annual flowers can also be added to your garden to punch up your yard with sizzling color. Petunias, inpatients, lobelia, fuchsias and begonias are in this group. Give any of these plants a good soaking before removing them from their pots and planting them. Usually potting soil tends to be very porous and will let the water run right through and around newly planted plants so the soaking really gets them off to a good start. Osmocote fertilizer granules are great to add to your plantings along with a solution of Alaska fish fertilizer. The fish fertilizer gives instant nutrition and the Osmocote is a slow release granular fertilizer that continues to feed the plants for several months. Don't forget to deadhead the faded blossoms to not only keep plantings looking neat but also to encourage new blossoms.

Water deeply during the summer months but certainly not daily. Keep pulling weeds, use up produce before it flowers go goes to waste and enjoy the lovely weather.


April Garden Tip of the Month
Monday, April 01, 2013
April may bring showers but right now, I feel like we have already had enough rain to get us through this month from the drenching of March. Tulips will be in full bloom and it is a shame to have the rain beat them down or worse yet... the deer population to enjoy them as appetizers. You can't control the rain but you can control the hungry deer. The product is called Liquid Fence and it is a combination of condensed garlic and rotten eggs that you add to water and spray on your deer susceptible plants. It does have quite an aroma so be sure you take a shower after spraying it as it will stick to you also.

As soon as I have tulips blooming or see sprouting lettuce, peas or spinach, I mix up a batch ad spray the foliage. I do this once a week for two weeks, then extend the spraying time to two weeks and finally to once every third week. If you wait any longer between spraying the deer will start chewing on your plants again. I do this all summer long, just to be sure that some 'new to my yard' deer doesn't get the habit of visiting my yard and eating the plants I want to protect.

The sprouting new seedlings bring up a subject that a lot of people ask me questions about this time of year. What seeds can I plant in my vegetable garden right now? Here is a list of the most common vegetables that most people in our community are interesting in growing: Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, garden cress, chicory, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, all leafy greens, peas, onions, radishes, spinach and parsley. Potatoes also can be planted this early but do not use the potatoes that you purchased in the produce section from grocery store.

Those potatoes are not treated for fungal disease and may carry pathogens on them that would ruin your crop. Plant only potatoes that are sold as seed potatoes and have been treated. And do not plant either potatoes or tomatoes where either of them were grown the previous summer. Keep a chart on where they were planted each year and rotate your crops. Hold off on vining crops such as squash and cucumbers, beans, corn, peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes, basil and tomatoes. They are warm and hot season crops and just cannot tolerate any cold.

Yards are full of shot weeds and if you remove them before they start flowering, you will be ahead of the weeding game. Let them flower and bloom and you will be fighting them all summer long. They are prolific seed producing plants with a will to reproduce. Once thing i have noticed about most weeds, is that they grow where other plants are that have similar leaf shapes. They seem to use the other plants to camouflage themselves. Smart weeds...now that is really scary!

Even dandelions are starting to bloom so when you see one, dip it up to the very tip of their taproot. These are notorious for producing sweet yellow flowers that then dry and reseed throughout the yard. It's much easier to remove them from the damp and softened earth rather than the hard and compacted soil of summer. Remember that every flowering weed you pull before it sets seeds, can save you from later on digging out hundreds of their off-springs.

March Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, March 01, 2013
As the saying goes ĎMarch comes in like a lion and goes out lake a lambí is looking like a true statement as February comes to an end. We will have to wait a few weeks before knowing if it will end gently and balmy or not. But meanwhile we can take advantage of some of the warmer days in March to start on a lot of gardening projects. The first one that comes to mind is pruning roses and finishing pruning fruit trees before they are so full of leaves that itís hard to see their basic structure. When pruning roses, be aware that if you cut a branch off at the place where a bud is pointing towards the middle of the plant, the new growth will be towards the inside of the bush, which will inhibit the air flow to your rose bush. Instead, cut at the junction where a bud is pointing outward from the rose bush. This will foster a bushier and airier looking plant that will have a better chance of fighting off any diseases or black spot due to poor air circulation. Pruning fruit trees follows its own set of rules such as removing all damaged and broken branches first, and then proceeding on to crossed or rubbing branches. It makes sense to purchase a good book on pruning fruit trees in order to get the most fruit from your crop.

If you have not been interested in composting before, it is time to catch up with the times. Good gardeners know that dumping compostable cuttings in the trash is a waste of money and energy as it is so easy to put in a compost pile or two. The best compost area I have is one that is a plastic 3ft by 3ft (although 4x4 is preferred) Lego type building boards that can be layered on to a preferred height or removed easily. It has a hinged cover so I donít have to worry about dogs, mice or raccoons invading it. When it comes time to mix it in together or scoop out the compost, I just remove the lid and one at a time; remove the plastic layered boards until I have used it all up. The ratio for adding cuttings and leaves to your compost pile is one part green waste to two parts brown waste. The brown can be dry leaves or even the shredded newspaper from your shredder. Do not put meat or bones in a compost pile as they attract pests and can make it give off a bad odor (stinky, stinky stuff) and your neighbors will despise you. I actually have two of those compost pile containers so I can add to one until it is full and then while it is melding, I switch to the other. That way, I have a ready supply of that ĎBlack Goldí most of the time and itís actually free.

February did allow us the dryer weather to plant peas and spinach directly into soil but if you didnít catch the good weather then, donít worry as March still will provide plenty of opportunities to plant peas, spinach, lettuce and onions. Any other seeds will need to be started indoors and then kept in bright light until it gets much warmer. Since I won a drawing for a hydroponic seed starting kit this year, , I am trying to sprout bay leaf seeds in the hydroponic system. And I have started my tomato seeds in the single cell flats which accommodate 98 pods of soilless seed starting sections. These can also be used in a larger hydroponic but because mine will not accommodate a whole flat; I am just using the pods for starting the seeds. I am creeping into the furnace room daily to check for sprouting plants and once they do start emerging, I will transfer the flats to the greenhouse. I think it will be easier to transplant the tomatoes into 4 inch plants later on when they have 4 leaves each.

The crocuses are blooming along with primroses and narcissus. Daffodils are opening, up and I noticed the first blooms opening on my Camellia so spring is really here!

February Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, February 01, 2013
February... Valentine's Day... Love....Love Apples....Tomatoes.

It may have taken me a winding road to finally reach the subject, but yes mid February is 'start my tomato seeds month'. The reason I start them so early is that I do not use grow lights and I also need for them to be big enough to donate to the Fox Island Plant Sale which is held the first Saturday in May.

The main reason I do not use artificial light to grow them under is the fact I start way too many of them and would need to take out a loan just to pay my power bill. Since I am always so afraid of losing a whole tray of newly sprouted seeds to dampening off, I will save somewhere between 1000-2000 seeds every fall from my heirloom tomatoes. The seeds do not need sunlight to sprout but they do need heat.

Spread seed starting mix into large trays and gently water the mix to be sure it is completely level and moistened. Let excess water drain off and then sprinkle the saved seeds over the top. I use only one type of seed per tray but if you do not want a whole tray of just one variety, you could partition off sections for each type of seed such as Roma, cherry or beefsteak. Barely cover the seeds with more potting soil and gently water the tray again.

Be careful as too strong of a stream of water will wash the soil and seeds away. Pat gently and mark the seed variety in each section or the whole tray. Cover with a clear tray top and place in a warm room. The furnace room works terrific as it stays so toasty and warm in there. Check the trays after a week to see if they are getting a little dry and need a light sprinkling or to see if any seeds have sprouted.

Once they have begun to sprout, they are immediately placed in the greenhouse. The covers are removed so they don't touch the plastic cover and left to grow. If it is still really cold I may turn on a fan run heater but mostly I just want the stems to be moved a little each day. This keeps the stalks strong as they stretch to meet the sunlight.

Occasionally I will gently run my hand over the tops of the plants to help them grow strong and straight. There will be nothing left to do with them for the rest of the month but keep them damp and watch them grow. Don't even think about planting them until the first of June so there will be a lot of tomato tips each month until planting time.

January 2013 Garden Tip of the Month!
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
A new calendar year and an opportunity to review how last year's garden grew and design this year's garden.

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 it's 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?

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 a soil tester this past Christmas from a garden club member, so 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 2013 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.

Next month you can think about planting peas and spinach if the ground isn't too soggy.

More on early spring plantings next month.

November Garden Tip of the Month
Thursday, November 01, 2012
November Tip of the Month

I wonder if the Latin definition of November refers to 'month of Leaves Falling Down'. It certainly defines what happens almost all month long. I like to think of as this time of the year as an opportunity to put my garden to bed for a few months by covering the garden beds with a blanket of leaves. Most leaves will work as long as the tree they fall from doesn't have any noticeable disease, is non composting such as Madrona leaves tend to be or may be poisonous. I make a habit of not putting poisonous leaves from Datara or Black Walnut in the compost bin or on beds that will be turned over in the spring. I just don't want to take the chance to cause a problem even though I am not positive it could add poison to the soil.

The leaves do more than double duty as they keep weed seeds from sprouting, keep the soil warmer and protect the heavy rains from washing away the top soils. And best of all...it's a free source of garden mulch. From pretty much now until the weekend before Thanksgiving there will be an abundance of leaves falling. One of the first places that needed to have the leaves removed is your lawn. Leaves can build up and smother the grass, so keep the leaves well raked. Small branches can also be added to the pile, knowing that you will probably have to remove them before turning over the soil. Meanwhile, they will help keep any dry leaves from blowing back on the lawn and beds.

You can pull up and add to your compost bins, most plants that have withered and died in your vegetable beds. However, if you had any blight turn your tomato plants black or spotted, it is best to destroy those plants and not add them to the compost. Chances are the pile will not get hot enough to destroy all the pathogens and you will end up with the same blight again next year.

Just to be on the safe side, I find it's always a good idea to chart where in the garden you had previously grown both tomatoes and potatoes and not to plant either of those plants in plants in the same spot the following year.

If we get any high winds, it would be a good idea to go outside with pruners in hand and remove any broken limbs from trees and shrubs. It will help to keep out any disease from having an entrance into the plant. Just be sure your pruning is always done back to a joint in the branch and not just in the middle. That is not called pruning...it's called mutilation!

November is the perfect time to put down a fall and winter fertilizer on your lawn to help promote root growth for next year. And it would also be a good idea to first aerate the lawn by either renting a machine to do it or hiring a lawn professional to remove the plugs of soil from your lawn. Next spring your lawn should look terrific.

There is still time to dig in spring flowering bulbs and with the soil being dampened by rain, will be much easier to plant than it was a little earlier in the fall.

I may not submit a Tip of the Month for December, as like my garden shuts down for a winter's rest from gardening.... so do I.


October Recipe: Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard
Monday, October 01, 2012
Since October fest is the 'in thing' to celebrate this time of year, why not make your own mustard to go along with the worst and dogs. I am including a Lemon Sage Wine Mustard recipe this month that is sure to be a hit with all the beer meisters.

Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard
Makes about five 1/4 ounce jars

1 bunch of fresh sage
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup yellow mustard seed
1 cup White wine vinegar
Grated zest and juice from 2 large lemons
1/2 cup liquid honey
1/4 tsp salt

Finely chop enough sage leaves to measure 1/3 cup and put aside
Coarsely chop enough sage leaves and stems to measure 1/2 cup and place in a small stainless steel saucepan with the white wine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and pressing sage with the back of a wooden spoon to release flavor. Remove from heat and cover tightly. Let steep for 5 minutes.
Transfer sage and wine infusion to a sieve placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl. Press with a spoon to extract all the liquid from the solids and return the liquid to the pan. Dispose of the solids. Add the mustard seeds to the wine infusion, cover and let stand at room temperature for two hours or until most of the moisture has been absorbed by the seeds.

Prepare the canner, jars and lids by boiling jars, lids and rings for 5 minutes.

In a blender or food processor (fitted with a metal blade) combine the marinated mustard seeds with remaining liquid and vinegar. Process until blended and most seeds are well chopped. (You want to retain a slightly grainy texture.)
Transfer mixture to a stainless steel sauce pan and add lemon juice and zest, honey, reserved finely chopped sage leaves and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and boil gently, stirring frequently until volume is reduced by a third, about 20 minutes.

Ladle hot mustard into prepared hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles by cutting through the mustard with a kitchen knife, wipe rims and place lid and rings on jars. Screw with fingers to tighten rings and place jars in canner filled with enough boiling water to cover jars by 1 inch. When all jars are filled and placed in the canner, cover canner with lid and when water comes to a rolling boil, set timer for 10 minutes. When time is up, turn off heat and remove lid from canner. Let jars sit in hot water for 5 minutes before gently removing and setting on a heat resistant board to cool. Do not let jars touch each other as they need air circulation to cool properly.

When jars are completely cool, test to be sure jars have sealed by taping them on the lid. A tinging sound means they have sealed and a thud means they have not. Any that have not sealed need to be immediately refrigerated. Label jars and serve with your favorite worst and hot-dogs.

October Gardening Tip of The Month
Monday, October 01, 2012
October can be just as hectic a month for gardening as September has been. Just because there is a little snap in the air, doesn't mean it's time to put the gardening tools away and sit by the fire with a good book. Oh no, not this month. It's clean up time for getting your garden ready for next year. Dying perennials such as daylillies and Ligularia need to be raked up and composted in order to not give slugs and other unwanted bugs a place to overwinter. Any plants that have died back should be removed which will make all your spring chores much easier for next year. Tree and shrub leaves will be falling this month and should be raked up and put on planting beds to discourage weed seeds from dropping into the soil and sprouting. And if you are a fruit and vegetable gardener, you will still be harvesting produce. Pick up fruit and if it is damaged, put it in the compost unless of course you happen to have coddling moths or worms in your fruit. The leaves and fruit from those trees, need to be destroyed so not to continue with the pest infestation. If you have too much fruit, as many of us do, than give it away to the local food bank or call in for gleaners. What ever you do, absolutely DO NOT LEAVE FALLEN FRUIT LAYING AROUND. Coyotes, raccoons and rats eat them too and you don't want to encourage them to come to your home in hopes of finding a free meal. Your fluffy kitty cat may end up as a coyote family's main dish.

If you planted winter squash, watch for the squash to pull away easily from the vines before harvesting and then put them in a cool place to harden off for a week or so before storing them away for the winter. Tomatoes should continue to ripen, but if we should get several days of rain, watch for any blacking of the stems. If you see any black spots on the stems or leaves, pick all the fruit and put aside, pull up the plant and burn or destroy it completely. The fungus from the late blight spreads quickly so do not touch any other tomato plant after pulling it up until you have thoroughly washed and sanitized your hands first. The fruit however can be brought in, rinsed off well, placed on newspaper and allowed to ripen in a darkened place. It is time to dig up garlic if you have not already done so, rinse off the dirt, cut off the stems and let sit in a dry place to harden off for storage for a week or so. Next month or even late in October, you can separate the bulbs into individual cloves and replant them for next year.

Lawns will probably need their last mowing of the year in mid or late October, but after that, instead of mowing, you can fill in that free time by planting spring blooming bulbs for 2013. Tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths can be planted this month and even up into January.

September Tip of the Month
Saturday, September 01, 2012
September Tip of the Month

The month of Sept brings the canning season into full swing with beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and corn all ready for harvest. The blackberry bushes are dripping with ripe and delicious berry's just aching to be made into jam.

However there are many yard maintenance chores to deal with at this time too. Even though you may be getting tired of deadheading your petunias and cutting off dried blooms from cosmos and other tender annuals, keep doing so. The plants will produce more new flowers quite a bit later into the season. A good shot of fish fertilizer now will also extend their beauty and give them quite a boost. While you are deadheading, just pull off the seeds from the dried blossom's of cosmos and pick up the seedpods from nasturtiums to dry and save to replant next year. Put them in shllow bowls and occasionally stir them up to be sure they all have a chance to dry throughly. Once they are dried, store them in marked envelopes for planting next spring.

I took a walk through my garden on Saturday and spent 9 hours pulling up weeds and trimming back shrubs and vines. And I have been trying to keep up with cutting dahlias which will encourage new blooms much longer too. Continue to water deeply but less frequently and water early in the morning. This is specially important for tomatoes as they need to dry out long before nightfall to help protect them from getting late blight. If your tomatoes don't seem to be ripening, cut back on the watering and that may trick the fruit into ripening so it can produce new offspring before the plants dry up and die.

It's time to start your winter garden if you have not done so before now. Plant lettuce, spinach and beets to keep your salads coming in and cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts for winter and early spring dinners. Any herbs except for basil have already bloomed so no longer focus on dehydrating them as they will most likely be bitter now. But if you have kept the basil clipped back, than keep harvesting it for pesto and to dry in the dehydrator.

Last month featured a recipe for homemade pesto and this month I would like to share another seasonal recipe from my Aunt Olga Tamelia Hoffstead Boldrini. I would like to give her credit for her now, family favorite pickle recipe. I know that today's modern canning books suggest sealing the jars in a hot water bath but we don't do it that way so you can decide which way works best for you.

Olga's Dill Pickles

3 qt. water
1 qt. white cider vinegar (I use just plain cider vinegar)
1 cup canning salt
100 cukes (makes approximately 11 qts.)
2 grape leaves per jar
4 bunches fresh dill with stems
1 hot chile tepin per jar or more if more heat is desired
2-4 cloves garlic per jar (more if desired)

Pack sterile jars with one grape leaf on the bottom, garlic, dill sprigs, Chile tepin and cukes packed tightly within 1/2 inch of top. Bring water, vinegar and salt to rolling boil and boil for ten minutes. Meanwhile, place filled jars in a shallow pan of boiling water and keep hot until ready to fill. Put new rings and bands in boiling water and keep hot until ready to use.

Pour boiling vinegar liquid over cukes and fill - leaving 1/4 inch head space and place second grape leaf on top. Wipe jar rims before putting on hot lids and rings. Screw rings on tightly and let cool. Test to be sure all jars have sealed before storing. Any unsealed jars must be refilled with new hot vinegar solution and resealed with new hot rings. Store for at least two months before opening.

Happy gardening and happy canning.

August Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
How do I prioritize the many chores for August gardening? Keeping up with pulling weeds, deadheading fading blooms, or keeping up on your watering schedule? I think I have gone over these subjects numerous times, so letís discuss what to do with the overflow of produce.

If you have fruit trees and berry vines, check almost daily for signs of ripening fruit and berries. Figs are almost ready and if you wait too long, the birds and raccoons will get them first. As soon as you feel them getting soft, itís time to harvest. Peaches should be ripening this month also so pick them before they fall off the trees, bruise and start to rot.

If you grow green beans and peas then you must know how quickly they mature and sometimes hide within the plants leaves so that by the time you discover they are there, the pods are too woody and large to eat. I found that even pickling them wasnít the answer to preserving them once they get woody.

Stay up on picking lettuce, spinach and all greens by occasionally thinning the rows and using the greens in a cacophony of interesting salads, both cooked and raw.
Some good ideas for not letting zucchini go to waste is to make pickles out of them or grate them and put in Ziploc bags in the freezer to use for zucchini bread in the winter. And they are delicious brushed with a little Italian dressing, before grilling on the BBQ. Just please do not go looking for unlocked cars in your neighborhood and hide them there for unsuspecting neighbors to find.

If you enjoy harvesting your own herbs and drying them, itís best to cut them early in the morning while their oils are most flavorful. Rinse off any dust and dirt and either hang them to dry upside down in a paper bag or place them in a dehydrator to dry. Just donít save them in a sunny place or they will turn brown and be tasteless. For best result, keep pinching off the tips of basil and other tender herbs because once they flower, they start to get bitter. Be diligent in your snipping on basil because who doesnít love the taste of fresh homemade pesto without a bitter taste! For those of you who have never made pesto, I am adding the recipe I make as it can then be frozen. Just either freeze in ice cube trays and store the cubes in plastic bags or just spread the pesto in cottage cheese containers and pop it in the freezer.

Homemade Pesto
1 qt. of packed freshly picked and stemmed basil leaves
6 cloves of finely chopped garlic or more to taste
A handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese or more to taste
ľ tsp. of salt
Pine nuts (optional)
Ĺ to 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil or more if needed to make a thick creamy sauce

Place the first 4 ingredients and pine nuts if desired, in a blender and add ľ cup of the olive oil. With the motor running, keep adding olive oil until it is still thick but all other ingredients are well emulsified. You may choose to add more oil than one cup to accomplish this. The main thing is to get the basil leaves completely blended with no chunks of leaves left. You may need to stop the motor and occasionally stir up the pesto to be sure it all blends well. It can be used immediately, frozen or by taking a small amount and adding with a touch of balsamic vinegar and more olive oil to spread on crusty bread.

Buon appetito!

July Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, July 01, 2012
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.

Contrarily though, to keep the plants from outgrowing their location and growing up in from of windows, go ahead and break off the candles while you are tidying them up. When we first moved up here, my Seattle cousin told me that if you didnít keep rhododendrons dried blossom removedÖthe shrubs would die but donít believe that for one moment. It would be the homeowner who would FEEL like dying as they would be mortified at how ugly their shrubs look!

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, weed.

June Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, June 01, 2012
June Tip of the Month
May brought showers and lots of weeds but it also ushered in the warmer weather. 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 means 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 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. Email me at: ldodds@windermere.com.

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.

May Tip of he Month
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Now is the time to really get serious about summer gardening. If you have been sitting inside trying to stay away from the pollen filled skys you need to bite the bullet and get growing.

The first step you must take is getting your soil ready to host all your summer plantings. Add compost and composted manure to your soil and work it in by turning over the soil with a spade which you hopefully took the time to sharpen during the winter. Rake out all the weeds and break up any clumps and level out the area. Then jump in your car and drive to the Annual Fox Island Jeff Feagin Plant Sale on May 5.

The Plant Sale was started over 30 years ago by long time resident Jeff Feagin and continues to this day... but for only two hours. The plants are all locally grown by Fox Island resident garden club members in conjunction with FICRA (Fox Island Community Recreation Club). The Plant Sale committee this year discussed the interest for home grown vegetable gardening so the plant sale will be featuring an abundance of vegetable starts for your own 'Victory Gardens'. Look for zucchini, butternut squash, sunflowers, beans, corn and lots of varieties of Heirloom tomato plants. Of course there will also be an abundance of perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees.

The sale will be held at the Nichols Community Center on 9th and Gway May 5 from noon until 2pm. Donations may be brought to the Community Center Friday from 3-5 pm or Saturday from 9-11 AM. Bring your Master Gardener questions to be answered too. Be on time as there will be a line up.

I was talking to a gal the other day and she mentioned that her yard is being overrun by moles. And since noticed a lot of mole mounds as I drive around, I decided perhaps I should give out Ciscoe Morris' recipe for making a Mole Slurry. The moles are supposed to hate mint and mint grows like a weed around here so it should be a no brain-er to try.

Mole Slurry
Two handfuls of fresh mint..both stems and leaves.
Place in a blender with several cups of water and blend into a slurry.
Simmer on the stove for 20 minutes and then set aside to cool.
Fill six, 1 gallon jugs with equal amounts of slurry and the add water to fill each jug. Pour down the freshly dug mole holes. Makes 6 gallons.

I would love to hear comments on how this works in eliminating moles in your yards.

April Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, April 01, 2012
Something happened to the month of March. Instead of frolicking out like a lamb, it roared out like a lion. And it seems like April doesnít need to worry too much about raining to make May flowers bloom either as itís really soggy out there.

The one sign that spring has really arrived are the blooming daffodils, camellias and grape and regular hyacinths. Several tulips just started blooming the other day and many others are due to start opening within the next few weeks. My apricot tree has a few blooms on it but I think itís really time to give the tree a decent burial. In the 20 years it has grown in my yard, it has only produced a good crop one time. I have finally come to the conclusion that with such an abundance of plants that grow in the Northwest, it doesnít make sense to keep struggling plants.

Sunsetís gardening book is a great resource to search for a replacement as it tells the temperature zone for plants that grow best in each area. Another idea is if you spy a plant that is thriving in your neighborhood, chances are it will thrive in your yard too. Just donít venture too far away from your home on your search as there is even a big difference between Puyallup, Seattle and Gig Harbor and even Fox Island. If you live on or near the water, you will be warmer than someone who lives inland as the water is a warming influence. Cold air travels downhill and will settle in pockets where the vegetation is more exposed. These pockets can be real killers so if you have moved into a new home recently, it may be a good idea to live there one years before taking any risks with specialty plants. Or an even better idea would be to hire a landscape designer to help you plan your gardens.

On days when the wind and rain arenít pelting your windows, go outside and pull annual weeds. Last year I was very diligent about pulling any flowering annuals and disposing of the blooms before they set seed. Iím really surprised how few weeds have emerged so far this year. But that doesnít mean I can take a break as there are some WEED SEEDS that can still produce after 50 years! That should scare some of you into going out with your rain slickers on and searching out weeds!

I am going to put in a plug for the Annual Fox Island Jeff Feagin Plant Sale to be held on May 5. I am mentioning it now as there is a lot of interest in growing fresh vegetables in home gardens this year. Therefore the two garden clubs and FICRA had decided to really focus on selling herb and vegetable plants at the sale this year. All plants are started locally by island residents and will be priced comparably to store purchased ones. Look for more on the sale next month.

March Garden Tip of the Month
Thursday, March 01, 2012
As the saying goes ĎMarch comes in like a lion and goes out lake a lambí is proving to be at least half true. We will have to wait a few weeks before knowing if it will end gently and balmy or not. But meanwhile we can take advantage of some of the warmer days in March to start on a lot of gardening projects.

The first one that comes to mind is pruning roses and finishing pruning fruit trees before they are so full of leaves that itís hard to see their basic structure. When pruning roses, be aware that if you cut a branch off at the place where a bud is pointing towards the middle of the plant, the new growth will be towards the inside of the bush, which will inhibit the air flow to your rose bush. Instead, cut at the junction where a bud is pointing outward from the rose bush. This will foster a bushier and airier looking plant that will have a better chance of fighting off any diseases or black spot due to poor air circulation.

If you have not been interested in composting before, it is time to catch up with the times. Good gardeners know that dumping compostable cuttings is a waste of money and energy as it is so easy to put in a compost pile or two. The best compost area I have is one that is a plastic 3ft by 3ft (although 4x4 is preferred) Lego type building boards that can be layered on to a preferred height or removed easily. It has a hinged cover so I donít have to worry about dogs, mice or raccoons invading it. When it comes time to mix it in together or scoop out the compost, I just remove the lid and one at a time; remove the plastic layered boards until I have used it all up. The ratio for adding cuttings and leaves to you compost pile is one part green waste to two parts brown waste. The brown can be dry leaves or even the shredded newspaper from your shredder. Do not put meat or bones in a compost pile as they attract pests and can make it give off a bad odor (stinky, stinky stuff) and your neighbors will despise you. I actually have two of those compost pile containers so I can add to one until it is full and then while it is melding, I switch to the other. That way, I have a ready supply of that ĎBlack Goldí most of the time.

February didnít really lend itself to planting seeds directly into soil but for sure March will provided plenty opportunities to plant peas, spinach and onions. Any other seeds will need to be started indoors and kept in bright light until it gets much warmer. I just moved 6 trays of tomato starts into my greenhouse from the warmth of my furnace room. The six trays equal about 2000 tomato starts in laymenís terms. Only the strongest, with the largest stems will be eventually repotted into 4 inch pots to be donated to the Fox Island Plant Sale in May and handed out to my clients, family and friends. So, that means that I will have about 1500 to either give away or be added to my compost pile.

The crocus is blooming along with primroses and narcissus. My daffodils are opening, up and I noticed the first blooms opening on my Rhody so Spring is really here!


February Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Holy Hawaiian Holiday! While I was off checking out the local flora in Hawaii and Tahiti just for this monthly tip, the rest of you had to deal with the occasionally unseasonably harsh winter snow storm. I came back to some broken limbs off my magnolia tree but will soon be out there cutting the broken branches back to a major limb. Broken branches should never be cut off in the middle of a limb as that is not pruning, but it is complete mutilation of the entire tree! In fact, I have written letters to the local newspaper about the mutilation practices of city pruners. If only they understood that what they were doing was not good practices of tree grooming, but a source for rot and pests to enter the trees and bushes and eventually kill or or weaken them.

Since the cold weather is probably not over, do protect any tender plants and trees in your yard. I found even moving potted plants against the house and under the eves gives them some protection as the warmth of the house, keeps them quite a bit warmer. Even my geraniums survived the cold that way. And if we should get another snow storm, knock the snow off evergreen bushes and trees with a broom as the snow can add a lot of weight and break the branches off in the middle of a limb as it did to my magnolia.

February should bring enough warmth so that if you plant peas and even sweet peas, they should germinate and start growing. It may also be warm enough to plant spinach this month but be sure your beds are not too soggy first. To test to see if the soil can be turned over, take a handful of dirt and give it a squeeze. If water oozes from your hand, do not plant yet but instead wait until the soil crumbles without oozing water. Both peas and spinach are cool weather plants and if planted correctly at the right time can start producing long before most other vegetable plants do.

Wait until the end of the month before pruning roses and once leaves start forming on hydrangeas, they can be cut back also.

The few plants that seem to thrive in cool weather are weeds and that means especially chick weed. Pull those varmints any and all times and you will be so happy come spring that you did so. In fact, pulling weeds now can save you hours and hours of work this summer as they will never have a chance to bloom and reseed throughout the year.

If you are interesting in seeing some photos of blooming plants on the Hawaiian and Tahitian Islands, check out my blog site at Foxisland gardener on posterous.com.

And do not forget the biggest gardening event of the year is the NW Flower and Show at the Seattle Convention Center later on this month. Watch for the dates in the paper and make a special trip to get your gardening year off with a lot of great ideas.

Spring is just around the corner, so get yourselves geared up for some heavy duty planning for additions
to your garden this year. Spring...Here we come!

January Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Happy 2012! I hope you have all survived the late December wind and rain and you did not find any severe damage done to your gardens. It looked like earlier in the month that it would be either one of the driest or the driest December in recorded weather records. But instead of drought or worse yet...snowy and icy roads, we had a fairly mild December until the last week.

So now it is a mystery what January will bring weather wise. It could become icy and we could be covered in 18 inches of snow and have broken water lines. If any of these conditions should occur, take extra precautions in caring for your plants and shrubs. First, turn off you outside water hookups and get them repaired quickly. A lot of water can be flowing out of broken lines which would not only do damage to your home and garden, but also be wasteful Snow piling up on brittle branches can cause the to break. Do walk through your yard and remove any broken or damaged limbs caused from snow of heavy winds.

Or it could be just soggy and wet and that would leave a lot of gardeners housebound. But for the few and hardy souls among us who don't worry about shrinking in the rain, take advantage of the softened soil and pull weeds out before the soil gets compacted and dry. The weeds just practically jump out when the soil is wet. Another good winter garden project is to sharpen and lubricate garden tools. They will appreciate a good sharpening so much that they will delight you with their ease of use in the spring.

On really rainy and windy days, curl up in front of a toasty fire with a good garden book and plan your summer garden for 2012. As you browse through pictures of gardens you really like, save the pages so you can incorporate some of those great ideas into your own garden. Let your mind soar with new ideas and don't be afraid to make a dramatic splash of color and interest in your yard. After returning from Italy several years ago, I decided that I needed some ruins in my yard so after finding a recipe for hypertuffa and with the help of cardboard tubes, I created my Italian ruins. Now I am planning a beach garden with tropical looking plants encasing a white sand area. I purchased a Hawaiian grass skirt at a garage sale and will incorporated Rhonda, our tikki goddess, into the plan and add some tikki torches. I just hope with all the sand that it doesn't become the neighborhood 'cat box'!

That may all sound crazy to you, but I'm a dreamer and it's a lot cheaper than buying a waterfront house on Waikiki!

December Tip of the Month
Thursday, December 01, 2011
With holiday preparations taking up so much valuable time, it's easy to put off tending to December garden chores. But there is still necessary work to be done in your gardens.

The gusty November winds did much more than just blow down the remaining leaves. It also may have damaged tender branches from trees and shrubs. As you walk through your garden looking for greenery to decorate your home, take a look at those bare branches. If you see broken branches, cut them back to a joint. The broken branches are much more than unsightly as they can become an opening for disease and insects to enter the plant. A few minutes of your time may save a lot of heartache and work next year.

And instead of purchasing a dried out, sitting on a tree lot since before Thanksgiving tree for your home, why not purchase a living tree this year. After the holidays you can either keep it in a container on the patio for another year or so or plant it in your yard to be enjoyed by our local birds and wildlife. That is conservation in it's most celebrated purity.

If you have chosen to put off the dreaded lawn maintenance project of fertilizing your lawn, you still have time early in the month to apply some. Ask your nurseryman for the correct fall and winter fertilizer to apply to your grass. And while I am on the subject of lawns, this would be a good month for the handyman in your home to winterize the lawn mower too. They do need maintenance just like any other motorized gadget.

Even those spring flowering bulbs that you purchased earlier and forgot to plant can still be planted this month as long as the ground isn't frozen too hard to dig a proper hole for them. Just think of them as spring blooming decorations you are putting out while you are putting up your outside decorative lights.

I'm not crazy about taking a lot of time to pull weeds either this month, but if you keep passing by a previously hidden dandelion or emerging chickweed plants, take a moment to pull them up and add them to the compost pile. After all, we all need a little exercise to work off those Thanksgiving calories.

Have a festive and joyous Christmas season!

November tip of the Month
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
For the sometimes blustery, but also occasionally balmy month of NovemberÖ.here are your doís and doníts. Do fertilize your lawn with a fall and winter fertilizer. The nitrogen will be dormant until spring and then kicks in with a vengeance and start your lawn growing before the spring weeds even wake up.

Do plant your bulbs now and that includes tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and the best of allÖ GARLIC. These bulbs need some cold weather before starting to grow in spring so plant them all now before December arrives. Do rake up and clean up all decaying perennials and your workload will be easier next spring. Do keep on knocking the heads off all annual weeds and keep the yard as weed free as time allows. Keep raking falling leaves and either compost them or use them to cover vegetable and annual beds to keep weeds from sprouting in the spring.

Tender perennials covered with a blanket of leaves will survive under much more harsh conditions than those completely exposed to the elements.
Now for the doníts. Donít prune back hardy fuchsias, hardy hibiscus, hydrangeas or roses until next late February or March.

Pruning now may cause new growth to start and the cold weather will just kill that all back and damage the plants. Do not try to kill weeds by spraying with Roundup. That product only works in 70 degree + weather and will not kill the weeds, but will just return to the soil as nitrogen and eventually make it back into the sound where it would feed plants that kill off the oxygen that the fish need to survive.

Do start planning your garden for next year. Cut out pictures of gardens that you would enjoy in your space and come up with plans to incorporate them into your yard or to have similar plantings that would give you the same feelings of comfort.

Ask yourself...do I want an easy to maintain NW rhody and azalea garden, a cottage garden or a tropical looking garden? Do I enjoy deadheading petunias and geraniums or do I want easy maintenance plants and then go from there.

Since November can also be blustery, check occasionally to be sure no limbs have been snapped in strong winds. If there are some, cut them back to a joint so the shrub or tree does not suffer further damage and rot.

October Gardening Tip of The Month
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Fall has certainly made its entrance with rainy and windy weather but there should be balmy and sunny days left before the real nasty weather really settles in. This means there will be plenty of time to get your garden beds ready for winter. Continue to pull weeds and as your beds are cleaned up, start adding a layer of compost and fallen leaves to protect them from windblown weed seeds and to help the soil from washing away from torrents of rain. Continue to harvest produce by digging up potatoes, onions and garlic on sunny days. Rinse them well to rid them of pests and attached dirt and let them dry well in a protected warm place. I let my onions and potatoes cure a little in a dry location before storing them for the year. Winter squash should also be hardened off some before storing them in a cool but dry location. Once garlic is dry, separate the cloves and replant them for next yearís crop. Collect nasturtiums, cosmos and sweet pea seeds and let them dry well before marking and saving them to plant next spring. Keep picking tomatoes as they ripen but if a real cold snap is predicted, pick even the ones with just a little color, wash and sort and lay out on newspaper in a dark cool place to ripen. Green tomatoes can be canned into all different kinds of pickles and chutneys.

But what to do with all the cucumbers that have flourished so beautiful this year? A family can eat only so many dill pickles and bread and butter pickles but your plants just keep producing so here is what I did. I made a delicious South Asian Pickle that really isn't a sandwich type of pickle. Rather, it is an accompaniments type relish that would be delicious with rice, pork or almost any plain food. I enjoy it so much I have made 3 batches of them and each batch makes about 7 pints depending on the size of your cucumbers. The rest of my cucumbers went to good homes where someone else made pickles out of them.

See next garden tip below for the recipie.

South Asian Achar Pickles
Friday, September 30, 2011
South Asian Achar Pickles

1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts,4 Tbls sesame seeds,2 onions, 15 small dried red chilies, 1 peeled fresh ginger root (1 1/2 inch long) 4 garlic cloves, 2 1/2 cups of white vinegar, 1 cup sugar, 2 Tbls Kosher salt, 1 Tlbs turmeric, 2 medium pealed carrots, 5 cups of cauliflower florets and here is the tricky part: The recipe calls for 3 English cucumbers but since I use my homegrown ones, I just try to figure out how many cukes that would be (probably 6 or 7) depending on the size.

Prepare a hot water bath caner with enough water to cover jars by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Get lids and sterilized jars ready and have a paper towel, jar lifter and hot pads ready.

Place peanuts in a blender and pulverize. Put sesame seeds and peanuts in a small ungreased frying pan and toast on medium heat, stirring until nicely toasted. Set aside in a small bowl. Grind the onions, garlic, ginger and chilies until they become a paste. It helps to add a little of the vinegar in the blender while doing this. Cut the carrots and cukes into matchsticks about 1 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide and place them in a large bowl along with the cauliflower. In a heavy large pot put the remaining vinegar, sugar, salt and turmeric and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir frequently and reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved and add the peanut mixture and vegetables, stir well and bring to a full boil for 5-7 minutes or until hot. Fill jars leaving 1/2 inch head space, wipe the rims of the jars and screw on the lids. Place in caner when all jars are filled, cover caner and bring to boil for 15 minutes. Remove lid from pot and turn off heat. Let jars remain in caner for 5 minutes then carefully using a jar remover, place jars on a heat proof surface. Make sure jars do not touch nor are they in a draft. When jars are cool, test the seal by gently tapping on the lids to see if there is any play and the jars are sealed tightly. Any unsealed jar can be kept in the refrigerator.

Enjoy the fruits of your harvest!!!

September Garden Tip of the Month
Thursday, September 01, 2011
The last two full weeks of August made it feel like summer was finally here. I picked my first ripe tomato on August 14 which is over a month late from a normal year. The tomatoes are ripening slowly but surely and hopefully I will end up with enough different varieties of heirloom seeds to save for next yearís crop.

Iím going to tell you how I finally got my tomatoes to ripen, but I must first tell you that Ciscoe Morris does not agree on this process. I was listening to him just this last Saturday explain his reasons for not doing this. I removed all the non-producing branches from my plants and also removed the blossoms that were just opening up. I noticed when visiting my family in the Italian Alps that is how they grew their plants but they also had shade screen covering them. And even though they live in even a little cooler climate than we have here, they had RIPE TOMATOES in late July. My 98 year old cousin and 10 million other Italian backyard gardeners canít all be wrong.

So you can choose to believe my cousin Luigi or Garden Guru Cisco Morris who says that the fruit needs the leaves to shade them from getting sun burnt. And why not put 4 stakes around your plants and cover them with a sun screen. I may be risking it but I choose to believe Luigi as he also recommends great wine.

I donít know about other gardeners, but I have had a fantastic crop of French green beans, potatoes, Swiss chard, beets, basil and cucumbers. I picked 50 cukes from about 10 plants the other evening and then spent the rest of the night making pickles.
To keep annual baskets looking their best, trim the ends to stimulate new growth and then give them a good drink of liquid fish fertilizer or compost tea.

Be sure to water the plants well before fertilizing them so that the nutrients will be absorbed throughout the whole pot and not just run along the side of the pot. Water lawns and shrubs less often, but when you do water, water deeply. This will encourage roots to stretch themselves as far as possible into the soil. If you have a lot of run off when you water, stop watering for a bit and give the soil a chance to absorb water and then continue to water until an empty tuna can has 1 inch of water in it. One inch is enough to keep your lawn looking great for a whole week as long as it is not just running off and being wasted.

Happy gardening, happy harvesting and happy September canning.

July Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, July 01, 2011
A-ha, summer is finally here and you now have all the weeds pulled, bedding plants in and your veggie garden is growing. So does that mean you just sit in the shade and sip your iced drink? Not if you are a real gardener. The months of preparing your yard to look great is just the beginning. Instead it should be ĎLadies and gentlemen, start your enginesí! Flowering bedding plants need weekly maintenance by dead heading to help them look their best. And now is a good time to give them a good shot of liquid fertilizer. Be sure to read the label on all fertilizers and use only the recommended amounts. Faded rhododendron blossoms need to be broken off being careful to not break off growth candles while you are doing that job. That is unless your shrub has grown to the size of a small tree and needs to not grow larger.

Keep leaves raked from beneath shrubs so not to give those nasty slugs anymore places to hide than they already have.

The harsh winter seemed to take the life out of a lot of hardy plants. A clematis that I have had for 25 years looked like it bit the weenie so I assaulted it with a pair of sharpened cutters. However instead of just cutting it down to the ground, I started from the top and kept cutting away until I found green wood. I plan on just watching signs for new life until the end of the month before I give up on it and take it out of the landscape.

There are also other chores or ĎLove Projectsí is how I like to think of them. Harvesting herbs needs to be done before they flower and doing it first thing in the morning while they are at their most fragrant and tasty. Cut herbs with a sharp pair of scissors and give them a good rinse in the sink to remove as much grit and grime as possible. I usually remove any large stems before dehydrating them as the stems take up a lot of room. Or if you donít have access to a dehydrator, you can tie a bunch of the herbs by their long stems and hang them upside down in a darker area of the garage or your home. The herbs should not be hung in full sun or they will just turn brown and lose their flavor instead of remaining green.

When they are dry, you can store them in a cool, dark area in either zip lock bags or jars. There are some herbs that donít taste that great when they are dried. Basil and cilantro come to mind and are better used fresh or frozen. The popular spread Ďpestoí can easily be made by blending basil leaves, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and pine nut, if desired. Keep adding olive oil until the spread is smooth, place in a jar or plastic container and pour a little more olive oil over the top to inhibit air penetration which turns the pesto brown. The spread can be kept in the freezer for a long time and will remain a bright green if you always keep the exposed area with a little olive oil coating over it.

June Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
On your mark... get set... GO!
Yes, it is time to put the rest of your garden veggies into the ground. And hopefully nighttime temperatures the first week or so of June will not get down into the low 40's.

To prepare your beds, dig in compost and manure and rake out any weeds, dispose of any rocks and rake the beds smooth. All vegetable and herb seeds can go directly into the beds as well as vegetable starts. If you are planting starts, be sure they have been hardened off first so they won't go into shock and get set back.

To harden plants off, put them in the sun for a few hours a day, gradually increasing their exposure to the bright sun and elements so that they will be well adjusted by the time they are placed in their final destinations. Water in well and keep plants and seeds moist. Tomato cages can be covered in plastic to help hold in heat. The one thing we never need to worry about in the Pacific Northwest, is having it get too hot for the tomato plants! Zucchini, basil, beans and corn are all heat loving plants and should be planted now. With beans though, I suggest not putting in all your seeds at once, but plant more every few weeks so that you can be enjoying the fresh crisp beans for an extended time.

Because I don't use any pesticides or chemical fertilizers on my lawn, I can spread the grass clippings around the the plants to add organic matter to the soil, help keep weeds down and preserve moisture.

All ornamental pots and hanging baskets can be put outside now just being sure to keep them baited with slug bait. Always be sure your slug bait will not harm pets or birds so use a product such as Sluggo.

This is also a good time to have your sprinkler system checked to be sure the sprinkler heads will all cover the area you want watered but not the driveway or the street. The especially cold weather may have cracked and damaged drip irrigation systems so check those out as well before turning them on.

I may sound like a broken record but when all else is done, pull weeds with a vengeance and don't let any of them go to seed. One weed plant can produce hundreds of seeds and instead of enjoying the fruits of your labor, you will be pulling weeds all summer.

May 2011 Tip of The Month
Sunday, May 01, 2011
The first of the really big planting seasons is the month of May and if you are like many of us, you are just chomping at the bit to get out and start planting annuals in your garden. But hold off on a lot of warm season annuals until at least after Mother's Day and then even later for really heat loving plants. You can purchase them now, but keep them in a warm sunny shelter until the nighttime temps get to at least 50 degrees. And hopefully that will happen this year. It's now a record for the coldest and wettest April in many, many years.

This is still a great month to plant lettuce seeds, beets, Swiss chard and onions. When sowing lettuce seeds, don't just plant the whole seed packet though or you will be composting and giving away way too many lettuce cuttings. Instead, sow a few more seeds every week and that way you will continue to enjoy fresh cut and inexpensive lettuce all year long.

Real heat lovers such as tomato plants, beans, cucumbers, zucchini and corn should not be planted until either very late in the Month or even better yet, until the first of June. All seeds and starts should be planted in composted soil to provide them the perfect balance of nutrients.

When purchasing any annual plants for hanging baskets, veggie gardens or to add a little color to garden beds, it's best to harden them off first. Not all places that sell plants take this extra step to assure you of the finest quality of the plant you are purchasing. Hardening off is done pretty like exposing yourself to the sunshine the first hot day of summer. Go out in shorts and tank top the first time for all day and you may get a vicious sunburn. Well plants also need to be gradually exposed to not only the hot sun, but also to the lack of nighttime shelter. So move them gradually for longer periods of each day into the full sun while they are still in their pots while moving them back to shelter for the nighttime. When the actual day of planting happens, they will survive and thrive quite well.

If you are shopping for some healthy and relatively inexpensive annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, come to the Fox island Plant Sale at the Nichols Community Center on 9th and Gway on May 7 from 12-2pm. This annual plant sale has people lining up way ahead of time, just waiting for the clock to strike 12 noon and be given the go ahead to start buying. There will be many vegetable starts, rhody's, and some rather unusual plants there too. Plus there will be a Master and some rather unusual plants there too. Plus there will be a Master Gardener Clinic so look for me and I'll try to help you with questions. Please no math questions though....please!

April Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, April 01, 2011
Daffodils, hyacinths and crocus will finish up blooming this month and then other bulbs like tulips should begin gracing our yards with their wild array of colors. When the blossoms are spent, the stems and leaves are left behind and many gardeners don't like to have them messing up their yards. However, if the stems and leaves are cut off and disposed of, then the food storage capabilities for the next years flowers are diminished also. A better idea for would be to gently roll the stems from top to bottom into a ball and secure them with a rubber band to keep them tidy looking. That way, the nutrients will still be able to help the bulb grow through the year without having a messy looking yard. And if you plant more bulbs next fall, do so among perennials that will hide the stems and you will solve that problem completely. Once dry though, the stems can be relieved of their duties and added to the compost pile as the process of photosynthesis will be over and the stems are no longer necessary.

If your ground has been a little too wet to prepare for your spring garden, the soil should be dry enough this month to be worked and planted. The test would be to take a handful of soil and give it a squeeze. If it drips water, it is not ready but if it flakes apart, then it is. If your soil tends to be very wet, it would be a benefit to build raised beds and also to supplement your soil with good quality compost. This would be a good time to test the composition of your soil. A tip from my Birds and Blooms magazine says to take a handful of garden soil and twice that amount of water and put in a jar. Sprinkle in a dash of salt, put the lid on and give it a shake. In a few days, the sand will settle on the bottom, followed by silt and then clay. If your soil shows a lot of either sand or clay, it really would benefit to have some organic matter added to it.

Peas, potatoes, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard can be planted still. However, it is much too early to plant beans, corn, peppers or tomatoes. Even if you start seeing those vegetable starts, and seeds, in nursery's....don't put them in until the middle of May or better yet, until June. Otherwise, it's just a waste of money.

One garden job that never seems to end is eradicating weeds...Spring, summer, fall and winter....you can always find a job to do when it comes to pulling weeds. Stay ahead of them, as once weed seeds are set and dispersed, one can count of thousands more sprouting throughout the year.

Even with the cold March weather, my tomato plants have miraculously thrived in my unheated greenhouse since being transported there after they sprouted. Now it's time to start re potting the plants into 4 inch pots. I have to wait until the plants have their second set of leaves, which are called true leaves. The first ones don't really give the plant much nutrition, but once they have 4 leaves, they can be gently re potted almost all the way up to the leaves. This gives them strong stems and that is what is needed for a healthy plant. To re pot the starts, gently remove them in clumps and then break them into single plants. By holding on to the leaves, they can be placed into the larger pot, covered with good quality potting soil with just their leaves showing and given a gently but though shower. I find that placing them in garden flats makes moving them around easier and also just one marker for each variety of tomato is all that is needed for each flat. However, your evenings can later be spent writing out the varieties on marker sticks. Craft sticks (Popsicle sticks) are good for this.

Roses should have been pruned, hydrangeas deadheaded and cut back, lawns mowed, aerated, limed and fertilized, ponds cleaned, spring veggies and annuals planted, trees pruned......oh my gosh...It's going to be a busy year!

March Tip of the Month
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Oh my gosh! My tomato plants are probably shivering in the greenhouse. Sometimes we gardeners get too antsy to start gardening and try to jump the gun on spring planting. Perhaps it is the knowledge that the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is on in Seattle or maybe it's because I don't want to be offering wimpy tomato plants in May at the Fox Island Plant Sale, Whatever the reason, I have close to 1000 newly sprouted tomato plants huddled in my greenhouse. I usually don't have any heat going in the greenhouse, but as I look out at the snow today, I'm glad that I did turn it on last night! I just haven't had the heart to go out and see how my babies are doing. If I lose them it not only is a loss of all the work I have done extracting and cleaning the seeds and storing them but also the loss of all my heirloom seeds. I would have to start all over again saving and expanding my seed stash. I have learned a valuable lesson about saving out a few of each of the varieties of seeds in case of just such an emergency.

The unseasonably cold and snowy weather will not hurt all the emerging bulbs and hopefully won't upset the almost in bloom Sasanqua camilla bushes but it can damage newly sprouted seeds. If you spent some sunny February afternoons, planting spinach and pea seeds, you may have to start over Once it warm enough to go back in the garden to investigate, take a walk through with a pair of freshly sharpened cutters and look for damaged branches. Cut off any broken limbs, being sure to cut at a junction and NOT in the middle of a branch. A lot of evergreen trees, those with especially tough large leaves may have broken branches from the weight of the snow. Magnolias are a good example of easily damaged plants.

With all the tender landscape plants in our yards, It never fails to amaze me on how hardly weeds are. The chickweed still is blooming and shows no sign of damage (darn) so as soon as it warms up a little, I'll finish pulling up those that I missed a few weeks ago. I consider California poppies as weeds as they are so invasive and of course they have not been bothered by the cold either.

March is the time to prune grapes and while you are at it, take cuttings from your pruning. I started my whole vineyard by taking cuttings from a friend's Riesling and Chardonnay grapes.

It really is time to start thinking about lawn care again now that the growing season is coming upon us. March is a good time to apply some good quality lawn fertilizer and also moss killer. If your lawn is really covered with moss, you can get rid of all the moss and reseed or if it is an ongoing problem, turn your lawn into a moss lawn. Lawns need lots of sun, so if yours is shaded by our lovey fir trees, why not just let the moss take over and plant ferns an hostas long with it. Or if it's a really wet area, turn it into a bog garden. Gardening it a lot more fun if you work with nature and not fight it too hard.

February Tip of the Month
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
February is the month that I start my tomato seeds... all 500-1000 of the seeds that I saved from last year. I do it so early as I don't use grow lights once they are started since I prefer to have the plants develop strong stems instead of a lot of height. And I have found, that they produce just as early as those started with lighting and usually produce much better. About mid month, I'll fill trays with seed starting soil, give it a good moistening of water and then scatter seeds evenly over the tray. You can section off areas of the tray and mark which variety of seed you are sowing in it and then barely cover with a layer of soil. Again, moisten the soil, cover the tray with a plastic cover and then place in a dark but warm location. I always move my trays to the room under the stairway where the furnace is located. The seeds do not need light but they love the warmth. Watch carefully every few days, and as soon as sprouts start showing, remove the trays to a lighted area and keep moist until the tops of the seedlings reach the covering of the trays.

Move the trays to a lighted area and remove the plastic coverings. An unheated greenhouse works well. Then periodically tickle the tops of the plants. Or place a fan near by so the plants are continuously moving and are forced to strengthen their stems system. It's the movement that accomplishes this task. Once the starts have 4 leaves, usually called true leaves, carefully separate the plants and holding them by the top of the plant, re-pot them to 4 inch pots almost to the the first leaves. This sets the stage for a good root stock and healthy stems. They will remain in a sheltered location until the end of May, and then go out in the garden beds. Of course they need to be hardened off first, but I'll explain how to do that later on when the time comes.

Peas can go into your beds near the end of the month as well as spinach. The best way to start peas, is to place the seeds on a moistened paper towel and roll up. In a few days the seeds will begin to sprout and then can be relocated to their final growing space where you can easily grow them on a trellis or ladder. Since spinach prefers the cooler growing season, this is the perfect time to start an early spring crop. Just prepare your beds with the compost you have been adding to all winter long and sow those seeds.

In case you haven't noticed, the weeds really know that it's time to reproduce and are already vigorously growing. On a fairly balmy day, why not go our and knock down some of those newly emerging annual weeds. You will feel better just knowing that for every weed you destroy now, you are saving yourself hours of weeding later on this summer.

If you get antsy for some spring blooming color in your home, just take some cuttings from your forsythia or witch hazel and place them in some warm water and witch them open up into fragrant blooms. Then you will really believe that winter is coming to an end and the 2011 growing season is really here.

Okay, I'm happy to announce that I am not losing my mind after all. The 'not to be missed' NW Flower and Garden show runs Feb 23-27 at the Seattle Convention Center. Plan on spending all day there just to tour the demonstration gardens, pick up gardening ideas and shop for plants and garden supplies. Just walking into the event and being overwhelmed by the fragrances of blooming plants gives you hope that this could be the best gardening year ever!

January Tip of the Month
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Happy 2011 and Happy New Gardening Year! I am anticipating a better tomato growing summer than 2010. I actually can't imagine it being any worse so it will have to be better. I have saved the seeds of 10 heirloom varieties of tomatoes and look forward to sowing them next month. I do it so early as I don't use grow lights in my greenhouse to force their growth. I believe the plants are stronger if they develop slowly and have a shorter, strong stem that is not leggy or in need of any support expect for the cages placed around them to support the heavy fruit.

This month will be spent looking through seed catalogs and gardening books for planting ideas. It's always exciting to see what the new 'must have plant' for the year will be too. Sunset Garden book is a must for every gardeners library along with the old Farmer's Almanac for planting days and weather predictions. It also has a lot of trivia information in case you are ever picked as a contestant Jeopardy. And of course one must not forget Territorial Seed catalog as it always features new varieties of garden vegetable plants that are bigger and tastier than last years favorites. Watch your mail box for seed catalogues and you should have lots of reading material. Just curl up on a stormy evening, hopefully with the power on, a cup of tea in one hand and a good garden planner in the other. Dreams grow into reality and so will your garden grow. The local library also has a ton of garden books with not only garden ideas but also plans on how to construct them. If you have ever dreamed of sitting under a grape arbor or pergola or creating a garden wall, you can find a how to build book on that. Or if you would love to have a cutting garden that has something blooming almost all year long, there are books on that. And sometimes just browsing through a garden magazine will inspire you to create something new.

Not every day in January will be cold and rainy so there will be days that you can actually get outside and using a scuffle hoe, knock the tops off the annual weeds. Or perhaps walk through your garden with a pair of sheers in hand and cut off any branches that may have been broken or damaged by the wind. Dead or decaying plants along with any stray leaves may be cleaned up, cut in small pieces and added to the compost pile. After all, it won't be long until that compost will be put back into the soil to enrich your beds.

So when you have finished all those chores, then I'm sure you must have some tools laying around that could be sanded, sharpened and oiled. And when that is done, just sink back in your comfortable chair and dream of warm sunny days.

November Tip of the Month
Monday, November 01, 2010
Oh the lovely colors of he falling leaves... and more leaves and more leaves. Don't despair, because most trees and deciduous shrubs will lose all their leaves this month and then that will be the end of it. I usually can count on the last weekend before Thanksgiving to rid the trees of the last of their falling leaves. But since this has been such an unusual year for weather, I can't promise anything! As you rake leaves, use them to mulch tender plants and to cover garden beds. They not only will protect the plants against winter cold, but also help to keep weeds from sprouting. That may not seem like such a big deal now, but come spring, you will be thanking yourself for adding them to your garden. Have more leaves than you need? Just add them to the compost pile to help maintain compost structure.

November can be blustery and chilly which makes people want to stay inside. But it will also have some somewhat balmy days that are just perfect for planting bulbs. All tulip, daffodil and crocus bulbs should be dug in and planted this month. They usually need a little cold to bloom well and certainly won't be injured by the coming cold weather. The main thing to remember when planting bulbs is to place the pointy end up. They usually should be planted twice as deep as they are high but even if you don't stick to that rule, they will work themselves down to the right depth. It's just easier for squirrels to find them if they are planted too shallow.

The last time to feed your lawn comes right after Thanksgiving. Put down a good fall and winter fertilizer the day after the big feast and you just may work off that second helping of mashed potatoes while doing a good thing for your lawns health. It's actually the most important of all lawn fertilizing times as it helps to build strong and deep roots for year long growth.

When the weather really gets to ugly to work outside, you can always sharpen garden tools and oil the metal and wooden tool handle's. If the metal parts have rust on them, sand it first and oil the blades. You will be starting spring chores with sharp well maintained tools.

You just might say, that November is a month to be preparing for next spring.

October Gardening Tip of The Month
Friday, October 01, 2010
When I was explaining how to sow tomato seeds in my column last spring, I told you that I would explain how to save seeds later on in the year. And the time is now as tomatoes are finally, or should be by now, ripening. In fact, if your tomatoes have any color to them at all, I suggest picking them now and letting them ripen in a dark place. The rain is just causing them to split and if they are touching the ground, slugs are probably nibbling on them.

Don't bother saving your favorite tomato seeds unless they are heirloom plants. That means that the seed will produce the exact same tomato as it came from. If you purchased the seed packets, it should tell you on the envelope whether the seeds are hybrid or heirloom. Here is the simple process for saving heirloom seeds. Cut ripe tomatoes in half horizontally and squeeze the seeds and whatever pulp comes out with it into a jar and fill with fresh water. Be sure to write on the jar which variety of seeds you are saving unless you are only doing one kind and have a wonderful memory. Occasionally give the jar a shake or stir it to help loosen the seeds from the pulp. The pulp will rise to the top and will start to get mold growing on it. Pour off the moldy pulp and continue to add cool water until the pulp is all gone and the water is clear. This can take several weeks. The good seeds will drop to the bottom of the jar and the bad ones will float to the top and can be poured off with the pulp. When all traces of pulp are gone, place the seeds on a piece of waxed paper to dry. This again may take some time as you want to be sure the seeds have all moisture taken from them and they are completely dry. I also occasionally turn and separate the seeds to keep them from sticking together. Once they are dry, put them in an envelope and mark what kind of tomato it came from as all tomato seeds look the same once dried and you wouldn't be able to identify the variety of tomato.

October is also a great month to plant spring blooming bulbs. It is better to pick out individual bulbs rather than purchasing a big sack of them as many times there are soft and decaying bulbs hiding in the middle. And when choosing bulbs, pick the largest and firmest ones you possibly can as they will produce the strongest and largest blooms. Not only spring blooming bulbs go in but also garlic. My friend Karen Kiehlmiere and I went to the Garlic Festival in Centralia a few weeks ago and we were amazed at how many varieties there are of garlic. I only knew of elephant, soft and hard neck and found instead that there must be 70 varieties. We were told that the red garlic is much stronger than the white and is better for baking while the white varieties are better to eat raw. With all the different kinds to choose from, we both came back with tons of garlic to plant and taste. It really was interesting, inexpensive and a fun way to spend the day!

Slugs are running amok now so put out slug bait that specifically will not harm children, pets or birds. Or if you are terribly bored, you can always hand pick them and drown them in a bucket of water.

Usually the first week of October is quite mild and balmy and weed seeds will be sprouting. Don't let them go to seed or you will be spending most of your spring days pulling them all out. Annual chickweed and other annual weeds just need to be scuffed by a hula hoe or scuffle hoe to destroy them before they set seeds for next spring.

Don't throw away your corn stalks as they make great autumn and Halloween decorations for your front door porch. And if you don't want them, just leave them out front with a note to have passerbys help themselves.

September Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Wow! Where did our summer go? I guess I blinked a few too many times and missed most of it this year. Let's hope that September turns into Indian Summer so we can all enjoy our blooming annuals and be able to pick some ripened produce before the cold weather sets in. I picked my FIRST ripe tomato on August 28. That's almost 6 weeks later than usual and I have 46 tomato plants just loaded with..green tomatoes.

I spent the weekend concocting my September column in my mind and decided to share what comes to me first about gardening. Harvesting is what September is mainly about so want to share a way to use up some of your bounty.

Since I planted both tiny tender bush French beans for eating and longer and larger pole beans mostly for providing nitrogen to my corn, I have a recipe to share with you for the pole beans.
My dilly beans are always canned in quart jars as they get much to long for nice size for giving away 1/2 pt jars. Even then I have to sometimes snip them to fit comfortably in the jar.

Dilly Beans

16 washed fresh grape leaves
1/2 tsp per qt crushed red pepper
1 tsp per qt mustard seed
1 head fresh dill per qt
2-3 cloves garlic per qt

Brine ingredients:
10 cups cider vinegar
10 cups water
1 cup canning salt.

Wash beans thoroughly; drain and cut into lengths to fit jars.
Place one grape leaf at bottom of clean hot jar; add beans, pepper, mustard seed, dill and garlic. Pack in as tight as possible.
Combine vinegar, water and salt and heat to boiling. Pour boiling liquid over beans, filling jar to 1/2" from top of jar. Top with second grape leaf and fit with hot jar lid and ring.

Process in boiling water for 5 minutes (start counting as soon as water in canner returns to boiling).
Remove jars and cool several inches apart for good air circulation. Check seals when cool to be sure they have sealed properly.
Yield: 8 qts.

Another canning tip to share with you: We recently stayed at our friend's house in Cle Elum for the annual Salsa Canning weekend. The original group has been doing this for over 20 years and we are the newcomers as we have been invited to help only the last 9 years. The guys go over to Yakima and get the produce and canning starts in earnest Saturday morning. Since the produce picker-up-ers came back with a lot of beefsteak tomatoes, there was a lot of juice flowing from the peeled and cut up ones that were placed in a large colander to drain. The tomato detail poured all the liquid into an ice chest for me to bring home. I had almost 4 gallons of juice which I put it my large stock pot and started cooking it down. I added a little lemon juice, a couple of bay leaves, Kosher salt and pepper and let it simmer for about 18 hours. I ended up with the most delicious approximately 2-3 qts of tomato paste imaginable which I then proceded to can also.

So I guess, September is harvesting, canning, pulling weeds, searching daily for hidden zucchini and cutting back and dead heading annuals. A fall fertilizer on lawns is important now as well as is watching for bulbs to plant in the fall. September is here so get busy!

August Tip of the Month
Sunday, August 01, 2010
August Tip of the Month

Ouch! Help! Stop! Ow, ow, ow! Don't worry. I'm just kidding. Your blooming annuals will not scream in pain if you give them a little haircut right now. In fact, it will hurt you more to cut off the blooming tips than it will the plants. They will love it and continue to bloom much longer with a little pinching and shearing. The cutting will stimulate more bushy growth and blooms so don't be afraid of losing all the flowers. Further on down the stems you should be deadheading the dried flowers and just generally cleaning up the plant.

Watering is essential in the dry August month so give your non potted plants a long slow 1 inch drink of water every week. Potted plants are a different story though and some may need a drink of water twice a day to keep them at their best. Consider giving your blooming plants a good shot of liquid fertilizer as the plants will use it up quickly in the heat of the day.

I know this may go against everything you have ever learned about pruning, but summer is really a better time to prune fruit trees. Since the tree is actively growing, by pruning now instead of winter, you actually have less risk of getting a lot of suckers growing straight up in the tree. Go ahead and thin out rubbing branches and any dead or diseased wood to keep your trees looking their best. Please, however, DO NOT make cuts in the middle of a branch. I am disgusted at how many trees in Gig Harbor parking lots have been mutilated by terrible pruning practices. When a branch or trunk is cut off in the middle instead of at a joint, it opens the tree up to disease and pests and this can eventually kill the tree. Plus a mutilated tree is not a pretty thing to look at in it's contorted state!

All my research in deer control has hit a snag. My friend Abby tells me that she has a buck, doe and three fawns living in her neighborhood on Queets. The buck and fawns don't even come close to her yard or bother to eat any thing at all. The doe however, is a different story and nibbles down her roses. I wonder if it's because she was already in the habit of dining there or if she just doesn't have any taste buds. Any comment on this?

June Garden Tip of the Month
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
I could be filthy rich.....if only I had a dollar for each person who asked me why their vegetable gardens were doing so poorly so far this year. After asking a few questions, I came up with the same answer to each inquiry. They put the wrong vegetables in too early! Just because the stores sell large pots of tomatoes and tender basil in early May, it does not mean that they can go into your garden as soon as you get the plant home.

Since we live in the Northwest instead of California or Arizona where it is much warmer, there are certain plants that do not do well in cooler wetter weather. Tomatoes, zucchini. basil, corn and cucumbers relish the warm balmy days and nights that usually show up in June. And many plants that you purchased may not have been hardened off properly. Hardening off plants is done by gradually exposing them to the outdoors by keeping them inside at night and gradually exposing them to longer times in the sunshine or the outdoor elements during the day. They gradually get acclimated to the harsher weather then they had been used to in their greenhouse nursery. Think of them as little babies, who are exposed to the sun for the first time. A little sunshine each day and then slowly increased each day keeps them from getting burned.

I started about 1000 tomato plants but only kept about 250 in my greenhouse to share with friends, family and clients. There is no way, that I was going to drag all those plants out every day and put them in the greenhouse every evening so my plants are not hardened off. Those who receive my free plants need to spend several day hardening them off before making their permanent home the vegetable garden. When you buy any tomato plant, look to be sure that it has a good stem. If it has to be staked, it probably needs to be planted quite deep so you might as well buy as smaller one that has a sturdy stem. Think of it as purchasing one with a strong backbone!

What do you do with all your vegetable scraps? If you put them in the trash or down the garbage disposal, you are losing out on some free compost and fertilizer for your garden beds. A compost pile is an amazing thing to behold. You can fill it up with vegetable and fruit leftovers, dried leaves, non seed bearing weeds and even newspaper shreds from your shredder, keep it damp and toss the pile occasionally. You will be amazed how many worms...and read this as free worm do-do fertilizer...will accumulate in that pile. Side dress your vegetable plants with that great humus added soil amending free fertilizer and you will be delighted at how rich and full of organic compounds your soil becomes while also cutting down your garbage bill. You can't lose so be a winner and get started on building your own backyard compost pile today. A pile can be enclosed by wire or a wooden frame and should measure 4 ft by 4 ft. Or it can be just a loose pile without an enclosure. The ratio of dried leaves or paper to green vegetable scraps and plants should be 1-1. Just be sure to turn it over occasionally and keep it moist.

April Garden Tip of the Month
Thursday, April 01, 2010
I'm late, I'm late for a very important April Tip of the Month!

My apologies, but between potting plants for the Fox Island Plant Sale, getting my own garden in shape after being in a walking cast for 6 weeks, doing my real estate work and caring for a husband who has just had hip surgery, I will have to combine April and May's Tip, and send it on the second half of the month of April. And since the most important tip of the year is to remind you of is the annual Fox Island Plant Sale, well...the timing works out great.

This years' plant sale will be a very special event that should not be missed as it is not only a great opportunity to purchase shrubs, trees, perennials, bulbs, herbs and a good variety of vegetable plants, but also the opportunity to be a part of a special ceremony honoring plant sale founder Jeff Feagin. For those of you who may not be aware, Jeff Feagin, who passed away last month, started the plant sale in 1975. I don't have the first years' proceeds but the second year brought in a whopping $42 each for FICRA and the two island Garden Clubs.

A dedication ceremony will be held at 11:50 am on the steps of the Community Center with a plaque presented to Nan Feagin renaming the plant sale the 'Jeff Feagin Annual Plant Sale'. Nan will have the plaque hung in the hallway of the building. There it can be seen by all who enter the building as one of Jeff's many contributions to the island. The new Pea Patch neighborhood gardening group will be selling raffle tickets for one of Jeff's famous rhododendrons with the proceeds going to help start the community garden get on it's feet. This may be your last opportunity to own one of Jeff's rhodys so bring extra cash to purchase tickets for $1 per ticket, $3 for 5 tickets.

Since there has been so much emphasis on growing your own vegetables this year, there should be great deals on a variety of starts at the plant sale. However there are several veggies that you will not be able to purchase on May 1 and take right home and plant. Tomatoes should not go into the ground until the end of May or i the weather turns nasty and cooler, the first week of June. The same goes for corn, beans, squash and tender basil plants. And when you purchases those kinds of plants at the plant sale, ask if the plants have been hardened off. If not, take them home and place in a sunny window and put outside for the first day, 2 hours the second day...etc. That way, when you do plant them outside, they won't be shocked to feel the elements. And if you plant them too early, they will just sit and shiver and sulk. A sulking plant does not take off growing and thriving and that is exactly what you want it do.

March Garden Tip of the Month
Monday, March 01, 2010
Taking a clock hour education course from WSU master Gardener Program gave me some thought for my March column. The subject of the class was something that we all regretfully have - WEEDS aka as an undesirable plant. There are two major classification of weeds: native plants such as horsetail, poison ivy and stinging nettle and non native plants like Himalayan blackberry, scotch broom, English ivy and Canada thistle. The non native ones are considered noxious weeds since they are a threat to our native species. They are highly competitive and difficult to control as they have no known predators or adversaries.

Now for the scary news. The non native plants have cost us $137 billion dollars in damage to the eco system or in the control of them. That's a staggering amount! The noxious weeds are further broken into three classifications by the weed control board.

Class A weeds are not too common yet and are easier to control. These include Spanish broom, giant hogweed, garlic mustard, knapweed, milk thistle and salvia sage.
Class B weeds are very common but can still be controlled with vigilance. These include Spotted knapweed, policeman's helmet, purple loosestrife, tansy ragwort, yellow nut sedge, parrot feathers and water primrose.
Class C weeds are so common that we sometimes think they are native to our area. A partial list of these weeds include scotch broom, Japanese knotweed, reed canary grass, water milfoil, common St John's wort and queen Ann lace.

All these plants ended up here because of people. Some are accidentally transported in nursery plants and soil picked up off car wheels. Others may have been caused by someone dumping the contents of an aquarium into a lake (milfoil) or transported into the are with illegal quarantined plants. Please be aware of the tremendous cost to all of us by such unseemly simple actions. A full copy of noxious weeds and their identification can be obtained from the Noxious Weed Control Board at 1420 112th St E in Tacoma. Phone 253-798-7263

One important reminder for March. The hummingbirds will be arriving soon. Plan to have a feeder filled for them by March 21.

February Garden Tip of the Month
Monday, February 01, 2010
February! Valentines Day! Love apples - aka tomatoes! Tomato seed starting time! I knew I could find a link to introduce this months tip of the month.

Mid February is when I traditionally start my tomato seeds. Ciscoe Morris suggests starting them in March, but since I want to have sizable plants to donate to The Fox Island Plant sale in early May, I start mine a little early. Last fall, I saved seeds from 15 varieties of tomatoes from the 4th annual tomato taste off and labeled each bag of seeds so I know what I will be planting this year. And I am especially happy that I saved about 1000 seeds of the Black Krim variety although I won't have room in my greenhouse to grow them all and the rest of the plants also.

Here is the seed starting process that I find works for me every time. Fill a garden tray that has a domed covered lid with seed starting soil. A Popsicle stick with the variety of the sowed seed written on it works great and can be placed in the tray. Moisten soil well but don't flood the tray. Scatter seeds over the soil, carefully trying to not have the seeds bunch together. Barely cover the seeds with more soil, tap down the soil firmly and moisten the tray again. Cover the tray and place it in a warm dark room. I find the closet under the stairway where the furnace is located is a great incubator for the seeds.

After about 5 days, uncover the trays and check to be sure the seeds are still moist. If the soil has started to dry out, use a spray bottle filled with water to moisten the soil again. At this point, you should check the tray daily and look to see if any seeds have started sprouting. As soon as the seeds start to sprout, the trays need to be moved into the bright light and uncovered. Even though I don't use grow lights they grow strong stems just by being in an unheated greenhouse. I consider the greenhouse to be my tomato nursery as they grow and nurture there for the next few months. It's a good idea to either have a fan blowing over the starts or to run your hand over them and tickle their tops. This exercises and strengthens the stems so they grow straight and strong.

Once the plants have 4 leaves showing, they are gently removed from the trays and re-potted into 4 inch pots. But that's another story to be continued in the next few months...

If it's not too late to mention it, the North West Flower and Garden Show in the Seattle Convention Center is a great way to start your spring garden planning and purchasing. The show runs Feb 3-7 and promises to be another hit again this year.



Puyallup Spring Fair 2010 Thursday, April 15th - Sunday, April 18th

Objective: Educate people on vegetable gardening
The display area will be similar to the Fall Fair. The emphasis will be on getting your garden started. The raised beds will be reused from the fall fair and the popular potato and tomato towers will also be there. There will be new containers and demonstrations on how to extend the season or help the season get started with a cold frame, cloches, row covers and irrigation. Also, an elevated raised bed for people with limited range of motion.

Of course, there will be lots of plants -- just starting!

January Garden Tip Of The Month
Friday, January 01, 2010
Burr! This is no way to start 2010! The below freezing temperatures of December have caused havoc to a lot of outdoor plants. The potted banana plant on my deck is probably going to have to be replaced this year but the ones planted in the garden will certainly survive. The lemon tree that spends it's winters in my unheated greenhouse should survive also, but the almost ripened fruit is ruined. All the fuchsias and other plants that overwinter in the greenhouse needed a good drink of water as soon as the freeze was over. The poor plants were dehydrated from the cold.

Take advantage of the sunny days to walk through your garden and remove any broken limbs from trees and shrubs. And now is a good time to look for any crossed branches or ones that rub together. Remove these at a joint so there will not be a place for disease and pests to enter the plant. And while you are walking through the garden, stop to pull up weeds that are starting to grow. You will be very thankful when spring arrives as there will be fewer weeds to pull and less seeds sprouting.

Even though January isn't really conducive to a lot of outside gardening, there are other things to be done. Take a moment to jot down the names of plants that really did well last year and those that did not. The ones that were outstanding are probably ones that will do well again this year. And the failures...well, just cross them off the list and replace them with an old favorite. Draw out a sketch of your yard and decide what new plants would complement the existing ones. Decide on which plants you will start from seed, when they can be planted and when you will need to start those seeds. I always start tomato seeds in February so that they will be ready to plant in the garden by the end of May. And since February is the month to plant pea, spinach and Swiss chard seeds, I'll be preparing the soil for those beds in January by tilling in some fresh compost and manure.

I thought I would share a recipe that I make from my Swiss chard leaves as it's one of my favorite salads.

1 large bunch of swiss chard
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tlbs lemon juice
balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste

If using fresh cut chard from your garden you will need to wash the leaves at least 3 times to remove all the grit. Store bought chard only usually needs one good soaking. Cut out the tough stems and chop most of them finely. Cut the leaves in strips. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil and add the stems and cook for 5 minutes and thenadd the leaves. Simmer the leaves for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out all the water and add the garlic and onions. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt and pepper. Toss over the vegetables and refrigerated over night. Taste for seasoning.

December Garden Tip Of The Month
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
December, gardening and Christmas..what do they all have in common? Although this is not the most fun month to pull weeds and work in the garden, there are still worthwhile garden inspired things to do. And the most enjoyable one is reading, especially garden books. Every gardener should have at least a small library of garden books to turn to for help. And whether you are searching for a great gift for a gardener or one to put on your Christmas wish list, here are a few suggestions.

First and foremost, the book all gardeners should have is Sunset's Western Garden Book. It can help you determine which plant will thrive in your area and which will be a disaster. It catalogs plants not only into temperature regions, but also into where on your property they should be located. Plants flourish best in their native areas, so non-natives need to be grown in similar situations that copy those environments as closely as possible. By referencing the Sunset magazine first, you will be able to determine if you have a similar soil, or sun or shade situation that would reflect the plants need. If you are looking for plants that have fall color, showy flowers, have great fragrance, or are drought tolerant, it will be in the book. A very important item to check out is the size the shrub or tree will grow to when mature. It would be a huge mistake to plant a tree close to your home and then have it grow so large that branches and leaves would cover your roof and gutters. An important saying to remember is 'right plant for the right place'.

Another book, and it is one I have on my Christmas wish list, is: What is wrong with my plant? ( And how do I fix it?) I heard an interview with Ciscoe Morris on his Saturday morning radio show with the authors of the book. David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth have a great knowledge of plants and have great organic suggestions on how to solve plant problems. They use common sense and sometime use common household products to help your plants stay healthy and flourish.

If you have a gardener on your gift list who mostly grows flowers, there are perennial and annual books on flowers and bulbs that they would enjoy. You can find books on fruit trees and berries or books on house plants. There are encyclopedias on horticulture, books on pruning, on bonsai...etc.

In another couple of months the seed catalogs will be mailed out the WISH LIST starts all over gain. But for now, think Christmas, gardening and which garden books you would like to purchase or receive.

The first real frost of the season finally arrived this morning so now it really feels like Christmas!

November Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Last month I wrote about the great 4th annual tomato tasting and gave out the names of the winning tomatoes. Then I proceeded to tell how to save the seeds to plant for next year. However, I did not mention that the best rated tomato, Momotaro, is a hybrid so the seeds cannot be saved and expected to produce the same fruit next year. Sorry, but if you want to grow Momotaro tomatoes next year, you will have to purchase your seeds from a vendor.

Fall finally arrives in November with winds and rain knocking off the beautiful red and golden leaves. What a gorgeous site we have had with all the fall foliage on the many sunny October days. I have been stopping my car whenever I see some especially bright and interesting leaves and taking them home to preserve them. It's an easy project to accomplish by ironing the leaves between two pieces of wax paper. Once the wax starts to melt, remove the leaves from the wax paper and press them between the pages of a phone book. I put a small television on top of the phone book and will soon remove the leaves to use as decorations on my Thanksgiving table. According to Juanita Bjork, the leaves should stay supple and colorful for several years.

Since I decided to let the deer finish off my bean plants, I quit spraying liquid fence some time ago. I have now reconsidered letting them get in the habit of feasting in my garden and am back to spraying...but only monthly during the winter. They just didn't stop at eating beans and weeds but went on to swiss chard and tender lettuce. You just can't give the deer an inch or they will take a mile.

There is still time to plant bulbs before winter really gets started. A little fertilizer placed in the hole before placing in the bulb really makes a big difference in the size of the bloom next spring.

If you didn't fertilize your lawn with an organic fertilizer in Oct. then fertilize with a fall fertilizer the end of November. It is no longer warm enough for an organic fertilizer to work with these chilly November days. Actually the day after Thanksgiving until about December 7 are the perfect times to do that job, Just be sure you get a winter fertilizer to help develop a strong root system to get your lawn through the summer droughts.

If you notice any weeds popping up through the fallen leaves, stoop to pull a few as you walk by. They are pretty easy to pull out in the rain soaked ground and the extra bending over may just burn a few calories from that Thanksgiving feast.

October Gardening Tip of The Month
Thursday, October 01, 2009
October is the big harvest month or better yet 'pretty much the last month for harvesting'.

Your cucumbers and summer squash should have died back by the first of this month or at least have powdery mildew which spreads to and ruins the fruit also. What did I just say... fruit! Of course they are fruit, not vegetables although we treat them as if they were. If it has a seed, it's a fruit. Just like tomatoes are a a fruit that we eat as vegetables.

And now that the subject of tomatoes has come up, I had the pleasure of being invited to the 4th annual tomato taste off. A group of 4 women originally started this to decide which was the juiciest and most flavor full tomato of the bunch. Most of the tomatoes were grown by Jackie Havre on her sunny site overlooking Herron Island, and the taste off has held there also. This year there were 9 of us, all bringing an appetizer of beverage to share.

There were 20 varieties to taste and we were all handed paper and pens to mark our favorites. The top 5 winners were:

1. Momotaro
2. 4th of July
3 Black Krim
4. Vintage Wine
5. Champion

I hate to admit it, but near the end, I had my fill of tomatoes for the year.

I have saved the seeds of about 16 heirloom tomatoes to sow for next year. To save seeds, first be sure they are heirloom plants. The seeds from non-heirloom fruit will not come back true so there is no guarantee what you will end up with the next year. Cut the tomato in half and squeeze the seeds and some pulp into a jar and add water. Let it stand for a couple of days, giving the jar a shake ever now and then. The pulp will turn to a scum and start to get moldy. Pour off the scum and add fresh water and repeat with the shaking of the jar and pouring off the scum until the water comes out clear. In the the scum will be a few seeds but don't worry about losing them as they will not sprout.

Just remember this phrase 'The good seeds sink to the bottom of the glass and the bad seeds rise to the top'. Drain the clean seeds by placing them in a small tea sieve and let dry on small plate or paper towel. When the seeds are dry, mark an envelope with the year and name of the plant and store the seeds in it in a dry place.

I'll let you know next spring when it's time to start seeds and give you instructions on the best way to do it.

As you finish harvesting the end of your garden crops, clean up the beds and get the soil ready for a winter sleep. If you have any diseased plants, do not compost them and instead dispose of them away from your garden. As the leaves fall add them to the beds and you will have fewer weeds to deal with the next year. Compost is a great mulch to put in also as it not only protects the soil from weeds but adds nutrients for next year.

Tulip, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring flowering bulbs should be planted now along with the lovely garlic bulbs. Read the directions on the bulbs planting depth, add some bulb fertilizer and you will enjoy the fruits of your labor in the spring and summer of 2010.

September Gardening Tip of The Month
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Welcome to the new readers who may not know me. Since I live on Fox Island, I have been writing a 'Tip of the Month' for the Fox Island web site for over 8 years. I held the Master Gardener designation until this past January, when I decided that I was just overcome by the paperwork to keep the designation. So now, I write my monthly column under the title of The Island Gardener.

Just to bring you up to speed...the past several years have been centered around my looking for the perfect remedy to keep the deer from destroying my garden completely. I have 14 10x4ft. raised vegetable beds which I have had numerous times, mowed to the ground by the infamous Fox Island deer. I tried bending pvc hoops into the ground in each bed and covering them with netting. It worked fairly well but presented a problem for pulling weeds and harvesting. Besides, the hoops and nettings were quite unsightly. A reader wrote to inform me that chicken wire laid down around beds worked like a cattle guard and kept the deer out. However after investing hundreds of dollars in chicken wire, stakes to keep it down, hours spent trying to pull weeds through the wire and finally loosing my crops to starving deer, I thought I would have to do the unthinkable and put up 8 ft fencing. Then....a drum roll please.....my neighbor told me about LIQUID FENCE. Miracle of miracles, it really works and I have been writing about this great product for over two years. When one of my neighbors complained that it didn't work for her, I questioned on how she was applying it. Yes, she did spray it every three weeks or even more often as I suggested. But she did not spray it on the foliage itself, only around the perimeter of the plants. Even though the spray smells like rotten eggs and garlic, it won't taste or smell like that when you harvest and wash the produce. But for some reason, the nibbling deer can still taste it and after some nibbling here and there, decide your garden is not a delicious bu ants, you are on the way to having a successful garden. Spray it on hostas, roses, zucchini, tomatoes, beans and everything they else they find tasty and you will be amazed. Even though I have very little in my garden that the deer would enjoy during the winter, I continue to spray at least once a month and then it is a snap to train the little munchers to keep away once the gardening season begins as they have already been trained to keep away.

A problem that I have not had before this year is raccoons getting into my bird feeders. I was amazed at how strong they are, even bending metal poles in order to tear down the feeders. I have found that Shake Away keeps them out of the feeders as well as Liquid Fence does the deer. The ingredients include coyote urine and garlic, so perhaps the idea of wearing garlic around ones neck to keep vampires away was well founded.

Several people have complained to me that their tomato plants are full of green tomatoes, but few ripe ones. The plants probably need to be a little stressed so cut down on the watering, and do a little tomato plant pruning. Cut off all new blossoms and small tomatoes as they will never ripen before the plant dies back. Cut off all branches that have no tomatoes growing on them and you should see a marked difference in the ripening process.

August Tip of the Month
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Well, I really screwed up- Big Time! I told the webmaster that The Fox Island Garden Club would begin accepting entries for the judged Flower Show between 9 and 11:30am at the Ficra Fair on August 8. Since this time has come out in print, then we need to change the show opening time. No entries will be accepted after 11:30 and the doors will be closed. Our judges will arrive at 11:45 so there will be no entry into the room until the judges have finished which should be about 1 pm which is one hour later than normal. I am very sorry for my mistake apologize for any inconvenience this may cause anyone. Hopefully this will give all contestants a few more minutes to find the most beautiful and unique entry from their garden.

The unusually and record breaking heat wave has really made our Northwest plants burst into a growing frenzy. My hearty hibiscus are blooming at least two weeks early and my Bistec tomatoes are huge. Of course, the weeds also thrive in this weather, so keep pulling new sprouts. The zucchini, beans, peas and cucumbers are amazing as one day they are little starts and the next day...giants.

If you are growing herbs and especially basil, keep the tops sniped off before they start to bloom or the taste of the leaves will deteriorate quickly and quit growing new tender leaves.

I have been so pleased with spraying Liquid Fence on my plants to keep the deer away. However with everything so dry I found a few missing leaves on the new growth so I have been spraying every two weeks instead of three. I think the deer were just searching out something green and succulent. One of my neighbors didn't understand that I not only spray around the plants but also right on the leaves. The taste is terrible to deer but once you wash the vegetables, they are quite edible for human consumption with no rotten egg/garlic taste or smell.

Water deeply, but not too often and check to be sure sprinkler systems are covering all areas. As plants grow, they sometime riginally did. Some minor tweaking or pruning may need to be done to keep things working their best.

And don't forget our feathered and flying friends by keeping bird baths clean and full. A neighbor has a bee hive and the bees have been coating our water features as they too are thirsty.

The best part of summer gardening is NOW!

July Garden Tip Of The Month
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
July has easy chores to remember: water and groom, water and groom! Plants need to be watered deeply this month to keep them performing their best. Water less frequently, but water deeply when you do. Lawns need about one inch of water a week to look their best so water them about 1/2 inch each time, twice a week.

Place cleaned out tuna cans around the lawn and figure out how long it takes to fill each can with at least 1/2 inch of water. This is also a good way to figure out how well your sprinkler system covers by checking out to see if the cans are all equally filled. Some adjustments may need to be made so you get full coverage. Since our community is on the odd/even watering schedule, it is easy to remember which days to water the yard. Of course potted plants and especially hanging plants need to be watered well every other day..again following the odd/even days for watering.

Potted plants and hanging baskets need to be groomed weekly. Snip or pull off spent blossoms regularly to keep plants blooming their best. Leggy stems can be clipped off to help plants bush out and grow fuller. Even fruit trees need grooming this time of year. Suckers (branches that grow straight up) can be clipped or rubbed off to keep trees in proportion. In fact this time of grooming is much more productive then major winter pruning and does not lead to more suckers starting up. And don't forget to fertilize blooming annuals often to keep them happy and blooming longer.

In the veggie garden, this is the last month to plant seeds of more beans, swiss chard, radishes, beets and turnips. Starts of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower can be planted for your winter garden this year.

Tomato plants should be frequently checked to be sure they are well staked and not growing out of their cages or laying on the ground. Keep weeds out as much as possible so they don't steal the sunlight and nutrition from your plants.

Gardens take a lot of planning and work to stay beautiful, but don't forget to take time to 'stop and smell the roses' and enjoy nature at it's best.

Happy gardening!

June Garden Tip Of The Month
Monday, June 01, 2009
June really made quite a warm entrance this year with temperatures in the 80's.

I could see the daily growth in the vegetables planted in my garden. One day there were just tiny sprouts showing up and the next day the plants were up an inch or so. All the early heat reminded me that plants that have not been hardened off could really suffer a setback. If you took bedding plants directly from a greenhouse and transferred them into the garden, you probably have put them in a state or shock and with scorched leaves. They will probably survive, but it will take them some time to catch up to where they were before being transplanted. And any houseplants that have been moved outside for the summer, need to be shaded until the plant slowly adjusts to the brightness of full sun. Just take away the shading for a few more hours each day, until they can tolerate full sun.

It amazes me that weeds don't seem to suffer from the heat or sun. They thrive in almost any climate and spread into every crook and cranny of the garden even without any water.

And the subject of water reminds me to mention that gardens need to be watered deeply but not every day. Usually 1 inch a week is enough water to keep most plants healthy and happy. Soaker hoses, drip irrigation and timers are a must in every garden for proper water conservation. Before the summer gets much drier, check out your watering systems so that you won't have a problem in the scorching heat and dry summer weather. Water early in the morning so roots have a chance to soak up water before the heat of the day. Another water saving tip is to remove weeds that fight with your plantings for their water needs.

Enjoy the summer...it's starting out to be a great tomato growing year!

May Garden Tip of the Month
Friday, May 01, 2009
The biggest sales event on the island happens this Saturday May 2 at the Nichols Community Center from 12-2 pm. Of course I'm talking about the annual Fox Island Plant Sale. Local Garden club and FICRA members are planning an abundance of plants for sale this year. Since the economy seems to have sparked an interest in veggie gardening, there should be a great variety of vegetable starts for sale as well as strawberries and herbs. Not only is this a great place to purchase perennials, shrubs, annuals and houseplants, but this year you will find ceramic planters, several gardening books and raised garden beds built by the Fox Island Scouts. It's also a great time to see friends and neighbors, so mark your calendar and be sure to arrive on time as the best items go fast!

Even though you will find some great plants and are anxious to put them out in your garden, ask a worker at the plant sale if the plants have been hardened off or are hardy enough to go into the soil. And I'm sure you have noticed lots of tomato plants and tender annuals for sale in front of grocery stores and nurseries. I really wish they wouldn't put them out so early as many people feel that if the store is selling them, then it must be time to plant them. It's way to early to plant tomatoes, beans, peppers, eggplant, squash and basil. Those plants need a lot of heat so they will just sit in the garden and shiver. And if they haven't been hardened off (which means gradually exposing them to the outdoors) they could just wilt away and die! The same rules for tender blooming annuals apply but they usually can go in a little earlier, such as around Mother's Day.

Sunday May 3 is another gardening event to attend. The Fox Island vegetable gardening group meets to discuss gardening hints and problems from 4-5pm, also at the Community Center. This weeks topics include tomato plants 101 and how to control garden pests---read this as weeds, uninvited plants and critters.

Look forward to seeing all of you at the Plant Sale!

April Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
April Tip of the Month

Well Mother Nature certainly tricked us on April Fools Day by including a few snow flakes in with the rain. Even the cold weather and occasional snow flakes won't hurt your blooming daffodils and hyacinths but I'm very happy that the more tender tulip bulbs have not started blooming yet. Certain varieties of rhody and azaleas are in bloom as well as camellias so now I feel that spring is finally here.

Don't be fooled into purchasing tomato plants and other tender perennials that are now gracing the entrances to some of the grocery stores unless you plan to keep them in a greenhouse or under grow lights. Just because the stores have them on display doesn't mean they are ready to go into your gardens. The only plants that you can plant this early are starts or seeds of lettuce, beets, peas, broccoli and cauliflower, radishes, carrots, onions, spinach and other cold hardy greens. Beans, potatos, tomatos, zucchini, peppers and corn need to wait until the end of May or first of June depending on the weather.

The only plants that seems to thrive no matter the weather are...weeds. Go figure! They just keep popping up so be diligent about pulling them up BEFORE they flower and send their seeds to the wind. The more you pull now...the less you will have to pull later on.

Don't forget to attend the vegetable gardening discussion group on Sunday April
5 at the Community Center 4-5 pm. It's a great place to learn about growing vegetables in the various growing zones on the island. Many experienced gardeners share their gardening stories as well as opportunities to ask questions.

Keep spraying Liquid Fence or another similar product on your emerging plants to discourage deer from nibbling on tender plants. I always start the year spraying every other week and then move on to every third week. Don't be tempted to stretch the time out a few weeks longer as the deer will immediately sense your mistake and that will be the demise of your plant.

The event you have all been waiting for is almost here. Mark you calendars for May 2 for the annual Fox Island Plant Sale! Show times are 12:00 noon to 2 pm.

Because of the interest in vegetable gardening this year, I anticipate you will be able to purchase a good variety of vegetable starts. I have over 200 tomato plants growing in my greenhouse for the big day. They may not be huge, but they will have strong stems and a great root system. And they will be perfect size by the end of the month when they can be planted out into the garden.

Happy Spring gardening!

March Gardening Tip of The Month
Sunday, March 01, 2009
What a difference a week makes! The weather during the last week of February made me think that winter would never end. But here it is now the first week of March and my camellia is blossoming, the daffodils are just about ready to pop open and the spring blooming crocus are in full glory. That tells me that the gardening season has arived!

I just removed my tomato plants from the warm furnace room to out to the greenhouse. I had placed them in the toasty closet to germinate for about 10 days as they do not require light to sprout, but they do need lots of heat.

Since putting them in the greenhouse nursery , I give them a little tickle each day so their stems will grow straight and strong. I have a portable heater with a fan that will periodically blow at them if it gets too cold. And again, the motion of the fan will help strengthen the stems.

As the weather warms, the slugs start eating and reproducing so be diligent about protecting your newly sprouted plantings. And if you use slug killer, check to see that it will not harm pets or birds.

In case you haven't noticed, weeds are reproducing also so pull them out before they bloom and scatter more seeds. On annual weeds, you just need to scuttle off the tops and they will not send out new seeds.

Hydrangas can be pruned this month along with roses if you have not already done so. I always give my roses a good sprinkling of alfafa meal after pruning and work it into the soil a little.

In case you missed the signs at the bridge, there are a group of islanders who are interested in vegetable gardening and have banded together to meet once a month to share experiences. The group meets the first Sunday of each month at the Community Center from 4 to 5 pm. The group consists of not only experienced gardeners but also complete novices so everyone is welcome to come share and learn.

This last meeting was chaired by experienced gardener Nan Feagin who explained how to start plants from seed and which plants are best to purchase as 6 packs and transplant into your garden. I have handouts on which seeds can be planted directly into the garden and when to sow them, and which should be started inside for transplanting.

I would be happy to email that info on to anyone who requests it. I also have some handouts from WSU on composting to share.

Linda Dodds

February Garden Tip Of The Month
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Oh...the fragrance of hyacinth, lilly and plumeria! Not from my garden yet as it is much too early for them, however that is what you will be thinking at the Northwest Flower and Garden show in Seattle this month. The show runs February 18 through the 22nd and is housed in the Seattle Convention building.

And this year is very special as it most likely will be the last year that the show will be held. The show is for sale and with the economy, it doesn't look too promising for a buyer to step up. So if you have never gone before, you may really want to make an effort to attend this year. The fragrances alone are enough to make your gardening juices start flowing while tricking you into thinking spring is already here. There are educational lectures, garden displays and lots of vendors just hoping you will spend your money.

It's a great place to pick up new gardening ideas and get started on your plant and seed purchases as well as finding that perfect piece of garden art. Be sure to not miss the orchid displays as the variety of orchids just blows your mind.

I spent most of today working in my tropical garden just pruning, raking and cleaning up. I always try to work on that garden first as it is loaded with bulbs, hellebore's, ligularia and hostas. I had to walk very carefully there as there are so many plants just starting to emerge. I did have to control myself and not prune the hydrangeas or hardy fuchsia's as it is much too early for that. Hydrangeas can be pruned near the end of the month and you can prune roses around Presidents Day.

I'll be checking to see when the ground is dry enough to till the beds where I plant peas in my veggie garden. I'll also be planting radishes, onions, swiss chard, spinach lettuce as earl;y as I can. And my big project will be to start tomato seeds around Valentines Day. I sow the sees in flats that can be covered with a plastic lid, moisten the seeds and place them in the dark closet where the furnace resides. I start checking the seeds after a week to be sure they remain moist and to to see if any have sprouted. When they do, I move them to my unlighted greenhouse where they receive enough light to help them develop strong healthy stalks. Don't buy plants with wimpy stalks as they never develop into great plants.

Even if the sun shines for only a few hours, you can take advantage of the warmth and pull weeds. I doubt if you will ever run out of weeds to pull so get started today!

Linda Dodds

January Garden Tip Of The Month
Thursday, January 01, 2009
I think I was a little hasty by commenting on the great fall weather we were having! December taught me to not make snap judgments about the weather.

If you have not gone out and walked through your yard since the snow finally melted, it time to do so now. You may find broken branches that were snapped by the heavy snow. Especially big leaf evergreens are susceptible to branch breakage.
Don't just prune where the break occurred, but instead make your cut where the branch attached to the shrub or tree. If the branch is left too long in a broken state, there is a chance that disease and rot will take over your once healthy plant.

Don't prune or dispose of any plant that you think may have been killed in the freeze. Plants may take until May to show signs of life. And even though the top of the plant may die off, the root system could start sprouting later in the year. Roses can be pruned in late February but I think I wouldn't do any pruning on outdoor fuscias until the end of March or first of April.

I am giving up my Master Gardener status, as the paper work was just an overload on my already busy schedule. From now on, I'll write my garden column as the 'Island Gardener'. I still know the places to find the answers to your questions, and the content of the monthly newsletter will remain the same.

Linda Dodds