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2002 Gardening Tips

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Fox Island Garden Club 
2002 Gardening Tips Archive

Garden Home Page | 2001 Archive | 2002 Archive | 2003 -05 Archive | 2006 - 07 Archive

2002 Plant Sale a Success!

The 2002 edition of the FICRA Plant Sale and Chili Feed was a success.  The room full of plants and shrubs was nearly gone within the first 45 minutes!

Plant shoppers were lined up in the hall an hour before the noon opening time of the sale.

The Cakes for Cancer fundraiser brought in over $300.00 in donations to the American Cancer Society.

Anxious shoppers await the noon opening of the sale

Eager to find just the right plant for their spring gardens, Island residents chose from among many native plants offered for sale. 

December 2002 Tip of the Month

In case you can't find enough to do this month between the shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating and card writing, here is a little extra to squeeze into your free time!

If you didn't put a good fall and winter fertilizer on the lawn, do so now until about the middle of the month. Since all the yard leaves and trimmings are probably off rotting in a pile, you can now start cleaning and sharpening all the garden tools. February pruning will be much easier with sharp pruning sheers.

Dare to dream a little by planning out what you would like to see different in your garden next year. Perhaps there is a tree or shrub that you would like to have included in your yard? Write down the name now and watch for bare root trees and shrubs available for planting in the next month or so. Fall and winter plantings have a head start over spring plantings as the roots have time to start growing. Move plants that obviously were in the wrong location. Or you may have to just give up on some and completely remove them. This last group includes too tall trees or shrubs that have outgrown their space.

Cut back on watering houseplants and wait until spring to resume giving them fertilizer. It is easy to over water them this time of the year. Check you Christmas tree daily to be sure it stays well watered or it could become a fire hazard and needle-dropping pest!

Merry Christmas to all - and to all a wonderful growing year for 2003!


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November Tip of the Month

November snuck up on me way to fast this year.  In fact, I almost forgot about writing my Nov. column, as I have been so busy enjoying the great fall weather. Here it is already Nov. 3 and I'm just now remembering to write my tips! Instead, I have been spending every spare moment separating perennials and transplanting. 

This is the time to clean up your gardens and cut back all dying and fading plants. The only way to keep some herbs under control (e.g.: oregano and tarragon) is to cut them back to the ground every fall. Otherwise they spread rapidly the next spring. As the leaves fall, they become mulch and a covering blanket over my vegetable beds. Even the lawns continue grow and need to be mowed this month. 

Watch out for the cold frosty mornings we have been having. Hopefully all your tender plants have been moved to shelter by now and if they haven't - well it may be time to bid them farewell! As soon as your dahlias have shriveled back, cut them to about 6 inches above the ground. You can dig them up and separate them now or leave them in a clump and separate them in the spring. If you choose to leave them in the ground, cover the cut stem with a lot of greenery, as you don't want rain to filter down the hollow stem and rot the tubers. 

There is still time to plant your favorite bulbs for spring color. Try to pick up the largest and healthiest bulbs you can find. Don't buy any bulbs that are soft or have diseased looking spots on them. Garlic and shallots are also bulbs that can still be planted this month. And it makes good sense to check shrubs and all plantings to be sure they are not too dry. You may actually have to do a little watering to keep plants healthy if this dry spell continues. Otherwise the plants may become stressed and easily be attacked and damaged by predators and cold weather. 


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October Tip of the Month

I want to again explain my position on the 'Ask a master Gardener' column that was part of my monthly gardening tip. I am always happy to help out any Fox Island and Gig Harbor gardener with their questions. However, I was starting to get swamped with questions from all over the country and some even out of the country. That meant I had to figure out their temperature and climate zones many times in order to give them good advice. I also was being asked questions about where to purchase different products in areas I knew nothing about. Therefore, I asked our Webmaster to remove that part from the web page. But please know that I am always here for YOU! I can be emailed at  or feel free to call me at my home number 549-2534.

October is harvest, cleanup and planting month. Most vegetable gardens are finishing up for the summer and need to be put to bed or replanted with a winter or cover crop. Pull up all dead and used plants and either cover the beds with falling leaves and mulch or plant a cover crop like peas or legumes for adding nitrogen to the soil. Perennials can be dug up and transplanted this month and new lawns can be seeded or sodded until about the middle of the month. Wait until late in November for lawn fertilizing. All bulbs, including garlic and onions can be planted as soon as you see them in the stores. Oct is one month you will never run out of things to do in the garden.

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September Tip of the Month

While making frequent stops at the local produce markets for fruit, have you ever considered the following? If this fruit is local then why don’t my fruit trees produce fruit also? What do I need to do in order to grow to maturity such beautiful and free fruit? Well, the answer may just be bees! Since 98% of the local honeybees have died due to either pesticide use or the tracheal mite we must rely on other sources for good pollination. 

The bumblebees don’t get active until a little later in the spring so those early flowering fruit trees must rely on other sources - MASON BEES TO THE RESCUE. These gentle little pollinators hatch very early and are out there working like – well you might say – they are busy as bees. I give my Mason bees full credit for my crops of apricots and peaches. Good pruning practices also make a difference, but bees are the primary reasons for good production.

Now all of you can take advantage of my little secret by raising your own bees. In fact it couldn’t easier now that Fox Island resident Patrick Faherty has done the hard part for you. As a project for receiving his Eagle Scout designation, Patrick has made a bundle of Mason Bee Houses with all the instruction on how and where to install them. He is offering to give these homes to any Islander who desires one. Now that’s a deal I can’t refuse! If you would like a bee home for yourself just give Patrick a call at 549-2082. Congratulations Patrick for a much needed gift to our community.

Since I planted quite a few heirloom tomatoes and several unusual kinds, I am saving seeds for next years crop. To save tomato seeds: Cut tomatoes around the circumference and squeeze the seeds and pulp into a jar and fill with water. Let stand for a week or until a white mold grows on top. Remove the mold and floating pulp and refresh with clean water. The seeds should have sunk to the bottom. Continue to do this until the water is clear. Then drain off all water and let the seeds dry in a shallow container that can be stirred several times a day until then are well dried. This can take several days so don’t rush the process. Put the seeds in a dry covered jar and keep in a cool place until next spring. You may be saving yourself a bundle on tomato seeds next year and also not have to worry about finding the right seeds when you want them.

I’ll give a lecture about using pesticides and herbicides at another time.

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August Tip of the Month

Yes, I actually did some research while on our Mediterranean cruise to share with all of you though that may not have been the main purpose of our trip!

I brought home a few seeds to start to see if they would thrive here the same way they do in their native lands. My assortment includes pine trees and olive trees found around the Acropolis in Greece and also some silk trees pods from Spain. I'll keep them in a controlled situation until I research them further to be sure I haven't brought any dangerous bugs or noxious pests into the country. Others included Italian lettuce that I hope to be able to share at the plant sale next year.

I also made some interesting observations in northern Italy, which has a similar climate to ours but perhaps a little colder and wetter. In the village of my ancestors and also Fox Island Garden Club member, Jeanette Douglass, I noticed some interesting facts. Even though they are situated in a valley deep in the Alps, their grapes were almost ready to harvest. They are probably picking away as I write. Mine are 2 months away from harvest. All the gardens had tomato plants grouped in one area and then covered with plastic to help protect them from blight and looked light years from ripening. In past years I have also done this but usually wait until Sept or Oct if it is terribly rainy. But the real shocker was around Lake Garda, which is surrounded by the Alps. There, I saw not only palm trees, but also banana and citrus. I mean these were BIG trees. I couldn't find out if they mulched in the winter or………………..

Back to Fox Island: We are experiencing one of those summers for the record books- dry and hot. It should be a bumper year for vegetables especially all those heat loving plants like eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. Enjoy them while you can and keep the water soaking into the root areas. This is also the earliest I have even had dahlias blooming and my whole office is enjoying the bouquets.

Keep up the weeding, water deeply but not frequently and enjoy our beautiful island weather.

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July Tip of the Month

Perhaps you noticed or maybe you didn't--- but the Ask a Master Gardener section from the Fox Island web page has been eliminated. I only asked John to do so as I was swamped with questions from all over the United States, Canada and even Russia. It took a tremendous amount of time just to figure their climate zones sometimes so I could properly answer their questions. 

Therefore I want to assure all of my fellow gardeners in the Fox Island and Gig Harbor community that I certainly always have time to answer your questions. Part of my mission is to give back to the community that has made this such a wonderful place to live. Feel free to contact me anytime on my own web link at  --- except for the first three weeks of July. 

Just for the opportunity to research new gardening ideas for all of my fellow islanders, I have agreed to take a 12 day cruise of the Mediterranean with my husband. Thankfully we have gardening friends who will stay and housesit for us, enjoy the fruits of the garden and hopefully pull a weed or two. Remember - this is all just for you!!!!

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June Tip of the Month

It's probably time to start firing up your watering system for those soon to be needed summer soakings. If you have a drip system, it make take a little time to be sure each dripper is working properly and not clogged with any foreign object. Set your sprinkler so each watering area receives one inch of water per week. Water plants less frequently but water deeply to encourage roots to grow down. A good root system will help plants survive a long hot dry spell where shallow watering encourages roots to grow close to the surface and dry out easily.

Keep weeds under control as best you can as they can be quite competitive with domestic plants in use of water and nutrients.

My summer project is to install an electric fence to keep out the deer. Neighbor Rob Carlson surrounded his Christmas trees with one that is only 5 ft tall. When I stopped to comment on it he explained how he was told to rub peanut butter on the hot wires to encourage the deer to take a lick. Enough HOT licks could solve this deer problem. I'm up to trying it but will extend my fence to 6 ft. tall. I'll keep you posted.

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May Tip Of The Month

Wow! I just purchased a new gardening tool that makes my life so much easier! It's called a Hound Dog Weeder and it is the best invention since sliced bread. The tool enables you to actually pull out dandelions and thistles without getting on your hands and knees and usually unsuccessfully digging out the tap root. This handy tool, when placed over the center of an offending weed, allowes you to insert it into the ground by stepping on a bar which easily allows you to pull up the plant, tap root and all. I ridded our whole lawn of offending broad leaf weeds without the use of any herbicide in less than 20 minutes. When used in the clover meadows, I found it quite not as successful as some of the thistles were already amost a foot tall. It took them out in chunks sometimes leaving behind the root. However I think as they grow back I will be able to get them while they are still small. The new Home Dept sells the weeder for around $19. It is easily the best Mother's Day gift I have ever bought for myself.

Wait until later in the month to plant such heat lovers as corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, cukes and basil. The nightime temperatures should be in the 40's before it is warm enough for them. If planted too early, they just sit there and shiver.

Look forward to seeing all of you on May 4 for the annual Fox Island Plant Sale. I also will be at the Community Center the following Sat. May 11. We will be doing a demonstration on planning a garden, preparing the soil, growing tips, harvesting and recipies on putting up some of that wonderful island produce. When you come to purchase tickets for the first annual Tour of Fox Island Gardens, stop by and say hi!

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April Tip of The Month

Spring has finally sprung and we can now start the season of enjoying new growth and lovely blooms. However, it is wise to remember not all blooming plants are desirable! Take those pesky chick-weed flowers for instance. If you don't pull them up before they have a chance to self sow their seeds after blooming- well- you can depend on having them around for at least 7 more years. So the watch word for April is WEED, WEED AND WEED. Your back will thank you next year and the years following that for making the spring weeding easier.

I came across a couple of recipes to share with you. If you mix 1 tsp. vinegar to 1 qt of water and fill your pet's watering dish, they will not be bothered by ticks. To keep fresh cut flowers longer in vases, mix 2 Tbls. vinegar, 1 Tbls. sugar to 1 qt. of water. Your flowers will last and last.

The sun is up and the air fairly mild so get out there and start planting!

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March Tip of the Month

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. 

bulletClass 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. 
bulletClass 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. 
bulletClass 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.

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February Tip of the Month

Get out your 2002 calendar, a black marking pen and get ready to start marking down dates! May 4 is the date for the annual Fox Island Plant Sale at Nichols Community Center. You don't have to be a member of the garden clubs or FICRA to participate. If you have any plants to donate or would be interested in helping out call Jeff Feagin 549-2358, Rita Dorner 549-2980 or Linda Dodds 549-2534.

Date number 2 is the following Saturday on May 11. That's the date for the Fox Island tour of gardens. That's right! We have enough lovely gardens on our island to support our own tour. Several of them are hidden away in places you didn't know existed so be sure to attend this island function. This also happens to be the day before Mother's Day. What a treat this could be for a Mother's Day gift to your special loved one!

Now for February calendar dates to remember. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show will be Feb. 6-10 at the newly expanded Convention Center in Seattle. The show, themed Growing Passions encompasses eight full acres of fabulous gardens, marketplace vendors and lots of ideas for your home gardens. There will be daylong free 45 and 60 minutes seminars from some of the top garden experts including Ciscoe Morris, Scott Conner, Ann Lovejoy, Marianne Binetti and from WSU, Mary Robson. The marketplace is a great place to buy your spring and summer garden seeds as well as all kinds of plants and garden supplies. You can purchase your discounted tickets early at any of our local nurseries. If you buy your tickets at the convention center, you will be paying more.

After you return home from the show with your peapod and spinach seeds, you can start planting your spring garden. Work compost in the soil as soon as the soil is a little dried out. Then go ahead and plant those peas and spinach.

If you have any energy left, there is always pruning and dormant spraying to be done on the fruit trees. Just save a little time in this short month to prune roses around Presidents Day.

I have had several emails concerning bulbs that have sprouted. They will be fine. A little mulch around them will help insulate them a little from the cold. Do you ever remember a year when there were no daffodils or tulips blooming? Even when we have had the Artic blasts the bulbs knew how to handle the weather.

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January 2002 Tip of the Month

Happy gardening for 2002! Wow, are you as excited about the new gardening year as I am?  Soon as the holidays are over I get in the mood to start planning a new garden project for the year. And especially this year as it seems like spring is just around the corner. In fact my hardy fuscias still have leaves on them and some of the annuals that I didn't move into the the greenhouse are still vibrant looking.

In November I was fortunate enough to visit a tropical nursery in California where I was given a lot of cuttings and seeds of plants that I would not associate as growing in the Northwest: Travelers and Christmas palms and also Sago palms, which are really conifers. One tip I picked up was for taking cuttings. Dip the cuttings in 50% acetone and 50% water before dipping them in rootone. Or as I learned last night at our New Years get together, dip them in water that has pussy willow branches soaking in them. All these methods help stimulate root growth. I'll let you know how the cuttings are going.

January is the month to buy and plant bare root stock. Look for grapes, berries and perennials veggies in your favorite nursery. On dry days get out and get a little fresh air while pruning your fruit trees. However, it usually is better to wait until the middle of February before pruning roses.

If your spring flowering bulbs are already showing growth, don't worry about them coming up too early. They can tolerate a lot of cold and still produce beautiful flowers.

One of the 'To Do' January projects is start watching for the February Flower and Garden show. It promises to be another big hit this year so plan ahead to put time aside and attend.

My prediction for gardening 2002? It will be a wonderful growing season for tomatoes and all the Fox Island deer will resolve to leave our gardens alone and eat only dandelions this year. Hope springs eternal doesn't it!

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