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Fox Island Garden Club 
2003 - 2005 Gardening Tips Archive

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

December 2005 Tip of the Month

I was fortunate to take an ongoing Master Gardener education class put on George Pinyuh, Area Extension Agent for King and Pierce Counties earlier in Nov. His topic covered the many winter blooming plants that can help to brighten up a dreary winter day. Some of them are pleasantly scented while others offer just bright colors for the otherwise bare gardens. The following is a partial list of some of the plants that you should be able to find in the local nurseries now. In fact this is the perfect time to see them in full bloom.

One of my favorites which is in full bloom right now is Jasminum nudiflorum.
It's a winter blooming jasmine with yellow trumpet blossoms. It has no fragrance as does the summer blooming jasmine, but it puts on quite a show.
I'll probably have some cuttings for the plant sale next year.

Another must for the winter garden is Sarcocca. it is a genus containing a number of attractive, glossy foliaged species which thrive in shade. They all produce small whitish flowers which are exceedingly fragrant. Plant them near a doorway on the north or east side of the house. The fragrance of the flowers in January and February is almost overpowering and makes you feel that spring is on it's way.

Another fragrant bloomer is Daphne odora. It is a low growing evergreen shrub that produces purple fragrant blossoms in February and March.

And the last selection I have chosen is Ericas, or heaths. The are low growing shrubs with needle like leaves. They produce white, pink, rose, red or purple bell shaped flowers. They do best in full sun so don't plant them in the same area as the Sarcococca.

Have a Merry Christmas

October Tip of the Month

The warm balmy weather of September helped to really ripen and mature the vegetable garden, albeit a little late. The tomato plants finally started producing in quantity enough for canning and drying. Now it's time to save seeds for next year before the real cold weather knocks the life out of plants. If you have heirloom plants, it's worth saving the seeds but if your plants are hybrids, the seeds won't produce the same plant next year. When saving seeds, I always choose the largest and most perfect tomatoes from which to cut and remove seeds. I write the type of tomato on a jar, squeeze the seeds into it and fill the jar with cool water. After a few days the pulp will rise to the top of the jar and then start to mold. Pour off the white mold and pulp and add more clean water. You will need to do this several times before the water is clean. Any seeds that float to the top will not germinate so should also be thrown away. The good seeds will sink to the bottom. Once the liquid is completely clear the seeds can be dried completely and stored away in jars for next year.

October is a real cleanup month. Dieback on perennials can be pruned back and plants should be separated and planted now. This also the month to plant spring flowering bulbs. The local stores have shipments of tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs in now, so choose the best and largest ones even if you don't plant them until late October or early November. Otherwise the only bulbs left will be the soft and unhealthy ones that may never even bloom.

If you plant cover crops, October is the month to do so. Australian peas and fava beans are great cover crops which produce early edible crops next spring and also supply the garden with lots of nitrogen. Seeds can be purchased in bulk at most local nurseries.

And if you still need something to do in the garden, I'm sure you will be able to find a lot of annual weeds sprouting and ready to be pulled.

September Tip of the Month

For those of you who have been following my trials and tribulations of marauding starving deer and my remedies to thwart them, I submit the following update. The wire fencing laying down around the garden and between the paths has only been somewhat successful. The deer kept out of the garden until the end of July and August. It seems they periodically felt the need for green and lush and so wander through my vegetable garden to see what is for dinner. I finally had to cover my beans with netting to protect them but have not covered anything else. They have munched a few tips of the tomatoes, pruned down the peppers, but that has been the extent of the damage. Other plants they seem to especially like such as lettuce, basil and spinach have remained untouched. I will have to ponder this more and wait until the end of the growing season before passing judgment on the wire deer guard.

September is not the month to sit back and take a gardening rest. It's time to harvest, divide perennials and plant winter growing plants. If your splashes of annual color are looking worn, it's time to replace them with winter blooming pansies, kale and mums. Bulbs will be showing up soon in the local nurseries and stores. Choose the largest and firmest ones and think about places in your garden that would benefit from some early spring color. Garlic bulbs can also be planted this month along with starts of Brussels sprouts, cabbage and other cole crops. Plant radish seeds along with carrots for fall harvest. If any garden site becomes empty, it might be a good time to think about planting a cover crop of peas or alfalfa this month. Perennials that have finished flowering and are looking sad can be divided and cut back. General maintenance and good grooming are essential duties for September.

And if you are suffering an abundance of zucchini or tomatoes, share them with your neighbors or sell them at the Fox Island farmers market.

August Tip of the Month

Calling all Fox island Gardeners...... Here is your chance to show off your garden specialties. The Second Annual Fox Island Judged Flower Show will be held at the FICRA Fair on August 13.  Entries include both cut flowers and potted floral arrangements, evergreens, single specimens and homegrown fruits and vegetables. Ribbons will be awarded to first, second and third place winners. Entries must be brought to the Nichols Community Sat. Aug. 13 between 9 and 10:30 am. Three of your Fox Island neighbors; Penny Bergman, Dana Herz and Diane Simpson will be judging the entries at 11:00 and the show will open to the public at 12:00. For further questions call Judy Wilson at 549-2015.

Another gardening opportunity available to all residents is helping clear and plant the Fox Island Nature Center.  Volunteers can contact either John Ohlson or myself to sign up for some fall gardening.  Neighbor and local landscaper Pam Britschgi is working up the master plan and design for the center and lots of help will be needed for the actual construction.

Now for the continuing saga of my research of the perfect deer repeller. The 6 ft wide swath of chicken wire around my garden is not exactly 100% foolproof. It is more about in an 80% range due to a four hoofed forager who did some damage to my pole beans last week. Maybe it was a rogue deer who hadn't learned how uncomfortable it would be walking over the fencing. Anyway, so far it has been the best option I have found for keeping my sanity and produce.

Until the last few weeks in July, the weather had not been cooperating in helping the garden the grow. I was wondering if I would ever see a ripe tomato....and on the last day of the month I finally was able to pick 5 ripe ones. Oh, I can hardly wait to savor the first taste of a homegrown ripe tomato. Summer must really be here now!

July Tip of the Month

Connie Johnson...where are you? I indeed want to thank you for sharing how to keep deer from devouring precious plants! I noticed that 3 ft of wire fencing around the garden wasn't quite enough to keep deer out of the garden so I expanded the width to 6 ft. Then for good measure, I also laid wire on the paths between the raised beds and...it's working. The deer walk around the garden and past to more inviting areas. Nothing has been touched by them since the wire was installed. Now the real test will be to see if during the late summer when the deer become more desperate for green tender shoots the fencing still keeps them at bay.

June was fairly damp and gardens didn't require much extra watering all month except for a few days. July should be different and watering requirements will be increased. On very hot days, many potted plants will need daily watering and sometimes even twice a day soakings. It's best to water early in the morning when the ground can absorb the soakings without a lot of run off. Keep competing weeds pulled as they will use more than their share of the precious water.

Keep plants deadheaded to keep them producing blossoms and harvest vegetable crops often to keep them producing also. Above all- enjoy nature by taking the time to admire your gardens, smell the flowers and savor the tastes of fresh fruit and produce grown in our island soil.

June Tip of the Month

For two months I reminded all of you to attend the annual Fox Island Plant Sale and guess who wasn't there! We had planned our cruise from Osaka to Korea to Russia to Alaska to Seattle - 6 months in advance but I didn't want to share with the whole world that we would be having an empty house for 25 days. So I pretended that I was actually going to be present at the event. Well at least my tomatoes and various other plants were there thanks to Rita Dorner and Freida Robinson who graciously baby sat my motherless plants until the sale. My thanks to both of them for their efforts. Especially to Rita Dorner who will be moving from our community to Buckley this month and probably didn't need one more thing to worry about.

So what words of wisdom do I have to share? Maybe the biggest tip since the invention of the internet! My tip actually comes from Connie Johnson who lives somewhere on this earth. She emailed me last month about a deer guard that is so simple if it works, that I can't believe it. Her suggestion is to lay wire fencing on the ground around plants that need to be protected from the deer. It acts similar to a cattle guard in that the deer don't want to walk over the wire. That makes a lot of sense to me! So I spent Memorial Day laying 3 ft. of chicken wire around my vegetable garden. If this works, it will save me hours of removing netting off my plants in order to weed or harvest. The roll for 150 ft is pretty inexpensive compared to a 8 ft. high fence so I figure I'm not out much if one of the pesky guys makes it over the perimeter. I'll just add another 3 ft border to the beds. If this works, my roses and small fruit trees will be next to surround. I will keep all of you informed on how this works through the next few months and would appreciate any input from you on this subject too.

June means planting, watering, weeding and enjoying the fruits of your labor so ....go for it!

April Tip of the Month

If March came in like a lamb and went out like a semi ferocious windbag lion, what does April have in store for us? No rain for watering May flowers? We keep hearing the word ‘drought’ mentioned in the news and are being asked to use care in watering this summer. To be on the safe side, this would be a good month to think about water wise plantings for your yard. Lawns have one of the highest needs for water so think about replacing your lawn for with more drought tolerant plantings.

A good rule of thumb is to situate plants with the most need for water, closer to your home and those with less need further away. Most native vegetation can go without any summer watering and there are a huge number of shrubs and ground covers that require very dry situations. Whether you are designing a new yard or just renovating an established one, it would be worth having an expert help you with your plan. We are fortunate on the island to have a landscape designer who not only lives in our community, but also teaches classes on drought tolerant plants.  She is Pam Britschgi at Homescapes Landscape Design Services at 549-7959.

Mark your calendars now for the yearly Fox Island Plant sale on May 7. Many thriving plants to the island will be for sale at a cost much less than in the nursery’s. My Italian relatives brought me tomato seeds from Italy when they were visiting last summer. I have the starts growing in my greenhouse now so look for Costuloto, a slicing tomato and San Marzano, a large paste tomato at the plant sale. I’ll also be bringing Brandywine beefsteak and grape cherry tomatoes from the seeds that I saved last year. And anyone who has plants to donate for the sale should call Rita Dorner, Jeff Feagin or just bring the plants about 10 am to the Community Center on the day of the sale. Please be sure to mark the plant name on the containers so people will know what they are purchasing.

Since the sun rises earlier in the mornings and sets a little later each evening, you’ll have a lot of extra time to get out there and pull those weeds before they set seeds. And by the time you finish pulling them all out, you can start over again because as the saying goes “I’ll be back”.

March Tip of the Month

It looks like we can no longer count on the old sayings for predicting the weather. What happened to ‘March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’! I still need to be writing my advice with the normal predicted weather outlook so here is your gardening advice for March.

Many cool season plants can be seed directly into prepared beds this month. Peas, lettuce, onions, radishes, spinach and all members of the cabbage family are cool weather vegetables. Be sure the soil has dried enough before tilling the garden plot. A good test is to take a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. If water drips or worse yet, oozes from the clump, the soil is too wet to work. If it remains in a ball and even falls apart, go ahead and prepare the ground for planting.

Other warm weather vegetables can be started inside and allowed to grow in a sunny window or greenhouse for planting the end of May or first week. The plants to start inside are basil, tomatoes, peppers, melons and cucumbers. Tomato plants should be kept in a warm dark place until they sprout. I always start mine about the middle of February in the furnace room under the stairs. However, I start mine pretty early, as I want to have them to good size for the annual Fox Island plant sale on May 7. The plants themselves shouldn’t go into the garden until the first week of June.

March lawns can be such a lovely emerald green but a lot of the green just might be moss instead of all turf. This is a good month to renovate lawns, thatch and apply moss killer to lawns.

The only nasty garden project now is keeping the notorious and ravenous Washington slugs under control. The more daring among you may choose to hand pick them early in the morning and destroy them. The rest of us will probably just use a product such as Worry Free to kill them. If you use a product for baiting, check to be sure it is safe to use around children, pets and birds.

And while you are pulling all those pesky weeds, I hope you will come upon a pot of gold hidden in your yard by a little green leprechaun. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.

February Tip of the Month

In February it all really begins.....The start of the 2005 gardening year.

The month kicks into high gear with the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle Feb. 9-14. This year's offerings are added Market Booths with just about anything you want to buy for the garden available somewhere in the building. The new 'must have' hot plants will be displayed along with lots of garden art and ideas. Register early for the garden seminars as the big name speakers have their sessions filling up fast.

This is the month for starting a lot of seeds for later planting. Many seeds, such as tomatoes need heat to sprout but not light. So around Feb. 14, I start sowing my tomatoes in flats and place them in the furnace room under the stairway. I have to watch them closely, as once they start sprouting; the tray goes out into the greenhouse to get the light.

Now for the REALLY BIG news. February is the perfect month to start reflecting on your garden talents that you could share with your fellow islanders. I'm referring to the new Fox Island Wetlands Park that is now in the design and planning stages. Members of Sand and Soil and Fox Island Garden Clubs, in conjunction with FICRA and Pam Britschgi who is our resident landscape designer are in the process of putting together ideas for the park. We are looking for ideas and suggestions from YOU.

Do you have a talent for building birdhouses or knowledge of bird’s habitats and feeding preferences, then perhaps you could offer help and your talents to the group. Maybe you are a closet artist who would love to display a weather resistant sculpture or along a trail for a focal point. And, even the pack rat in you might have good usable lumber or building materials that could be used for park benches or the bridge construction. And, many of you may have native plants or plants that would naturalize that you would be willing to donate. Strong backs and a willingness to participate in actual planting will be needed. And last, but perhaps one of the MOST needed are generous donations that could be used to hopefully purchase adjacent acreage parcels that could give us a truly magnificent nature preserve for generations to come.

Please contact John Ohlson to donate services, ideas and money at 253-549-2701

January 2005 Tip of the Month

Welcome to a hopefully fantastic 2005 gardening year! As soon as my calendar shows a new year starting, I begin planning and scheming on the projects and goals that I hope to accomplish. Putting down monthly plans on paper helps to keep me on track and focused on the big picture.

And January can be a busy month as long as the weather is not freezing. Dormant spray should be applied to leafless fruit trees and roses to smother over wintering insect eggs. Pruning on fruit trees can begin this month with special attention to dead and diseased branches. Then follow by removing injured and crossed and rubbing branches. Starting now while there aren’t a lot of other garden projects to compete with makes wise use of your time. If you plan on starting seeds to plant in the garden, check the envelope directions on how long it will take the seeds to germinate and be ready for planting at the correct time. I usually start seeds for tomatoes in February so by planning ahead I can have my seeds purchased (or saved) and ready to sow in a timely manner. Some seeds such as Shasta daisy, primroses and hellebores can be sown and kept in a greenhouse or cold frame for later planting. Just looking through the seed catalogues that are taking the place of all the Christmas specials can be stimulating and give you all kinds of ideas.

Now is the time to wash all the winter dust, grime and even tinsel off houseplants and start giving them some light doses of liquid of fertilizer. Orchids are already setting flower buds and will appreciate some weekly feedings.

And when the wind howls and the rain pours down over the gutters, curl up with a new garden book and dream of the possibilities.

December 2004 Tip of the Month

All the Christmas lights brightly illuminating the island reminds me that winter has truly arrived. And winter is the time for our gardens to rest and plants to go dormant. It is easy to continue watering house plants on schedule as we tend to do during the summer. But houseplants can easily be over watered and should be allowed to go somewhat dry before watering. And you should forget the fertilizer until new spring shoots start showing.

When cut Christmas trees are brought home, they should immediately have at least three inches of the trunk cut off and then place the tree in a bucket of water for at least 24 hours before bringing it into the house to decorate. Trees need a lot of water to stay supple and green so make a daily effort to add water to the tree container base. Never allow the end of the trunk to go dry or you’ll have not only a fire hazard, but also a lot of dry needles to vacuum daily. Living Christmas trees should be spending only about 10 days inside the house and can be watered daily by dumping two trays of ice cubes into the planter to melt slowly into the roots.

All the holiday cooking can generate a lot of vegetable scraps that should be added to the compost pile or dug directly into the garden.

Leaves should be raked off lawns and used for mulch for the garden beds. Leaves make a great insulator for the less hardy plants and shrubs.

When purchasing gifts for family and friends…THINK GARDEN. There are so many great garden books, monthly subscriptions and gadgets that would make any gardener grin from ear to ear. And can anyone ever have too many garden tools? Those of us who are trying to cut back a little on the monetary spending can always give the gift of time to help someone with their garden chores.

Have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.

Linda

November Tip of the Month

October afforded us some unusually warm and balmy days that extended the 2004 gardening season immensely. Hopefully the extra warm and dry days gave everyone a chance to plant cover crops, clean up perennial dieback and pull those new starts of chick weeds. And depending on the weather, mow lawns for the last time of the year!

If all that was done, then November’s crisp autumn days can be filled with planting all your assorted spring blooming bulbs. Garlic, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils can still be planted late into the month. Perennials can be divided and moved and in fact, this is a great time to plant evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs as the winter rains will help them become well established and develop great root growth before next summer.

Hopefully, you have read so many years of my monthly tips, that you already know by now how to work off that last piece of pumpkin pie on the day after Thanksgiving….That’s right….Get out there and put a good organic fall fertilizer on your lawn! It’s like the mega vitamin shot of the year as far as your lawn is concerned. And if October’s surprise dry day extend into November, you may even squeeze in another mowing.

October Tip of the Month

September fooled us by being a little cool and wet for the first part of the month and then turning warm for the last week. Hopefully, the tomato plants won't suffer a problem with late blight because of the damp weather and all the green tomato's will still ripen. If nothing else, we all certainly have an abundance of fruit flies in our homes. I don't believe I have ever seen so many of them ever before. My daughter, Merry Watt, who is a pastry chef told me about the fruit fly trap she concocted and it has become a lifesaver this year. Fill a glass partially full with ripened fruit or tomatoes and cover securely with plastic wrap. Merry then punches a small hole in the center and inserts a funnel made of parchment or wax paper with the end about the size of a peppercorn. The fruit flies enter the glass but cannot escape! I tried the suggestion using a very small ended funnel and it also works well. But then, the question is what to do with the little rascals? I finally just decided to take the jar outside and let them go...saying "Go forth, be fruitful and multiply". And I think they really have, much to the despair of my husband who is trying to make wine in our garage.

Be watchful of the spring flowering bulbs that are so abundant in all the nursery stores this month. Buy them early to get the cream of the crop even if you don't plan to plant them for some time. Don't accept any soft or inferior bulbs as they will only rot over the winter and be a complete waste of money. Garlic bulbs can also be planted this month and any vegetable beds that have been cleaned up can be planted with a rich cover crop of fava beans, peas or alfalfa for tilling into the soil next spring. Those nitrogen rich cover crops will lessen the need for using chemical fertilizers next year that will be harmful to the waters around our precious island. It's another way of being good stewards of our lands.

If you have any perennials that need to be divided, please consider potting the extras this fall and donating them for the annual Fox Island plant sale next May. We may need them for the wetlands that we will be purchasing for the community. And by the way, any surplus dollars that can be spared for purchasing the land is also greatly appreciated. Send donations to FICRA in care of president John Ohlson.

September Tip of the Month

Well this has been quite an exciting gardening summer. If you are lucky enough to have fruit trees on your property, you probably experienced a bumper crop of fruit. My Frost peach tree provided my family and friends with about 300 lbs. of juicy, delicious globes. Now the Bartlett pear is trying to outdo that record and the Asian pear has probably provided 500 lbs. of fruit. I haven’t even checked out the kiwi yet but the strawberries, grapes and raspberries are also trying not to be outdone at setting fruiting records.

Tomatoes seemed to be slow coming on at first, but are now producing faster than I can harvest. And my peppers, eggplant and squash are also in the race along with all those pesky weeds. September is normally a great month so the harvests should go on and on.

A great big thanks to all the contestants who participated in the First Annual Fox Island Judged Flower Show. A SPECIAL thank you to all the judges for critiquing the show and awarding ribbons. I understand that some even traveled from as far as Olympia. The turnout was fantastic so it seems there will definitely be another one at the FICRA Fair next year. Start thinking ahead…..

Now as the subject of next has been raised, I can tell you how excited I am about what I will have to share with you at the plant sale next spring. Mario and Ely, who are Italian relatives of Jeanette Douglass and I, visited us for the first time this summer. They generously brought gifts for all of us and mine included Italian seeds. They gave me pomodoro San Marzano, which are excellent paste tomatoes. Also are pomodoro Costoluro which look to be a slicing or beefsteak tomato, Italian basil, red chicory and Ramata onions from Milan. How lucky am I! Also included were packets of edelweiss, marigolds, and violets so look for a few of each plant at the sale.

Linda Dodds

August Tip of the Month

Calling all Fox Island Gardeners…..This is your opportunity to show off your gardening expertise. The First Annual Fox Island Judged Flower Show will be held August 14 at the Nichols Community Center in conjunction with the FICRA Fair.

The list of categories is:
1. Mixed plantings (container & hanging plants)
2. Cut flowers (roses, dahlias, etc.)
3. Floral arrangements
4. Oversized blossoms (sunflowers, dahlias and..?)
5. Evergreens
6. Hydrangeas
7. Homegrown fruits and vegetables

Entries must be at Nichols Center by 9 am. Call Judy Wilson 549-2015 to register.

I think this could be a really interesting and fun new event but of course it takes participation to make it a success. So no matter how puny that rose bloom or apple looks to you…it just might be a winner in its category.

This unseasonably hot weather has certainly turned all but the most manicured and tended lawns a dusty brown. However, the grass will green up with the rains so don’t waste our precious water by worrying too much about the lawns and watch to be sure you aren’t watering your driveways and wasting water too. Most vegetables and fruits are ripening early this year with all the warmth so watch them closely and pick them often. I don’t believe I have ever had so many peaches, pears and apricots before. It’s been a bumper crop. In fact, I have never had to prop branches before, but have had to do so as I have lost several branches on my fruit trees already.

Happy harvesting and hope to see you all at the flower show.
Linda Dodds

July Tip of the Month

As many of you may already know, I not only write this monthly column but I am also a full time Realtor. At our last weekly office meeting, one of the subjects brought up was the new proposed setbacks for waterfront and the ramifications for either new home owners or those just wanting to remodel their waterfront homes. Proposed county setbacks would be 150 ft with 50 ft natural buffer areas with unbelievable planting requirements. Think three at least 8 inch trunk trees planted to absorb the pollutants. My comment was that I understand the need for protecting our precious stream, lake and saltwater areas, but think the public would be better served with some education.

Nitrogen runoff is the worst culprit as it can end up depleting the oxygen in the waters and leaving the areas complete dead zones. That means everything living in those areas! We certainly don't want that! Even those of us living at the top of the island need to realize that the chemicals we use will end up in the sound eventually. A lush green lawn takes a lot of nitrogen to keep it green and those weedy areas sprayed with Roundup (which is high nitrogen) add to the problem.

So what is a homeowner to do? Well, the answer is quite easy really. First, instead of adding a lot of chemical fertilizers to your lawn, try, mowing more often and just leave the clippings on to naturally fertilize the grass. At least, think about leaving the clippings on every other mowing. Then you will realize that chemical fertilizers aren't needed that often. Also keeping a compost pile going to add to your plantings will not only make good use of vegetable scraps but save on the garbage bill.

When I really need to use Roundup, I put the mixture in a small spray bottle that I can use sparingly on just the leaves of targeted plants. Or use vinegar instead as it usually works great on most weeds. You will be happy with the money saved by not buying so many chemicals plus feel great about being a good steward of the waters around Fox Island. It's our island and our responsibility rather having the county pass regulations that will be hard for all us to accept.

And be sure to water deeply and less frequently to encourage roots to grow far down into the soil so they can better survive any droughts that this year may bring.

June Tip of the Month

So, today is actually June 2 and I am just now sitting down to compose my Tip of the Month for June. The Mariners are playing, I haven't even read the morning paper yet and it's already almost nine at night. If the days are longer this time of the year than 'why don't I have more time?'. The only answer I have is that this is the really, really busy gardening month. Hopefully you now have all your vegetable plants and flowering annuals set in for the summer. Of course there is always weeding, watering and cleanup to do, but this really is the beginning of enjoyment of all the garden activities that our precious Fox Island has to offer.

If you didn't prepare your gardening soil as well as you should have, then there is still time to do so by visiting the Fox Island Worm Farm just one house before the Barn Sale and picking up your supply from Rob and Cheri Carlson. You can still work in the worm castings around each plant for dynamic results. Every plant that went into my garden had a handful of that precious worm doo-doo added first and I am impressed with the results within a couple of weeks.

Several months ago, the Master Gardeners were asked to help out at the Sehmel property, which is to become the new Gig Harbor Homestead Park. As we were pruning the 100 year old Island Belle grapes, I decided that it would be a good time to take some cuttings. I now have a couple a dozen starts going and would be willing to part with half of them to any Islander who would make a good home for them.

One quick note before I leave you for the Mariners game---- If you find a lot of clover in your lawn- perhaps you should think about applying a high nitrogen fertilizer to the soil. Clover is a nitrogen fixer, so a lot of clover means a lack of nitrogen. When you pick a fertilizer and see three numbers on the bag, nitrogen is the first number, and that should be higher than the other two.

I'm off, and the game is still on.....

May Tip of the Month

My late entrance of this months tip is due to the extra time needed to prepare for the annual Fox Island plant sale held May 1. I believe it was the most successful plant sale here ever! Thank you to my other cochairmen Rita Dorner and Jeff Feagin for their hours of tireless work and thanks also to the Fox Island and Sand and Soil garden clubs, along with FICRA members for their help and donations. Heidi Roycroft and Shema Hanebutte helped with the Master Garden clinic and all three of us found ourselves answering questions regarding the infestation of tent caterpillars this year. One shopper even unknowingly brought a couple along to the sale on his hat and clothing. He had been out cutting the webs out of his cherry trees just before he came to the sale and didn’t notice the stowaways he carried with him. The caterpillars are a nuisance and an irritation more then a real problem for the trees. They may strip the trees of foliage, but they won’t kill them most likely. I have been fortunate to only have a few webs on my peach and apricot trees and they were easily cut out and drowned in a bucket of water. BT spray works, but it will also butterfly caterpillars so I prefer to use natural methods unless the infestation in very large and unmanageable.

Many shoppers from the sale probably went home and started planting their purchases right away as it was such a beautiful day for working in the garden. Hopefully they planted the shrubs, trees, perennials and ground covers. The tender annuals and most of the vegetables still need a little more time being protected before going into the garden. I usually feel that the middle of May is the best time to plant beans, cucumbers, squash and corn. I wait until just about Memorial Day to put out the tomatoes. All the bulbs such as dahlias and callas should be planted now. And be sure to watch for those pesky slugs
As they are very active and very hungry right now. Pick up some worm castings at the Fox Island Worm Farm and get your plants off to a rip roaring start this year.

April Tip of the Month

April is definitely a work month in your island garden. One of the most time consuming of jobs is TRYING to keep the weed population under control. Those little pesky weeds are really good about hiding under garden shrubs and plants until they are ready to blossom and set seeds out for another round of weeds. Especially the little popper weeds that, once set seed, scatter them everywhere when you try to pull them out. I try to pull all the ones that blossom first and then work on the others. It is an endless job.

If your lawn hasn’t been mowed yet this year, you can count on having to do so this month. If it is full of moss, apply a good spring lawn fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and has moss control. Once the moss turns black, it will need to be raked out of the lawn or it will just re-grow in short order. If your lawn is completely covered in moss, it may need to have the soil amended or you can just forget about fighting Mother Nature and enjoy an easy maintained ‘moss groundcover’.

Sow seeds of carrots, lettuce and spinach directly into the garden and also plant potato tubers. Start seeds of peppers and tomatoes indoors for transplanting into the garden later. Actually, never mind about starting tomatoes…I have about 350 plants of various kinds growing in my greenhouse. They will be for sale, along with a variety of other vegetables, perennials, shrubs, trees and groundcovers at the annual Fox Island plant sale. Mark your calendars for Saturday May 1 at 12 noon for the big day. Plan on picking up trash in your neighborhood in the morning and then coming to the Community Center for free Chile, purchasing cakes for cancer and buying plants. It’s a great day to visit with your neighbors and make new friends. We will have the signups posted for ‘plants wanted’ and ‘plants to share’ as well as the referral list I mentioned last month.

Two new entries for the referral list are:
One long time resident family now has open business as the Fox Island Worm Farm. Rob and Cheri Carlson are selling registered organic worm castings in 1 cubic foot bags of about 30 lbs. for $15. They can be reached at 549-4150. It’s amazing stuff!

The other addition is a fairly new resident to Fox Island but not new to her business. Pam Britschgi is a 2003 homeowner here who has owned Homescapes Landscaping for 18 years. She specializes in plant selection of blooming shrubs and trees for low maintenance color and has her own nursery in Puyallup. Pam can be reached at 549-7968. I have seen the landscaping job she did on her old home and feel she is highly qualified at her profession.

March Gardening Tip of the Month

March definitely means spring to me! The daffodils and crocus are blooming and will be followed next by hyacinths and tulips. My greenhouse houses around 1000 tomato starts and my spring vegetables are in. If you didn’t do so in Feb., you still can sow seeds and tubers of radish, lettuce, peas, onions, greens and potatoes. Roses and hydrangeas can be pruned and also fruit trees. This is the month to renovate or replace lawns. Add moss control and fertilize with a 312 fertilizer to give lawns a good shot of energy.

If you are planning on starting summer annuals for your garden or better yet, to donate to the Fox Island Plant Sale on May 1, this would be the month to start those seeds. And while we are talking about the plant sale, be sure to mark your calendar for that very important date!

The pesky slugs are back so be diligent about keeping them under control now. One of my friends gave me a decorative container with little slots on the sides. It is filled with beer and then covered with a sand dollar so dead slugs are hidden from view. It actually is a lovely piece of garden art.

Another garden visitor that is back is the neighborhood peacock. He wandered the upper Island Blvd for quite some time and then disappeared for years. Last month he re-emerged and seems to enjoy scratching in the garden. I love the feathers he drops in my yard but some of the other ‘droppings’ aren’t quite as much fun to come across or rather ‘step into’.

Sara Schroeter sent me a suggestion that I think is an excellent idea. She would like to have us compose a list of resource people who we can recommend for garden expertise. I not only would be happy to have all of you give me names of people who you have personal knowledge of as a garden expert in a specific field but would like to start with a couple of recommendations of my own.

1. Joe Hazen is the man who the Light Company has do their tree and shrub pruning and removal. He took out part of a dying madrona tree that was threatening our electrical lines and then we had him prune some laurel shrubs and cut down a maple. He is honest, reasonably priced, fast and leaves the yard clean. Joe’s number is 858-9009.

2. Robert Sweet is the arborist who gives demonstrations to the Master Gardeners on pruning and grafting. I have taken several classes from him, including pruning the 100 year old grapes on the Sehmel homestead Park and find him to be an absolute master at what he does. He truly understands the concept of pruning for fruit production. His number is 531-5633.

I think the plant sale would be a good place to start a list going, so bring names and phone numbers when you come or email me anytime with your information.

February Gardening Tip of the Month

Here it is already Feb. 3 and I'm just getting around to this month's column.  We returned Jan. 22 from a three week cruise to Australia and New Zealand and the time changes just messed up my whole sleep schedule. An almost continuous flight from Sydney to London to here was just a little too much. One of my main reasons for going of course, was to learn new knowledge to share with all of you. Both countries had a wealth of interesting plants but I was also surprised how many of them were the same as here.  Pine trees grow especially fast there and are used extensively.  I saw holly, escallonia, cedar and redwoods and all manner of herbs and annuals.  My mission had been to find some spores of the Tasmanian tree fern as they grow to about 20 ft here.  My husband has vindicated himself for all the times I've had to pick up after him by finding the spores for me.  Hopefully, they will actually reproduce in my greenhouse.  I purchased quite a few packets of seeds so hopefully will have some interesting plants ready for the annual plant sale this year.
 
The Northwest Flower and Garden show going on this month, Feb. 4-8, brings to mind just how close spring is to being here.  However, I must admit it will be hard to get enthusiastic about gardening this year as our faithful nineteen year old cat, White Fong was laid to rest in a sunny part of the garden last Sunday.  She never left my side no matter how disdainful she was of whatever garden project I was involved in so I think I'm going to be a little lost for awhile.

January 2004 Gardening Tip of the Month

This is the time of the year to reflect on the past garden growing season. I ask myself “What were my garden success and failures and how can I improve my garden next year?” “What will I do differently the next time?”

To start with: I always start my tomato seeds around Valentines Day. The past few years, I have been saving the seeds from the previous season as I don’t have to worry about finding the heirloom seeds that I want to grow. And of course, it is much less expensive that way. So in Feb I started sowing my flats of Romas, Grape, Yellow cherry, Brandywine and Stupice seeds. I cover the trays with the fitted plastic covers and place them in the dark and warm furnace room where I check them every few days for moisture. Once I saw the little shoots start peeking through, they were transferred to my green house to grow. Once they developed true leaves they were ready to transplant into 4 inch pots. BUT…I never realized just how many seeds I had saved and how many sprouted. At my best efforts of counting them, I came up with a number somewhere between 1200-1500 plants. I donated several hundred for Relay for Life, Master Gardener’s plant sale, Fox Island plant sale and gave them to every neighbor, relative, friend, real estate agent and client I saw. I did keep 45 plants for myself which kept me in tomato heaven all summer. Because of the cool spring weather, I had covered the plants with row cover and never got around to removing it as I had put netting over that to keep the deer away. Therefore, If not only had ripe tomatoes in early July but found that almost every tomato ripened before fall.

I had originally planned to do some test rows using worm castings from neighbor’s worm farm. I wanted to see if the plants would truly require less watering and if they would produce more abundantly than the non treated plants. However, taking care of my 1 acre parcel while working full time, didn’t leave me time to follow through more than 1 month into the project so I’ll leave that for next summer.

I learned that the hybrid seeds didn’t always produce true to the mother plant. I had several people tell me about the wonderful cherry tomato plants they received from me that produced both yellow and red fruit on the same plant. I only wish they would have told me sooner so I could have saved some of those seeds for next year. And since I never bothered to count how many seeds I saved from this last crop so I’ll probably be back to the same fix in Feb.

At last years NW Flower and Garden show, I purchased some Datura seeds. I think I probably paid about $4 for approximately 12 seeds. Most of them germinated and I transplanted them to my tropical garden where they delighted me with there gorgeous white fragrant flowers. Then I noticed some seed pods ripening on each plant so I broke them off and saved them in the greenhouse. Holy cow! If the seeds are worth $4 a dozen, then I can probably sell them for enough to retire. I am saving them in an airtight container in the freezer until I start germinating them in Feb too. Maybe, I’m going to need a larger greenhouse.

December 2003 Gardening Tip of the Month

Yikes!...  It's December and all my plans for an interesting and clever winter 'tip of the month' have been overshadowed by holiday bustle. Even though you may be tempted to forget your garden chores this time of the year, please give it another thought. There are still many garden duties to perform in order to have a start on spring.

Be diligent about watering over wintered plants as the freezing weather can drain all the moisture from them. Geraniums would probably do fine, but a dry fuchsia …is a dead fuchsia. Any semi tender plants left in the garden can be mulched heavily and hopefully saved. The excess fir and pine branches from your tree are a good source for protecting them as they allow air to circulate around the plant. Simply cover the branches with leaves and they should do fine. Another tip is to place tall stakes around the plants and cover them with old mattress pads. However, this is something you probably wouldn't want to look at in your front yard.

Another important chore is keeping the bird feeders full. Especially if you have over wintering hummingbirds like I do. Even some of the red breasted ones have remained as well as the Annas hummers. I have been told to place a 60 watt light in the shrubs to give them warmth in case we get freezing weather. I would appreciate any comments on the subject from any bird experts out there.

Sorry about the short column, but I have to bake cookies for Santa now………………………Merry Christmas!!

November Gardening Tip of the Month

For a while I thought that Indian summer was going to continue through Christmas but our recent cold snap has ended those hopes. If you haven't sheltered your tender plants, do so before it's too late. An unheated garage or greenhouse is a good place to store potted plants or heavily mulching those planted in the ground must be done now.

If all your spring blooming bulbs have not been planted, do so this month. This includes garlic bulbs as well as tulips and daffodils. Don't burn or dispose of fall leaves…instead use them as mulch on flower beds. They will keep your resting plants warm all winter and decompose by spring, becoming organic matter for building healthy soil.

The main gardening project this month will be applying a good fall fertilizer to your lawns. I always say that this is the MOST important time to fertilize a lawn. And if you do it the day after Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to burn off that second piece of pumpkin pie.

Look through garden magazines and plan your ideas for next year's garden while sipping cider in front of a warm fire. Dream of a garden that you would like yours to become and the winter will just fly by.

I want to mention one more time…I am always happy to answer any gardening questions that any of you may have, so please don't hesitate to ask.

October Tip of the Month

What a gardening summer we have had! If you are a vegetable and fruit gardener, you probably experienced produce overload! I am so glad I planted 46 tomato plants as I won't have to can tomatoes again for years. I was delighted to find that a cantalope seed from my compost pile sprouted, hidden by huge tomatoes until I finally spied a ripe melon about the size of a baseball. It was so sweet and delicious.

The only negatives about gardening this summer was the water needed to keep plants growing. However, Cheri Carlson told me that another benefit of worm castings was their ability to hold water so that even some of her potted plants on the deck needed to only be watered once a week. The other drawback to the dry summer is now we will probably not have any mushrooms. it's just too dry for the spores to germinate and grow before the cold sets in.

However all good things must come to an end and it's now time to start putting your beds to rest for the winter. Clean up any rotting fruit and if they are not diseased, put them in the compost pile along with leaves and plants that you have pulled out of the beds. However, if any plants show signs of disease, such as verticulum wilt, burn them instead. Just don't put them in your compost.

Until about Oct. 15 lawns can be renovated and seeded over to fill in any dead spots. Cover crops such as peas can be seeded in beds this month. Not only will they provide nitrogen to the soil but they will give you an early pea crop next spring!

This is the time to unscrew all your hoses and drain sprinkler systems if you have one. Dig up dahlias and separate and replant perennials. And this also the time to put tender annual and perennial plants in a protected place like an unheated garage or greenhouse.

September Tip of the Month

My many thanks to Master Gardener Dona Hamilton for writing Septembers' Tip of the Month.  Good thing we are experiencing such lovely weather so you can be out there accomplishing all her suggestions.  Linda

Gardening in September

Planning:

Continue to assess areas in the garden which may need additional planting
Continue to work on a landscape plan for fall planting of trees and shrubs
Continue to take garden notes and /or photographs to plan future plantings

Maintenance:

bulletContinue to practice water-wise horticultural techniques
bulletDe -thatch and aerate existing lawns to promote root growth
bulletCollect seed from perennials and annuals
bulletContinue to aerate and moisten compost pile to speed decomposition
bulletContinue to check for insect pests and treat accordingly
bulletContinue to remove any fallen leaves and debris which can harbor insect pests and disease organisms
bulletPrune cane fruits such as raspberries and blackberries
bulletPrune rambler roses
bulletPrune to remove any diseased and dead rose canes
bulletRoot prune wisteria that doesn't bloom
bulletAdd organic matter such as manure, compost and/or leaf mold to improve garden soils
bulletFertilize roses one last time
bulletFertilize lawns with organic fertilizer to stimulate winter root development

Planting:

Plant and transplant broad-leaved and needle-leaved evergreens through October
Plant late season annuals like ornamental kale and cabbage for fall color
Sow parsley, radish, lettuce, carrot and onion
Plant fall-blooming bulbs to brighten up fading window boxes, planters and in drifts among ornamental grasses

 

August Tip of the Month

I can't help but wonder if years from now we will be still talking about the great gardening year of 03. It certainly has been a hot and dry summer and the bountiful tomato crop from my garden sure proves it! We have been eating those red jewels for a month now and that is really early for us. Peaches are ripening fast and bean bushes are outdoing themselves daily. And of course the weeds also seem to be thriving and are a constant source of irritation.

Lawns are turning brown and the trees are tinder dry. Fire is the big fear now. If you have dry tall grass near your home it would be wise to mow it down and keep plants near the house watered. Friends of mine, who I recently sold a new home to, made the bad mistake of telling me how they have been watering their newly planted lawn twice a day. They had to endure a lecture from me on the correct way to water their plants. Shallow frequent watering's cause the roots to stay close to the surface and risk the chance of not being able to survive a hot spell. Lawns need about 1 inch of moisture a week to stay green. The proper way to water is to soak it the lawn well twice a week giving it about 1/2 inch each time. The easiest way to figure out how long it takes it to give grass a 1/2 inch of water is to place out empty tuna cans in an area and see how long it takes them to fill up to the appropriate depth. Roots will grow deeper and stronger and the rare 90 degree weather days won't be so devastating to your precious lawn.

Since we don't actually have an unlimited supply of water on our island, I have been doing my best to conserve water. Water used to cook vegetables can be saved and cooled and dumped over garden plants. I'm sure the vitamins and minerals in the veggie water can't be anything but healthy for the blooming posies!

Since this is such an abundant year for produce in my yard, zucchini and tomatoes may be sitting out by my mailbox for passerby's to help themselves.

July Tip of the Month

I could be filthy rich right now, if I had $1 for every question I've answered concerning caterpillars the last month or so. I think we were lucky on Fox Island, as other areas in Gig Harbor have been crawling with the little black and yellow creatures while I have noticed only a few large tents here. Chances are, now that the caterpillars and going off to cocoon, the trees will grow new leaves and be just fine. Problems usually only occur if the tree was already quite stressed or not healthy to begin with but healthy trees should not have any trouble. Of course, once all those moths start flying around this summer our warm evenings may be busy swatting moths. BT can kill the caterpillars but it doesn't differentiate between moths and butterflies so instead why not let nature take it's course and have the birds and other predators stuff themselves instead.

Keep your annuals deadheaded and fertilize them ever couple of weeks for long lasting blooms. I like liquid fish fertilizer for my plants but am also experimenting using worm casting from Rob and Cheri Carlson's worm farm. In fact, I need to stop by and see if I can purchase some right now!

Weeds never give up so you still have to bee diligent about pulling them out before they flower and reseed. Water plants deeply and less frequently now that the hot weather has begun. It's best to water early in the morning to get good penetration and if you have a timer on your system, set it for around sunrise. And don't forget our feathered friends and keep your birdbaths clean and full all the time. They'll reward you by eating those pesky caterpillars.

June Tip of the Month

I apologize in advance.  I have been busy doing exactly what you need to be doing this month. so between planning and working the plant sale and doing my own gardening , I didn't have time to write a decent tip for June gardening. The plan for June is...plant (all tender annuals and vegetables) , weed ( all the time) and water deeply! I promise to give you a more thorough gardening tip next month and not wait until the last minute to start thinking!

Linda

May Tip of the Month

The month of May welcomes you to the beginning of a busy garden season. This is PLANTING month for annuals, perennials and veggie gardens. And the place to buy all your plants is Saturday May 10 at 12 noon at the Nichols Community Center. This year promises to be the biggest and best yet with great prices and also a chance to see and visit with all your neighbors.  

I personally have over 600 tomato plants, some in bloom already, to sell.  And Ace Hardware has kindly donated some blooming annuals to brighten a window box. Master Gardeners will be there to answer questions and give advise on planting all your purchases and you can also sign up for plants you would like to share with others or plants that you hope someone will share with you. Remember though...the doors don't open until 12:00 and when they do, things go quickly!

Just to be sure there is no more chance of a frost (did we have any this year?) wait until near the end of the month to plant your tender plants. Cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peppers and eggplants can't tolerate much cold. Don't forget to feed the faded tulip, daffodil, and other bulbs for next years bloom.

April Tip of the Month

Our April showers will bring May flowers and lots of April weeds! Seems like this year the shot weed is even worse than normal. I can't walk down to the compost pile without stopping along the way to pull a weed or two. The other day I was going to the greenhouse to water my new tomato starts and then get ready for work. That short walk of 50 ft took me an hour as I just got carried away pulling weeds.

And as the subject of tomatoes has come up- my greenhouse is overflowing with 6 types of tomatoes! I saved all my seeds from my harvest last year and liberally seeded the trays in Feb. Everyone one of those seeds must have sprouted and I figure I have over 1000 plants in flats. Only a little over 550 have been transplanted for the plant sale and the rest given to other causes and groups for money raising projects. I think saving seeds from your own garden produces the healthiest and best germinating plants. It also is a way to preserve heirloom and specialty varieties that may be hard to find every year. I'll devote some time late summer on how to save seeds.

I prefer to dig up my dahlias in the spring rather than having to store them all winter. Of course I risk having a terrible freeze and losing them or having them rot in the ground but it is easier for me to determine where the eye is on the tubers. So especially if you haven't dug up and divided your dahlias for a few years, it might be time to do that now. Spade as close to the tuber clump as possible without slicing through any tubers. Wash them off in a bucket of water to remove the mud. Sort out and dispose of any rotted tubers and try to salvage as many as possible with an eye on them and remove them from the clump. Once dried they can be dusted with a fungicide, marked (if you have the name) and replanted. On some types of dahlias the eye is almost impossible to see and many won't have any eyes at all.

Remember May 10 is the Fox Island plant sale so if you would like to contribute in any way, please give me a call at 549-2534.

March Tip of the Month

I hope many of you had the opportunity to attend the Northwest Flower and Garden show in Seattle last month. The first thing you notice when entering the flower hall is the wonderful fragrance of blooming lilies and hyacinths. It's a sensual delight! I find it always an inspiration to start the garden season with many new ideas and concepts.  One interesting use for blue wine bottles I noticed was digging in and inserting the bottles upside down along the edge of a path. It made a very different border. But, how does one ever find a great bottle of wine in a blue bottle that is inexpensive enough to finish the project? There seems to be more and more exotic plants every year and of course I'm a sucker for all of them. Some day I hope to have enough new banana plants to share at the Fox Island plant sale. Those and my sago palms and taro plants have done very well the past few years.

As I have bought up the subject of the plant sale, please mark your calendars for May 10. FICRA and the two garden club members are already starting seeds and taking cuttings in preparation for the event. I just put 600 tomato starts down in my greenhouse so hopefully I'll have plenty to share this year. Last year I had a dampening off problem and lost most of my starts. If anyone has any interest in helping with the plant sale or donating plants to the cause ,please contact me via email or home 549-2534. We can use all the help we can get.

February 2003 Tip of the Month

Gardening season is back! February is a most romantic month - not just for receiving long stem roses, but also for picking out a new rose bush. Rush to your favorite nursery to get the best choice of new bare root roses and enjoy bouquets all summer long. Actually February is the time to plant all bare root shrubs and trees so get your shovels sharpened and your planting ideas formulated. Fruit trees should be pruned now but wait until after President's Day to prune existing roses.

This is the time to plant early vegetable seed like peas and spinach directly into the garden and hardy annuals of calendula, English daisy and pansy. Tomato seeds can be started indoors and later transferred to a heated greenhouse to get a good start on summer.

All those pesky weeds that you didn't pull last year will be producing their new offspring's so just be diligent at pulling them his spring. As the saying goes "One year's weeds - 7 years seeds". Plan a different area each time to focus on your weed attack and eventually it won't be such a chore. And just learn to live with some weeds because to get everyone is just impossible.

January 2003 Tip of the Month

Another year gone by and 3 million new weeds have sprouted to keep me busy all 2003! How time flies when your gardening!

Now, open your 2003 calendar to Feb. and mark down 19-23 for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. It will be held at the Convention Center in Seattle and has been titled a Festa Botanica. Once there you will stroll down the Boulevard and view 20 fully landscaped fabulous Gardens. Visit the Orchid Exhibit, Ikebana and Bonsai and Cool Plant Corner. Take a Theater break to see "A Betrothal" or listen to "Poetics in Garden and nature: Selections of American Poetry". Search the Marketplace for exciting new exhibitors and perennial favorites. Come celebrate and see what Old man Winter has been hiding from us, Color - Fragrances - Foliage - all sculptured together for that sneak peek into Spring!

Tickets can be purchased from your favorite nursery or ordered online from the website, www.gardenshow.com  You can also call the show office at 206-789-5333.

I was surprised to see a hummingbird checking out the fake poinsettias stuck in the Christmas garland on my porch railing. I immediately went in and filled a feeder for the little guy and then called my friend Charlotte who is a wild animal advocate and veterinary nurse. She assured me that the little guy wasn't lost or senile but a rare variety of hummers that occasionally over winters here in the Pacific Northwest. She said that I probably had a nesting pair and that I should put out a couple of sugar water feeders. If it gets really cold we are to plug a 40 watt bulb in a protected shrub to give the family a little warmth. In February the happy couple should start building a nest if they like the neighborhood. I'm just passing this along in case any of you should also be lucky enough to have a hummingbird visiting your home.

May you all have a 2003 free from weeds, marauding deer and other gardening pests!

 

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