Fox Island Garden Club
2003 - 2005 Gardening Tips Archive
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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
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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”.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
2. Cut flowers (roses, dahlias, etc.)
3. Floral arrangements
4. Oversized blossoms (sunflowers, dahlias
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Tip of the Month
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
May you all have a 2003 free from weeds, marauding deer and
other gardening pests!
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