• Arborist Chip Mulch Much?

    April 03, 2015

    Arborist chip material has gone from an unwanted by-product to an impossible-to-find commodity to a readily available and desirable garden good in just the past few years. So, if you’ve put off trying chips in your garden because you didn’t have luck finding them, read on to learn where they’re readily available these days. And, if you’ve skipped using them for any number of other reasons, I challenge you to read on and see if your excuses still hold up by the end of this article.

    Cedar arborist chip material

    Cedar arborist chips fill the garden with fragrance, nutrients & weed suppression.

    What is an arborist chip? (more…)

  • Grow Nasturtium & Eat’m Too!

    March 27, 2015

    Grow nasturtium, and you’ll be cultivating a multipurpose beauty!

    We always had fluffy mounds of annual, orange, yellow and red nasturtiums gracing the edges of our enormous food garden on the farm. We plucked their generous blooms to decorate dinner salads, and their abundant leaves helped fill our bowls as well.

    Nasturtium flower

    Tropaeolum majus or annual garden nasturtium is edible, beautiful & more for your garden.

    We grossed out when the plants were attacked by rapidly multiplying black aphids, but we were always glad these fast-to-regenerate plants were the pest’s favored destination – rather than some of our nearby storage crops like squash, tomatoes and beans. And, we were always thrilled when tiny hummingbirds would dart from bloom to aphid to bloom.  This is one plant that served many purposes on our little homestead: pollinator forage, pest lure, eye candy, and food for us.

    The annual nasturtiums we grew then (& the perennials we grow now):

    On our farm, we grew Tropaeolum majus – the non-native, but quite common garden nasturtium. In spring, we would sow seeds deeply in the earth and throughout summer the generous plants would trail, mound and sometimes vine in the garden. It fed us, helped with pest control, and looked plain lovely. But, come the chill of  Virginia and NorCal autumns, the plants would crash to the ground, permanently. If they had shed seed, new progeny might arise in the following spring, but following a frost all T. majus plants were dead for the season. That’s an annual for you.

    This early spring, I’ve already sown a crop for the growing season ahead.  If you haven’t planted any, grab some from our store and start sowing these useful annuals soon. (And read-on to learn about another nasturtium you just gotta grow!) Purchases through the following affiliate links pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!

    Thanks to my friend Jessi Bloom (author of Free Range Chicken Gardens and Practical Permaculture), I learned about a gorgeous perennial Tropaeolum to cultivate in our Pacific NW garden. She handed me a shriveled old tuber from her fridge one winter day a few years ago and said, “Grow this.” And, I did. What came from that sad looking root was an amazing nasturtium that continues to thrive as a multipurpose perennial in our garden today: Tropaeolum tuberosum, mashua or perennial nasturtium is its name.

    Mashua flower and leaves

    Orange-red mashua nasturtium flowers offset by a background of green nasturtium leaves add eye-candy to our pre-frost fall garden beds, feeding hummingbirds & us.

    What Mashua has to offer & how to grow this nasturtium & where to buy tubers: (more…)

  • Dog and Garden Can Grow Harmoniously

    March 20, 2015

    Think your dog and garden can’t grow harmoniously? Think again!

    It’s true that dogs can be incredibly destructive to our gardens. Some dig holes in all the wrong places. Others prefer to poop exactly where we walk. Some will tumble and roll over our tender blooms. Many will chew exactly what they shouldn’t – like irrigation heads. Marking males love to lift their legs to squirt burning pee all over our favorite shrubs, leaving them browned and dead on at least one side. Both boys and girls will dig, pee and poop lawns into patchwork quilts. And, those are just a few of the worst dog offenses we tolerate, with dismay, from our canine companions.

    Flat coat retriever dog & labradoodle in garden

    Given a good environment, attention & training, dogs won’t destroy every garden. Here, an antique cauldron does double-duty as garden art & as a target for a big leg-lifting retriever.

    I’m not here to wave a magic wand that makes your dog’s area of the garden look as fantastic as the areas Fido can’t forage. But, I’ve lived with a lot of dogs in a lot of different garden spaces in my life, which has helped me develop quite a few tricks and tools to buy that might help your garden survive some of the worst poochy offenses.

    Puppy chewing on sticks in the garden

    Young pups are easy to train, but don’t believe the lie “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

    Get a few dog treats and garden tools to help your garden and dog (and you) harmonize beautifully! 


  • Easy Soap Recipes with Garden Flowers

    March 13, 2015

    Working with caustic lye has never appealed to me, so I set out to develop easy soap recipes that don’t require a respirator, special equipment or very much time. Now that I’ve got it figured out, every month or so, I spend a few minutes in the kitchen whipping up a supply of fragrant, homemade soap that lasts for weeks.

    Easy soap recipe homemade bar

    These easy soap recipes take about 5 minutes of work & are inexpensive.

    Not only are my DIY soap recipes easy to prepare, but they cost much less per bar* than the $4+/bar I had been paying for organically based bars of soap at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Plus, I can decorate my easy soap recipes with a number of homegrown flowers and herbs from my garden. We use these soaps daily in our shower, and I’ve always got a few bars on hand for gifts.

    Peppermint Seahawk fan easy soap recipe bar

    My easy soap recipe for peppermint pucks is a great green & blue gift
    for your favorite Seattle Seahawks fans!

    Following are a just a few of my botanically rich and easy soap recipes — peppermint, rose and citrus. Plus, I’ve put together a shopping widget to make it easy for you to buy all the ingredients you’ll need to grow your own flowers and make your own soaps at home. And, for you knitters, we’ve got a link for instructions to DIY exfoliating soap sleeves. (more…)

  • Dock Weed Control & Many Uses for Rumex

    March 06, 2015

    Dock weed control usually isn’t done properly, which results in the plants rebounding rapidly. While you might want to get rid of your dock (aka Rumex), there are also a number of reasons you may want to cultivate it in your garden. That being said, if you’ve ever faced off with an unwanted patch of dock, odds are you’ve done something wrong in trying to destroy it. I know I have. I’ve pulled at it (without the right tools or during the dry season) only to have the top growth detach from the tap roots, which live to split and sprout another day. And, more than once a wily plant has managed to set seed while I was looking the other way.

    Uprooted dock weed control

    Dock weed control means getting all of the roots from the ground.

    Had my goal been to create a perpetual crop of dock (or Rumex, as it is known botanically or sorrel, as its known in culinary circles), my efforts would have been okay. But, when the intent is to eradicate a patch of dock weed, control steps need to be timed right and done with care. In the following paragraphs and images, I’ll look at several species of Rumex — both in terms of weeding it out of your garden and in terms of using it as a cultivated harvest and design element.

    The Rumex genus includes a number of species including R. acetosa (garden sorrel), R. scutatus (French sorrel), R. crispus (yellow or curly dock), R. obtusifolius (broadleaf dock), R. sanguineus (bloody dock), and more. I’ll focus on these, with which I have lived in a number of gardens.

    Let’s begin with how to eradicate an unwanted dock patch, followed by what to do with your harvest!


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