• Earth Day 2015

    April 22, 2015

    Since Earth Day 2015 also lands on a Wednesday, I figured why not put together a post celebrating the visual beauty of the natural world, while keeping the post mostly wordless for “Wordless Wednesday.” I decided on mostly wordless because captions give context. Every day should be a celebration of the Earth, but I’ll go along with the annual promotion by taking time to remember some of the near and far moments I’ve enjoyed courtesy of Mother Nature’s child Earth.

    Anna's hummingbird is nesting this earth day

    Anna’s hummingbird building a nest in spring.

    Kootenai Forest in Montana

    A gorgeous late summer day looking at the Kootenai Forest in Montana.

    Snoqualmie Falls frozen

    Powerful Snoqualmie Falls flowing and freezing – what a day!

    Pacific Crest Trail in Autumn

    One of my most spectacular moments in nature on the Pacific Crest Trail in early Autumn.


  • Cool (Season) Leafy Greens to Grow + Recipe

    April 17, 2015

    Growing leafy greens from seed is easy. In fact, you’re probably already growing many of them without knowing it. Some of our favorite leafy greens come attached to delicious root vegetables. And, all of them are simple to sow, grow and cook. In this post, we’ll focus on some of the more delicate greens like spinach and lettuce as well as leafy greens from plants you might not think of as leafy forage.

    Mixed leafy salad greens

    Mixed leafy salad greens like speckled & butter lettuces, mizuna and spinach are just a few of the many leafy greens to grow & eat in the cool season.

    The basics for growing each of our favs is:

    1. Pick a variety known to perform well in your area. (Check our shopping list below for ideas!)
    2. Pick a sunny spot (in the cool season) that has nutrient-rich, well drained, weed-free soil.
    3. Sow seeds thickly – meaning put a lot of them into your garden row to start. Plant them to the depth recommended on the seed packet.
    4. Cover the bed with a cold frame, cloche, hoop house or horticultural fleece.
    5. Water seeds gently everyday until they germinate and then continue to water those babies.
    6. Begin thinning seedlings as soon as the rows emerge, using the “thinning” leafy greens to augment salads and other dishes. (Thinning isn’t a one-time thing; you’ll be doing it very few days or every week. “Thinning” means pulling out every other – or so – plant to give remaining plants room to grow.
    7.  As the plants get bigger each week, your harvest will get larger too. Eventually, you will pick the entire, mature plant.

    Here are a few of our favorite leafy greens to try in your spring garden now. Plus a recipe & shopping!


  • Hail No! Plant Damage Discourse.

    April 10, 2015

    I anticipate many clients getting in touch to ask what’s causing weird plant damage this spring. We haven’t experienced a strange invasion of locusts. Rather, it’s March going out like a lion that’s done the most damage already this season – at least in our neck of the woods.

    Aeonium hail plant damage

    Thick, fleshy leaves of tender Aeonium look like they suffered a case of the Pox following a hail storm. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of a cruddy season for this tender plant.

    So, if your plants are looking anything like these images, odds are the damage is mechanical. And, no the culprit probably isn’t an insect, deer, bunny or ground-dwelling rodent.

    Crown fritillary plant damage from hail.

    Many ready-to-open flower buds had the color hammered right out of them as seen in this hail damaged crown frittilary. The flowers should still open, but they look awful.

    And, while many insects can cause damage that shows up looking similar to some of this hail destruction, these plants haven’t been hit by any number of insects like aphids, weevils and spittle bugs that emerge to do damage soon.


  • 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…)

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