March 08, 2013
Interested in learning about urban homesteading with farm animals? Next week Garden Mentors® is participating in an exciting group seminar teaching the in’s and out’s of city gardening with country animals — including goats, honeybees, chickens and more!
Timber Press Free Range Chicken Gardens author Jessi Bloom, revered goatie guru gal Lacia Lynne Bailey, and Garden Mentors®‘ own honeybee hive host Robin Haglund will be teaming up to teach the professional garden designers of APLD and others – like you – about the in’s and out’s of creating and maintaining city gardens filled with these country animals.
Know what’s really cool? Each of us has lived and gardened and farmed with every one of the farm animals we’ll be discussing. (more…)
February 22, 2013
The 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show has been my obsession this week. I’ve been exploring the gardens, shopping, and soaking up great information at seminars over the last several days. While I have a moment to take a breather away from the convention center, I wanted to share a few fun photos from the showroom floor.
Remember: I’m talking on Sunday on gardening for pollinators, with tips to increase your edible crop yields. And, I’ll be talking about garden design for attracting & helping wild bees as well as keeping honey and other bees in your own garden. Details here.
Here’s our peek to whet your appetite before you head down today through Sunday:
What you’ll notice right away: a lot of metal this year. Quite a few more manikins and stuffed animals than were necessary to tell a good story imho. (And no, I didn’t spend a lot of time taking pictures of those things.) Too, the show gardens were nearly devoid of food, farming or anything in sync with the trending demand for urban homesteading. (Even though one sells its measly plantings as a food forest. Sure, there’s some edible stuff, but barely.) All that being said – from my tired and probably grumpy perspective – there were quite a few great garden ideas, shopping deals and the seminars (as always) continue to be outstanding. Heck, if you want to learn about growing food, plan your seminar schedule right now. Chickens, Bees, edible plants, cocktail gardening & more are all the rage in the seminars!
October 22, 2012
There’s no way everyone answers these questions the same way. Some of us are focused on growing food. Others simply want a neat & tidy entry to their homes. Folks like me, well, we’ve got a mish-mash of never-ending reasons. Some may seem like worthless distractions — like the video that follows — but I’d argue the distractions are as important as everything else we do outdoors.
This weekend I set a few goals. They seemed reasonable and attainable as I mapped them out over my Sunday morning latte:
- Plant bulbs, including garlic
- Rake leaves & fill composters
- Clear out spent annual containers, including pots of tomatoes
- Pull weeds as you go
Sure, it’s a small list, but I didn’t manage to complete everything before the hail showers arrived mid-afternoon. The decorative bulbs made it into beds from which I pulled weeds as I worked. Many more containers filled with summer’s dead have been cleared. And, our compost bins are filled to the brim and even more leaves are piled in spots where the wind won’t whip them out into the beds in the coming months. (I like to stash as many as I can to refill the compost bins as the months go by.) But, I didn’t manage to get the garlic planting scratched off my list.
Instead of racing to get everything done, I took time to really relax as I worked. I breathed deeply, savoring the fleeting fragrance of fallen Katsura leaves. I looked up as our resident hummingbird buzzed me again and again on his way to feed on nearby Monkshood, Fuchsia and Salvia. And, I looked down, marveling at some of the hardest working & most under-appreciated wildlife in our garden — the earthworm.
Now that the rains have returned for autumn, our luscious soil was teeming with earthworms of all sizes. Traveling through they soil, they make their way upward to feed on the leaf duff, mulch and wood chips. And, as they move through the soil, pooping and sliming along the way, they drop nutrients for the plant roots among which they live and thrive. I enjoyed them so darn much, I even took the time to pull out my camera and film one in action.
Yeah, that’ll slow a gardener down.
More leaves will be falling all winter long, so that’s a never ending chore. And, I’m still in the safe zone to plant my garlic, so it’s okay that didn’t get done.
After I went inside, got cleaned up & planted myself in my favorite reading chair overlooking the garden, I watched flocks of robins, sparrows, wrens, towhees, starlings, chickadees and others make their way into the garden beds where I had recently raked, planted and pulled weeds. The seed eaters feasted upon Love Lies Bleeding, Sunflower and other seeds. The robins scratched their way through the beds looking to snack upon the slurpy worms I’d left behind. Together they put on a show in the pouring rain, entertaining me ’til sunset hid all but the brightest garden bits from view.
Yes, I garden for food, to improve the environment, to get exercise, to make a lush outdoor environment and all that jazz. But I also garden to stay connected to nature — whether I’m filling my fist with soil, planting a bulb (decorative or edible) or simply watching nature in action on our little piece of the planet.
August 04, 2012
First off: Thanks Valerie Easton for contacting me for your article on garden coaching tips and tricks! It’s an honor to be featured in your column. This week’s feature: Robin Haglund has the A’s for your Q’s.
The day Valerie contacted me, I was visiting Lexington, Virginia with family — on vacation. Fortunately, I had left the internet-free & phone-free countryside long enough to get her email saying she wanted to chat asap. We managed to connect while I sat in a shady park to escape the blistering heat on that May Virginia day.
We chatted for a long while during which time she gave me one very valuable piece of advice, paraphrasing here: “Soak up the heat. It’s still cold and wet in Seattle.” Not that I didn’t already know this, but it was a good reminder to take in the sun and swimming and fireflies while I could. It was still May, afterall. Summer didn’t really hit until today in Seattle — that would be August, folks!
If you’re here because you read Valerie’s article, thank you for coming. I hope there’s more information here that you find helpful, and if you’re still stumped, please get in touch for a garden coaching session so we can address your needs in your garden.
I need expand on one item Valerie mentioned in her article, because I’m a bit concerned it may be confusing.
The topic: as a rough rule of thumb, prune ornamental plants right after they finish flowering.
While I do share this idea in a number of situations, including the examples Valerie mentions in her article, I want to clarify that this isn’t always the ideal method of pruning. For instance, if you’re growing a plant from which you plan to harvest fruit, pruning it right after flowering will mean that you likely prune out your future fruit as well. Too, many plants are best to prune while they’re dormant…aka in winter, which is before spring, which may be when your plant flowers. And, your own plants may even have more complex requirements than this.
Oh, and yes, one more thing. I know there are those that will claim that broken egg shells don’t work to keep slugs at bay, but it works for me, so I offer it as an easy, sustainable, recycler’s solution. Try it. Worst case: a bit of slug damage and your soil gets an application of calcium, which it may very well need.
Rules, especially rough rules, are always made to be broken.
Thanks again Val! And, everyone, keep having fun in your garden!
August 03, 2012
Ever tried edible amaranth is your garden?
We are a greens eatin’ household, so I’m always looking for new-to-us tasty leaves to grow for the table. This year, we seeded Heirloom edible Amaranthus tricolor from Botanical Interests. No regrets, and we’ll grow it again, but here’s what I’ll do better next time.
This plant loves the heat, so planting it early in the year — even in our passive greenhouse — barely worked out. Many of the seedlings that actually germinated ended up crashing in the cold. The starts that I moved out into the garden in early May were either mowed down by slugs, died for other reasons or are totally stunted. Even when temperatures warmed up, they never grew beyond those first sets of leaves. (Maybe I should have heeded the vendor’s warning that it doesn’t take well to transplanting.)
The plants that I kept in the greenhouse, potting up now and again to keep up with their growth, continue to perform beautifully. (Um, so transplanting worked in these cases.)
The one plant that grew rapidly, quickly lost some of its beautiful reddish leaf color. Still, its huge leaves are making perfect wrappers for fresh tomato and basil snacks. The other plants, still clothed in brilliantly colored leaves, simply shine in the greenhouse. We’ve harvested from them a bit and will continue to do so. To date, we’ve only eaten the leaves raw, but that big plant with the dull leaves may be chopped down tonight and steamed like spinach…or, I may continue to stress it in hopes it throws a few flowers that will produce high-protein seed we can sprinkle over salads of the same.
Love the look?
Another Amaranth we love to grow in ‘Love Lies Bleeding‘. This show-stopping cousin isn’t edible (to my knowledge), but its flowers are simply unparalleled eye candy. This year, I seeded quite a few, but I enjoyed watching several other volunteers show up in spots where I left it to seed itself last autumn. I’ll be doing more of the same this year.
(Fine print: Although Garden Mentors has received free seed from Botanical Interests in the past, we purchased this edible Amaranthus seed. Also, we have received no compensation for this blog post.)