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!
April 04, 2012
Got questions about how to grow tomatoes successfully?
Here’s a timeline we put together to help you grow your way to a bumper-crop of these delicious nightshades. Time to get growing now!
(The following was originally posted 9/21/2010)
This afternoon I enjoyed lunch on my patio in the sun. I watched the honeybees visiting late bloomers as I gobbled up a sandwich and soaked up some much needed daylight. Then, of course, I had to take a stroll through my garden to see what’s what.
At this point most of my summer veggie crops are pretty much kaput. I am letting my runner beans fatten up for drying. A few chard continue to produce as do a couple of cucumbers, beets, yellow wax beans, zucchini and some sad corn. Really, it’s all about the tomato crop this year. And, honestly that’s kind of surprising given how cool and wet it’s been. Then again, with just a little extra care, several of the right kinds of plants and some luck against blight, its pretty apparent Seattlites really can enjoy a decent tomato harvest.
Here’s the rundown:
- March: Seeded tomatoes into sterile mix. Grew them on without supplemental light or heat in unheated greenhouse.
- April & May: Potted tomato seedlings into 4″ and 1 gallon containers, keeping them in the greenhouse and cold frame. Fertilize with slow release, natural organic.
- June: Transplanted tomatoes into parking strip / Hellstrip. Buried stems deeply in shallow trenches. Installed square cages. Covered cages with plastic to continue greenhouse effect, leaving a few inches at bottom of cages exposed to allow for airflow. Fertilize with slow release, natural organic.
- July: Removed plastic wrapping from tomatoes. Trimmed tomatoes multiple times. Encouraged volunteer borage to go crazy among tomatoes. Bees love it. Bees visit borage and then tomatoes — honeybees as well as bumblebees!
- August: Continue trimming out tomatoes. Water as needed. Fertilize for final time.
- September: Tip out plants. Thin out any late suckers. Cut out all new flowers, which have zero chance of forming viable fruit this year. With hold fertilizer. Replace plastic, using hoop houses now that plants are large. Don’t cover completely as airflow is critical to keep out blight and to allow water to reach roots with minimal splashing on plants. Check regularly for any fungal infections. Remove and dispose of any immediately. Harvest every few days & preserve & EAT!
Next year this strip won’t be used for tomatoes. Gotta think crop rotation, right? Last year it was corn, squash and beans. Next year I’m thinking a field of edamame may be in order!
Need help planning ahead for next year? Get in touch with Garden Mentors to set up your edible garden consultation now. Believe it or not, its never too soon to get started!
Tonight I look forward to another large harvest of mixed Peron, Saucy Paste, Oregon Springs, Sweetie and Late Keeper Tomatoes. Likely, after harvest, I’ll be preserving yet another large batch like this one. The question is: do I make soup, marinara or just chunk them up for any number of fantastic winter meals. Or maybe, we’ll just eat a huge salad of them instead!
If you had this mountain of tomatoes to ponder, what recipe would be first on your list? Although I have any number of ideas, I welcome your input and look forward to new recipes! Remember: we have a mix of slicers and paste tomatoes going this year, so be creative and inspire us!
February 01, 2012
January 30, 2012
One of the most overlooked parts of the Northwest Flower & Garden show has to be the higher education and club booths. After passing through the wondrous show gardens, traversing the container display on the skybridge and entering the expansive shopping area, you may find yourself looking for an escape from stimulus overload. Heading to any of the on-going seminars, where you can take a load off while learning from the industry’s best, is the perfect oasis. But, while you’re on your way in or out of a lecture, be sure to visit a few of the horticulture higher education booths and club stalls located in the North Hall by the Plant Market — many are right between the skybridge and the seminar entrance, too.
These are the spots where you can find out about forthcoming specialty sales, investigate opportunities to earn a horticulture degree of your own, join volunteer restoration groups and more.
Years ago, before entering horticulture as a professional, I visited the various educational areas of the show to explore what kinds of clubs, affiliations or colleges made sense for me. While the Iris Society may not have been quite up my alley, other groups like the Northwest Perennial Alliance definitely appealed to me. Every year, I make a point of dropping by the Seattle Fruit Tree Society‘s booth as well to see what’s new in fruit-i-culture in our area. Too, visiting these education stalls is a great way to for me to learn what’s new in specific areas of the industry while meeting and catching up with horticultural specialists I may not see for the other 11 months of the year.
Years ago one education booth in particular drew me in. And thank goodness it did. That stop became my first big step toward a career in horticulture. (more…)
July 25, 2011
Last week, as I drove through a typical Seattle neighborhood, I slammed on the breaks when I spied a wave of deep purple to my left. Fortunately, nobody was tailgating me. There, behind a short fence, was a knee-high wall of lavender. It filled the entire entry garden. And, it was simply stunning.
In winter it will be grey like the Seattle skies, but I’m still desperately in love with this planting. It is simple. It isn’t thirsty. It feeds the bees. And, its absolutely beautiful & the fragrance is intoxicating.
Yes, it amounts to a monoculture. (If you don’t count the grasses & perennials in the adjacent parking strip area.) But too, it is a tough-as-nails xeriscape.
And, I’m smitten. And, I find myself dreaming of a day — hopefully in the not-too-distant future — when I will have enough land that I can easily dedicate a full acre to growing lavender — truly one of my favorite medicinal, edible, fan-freakin-tastic herbs.
April 12, 2011
Ellen from Bellevue, WA wrote in over the weekend to find out if she’s alone with a garden full of winter-croaked plants this spring. She saw a number of (her words not mine) California type plants give up the ghost along with decades-old hydrangea. Her inquiry prompted me to put together a write up similar to this one from past harsh winters sharing what I’m seeing dead or near-dead around town this Spring.
Although I haven’t seen any well established hydrangeas around town that have bit the dust, Ellen’s two California type plants that are now among the dearly departed are joined by many of their cousins around town. And, there are quite a few other surprising hardy plants that also took heavy hits this winter. Some are dead; some might just surprise you yet!
The Seattle area is known for wildly fluctuating micro-climates. While one hilltop may be frozen and windy, a block away, a gully may be much more temperate. This makes getting the right plant in the right place all that more difficult. So, if you had a failure or two, remember the old saying, “you’re not a gardener until you’re killing things.” (Sorry, I don’t know who said it first. Do you?)
Okay, and yeah, the ferns on the right aren’t the plants Ellen asked about, but let’s be clear. If these ferns can manage January in San Francisco, there’s no wonder the hardy shrubs like those that follow can as well!
Read on for a list of what died and made it on my “no plant” list and what’s maybe not dead or is still worth (imho) planting: (more…)