March 05, 2013
Nettles have a bad reputation for their nasty sting, but edible wild nettles deserve our praise. And, they’re a great reminder that what may be called an invasive weed by one is a beneficial food source to others. (Think about that as your lawn fills with edible dandelions this spring, too!)
One of the earliest perennials to emerge after the dormant season, Nettles offer our diets respite from winter’s less available fresh, local greens. They’re packed with iron and vitamin C and much more. These greens emerge from the ground in February, growing particularly well in dense woodland understory where sunlight may be minimal. And, they continue to grow and feed us abundantly into early summer when their stems toughen as they begin to flower.
To harvest Nettles, take care to handle the harvest gently. (more…)
September 26, 2012
Weed barrier (aka landscape fabric) sounds like the perfect solution for reducing garden maintenance. Unfortunately, it isn’t. And, it can even end up causing more headaches and ugliness than you might imagine.
Once you’ve draped weed barrier all over your exposed beds, do you cut holes in the barrier and stick plants into the holes you make? If so, your plantings may not thrive, but odds are the weeds still will.
Perennials and ground covers will try to spread as they mature. Either the weed barrier will strangle them or they’ll pop new holes in the barrier or they’ll spread under the barrier, heaving it skyward for all to see.
Trees and shrubs may send up suckers that pop holes in the barrier or, as their trunks widen, the weed barrier may strangle them.
Plus, every hole you make in the barrier is an opportunity for those sneaky weeds to gather sunlight and thrive. (more…)
June 21, 2012
The sun is out (kinda) & the garden still needs a bit of fine-tuning before the Sustainable Ballard Garden Tour in just two days, so I’ll make this brief.
First, I’m thrilled to let you know that both Fiskars and Renee’s Garden Seeds have ponied up some amazing garden goodies that will be both given away and raffled at this event. Each paid attendee will get a surprise freebie from Renee’s plus (update as of June 22nd: Renee’s generous freebie gift items won’t arrive in time. Darn!) one raffle ticket. Additional raffle entries may be purchased at the ticket table.
Raffle items include weeding tools, compost bins, rain barrels and even one of Fiskars’ amazing reel mowers — all of which you’ll be able to see integrated into our home garden where we use them all the time. Yeah, there’s more cool stuff too, including a mystery item that is apparently coming from the Renee of Renee’s Garden. We’ll all be surprised by that one!
As I’ve been preparing for this event, I’ve spent a lot of time close to the ground pulling weeds, transplanting, mulching and digging. And, each time I shove a spade into the soil or winnow out a weed, I’m reminded that in the Earth is where it all begins. But the true beginning really is a chicken and egg question. Is the death that then rots to build the soil the beginning or is the sprout that grows from that beautiful soil really the beginning? Perhaps the answer is there is no beginning and no end; it’s all that never-ending circle of renewal. And, it all begins with the soil. Each time I dig into ours, I thank myself for the care we’ve taken in building its health and tilth over the years.
Hope to see you here on Saturday – rain or shine. We’ve got food growing from curb to alley. Berries are beginning to ripen. Compost is rotting. Carrots are coloring. Bees are busy. Cucumbers, beans & zucchini are harvest-able. And even our gorgeous, if fetid, Dracunculus may bloom for the event!
Now…back to spreading that pile of mulch! I’d really like to have it all cleared off the driveway before you arrive on Saturday.
(Note: Garden Mentors is a paid contributing writer to Fiskars & does receive press packet seed samples from Renee’s Garden without charge. However, no compensation has been received for this post or any subsequent promotion.)
January 03, 2012
I’m ready to grow again. And thank goodness for that!
2011 will not be remembered as one of my favorite years, and I’m glad to have recycled that calender and moved on to a new one.
As I look back at the last year, I’m glad for many things. I had the great fortune to work with the Growing a Greener World TV team writing, researching and brainstorming a number of season two episodes. I took an amazing road trip in late summer with friends to the first annual Heirloom Expo in Petaluma, California. I cheered on my amazing clients as they grew in their gardens. I planted seeds and watched them grow — some little things truly were great.
But, too many of my loved ones struggled with serious injury and illness. Neighbors I count as family moved away. The summer weather could barely be counted as summery. And, as the year progressed, I began to distance myself from my own garden in anticipation of leaving it for new ground. And, as we raced toward this change, my own health took a downturn in early winter, probably due to overwhelming stress I found myself unable to properly manage. My sister pointed out how it seemed my body — or perhaps the universe — was signaling “stop & stay put”. We did stop, and for now we are staying. And my garden is where I will find peace and balance in the coming year.
But here I am today — healthy again — and I’m vitalized by the exciting garden year ahead. I’m diving into a bevy of new articles for Fiskars, scheduling exuberant clients, organizing my 2012 Northwest Flower & Garden Show presentation, and making new garden plans for myself in the year ahead.
My garden planning for 2012 began last night as a dream in which my fractured relationship with my own garden was mended. In the dream, I thrust my bare, clinched fists deep into the cold, moist soil, reuniting me with the heart of my garden. My hands opened underground, and my fingers spread and grew like the pancake root-ball of a tree with carrot-like tap root fingertips, connecting me to the soil and back into my garden where I felt I again belonged.
In my haste to move and later overwhelmed by illness, I had strayed from my garden — abandoning my truest self — in the waning months of 2011. Now it’s time for me to awaken, dig in and be one with my beloved garden again — even if changes may come later. If the early bloomers and persistent weeds are hinting at anything, it’s that the garden and the seasons and time itself won’t pause forever.
November 11, 2011
I drive past this scene several times of year when visiting one of my regular garden design and garden coaching clients.
No, this isn’t his garden. I don’t know whose garden it is.
Still, it is a lesson in what not to do in the garden.
First, if you’ve got a greenhouse you’re going to let go to waste, why not sell it or just give it away? This one has sat in the same place, basically untouched and definitely unused for as many years as I’ve driven by it.
Second, if you do have a greenhouse fading into oblivion, please don’t let it become an incubator for invasive weeds like the field bindweed (also known locally as morning glory), which is growing happily out the window-less window in this gunky old greenhouse.
Third, topping your trees like the one behind this greenhouse really isn’t pretty. And, it doesn’t do the trees any favors either. Butchering a tree like this only sets you up for a potential hazard, lots of on-going cutting of reaction growth, and a really ugly view. Either prune it properly, leave it alone or have it removed. Don’t just hack on it.
So one thing that looks decent here: the wood chip mulch. Sure, that happy bindweed will grow right through it, but if you’re not going to garden on your perfectly south-facing plot, go ahead and chip it with arborist chips. These will suppress (most) weeds, last a long time, and provide food to soil microbia.
And, yes, I probably should cut these folks some slack. I don’t know them. And, given the way their property looks, my guess is there’s an aging gardener living in that house. S/he probably wants to get out there and pull that bindweed. S/he might have loved using that greenhouse and swath of growing space in years past. S/he may no longer be able to manage the garden. So, in the interest of giving this homeowner the benefit of the doubt, I’ll just suggest this garden likely saw better days, and I’ll hope it will again someday soon.
September 26, 2011
When we got back from vacation, the garden had exploded. Tomato plants were finally laden with deep red and yellow fruits. The bees were buzzing about. A touch of fragrant, burnt-sugar-scented yellow had begun to show on the Katsura. And, of course, the weeds had continued to thrive. It seemed they’d sprouted and spread in spots I’d just cleared before we left town.
It was a reminder that weeds are tenacious. Even in spots where nothing else seems to grow, a weed will take root. And, if you’ve got healthy, pliable soil, they’re gonna come in faster and stronger than you might believe. Sadly, they often grow much faster and healthier than those you intentionally planted — like my sedum collection hidden by nipplewort, chickweed and creeping oxalis weed shown here.
So, here’s a reminder: pull that fresh crop of weeds before fall. After a rain is a perfect time. Soil is moist and loose, making easy work of getting those little buggers out. Be sure to get the whole root, or that plant might just over-winter, coming back from the earth stronger than ever next spring.
And, when the soil is cleared, that’s the perfect time to lay down a thick layer of composted mulch. This will help suppress any lingering weed seeds from germinating. Plus, it will help hold water, add protective root insulation and add natural, organic nutrients to the soil — slowly over winter — encouraging healthy soil biota to build up and keep your garden growing beautifully.
Now, if the rain would just let up, I could get out there an pull a few more weeds and lay down some of that mulch for winter!