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  • Why Water?

    July 03, 2007

    Hey Seattlites (and anyone else heading into a dry summer)â?¦.

    For those of you who donâ??t realize it, Seattle has a natural drought cycle in the summer, and it seems weâ??re going to enter it before the 4th of July this year. I have been running my irrigation every few days already. This morning I checked my soil mositure level & realized I needed to run it again. So, just a friendly reminder that if you start watering now (if you havenâ??t started already), youâ??ll be able to keep your soil moisture levels up & protect your plant material investments.

    Plus, who doesnâ??t love to get sprayed by a sprinkler on a hot day? Cool off after an  early morning or late evening exercise program by wandering through your garden as your irrigation runs or as you tote a hose or watering can to care for your special plants. Its a great way to chill out after exercising & connect with your plants and garden! Those plants are pumping out oxygen; take it in! 6H2O + 6CO2 + light â?? C6H12O6 + 6O2

    More information on maintaining garden soil moisture levels is available here.

  • A gardener’s work is never done

    June 30, 2007

    I did a variety of yardwork activities after slathering on a good layer of sunscreen.

    • Helped Bob install a new drip irrigation section in the garden
    • Planted a 2nd round of bush beans (the first planting is just past the dicot emergence stage)
    • Pulled a bunch of weeds
    • Harvested lettuce
    • Trained tomatoes
    • Prepped pots & garden mounds with soil for a forthcoming dibbling of cucumber seedlings
    • Bathed the stinky-head dog
    • Moved a bunch of broken concrete to later use as boulder shims
    •  Did I say pulled weeds?
    • Watered
    • Planted some ornamentals
    • Cut back early blooming perennials that are finished for the season
    • Moved some garden art so we can see it now

    I think Iâ??ve taken â??stinky dogâ??sâ? place in the hierarchy of â??who need the shower most in this houseâ? game.  I may have to find a cold beer to take with me! Boy that sun is great!

  • Shear Madness!

    June 27, 2007

    I went out to see a new client today who hired me to help them evaluate a space for a new hot tub. They have a cute yard with enormous rhodies, pieris, viburnum and other established shrubs. Such a blessing to have established evergreen shrubs that flower! The sad thing is that at some point in this gardenâ??s long history the person who knew how to really care for these plants departed and enter – Shear Madness!

    So often I see this happen. A garden was planted and fostered carefully by people who knew plants. Then, one day, the caretakers change. Sometimes this happens as caretakers age & must hire out pruning. Other times, the original caretakers move on & new, inexperienced homeowners take over the space â?? either whacking away at plants without any knowledge of what theyâ??re really doing or paying a â??professionalâ? to take care of the garden for them. I donâ??t know which is more sad â?? trying to do it themselves not realizing (or not caring) that they donâ??t know what damage theyâ??re really doing or actually paying money to have their beautiful (often irreplacable) plants mangled. In either case, valuable plants are often destroyed or damaged to a degree that will take years to then restore to its (almost) original beauty â?? the perfection of natural growth is rarely completely restorable.

    Okay, so whatâ??s my point? Am I just rambling? Noâ?¦well, maybeâ?¦I guess I just want remind anyone who cares to read this that its important to know how to prune plants before you take a sharp instrument to them. So keep a few things in mind before you cut:

    • Plants donâ??t have immune systems like humans. They must be able to wall off their undamaged areas from any wound that you inflict. If you cut them improperly, they cannot perform this task well.
    • Plants donâ??t grow in balls & squares, so donâ??t try to cut them this way. Sure, shearing has a place. That place is not on established shrubs & trees.
    • If your plant is â??too tallâ? or â??too wideâ? to fit your needs, know that cutting from the outside toward the inside or from the top down to fit your size needs will actually make the situation worse in the long run. Youâ??ll just be activating growth in the very areas that you just tried to reduce!
    • Think about incorporating your plant into your view. Clearing out dead branches & windowing through a plant is a great option.
    • Shall I go on & onâ?¦nahâ?¦if you have questions, let me know. Or check out Plant Amnesty for information on how & when to prune your plants correctly.

    Oh, one last thingâ?¦for those of you who know what an Enkianthus isâ?¦ in this garden, there were two of the largest Iâ??ve seen in Seattle. Iâ??m guessing that for the first 20-30+ years of their life theyâ??d been maintained as beautiful, multi-trunk trees. Then someone decided to make them into lollipop trees â?? shearing the top to create a messy hedge on the top of beautiful trunks. It about broke my heart. I have one that Iâ??ve been growing from a 1 gallon for the last 3 years. Its only grown about 6â?³ in that timeâ?¦just to give you an idea how long it would take a plant like this to become a tree.

    â?¦donâ??t even get me started on the Dawn viburnum sheared at the base of a window. At least nobody has topped the one Japanese Maple & I was able to advise them against cutting it until they get a lesson!

  • What is a weed anyway?

    June 26, 2007

    One of my favorite descriptions of a weed is a “plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Another favorite is “a plant that can out-compete others in adverse situations” (not sure where I heard that one). Today, for me, a weed is something I ripped from the ground and deposited into my yard waste bin. I’m making progress & so glad I got out there today. The soil is starting to really dry up for summer, which means weeds that are easy to pull today are going to be a much more difficult to pull next week. Actually, the ones struggling for life in an area I’ve compacted in anticipation of installing a new patio, were pretty tough to get out.

    If you see any of those little buggers in your yard, I’d encourage you to get out there and remove them sooner rather than later! (Oh, not sure if something is a weed or not? This is my favorite weed id book.)

  • Weeding, Pruning, Planting & Harvesting

    June 22, 2007

    Today I woke up unmotivated for yoga, which is really unusual for me on a Saturday morning. Granted, I had several glasses of wine with friends last night, which Iâ??m sure contributed to my general morning laziness. Soâ?¦I skipped yoga & that was a-okay today!

    Bob and I had time to enjoy a big, homemade breakfast on the back patio together after being quite lazy for the first few hours of the morning. I ran the drip irrigation in the early morning to get the soil moist, both to pamper my plants and ready the weeds for their immenent departure from their plush locations amid my more desirable perennials and shrubs. After breakfast, I appraised my garden (and its many, overwhelming needs) and set forth with tools & weeding container in hand.

    For a couple of hours, I pulled weeds methodically in the most desperate areas. (I also cleaned up garbage! Ugh! We had our roof replaced last year & Iâ??m still finding old roof junk in my garden beds.) I pruned back a hebe that wants to grow across our main front pathway. I finished up by harvesting the first batch of new potatoes. I try to keep several batches growing in cycles thru the season, but the first is always the most exciting to bring in. (Sometime Iâ??ll put together an article on how I successfully grow potatoes & why I wonâ??t eat any non-organically grown root vegetables, but thatâ??s another story for the gardening forum or libraryâ?¦.)

    Todayâ??s potatoes were luscious, thin-skinned white potatoes. The harvest was relatively small, and Iâ??m not sure why. The plants were pretty weak. Granted, I did plant them up pretty early in the season, but Iâ??m still a little curious what happened. My batch of red potatoes, which will come in next, is going to be enormous. I think the next ones I set out will be Yellow Finns, which are just great!

    While I was working in the garden, I noticed that I have several small tomatoes forming (yay!), the chard is just begging to be harvested & sauted to go with potatoes tonight, and the lettuce is going to bolt if we donâ??t start eating a lot of salads soon! Oh, and on a floriferous note â?? my Dierama are starting to bloom! It must be summer!

    My beets are kind of disappointing. Something is munching on them & they arenâ??t forming great roots. If anyone has tips on growing great beets, Iâ??d love the input. Mine seem to be hit or miss.

    The strawberries are still plugginâ?? along. I took a huge bowlful over to our friendsâ?? last night. The raspberries are starting to come in. I picked some with my favorite team of garden helpers (the neighborhood kids). Anyone surprised that most made it into the kidsâ?? mouths rather than the berry bucket?

    Well, time to shower up & get all this dirt off. I may just reward my gardening efforts with a nap on my lounge chair in the meditation garden.

    Happy sunshine everyone!

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