Green is the Color of Hope


Green is the color of hope. Oscar De La Renta
To Plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. Audrey Hepburn

Gardening brings me hope for tomorrow and the next day and the next. It is so rewarding to create a  small garden that is enjoyed each day. I sometimes feel gardening has been a life saving hobby for me. If I feel down a bit of hard-work in my garden cheers my heart. 

While I have been visiting my sister I am replanting some of her gardens. I find such joy and hope even on vacation in the garden. 

Enjoy gardening even a small spot of earth. It will brighten your day.

August Garden Views

My post is a little late today…. but it is worth the wait for our beautiful Garden Views. My goals for this year’s garden was to create gardens that were just that beautiful. We have accomplished this in many ways but in other ways we need more time so glad every year to have another chance to try again. Next year I am hopeful a trellis will add to the beauty. My Midnight Gardener gave me the trellis supplies for Mother’s Day this year and soon we will make time to build it. Enjoy the view!

Cherokee Purple Tomato

Sun gold Tomato

Flashy Trouts Back Lettuce

Banana Squash-My Favorite Squash

Cinderella Pumpkin

“Mudding In” — Transplanting Seedlings

The best word to describe the June temperatures this year in the Northwest is “chilly.” Because of this we have hesitated to plant our tender seedlings in the garden. It is finally time to do so, or we won’t have any garden tomatoes, peppers, squash or melons before the fall rains! So, I spent half of the day yesterday transplanting tomatoes into the ground. When I finally went back inside, I was covered from head to toe with dirt. What a glorious time I had in the garden!

After working hard in the garden don’t you love to return again the following day to look at the results of your hard work? There is a sense of satisfaction that just feels great. This morning I felt that same urge and when I strolled past the rows, I felt excited to see those healthy seedlings now in a place where they will flourish and produce.

My return visits have not always been happy however. During my first years growing a garden, I would always return warily the next day with water hose in tow out of concern for the seedlings. Amid the warm sunshine and crumbly soil, several seedlings would invariably be wilted and suffering for want of water. Recovery from the shock of being transplanted required us to provide the newly planted seedlings with special care for the first three to five days. Sadly, some didn’t survive despite all our efforts. I have since learned a technique that has eliminated these issues, and today the Midnight Gardener and I are going to share it with you, along with all the steps we follow jump-starting our transplanted seedlings.

Before transplanting, the garden bed must first be prepared. To do this, we remove any weeds, add a half inch or so of rich compost, loosen and aerate the soil with a broadfork (a potato fork takes a bit more effort but is also effective), form the bed with a rake, and finally plan the layout of the seedlings.

Additionally, you will need a few supplies:

Steps for Transplanting Seedlings and “Mudding In”

  1. Put on your gloves!
  2. Prepare the liquid fertilizer according to product instructions. (We mix two tablespoons of concentrate with a gallon of water in the empty milk jug.)
  3. For each seedling, use a trowel to make a hole in the designated location that is roughly one and a half the diameter of the seedling pot.
  4. Remove about four inches of soil from the hole, placing it to the side of the hole or in a bucket.
  5. Add one-half cup of complete organic fertilizer to the hole. Use the trowel to mix the fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole, loosening and blending it down to another 4 or so inches. Smooth the soil in the hole and shape it to receive the root ball of the seedling.
  6. Without damaging the roots, loosen the seedling from the pot by pressing up on the bottom of the pot. Invert the seedling and it should separate from the pot. Gently place the seedling in the hole.
  7. Before filling the hole with soil, carefully add 2-3 cups of liquid fertilizer to the hole without washing soil from the roots.
  8. Before the water is absorbed, quickly push the soil at the side of the hole back around the roots, forming a muddy silt that completely coats the rootball. This technique is called “mudding in” and is beneficial as it reduces the potential for air pockets around the roots and it provides sufficient moisture to prevent seedling wilt during those first crucial days.
  9. Press the soil around the seedling firming it gently. Too much force will compact the mud and damage the roots. Form the soil around the plant in a way that will support the seedling and capture irrigation.

This technique will ensure your seedlings have the nutrition they need for healthy, rapid growth

Some photos – from seeds to seedlings to garden row

Seeds planted

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Seedlings indoors under lights

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Baby plants

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Reaching their full potential in pots

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Planted in the ground

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Now we will be watching them grow all summer, until we are able to harvest in the fall.

What questions or comments do you have?

June 2017 Garden Views

It is time to finish planting most every plant into the ground. We are getting there but still have a ways to go. We have garlic, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, lettuce and potatoes in the ground. All of our other plants are seedlings still in pots and very ready to go into the ground. It is so hard to find the time. In order to create time this week, I am simply sharing pictures of what is growing in our garden. I encourage you to plant this week too!

Next week look for “W is for Wasped.” It is quite the story, with of course some thoughts to ponder.

  • Garden News – We have many deer that live nearby and they decided to eat some of my strawberry plants. Super mad face!

Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage

Love & Peace Rose

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Shallots (varieties are French Grey and Dutch Red)

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Garlic (variety is Music)

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Laura Bush Rose (Picture by Clever Girl)

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Chives (picture by  Midnight Gardener)

What’s in the Garden? Weeds? Oh my!

Weeds, weeds weeds. IMG_6039[1]
The last two weekends I have had no time to plant because all I can do is fight the weeds. It’s a problem we have because fall turned to winter before we had a chance to take our normal precautions to prevent weed growth. Now we have massive dandelions, bull thistle, stinging nettle and plenty of grasses. After many hours of work, I have one row in the big garden, two raised garden boxes and one flower bed that are weed free. It is a long process! I know for most folks, weeding is drudgery, but for “unusual me” it is generally soothing and something I don’t mind. Of course, when it takes up Saturday after Saturday it even wears me down!

Today I wanted to share the tools and techniques I use to banish weeds from our garden. We generally use five methods: the human power of a strong back and pair of hands, small hand tools, a propane weed torch, other organic weed killers and gas-powered mechanical tools.

Human Power

Hand weeding is essential–get the weeds out while small and young so that they can’t go to seed and produce thousands of additional weeds–but this work can be hard on your body! Be sure to stretch out! Take advantage of the winter months to strengthen yourself and prepare for the spring.

Maybe try my newly favorite approach. After cancer treatment I was a weakling. I had no strength and my motivation was low. A good friend of mine encouraged me to start doing yoga once or twice a week to regain my strength. Yoga? I had to think about it for a while, but I did start and the strength and calming mental health effects I gained from yoga classes have been so worth the effort. Yoga is great for women AND men, so guys, don’t you be afraid to try it. Yoga has also been beneficial for me, being a person who now has one less lobe to my lungs, because the breathing techniques that are a part of the sessions help me to feel well, instead of out of breath and wheezing by the time I finish my exercise. In preparation for gardening, yoga strengthens your back muscles! I found it is excellent for gardeners who are always bending over to plant or pull those weeds. Build your strength with yoga, my friends!

Did you know that gardening counts as exercising? Please read the following article from WebMD if you need the evidence Get Fit by Gardening. I was very happy with this information because I spend so much time in the garden.

Protect those hands! Here is my favorite pair of garden gloves linked from Amazon.com Nitrile Garden Gloves. These are in nice colors for the ladies, but they also come in black if that works for you. Be certain to pay attention to order your size, you want them to be like a second skin.

Favorite Hand Tools

Bypass pruning shears I’ve used a lot of different brands. This pair surprised me because they were still in great shape even after I left in the rain for too long. Oops. I often misplace hand tools in the garden. Luckily these are affordably priced on Amazon.com.

This is my favorite Weed Digger. I like the wooden handle. This one doesn’t come apart like so many plastic-handled tools I’ve owned. I am also not impressed with the thicker shaft models like the Fiskars brand, because they are hard to drive into the soil to get underneath the weeds well. We use these weed diggers often with the many dandelions in our gardens and lawn. Our kids also use these hand tools to earn money (and when they need time to think about their problem behavior.)

My husband, The Midnight Gardener, powers through weedy patches with a stirrup (also known as an action hoe). We’ve owned several over the years and all worked reasonable well. Our soil can be rocky, so a good quality steel blade is important so the hoe can be re-sharpened and will hold an edge. One winter he wanted the Swiss-made Stirrup Hoe from Johnny’s Selected Seeds so much that he bought it for himself as a gift one holiday season. I remember thinking, “That was expensive!” Now I love it and don’t use anything else.

Burn Those Weeds

Okay, we do occasionally use a propane garden torch. Correction–The Midnight Gardener uses a propane torch, a.k.a. Gardening Flamethrower. I am too afraid of burning something down. We have an agreed upon rule that he can only use it if I am home. There is some history there that (cough) we don’t need to go in to (let’s just say that we may have had a little fire incident that wouldn’t have turned out well if I hadn’t been there and quick with the garden hose). A quick pass of the torch kills many weeds. It is most useful for large scale weeding away from delicate plants, such as along borders, pavers, ditches and rocky, hard to weed areas. Amazon.com has well-priced and basic model Weed Burner to which you add your own propane tank, such as one from a BBQ grill.

Organic Weed Killers

We plant cover crops at the end of the gardening season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we often use a mix of winter rye, crimson clover and vetch. The result is a dense canopy that covers and protects the soil from winter erosion. These lush, fast-growing plants block weed seed germination and out compete all else. As a bonus, these crops are cut down in the spring resulting in a large quantity of organic material that amends the soil with nutrients just in time for spring planting.

We’ve used rolls of plastic sheeting for effectively killing weeds in large areas. It isn’t a quick solution, but is very effective when left in place for months, such as when preparing new garden beds. The black plastic serves as an occultation cover, denying light to the turf or weedy soils. Clear plastic sheets can be used over soil to kill weeds, and pests through solarization, which concentrates the sun’s energy in the top 12-18 inches.

When we invest the time to do things right, landscape fabrics have been the answer for weed free walkways, borders, around trees and the like. For many years we’ve used the 4 ft. wide commercial quality products carried by discount clubs and big box stores. Recently we found a local source for Dewitt Sunbelt Woven Ground Cover and have begun to use it due to its durability.

A lot of gardeners have made use of vinegar for killing weeds. This is something I’m learning about. Understand that this isn’t common household vinegar, but is something much stronger. The potent stuff can contain 20-25% acetic acid, and may be called horticultural vinegar where you live. Where I live there are laws about its sale and use, and safety precautions to be considered, so please do your own research.

Gas-Powered Mechanical Tools

If you have a large garden or yard, the right tools are time savers. A rototiller can be useful for breaking up new garden beds or adding large quantities of organic matter, but for us it isn’t something we use frequently because of the impact the machine has in pulverizing the soil and destroying the soil food web. A year ago we invested in a high-impact set of garden tools that rule! The Stihl Kombi System in my opinion rocks! This system consists of an engine component and attachments that allow you to cut, trim, edge, prune, cultivate, blow, and sweep. You buy the separate attachments you need. We have found the time savings to be worth it. We bought our system at a local Stihl dealer and it has saved us so much time and effort!

And this my friends is all I can recommend to help you in your weed fighting efforts. All this work inspires me to do more for weed prevention–but that is another subject for another time.

Off I go to do what? Yes, of course it’s time to weed again.

 

 

What’s Growing? Strawberries

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February Happenings:

February weather started with snow and has ending with snow. What about your weather?

Our garden has been covered in snow during much of February so very little gardening had happened until our family  went to the Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange. We try to go every year. It was exciting to meet up there with local farmers and casual gardeners. We met one family whose gardening passions led them to create the non-profit Dirt Reborn, which organizes volunteer-led organic gardens in order to give away hundreds of pounds of fresh garden produce to those in need.

We bought ten strawberry starts (Seascape, a popular day-neutral variety) from them! These ten plants were my first outside plantings of the season. I just had surgery on a problem left foot, so I planted the strawberries while wearing a calf-length medical fracture boot, half covered with a plastic bag to keep my foot dry It was a beautiful sunny day and I felt alive again! What a great day back in the garden.

In the Northwest, February is the perfect month to plant strawberries. You may have noticed that the strawberries in the grocery stores are finally tasting sweet and delicious again, after a couple of lousy berry months. Yum!

A few strawberry planting ideas:

  1. Plant strawberry starts not too deep but deep enough that the roots spread out well. The crown of the plant should be just above the soil.
  2. Strawberry runners will spread out from the plant and take up quite a bit of space, so plant strawberry plants at least 12 inches apart.
  3. When purchasing strawberries, consider buying several varieties–some which produce a flourish of berries in the spring (June-bearing), and others which fruit throughout the summer (Day-Neutral and Everbearing). How delicious to have strawberries ripe for picking all season long!