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2008 Tip of the Month
Oh the hustle and bustle that occurs in the month
of December. It's enough to make your head swell...
or at least your stomach. Between the shopping,
decorating, baking and eating there just doesn't seem to be time
left over to spend in the garden. There are some easy and not
too time consuming chores that can be done though. The first
thing to do, after walking in the door with your holiday
poinsettia, is to carefully remove the bottom of the foil wrap
on the outside of the pot. If left on, water will not flow out
the bottom and the roots of the plant will rot. It's not
necessary to remove all the foil, just the bottom circle.
With the furnace blowing dust throughout the house, you're
houseplants will appreciate a gentle misting or take a damp rag
and wash off any dust and grime.
It's just like treating your plants to a nice relaxing bath.
There are probably still a few errant leaves laying on your lawn
so rake all that you can and cover tender plants with them or
scatter over vegetable gardens to keep down weeds for next year.
And if your Thanksgiving meal was just so filling that you were
not to get up from the table and go outside to fertilize your
lawn and you have not done so this fall, do it now before the
end of the week. The winter fertilizing job may be easy to
forget but it is in actuality the most important fertilizing
project you can do for your lawn all year.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a great gardening New Year.
November Tip of the Month
Fall finally arrived in November with winds and rain
knocking off the beautiful red and golden leaves. What a gorgeous
site we have had with all the fall foliage on the many sunny October
days. I have been stopping my car whenever I see some especially
bright and interesting leaves and taking them home to preserve them.
It's an easy project to accomplish by ironing the leaves between two
pieces of wax paper. Once the wax starts to melt, remove the leaves
from the wax paper and press them between the pages of a phone book.
I put a small television on top of the phone book and will soon
remove the leaves to use as decorations on my Thanksgiving table.
According to Juanita Bjork, the leaves should stay supple and
colorful for several years.
If you didn't fertilize your lawn with an organic fertilizer in Oct.
then fertilize with a fall fertilizer the end of November. It is no
longer warm enough for an organic fertilizer to work with these
chilly November days.
Actually the day after Thanksgiving to about December 7 are the
perfect times to do that job, Just be sure you get a winter
fertilizer to help develop a strong root system to get your lawn
through the summer droughts.
If you notice any weeds popping up through the fallen leaves, stoop
to pull a few as you walk by. They are pretty easy to pull out in
the rain soaked ground and the extra bending over may just burn a
few calories from that Thanksgiving feast.
Tip of the Month
Fall is here and many people consider that the end of
the gardening season has arrived. Oh but it isn't so! The more
you accomplish in the yard in the fall, the easier your Spring
gardening will be. Summer blooming perennials should be pruned
once they are done blossoming and can be divided and moved. Dead
and dying annuals should be disposed of, either in the compost
pile if there is no sign of disease or added to the county's
organic waste trash can. All dried up perennials can be cut back
to the ground, leaves raked and general tidying up done this
month. You will be thankful for the time you will have saved
next spring by doing these chores now.
Not only tulip, hyacinths and daffodils should be planted but
also garlic and shallots. However I would wait until later int
he month so any warm days don't set them to sprouting.
Keep leaves raked up so as not to become a safe haven for
overwintering slugs and bugs but also to add to the compost pile
to make organic mulch next spring.
And even though you may feel that you are sick and tired of
pulling up weeds, don't quit! Especially the blooming varieties
that would only set more weed seeds for next spring if let
And for all you doubting Thomas's...Real Gardeners really do a
great fall cleanup.
September Tip of the Month
Harvest, clean up beds and pull weeds. Not much
different than what you have been doing all August but it is really
necessary. If you neglect picking fruit, it will rot before you know it
and the veggies will get too large and ripe within a few days. When the
heat of September arrives, produce ripens fast. Check fruit every couple
of days for signs of ripening and pick before the fruit falls and
bruises. Cucumbers grow huge overnight practically so look under leaves
for the hidden ones. Tomatoes are at their peak so check them daily also
as well as beans and zucchini. Once the veggies are harvested, clean up
the beds and either plant starts for a fall and winter garden or cover
the beds with compost and leaves to help control weeds that are also
Either cover tomato
plants with plastic to keep the Sept rains off of them or plan on having
them destroyed by blight. The fungus is in the ground and when the rains
splash the fungus up on the leaves.....the plants are doomed! If the
stems or leaves start to turn mottled and black, pick all the green and
ripe tomatoes to eat, pull up the plants and burn them. Otherwise the
fungus will be in the soil and will continue to destroy plants year
after year. And be sure to wash your hands before touching any other
tomato or potato plant as you can easily spread the fungus to other
If you want to prolong
the blooms on annuals, you need to keep dead heading the dried blossoms.
Not only does this help stimulate new blossoms but also keeps the plants
tidy and under control. Dead and dying leaves need to be cleaned up and
transferred to the compost pile. Your Spring cleanup will be much easier
if you keep a tidy fall garden. But let's not think about Spring
yet..... it's time to enjoy the fall and harvest months first.
Tip of the Month
Tomatoes are ripening, cukes are
flowering and zucchini is producing faster than you can keep up with. I
remember reading an article by Erma Brombeck once on how people in her
neighborhood only locked their car doors in the month of August. If they
didn't, they would wake up to find a carload of zucchini stashed inside
from their overloaded gardening neighbors. Beware neighbors...I an
getting that overloaded!
Start deciding now on what you would like to enter in the judged flower
show at the FICRA Fair on August 9. The only restriction is that the
entry must be grown on Fox Island. Entries MUST be brought to the
community center before 10 AM as the doors will be closed and the
judging will begin. You can submit as many times as you like in the
following categories: Single flower specimens, evergreens, bouquets,
potted plants and vegetable or fruit displays. Garden club members will
be there to help you from 8:30 AM until the doors are closed at 10 AM.
The flower show will open it's doors to the public at 11 AM. So be
creative (no cars filled with zucchini accepted however) and show off
your garden abundance and creativity to your neighbors.
August can mean long dry spells in the garden, so water deeply and less
frequently to encourage plant roots to search deep into the soil for
Frequent shallow waterings cause the roots to happily remain near the
surface and any hot spells without sufficient water can be fatal to the
Weeds should still be addressed...what else is new!... and spent flowers
removed to keep plants looking their best. Oh, and be sure to take time
to enjoy your garden too. A warm summer evening stroll through the
garden while taking in the fragrant scents of aromatic blossoms can do
wonders for a tired body.
Tip of the Month
Water, weed, waste not and create wonder. Those are the important
duties of July. July brings in the beginning of the dry season in
Western Washington and Fox Island is no exception. Most gardens need
about 1 inch of water a week and the best way to do that is water
infrequently but deeply. A shallow watering every day only encourages
roots to stay on the surface where a less frequent but deeper watering
encourages roots to grow deeper in their search for water and nutrients.
This is the ideal situation recommended for gardens in our area.
Fox Island usually has the every other day watering schedule advised
for the rest of the summer so bide by that platform and you should still
have a lush green and thriving garden with healthy plants resistant to
Of course even the driest garden will still harbor weeds as they are
the natives to our area. So weeding is still a major part of your
gardening chores. They seem to thrive in the driest of climates so be
sure to eradicate them before they bloom and send more weed seeds
throughout your garden.
Waste not refers to the wonderful garden compost made by recycling
your vegetation waste into garden nutrients. Make an area 4x4ft and
start adding dry leaves, vegetable clippings, parings and leftovers in
layers. Keep fairly moist and mix together occasionally. Lawn clippings
can be added to the pile as long as no herbicide or pesticide has been
applied. Even shredded documents can be layer into the pile so you are
not only making great compost but also protecting your identity from
Create wonder refers to the now annual Fox Island judged flower show
at the FICRA Fair on August 9. Think of a spectacular display that you
can enter at the 'free to enter flower show'. It could be fruit,
flowers, dried arrangements, single specimens
or houseplants that you can enter and possibly win a ribbon for your
talents and troubles. I'll have more info next month on the specific
categories for the plant sale. All I can say at this time as that you
would have to have a pretty spectacular plant to beat out my 1976 Boston
fern given to me by Jeanette Douglass! Happy 4th of July!
Tip of the Month
case any of you noticed...I forgot to write a tip for April. In fact,
halfway through the month, while cruising from Santiago Chile to
Seattle, I emailed the webmaster since I couldn't remember if I sent one
or not. Getting ready to leave for a 23 day trip tends to addle the
brain. After hearing back from John, I decided that it would be rude to
hoard the ships computer long enough to check my emails, business
transactions and write a tip also. So I'll make up for it by giving you
a little update on some of the horticulture information I learned while
I learned the there is a protected species of palm tree in Chile that
produces what the locals call honey. The trees have been illegally
tapped into for the honey and to such extremes that it has killed off
many of the trees. Now it is a crime to take the honey without a permit.
I assume that the tree is drilled and inserted with a spigot for the
extraction. I have not looked up the information on this tree yet on the
web, but will be doing so as soon as I get caught up on a few things.
I also found it interesting that while we treat morning glories as
noxious weeds, in Peru they are used for bank control. To look down the
edge of a 300 ft cliff and see nothing but morning glories kind of
boggles the mind. It does do the job however so who am I to argue with
I was especially enamored with the bright colors of the various plants
and shrubs and have attached some photos to share with you.
The lower left one looks a little like
fremontia but with a long stamen drooping down.
Photo upper left is the gorgeous
Upper right is a yellow blossomed shrub that
grows all over South America.
Lower right is a striking red blossomed plant.
Bottom center is an Almendra tree from Mexico
that has huge glossy leaves and inedible nuts.
And the normal Tip of the Month will return in June when I am thinking
Tip of the Month
March usually starts out breezy and rainy
but ends up heralding in Spring and the welcome sunshine. If you look
closely in your yard, you probably can find all kinds of things
blooming. The Winter jasmine is in bloom, tulips and hyacinths have
poked through the winter soil and the daffodils are starting to bloom.
It's time to start tomato and pepper seeds for planting out the end of
May. The seeds don't need sunlight to sprout, just a lot of heat. I
spread potting soil in trays, wet it down and gently sprinkle my seeds
over the dampened soil.
Then I cover the seeds with another very light dusting of soil and tap
it down to be sure the seeds have good soil contact. Another sprinkling
of water is added before covering with a plastic cover and placing the
trays in the darkened room next to the furnace. Every few days I check
to be sure the soil remains moist and give the trays a little squirt of
water if they start to dry out. In about a week the seeds should have
started sprouting and then are removed to a lighted room or greenhouse.
Remove the plastic covers before the sprouts touch them and periodically
run your hand over the sprouts to make the stems stronger. Or you can
place a fan nearby and have that blow on them also being sure to keep
the sprouts moist. When the plants have two sets of leaves, it's time to
repot them into 4 inch containers. Carefully remove the individual
plants with as much soil and root ball as possible and transfer them to
4 inch pots with some soil already put on the bottom. You want to bury
the plants deep, with just the leaves showing above the soil surface.
Water well and continue to occasionally tickle the plants and keep them
from drying out until planting time. Seeds of cabbage, swiss chard and
eggplant can also be started now however the cabbage and chard can be in
a lighted area to sprout.
Many seeds can go directly in the garden beds right now. As soon as your
soil can be tilled, you can directly sow spinach, lettuce, radishes,
potatoes and peas. Just hold off on the beans and cukes until near the
end of May.
House plants need a good spring cleaning also. Using a damp cloth,
remove the winter dust and grime from houseplants and give them a good
fertilizing. New growth will be starting soon so give them the
nourishment they need to get off to a good start. Many indoor plants
will need to be re-potted before new growth starts. I have an asparagus
fern that is over 40 years old and I'll take it to the greenhouse,
remove it from the pot, cut off hunks of the plant and re-pot those and
then re-pot the whole plant. It will take with new growth in no time
plus I'll have some starts to share with others.
If you don't having hummingbirds living at you place all year, it's time
to get ready for the yearly visitors. Make sure you feeders are clean,
full and waiting for the first arrivals. They will be ravenous after
their long flight and will really appreciate a good meal.
January & February 2008
Tip of the Month
I know I'm a little
late with January's column and in fact a lot late. I do have a good
reason for this tardiness though...I fell and broke my ankle in three
places and tore the ligaments in my leg by slipping on an icy spot on my
way to the compost pile. This all happened the last Sat in Dec so all my
good plans on having January's column done before the New Year went down
With our computer in the downstairs office I found it impossible to get
downstairs to write. Thanks to an office co-worker I now have a laptop
to communicate to the world. And since the first two months of the year
call for pretty much the same choirs, I decided to combine the two into
The New Year always brings a mailbox filled with gardening catalogs that
contain new plants that have longer lives and larger blooms that produce
higher yields. Be adventuresome this year and plant at least one or two
new plants in your yard this summer. You could be pleasantly surprised!
The first two months of the year are the perfect time to get your
gardening tools into tip top shape. First, knock off any soil or debris
and then spray them with a bathroom cleaner. Wipe them dry and sharpen
any rough or dull edges with a stone sharpener before oiling them with a
metal lubricant. Your cuts will be cleaner and your shovel will glide
through the earth with well maintained tools.
Usually peas, spinach, radishes and onions can be planted in February.
To see if the soil is ready to till for planting, take a palm full of
soil and squeeze. If water runs out, the soil is not ready to be touched
yet but if the soil crumbles when you open your fist, it's tome to
plant. If your soils does not dry out until April you need to
incorporate a lot more organic matter into the soil.
February is Rose Month and all the nurseries will be advertising their
new stock. Go in early in order to buy the best plants and take the time
to ask your nurseryman for advice on which roses do best in our climate.
Do not buy roses from an unknown source, but rather always buy the best
such as Jackson Perkins brand. Follow the directions for planting and
location directions and your summer will be 'coming up roses' so to
Mark your calendars for Feb.20-24 to attend the Northwest Flower and
Garden Show at the Seattle Convention Center. It's a great place to get
gardening ideas, buy plants and crafts and just to see what is new for
2008. I'm looking forward to being able to go as I expect to be given
the go ahead on the 20th to put weight on my foot finally. I am hoping
to buy some new tomato seeds that I read about in one of my recent seed
To start the tomato seeds, I dampened a tray of sterile soil and
sprinkle the tomato seeds carefully over the soil. That is followed with
just another light sprinkle of more soil which is lightly patted down so
all seeds make good contact with the soil. I then moistened the soil
again, cover the trays with clear plastic lids and place them in the
furnace room without light but kept Nice and toasty I check the trays
every few days to be sure they stay moist and perhaps need a light
misting. Watching carefully for those first sprouts to break through is
easy because of the clear plastic. When the sprouts are about to touch
the lids, I remove the trays and lids and move them to the greenhouse to
finish growing in size to be re potted into individual pots.
The end of February or first of March, depending on when the new growth
starts showing on hydrangeas is the time to prune them. Cut the tallest
branches as low to the ground as possible being careful to not cut more
than 1/3 of the total shrub. This assures you of the largest summer
blooms while keeping your plant under control. Fertilize with alfalfa
meal if you desire a pinkish bloom or if you prefer blue blooms,
fertilize with a rhody fertilizer.
After every winter storm, it's a good idea to take a walk through your
yard looking for damaged limbs. Any cracked or broken limbs should be
cut back to the joint with your newly sharpened pruners. Pick up all
yard debris as it a great hideout for slugs and also hides the newly
sprouting spring plants.
Lastly, keep pulling any weed that you come upon. You will thank
yourself a thousand times over as you enjoy more time doing other yard
chores or relaxing this summer. Make 2008 "the year of your beautiful