Monday, May 31, 2010

all this Northwest rain and what to do

Time for some reminders of what happens when we get so much Northwest rain.

1) Slugs. I don't care how hard it is raining they come out in droves and a night walk is very important. I am collecting tons of tiny little pin head size slugs who are taking my beans down to the ground. Last year it was very dry when the beans etc were getting started and the slugs stayed clear.

2) If you missed our last meeting we covered how to feed the plants. I know with Mel's mix you think you are covered. I was just listening to the STEADY beat of rain on my roof for the last three days. So much washing of any soil will remove many of the things my plants will need. Keep this in mind and look over the handouts I gave you. You may need to feed the plants once the rain is gone and they are not growing as you expected.

It helps when a plant isn't preforming to consider the following:
Has it been colder or hotter?
Was there wind that may have dried the plant?
Has there been a bug attack that set it back?
Did I transplant it and it is stalled, this can be 2 week's to a month.
Is it one of the plants that doesn't transplant well?
Has it rained a lot and leached out the N-P-K and other needful minerals from my soil?

If you answered yes on the weather, bugs, or transplanting then it's best to wait for a change, do get rid of the bugs! If you are lacking plant food you must act. If you didn't get your handouts from the last meeting please call me to connect. You will find the garden teas etc very helpful.

When in doubt do as I did today. After a thrip attack on the peas and a tiny little missed slug ate all the leaves I decided to plant fresh pea seeds today. Sometimes that's all you can do. Start over as fast as possible.

Good luck with the green and growing. I hope some of you are collecting the outside lettuce leafs and eating them with pleasure. Many of us are about to harvest broccoli. If you are waiting to plant.....wait no more! The overcast and rain is always with us here but the season is warmer and it's time to grow food!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Missed ya at our last meeting!

It was a great meeting last Friday, thanks to all that attended. If you paid for handouts you missed some. Do stop by or call to make arrangements to get yours.

We covered how to figure out if your garden soil, Mel's or just mother natures has all that your veggies need. There was a great handout for helping you figure it out. If you don't know what a plant does when it's needing something we covered that and there was a handout for how to rotate with the food demands of the plant groups and some little ideas on each plants special needs.

Everyone always is curious about saving seeds so we had a mini course. The handout is very complex but there is a column that simply tells you the expected time each type of seed will last. This only applies if the seeds are kept at an even, cool, dry temperature. I suggest a mason jar well sealed with silica packets inside, then put in the back of the fridge. Don't warm your seeds up when you use them, just take out what you need and return the jar to the fridge before it warms. We covered how to test your seeds. Don't forget only open pollinated seeds can be saved and grown into a useful veggie, hybrids do not reproduce reliable plants.

We talked a lot about using gardening teas, how to make them, the materials to use and why it's so good for your plants. I'm a natural gardener and love garden teas. Mary Ellen started some talk about the worm castings and we learned a lot from one another. Seems there are a million ways to process our organic left overs. Good going everyone!

The time to just take questions was great with so few of us. Lots of good conversation. Mary Ellen suggested a light on a chain to grow your seedlings under, just raise it to 4 inches above the plant as it grows taller. This will help the plants be sturdier and better for putting in your garden.

The food was fun and I'll put recipes on very soon. I make these spring rolls up as I go so need to think it out to type it out for use.

So this is a busy wonderful few weeks ahead. All those great things we can now plant.

I still have a box of tomato plants and two rhubarb.
Does anyone want these?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why garden at home, why protect seed diversity?

If you have any questions on how endangered the family farmer is, or how close we are to loosing seed diversity . Or how over board our government is going please read.

senate Bill 510: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

If the double talk doesn't get you the shock of what they are trying to do will.
I've long expected this to happen and warn you all to contact your legislators to tell them how you feel.

DO IT! While you still have a voice to say "NO" to such harsh food controls.
We know the contamination's in our food supply came from those giant farms and has nothing to do with your local family farm!!!!! I know my dog was poisioned by food products from China, not snohomish, or Monroe, or Marysville. ACT NOW.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

See you Friday May 21st

Our May Meeting will be a fun one.  Mary Ellen and I can't wait to hear what you have been doing in your gardens!  It is a busy time of year for everyone and having a square foot garden is so easy you will be glad you did it. Here are the subjects we are covering on Friday.

Seed Saving......Why, How and how long seeds can last this is a crash course

Garden teas and other ways to feed plants....Do you need to feed your mel's mix plants?  How will you know and what does each plant need.  What are our special needs in a rain soaked region?

May...... what you would do in your May garden in the Pacific Northwest

A fun recipe for showing off your garden food....We are Gourmet Gardening Gals after all

Bring your questions and ideas!  See you at 10 am.

PLEASE NOTE:  Our group grew at the end in an unpredictable way.  This has made it impossible for me to know how many copies we need.  I am only printing 20 copies of each so if you are not signed up with the original group which means you are not receiving Mary Ellen's e-mail reminders,  you should call me or there won't be any handouts for you.  Because of the very large amount of handouts that have been required for this class ( I only give you what I have found the most useful for gardening) It is impossible for me to start someone from the beginning at this point.  If you wish to "catch up" and you will be attending the monthly meetings I can put all our handouts on a cd for you to print out yourself.  Bring a cd please.  

For our readers in those warm zones

Gardening in those warm places?

I know I have devoted this blog to the Pacific Northwest but after I put a counter on the blog I find you, in the warmer states, are my biggest readers so it's time to help you out a bit.

Before moving to the Northwest I lived in wine county with very warm summers, so warm that when we got past 108 degrees I would pack up and go camping on the coast. I can remember how lovely things would grow if I was careful about direct sun. So this post will address those issues of enjoying the extra heat units without burning up our plants. (read about heat units in the postings links on the right)

Vegetables need at least 6 hours of sun. In Southern Calif. and Texas, Arizona and other warm places you easily get heat for enough hours to support those heat loving plants, tomato, cucumber, squash, eggplant, okra, melons etc. The problem you have is keeping the plants watered enough and from direct sunlight at a time of day that would be damaging. You will be looking for shady spots for many veggies, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach (just use chard) the choi's etc. we look for sun in the PNW.

WATER at night or early in the morning before the sun gets up so that the plants can drink without the constant evaporation that takes place on a hot day. If they can enjoy a long cool drink to fill their roots and stems and leaves in the evening they will be very healthy. Watering during the heat of the day can also burn the plants if you splash onto the plants.

Mulch (a thin layer over the soil to hold in moisture and protect the soil and plant) is a must for any plant that is left in the long heat of summer in a Southern climate. Covering your garden soil with another layer that protects the moisture in that soil will help your plants have moisture in the heat of the day. There are many things you can use for mulch. Avoid black plastic as it will heat the soil much too much in your warm climates. Plastic also limits the water going in unless you have a drip system underneath it. Dry grass can be put on as a mulch and a good compost will also work. I find mulch to buy is different in each region. You don't need this very deep. An inch would help hold in the moisture in if the coverage is good around the plant. Don't over do the depth as it will attract bugs that like to stay cool and too much of some kinds of mulch could rob your plants as the mulch brakes down.

Shade covers is the next thing you need to consider. Because this group was started for square foot gardeners I think it is easy to cover and create shade for your plants. You can create shade for a 4x4 box much easier than a couple of long rows of plants. Here in the Pacific Northwest we create pvc frames to put plastic on to protect from the cold and bad weather. You can make the same frame work but instead of plastic you can use shade cloth. It doesn't block in the heat to cook the plants but is a mesh that allows airflow. It does create shade and your plants will be glad you protected them. Mother Earth News has this article on all the things you can made shade with:

You can do an online search by putting in garden shade covers and see what they are look like and what they are costing. Your local garden shop or co-op should carry them, mine does not. My suggestions is a 50% cover for most areas but if you have bearing down long hot summers go for much higher.

All the shade cloth I looked at had grommets for hanging and looked like they would last for several years. Choose a size for your garden area put up a PVC pipe frame or put a bamboo stick in each corner and in several of the inside squares and lay the shade cloth over the top. You won't need to cover the sides of the garden just make a top for shade. It's amazing how you can set back your plants as much as three weeks with a shock of cold or overly warm weather, also periods of very wet and then very dry soil. What happy plants you will have with a shade cover and no burns to weary a growing plant. Remember only cover the top. With that in mind a bamboo roll shade is usually inexpensive.

Planting for your seasons will help you grow more. My sister is a regular reader of Gourmet Gardening Gals and already they are in the 90's F. I did some research for Veggies in Southern Cal. and what I found was their Spring with Spring plantings is in Jan, Feb and early March. By the time late March hits they have already harvested peas and lettuce and cabbage etc which would bolt to seed in such warm late springs. Think about that by march you are done growing all the cool crops until fall. In March we are just starting our cool crops. In Southern Calif. then from march to Aug it is their hot season. If the warm loving plants are started in late march then they will harvest all their summer veggies and have a chance to plant once again the spring cool loving plants of lettuce, peas cabbage, etc in Oct, Nov and Dec. Try to know your planting calendar for your area and plant early enough to give the plants time to get rooted and some size before your heat hits in a big way.

Buy "slow to bolt" varieties
A plants goal is to reseed it's self. In the cool weather the plant puts down roots and grows big so that is can produce as much seed as possible. If it gets heat too soon it will go to seed or "bolt" and produce very little. We often eat the seeding parts and it isn't to our advantage for the plant to "bolt" before it has strong roots and has grown big. Read the back of the packet of seeds for the slow bolt comment many companies don't put it on the front.

Starting seeds in the heat can be a challenge. All seeds need to stay moist to germinate. You can help this along by starting the seeds indoors where you can see them and keep them moist. You don't need to grow full size plants indoors. Just get the seedling to sprout and become stable and strong. If you air condition your home find a room that isn't and keep the seedlings growing a few inches from a light source . The protection of the house will let those babies grow without burning as they might outside. This is another reason why you should start your crops a bit earlier than your last frost date in a warm climate. Letting those seeds get started in a few weeks of cool can really help them along. If you do seed outside it helps to put a seed a bit deeper than normal to shield it from the drying sun. You must still keep that seed wet but with your warmth it will germinate quickly so you will be fine.

I hope you are enjoying your gardens as I see in May you would be into the heat of your area. It must be amazing to see how fast a plant can grow where I only get to watch my veggie grow very slowly at this time of year.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


It's warm and will be for a couple of days.  This can undo a lot of your garden work.  
Don't let freshly sowed seeds dry out.  If a plant is freshly planted outside make sure it isn't getting too much direct sun.  Keep new plants and of course old plants watered.

Take care in watering, ALWAYS, try not to get the leaves wet.  We risk too many issues when plants don't dry quickly enough.  

So the good thing about all this warmth is those bean seeds should be happy, keep them wet. 
I think everything is happier with this kind of warm weather.  

REMEMBER:  Seeds must stay moist to germinate.  Newly planted plants struggle with the warm change protect and keep them moist also. 

Monday, May 10, 2010


My dear gardening friend starts tomatoes every year
and shares them with her friends.
This year there was a tray left over.
She said I could bring them to all of you.
They have been hardened off already but need outside protection.
Leave them in a covered area or plant and cover.

Call me and stop by for your tomato plant any time.

Isn't this fun! When Annie brings tomatoes to our luncheon at Dorothy's
I know it's garden gearing up time.

I have some of the following:

Gold nugget a small yellow cherry type  (bush)
Cherokee Purple a large very dark almost purple heirloom (vine)
Brandy Wine a slow grower but heavenly tasting heirloom (vine)
Italian plum possible open pollinated
There are some we just don't know as they came from a package of mixed tomatoes

I have two seed potatoes left over that could be cut into maybe 4

Hint for remembering which tomatoes are bush and which are vine is a determinate tomato has it's size determined, it grows only so big....IT IS A BUSH.    An indeterminate has no set size, it will grow and grow until something kills it.  IT IS A POLE grower.  

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Nature gives us clues that lead us to what to do next in our garden. Sometimes it is a trick no doubt a ruse but I think we have an open door this next week to planting BEANS. Yes by Tues we will have a 4 to 5 day stretch of warm weather. Nice warm weather. Let me explain.

Beans like to be planted and not moved so I don't do indoor starts with them. A bean seed will sit in cold soil and not sprout. After it is wet and cold, poor baby, for so long it is weak to all kinds of nasty things. It goes something like this:

Germination of Beans at these temperatures:

41 degrees F 0
50 degrees F 0
59 degrees F 16 days
68 degrees F 11 days
77 degrees F 8 days
86 degrees F 6 days
95 degrees F 6 days

This is an amazing difference a little warmth makes. So with a week of 60 plus weather next week in the Seattle area if you plant today your bean just might be up in 14 days or so, perfect for the warmer weather we hope for at the end of May. Not necessarily sunny weather but it will be warmer temperature wise the closer we get to June.

Remember it's not direct sun that makes your plants grow it's Heat Units. You can read my posting on that at:

Remember to wet your seed, dip it in the inocculate. If you need some both Shawn and I are willing to share. Read your handout on Beans, hopefully you have it in a notebook and you can just sit and read all about the veggies you are growing.

Things are starting to happen and before you know it our gardens will be full of growing things!


I love how much product I get off of pole beans but you can have some early beans by starting a bush bean also. If you don't have a square for both do your bush bean in a pot!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tea Time for the Garden

Have you been to the tea room in Bothell yet? Stephanie took me and I'll never forget the lovely cozy feeling we had while enjoying our tea. So make your garden happy and cozy by serving it some tea.

When using Mel's mix you have given your garden just what it needs. Having the five kinds of compost really makes a difference. But I never completely trust the bagged compost and I watch the plants and decide if it's Tea Time. For the May meeting I will cover the care and feeding of growing plants but to get you started this Alfalfa tea is perfect for all those newly started plants.

Here is the recipe for Alfalfa tea

two buckets to move the tea back and forth
1 small coffee can size scoop of rabbit food (straight alfalfa pellets ask for them that way)
to 5 gallons of water
1 tablespoon of molasses if you want to do the three day version

mix and pour it back and forth 3 or 4 times to get it started
Then pour back and forth once or twice a day for three days
Strain and pour over those newly growing plants.

This tea will give your plants some much needed nitrogen. This is such a boast to plants trying to get a start. This tea also adds sulfur, iron, magnesium, manganses and selenium and a growth stimulant, triaconatol. I know it's a bother to strain this so waiting for the heavy material to settle to the bottom will allow you to scoop up some in a jar and water around each plant. If you want to get it on the plant leaves you will need to strain it. Did you know a plant takes in more from it's leaves than it's roots? So consider that. The sludge can be added to your compost pile or an unused garden square or two. Stir it in nicely.

Don't put this tea on your onions, or garlic or tomatoes.

A popular tea is manure tea, but all animal horse and cow etc must be aged for 6 months to a year before making tea out of it. At the May meeting we will talk about when to stop feeding this tea and what a whole bunch of different teas will do for your gardens.

See you then