Going to a Farmers Market

Puyallup Farmers MarketThe Farmer’s Market season is in full swing. Some start earlier and some start later, but right now all the local farmer’s markets are open for business. If you haven’t been to a local market yet, you have been missing out!

There are several good reasons to visit a farmer’s market:

  • Fresh food – Most of the produce you see at a farmer’s market was in the ground earlier that morning. Talk about fresh!
  • Local – There’s nothing like buying food that was grown by someone you can look in the eye and shake their hand. It also supports the local economy and helps feed and employ local farmers, most of which are small family operations.
  • Information – When you buy from a local grower, you can bet they know all about the foods they sell. Ask them how the crop is grown, how to use it, how to store it, anything you want.
  • Education – Farmer’s Markets are a great place for kids to learn about where food comes from and how it gets to the dinner plate.
  • Healthy and Organic – Most of the local farmers grow their crops organically, and even those that don’t still don’t use nearly the volume of chemicals the large corporate farms do.
  • Crafts – Not only can you buy produce. There are also locally grown ornamental plants, hand-made crafts and other local fare.
  • Fun! – Many of the farmer’s markets have music and other entertainment!
  • Community – Farmer’s markets are one of the best ways to draw communities closer together. You might just make a new friend! Continue reading
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Create a Butterfly Garden

People love butterflies. They are beautiful, fascinating creatures. Even people who don’t like bugs and other creepy crawly things tend to like butterflies. Gardeners often ask me which plants will attract more butterflies to their yard. There are certainly many plants that butterflies do love. However, adding a single plant may not be enough to draw in more than one or two occasional butterflies to your home. If you really want to see some butterflies, why not plant a butterfly garden?

butterfly garden  As the name suggests, a butterfly garden is a themed garden designed to attract butterflies. Actually, it does more than that. A good butterfly garden creates a habitat for butterflies where they can live, raise families, start a butterfly career and practice their craft of being beautiful. It’s not that hard to make such a garden, and there are a number of benefits that come with it.

  • Butterfly gardens tend to be full of flowers, beautiful flowers. Who doesn’t want more beautiful flowers?
  • They tend to be organized in such a way as to have that flow, that lush landscaped appearance
  • The flowers are usually the kinds of plants that grow well in your region of the country, since they are meant to attract the kinds of butterflies that live in your region. That means they will be hardy, and they will be easy to grow.
  • You are providing much needed habitat for butterflies, a good thing since much of their natural habitat has been lost.
  • You get to see more butterflies!

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Do Your Trees have a Flare for Roots?

Cedar Root FlareThe next time you’re fishing for a conversation starter at a cocktail party, try this line: “So how’s your root flare?” OK, you probably won’t get much more than a blank stare, or a “huh?” in response. How about at your next gardening party, then?

Of course, you should probably have some idea what root flare is, first. The root flare is the top of the roots, at the point of the tree where the trunk ends and the roots begin.

Think of the trees you’ve seen growing naturally, in the wild. Most of them have this. It is the preferred way to grow among trees. All the best trees are doing it. Unfortunately, most homeowners didn’t consult the local trees before planting theirs. Continue reading

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Threadleaf Coreopsis Verticillata

Threadleaf Coreopsis VerticillataThreadleaf coreopsis is one of the most popular of perennials. They are good for new gardeners who want some quick results. You want something easy to grow that will make a strong impact all year long? Go with one of these beauties!

Threadleaf coreopsis is so-called because the stems and foliage are, indeed thread-like. They are light and feathery, floating in the breeze. Run your fingers through the foliage in spring and see how soft they feel. Almost like a feather duster. Even if threadleafs had nothing else to offer except the foliage they would still be among my favorite plants.

Delicate threadleafs.
Enchanting, graceful webs bear
daisy suns of cheer

But the foliage isn’t all these plants do. Starting in late May or early June, the tips of the stems begin to form little, bright orbs that signal the coming of summer. And right on or around the 1st day of summer, these buds begin to open, showing forth daisy-like flowers that will completely cover the plant. Every stem will hold a flower or multiple flowers, with new stems growing up to offer new flowers to replace the spent ones. The flowering will continue right into fall, usually not stopping or even slowing down until first frost bites them, which is usually mid-late October.

All threadleaf coreopsis plants are sun-lovers. For best effect, plant 3 or 5 of them interspersed with other perennials in the front or middle of a border. A 1 gallon plant will usually grow to full size within two seasons.

Coreopsis plants should be divided every couple of years to ensure vigor and longer lifespan. They will bloom all summer long, especially if you deadhead them periodically. In my own experience the deadheading isn’t a necessity. However, if you find your plants have a lot of spent flower heads and not many new blooms coming on you can simply take your hedge trimmers to them and give them an even haircut. In less than two weeks they’ll be covered with new flowers again.

Zagreb and Moonbeam are two of my favorite kinds of threadleaf coreopsis.

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Moonbeam Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’)

Moonbeam Coreopsis foliage

At a Glance:
Herbaceous Perennial Zones 3-9
Full Sun Dry to Moist Soil
Yellow flowers Blooms June-October
18-24” tall 18-24” spread
Heat/Drought tolerant Attracts butterflies
Deer and Rabbit resistant  

Threaded web gleams June, July, August, September, Smothered in moonbeams

Moonbeam Coreopsis, or tickseed as it is sometimes called, is one of the threadleaf varieties of coreopsis. It is an herbaceous perennial, meaning the above-ground portion of the plant dies back to the ground during the winter months while it hibernates.

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Thinking Outside the Boxwood – Ideas for Hedge Plants

Many different kinds of plants can qualify as hedge plants. All that’s really needed is dense foliage and a reliable, regular shape to the plant. Many folks don’t consider deciduous plants when putting in a hedge and that is a mistake.

Some of the best hedges are deciduous. Think about it. The only time most deciduous plants are naked is when nobody goes outside anyway. And many of these plants have dense enough branching to provide a decent amount of privacy screening, even when they’re bare. When you open the door to deciduous plants as hedging you have the opportunity to consider a lot of beautiful plants.

Take Lilacs, for example. When most people think of lilacs, they think of a tall, leggy shrub about 12-14′ tall and maybe 6 feet wide. That would describe the common lilac (syringa vulgaris), but did you know there are many types of lilacs that are actually quite bushy and dense?

Minuet Lilac is a perfect example of this. Minuet grows to about 6-8′ tall, slightly less wide, and can easily be pruned into a dense hedge. And unlike most common lilacs, Minuet doesn’t sucker, so your hedge will stay in one place!Syringa prestoniae Minuet

Spirea plants can make excellent hedges. During winter they lose their leaves, but once spring rolls around they leaf out quickly and become incredibly dense. They also have attractive foliage, and many of them bloom for months on end.

Little Princess Spirea is pretty small, hence the name, but would make a great low hedge. They top out at between 2.5’ and 3’ tall but spread to 4’ wide. They have bright green serrated leaves and their flowers bloom in clusters of pink, mauve, and red. These flowers appear in early June and last until first frost.

spirea hedgeAnother fun one for hedging is Snow Mound Spirea. These plants get a bit bigger, up to 5’ tall and wide. They form a dense mound at the heart of the plant, but then the new growth comes out in long arching branches that hang and sway in the wind. These arching branches are covered with a row of white blossoms in June that make the whole plant look like it is covered with snow!

You can prune a Snowmound to be quite dense at the end of the season. However, once the new growth starts it will quickly get a fluffy appearance that is rather striking. These plants are probably 5′ tall. Imagine a hedge like this stretching the length of your front yard!

hedge spirea snowmound

Eastern Ninebark is another good one to consider, particularly as it provides year-round interest. In late spring this guy has massive clusters of pinkish to white flowers all over it. Then in summer, enjoy the dark green lobed leaves. In late summer to fall, the capsule-like reddish fruit appears to brighten your day. Finally, in winter, after the leaves fall off, you can enjoy the rich colors of the exfoliating bark that peels off in strips to reveal many layers and shades of reddish to light brown bark. Ninebark will reach up to 8’ in height and about 6’ wide.

Hedge Physocarpus opulifolius

How about Snowball Bush? Also known as Snowball Viburnum, or Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, this makes a great, reliable hedge that reaches 10-12’ in height and width. It is a pretty massive shrub that can almost be a hedge in one plant! You can also grow these in moist soil. Plus you get the snowball flower clusters in spring to summer, maple-like leaves that grow dense and green, and fall color as the leaves turn orange-red.

Snowball bushes, like this one, are too good to have just one! So, why not make a hedge out of them?

Hedge Viburnum opulus Roseum 2

Weigelas can be used as deciduous hedges, too. In fact, they are pretty commonly chosen for this purpose. There are many varieties, sizes and flower colors.

There’s Red Prince, which gets up to 6’ in height and width and bears red trumpet flowers in spring. This color of red is really striking, and the plant flowers profusely, as all weigelas tend to. Red Prince often will rebloom throughout the summer and into fall.

Or there’s Rumba Weigela with its pinkish/mauve flowers that last all summer long. It gets to be about 3-4’ tall.

Hedge Weigela florida RumbaWe also have my favorite, Java Red, which reaches only about 2’ tall and wide, maybe a few inches higher. The coffee-colored leaves make a striking contrast to the pink flowers.

Oh, and butterflies and hummingbirds love these flowers! Imagine a hedge covered with flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds all summer long!

Mock orange would make an excellent hedge plant. Not familiar with Mock Orange? It is so called because when it blooms the flowers smell like orange blossoms! This is one beautiful plant! It gets to be about 5 feet tall, but may reach as wide as 10’ – another plant where you practically have a hedge in one plant! It’s also native, so you know it will grow well here.

Hedge Philadelphus lewissii

You want something a little more unusual? How about Feather Reed Grass? This plant can certainly be used to form a botanical wall. This grass plant reaches a height of about 4′, but when it blooms the flower heads add another 2′ on top. You can plant these as a partial screen, or put them closer together to form an impenetrable wall!

Hedge Feather reed Grass

As far as grasses go, you can’t do better than Pampas Grass for a security hedge. These plants vary in size by variety, but even the smaller ones tend to reach at least 6′ in height, and some of the larger varieties can surpass 10′ or more! Each plant is dense, packed, and beautiful! The grass blades have a sharp edge to them that can scratch or even cut bare skin, so they provide excelled security as well.

hedge pampas grass

Blueberries make really nice hedges. They grow fairly dense foliage; have attractive flowers; there’s the fruit, of course; and then some beautiful fall colors. Most blueberry plants reach heights and spreads of between 4 and 8 feet. Also, blueberry plants produce more fruit when you have more than one variety, so a mixed blueberry hedge is an excellent option for killing multiple birds with a few stones!

When you start to consider plants other than evergreen types, a whole world of hedging possibilities opens!

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Pruning Fruit Trees

Fruit Tree Open CenterYou might be surprised to hear that early spring is the ideal time to prune your fruit trees. I mean, haven’t we always been told that winter is the best pruning season?

Well, yes, if you need to do some hardcore, renovative pruning, that’s true. Winter is when plants are dormant. It’s like they’re under a natural anesthesia, so they can handle invasive surgery better. So if you have a shrub that is way out of control and you feel like you just need to cut it down to the ground and start over, then, yes, winter is the time to do it.

However, if your goal is to train your plants and spur them on to greater things, the pruning should be done while the plant is awake. The timing varies from plant to plant, but for most fruit trees March-April is the perfect time to do it.

During the early spring our fruit trees are just gearing up for their big explosion of growth. First the tree stores up the energy it needs and “makes decisions” about where to direct that energy. It is during this time you want to do some pruning. The tree will then direct its energy appropriately, based on the effects of your pruning. This is when fruit trees are best able to respond to the pruning and make positive adjustments.

Every type of fruit tree is different, and they each have their own preferences for ideal pruning. However, there are some basic principles that apply to all fruit tree pruning.

Basic Principles of Fruit Tree Pruning

Prune towards the goal. If your goal is flowers and branches you may not want to do much pruning. However, if your goal is to encourage good fruit, pruning is essential. Continue reading

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Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick is a plant lover’s plant. It is one of the most unusual plants you will ever see. It captures peoples’ attention from the first time they see it. If you have one in your yard, your neighbors will probably be asking you about it before long.

Botanically known as Corylus Avellana Contorta, and contorta tells the tale. Other common names include ‘Contorted Filbert’, ‘Contorted Hazel’ or ‘Corkscrew Hazel’.

Although technically it belongs to the hazelnut genus (corylus), it doesn’t produce nuts. Apparently it’s nutty enough in its growth habit! It is considered an ornamental shrub and it is highly valued for its ornamental appeal.

HLWS grows to 8-10 feet tallThe branches, as the name suggests grow in heavily spiraled and twisted forms. It is truly a wonderful plant! There are other ‘contorted’ plants, but Harry Lauders really takes it to a whole new level. Continue reading

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35 Things You Can Do in Your Garden This Winter

Me and some of my gardening friends were recently talking about winter gardening and what we were all planning on doing between now and spring. I guess we were all going through some gardening withdrawal! And, what with spring being just around the corner, we’re all pretty excited to get some things done. Maybe you feel the same way.

Here’s what we came up with. I just compiled everybody’s ideas into a list with minimal editing. Some of these are things to improve the yard now and some are to get ready for spring.

They may not all apply to you, but hopefully they’ll give you some ideas anyway. If you have other suggestions that aren’t on this list feel free to add them in the comments.

Clean/Repair

  • Checking the condition of my hand and power tools. replace broken or cracked handles.
  • Tune up tractor, rototiller, lawn mower, edger, trimmer etc. as needed. Sharpen dull tools such as clippers.

 Plan

  • Take a good hard look at the landscape. How many shrubs in the landscape have really and truly out grown their usefulness? Make a list of the ones that deserve to be cut back to see how they look. Make a list of the ones that really, really need to go.
  • Draw up a potential layout for new plant beds and areas so I will know where the new stuff is going before I even but it. Have a plan and then work the plan.
  • The main thing in my way of looking at my garden is to try a new plant every year. I have been here 29 years and have planted something new just about every year
  • Another thing to remember is do not plant tomatoes in the same place each year. Move them around to a different site. It keeps them from getting nematodes.
  • Go visit Scott’s site (getplants4less.com), often.

 Prepare

  • Clean house and stuff freezer because in a few weeks it will be growing season indoors and I won’t come up for air for a few months. (I’m happiest with potmix in my hairpart and compost in my shoes….)
  • Cut up old hoarded narrow slat window blinds for my plant markers.
  • Send off my soil tests
  • When my soil test results come back, get my amendments ordered (I will need gypsum, my soil always needs gypsum)…
  • Prep for trims and sticking a new crop of twigs. Aquariums and recycled soda bottle ‘cloches’ cleaned and refurbished.
  • Start punching all my recycle pots (plastic and styrofoam used and rinsed cups, washed out yogurt cups, etc) and getting them ready.

 Shop

  • Buy worms if you don’t already have a bed of them. They are like a dream come true to the soil.
  • I think I deserve a new sunhat and muckboots, lets’ go shopping for that.
  • Order supplies so everything is on-hand before the weather breaks and the warehouses get swamped with calls for product.
  • Order a pallet of my favorite potting mix so it gets here when my flats have to be up-potted.
  • Order mulch and pots/bags so I am ready to start potting up all those rooted cuttings when the weather breaks.
  • Order some more of that sweat proof sunblock that works so well, I went through a batch of it last year (as I sit here typing this with the backs of my knees got ‘pinked’ today)

 Yardwork

  • Promise yourself to do a little gardening each day. It will keep the doctor away!
  • Put those coffee grounds out in the compost heap, also egg shells and any other thing from the kitchen that doesn’t have oil or meat in it.
  • Check the overwinter beds and see how last year’s twigs are doing, and with several days in the 60′s, check moisture.
  • Remove the tops from the perennials, Hosta, Daylilly etc.
  • Dig lilies that have become crowded if y’all want to see more and more of them. They will thank you for it.
  • I also separate my hosta just as they leaf out.
  • Shrubs that deserve a second chance can be cut back really hard. Take a chance. You might be surprised 6 months from now.
  • If your Azaleas are getting too tall or misshaped, don’t think you can’t cut them to the ground because you can. It will take a couple of years for them to come back to a nice height but they will. I didn’t cut mine to the ground after they bloomed but I did cut them back to about a foot and they did great.
  • Get all of the remaining leaves out of my beds.
  • Weed, weed and weed some more.
  • If y’all don’t like using commercial fertilizer, just buy composted manure and put some in a 5 gallon bucket and add water to put around your plants.
  • Oh and don’t forget to spray the Japanese Maples before they start to leaf out. I lost two because I failed to. Beetles got to them.
  • Put down compost
  • Trim any trees that need trimming while they are still dormant. Dormant pruning is the least stressful kind of pruning you can do.
  • Turn compost pile
  • If it’s been (relatively) warm and dry for a few days, you may need to water.
Posted in Gardening Tips, Winter prep | 2 Comments

Fall Tool Prep for Winter

This is the 3rd article in a 3 part series on getting the yard ready for winter. You can read the first two parts here, and here.

If you work in your garden regularly you probably have a certain amount of affection for your tools, as strange as that may sound. After all, our tools help us get things done. Without them we couldn’t have nearly as nice of yards as we do.

Our tools won’t last forever, but with some simple care they can last a lot longer than without it. The best time to care for our gardening tools is right now, at the end of the season, when we’re pretty much done with them. By planning to do these simple tasks now we ensure our tools get the care they need on an annual basis. Plus, it makes sure they are in tip-top shape at the beginning of the next season, when we probably need them most.

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