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Prune spring flowering shrubs when they have finished blooming. IMG_6128 Be very careful with rhododendrons and azaleas, as it’s very easy to remove next years bloom.  If you can just leave them, it would probably be best.

Thin seedlings

Use balanced, organic fertilizers around flowers

Be sure to fertilize your annuals with liquid fertilizer. They’ll thank you for it by blooming continuously!

Stake tall perennials, like lilies, and Foxglove.

Are your tomatoes “caged”?  If not, get that done before it’s too late.

Use a pine needle mulch for blueberries

Be sure your lawn mower is set to cut the grass HIGH

IMG_7570Be sure to dead-head those iris, and remember the time to divide them comes next month.

Gladiolus corms can be planted-alternate their planting by two weeks or so.  That way they will bloom continuously.

Dead-head (prune off) spent flowers from plants and shrubs

Remove rhubarb seed stalks as they form.

Cutting back perennials such as dianthus, veronica and other similar shrubby varieties, will possibly produce a second blooming. How great would that be? They’ll also look better!

You can make softwood cuttings of shrubs this month through July.  Using a little rooting hormone would facilitate the process.

You may still plant container grown shrubs

Plant broccoli seed for fall harvest.

If you have a water garden, there’s still time to plant water
lilies.

House plants can be moved outside to a shady, protected spot.

These same houseplants can be lightly fed with half strength
fertilizer.

Mulch perennials and roses to keep down weeds and conserve moisture.

If you have an amaryllis, now would be the time to move it outside.

Pinch the leading stems of your chrysanthemum’s to encourage them to
be bushier and have more blossoms. Continue doing this every 6 inches
or so, as they grow.

If you have apple trees, hang red sticky-ball traps to control apple maggot flies. Small trees can get by with 2 balls. Larger trees should probably have 4-6 balls.

Stop cutting asparagus when the new spears get pinkie-finger thin. Let them grow into ferns instead. It will feed the roots.

Side-Dress veggies to give them a little boost

Have you got Hostas? IMG_7586Are there slugs chewing them? Try this solution, if you haven’t already.
Combine 9 parts water to 1 part common household ammonia and spray it on the hosta just before dark. When the slugs hit this, they will dissolve!

Are you remembering to turn the compost every once in a while? You should also wet it down if the hose is close by. Doing this will help it decompose quicker although it will eventually happen anyway!

Mow down any daffodil drifts that have “gone by”, if you haven’t already!

Order your bulbs so they arrive in time to plant in the autumn.

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MAY GARDENING CHORES FOR THE

PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Know your Horticultural Zone.  Find it here!

  • Tulips should be dead-headed(remove spent flower)100_0120
  • The grass can be mowed when it reaches 3-4 inches (sorry, but it IS that time again!)
  • Hold off mulching until the soil is warm, or you’ll just keep the cold in!
  • You can now plant lettuce, beans, corn and carrots right in the soil.
  • They say that tomatoes can be planted when the lilacs bloom. Hmmm…  You might sprinkle a teaspoon of Epsom salts into the hole where they go to provide magnesium.  44252830-beautiful-tomatoes-in-the-summer-garden-natural-conceptRemember that smaller plants will establish better than the larger ones, so go for the smaller potted plants rather than the big ones.  Be aware that temperatures MAY drop on some nights, so be prepared to  protect your seedings.
  • Marigolds, zinnias and even nasturtiums are good to plant in and around your vegetables as well as the flower beds. They repel insects!
  • You can begin to plant gladiolas at 2 week intervalsimages.duckduckgo
  • You can fertilize any bulbs that are up.
  • Stake your peonies before they get too big.  This web page about peonies is from Vermont.  However, the explanations are wonderful and the pictures are very helpful!IMG_6291
  • Insert stakes for dahlias and other bulbs at planting time to avoid spearing tubers which might happen after growth has started.
  • Harvest rhubarb by grabbing it at the base of the stalk and pulling firmly away from the crown, twisting just a bit. Be sure to throw the leaves into the compost as they are poisonous!images.duckduckgo
  • You can prune your spring blooming shrubs just as soon as the flowers have faded.

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Know your Horticultural Zone.  Find it here!

I have loaded this post with links you should find helpful.  Be sure to click on them for all kinds of extra information.  I have used Extension, or Horticultural sites, so you shouldn’t be troubled with any advertising when you go there.

  • This is a good time to get that soil tested. Then there will be time to amend it before the season gets into full swing!
  • Edge your flower beds to rid yourself of invading lawn rhizomes. Toss the edgings from this into the compost.
  • Rebar, the steel bars used to reinforce concrete and masonry, make great garden stakes. They’re inexpensive, strong and durable and they come in a variety of sizes. You can find them in any building supply store.
  • Start up your lawn mower so you know it doesn’t need a trip to the repair shop before grass cutting time. Also be sure the blades are SHARP.
  • Sharpen your other tools while you are at it!
  • The lawn would appreciate a good fertilizing at this time.
  • Avoid working in the garden unless the soil breaks up in your hand if you squeeze a lump of it.
  • Turn your compost 
  • Hummingbirds Be sure the feeders are cleaned every time you refill them.  The food should be 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.  Bring to a boil and cool before putting into the feeder.
  • Sow peas in the ground as soon as the frost is gone
  • Continue with the tree pruning. Get rid of dead and diseased limbs
  • As soon as your shrubs are done blooming, prune them as well.
  • You can prune your berry bushes-check a reference.
  • Rhubarb can be divided.  They are almost impossible to kill, so don’t worry about hurting them.
  • This is a good time to pull out weed trees and old bramble branches. They tend to yank out easily because the soil is still soft and moist.
  • Remove mulch from strawberries
  • Put your trellis systems and peony supports into place.
  • Pansies and other cold weather annuals can now be planted outside.
  • It is the time to divide and plant perennials as well as cutting any of last years remaining growth away. It’s known as good housekeeping in the garden!
  • If you have any bare root plants going into the garden, soak them overnight before planting. Also be sure to trim off any super long or broken roots.
  • If you winter mulch your garden beds, begin to remove mulch when forsythia and daffodils bloom.
  • Try planting scented flowers near walks!

I hope you’ll check out my book A Year In My New England Garden, which has a similar calendar along with vignettes of my gardening experiences in New England.  Your purchase of this book will help me cover my blogging costs.  It is inexpensive, and should be fun, helpful and make a great gift for gardening friends.

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Here are the hellebores in all their February glory!  As you saw in my last post, the garden is not sleeping any longer.  The natural alarm clock has gone off, and the plants are busy preparing for their appearance!

Here are some things you can deal with this month in your garden.  At Horizon House, not all of them are appropriate, but there are other gardeners (not living at Horizon House) who read this blog as well, so I’ve added a few things for them.  If something doesn’t apply to you, well just ignore it!

  • Bring home some wonderful blooming flowers to enjoy around the house!
  • This is the time to get out and take a good look at your trees to see if they could stand some pruning. It is easy to see whether there are broken or diseased branches now that there are no leaves.  Always think “could a bird fly right through this tree without banging into a branch?”  That would indicate that air and sun could ALSO fly right through-and that would be a GOOD thing!
  • Are you ordering from those catalogs? This is the time to plan on making your dreams come true! At least in the garden.
  • As you look around the neighborhood, make note of plants that have “winter interest”. Find out what they are and plan to add them to your garden when the weather is better!
  • Trees are easy to identify in the winter because all the leaves are gone. However, you have no leaves to use to help you either…so go to the book store and buy a Winter Tree Identification Guide. (I identified one of MANY appropriate books.  See if there’s one that you can relate with!)  It’s kind of fun identifying trees by their shapes, and the kids love doing it as well.
  • If you haven’t done it already, sharpen those tools-and while you’re at it, organize them as well.
  • Before you know it, should you have a lawn, it will be time to roll out the lawn mower. Has it been serviced? Get it to the shop before everyone else beats you to it.
  • If you have grapes, prune the vines now. If you wait until it begins to warm up, they will “bleed”.
  • Get rid of weeds you see, and if the mulch is getting thin, replenish it.
  • Do you have winter vegetables?  Now’s the time to harvest!
  • If you haven’t done a soil test done lately, maybe now’s the time?
  • If you start seeds this month or next, try using clear topped take-home trays that you get leftovers in, from restaurants. They work really well!  (I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen too many of these around lately.  I guess we’re getting better about compostable containers!)
  • Force some of your spring blooming twigs for indoor color. Try fruit trees, forsythia, dogwood, pussy willow and quince. Just bring them inside and allow them to sit in a large vase with water.
  • Keep those bird feeders full, unless you live in a high rise, like Horizon House…then the feeders attract varmints.  Horizon House residents…NO BIRD FEEDERS, except for Humming bird feeders.
  • Be sure to keep the leaves of indoor plants “dusted”. It helps to wipe them with a damp cloth to keep the pores open.
  • Look around the garden (if it isn’t covered by snow) and be sure none of your perennials have been heaved out of the ground by frost. If they have, press them back down.
  • Plant any bare root trees or shrubs when you get them.  They are usually available now.  They will be cheaper and probably easier to start!
  • Remove any heavy snow (should you have it)  from the evergreens.
  • Be alert!  You may see some signs of spring.  A bulb peeking up where you least expect it?  A robin after that worm?  WHEEEEE!  Can’t WAIT!

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I’ve had a few folks ask about a calendar of “what to do when” in the garden.  I have to be a little picky here, as I’m really writing this blog for those who live at Horizon House (a Retirement facility) with raised garden beds…no big expanses, trees or large shrubs.  This means that some chores are adjusted in such a way as to fit our needs.  However, ALL of these are useful for ANY gardener in the Pacific Northwest.  I will try to post one of these for every month as we go forward.  If it appears that they are either too “simplistic” or too “all encompassing”, please bear with me, and fit them to YOUR own needs!   I hope you find them useful, no matter how large or small your piece of Eden!

JANUARY

  • Some folks cut off the spent christmas tree boughs and lay them on top of flower beds to add extra protection, from errant snow or even low temperatures.
  • Do you have anything that’s stored away…like tubers of any sort?  Bulbs, veggies (potatoes, etc.)  Check them and toss any mushy ones into the compost.
  • Don’t forget the birds.  images.duckduckgoEspecially here in the PNW where little hummingbirds spend the winter.  There aren’t many blossoms for them to tap…offer them some sugar water.  (4 part’s water to 1 part sugar.  Bring to a boil, and cool.  It will keep nicely in the refrigerator.)
  • This might be a good time to start a Gardening Journal.  You can use a notebook, a calendar, or even a published gardening journal you buy at the bookstore.
  • Had any early storms?  Pick up and dispose of debris.
  • Turn your indoor plants every week or so in order to keep their growth even, as they will grow toward the sun.
  • While you’re at it be sure to constantly check those indoor plants for insects and give them a soapy, bubble bath if you find any!
  • Check your fruit trees (and actually ANY trees) and cut out the “water sprouts”.  They are new growth that points STRAIGHT up.  They will only block air and sunshine, and are totally non-productive.  Remember when you prune to get as close to the trunk as you can without cutting into it.  The wound will heal by itself.  No need to paint it with anything, as that may actually impede the healing process.
  • It’s a good time to clean up your tools.  A good method is to have a small pail filled with sand to which you’ve added some old oil.  Then you can plunge your shovels, spades and trowels in to clean off the old dirt, and coat them with oil at the same time!
  • It’s a good time to take your shears, pruners (and lawn mowers if you have such a thing) in to be sharpened!  Then they’ll be ready in the spring.
  • For goodness sakes, enjoy your gardening catalogs and use them to plan next years garden!  Order stuff now, they will be sent at the proper planting time, and at least you know you’ll GET what you want!
  • Stay active!

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Autumn is surely here! IMG_7026 The trees have turned color, started dropping their leaves and begun looking a bit “bare”.  It is the way of the garden…even our little gardens here at Horizon House.  Here’s a link that has photos and a few comments about our gardens.

But, to get back to autumn, and how it affects us, AND our gardens.  I decided to write this post because I’ve just begun to read a book about soil, called “Growing a Revolution-Bringing Our Soil Back to Life”, by David Montgomery.  Jean D. had asked if the IMG_7018Garden Committee would co-sponsor a program, with the Conservation Committee featuring David Montgomery, to speak about this new book.   I thought that would be a great idea.  He will be coming to HH sometime in the not too distant future.  Anyway, I’m LOVING this book and how he explains about the soil and how we can replenish it with far less chemical intervention.  Anyway, it got me thinking about how we can get into this “mode” here, even in our little gardens!

It is a totally natural approach.  It’s wonderful, not only for the soil, but for insects, and the wildlife, of which many of us are not really aware.  It is also easier on the gardeners, as the chores we usually accomplish in autumn are diminished.IMG_7028

Our garden beds are looking a bit scruffy right now.  It’s a time when we fussy gardeners think it’s time to clean up all the debris.  STOP!!!  DON’T DO IT!!!!

When we remove all that debris, we stop the soil from replenishing itself.  The leaves, if left alone, will become places for microbes and little critters to hide for the winter.  All those little guys will use the leaves for food, passing it into the soil in a form that can be utilized as the roots gobble it up to feed the plants!  So, don’t be too quick to remove those leaves!IMG_7019

 

IMG_7020Also, the plants themselves, if left standing are happily feeding birds and little creatures.  There are green buds, berries and seeds, all of which keep our wildlife fed and passing it back to the soil as they hop from place to place.IMG_7024

Sure, it doesn’t look wonderful to OUR eyes, but the soil and wildlife will be so appreciative!IMG_7025  Pledge to become a MESSY GARDENER along with the Nature Conservancy.  This link will tell you more about how these techniques will really be good all around!

I think I will write a note in the ALERT telling people that our gardens may be looking a bit “scruffy” during the winter months…and WHY!  So, go ahead and experiment.  Leave those leaves alone, and let’s see what happens.  In the spring, you can clean up your garden if you want.  Letting the leaves break down further will be good for the soil, but if it looks too nasty for you, go ahead and clean it up in the spring, but leave the leaves for now!

Here’s to the Horizon House Garden Committee’s contribution to replenishment of the earth’s soil!  Have fun being MESSY!

 

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From the time we are just wee, little ones learning a catchy rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away.  Come again another day!” Until the present time when we stand aghast to read the news about yet another terrible rain event in the form of one or more hurricanes.

Rain is one of those things that we hate one minute but know the next, that we can’t exist without.IMG_0371

The most important element that we need to support life (any kind of life) is WATER!  It comes to us in the form of rain.  Rain fills the oceans and pushes the brooks into the streams, which form the rivers, etc.  So, we cannot do without rain!

 

Some climates have to live with little, or no rain, as in deserts.  Other places like rainforests, have to figure out how to handle the deluges.  As I recall the cliché is “feast or famine”!  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are usually in the “feast” category…but not always.  This is where our skill, as gardeners and farmers, comes into play!

Our gardens have to handle both an excess of water, or in the dryest season of summer hold onto the little we get.  In other words, sometimes we need to deal with drought, just as we need to deal with the occasional flood.  Generally in the PNW,img_5618 the rain is frequent, but light. It keeps us constantly damp it seems, but doesn’t rain enough to get down to the deep roots where it’s necessary in order to be of any use to the plant above.  So, what are we to do?

As gardeners (I’ll include farmers in that all encompassing word) we all know that along with water, the most important ingredient is the SOIL!  Just like water, soil comes in different forms as well.  In a desert, it’s sand.  In a rainforest, it is almost pure compost. If it rains in the desert, the water is gone almost as soon as it hits the ground, because sand does NOT hold water and the dampness is burned off by the sun.  In the rainforest, the water is enclosed in the rich, deep compost, held in the shade, and available for whatever time is necessary!

What do we learn from this?  In a desert, there are no plants dropping leaves, or falling onto the ground to rot…so there is no compost forming naturally.  In the rainforest, there are trees and plants galore, which shed leaves, break off branches, and support animals that leave their detritus.  All of this falls to the ground, rots and becomes compost.  Now, if we could just get the two together!!!!

THAT is where the gardener begins to display his or her skills, and brains! compost-hand

Essentially, there are three things you need in order to create good soil for your garden. The growing material itself (which we call the soil); water; and air.  We aspire to “perfect” this combination in order to grow our crop, be it vegetables or flowering plants.

BUT, the bottom line is that we need to take the RAIN and hold onto it long enough, and deep enough, for the plants to utilize it.  If a plant is watered and just the top of the soil is dampened, the roots have no way of getting to it.  That is an unhealthy situation.  The roots will aim upward to get to the water, leaving them vulnerable to the next burst of heat, which will dry those roots out, and eventually kill the plant.  Water deeply!  THAT is the weak spot in our rainy climate.  We think because it’s always raining, we shouldn’t need to water, but that is NOT necessarily the case.

We need to figure out how to adjust the soil in order to hold and convey the water down to the roots of the plants.  This is done by combining our soil with compost.  That compost also loosens the soil, allowing space for air to be incorporporated.  A good equation!

In Israel, they have turned the desert into farms.  Go to this site and read how they created this miracle.  But, certainly this is not what we have to do in our PNW gardens, is it?

The Spruce has a wonderful article about building soil to hold water.  It would be worth a visit.

Here’s a link from the University of Maine, Extension Service telling everything you’d possibly need to know about soil,

Here’s to Happy Gardening…and perfect rainfall!

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