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Archive for the ‘Soil’ Category

This year I went to the show for TWO days!  My son in-law gave me two tickets.  At first I didn’t know what to do with TWO tickets, and he suggested I either invite a friend or go on  two days!  DUH!!!

I chose the two days because I tend to be a “loner” at things like this.  I hate to wait around for someone else to finish looking when I’m ready to move on.  Not only  that, I’m a “Seminar” kind of gal.  I’d prefer to just look around at the displays quickly; img_6075check img_6071out all the things for sale; and then head for the Seminar rooms to learn something new and see some pretty spectacular gardening photography!  So, that sounded like a great idea.  I did it, and I’m so very glad!  I had two days of seminars, as well as checking out the displays.  I attended 7 in all, and learned a LOT!img_6070

Walking into the venue has the usual effect.  Scents of Spring and color enough to blow your socks off.  The exhibits were lovely, as usual.  Even little children find them attractive!

I went to a number of seminars about Succulents.  I have chosen to make my little garden here at Horizon House an “easy care” garden, and I chose to do that with various pots filled with  SUCCULENTS! *img_5597.jpg In these classes however, I learned that I wasn’t exactly doing it correctly.  Right now everything is growing properly, but according to the “gurus” it probably won’t last that way.  So, it’s back to the drawing board for me.img_6076

I need more sand and some gravel.  That might be a bit tricky, but I’m up to the challenge.  I have to remember that someday, someone else may garden my little plot, and they may prefer not to have gravel!  (Gravel is a nightmare to remove.)  img_6077Of course, the reason I’ve chosen pots is that the soil is root-bound from a neighboring tree.  There will be no cutting back of those roots, because the tree is going to STAY!  SO, the pots will have to have some sand and gravel added.  I’m  not in any huge rush.  It will wait until the weather is cooperative, to say nothing of my body!

Which brings up another seminar I attended about “Adaptive Gardening”.  This is a topic I am pretty conversant with.  I edited a book on this topic awhile back.  It ended up never going to print because the publisher ran into rough waters…but I learned a lot.  Perhaps this is a topic I should give a little talk about here at Horizon House.  Maybe in June, which the Garden Committee has dubbed “Garden Month at Horizon House”.

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At our last Garden Committee meeting the topic of “SOIL” came up.  Although we all have a pretty good idea that as gardeners, we know what soil is…it ain’t necessarily so!  My aim here today is to acquaint us with the REAL meanings, definition and uses of various types of SOIL.  They are definitely not all the same!

For instance, do you know that “dirt” is the stuff under your fingernails; what’s on your dungaree knees; the debris carried into the house on your sneakers after being in the garden; what the dog brings in; and in general, what you need to vacuum up to keep the house clean?  That is NOT the stuff we plant our posies in!

What we plant in, is SOIL!  But, there really are different types of soil.  As gardeners we should be aware of what they are and how to differentiate between them, so we use them properly.

We could start by calling it a “planting medium”.  The reason for that is that there are so many soil types.  Here is a site from the University of Maryland Extension Service.  After a fair amount of searching I found this one which is pretty basic.  No super charts, or long chemical connections…just the simple facts.  I will go into more specifics about what is available to you here at Horizon House.

We essentially have 3 (three) different soil types available for your use.  Remember you should NOT need to add much soil at all.  All the garden beds have ample soil right now.  Occasionally, you might want to top dress, or dig in a bit of compost (as an amendment).  If for some reason you really do need to add soil, it should be in the “top soil” category.  So, here goes!

TOP SOIL   is what you will commonly find beneath your feet, in any garden environment!  Top soil varies in quality, depending on where it is found.  The top soil on a mountain top will  be very different from that on a river flood plain.  So, unless you know where it originates, you really won’t know at all whether it’s any good at all for your garden.  But, having said that, the Garden Soil we get is in a bag. We can rest assured that it is decent soil.  It is NOT special potting soil, that often has amendments added; nor is it mulch or compost.  It’s just plain soil…nothing more, nothing less.  Here is a link about soil basics  that you might find interesting.

MULCH  is what you put on top of the soil, around your plants.  It provides protection from drenching rain; it holds moisture which your plants can access easily; it provides shade for tender roots lying just beneath the surface; weeds cannot find their way into your well mulched garden; it provides warmth, protecting roots from deep freezes.  Over the year(s), if it is organic, it breaks down, adding texture and nutrients to the soil below.  This means that you can add, probably SHOULD add, new mulch every year, either in the spring or the fall.  Go to this link about MULCH which will add to your understanding of this product.  And by the way, do not worry about the mulch getting into the soil.  It will break down and become compost in the soil.  It will also provide instant bulk and moisture retaining qualities. (There is also non-organic mulch which will not break down, like plastic and rubber.  We do NOT utilize non-organic mulch in our gardens here at Horizon House.)

COMPOST is what I define as “Black Gold”!  compost-handIt is naturally broken down organic materials.  These are usually composed of leaves, grass, discarded garden plants (NOT diseased) and even non-fatty kitchen scraps(fat attracts “critters”). It sits and decomposes until it’s totally broken down.  A process that takes about a year.  Here is a link that will explain the process of making and using COMPOST.  For our gardens at Horizon House, we get bagged compost.  We should use this as an AMENDMENT to our garden soil.  It should NOT be 100% of the soil surrounding your plants!

Ragan suggests a ratio of about 4 parts garden soil to 1 part compost.  I’d say that’s even a bit high, but it’s a good guide.  The compost can be worked into the soil around your plant roots.  When you plant new materials, work some compost into the soil.

So there you have it.  I hope that helps.  I’ll try to get that little chart we talked about at the meeting posted somewhere in the E level storage area.

 

 

 

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This morning, one of the first articles I read on “Crosscut” was titled “To solve water pollution, Seattle turns to an old solution“, written by Samantha Larson.

This is what I’ve been advocating for years.  It is a Rain Garden concept.  Rain Gardens capture water coming from your roof, driveway, sidewalk, etc. and direct it into a garden specifically designed to filter the water, filtering it naturally and sending it into an aquifer, rather than the curb.  As I said in my “old” 2008 Rain Garden post, ” An effective rain garden depends on water infiltrating into the soil of the garden. They are actually miniature, temporary wetlands, planted with native plants.”  Do visit that post and read more.

Here is a sketch of a Rain Garden designed for use in a garden, but it is usable between a curb and the sidewalk with different plant materials.  This does give you an screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-9-03-11-amidea.  (The drawing is from an article done by Texas A&M on Rain Gardens.)

It makes profound sense to have these in our Seattle landscape.  They need not be large, every little bit counts!  Having them all along the curbs where the nasty water runs, is a grand idea!  It may not handle the entire filtration of the run-off, but it will surely do it’s part!!!

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The canopy cover in Seattle now is about 23%.  What this means is that 23% of our city streets have a lovely canopy of tree branches.  Those of us, fortunate enough to fly in and out of Sea-Tac, see this every time we fly over Seattle. img_5618
Seattle’s goal, established in 2007, is to reach 30% canopy cover in 30 years. The data from the recent study is exciting because it provides critical information about recent canopy changes across the city as well as within different land uses, neighborhoods, and watersheds. This information allows the City to better plan and manage Seattle’s urban forest.” (Quote from Seattle reLeaf)

Aside from just being a pleasant presence, trees provide many benefits to our city environment.  Among those benefits are absorption of carbon dioxide; helping thwart flood water from affecting our streets and gardens; shading buildings thereby lessening the need for air conditioning; the roots help filter rain runoff, refreshing the water going into our streams and waterways; those roots also hold the soil in which they reside; and most certainly it offers relief to all of us in the form of shade!

Here at Horizon House our garden spaces have always had trees, still do.  When we had the reconstruction project that impacted our garden sites over the past year and a half, a number of our trees were removed.  There were a few reasons for that.

  • One was that the trees had actually become root-bound.  They lived in large planters, and eventually over the course of 10 plus years, their roots filled the space.  When that happens the planters can crack.  It also makes it impossible for the gardeners to dig and care for their plants.
  • Another reason was that the planters needed to be cleaned up, relined, and provided with irrigation pipes.

But now, that is all done.  We are awaiting replanting of trees in our spaces.  It is important for that to happen.  Sure, their roots will again fill those planters, but we will have benefited in the meantime.

Earlier this week, HH planned a trip for us, through “Spotlight On Seattle”. img_5605 We visited the Seattle Waterfront, and quite a few viewpoints. img_5615 img_5638img_5644 On the trip we came very close to the area where Seattle suffered a huge “clear cut“.  The folks responsible felt the view was beautiful, and the trees were interfering with their view, so they just cut down the trees!  A VERY BAD IDEA!  They have been sued by the city, as well they should.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-11-49-18-am

Seattle Times

Not only did they destroy the trees, they made the hill on which the trees lived very vulnerable to “slides” since the roots of the trees held the soil during rains.

At any rate, I hope Horizon House remembers all of this when they are choosing to replant our trees.  We need those trees.  The city wants and needs those trees.  The residents here are anxious to have the shade and gentle noises of waving leaves back.

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What requirements does a plant have to have in order to be considered “drought tolerant”?

It’s interesting because sometimes you can tell a drought tolerant plant by just looking at it.  Maybe the leaves are almost nonexistent, as in an evergreen with it’s oh, so narrow leaves (needles).  Some evergreens also have a pine-359845__180waxy substance that helps keep the moisture from being lost.

You’ll notice that there are plants, like silver sage, whose leaves are covered with tiny little hairs.  Those hairs grasp moisture and hold onto it.  sageOr how about plants with very deep root systems?  They dig deep to  find moisture well below the surface of the soil.  Or on the opposite side of the spectrum, those plants with roots very close to the surface to grab all the barest of rain drops.

Generally, plants that are native to dryer climates like the Mediterranean, the American West, central Asia, and southern Africa will do quite well.  A number of our herbs, used in Italian cooking are from that area and hence do well in drought condition gardens.  Think about Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage.

But, there are other things to remember about drought tolerance. 37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-view Even a drought tolerant plant needs to have plenty of water as it is planted and trying to establish itself.  Do not ignore any newly placed plant.  Those little rootlets will dry out very quickly, and stunt, or kill your plant.  Keep any new plant well hydrated until it’s well established.  Also, we have to remember that although the plants are drought TOLERANT, that doesn’t say they are able to live through extended periods of severe drought.  If that happens, even the most drought tolerant of plants will need a little drink.  Here is a site that will help you deal with an extended period of drought.

These plants should have well drained, and organic rich soil.  img_5553This is a wonderful advantage we have here at Horizon House.  We have raised beds, with wonderful, rich soil and good drainage (especially after our new drainage systems have been installed).

One of the most important things you can do to support your plants is to provide as much mulch as possible.  It will keep the ground cool and hold that moisture in.  It will also reduce the number of weeds that will compete for water.  In our garden beds, weeds are not a huge problem, but it is worth thinking about.

Our drip irrigation system is wonderful.  It provides water to the roots, rather than to the air where it dries out too quickly.  It also is activated in the early morning, which is the very best time, as the heat of the day(which might dry it out) has not been reached as yet.

Here’s a connection to my old blog (North Country Maturing Gardener) from New Hampshire that talks about Xeriscaping or the use of drought tolerant landscaping.  It talks about many of the ideas we are dealing with here today.

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Mulch?  What is it?  Why should I DO it?  It sounds “labor intensive”…is it?  How will it help my garden?

Well, let’s look at all those issues:

What is MULCH?-1

  • Mulch is really any material you apply to the surface of the soil around your plants that
    • keeps weeds down
    • helps keep moisture in the soil, rather than allowing it to evaporate
    • provides nutrients (unless you use fabric or plastic) as it breaks down
    • Improves soil structure, if mixed in as you plant new materials
    • attracts earthworms
  • Why you should do it?  RE-READ the list above!-2
  • Labor intensive?
    • NO…once you’ve laid it down your garden is EASIER to care for and looks WONDERFUL!
  • How will it help the garden?  AGAIN, RE-READ the list above!

What’s not to like???-4

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Almost all our problems here at the Horizon House gardens involve water…in one way or another.IMG_0371

There’s a leak creating a flood; the hose has popped rendering water unavailable; the hose nozzle is broken; a spray emits from the sprayer going in the wrong direction, creating a very wet gardener; there’s water leaking across the deck under the planters creating a slippery spot, which is NOT good in a retirement community where some folks are challenged with walking; we need more folks to water pots and planters that are not individually cared for by an assigned gardener; there is the usual vacationer who either forgets, or neglects to get their garden cared for in their absence.  The list goes on and on.  All the gardeners know JUST what I’m talking about.

So, we can’t do without it, and yet sometimes we just get too much…or we get it in the wrong place.  WATER   We can’t live without it, and sometimes we can’t live with it.  Our plants?  Well, they need it, but administered correctly!

Why do they need it?  If they don’t have it, the little rootlets will dry up, no sustenance will get to the leaves, stems and trunk, and then?  A dead plant.

Here is a wonderful site that explains all the why’s and hows of water and your plants.  It comes from the University of Arizona Extension Service.

It tells about mulch.  It tells about over, and under watering, and the effects those will have on your plants.  It explains WHERE to water, and how much.  It’s worth a visit.

WATER is SO CRITICAL to every growing thing.  Without it, our gardens would be very sad places.  There certainly are plants that don’t require very much hydration.  Those are the ones we should try to get into our gardens.  Water is something we seem to be squandering.    It is important that our families have enough drinking water…but it is also important that we have food.  Every thing we consume is loaded with water.  So, almost everything in and  on our planet needs it.  It behooves us to use it sparingly, yet in such a way that it supports life-ours AND that of our plants.

I address water in my book as well.  It appears in the calendar section as well as in numerous stories.  It’s a very important aspect of gardening.  The book also addresses snow and ice and it’s affects on your garden.  Of course, in Seattle, we are not troubled too much with ice and snow, but it’s all part of the big picture.

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