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Archive for the ‘water conservation’ Category

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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I did it!  I jumped for a “garden” here at Horizon House! Actually, it’s a plot that cannot be gardened in the usual sense.  It has roots from a Japanese Maple that we like a lot.  We don’t want to cut out the roots, as we’d lose the tree!  Drucilla, who had that plot, was moved to a place where she could actually dig.  Now, what to do with that useless plot???

Just cover it with mulch?  Why not place some pots there?

We had just cleaned up the three (3) decks so they could be resurfaced, which meant that all the pots sitting on those decks had to be removed.  There was ample time for folks to claim their pots.  I didn’t really want to buy new pots, when all those unclaimed pots were just sitting in the storage room.  So I picked out a few, and pressed them into service!img_5586

Betty had a pot that she was not going to be able to use.  It had some geraniums in it.  I asked if I could use it in my “new garden”.  She consented.  At first I was going to remove the geraniums, but then decided to keep them.  I would lay that container on it’s side, and put the two other pots around it.

Charlie and August helped me bimg_5590y moving heavy pots, and filling them with wonderful new soil.  I trimmed back the geraniums and am hoping they will reach for the sun and begin to grow in that direction.  They will hopefully provide some color.  I planted drought resistant plants (mostly succulents) in all three pots.  I’m hoping they will require very little care, and after they settle in, should look pretty nice!img_5593

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I have always considered myself a “lazy gardener”.  On thinking about all the requirements of a Low Maintenance Garden…I guess that’s me in spades!

Give me a garden that is:

  • Drought resistant
  • One that resists insects and diseases.
  • A garden that won’t succumb to the first little frost, and if it does, still live through a cold winter.  In other words, be hardy!
  • One that comes up each year stronger than the year before, otherwise known as a perennial.
  • If it’s an annual…one that will reseed itself in a pretty “cottage garden” manner.
  • One that needs a minimal amount of care once it’s established.  Little pruning or need for extra fertilizer would qualify.

Does that sound like you?  If so, remember that first requirement.  When you bu4628-Kims-Knee-High-Coneflowery plants be SURE you look for a label that says it can tolerate dry conditions!  Here are some suggestions from the University of Nebraska Extension Service.

Here’s another list from Iowa State University Extension.

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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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It happens everywhere.  NO WATER!  This time it’s not a drought, it’s broken, or leaking pipes; it’s the construction work interfering on our gardening levels; it’s hoses malfunctioning; and even vacations happening for a few weeks at a time during the growing season.  It’s frustrating as a gardener, to see our gardens wilting and not being able to help.  But, isn’t that part of what it means to be a gardener?  We have to learn to deal with all kinds of adversity.  Lack of hydration, OR too much water; bugs; disease; inconsiderate people; the list continues.  We know it all, but what can we do?

This week the big issue is the water being turned off due to a leak that must be repaired in a pipe leading to our gardens.  AAARRRGGGHHH!  It doesn’t help that the weather has turned hot and dry.  For Seattle, that’s also a bit frustrating.

So, what do we do?  We wait patiently for the pipe to be repaired.  In the meantime, our plants are drooping.  Perhaps it’s time for drastic actions:

  • carry water from the closest, functioning tap.
  • MULCH-lay mulch around the plants.  It will keep the soil cool, and keep the moisture from evaporating out of the soil so quickly.  (If you click the link, it will take you to a grand definition of Mulch!)
  • You could even try laying wet newspaper around the plants.  It may not look very pretty, but it may also help.  It is a form of mulch.
  • (I removed the idea of crystal polymer beads, due to the many drawbacks.)

So, there are some suggestions that might help.  Other than getting the pipe functioning again…just using these techniques might help your garden “in general” anyway!

Good luck, and happy gardening!

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