Compost 101 – When & Why to Add Compost to Your Garden

Compost can be confusing. We all know it’s “good”, but good how? And when should we use it? Do we even need to use it? Here is a short good-to-know guide for when and why to add compost to your garden. Compost is an efficient and practical fertilizer. Composed of decayed organic matter, compost is a basic tool for the organic gardener. Brown leaves, compostable materials like cardboard and newspaper, grass clippings, food scraps, twigs and more can all be broken down into compost. Compost is created through the process of thermal decay and then added as humus to the garden. Compost is home to millions of active microorganisms which help to continue breaking down organic matter into bio-available nutrients – food for plants! Quite simply, compost adds nitrogen to a garden. Nitrogen is what contributes to a plants healthy, green growth. This is an excellent excerpt from an article … Continue reading

Cooking & Growing with Herbs :: LOVAGE

_MG_6008Kitchen herb gardens are reasonably common around the city, but rare is the garden that contains lovage—a robust perennial herb that looks and tastes like celery. “It has a savory quality and is the kind of herb that gives food a depth of flavor and a deep, herbaceous vegetable note,” says Jerry Traunfeld, chef and owner of Poppy, on the north end of Capitol Hill.

That pop of flavor can be used to perk up vegetable stocks, enliven a bowl of steaming shellfish or fortify salads. Traunfeld often uses lovage as Continue reading

Common Garden Mistakes & How To Avoid Them!

If you’re a true gardener, these warmer temps and blooming crocus are a sign you better get your act in gear. For new gardeners, this means getting organized and figuring out what exactly you want to plant this year, but there is way more to it. Learn how to Avoid Common Garden Mistakes this year! In the Pacific Northwest, we get our first seeds in the ground right about mid-March and from there it is a fast ramp up to a full spring planting. This little breather gives us some time to make a planting plan, prepare any beds that need attention or build new structures, like these handy potato cages. This is also a great time of year to get started out on the right foot from the beginning – there is nothing worse than making a ton of effort for little reward. With that, I was recently asked … Continue reading

Best Trellis Ideas

If you haven’t planted your Sugar Snap, English or Snow peas by now, it’s time to get them in the garden! These springtime plants grow quickly and can be used in a vertical garden, thereby freeing up precious space on the ground. I use all sorts of different trellises in the garden and no one exhibits these better than Lily over at Rake & Make. This is her favorite pea trellis, and I’d have to agree. We use string in all of our gardens, but a staple gun and netting is a fine idea – you can roll it up when the season ends. I also love her version of a cucumber trellis – it’s a great way to get those heavy fruits up and off the ground and makes them easy to harvest. Incidentally, both peas and cucumbers can be grown in pots, making them a great choice for … Continue reading

Fall Planting, Pacific Northwest

blueberriesAutumn is an excellent time to think about adding to your homes landscape. While vegetable gardens are transitioning to fall crop, Autumn is a great time to plant shrubs and perennials – the soil is still warm, while the cool temperatures and rain provide perfect growing conditions that support root growth. Plants will thrive come spring!

I just found out that neighborhood nursery, Swanson’s in Ballard is having an amazing sale on trees, shrubs and perennials just now – 30% off until September 30th. They have a large selection of blueberry bushes and some gorgeous low-growing native flowering plants, like these gorgeous hellebores. And check out this stunning Continue reading

HOW TO :: Tomato DIY – Pruning & Trellises

Pruned tomato vineCome summertime, when the air is hot and the sun is high, everyone comes down with a little case of tomato fever. I’m not sure how this plant grew to such epochal proportions as to measure the success of a home gardener, but it has. Today we present tomato tips and tricks, from pruning for maximum yield to easy DIY trellises.

Pruning Those Suckers
Tomato suckers are the small sets of leaves that grow between the main stem and a leafy branch of a tomato plant. These suckers, if left to grow, become additional flowering and fruiting stems for the plant. That’s good, right? Not quite. If allowed to bloom and fruit, these additional tomatoes will Continue reading

How To :: Propagate Herbs

Last summer I met up with my friend Sarah, a farmer. Sarah has been farming for years and she’s an absolute pro, so I asked her to meet me out at a new space to help me devise the perfect garden plan. (She’s a genius that way – indispensible knowledge.)

We met up and walked to the garden. On the way, she spotted a old, prolific fig tree and stopped in her tracks. “Oh – I need that,” she exclaimed, and simultaneously reached into her back pocket as she crossed the street. With at quick snip, she cut a couple inches length from the fig plant, looked at me, and whispered, “You want one?”

Splitting thyme rootsThe practice of growing a plant from a small clipping is called Continue reading

TGIF Cocktail Hour :: Spring Amaro

SpringAmaro_BlogI’ve been on a Manhattan kick lately. Any after-hours drink made with whiskey and something bitter has been my go-to for weeks. (I miss you Dry Sapphire Martini!) I’m a huge fan of a dry punch in these cocktails – an extra shake of bitters, a splash of Fernet, Campari or a herbaceous amaro. The bitter quality acts as a digestive, and I like the bracing quality they add as a counterpoint to the sweeter bourbon. Hell, let’s be honest….. I’m happy to sip any bitter liqueur simply, over ice.

It was such a pleasure then, to recently stumble upon a recipe for homemade Amaro from Beth Evans-Ramos on her blog Mama Knows Her Cocktails. Beth is a prolific speaker and travels the country hosting seminars and classes on gardening – her current focus is creating garden cocktails! Not a bad gig. Continue reading

How To :: Building Potato Cages

Potatoes, diggin upPotatoes are one of the most often requested vegetables when I first meet with clients, and they’re a great crop to grow if you have limited space. Potatoes are a ‘tuber’, an underground, fleshy stem bearing buds that eventually turn into the potato. (Jerusalem artichokes aka sunchokes are tubers, too.) Dahlias are also tubers, but those roots are simply food-storing roots for the plant.

Once the potato seed is planted (check out this detailed post with pics for details), the seed (which is a small cut piece of a potato with a sprouted ‘eye’) will put on top growth – a leafy part of the plant that develops in about 4 weeks after planting. This leafy bit produces leaves and flowers. As the plant stem grows, they produce too much energy for the plant and this energy is then stored in the ‘tubers’, which we call potatoes. Get it? Good. Continue reading