Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 26 column

How would you like a gazebo like this?
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Backyard oasis. It is about my featured local gardener for July, Randy Palmer.

Randy and his wife live on a city lot in northwest Spokane. His garden is amazing! I took a lot of photos while I visited his garden, just to give you a sense of how nice it is and also provide some inspiration. Enjoy!

(remember that you can click on any photo to view a larger image)

Entrance to his backyard.

Entrance to Randy's "secret garden."
Randy's "secret garden," behind his garage.

Five raised beds for growing veggies.
Straw bale garden for tomatoes.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 19 column

This shows the hoop house we were building last fall.
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Never too early to start planning for fall.

Even though it has been incredibly hot lately, the focus of my column is on getting your fall and winter garden under way.

You'll probably recall that I've been experimenting with growing veggies during the colder months of the year for the past two winters. I had bit of luck with it the first winter, and more success this past winter. And you know how that works: a little bit of success makes a gardener want to try, try again!

The above photo shows the early phases of constructing a hoop house last fall, to cover two raised beds that had already been planted with cold-hardy vegetables. You can watch a video of the project to see how we built it.

In today's column, I talk about how it's time to start your seeds indoors so they'll be off to a good start before the cold weather hits -- that way, they'll have good growth so you can start harvesting your greens. I also list the most cold-tolerant vegetable crops and varieties to grow for maximum success.

Corn salad (a.k.a. Mache)
 I'm going to start my kale and minutina seeds tomorrow. The other plants I'm going to grow (claytonia, 'Bordeaux' spinach and 'Vit' mache) do best when sowed directly but I need to wait a bit as they don't tolerate temperatures in the 80s and 90s!

Two good mail-order sources for fall and winter garden seeds are Johnny's Selected Seeds and Territorial Seed.

I'd love to hear if you're going to give this a try this fall and winter, and how things went. Just drop me a note at

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Variety comparison: A tale of two beans

I'm growing two varieties of bush beans this summer. I usually just grow pole beans but decided to make a little extra room in my garden for thems because bush beans tend to be quite prolific.

One variety is French beans 'Gourmet Green Baby Filet Type' from Ed Hume Seeds (see above right). I grew it last year and couldn't believe how many beans it produced! They are narrow and small but very tasty.

The other variety is 'Purple Teepee Bean' from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (above left). I was attracted to this variety because the description indicated the beans would be held above the foliage, making it easy to harvest. I thought that sounded great because we all know what a pain it is to harvest bush beans! That's because the plants usually fall over from the weight of the beans and you have to dig through the foliage in order to see where the beans are.

So I planted both and started harvesting them a week ago. Here is a comparison of the two, in case you'd find it helpful:

Gourmet Green Baby Filet Type _
  • Seed color: White
  • Bean length: About 4"
  • Ease of harvesting: Fair. It's difficult to see the beans.
  • Taste: Very good, tender pods.
  • Comments: Very prolific. Freezing quality is good (but not excellent).
  • Would I grow them again? Definitely. The taste and productivity make them worth a spot in the garden. I think they are better for steaming and eating right away, rather than being topnotch for freezing.

Purple Teepee Bean _
  • Seed color: Brown
  • Bean length: About 5"
  • Ease of harvesting: Fair. Most of the beans I've picked so far have been hanging down under the foliage near the main stem, so it's hard to see them. To make matters worse, the plant stems are deep purple -- same as the beans -- so it's hard to see a dark purple bean against a dark purple stem!
  • Taste: Very good, tender pods. Haven't eaten any I've frozen yet so can't comment on freezing quality.
  • Comments: Purple pods change to green during cooking process. Pretty pink flowers, prolific. 
  • Would I grow them again? Only until I finish off the seed packet!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour: report #2

Gorgeous Oriental lily!
Here is my second post on the Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour, which we attended on Sunday. Today's post is about great gardening ideas -- things like plant combinations that work, containers that pop and an unusual idea.

Remember to click on each of the photos for a much larger view. Enjoy!

Nice combination of annuals.

The repetition of the yellow Coreopsis works!

Nice butterfly/pollinator/bird planting.

Simple but beautiful container.

Awesome combination of annuals in this pot!

How about a "garden bed," complete with annuals for a quilt?

These summer squash were growing in overturned pots... and loving it!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour: report #1

Who wouldn't want a little garden cottage like this?!
Yesterday, my husband and two friends and I went to the Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour. This year, it featured six beautiful gardens in Post Falls, Dalton Gardens and, of course,  Coeur d'Alene.

I saw some fun garden decor and also some potential DIY projects that I thought you might enjoy seeing. Remember that you can click on any of the photos to view an enlarged image. Enjoy!

Cute "birdhouse tree"

Easy pole bean trellis

Fabulous hoop tunnel for heat-loving veggies.

Vertical succulent garden

Tool holder

Cute sign!
Nice potting bench

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 12 column

The Rose Garden on Petrin Hill
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Historic gardens worth the climb. This one was particularly fun to write because it's about the gardens my husband, Bill, and I visited while in Prague, Czech Republic, last month.

In my column, I talk about several different gardens and promised to post additional photos of them on my blog. So here they are! Refer to the captions for the locations. I hope you'll enjoying reading about them. Remember that you can click on any of the images in order to see an enlarged view.
Water garden on Petrin Hill

Looking down into Vrtba Garden
View of Prague from high above Vrtba Garden

Wallenstein Gardens water feature
Mr. Peacock in Wallenstein Gardens

The unusual grotto in Wallenstein Gardens
More of Wallenstein Gardens, with the Czech Senate behind.

One of the terraces of the Gardens Below Prague Castle.
Looking down into some of the Gardens Below Prague Castle.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Vegetable garden update

As I wandered through my veggie garden yesterday, doing a little weeding here and some pruning there, I thought you might be interested to see how it's coming along. Remember that you can click on any of the photos to view an enlarged version.

One of the most exciting things I saw (well, it doesn't take much to excite me, I guess) was my first "Trombetta di Albenga" zucchini! That's in the foreground of the above photo and it's only a few inches long but will eventually grow about 15" long and will look somewhat like a trombone. How cool is that? I got the seeds from Renee's Garden.

While we're on the subject of squash, look how crazy my winter squash and pumpkin bed is looking! Yup, that's it to the left of the corn patch, which is already developing ears of corn.

Anyway, the smaller photo to the left isn't great because of all of the vines and leaves in the way but you are looking at a young 'Candystick Delicata' squash. Those seeds came from Fertile Valley Seeds and they are an heirloom variety.

And this next squash photo (to the right) shows a larger variety of winter squash (it's either 'Blue Ballet' Hubbard or Sweet Meat - Oregon Homestead', can't tell yet) are already growing. I can't believe how early the veggies are developing this summer! I even pruned back a few canes that were wandering a bit too far from the raised bed... something I don't ordinarily have to do until August.

Here's a photo of the paste tomato patch (to the left). They're doing really well and have lots of tomatoes growing on the vines although they're still quite green. The varieties are 'Italian Pompeii' (from Renee's) and 'Amish Paste - Kapuler' from Fertile Valley. The latter is also an heirloom that is supposed to have much larger fruits than what the regular 'Amish Paste' variety tends to develop.

The photo to the right shows some 'Amish Paste - Kapuler' tomatoes and they're already looking quite stocky to me. Will keep you posted on that.

Last but not least, since our pea patch is done, I loosened the soil in that bed and planted a cover crop (see photo below), which I'll turn into the soil later to increase the soil's fertility. Boy did those seeds germinate quickly in this heat!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Community garden in Vienna

I've recently returned from a wonderful trip to Vienna, Budapest and Prague. As you can probably guess, I was keeping my eyes open for interesting gardens to visit the whole time.

But sometimes, my husband and I would stumble upon something unexpected. That was the case while in Vienna. One day, we spied what looked like a community garden and instantly changed course!

It was called "Karl's Garten" and was unlike most I've seen. In addition to raised beds, we enjoyed seeing their demonstration areas that showed the different types of materials they used both for their raised beds and the soil they filled them with.

I noticed they were growing tomatoes in straw-filled wire cylinders and potatoes in gunny sacks.

I've included a lot of photos with this post; remember that you can click on any of them for a larger, more detailed view.

I liked how they put together clusters of differently-configured raised beds in which they were growing herbs and veggies.

Another item you might find interesting is their seating "units" constructed from pallets. That would be a fun DYI project, don't you think? They were very popular with the locals.

I loved seeing their insect hotels as well. Here are photos of 3 different styles:

If you speak some German, or even if you don't, you might enjoy going to their Facebook page at It's interesting to see more photos of the garden and learn about events they sponsor. I'm sure Karl's Garten is a valuable addition to the downtown community.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Surviving the heat wave

This heat wave we've been experiencing in the Inland Northwest lately is really starting to get old!

You might recall that in a recent video on the importance of mulching, I mentioned that I thought we were going to have a hot, dry summer. Believe me, I didn't want to be right about this and I'm certainly not gloating about my prediction -- nobody wants to have to deal with this sort of hot weather, right?

I had some thoughts on ways to help your plants -- and yourself! -- survive the heat and wanted to share them with you:
  • BE SAFE. The most important aspect of your garden is YOU. Be sure to use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, wear a broad-brimmed sun hat, and work in the garden during the cooler hours of early morning or evening if you can. If you start feeling dizzy or have a pounding headache, get yourself indoors ASAP.
  • CRITTERS. Be aware that the critters around your garden are going to be more stressed than usual, due to the lack of water and plants to forage on. This means they will be bolder about coming into your yards and munching on your landscape. Very annoying! You might need to take steps to protect your plants, whether it's with deer fencing, barriers or repellents. If it's the latter, be sure to read the labels for information on how to apply it, and if you're trying to protect edible crops, make sure the label says it's safe to use the product on them. Very important!
  • MULCH. I have been mulching my veggie plants like crazy and cannot emphasize enough how important this is. I'm primarily using grass clippings because we don't treat our lawn with chemicals, but you can also use pine needles, straw, shredded leaves or bark. The only caveat about using bark, however, is that if you mix it (or wood chips) into the soil at the end of the season, it has a tendency to tie up the nitrogen in the soil, which is not a good thing. So if you use either of those materials, I'd remove them and use them for mulching around something like shrubs or perennials. When mulching your veggies, keep it thick (3-4" is ideal).
  • WATERING TIMES. Try to water during the early morning hours, when the least evaporation will take place. Watering at night isn't a good idea because staying wet for hours at a time isn't good for a lot of plants and can actually spread disease. Watering in the middle of the day will burn plant leaves and shock the plants. If you do have to water something down and the hose has been lying in the sun for a while, let it run until the hot water escapes and cool water starts coming out of it -- that first water can be really hot and burn plants (and yourself).
  • WATERING METHODS. If you can, water your veggies (and other plants, if possible) close to the ground rather than overhead. This means using soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems to put the water right where the roots can get at it. This way, you're not wasting water by watering pathways or losing water through evaporation, and you're not watering leaves, which don't need the water as much as the roots do.
  • MONITOR MOISTURE LEVELS. With this extreme heat, it wouldn't hurt to occasionally poke your finger into the soil to see if there's some moisture in it. That way, you can adjust your watering as needed. Look for signs of stress such as wilting leaves, stunted growth or developing fruits dropping off the plants.
  • CONSIDER SHADE CLOTH. If you're growing lettuce or other greens -- which tend to prefer cooler temperatures -- consider lightly covering the bed with some lightweight shade cloth. You'll want to place it onto hoops or some type of support structure to carry the weight of the cloth.
  • NO PRUNING, PLANTING, DIVIDING. As much as you might want to, this is NOT a good time to prune, transplant or divide plants! They are under too much stress from the heat as it is. Doing one of these activities will likely kill the plant.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Stay cool, and hopefully we gardeners and our plants will make it through the heat wave just fine!