Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mar. 22 column

Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Orchid show and sale offers rare beauties.

It is a preview of next weekend's Orchid Show & Sale, which is being put on by the Spokane Orchid Society. This year, the show is being held at Vicki's Garden Center for the first time ever. Vicki's is located at 2100 S. Inland Empire Way, on the southwest side of Spokane.

The show takes place on Sat. from noon to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is only $2, with those 16 and under getting in free.

I think orchids are the  most amazing plants! This is your opportunity to see a wide variety of them and get an idea of the most ideal types for your home environment.

As an added bonus to show-goers, Vicki's Garden Center will be open for the season. If you've never been there, you're in for a treat. They are a 4th generation, family-owned and operated greenhouse that grows all of their plants from seed.

They carry specialty plants as well as yard art and iron work. This year, they have a new line of exclusive containers which they'll be selling with their high-end plants.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book signings: "Northwest Gardener's Handbook"

As you've probably already heard, my friend and colleague Pat Munts and I have co-authored the new book, "Northwest Gardener's Handbook." It was published by Cool Springs Press and released in mid-January. You can learn more about the book by going to my announcement about the book.

I wanted to let you know that we have several book signings coming up:

April 11 from noon to 2 p.m. _ This book signing is in conjunction with a special event to benefit the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens. At the event, Carol Newcomb (owner of Northland Rosarium) will give a presentation on "Heritage Roses for Your Garden." Cost for this event is a minimum $5 donation. Location: Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens, 507 W. 7th Ave., Spokane. For more information on the event, call (509) 998-9869.

April 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. _ Our book signing will take place during the Spokane County Master Gardeners' annual Garden Fair & Plant Sale. This is a free event that features fabulous plants from Master Gardeners' gardens, a fun yard sale of all sorts of goodies, there will be informational booths on a wide variety of gardening topics, and the plant clinic will be open for diagnostic help and more. Don't miss this fun day and be sure to stop by our table to say hello to Pat and me! Location: Spokane County Extension center, 222 N. Havana St., Spokane (just south of the Indians ballpark and Spokane fairgrounds)

May 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. _ Pat and I will be signing books at the Garden Expo, the awesome annual event put on by gardeners, for gardeners! This free event features hundreds of garden-related vendors selling plants, tools, yard art and more. I will also be teaching a class on "Growing Heirloom Vegetables." Location: Spokane Community College Lair building, 1810 N. Greene St., Spokane.

May 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. _ Pat and I will be at the Plant Farm this time. Location: Plant Farm, 14208 E. 4th Ave., Spokane Valley.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mar. 15 column

Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Welcoming good bugs will help oust pests.

Today's topic is about attracting beneficial insects to your garden. For years, I've prided myself on growing everything organically and when I occasionally have insect problems, one of the things I've used is an organic spray.

Well, after reading "Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden" by Jessica Walliser, I am completely rethinking my strategy. (note: you can read my review of her book on this blog)

Walliser explains that oftentimes beneficial insects are more affected by organic sprays, which in turn throws off the populations of good bugs vs. bad bugs. Moreover, if you knock off the good guys, other types of pest insects can have a population surge which is definitely what you don't want!

She recommends letting nature find its balance in your garden and attracting beneficial insects so they can help us deal with any pest insects that think they're going to munch on our plants. Fair enough.

I hope you'll find the column interesting. I've included a list of plants that Walliser recommends so you can plan ahead. I intend to dedicate more areas of my garden to these plants and will report back on occasion to let you know how it's going.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book review: "Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden"

by Susan Mulvihill

As an organic gardener, I am very careful to only use environmentally-safe products for the occasional insect problem. 

For example, I’m a huge fan of using floating row cover when growing veggie crops that typically have insect issues, such as cabbage family crops, spinach, beets and Swiss chard. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But I have also occasionally used organic sprays such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to control cabbage loopers and tomato hornworms, or Safer’s insecticial soap when dealing with aphids. Here I thought I was being such a good steward of the environment around me but it turns out that’s not necessarily so.

After reading Jessica Walliser’s book, “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden” (Timber Press 240 pp., $24.95), I now know that even organic sprays can cause problems. For one thing, they can be more harmful to beneficial insects than to the pest insects I’m targeting. Yikes!

And if you knock off the good guys, other types of pest insects can become more prevalent in the garden. Suddenly the balance in your garden’s insect world is completely off.

An interesting fact I read in Walliser’s book is that only 1 percent of insects are damaging types, and the other 99 percent are either beneficial insects or ones that do no harm. As gardeners, doesn’t it always seem like there are way more pest insects than that?

As the author puts it, “All these tiny (beneficial) insects are a vital part of your garden. Their inherent intent, of course, is not to help you control pests but rather to survive and reproduce. Isn’t it nice, however, that your garden reaps the benefits of their consumptive and reproductive needs?.... Learning to recognize these natural enemies and encouraging ample populations of them results in a clear win-win situation for both the insect and the gardener.”

Aha, so that really should be our goal, don’t you think?

First of all, she underscores the need for us to have a pesticide-free environment. For one thing, this will eliminate the resistance to chemicals that pest insects have a tendency to develop.

Second, we need to add plants that will shelter and support the benefials.

Walliser points out that, in order to survive and reproduce, beneficial insects need proteins found in pollen and carbohydrates found in nectar. She says it’s best to have both pollen and nectar sources in one place in our gardens so the beneficials don’t expend energy trying to find each.

Within this book, the author has useful photos for identifying beneficial insects and information that indicates which types of insects they prey upon. Next are detailed profiles of plants that attract and nurture beneficial insects. I’ve known for years that members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) attract them, but her information goes way beyond that.

Then there is a guide to landscaping for beneficial insects so it is seamlessly incorporated into our gardens. She refers to these areas as insectary borders, “areas intentionally created to support the nutritional and environmental needs of insect predators and parasitoids.”

And finally, she puts all of the information together in a simple guide that shows each beneficial insect, the insects they eat and which host plants will keep them in your garden.

Walliser has a very enjoyable writing style. She’s quite self-effacing, admitting prior ignorance about the world of insects and admitting she used to spray a lot of pesticides. She also shares that she used to hate bugs because they damaged what would otherwise be “perfect” plants in the garden.

In my humble opinion, this book should be required reading for all gardeners! It contains excellent information on insects and their habits, and encourages gardeners to select a diverse collection of plant species for the most success at drawing in beneficial insects.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Geranium overwintering update

You'll recall I overwintered some geraniums for the first time ever this past winter. In early February, I filmed a video on how they did; at that time, I was getting ready to pot them up and put them in some sunshine.

Well, they have greened up beautifully and there are more leaves sprouting at many of the bud segments of each plant. Very exciting!

Directly above is what the plants looked like at the end of the video. Yes, they were a bit on the leggy side but I didn't want to trim them back until new leaves sprouted and the plants had a chance to conduct photosynthesis again after their long winter in the basement.

This morning, I finally felt comfortable with carefully trimming back the longest stems on each plant. I did have to leave a couple of longer them on the plants until they sprout a bit more but my overall goal is to produce compact, lush plants.

At right is here how they look now. I fed them with a half-strength solution of fish fertilizer to give them a little boost.

I even had a few new shoots on some of the stems I trimmed off so I decided to see if I could root them to produce 4 more plants.

I am so pleased with how my overwintering experiment turned out! I successfully overwintered 9 out of 9 plants.

I do hope this project has given you some courage to try overwintering your own geraniums at the end of this year's growing season. It's far easier than you might think!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March 8 column

Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Annual varieties add floral pop.

Just as I did a column last week on the newest veggie varieties, I talk about the newest annual flower varieties for 2015 in today's column. After all, I didn't want to neglect my fellow flower-lovers out there!

If you live in the Spokane area, remember that Northwest Seed & Pet carries a huge selection of seeds, including most of these brands, so be sure to visit them.

And as promised, here are photos of each of the flowers I featured in my column. Aren't they just luscious?

'Milky Way' morning glory - Photo courtesy of Natural Gardening Company 

'Little Firebirds' nasturtium - Photo courtesy of Renee's Garden

'Phoenix' nasturtium - Photo courtesy of Burpee

'Twinkles Dwarf Mix' phlox - Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

'Florist Pepperbox' poppy - Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

'Madame Butterfly' snapdragon - Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds

'Coconut Ice' sunflower - Photo courtesy of Cook's Garden

'Ruby' sunflower - Photo courtesy of Natural Gardening Company

'Belinensis Red Yellow' sweet pea - Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

'Dancing Girls' zinnia - Photo courtesy of Burpee
Online seed sources for the above varieties:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Contest announcement!

Hi, everyone. Well, today is the first day of a new contest and you're going to LOVE the

I have partnered with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, who has graciously donated 9 packets of heirloom tomato seeds plus a packet of marigold seeds to help repel pests from your garden. This is enough to make any gardener salivate, right?

Here's what some lucky person is going to win:

Tomato 'Indigo Apple'
Tomato 'Moonglow'
Tomato 'Big Rainbow'
Tomato 'Yellow Mortgage Lifter'
Tomato 'Great White'
Tomato 'Jersey Giant' (sorry, couldn't find a description online)
Tomato 'Black Krim'
Tomato 'Henderson's Pink Ponderosa'
Tomato 'Emerald Apple'
Marigold 'Petite Mix'

I plan to start my tomato seeds on April 1st, so the lucky winner can rest assured they will have the seeds in plenty of time to get them planted indoors. You can even share them with gardening friends. Remember that tomato seeds have a shelf life of 3 years, so if you can't plant each type this year, you can use them for future garden seasons.

So the important information is: HOW DO I ENTER THIS CONTEST!?

Each person can have up to four entries! Here's how:

1) "Like" my Facebook page. (if you already have, proceed to the next 3 ways to enter as this applies to likes from today forward) Now, sometimes Facebook notes that I have a new page "like" but doesn't tell me who it is. I'll be watching it like a hawk, but you're welcome to drop me a note when you like the page (

2)  Become a follower of this blog. Note that you have to use a browser other than Google to join; I recommend using Internet Explorer or Foxfire. That's because there's no "Join" button visible on Google browsers. (*sigh*) To become a follower, go to the home page of Susan's in the Garden and look for the "Join" button in the righthand column.

3) Become a subscriber to my YouTube channel, which contains an archive of my how-to gardening videos. You'll see a red "subscribe" button in the upper righthand corner. There are no costs involved.

4) Follow me on Pinterest. This is also free. You'll find all sorts of amazing ideas on landscaping, DIY garden projects, beautiful gardens to visit around the world, recipes for using produce from your garden, vegetable gardening ideas, and so much more! If you'd like to know more about Pinterest, I recently did a blog post on it.

So, if you haven't yet liked my Facebook page, or become a follower of this blog, or subscribed to my YouTube channel, or followed me on Pinterest, you see that will be entered into this contest FOUR TIMES when  you do the above! Such a deal.

This contest expires at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, March 14, 2015. I will announce the winner on March 15, 2015. You have my solemn promise that I will not share your information with anyone!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to drop me a note at

Thank you, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, for providing a wonderful prize for this contest!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mar. 1 column

'Ruby Glow' romaine lettuce adds pizzazz to any salad. Photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo,
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Seed catalogs offer veggie, fruit varieties. This column highlights some of the most interesting new vegetable varieties for this year.

As promised in my column, here are photos of each of the varieties I wrote about. Aren't they beauties? I would like to thank the seed companies below for graciously sharing these photos so I could in turn share them with you. I've included each company's web address at the bottom of this post. You'll note in my column that some of the varieties are available from more than one source so all sources are listed.

Also, if you live in the Spokane area, remember that Northwest Seed & Pet carries a huge selection of seeds, including most of these brands, so be sure to visit them.

Have fun planning your 2015 garden!

'Purple Teepee' bush beans - Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

'Rich Purple Pod' pole beans - Courtesy of Renee's Garden Seeds

'Albino' beets - Courtesy of Territorial Seed

'Kalibos' red cabbage - Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

'Patio Baby' eggplant - Courtesy of Natural Gardening Co.

'Ruby Glow' romaine lettuce - Courtesy of Cook's Garden

'Snow Leopard' melon - Courtesy of Territorial Seed

'El Gordo' cantaloupe - Courtesy of Vermont Bean Seed

'Pretty Pleasin' peas - Courtesy of Vermont Bean Seed

'Golden Sweet' pea - Courtesy of Territorial Seed
Online seed sources for the above varieties:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Susan's on Pinterest!

Do you use Pinterest? If you don't, you've probably heard of it but aren't sure what it is or how to use it.

Pinterest is a website where a person can create virtual bulletin boards (or view other folks' boards) of great ideas. You do have to sign in to Pinterest in order to view them, but there are no costs involved and no ads to distract you. You'll quickly find the boards and ideas on them are a feast for the eyes!

These virtual bulletin boards can be on all sorts of subjects: home decor, gardening, recipes, travel, fashion, crafts and so on. Maybe you used to (or still do) clip recipes and shove them into a binder. Well, this is the same idea, although the binder method can make it difficult to track down a specific recipe (I'm speaking from personal experience here!).

Several months ago, I decided it was time for me to get on Pinterest and create my own bulletin boards of ideas. Since then, I've been adding all sorts of "pins" (that's what you call a copy of someone else's idea from their bulletin boards) to mine. I had a few boards on Pinterest but they were chock-full of great ideas.

For example, I have a board called "Garden Travels" which is one of my favorites! I absolutely love to travel and especially love visiting public and private gardens. There are many places on this board that are on my bucket list, and many that I have already visited and highly recommend.

Last weekend, I realized that I really needed to organize my pins better so you can more easily find ideas for projects you might have in mind.

I've done that and now I have the following 13 boards:

  • Fall/Winter Gardening
  • Fresh Food from the Garden (recipe ideas or how to harvest and process produce)
  • Garden DIY Projects
  • Garden Travels
  • Greenhouses & Potting Sheds
  • Growing Berries & Tree Fruits
  • Growing Bulbs
  • Growing Vegetables & Herbs
  • Holiday Decor
  • Sew Many Quilts, So Little Time (on quilting, one of my favorite hobbies)
  • Succulents
  • Susan's In The Garden (general gardening topics such as landscape ideas)
  • Vertical Gardening
I would love for you to follow me on Pinterest and enjoy the great ideas I've found for you! You can do this by going to my Pinterest page and becoming a follower. It's easy to do. Also, remember that on this blog, I always have a link to my Pinterest page in the upper right-hand column -- just look for my name with the little red "P" in front of it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vegetable seed sources

I've had a few folks ask me where I've gotten the seeds that we'll be growing in our vegetable garden this year. So here is the list of veggies from last Sunday's column. You'll notice a number (or numbers) following each variety, which will correspond with the list of sources down below.

Also, if you live in the Spokane area, remember to check out the seed selection at Northwest Seed & Pet. Their employee who orders all of their seeds asked me a few months ago to give her the list of what I'd be growing, with the intent of getting in as many of them as possible. She knows readers will be asking for them!

Thanks so much for your interest.

Arugula - 'Sylvetta' 14
Artichoke - 'Green Globe' 6, 'Imperial Star'  14
Basil - 'Lettuce Leaf' 12, 'Aurelia' 12
Bean, Bush - 'French Baby Filet' 7
Bean, Pole - 'Italian Snap' 14, 'Rich Purple Pod' 12
Beet - 'Cylindra' 1 or 5, 'Albino' 1 or 5
Carrots - 'Tendersweet' 10, 'Starica' 12, 'King Midas Long' 12, 'Mokum Hybrid' 1
Celery - 'Tango' 12
Cilantro - 'Bac Lieu' 12
Corn - 'Luscious' 7
Cucumber - 'Platinum' 14, 'Parisian Gherkin' 13
Kale - 'Tuscan Baby Leaf' 12
Leek - 'King Richard' 14, 10, 6
Lettuce - 'Ruby Glow' 1 or 2, 'Outredgeous' 14, 'Renee’s Baby Leaf' 12
Melon - 'Arava' 14, 'El Gordo' 1, 'Napoli' 12
Onion - 'Copra' 3, 'Yellow Sweet Spanish' 3
Parsnip - 'Andover' 7
Pea - 'Green Arrow' 14, 'Golden Sweet' 2, 10, 15, 5
Pepper - 'Sunset Mix' 12
Potato - 'Viking Purple' 9
Pumpkin - 'Casper' 7, 'New England Pie' 7
Spinach - 'Bordeaux' 6
Squash, Summer - 'Romanesco' zucchini 12, 'Trombetta Climbing' 12
Squash, Winter - 'Sweet Meat' 7, 'Lakota' 6, 'Sweet Dumpling' 6, 'Cream of the Crop Acorn' 5, 'Blue Ballet Hubbard' 10
Swiss Chard - 'Peppermint Stick' 12
Tomatillo - 'Toma Verde' 10
Tomato - 'Italian Pompeii' 12, 'Jetstar' 8

1 - Burpee
2 - Cook's Garden
3 - Dixondale Farms (onion starts)
4 - Ferry-Morse Seeds (usually found at garden centers)
5 - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
6 - Botanical Interests
7 - Ed Hume Seeds
8 - Harris Seeds
9 - Irish Eyes Garden Seeds (seed potatoes)
10 - Johnny's Selected Seeds
11 - Nichols Garden Nursery
12 - Renee's Garden Seeds
13 - Seeds by Design (wholesale company, but Parisian Gherkin available through Baker Creek and Burpee)
14 - Seeds of Change
15 - Territorial Seed