Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Not Your Backyard Blackberry

There is no shortage of blackberries in the Pacific Northwest, as a matter a fact, we are inundated with the invasive Himalayan blackberry.  This extremely prolific but tasty "weed" is a serious problem in our open spaces, woodlands, shores, and forested areas.  As much as I enjoy the flavor of blackberries, I know better than to plant this thorny pest in the garden.

Almost a decade ago, I did some research on thornless blackberries. I knew my children, at the time 1 and 2, would appreciate picking the fruit from a thornless bramble.  After a few months of research, I settled on the cultivar "Loch Ness."  This is a very large fruiting blackberry that is similar to wild blackberries in flavor.  One of the other advantages of this variety is that it grows upright and does not need much support. A decade later, this wonderful berry is still producing.  I recommend it highly to those who have the space to host this tall yet tameable beast.  It grows 6+ feet in height but not much in width.  The blackberries are perfect mouthfuls of deliciousness, come by of you want a taste. We are at plot A17.

-gia



Thursday, August 9, 2018

Tomato Profile:White Cherry

Several years ago, I wrote about a tomato called Great White. This season I have found its miniature counterpart in a cultivar called White Cherry. This is a cherry tomato that is reported to be easy to grow, prolific, and resistant to cracking. (This can happen naturally or when your tomato plant is left to wilt or dry out and then is flooded with water.)

These genuinely adorable pale, yellow fruits keep producing right up to frost. They are sweet and very delicious, with a light tomato taste that is very refreshing. The one-ounce fruits are larger than Sweet Million and larger than SunGold (in our garden). They require no special care but staking or caging is recommended.

Note: These cherry tomatoes are not truly white but the less sun exposure they get, the lighter in color they will be.

-Gia



Sungold next to White Cherry.




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Shrubs- The Kind You Drink

 Yes, shrubs are a category of plant, but as of late, they are also a very trendy drink. Shrubs are also called fruit shrubs, drinking vinegar, and in my experience, they are a fruity drink with spice flavoring and a little hint of vinegar. The concoction is concentrated and very flavorful. It is used to make many different types of cocktails but in and of itself,  it’s just fruit, sugar, and vinegar. My favorite way to enjoy shrubs is with lots of ice and sparkling water. Pour the shrub concentrate into the sparkling water and ice to your liking.  In colonial times, shrubs were used as a method to help colonist preserve fruit.  As modern refrigeration gained popularity, drinking shrubs fell out of style until recently!

 Here’s a link to a recipe I’ve tried: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-a-fruit-shrub-syrup-174072


My co-gardener Alessandra made raspberry shrub with our berries.  
-Gia


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Slug-O-Rama

         Spring is the time for slugs.  These mollusks are shell-less but, like their snail cousins, they do a lot of damage.  Slugs eat their way around your garden all night long and can destroy plant starts and seedlings overnight. Their telltale damage is marked by slime trails as well as holes in your vegetation.  If you see slug damage, there is more than one way to lessen their numbers and thus the damage to your crops.



1.  Put out some cozy spaces for your slugs, upturned melon rinds, cardboard, plywood boards, any dark and moist places will attract your slugs.  Once you overturn the melon rinds, plywood, and cardboard, you can discreetly or NOT dispose of your slugs.

2.  Beer traps-When the beer is used for trapping and drowning slugs, it is legally a pesticide.  Beer contains yeast and slugs love yeast. They will follow the aroma of beer, drink it, then drown in it.  Refill your beer trap often and make sure to use the type with a top, so the beer does not get diluted when it rains.  The only downfall to beer traps is the slime that may collect in them.  Blech.....

3.  Make a barrier between your plants and your slugs, eggshells, copper barriers, and more. The scratchier the ground, the more likely they will stay away from your succulent starts.

When all else fails...

4.  Use Sluggo, it is also known as iron phosphate.  OMRI certified, it is a pesticide that kills slugs when they eat the bait.  It turns super mushy when it rains and must often be reapplied to keep the slugs at bay.  Another caution, do not apply the product to the leaves of your plants.  Since this is an iron product, it may blacken the leaves of your greens.

Communing with nature at the garden often involves creepy crawlies. We hope these tips help you manage your slug families in the most productive way!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Asparagus, The King of Spring Vegetables

     Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to emerge in spring. At Marymoor, they are ready for harvest anytime from early April onwards. Being one of the first garden crops makes asparagus especially susceptible to slugs and snails that thrive on cool, moist spring weather.  If you want a good harvest, control slugs early on in the season.  Handpick them, put out beer traps or use an organic slug control product. 

     Harvest your spears when they are at least pencil width or wider.  If you have an established bed, harvest only one-half of your spears so the rest can grow up and turn into asparagus ferns. If you harvest too many spears and do not allow the spears to grow into ferns, the plants will lose the opportunity photosynthesize and make food for next years crop.  These perennial plants can and will live in the same bed for many, many years.  Once established, they are very difficult to move because of deep and very widespread roots. They will live happily in our NW soil and climate as long as they are given decent drainage and plenty of food.  Asparagus is a heavy feeder and needs a good application of compost or manure once a year along with some organic fertilizer.   Even with a bit of neglect, these vibrant, colorful and delicious spears will produce for many seasons to come.



Purple and green asparagus


A perfect asparagus spear


Spears that are a bit past their prime, the spears have begun to open and will form ferns if not picked.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Soil, Dirt, Compost and Friends

We have had a few questions about the difference between dirt, soil, compost and other amendments.


Here are a few tips for new gardeners and veteran gardeners alike.  These are abbreviated notes from the talk, Gia Parsons will give on Sat March 3 10 am-11:30 am at the new LWIT, Redmond location.


-There are 70,000 types of soil in the U.S. alone
-Soil is made up of 4 main things:
     Rock-there are minerals in rock
     Organic Matter-all dead things
     Water
     Air-many kinds of gasses

-Ideal soil contains 45 percent rock particles, 5 percent organic matter, and 25 percent water and 25 percent air in the spaces between particles

-Compost is decomposed plant matter like kitchen waste and rotting plants. It also includes dead shrubs, tree branches, and basically, anything living thing can turn into compost.

-Too much compost can cause problems including excess nutrient levels (too much potassium (straw), primarily nitrogen and phosphorous, high soluble salts (steer manure), and excessive levels of organic matter. (Levels of organic matter above 5% to 8% by weight are too high.)

Organic Amendments:
Manure
Compost
Peat or Sphagnum moss-acidifying
Pine needles-acidifying
Straw
Leaf mold
Wood chips
Seaweed and kelp meal
Eggshells
Coffee grounds
Wood Ash-highly alkaline

Inorganic Amendments:
Perlite-a volcanic rock
Vermiculite-a heated mineral
Dolomite lime-a rock (for raising the ph)
Rock Dust
Azomite-minerals and trace elements
Sulfur-an element (for reducing ph)

Take Home Message:

With new gardens, better start with a soil test
Soil tests at King Conservation District
Established gardens, test the soil if you have not done so in a while
Add a variety of things to your garden but always in small amounts at first
Observe your results and make notes for the coming years.

If there are no issues, don’t make new ones!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Busy, Buzzy Bees

Bees are vitally important pollinators.  They are imported in droves to pollinate blueberries, almonds and other tree nuts as well as many types of the produce we eat every day.  Here are some fun facts about bees to tickle your thinking caps.


1. Bees evolved from the wasps of the family crabronidae.

2. Bees can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

3. Bees are great dancers, check out the difference between honey bees’ waggle dance and their round dance?

When a food source is very close to the hive (less than 50 meters), a forager performs a round dance. She does so by running around in narrow circles, suddenly reversing direction to her original  course.

A round dance, therefore, communicates distance (“close to the hive,” in this example), but not direction.

The waggle dance (Figure 2), or wag-tail dance, is performed by bees foraging at food sources that are more than 150 meters from the hive. This dance, unlike the round dance, communicates both distance and direction.

4. Honey bees can be trained to detect explosives.

5. 70% of the top 100 human foods, which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition, are reliant on insect pollination?
                                                                                        
6. Alexander the Great, the famous king who ruled the ancient world’s largest Western empire and had his corpse mellified, preserved in honey.

7.  Bumblebee colonies are often placed in greenhouse tomato production, because the frequency of buzzing that a bumblebee exhibits effectively releases tomato pollen.

8.  Apiphobia is the extreme and irrational fear of bees or bee stings.

9.  Swarming is the honey bee’s method of colony reproduction. The old queen and about half of the worker bees leave their former nest and seek a new home.


10.  Propolis or bee glue is a  sticky, resinous mixture that honey bees from trees. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is also used in wood finishes, and is thought to give a Stradivarius violin its unique red color.