Sunday, April 7, 2019

Noxious vs. Nuisance Weeds

Let's begin with defining what a noxious weed is:  "Aggressive exotic plants can produce immense numbers of long-lived seeds and may overwhelm native species, degrade habitat for wildlife, stick, stab and poke, and may even poison livestock or burn your skin. "   Noxious weeds are great at reproducing and are so pernicious, that many are mandated for removal in Washington and King County.

There are several classes of noxious weeds and they require different amounts of attention and handling.

I. Regulated Class A noxious weeds (eradication required throughout Washington State including King County)

Examples are kudzu and milk thistle

II. Regulated Class B noxious weeds (control is required for these species in King County)

Examples are poison hemlock and tansy ragwort

III. Non-regulated Class B and C noxious weeds (Class B and C noxious weeds that are not designated for control in King County, control recommended but not required in King County)

Examples are Himalayan blackberry, from Iran and Armenia NOT the Himalayas and butterfly bush.


Nuisance weeds are those that interfere with YOUR gardening goals.  Often these weeds have anatomy much like those of noxious weeds that allow them to spread quickly and remain in your garden year after year.


They have thick tap roots that are hard to pull or dig up fully.  They may spread via miles of underground stolons and rhizomes like quack grass and bindweed.  They may also send up hundreds if not thousands of seeds per season.  Do you recognize these weeds from Marymoor Community Gardens?








Friday, March 22, 2019

Compost vs. N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium)

Have you ever wondered what the three numbers on the front of your fertilizer box stands for?  5-5-5, or 2.5-5-3?  

The first letter is for nitrogen, the second for phosphorus, and the third for potassium.  The numbers tell you what percentage of each element is available per bag/box.  5-5-5 means 5% N, P, and K.  2.5-5-3 means 2.5% N, 5% P, and 3% K. These letters and numbers matter because different plants have different nutrient needs.

Compost is NOT plant food and often does not supply adequate N, P, K. It is a great amendment and will increase your organic matter.  Its addition will make your soil more friable and help it hold more moisture, but it does not feed your plants.  Even if you have great tilth in your soil, you will still need to consider the nutrient needs of your plants. 

1.  To start fresh, get a soil test.  Here is a link to a local resource. Most of the plots at Marymoor are fertile but a soil test is the only way to be sure.  pH is also a need to know number.


2.  Know what you grow.  Most garden plants do well in the PNW, as a majority of garden crops like an ~6.0-7.0 pH. However, not all plants need the same amounts of N, P, K.  Some crops are heavy feeders and do best when fed during the growing season, examples are corn and tomatoes.  On a side note, know what type of watering schedule your plants need as well, their needs can be very individualized.


3.  General N, P, K rules.  A fertilizer with a higher N number will support leafy growth. (Did you know when you eat onions,  you are eating leaves?)  A fertilizer with a higher P number supports bulbs and blooms and therefore fruit.  The last number, K, supports cell growth and all around plant health.

4.  More is not better.  Too much organic matter as well as fertilizer is not helpful and can be harmful to your plants.  Follow fertilizer application directions and when in doubt, do a soil test.


We hope you have a successful start to the garden season.  If you have questions, please ask at mcgaboard@gmail.com


Sources: https://pubs.wsu.edu/ListCategories.aspx?TopicID=6

-Gia




Monday, March 11, 2019

March Garden Chores

     March 20th is the official first day of Spring.  We did have a day of snow in March but hopefully, the snow is not making another appearance. Warm days are here to stay and if we collectively say it loud enough, it will be so.

     1. March is the perfect time to finalize seed orders.  Some highly sought after seed and varieties may sell out quickly. Get those seed packets in your hands ASAP. 

     2. It's time to buy bare root plants and canes.  The soil is no longer frozen so get those babies in the ground.  Leaving them in their packing material or in plastic bags can encourage them to dry out or rot.  (Examples are asparagus and berries.)


     3.  If your garlic is coming up, it may be time to thin your mulch or top dressing so those emerging greens can get some light.

    4.  Lay some cardboard out or overturned melons.  Slugs might find a home underneath and then you can dispose of them.


     5.  Keep cleaning up your garden.  Removing debris can help control pests and improve the sanitation of your entire garden.

     6.  Take soft and hardwood cuttings of plants you want to propagate like currants.

     7.  Time to start warm weather plants like basil and tomatoes.


When you are out at the garden again take a nice inventory of your garden spaces and plan for the upcoming season.  Remember to rotate crops as much as possible.  See you out there.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

February Garden Chores

      February is traditional our coldest month with snow flurry warnings all around the PNW, school closures threaten this month.  Streets are icy and slick, frost abounds. There is not much to do in the garden, BUT you can start planning your beds for spring planting.

     One way to plan your spring planting is to add our talk on Water Wise Gardening to your spring calendar. This free talk will be given by the Seattle Tilth at the Redmond Community Center at Marymoor Village and is scheduled for March 9th, 10:30 am to 12:00 pm., the address is  6505 176th Ave NE, Redmond, WA 98052.  Even though the water won’t be turned on until early April, planning how you wish to organize and water your garden beds BEFORE you start planting is a must.
     



     Another way to prepare your beds for planting is to think about crop rotations. To help keep garden diseases at bay, it is wise to rotate your crops, so you are not growing the same annuals in the same beds year after year.  A garden journal is a handy tool.  Soil tests can be done at this time to determine what nutrients and elements your soil needs for the upcoming season.
           
     If you haven’t yet, it’s definitely time to shop for seeds. Many popular varieties sell out early. Browse through those catalogs early and look for local seed exchanges.  This is a great way to meet other gardeners and learn about new varieties. Mark those regional plant sales on your calendar, there are many in our area.




Thursday, January 3, 2019

January Garden Chores

     The ground is definitely too wet and cold to work in January. Working saturated soil can damage or destroy your soil structure.  Also, avoid walking on your garden beds and planting areas which may lead to compaction of your soil.  

     Instead of working your garden, remove all garden debris from last season (if you have not done so already) before the cold snaps of February set it in.  Good garden hygiene is essential to lessen the spread of fungal, viral, and bacterial nasties.  If your garden was touched by blight, for example, remove all fallen leaves and fruit.  DO NOT compost them in your home compost pile but commercial composting is fine. Once your garden is all tidied up, you can spend your time on other January tasks. Your garden will sleep until you are ready to start cultivating.



     While you might not be in your garden, there are still garden tasks to be done.  

1.  It is a good idea to sort your seeds this month.  Take stock of your inventory.  Not all seeds are viable after the previous season. Onion seeds have short longevity of only 1 year, you'll need to buy new seeds every year.  Label your seeds so you're aware of what you have and what you want to try next season.  If you took notes of delicious or productive plants, you may want to purchase more of the same seeds.



2.  Get those tools out of the rain and tend to them.  Some of your tools might have stayed out in the elements this season.  January is a great time to sharpen tools, oil them, and store them properly. 


3.  Winter is also the perfect time to plan your garden for next season.  A garden journal is a great way to keep track of what you planted last season and where. For the upcoming season, consider rotating your crops as a way to keep diseases at bay.

   January may seem bleak at the garden but there are many tasks that can help you start your season off with a bang.  Once the garden is cleaned up, tools are cleaned and prepped, seeds inventoried and ordered, they only thing left to do is wait for spring.





Thursday, December 6, 2018

December Garden Chores

     December is not my favorite time of the year for gardening but there are still garden chores to be done. I must admit I am a fair-weather gardener and try to get all my garden chores done by Thanksgiving.  This year, however, I headed to the garden in early December to find my asparagus still green and lively.  If any asparagus ferns are yellow or brown, December is the time to trim them back and compost them. At this time, it is also wise to lightly prune dead branches of cane berries and shrubs like currants, no hard pruning until later in February. 

Photo courtesy of Jane B.


     As night temperatures dip, you may extend the growing season for lettuces and other hardy greens if you set up cloches or hoop houses for them. When you're covering plants for the night, ensure your protective coverings touch the ground. Frost protection covers work by trapping radiant heat in the soil. As soil releases its heat, the cover holds the heat around the plant. Use fabric covers, such as row cover cloth. It's easy and quick to build a shelter around tender plants such as artichokes and other tender perennials. Be sure to anchor stakes in soil and attach a cover to stakes.



     If you do not plan to extend your season, harvest everything you can before a freeze-thaw cycle turns your produce mushy. Cover your garden/raised beds with leaf mulch, straw, cardboard, or burlap; this keeps weeds at bay until spring.  Once your garden is tidied up, you can spend the rest of winter looking over seed catalogs and planning your spring plantings.



One final note, if you are so inclined, feed the birds.  Many of our feathered friends would benefit from a supply of food when we’ve cleared our gardens of the things they love to eat.

-Gia




Monday, November 12, 2018

The Bitterest of Gourds

The bitter melon has many names and its other name bitter gourd are used interchangeably.  Some of the most common names are : African Cucumber, Ampalaya, Balsam Pear, Balsam-Apple, Bitter Cucumber, Bitter Gourd,  Karela, Kareli, Korolla, Kuguazi, K'u-Kua, Lai Margose, Margose, Mel√≥n Amargo, Melon Amer, Momordica, Momordica charantia, Momordica murcata, Momordique, Paroka, and Pepino Montero, just to name a few. Its botanical name is Momordica charantia and it originated in India.  Its popularity and use has spread all over southeast Asia and beyond. 

The bitter melon tastes exactly as its name states think a broken aspirin, uncured olive, apple seed, or grapefruit rind. It looks like a warty cucumber; when sliced in half, there is a spongy white pith that is easily scooped out with a spoon.  The seeds are also removed before preparation, however, if you grew up eating this type of gourd, the nostalgia can be very strong.  Most people either love the flavor or straight up hate it.  Its reverence is akin to the love or hate of durian. 

One of our gardeners, grew a bounty of this melon, he shared some with me and although I prepared it in more than one way, my children turned their noses up at it.  This "hot crop" must be treated like tomatoes and peppers.  Since it is hard to find in retail outlets, one has to start the plants from seed. Once the seedlings are hardened off, they must be protected from cool weather and planted out when the nighttime temperatures are at least 55F at night. Maintain evenly warm temperatures, even watering, and feed at least once at planting time and once again when the flowers set. Once the fruit starts to come, pick them when they are firm and the size of supermarket slicing cucumbers. 

-Gia