I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Spring as nice as this one has been. Sure, it started out a little sketch, but it has shaped up to be magnificent. 80 degrees in May, 2 days in a row?! I believe I’m suffering from vitamin D overload.
Of course the warmer weather means one thing in the nursery business… busy. Not only is it busy, but we’re going into the busiest week of the garden center season, the week before Mother’s Day.
Ask any nursery employee and they will tell you the single busiest day of the year is Mother’s Day Saturday. I’ve worked in nurseries all over and it is always the same. We start the day at the ass crack of dawn and if there isn’t a cocktail waiting for us when we walk in the door at the end of the day we get stabby.
Yesterday I started my day at 9:30 (not including the hour of work I did at home) (and Travis started at 8:00) and we left the nursery at 7:45 p.m. We never sat down and lunch consisted of cold pizza eaten standing at the counter. I should mention that the pizza was ordered hot. It just took us a few hours to get to it.
So if tips and tidbits seem few and far between it doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned you. It just means that I am spending every waking moment at work. And I love it.
I am a Pacific Northwest Gardener. There is one thing that the PNW has no shortage of. It’s water. If it isn’t raining then it’s dry and we have to water. We get used to a certain level of damp. The problem I have with this damp is that I always wear garden gloves while…well, gardening. Since I work in the garden business and my biggest pastime happens to be, again, gardening, it means I work in the garden all. the. time. This translates to wet hands, or rather gloves all. the. time.
I have been on the hunt for a fully waterproof, light weight garden glove. It would be the perfect glove for the Northwest gardener. Think about it. The person who came up with the idea could be rich! A glove that is durable. Where the fingers don’t wear through in a week. A glove that is waterproof. Not just the palms, but the whole thing. Submerge your whole hand in a bucket of water waterproof. They would be perfect!
I was watching Bunty’s Blog and she mentioned the gloves she wears. They sounded like what I was looking for. I did a quick internet search and it just so happens that you can’t buy these gloves in the US. They are Spontex Garden Comfort Gloves. Amazon.co.uk didn’t even have this particular glove. One of the only places I could find them online was Tesco Grocery in the UK.
Hey! It just so happens that one of my very good friends lives in London! I made a deal with her. She buy me the gloves and I will buy her something she can’t get and we’ll swap. It was a perfect plan.
Yesterday a package arrived from London. It contained 2 new pair of garden gloves. All it cost me was a few garden/scrapbook magazines and a little shipping. I’m so excited!
I’m fairly certain that a gardener’s worst enemy is grass. Specifically some weird unknown grass that haunts my dreams. I can’t tell if it’s creeping bentgrass or tall fescue. All I know is it is vigorous and any small piece of root left will sprout and regrow.
I’m on a mission this year to eradicate this grass in all of my flower beds. I’ve lived in my house 9 1/2 years and have battled this grass the whole time. A few years ago we took care of it in the large corner perennial bed. Last year I tried everything I could to kill it in another part of the garden. I sprayed it with toxic grass killer. It laughed at me. I covered it with black plastic for a year. I’m pretty sure it gave me the middle finger. I finally cursed its name and dug it out.
There are 2 more areas that are infested with this grass. One such area happens to be right outside my bedroom window. I wake up every morning, look at the window and see this:
If you look closely you’ll see wild strawberry, sedum rupestre and ivy leaves in that photo. Yes, under that grass it was once landscaped (well with the exception of the ivy). This is my beautiful rock garden my husband built for me 8 years ago. It was one gorgeous. He built the wall around 3 large green ceramic pots (that I’ve since moved onto the patio). Friday I decided to tackle the rock wall area, but when I set to it I found the grass was so thick that I could’t take it out without the curse words.
As I dug I found that Dane the Dumbass Previous Homeowner had put down landscape fabric. Next to this particular grass, landscape fabric is made of pure evil. About an hour into pulling out the grass I had only gained about 2′ on it. I elected to pull out the big guns.
You know it is bad when you have to use a pick axe to weed your garden. I worked all day on Friday and only had 1/2 of the area fully de-grassed. I enlisted the help of my husband to work the other side. I should also mention that while we were pulling out the grass we also were pulling out most of the desirable landscape plants, potting them and trying to save them. We were also pulling out all of the rocks with the intention of rebuilding the wall.
We were finally rained out Saturday afternoon, but all of the grass was removed, a few plants I thought I couldn’t save were spared and the wall is starting to take shape.
This isn’t the best photo of the area since the morning sun was pretty harsh, but I can see such potential for the space. I woke up this morning and looked out the window and didn’t see any grass. I could look at the bare rocks all day it was so nice.
Only one more area of grass to go. I’ll have to wait 2 weeks to finish that since we have to finish the wall and both of our yard waste bins are full. Now, if I were smart I would build a small moveable chicken run and put the girls in there to take care of the grass for me. Hmm…
Here it is mid-April again and I’m writing about potatoes. Man, I just can’t get it together to plant potatoes in March when they are “supposed” to go in. Just to prove that planting them in April is ok I’ll let you in on a secret. Some of the potatoes I planted this year are ones we didn’t eat from last year. HA! That means I had extra potatoes from my harvest.
Last year I grew my potatoes in a raised bed. I can’t quite remember how many pounds I harvested in the end, but it was about a 15 gallon bucket full. It was enough for us. In one bed the seed potatoes were planted in almost all soil. In the other I filled the bed with about 1/2 straw and the rest soil. I will tell you now that the bed that was primarily soil fared much better. I don’t personally suggest using straw as a bedding material for potatoes. Chickens, yes. Potatoes, no.
This year I’ve elected to go back to my good ol’ fashioned potatoes in nursery buckets. I’m tired of not being able to get all of the potatoes out of the beds and having to contend with digging out last years crop. Besides, if I do potatoes in the buckets I have more room in the beds for other things.
I’m fairly certain this is the ultimate in lazy gardener. Sure, the raised bed method was easy, but even my 8 year old could do this.
First you need to collect a few supplies. You’ll need a large bucket of some sort. I use 10-15 gallon nursery buckets that I pick up at my store. You can ask your local garden center or big box store if they have cheap or free pots you can have. We sell our containers over 7 gallons for $5 each. I’ve collected mine from trees I’ve planted in my garden. You will also need seed potatoes, soil and some fertilizer.
I purchased seed potatoes for 2 of the 5 varieties I’m planting. Seed potatoes are found in garden centers starting around the end of February through April. Later in the season centers will sell out of seed potatoes so you selection may be more limited. I had left over potatoes from last year’s harvest so I used a few of those. I only suggest this if you did not have any disease issues (blight) on your crop last year. If you did have diseases DO NOT replant potatoes. You will only be spreading that disease. This year I’m planting French Fingerling & Red Sunset (purchased), Russet Burbank, German Butterball & Yukon Gold (Gem?) (leftovers).
The first step is to put a few inches of soil in the bottom of the container. I’m using compost from the giant pile in my driveway. You can use planting mix or potting soil too. I just happen to have this giant pile in my driveway. About 4″ in the bottom of the pot is fine.
Next sprinkle on a bit of that Dr. Earth Tomato & Veggie fertilizer & mix it in a bit.
Then put in the potatoes. I put in quite a few for each pot. Figure you’ll get 5-10 pounds of potatoes for each medium seed potato. I will once again note that I don’t cut my seed potatoes. I choose medium sized seed potatoes and plant them whole… lazy.
These were 15 gallon buckets and I went a little crazy with seed potatoes. Then put a few more inches of soil on top. About 4″ is fine. I’ll let the potatoes grow and when the plant is about 6″ high I’ll add another 4″ of soil. Repeat that process until the soil is at the top of the pot. Then water the containers regularly. When the plant flowers cut back the watering by 1/2. When the plant turns yellow stop watering all together. Once the plant is totally dead dump the soil out onto a tarp and harvest your bounty.
I decided to experiment a bit with the Yukon Gems. I am planting those in 5 gallon buckets. I put 1 seed potato in each bucket and I’m using the same layering method. The idea is to see exactly how many pounds per seed potato I can get.
Are you planting potatoes this year? What kinds and what method are you using?
I may have written about this resource a few years ago. Bunty is an organic gardener in South Wales. Her web series follows her garden progress over an 18 month period. She clearly explains what she is doing and why at specific times of year. The individual episodes are only about 15 minutes.
I have to say, I love this series. In fact, I’m going back through and watching them again and taking detailed notes. I have serious garden envy. I would love to pack up and move to her Welsh garden or at least be her neighbor.
Take a few moments out of your day and watch a few episodes. Better yet, watch it from start to finish. I bet you’ll learn something new.
Here’s a link to the Year 1 Early April video. The series starts in January and finished in July 18 months later.
My absolute favorite place in all of Tacoma is the W.W. Seymour Conservatory. I’ve always called it the “Glass House.” There have been times in my life that I just go and sit. There is no purpose, just sitting. I’ve taken my doodle book with me. I’ve taken my camera. Every time it is just a little different.
The conservatory opened in 1908 and is one of 3 remaining Victorian greenhouses on the West coast.
The conservatory features changing floral displays that are always beautiful.
One of my favorite things is the grand scale of the place. It may not be as big as greenhouses in San Francisco or places like Kew Gardens, but for little Tacoma it is magnificent.
A few years ago the conservatory underwent some renovations and it was closed. It was like showing me a bar of chocolate, but saying you couldn’t eat it. I could see it, but couldn’t go in.
Since re-opening the plants have thrived and things look much better. I’m fairly certain that when I retire this is where I want to spend my time. I don’t doubt that Metro Parks would love to have a volunteer that just sits around and talks to visitors about the history of the place and about all of the plants. If they don’t, I might do it anyway.
If you ask me, this is the one MUST see when you are in Tacoma. It’s even better on a cold Winter day. You can walk inside and get a taste of the tropics.
About a year and a half ago I got a phone call at the shop from a lady looking for urban farms. She figured since we were a garden center that sold chickens we might know where she could find a few urban farmers.
Would I know any urban farmers? Hmmm.
Why I believe I do.
She said that she was writing a book about urban farming on the West coast. She is a professional photographer and her artwork has been used in a wide array of publications.
I set up a time for Lori to come visit our garden, but warned her that it wasn’t at its peak since she was visiting in late September. All 3 of us were pretty excited to have someone come professionally photograph our garden. I’ll admit. The thought of my garden being featured in an actual book was pretty awesome too.
A few months after her visit Lori sent me all of the photos that she had taken that day, but I had signed an agreement that I wouldn’t post any of the photos until the book was released. I’ve had to sit on these magnificent photos for a year and a half. The only place I’ve shown them is at a very small garden club talk I gave earlier this Spring. Otherwise they’ve sat on my computer waiting patiently.
I look back at these photos frequently to remember what my garden looked like once. It has been so modified since that it’s hard to imagine that it was once this haphazard.
The year she came I grew 15 different varieties of tomatoes. The plants were at the peak and were breaking the supports that held them.
One of the things that intrigues Lori so much about our particular garden was that it was simple. On the outside it appears to be incredibly complex, but at its very foundation it is very simple. I plan things for continual harvest, but I also grow plants that are easy to maintain, things we will most certainly eat and things that we can store without using too much effort.
Things I love to grow include tomatoes (you already knew that), dried beans, garlic, onions and potatoes. Root vegetables come in a close second as does kale and other brassicas that I can overwinter.
Sadly, my garden isn’t one that is featured in the book. Lori visited so many gardens she couldn’t fit them all in one book. Since that was the case she did the next best thing. She started a blog and is featuring all of the wonderful gardens that didn’t make it to the book. I encourage you to check it out and follow along. I also encourage you to order a copy of the book. It’s called backyard roots and if you’d like to see more of Lori’s beautiful imagery you can visit her photography website.
For years I have wanted one specific rose. It is an old historic rose that really isn’t grown anymore in the US. There are a few places in the UK that still grow it, but import laws make it almost impossible for me to get plants from overseas. I casually mentioned my want for this rose to Travis and he said, “Oh, I have one of those.” Years ago Travis & Gabe worked for Raft Island Roses in Gig Harbor. While there Travis amassed quite the collection of rose bushes and they are planted in his personal rose garden and at his parent’s house. The rose I’ve been looking for happens to be one of them! Since he told me that… oh 2 years ago… I’ve continually asked him to bring me a few slips of it. Two weeks ago he told me he had a surprise for me. Slips of my rose bush! Only 2, but it more than 0.
The rose I’m talking about is Cardinal De Richelieu. It is a big old historic rose that only blooms once a year on old wood. With only 2 slips I was paranoid that I would screw the cuttings up terribly. It’s been years since I’ve taken cuttings from anything. As of today my cuttings are budding and looking nice so I’m fairly confident that my cuttings have taken.
The first thing is to assemble your supplies. You’ll need rose slips (about a 4″-6″ long hardwood cutting). Normally slips of roses are done in the Fall, but I got mine in the Spring so this is when I’m doing it. You will also need a sharp pair of pruners, a container of potting soil, rooting hormone and a pencil.
My soil medium is a combination of coconut coir and sand.
Make sure the soil is moist and then use the pencil to make holes in the soil.
Take a fresh cut off of the slip right below a bud. Ideally you want 2 buds to be below soil level and 2 above soil level.
Slip before the cut
You will also want to use the sharp pruner like a knife and scrape off a piece of the bark. Don’t dig too deeply and only make one slice. (I didn’t take a photo of that part).
Dip the cutting (up to that second bud) in rooting hormone. If you are using powdered hormone make sure to tap off the excess powder or else the stem may rot. Gently place the cuttings into the holes made with the pencil and firm the soil around them.
Place the cuttings in a bright warm area and mist them regularly. I am keeping my cuttings in my greenhouse since it is moist and warm in there. We are making an attempt to also root a few cuttings in the back room at the store. In that case we are using a grow light, a heat mat and a mist bottle. My greenhouse cuttings are working a little better, but that is a given.
Have you ever rooted any cuttings? What worked and what didn’t?
The weather in the Northwest on Easter weekend was fantastic. Shortly after it turned back to crappy and rainy. While the weather was nice I decided to give the babies a stroll in the back yard. We tried to set up a little pen to keep them contained, but the ducklings were a little too smart for it and they broke out right away. In an attempt to let them wander, but not wander too far I put the 8 year old in charge of them. That lasted for about 20 minutes. He got bored once his friends showed up and ditched the ducks. I put the ducks back in the bin and let them enjoy the sun. While they were out I snapped a few photos with the real camera (which is why I am just now sharing them). Ducklings don’t like having their photo taken so they didn’t quite cooperate. However, I did get a few good shots (by a few I mean 2).
3 little ducklings
Grace is in the forefront of this photo. Then Gwen and Gertrude to follow. That Grace has always had a bit of a mangy look about her. She would be considered the “ugly duckling” of the group. To her credit she had just had a swim so her feathers were still wet.
If you were curious how Gwen was fairing after her health problems earlier, she’s doing well. Both she and That Grace are much smaller than Gertrude. You can see in the above photo Gwen next to Gertrude. There is a significant difference in size. Now that we have them on the right track nutrition wise they are all growing at the same rate, but Gert is still bigger. My guess is she may always be larger.
About a week ago I moved the girls out to their outdoor coop. The heat lamp is still hooked up for them since the coop isn’t really well insulated. They have a large feeder and waterer and I’ve put the paint pan swimming hole in for them. They have loads of room to roam around. With the weather being chilly and windy I haven’t let them wander about in the run, but That Grace took matters into her own hands the other day. The door from the coop to the run is a flip up door that doesn’t exactly latch. She had pushed it open enough to get out, but couldn’t get back in. We don’t know how long she spent outside, but she had quite a bit to say to her sisters when we let her back in. Needless to say we put a brick in front of the door to prevent further escape.
I can say having the ducklings has been so much fun. They may not exactly be cuddly, but they are darn cute.
I haven’t been to Gordon’s in many years (probably 7-8). It isn’t located in an easy to reach place. Yelm, WA would be considered BFE in my opinion. I should know. I used to live there. In fact, I lived in Yelm when Gordon’s was still a grocery store. Yes, I’m that old. I remember when Gordon began converting the once hometown grocery into a little garden shop with character (not coincidentally it happened when Thriftway moved into town).
It just so happens I was the manager at Boulevard Nursery in Olympia when Gordon suddenly passed away and Kellie Petersen took over ownership of the shop. Kellie turned Gordon’s into a thriving destination nursery that rivaled locations like Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle. Kellie made regular appearances on Gardening with Ciscoe. She was dubbed “The Rose Queen” with good reason. Gordon’s carried so many roses you’d think Raft Island had moved to Yelm.
At Boulevard we considered Gordon’s our biggest competition. That could have been because both locations had new owners at the time. Jeff had just purchased Boulevard and Kellie had just taken over Gordon’s. They had statements to make since they were taking over for men who were leaders in the garden center industry. That was when I took my leave of the retail garden business. When I last visited Gordon’s it was vibrant, beautiful, and the place to be each Spring.
The weather on Easter Sunday was beautiful. I asked my sister-in-law if she wanted to head out to Gordon’s with me after church. We visited Bark & Garden last year so it wasn’t a stretch. She agreed and after lunch we hopped in the car for the drive.
This was the only photo I took during the whole visit. I didn’t find anything worth photographing besides one plant tag.
We pulled into the small parking lot and it was quite empty despite the gorgeous weather. That wasn’t unusual since it was a holiday. One major new thing about Gordon’s is that the Yelm Food Co-op is now housed in 1/2 of the original gift shop. Of course we had to browse the grocery department. However, it did make me sad. Gordon’s was once known for their amazing gift shop and yearly holiday party complete with wine and snacks. The garden center’s gift shop was small and didn’t have anything particularly special.
Outside the under cover shopping area was sparse. There were a number of employees busy doing, I’m not sure what, but none of them said hello or acknowledged our presence. This area once had displays full of seasonal plants. Now, displays are sparse and the ground covering is fraying in places.
The vegetable start house was the only portion that was full. There were loads of great looking vegetable starts. If I had been in the market for veggies I would have been impressed.
We wandered through the main outdoor display area, but it didn’t take long. There wasn’t much to see. Weeds were popping up everywhere, the ground wasn’t clean and the fountain wasn’t running. There were very little by way of plants and it looked sad. There was a very small selection of perennials that looked nice, but not many. At the back of the nursery is the “shade house.” Normally this house is full to the brim of the most beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons. This year it is full of overwintering perennials, frayed ground cloth, weedy plant areas and the back was full of equipment and a tractor.
The large tree area was also rather sparse. It looked as if their fruit trees had been mostly sold out. The sawdust beds they hold the fruit trees in were not practical. I saw trees at the back of the 15′ bed I wanted to look at, but wasn’t about to climb in with my flip-flops on. Once again, the other areas were full of weeds and it wasn’t full. I kept saying that it just made me sad.
Our last stop was the hard goods area. I wanted to pick up some organic weed killer for my father-in-law. Before we went into the hard goods building we spied containers of seed potatoes. Now I was impressed. They must have had 20 varieties of seed potatoes. They were each labeled and organized. I found many varieties I hadn’t heard of. I was tempted to purchase a few but I didn’t have any spending money with me. I oogled the merchandise, but left empty handed.
Inside the hard goods building, no one was at the register. Probably because there really weren’t any customers. The shelves of remedies and fertilizers were empty. There were holes everywhere. They had 1 organic weed spray (not the one I wanted), they were out of all of the deer spray, there were empty spots all over the place. It was as if they didn’t care. This was the only point where someone actually spoke to us. An employee walked in the building and mentioned how hot it was in there. She opened the door and casually asked us if we needed help. I so badly wanted to stop her and ask what had happened to the store. I refrained.
The whole car ride home I talked with my sister about how the whole visit was a bust and how it made me sad. I felt bad for Kellie. How had it gone so horribly wrong. I understand business. I know we are dealing with a recession. However, I refuse to believe that you can just give up. I know she sold off a piece of the property, but I see that as an opportunity to concentrate your efforts to make your shop better. I hope that at some point Gordon’s can turn it around and revive the once thriving business.
Will I go back? Right now I would have to say no. However, I would like to visit again to see if anything changes.