Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rain Gardening (or more accurately, gardening IN the rain...)

Photo credit: Bill Larson
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the pouring rain, planting and harvesting at one of the gardens I help tend.  I work this one with fellow Master Gardeners and we donate all the produce to our local Food Bank.   It’s on property managed by our Fire Department, who graciously allows us to have 8 raised beds and to store our materials and tools inside the building. 

Photo credit:  Bill Larson
 But, this post is about working in the rain.  I am a self-declared fair-weather gardener, without a doubt.  I don’t like to be cold and wet and really detest soggy feet.  It’s one of the reasons I’ll never be a farmer—those people are amazing!  Usually, when the sky is dripping and the temperature is below 60, I find something else to do and pretend I don’t see the garden.  The weather changes quickly around here, so it’s rarely a problem to skip a day.  That works just fine for my home garden, but we only meet once a week at the Fire Dept. and had already missed last week due to rain and wind.  We really needed to get some stuff done this week. 

I headed out feeling pretty grumpy about the whole thing, wearing boots and a hat and raincoat, wishing I’d put on rain pants.  I got out of my car into a downpour to greet my garden cohort Judy,  and was instantly soaked.  She took one look at me and we both started laughing like crazy.  After that, it was great—we couldn’t get any wetter, so just jumped in and started slogging through ankle deep puddles. 
Photo credit:  Judy Guttormson
Now the tomatoes are snugly planted in their tunnel, the lettuce and spinach are all harvested, succession crops are planted and what’s left of the peas are protected from the marauding bunnies.  And I got to go home and put on dry socks.

Photo credit:  Judy Guttormson

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vegetable Gardening Classes for the PNW

We all know that there are several styles of learning.  Some folks retain information from reading material, some from hearing it and some do best with a hands-on experience.  Here's a list of my upcoming classes through Poulsbo Parks & Recreation.  Some are hands-on and all involve both visual and auditory presentations. 
You can register for any (or all!) of these classes by calling Poulsbo Parks & Recreation at 360 779 9898.

Intro to Crop Rotation and Succession Planting

Some of the most confusing things about vegetable gardening are deciding what and when to plant for healthy plants and continuous harvests.   Crop rotation helps prevent disease and pest problems, as well as balance soil nutrient levels and structure.  Succession planting is a system for timing your harvests to fit your needs. 

Thursday, May 23  6:30 to 8:00 PM
Poulsbo Parks & Rec building

Organic Vegetable Gardening—Tips and Tricks for Terrific Tomatoes

Learn the tricks and techniques successful gardeners use to ripen tomatoes and peppers in our chilly NW summers. Topics include: timing, varieties, protection from the weather & disease and harvesting tips.  Plant starts available for sale at the class.

Saturday, May 25  10:00 to 11:30 AM
Pheasant Fields Farm, Silverdale
Organic Vegetable Gardening—Grow Your Own Salad Bowl!

Learn what vegetables you can plant together in one container to harvest complete salads! Students will plant and take home their own Salad Garden Bowl. Plants and materials provided.

Saturday, June 1  9:30 to noon
Poulsbo Parks & Rec building

Organic Vegetable Gardening—Container Gardening

No room for a garden plot? You can still grow lots of great veggies on your patio or deck in containers! Learn what to look for in a container, what kinds of soil to use and which vegetables to choose. You’ll be surprised at what you can grow in a small space!

Saturday, June 8  10:00 to noon
Poulsbo Parks & Rec building

Organic Vegetable Gardening—Grow Your Own Herb Garden Bowl

Here is a fun opportunity to celebrate Dad’s day with your child, or to make a gift together for that special someone!  Make your own herb garden and learn what to do to keep it happy and providing you with fresh herbs year-round.  Planting bowl and potting soil provided, students will choose and purchase plants at the class.

Saturday, June 15  9:00 to noon
Pheasant Fields Farm, Silverdale

Fall/Winter Gardening

Want to be harvesting parsnips and kale all winter?  Broccoli and cabbage in early spring?  It feels too early, but NOW is the time to start planning and planting your fall/winter garden!  Topics covered include plant choices, timing and protection from winter weather.  Plant starts available for sale at the class.

Saturday, June 22  10:00 AM to noon
Pheasant Fields Farm, Silverdale

Saving Seeds from Your Garden

By saving seeds from your garden vegetables, you can save money and develop plants that are exactly suited to your specific growing conditions.  Learn to select the best plants for seed saving, collection techniques and storage methods.

Thursday, July 25 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Poulsbo Parks & Rec building

I'll also be participating as a WSU Kitsap Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Educator on July 13th, presenting a one day class on Fall/Winter Gardening.  This is a follow-up to a 4 day course on Organic Vegetable Gardening held in February and March, but everyone is welcome to attend.  We'll start at the Norm Dicks Building in Bremerton, then head out to Blueberry Park after lunch to get our hands dirty in the gardens there.  The cost is $45 and you can get more information and register online.  There are a lot of events on the page, so you may have to scroll down to find it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ripening Tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest

So, I LOVE living in Western Washington—'wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the country.  But I also LOVE tomatoes, which aren’t quite as fond of the climate as I am.  So, here are a few of the tricks I’ve learned to have my tomatoes and eat them too... 

Choose the right varieties!  If the catalog or seed packet says it will take more than 85 days to mature, you might want to start building that heated greenhouse... 
Keep them warm!  Tomatoes are tender, tropical plants and especially annoyed by the 20-30 degree drop in temperature we often have between day and night.  Cover them up, make use of reflected heat, move them around in containers, but keep them warm.

Keep them dry!  We live in the fungus capital of the world and some of those fungi prey on tomato plants.  Remember the Irish potato famine?  It’s called Late Blight when it attacks tomatoes.  Avoid overhead watering (or rain), mulch to prevent spores from splashing from the soil to the leaves, prune judiciously to encourage good air circulation.
Just a couple months later.  Definitely in need
of that judicious pruning!

Planted in tunnel cloche



Keep them focused!  Given their druthers, indeterminate tomato plants will grow and grow and grow and...  Pinch off suckers to direct energy to flowers and fruit making.  Towards the end of the season, remove all the new flowers and teensy fruit that won’t have time to ripen.

Make them just a little nervous!  The main goal of any plant is to make seed and reproduce.  As the season winds down towards fall, start reducing the water to stress the plants just enough to make them concentrate on ripening the fruit and making seeds in case something dreadful happens. 

And remember, if the first frost is threatening and there are still green fruits on the plants, you can pick them and ripen them in the house.   They won’t be quite the same, but they’ll still be better than the ones flown in from other parts of the world.