What is a Microclimate?
Microclimates come in many shapes and sizes. A comfy chair hidden under a tall canopy of flowery shrubs, or a black plastic pot in which to grow strawberries! You probably have many of them in your yard. So, why do you need them AND how do you find them?
For a home landscape, microclimates can range from small, planter-sized areas to large buildings or long rows of tall trees. They can be a specifically designed environment or a naturally occurring buffer. Microclimates can create shade, heat, cooling, wildlife nesting areas, protection, moisture, beauty, and other benefits. Some common features to look for in your yard are:
Swap, Buy & Harvest
Three main types of seeds are available to gardeners.
Open-pollinated means that the plant flowers are fertilized by bees, moths, birds , bats, and even by the wind and rain. The seed harvested from these plants produce the same plant the next year. Some variances can occur if the plant is cross-pollinated by a different variety nearby, but this also adds to genetic diversity. More diverse plant populations can adapt to local growing conditions and changes in climate year-to-year.
Heirloom seeds have a documented history of being passed down from generation to generation in a family, community or tribe, that have not been cross-pollinated. The plants grown may need a little extra care, but are said to produce more flavorful and more nutritious food. Heirloom tomatoes are especially popular because of their deep rich flavor, and the seeds can also be saved to plant more of the same for the next season!
The simple answer is that synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, that are used on crops, including crops for seed, are unhealthy to consume. These chemicals cause illness, and are linked to many illnesses, cognitive degeneration, learning disabilities, memory loss and cancers. When crops are treated with these toxins, the food we eat also contains them.
So, I vote Organic.
The "Organic" designation requires more government oversight relating to certification and growing standards, transportation, and production facilities. The increase in the cost of this "cleaner" produce is a small price to pay for the commitment by smaller farms and farmers, who believe that food grown in it's natural form and habitat provide our bodies and our families the best possible nutrition.
And I stand for these practices.
Biodiversity is the perfect balance.
Crop health & production improve exponentially in a biodiverse environment. This is why monocrops grown from hybrid seeds require so much synthetic fertilizer. All the nutrients & biodiversity are gone.
See this AMAZING example of the benefits of biodiversity on the barren landscape of the Dead Sea
Ecosystems are biodiverse communities that include all the different kinds of life you'll find in one area. These species interact and create an ever-expanding energy storage system that form an intricate web, to maintain balance and support all life.
Becoming a seasoned & intuitive gardener takes years of experience....True.
However, anyone can be a successful gardener, if you are committed to it. In the beginning, you can gain experience and success by keeping your vision small. TRUST ME ON THIS!!
Start with a 3x3x3 method. Plant 3 hearty vegetables that you like, 3 perennial flowers, and 3 ground covers. This is everything you will need to start building a sustainable and resilient landscape.
What's your soil type?
An experienced gardener can go crazy trying to get the *perfect* soil mix for their gardens. From making your own compost to buying the ideal mix, one can spend either an abundance of time, or a whole lot of money. And if you're dedicated to growing food, you really need to have soil that works for vegetables.
This quick field test will help you determine your soil type. Knowing this is imperative, as it gives you information on your soil's water holding & draining capabilities.
Do I make my own compost? YES
But if you're just beginning, skip it. What you're looking for is well draining, rich in nutrients, and fluffy. I suggest a triple mix - and here's how I make it.
1/3 - Your regular ground soil, whatever it is. It's best to screen it to remove all weeds.
1/3 - Organic potting soil. This usually contains a small amount of slow-release fertilizer.
1/3 - Organic compost. I find the bagged version is cleaner than in bulk, but I'll let you decide.
I mix this altogether in a wheelbarrow (in batches) and use it as I plant.
If you decide to get bulk "garden soil" for your beds, BEWARE.
As you look at the choices, make sure to scoop some up to make sure it has the feel you want, plus the right combination of the 3 elements from above! Happy Gardening!
Luscious Food from Sprawling Crawlers
Blackberries, Strawberries, & Raspberries........... Ahhhh, the taste of summer!
These delicious berries are prolific in the Northwest, and the many varieties and cultivars make harvesting them a summer-long treat. It's almost hard to believe that these wild brambles and creeping vines can produce such luscious fruit. We look forward to this so much, and don't have to do much planning to get them. And why should we? They take little effort to grow and come back year after year! The downside is their growing habit. They can quickly take over vast areas of bare ground, and can be somewhat difficult to tame.
Here are a few ways I handle them, to increase harvest, and minimize effort.
TIP You can shape the area as they grow, or just let them form into a mound where the berries will be abundant and easy to get to when they ripen in the fall.
I like to grow strawberries in pots with the Tier Method. The black pots serve as a heat-sink, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it slowly overnight, keeping the soil warmer longer. The berries ripen faster, PLUS it's a great way to minimize slugs & keep other predators at bay. When the runners start to spread, I put them into one of the adjoining pots, thereby creating an above-ground network of strawberry plants, that produce wonderfully and consistently for the summer. The "mother" plants are viable for 3 years, so to keep your patch going you'll want to separate some of the "runners" which will become the "mother" plants.
TIP Pots get warm & dry, so keeping them watered will ensure the red berries keep coming!!
RED & GOLD
TIP Prune June-Bearing plants after harvest, as these will fruit on OLD wood next season. Everbearing plants fruit early on old wood, and again later on the newer spring growth.
Why do you garden?
Every day I have a new answer to this question. That's because every time I go out to look at, and work in the garden, I see something I haven't seen before. A new wildlife visitor (or pest), a budding bush, or a fully opened flower with a sweet fragrance that makes me linger.
I feel beauty, I feel peace, I feel connection.
What makes you linger?
I invite you to comment, participate and question Everything, so we can learn and grow together! I'd love to hear what you think!
Ideally, water that falls from the sky would go into the ground and nourish the plant life. The perfect balance. However, this is increasingly rare, especially in cities. As populations grow, construction methods are such that ground clearing removes the porous layers that would absorb surface water. Piping and ditch systems are created that “collect and send” water to another location. In storms, these systems become over-taxed and cannot handle the volume and flow of water. Flooding can, and frequently does, occur. Rural areas are better, but compact ground, hilly terrain, clay layers and subsurface hardpan keep water from infiltrating into that ground too, the result being mucky muck in the winter and hard-as-a-rock clay in the summer. Neither allow water to infiltrate. To get the water into the ground is to make the ground more absorbable. A very popular, inexpensive and relatively easy way to do this is with recycled cardboard. Cardboard works because it prevents photosynthesis so weeds don’t grow, it helps absorb & retain moisture, and the cardboard decomposes and adds ‘fluff’ to the hard ground, making space for water to ‘go in.’ I have used this method for more than a decade, in muck and clay, with great success. Here’s a really good example of how to do it.
This Sheet Mulching example is courtesy of the Snohomish Conservation District
A beautiful summer day in the Pacific Northwest!
But I was sick, and I had no idea it was dehydration, or what that even was.
I was 30 years old, and it was late July. I had been gardening and running around planning for a large family picnic. I had two very active little kids that liked to play outside in the dirt
(haha - go figure!!)
It was hot outside, and I had been feeling a little dizzy for the last few days. Whenever I ate I felt sick, and I had stomach cramps that wouldn't go away. I felt nauseous and hungry, but all I could do was lay around and try to sleep. My husband looked at me and said he was going to take me to the hospital. SHOCK! What? Why? I was just tired, overworked and stressed out, I thought.
As a last resort I grabbed a medical book and started looking up my symptoms. I found this formula and wanted to try it before going to the hospital. My husband said I had one hour.
I made this recipe and, since I was desperate, I drank 1/2 cup every half hour. I was in disbelief that after an hour I felt much better. In three hours I felt good, and after another recipe, I ended up eating later that evening and didn't have to go to the hospital. I though it was strange - but I found out it was dehydration. Don't let it get this far - it's dangerous. The stomach cramps is a clue for me every time. The drink doesn't taste very good, but if you drink it hot, it's better.
I have used this recipe for years and years because it works!! AND, it won't hurt you if you're not dehydrated!
Are you washing your food?
I used to eat leafy greens right out of the garden. Carrots too, after I washed them off with the hose. But in the last few years, since I have been working with, and in, a lot more gardens, I've started looking at the plants a lot more closely - as I teach others to do. After all, observation is the first thing to do when working with any landscape.
When labels say "Organic" I believe there is an assumption that the produce is clean because, after all, it's grown without chemicals, right? The arguments here can vary greatly, but the bottom line is that we all want the fruit and vegetables we eat to be free of bugs, dirt, chemicals and bacteria, period.
This Fruit & Vegetable Rinse, made from corn & coconut, is hands-down the best food cleaner I have ever used. It's edible, so you don't have to wash it off, and it's safe for kids & pets. It extends the shelf-life of your produce, and kills 'bugs' inside your body; I used it when I got food poisoning and was better in 15 minutes! It kills aphids on plants, and fleas on pets too. Read about it for yourself. Fruit & Vegetable Rinse
Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING to clean your food, counters, car and house.
Do it for Health, and for Peace of mind <3
Succulents are the easiest, most resilient, prolific and beautiful plants for Pacific Northwest Gardens. If you have them, you know this!! These low-lying plants grow wonderfully along garden pathways or rock walls, needing little attention. The intermittent summer rain squalls are enough for them! They present with bright flower spikes in early summer and can even change color with late summer heat. *Bonus*
Succulents DO NOT like to be separated, or planted as individuals. They like to be clumped together! This is how they propagate the best. Most prolific growing is in the early spring, where you will see explosions of new "chicks," while at the same time seeing a bit of the "mother" plant dying off.