Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Will Your Garden Grow in 2013?

What are you going to do in the garden this year? This is the time of year to read, dream, make plans, change them, write lists, draw sketches, and stare out the windows at your garden. While you are imagining all the wonderful things to come, you are laying the groundwork (so to speak) for a successful gardening season.

Here are resources that will help you decide what you want to do when those first perfect gardening days of the year arrive.

Steve Solomon's book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades is a classic. Vegetable gardening is different in our Maritime climate than in other parts of the country, so general gardening books aren't that useful. Let this book be your guide to the plant varieties and techniques that will work here. Just as importantly, Solomon explains care of the soil, including composting, fertilizing and efficient water use. Healthy soil = healthy produce.

What seeds should you plant? Consider those from Botanical Interests, a Seattle Garden Ideas affiliate. They sell GMO-free seeds, many heirlooms, and their seed packets are so full of useful information, you'll want to keep them around for reference. Visit their website for helpful articles, special sales and occasional contests.

If you are a visual learner, you may find the help you need at The Northwest Flower and Garden Show. This is the show's 25th year of providing gardening inspiration with stunning display gardens, seminars and so much more. The show runs February 20-24 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

For gardeners who like a "calendar" approach to planning, the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide is ideal. The content is arranged month-by-month, listing what to do each month and including tips on when to plant seeds, soil amendments, organic fertilizers, pest control and lots more. I wish Seattle Tilth would release a new edition of this valuable little book, but you can get used copies on Amazon for just $12.99.

Are you planning to add raised beds or compost bins this year? Visit, a Seattle Garden Ideas affiliate, for how-to information, inspiration and products for sustainable gardening. Remember, they plant a tree for every order placed!

In my design practice, I have used my copy of The Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists so much that it is literally falling apart. I have to tape pages back into it every time I look something up. This book is just what it says, a collection of plant lists for just about every conceivable condition. Wet, dry, full sun, shade, annual, perennial, ground cover, tree, shrub - they're all there. This guide will really help you choose the right plants for the right places.

OK, it's time to get started. There's something so uplifting about garden planning. Enjoy the process.

Related posts:

When Is the Right Time to Prune?
It's February and Time to Prune Roses
Ready To Take Out Your Lawn?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Problem With the Privet Hedge

I never had nasal allergies until a year ago. Then, in mid-summer when everyone else's allergy symptoms were easing up, a neighbor of mine and I started having symptoms. Neither of us had ever had seasonal allergies before so it took a while to realize that was what we had. Fortunately, our symptoms were fairly mild and we were able to get relief with typical over-the-counter meds.

This year, I expected to have some problems in spring, but I was fine through all the tree and grass pollen outpourings. Then again, about a week ago, I started having symptoms. Levels of tree, grass and weed pollens are low right now and friends of mine who suffer with them are feeling much better than they did a couple of months ago. So I wondered what it is that I am sensitive to.

Yesterday I might have figured it out. I have a section of privet hedge (Ligustrum japonicum) along one side of my yard, which has just come into full bloom.
The past two springs have been particularly rainy and the hedge has responded by producing record crops of big, creamy white panicles (flowers) in mid-July. They are pretty and the bees love them, but as far as I am concerned they smell terrible. Since this hedge is close to my windows, which I have open most of the time in summer, and close to my garden, where I like to spend my time, I decided to cut off a bunch of the flowers to reduce the odor.

That helped. And after dumping a couple of buckets of blooms into the yard waste bin, I thought my nasal symptoms were eased a bit, too. I wondered then if privet pollen is something people have allergic reactions to. So I did a google search. And sure enough!

Privet pollen is known to trigger allergic reactions, asthma, eczema and hay fever. In fact, it is illegal to grow or sell privet plants in New Zealand because of the health problems it causes.

I'm not planning to take down the hedge anytime soon, but I will be a lot more diligent from now on about removing those stinky flowers as soon as they appear.