Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Preparing for Winter

Wow, where does the time go, or in this case, the summer. Ironically, today's high in Seattle was 73 degrees (a new record). The weather has been very mild this late into fall. Nights are getting cooler though, and the rain has picked up. Predictions for this winter include lots of snow.
I have removed the rest of any summer vegetation. In addition, some broccoli starts I planted several weeks ago are coming along nicely. The fuchsia continues to bloom so I'm putting off the yearly shearing of branches. Cyclamen Hederifolium is sprouting (see pic below). The major project this fall though has been the dozens of tulip bulbs I have planted in the eastern half of my main plot. This is why I should stay away from nurseries this time of the year. I can't remember how many varieties I ended up planting but I'm sure to find out come next spring. As for putting the garden to bed...I began spreading a late batch of compost and covering areas with burlap (free from the Magnolia Garden Center). Finally, visited Molbaks (Woodinville, WA) and checked out the early Christmas plants/decorations. By the end of November the place will be packed with poinsettias.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

End of Summer

Well, the last of this Summer's good weather is this week. I'm guessing it will begin to get colder with more rain in another week or two. I just hope my remaing bell peppers can develop a bit more before I need to harvest them. I have managed to pick the last of this year's corn, and have just begun harvesting the second crop of green beans. Also, I need to dig up the rest of the potatoes, but have until the ground freezes so am in no hurry. The remaining corn stalks were dug out and chopped up, and replaced with spinach and broccoli starts. The cyclamen Hederifolium in my main plot is just beginning to send up blooms.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Well, now I know why the Bible made such a deal with those locust swarms. It would appear a rat (aka Wilbur) or several has moved into the garden and consumed all the corn in my plot in just under 48 hours. Interestingly, the rodents have left alone the corn in the 70sf south-property berm space. As soon as I discovered the devastation I quickly visited the local hardware store and purchased some industrial cloth which I fashioned into corn cozies. When slipped over the end of corn ears the cozies provide a measure of protection from hungry rats. The trick is to secure the sleeves around the ears snugly enough, but without damaging them.As for the other plants...the plot green beans continue to produce, with the berm space beans just starting to send up vines. The summer lilies are just about finished for this season. The fuchsia is full developed. Also, I should begin digging up potatoes soon as their above-ground vegetation has died off. And to close, more pics of a couple of successes...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

P-Patch Plot Update

Well, with the steady warmer temperatures the p-patch plots are doing quite well. The corn is especially coming along. As you can see in the above pic the extra 70sf I cleared has been bordered and I added most of the compost I just completed. Besides the corn, I planted beans and erected a trellis, and am placing some bell pepper plants on the south side to give them an unobstructed view of the sun. Many of the bean seeds did not come up, and some are being attacked by slugs or cut worms.

Furthermore, I have been picking peas steadily for the past two weeks. This year has been a bumper crop. The rodent population is way down (I think someone has been killing them) and I've had little to no damage to the peas this year. Most years I lose roughly the first third of my pea crop to rats before the growth outraces their appetite and my ability to pick the ripe peas. Also, the cooler temperatures this year has allowed the plants to continue along, whereas in the past the 80+ degree temperatures would have them fully matured and decaying by now.

Finally, my Cyclamen intaminatum has produced a single white flower. Out of all the cyclamen species inteminatum produces the most petite blooms.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cyclamen Update

So, it appears some of my potted cyclamen are finally seeing some action. I have 8 pots on deck with six different species represented. The C. coum is almost entirely dormant and (hopefully) still alive after over-watering, with just a couple of leaves present. The c. balearicum and c. pseudibericum show no signs of growth or development. The c. repandum I acquired from the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden had one bloom when I got it, but has since then gone dormant. Of my two pots containing c. purpurascens, the one from Swanson's Nursery is blooming extensively (pictured above). Not only does the plant have around two dozen flower buds ready to bloom, it has also sent out several new leaf stalks around its periphery. One other note, because of its location, this plant has been developing rather horizontally towards the light source. I'm planning on repositioning it so it will bloom "upwards"

My other purpurascens is not doing nearly as well. Pictured below, you can see it has maintained the original three leaves it had when I bought it from Hansen's Nursery last September. Unfortunately, one leaf is turning yellow and slowly dying off. I'm guessing some form of insect has been attacking it, and I'm thinking of bringing the plant indoors to better monitor it. Fortunately, the plant is finally seeing some new growth in the form of two newly emerging leaf stalks.
Finally, the c. intaminatum (pictured below) is also experiencing change. It lost a couple of original leaves (since last September) about a month ago, with another one also showing signs of deterioration. Fortunately, I spy five new leaf stalks beginning to emerge. I'm looking forward to seeing how well the plant will do with the substantial new growth. All in all, my cyclamen project is currently hit-and-miss. I'm hoping some of the plants will develop well enough to bloom in another year or two. Most of the tubers are about the size of a kidney bean and still have a ways to go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First Day of Summer in Seattle

Well, summer is here at last and the residents in Seattle, WA are still waiting for the temperature to break 75 degrees. Thus, this year's growing season has been somewhat of a challenge for summer crops. At least my broccoli and peas are loving the cooler temperatures. Usually, I harvest my peas the first week of July since Alderman variety take a whopping 120 days to mature. The pic below speaks for itself. Anyway, the celery is coming along nicely. The summer lilies are almost ready to begin blooming. Furthermore, I've planted green beans between the pea trellis' and the potatoes that have already taken over the NE corner. Most of the replacement Jubilee corn starts in the newly clear 70sf are thriving. A few plants didn't make it and will need to be replaced. Also, I harvested my carrots that were grown from transplants. They ended up all twisted and gnarled, but were mostly edible.
Finally, the pots on my deck with a half dozen different species of cyclamen are showing signs of growth. The C. intaminatum had 5 small leaves up until a couple of weeks ago two leaves withered and died. Fortunately, there are around 4 to 5 new leaf stalks poking up out of the soil. The plant is beginning to thrive. In addition, and most exciting news of all, my C. purpurascens that I acquired at Swanson's Nursery last year is growing like crazy. When I purchased the plant it had 4 flower stalks in bloom. The plant currently has around two dozen flower buds about to bloom shortly. Also, some newer leaf stalks are also shooting out to the sides. I'll half to transplant the plant after this growing season. I'll post some pics as soon as it is in full swing, but until then here is the first bloom of the season...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Greetings! It has been about a month since the last update regarding my p-patch plot. The weather these last few weeks has been less than stellar, with few days getting above 60 degrees. Also, it has been raining a lot. So, let's start with the good. As the above picture shows nearly everything is growing with great fervor. The spinach is steadily producing more than I can consume so everyone whose path I cross gets some. The peas have finally begun their vertical climb and I have tied them up so they will climb the trellis instead of clinging to nearby plants. Both types of campanula (Birch's Hybrid is shown in photo) have bloomed a collection of attractive violet flowers. The celery is coming along nicely. And, the carrot starts I acquired at the South Seattle Community College Horticultural Center plant sale are doing well. In order to deter carrot rust flies I have covered the carrots with Reemay. I do not know how effective it will be but I'm hoping it at least helps.

On to the broccoli is, once more, struggling with Clubroot. Fortunately, I have only needed to dispose of a couple plants. The rest of the broccoli is coming along well and I'm looking to begin harvesting next month. Also, the corn starts in the plot are just hanging on. And, the ugly...the corn starts I planted in the newly cleared space (see above) are pretty much gone. They weren't the best starts I've acquired, and the weather (rain, wind, cold) has been hard on them. I'll be removing them and continue to clear the space of grass and roots shortly. I'm planning on planting some healthier corn stock in another week or two, assuming the weather begins to warm.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Visiting Swansons Nursery

I stopped by Swansons Nursery this weekend and was amazed at how many folks were shopping for plants on an overcast day. I'm guessing that the place will be even more insane Mother's Day weekend. Anyway, for those of you folks unfamiliar with Swansons, this popular North Seattle nursery is open daily year-round and offers an excellent selection of perennials, shrubbery, trees, vegetable starts, seasonal plants and more. More than once I have found plants at Swansons that few other local nurseries carried (i.e., Cyclamen Purpurascens, "Birch's Hybrid" campanula, Scilla Tubergeniana). The nursery also features seasonal events, a cafe, frequent sales and promotions. Unfortunately, their prices are the steepest I've seen for nursery plants anywhere in the Seattle area (Molbak's in Woodinville is a close second). Many veggie starts and Spring flower packs are typically "3 for $15". Thus, it's good to follow sales, belong to a local p-patch (p-patch gardeners get 10% off) or be a senior citizen (they get discounts too).

P-Patch Plot Update: Nothing much to report on my plot other than everything is slowly growing. I think most of the plants are waiting for the temperature to raise a few more degrees. The peas haven't taken off yet, but the potatoes are a minor jungle. One new development though...I learned that the space bordering the top of the south property embankment is up for grabs (aka Interbay Land Rush). I managed to claim a 60sf stretch. An hour of back breaking labor digging out a major infestation of crab grass has resulted in some excellent soil. I plan on adding two bags of compost I got from the city (residents received coupons) to start amending the soil. I don't know what I will plant here, but it will probably be corn or pumpkins, anything that likes a lot of sun.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Planting - Update

Well, things are really beginning to take off. With one week left in April, temperatures are up, with some days breaking 60 degrees. Along with the infrequent rain showers, everything green is thriving. I've planted nearly all of this year's vegetables, and am only waiting until May to seed pole green beans and plant some bell pepper starts (the ones from Lowe's have produced the best the last two years).

So, in overview of the current plants...the peas are all up (except for the reseeding) and just waiting for the right temperature to begin their vertical climb. I have two groups of peas, and have already constructed their accompanying trellises. Next, the celery starts are currently in a holding pattern. It's a bit early for them, but this is the time of year the starts are being sold and I purchased these ones at Fred Meyer. The spinach starts are also growing slowly, and being trimmed by the local wildlife. I dosed the plants with some fish fertilizer to motivate them along. The broccoli is showing some new growth and can hopefully be harvested before the weather gets so warm they bolt. The yellow German Butterball potatoes I missed digging up last Fall have re-sprouted (in full force) and have taken over the NE corner of the plot. Finally, I removed most of the crocus/daffodil/hyacinth in the SE quadrant because the space was needed. I plan to research/buy some better quality bulbs (the removed ones were bulk from Fred Meyer) this coming Fall for this spot. So, into this spot, and the remaining room in the middle of the plot, went the corn starts I purchased today. I visited the annual Olympic View Elementary Plant Sale (504 NE 95th St, Seattle, WA 98115) in Mapleleaf today and was enticed with the lure of corn starts. I have yet to figure out how I will fight off the rats in a few months. But, until then, the corn has some great soil to grow in. The SE corner of my plot was a storage spot for excess compost the last couple of years. Needless to say, this area contains the best soil in the entire plot :-)

Finally, the Summer flowering plants are growing like weeds. The lilies are bushing out, the Campanula (Birch's Hybrid) is developing, and the fuchsia is just beginning to sprout out (in a few months it will easily encompass a five-foot diameter).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Visit to The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden

The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is located in Richmond Beach just to the north of Seattle, WA. The four-acre plant collection was assembled by Mareen and Arthur Kruckeberg over several years. Currently, it is open to the public and they also offer guided tours. Towards the front of the property resides the MsK Rare Plant Nursery (open year-round Fri-Sun). They carry the most diverse range of plants I have ever witnessed in a location this size.

The one thing about Kruckeberg that I find particularly exciting is the sheer volume of cyclamen growing wild throughout the property. You can even find it next to the roadway bordering the front of the garden. C. Hederifolium is the most pervasive species, with C. Coum and C. Repandum making up the remainder. In fact, the Repandum is currently in bloom and stands out quite strikingly.

I revisited the garden yesterday in hopes of acquiring a Repandum tuber. Fortunately, they discovered for me a tiny tuber with a single bloom still attached (cost: $7.00). It will probably take this plant a couple of years to mature but the one thing you learn with gardening is patience :-)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Last Wednesday I accompanied a group of folks with the Spontaneous Seattle Trekkers Meetup on a trip to Skagit Valley and La Conner to check out the Tulip Festival. The festival officially starts April 1 but nearly everything was already in bloom and the crowds were light. We visited Rosengard gardens and Christianson's Nursery, and had lunch in downtown La Conner. Needless to say, the show gardens and fields are quite breathtaking in the diversity of flowers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Veggies Planted

The plot is starting to shape up for this growing season. The peas I planted weeks ago have germinated, although not all of them. On Saturday I replanted some more for the bare spots. I'll have to thin the plants before they get too far along in order to have them spaced far enough apart to grow. Also, I planted celery starts (Fred Meyer seems to be the only place that carries them) and Walla Walla sweet onions. On the down side, the broccoli transplants are not doing very well. Some creature (probably snails or slugs) keeps trimming them and I doubt any of the transplants will reach maturity. The Swanson's-bought broccoli transplants from my neighbor are doing quite well. All in all, the plot is quickly running out of planting space. I still need a spot for green beans in another couple of months.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ramping up for Spring

It looks like temperatures are steadily climbing (regardless of the brief appearance of snowflakes reported a couple days ago). I've started work in my plot, mostly digging out grape hyacinth and the bastard offspring of older hyacinth bulbs. These bulbs/bulblings multiple like crazy and I never seem to remove them completely in specific spots each year. Also, I find it challenging to carefully dig out deep-seated bulbs that sit on top of or near to established, permanent plants (cyclamen, fuchsia, campanula).

I planted Alderman Peas a couple weeks ago that are about to break ground. I try to get them in as early as possible since they take 120 days to mature. For the last few years I have been harvesting them in early July. But, I've happy with the results as Alderman will climb upwards of eight feet and produce excellent shelling peas.

Finally, I invested in a small hellebore (Ivory Prince) for diagonal placement to my fuchsia. One perennial will be in bloom in Summer while the other in winter. Several--rapidly multiplying-crocuses and irises will be removed in a few weeks to make room for the hellebore. I'm hoping this plant will bloom for the first time this coming December.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Cyclamen is one of my favorite winter-time plants (Mediterranean region native). Other than poinsettias, C. persicum are probably the most common seasonal holiday plant sold at nurseries and plant stands. Don't mistake these plants with their hardy varieties as the nursery bred plants will not survive freezing temperatures (I've lost several in planters on my covered deck). The adjacent picture is a specimen of C. coum I discovered at Swanson's Nursery last November and was in full bloom by the end of January (it was a mild winter and the plant typically blooms in February). For $9.00 it was a steal considering how developed the plant was.

In addition, I am growing C. hederifolium (the most common/hardy species) in the p-patch plot, and have a bunch of assorted pots on my deck where I'm attempting to cultivate some of the more difficult and exotic species (four of the five pots show signs of growth). Hansen Nursery in North Bend, OR, sells an impressive selection of cyclamen bare root plants.

What really impresses me about this plant is that it looks great year-round and is non-invasive. The striking ivy-like leaves dominate the plant most of the year, and the plant flowers (depending upon species) in fall and winter. So, it isn't uncommon that hardy cyclamen will be blooming in snowy conditions when everything around it is dormant. Cyclamen thrive best under forest trees where there is partial shade and plenty of decomposing leaf matter.

If you are looking to check out hardy cyclamen -- outside of nurseries -- in the Seattle area you are certainly up for a challenge. I know of two places that have the plant. The Seattle Arboretum has a winter garden with many years of cyclamen growth (C. hederifolium and C. coum). Also, the Krukenberg Botanical Garden has C. hederifolium growing in bunches throughout the property and alongside the adjacent roadway.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Very First Post

Hello, world! I figure I would give this blogging a shot now that I have a digital camera and plan on keeping a visual record of my gardening endeavors. A bit about me name is Mark and I moved into Seattle in the late 90's. I got involved with volunteer work in creating a couple of parks on Queen Anne off of Taylor Avenue as well as the Queen Pea P-Patch. After gardening for five years in Queen Pea I was offered a -- larger -- 200sf plot in one of the city's most renowned p-patches: Interbay. I have been gardening at Interbay just over five years and am loving it.