Fox Island Garden Club

Gardening Tip of the Month
By Linda Dodds

December Garden Tip
Friday, December 01, 2017
Along with writing about an idea for a monthly garden suggestions, OI also sometimes suggest a recipe that you may want to make for a specific month, I also may suggest a recipe that is special to make for for that specific month and one that humans would enjoy enjoy.

But since I didn't want to leave out other ALMOST family members I decided that this month would be a good time to offer a recipe that they (birds) would enjoy. I found the recipe in a copy of Birds and Blooms several years ago, I want you all to know how much they really love it. and how not only tiny titmouse birds, sparrows, blue jays, chickadees,but also the flickers and woodpeckers love these little squares of nutrition.

Start by saving commercial suet blocks. Probably at least ten or even more. Don't be worried about trying to completely clean them as it takes forever. Be forewarned though, that if you start making your own suet, the birds will take a while before they will accept store bought bird suet again for quite a while.

Recipe as follows:
1 cup lard
1 cup crunchy peanut butter ( I purchased a huge jar from Costco)
One cup birdseed
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup flour

Melt lard and peanut butter. Add sugar to the melted mix. Combine remaining ingredients and form into blocks or spread in empty past plastic forms that commercial suet was sold in. Refrigerate and keep cold until placed in blocks.

If the birds were really appreciative of all the quick and easy meals, they would tweet your great meals to the sky and beyond but I guess that is not doable by such small dinosaurs.

November 2017 Gardem Tip of the Month
Wednesday, November 01, 2017
For the sometimes blustery, but also occasionally balmy month of November... Here are your do's and don'ts.

Do fertilize your lawn with a fall and winter fertilizer. The nitrogen will be dormant until spring and then kicks in with a vengeance and start your lawn growing before the spring weeds even wake up. Do plant your bulbs now and that includes tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and the best of all... GARLIC. These bulbs need some cold weather before starting to grow in spring so plant them all now before December arrives.

Do rake up and clean up all decaying perennials and your workload will be easier next spring. Do keep on knocking the heads off all annual weeds and keep the yard as weed free as time allows.

Keep raking falling leaves and either compost them or use them to cover vegetable and annual beds to keep weeds from sprouting in the spring. Tender perennials covered with a blanket of leaves will survive under much more harsh conditions than those completely exposed to the elements. Itís also a great way to protect tender artichoke plants.

Now for the don'ts. Donít prune back hardy fuchsias, hardy hibiscus, hydrangeas or roses until next late February or March. Pruning now may cause new growth to start and the cold weather will just kill that all back and damage the plants.

Do not try to kill weeds by spraying with Roundup. That product only works in 70 degree + weather and will not kill the weeds, but will just return to the soil as nitrogen and eventually make it back into the sound where it would feed plants that kill off the oxygen that the fish need to survive.

Do start planning your garden for next year. Cut out pictures of gardens that you would enjoy in your space and come up with plans to incorporate them into your yard or to have similar plantings that would give you the same feelings of comfort.

Ask yourself... do I want an easy to maintain NW rhody and azalea garden, a cottage garden or a tropical looking garden?

Do I enjoy deadheading petunias and geraniums or do I want easy maintenance plants and then go from there. And one suggestion is to draw out a map of your 2017 vegetable garden with which plats were grown where in your garden.

That way, as you plan your vegetable garden for next year, you will not put the same plants in the same spot again next year. For example, plant tomatoes next year in a different location to keep any viruses problems.

Another good idea is if you plant beans, then plant corn there next year. Beans are nitrogen fixers to the soil and corn is a real nitrogen fixer. The Indians taught that to the pilgrims and their crops did much better with some tasty fish guts in the soil.

Since November can also be blustery, check occasionally to be sure no limbs have been snapped in strong winds. If there are some, cut them back to a joint so the shrub or tree does not suffer further damage and rot.

October Garden Tip of the Month
Sunday, October 01, 2017
A few years ago I wrote about how that summer had been the warmest gardening year I had ever had in Washington after moving up from California in 1979. I believe this past summer has passed that in warmth and lack of rain. However the spring months were rainy and cold so my tomato plants have not really been ripening as early as in past years.

I have a dozen San Marzano plants and Black Krim tomato plants and only one ripe fruit of each species so far. I have cut back all the extra non production growth and leaves so the green tomatoes can get some sun and warmth to help them ripen. If they donít get ripe before the real fall chills set in, then I will pick them green and take them downstairs and put them on paper towels on my bar and cover them up to ripen. There will be some that may rot and will have to be thrown away but itís worth it to mostly have seeds to store for next year. However I had lots of French green beans, artichokes, basil, cucumbers, beets and potatoes.

And now I have a clean southern roof on my greenhouse so next years starts should be happier than this past years crops with the addition of more sun and heat.

I also had very few Asian pears, apples and pears but I am sure that is because of the cold spring weather kept the bees holed up in their hives. And the good part of the fewer fruit was that these were the largest fruit I have ever picked from my trees. I guess it shows the real value in thinning your fruit trees.
Anytime from mid Oct to just before Thanksgiving is a good time to be putting down a good slow feeding lawn fertilizer. Then when spring starts showing signs of warmer weather, your lawn will have a good start to overtaking any weed seeds that had hoped to make a home in your lawn also.

As leaves start to fall, keep them raked up and use them as free ground mulch in your garden beds. Tender plants that can remain in your garden all year, such as artichokes, may make it through to another great production for next year. And covering them and other plants with light branches, ferns and non-seeding weeds can also be a great winter blanket for your garden plants that might be a little iffy in the pacific Northwest gardens.

Have a fun fall and enjoy the blessings of colors that show up every year.

September Tip of the Month
Friday, September 01, 2017
So August was a HOT and DRY month which we donít normally have in such abundance. I finally had enough cucumbers so I could start making pickles but because only two of my dill plants grew from seed, I have had to purchase a few bunches of dill and then start pickling. I believe I already gave you my Aunt Olgaís dill pickle recipe last year so I wonít be doing it again this year. However, I also have been making mulled fig and mulled blackberry vinegars along with blackberry cordial this year too. The blackberry cordial is made by taking a quart of blackberries and infusing them with 1 cup of sugar and then adding one qt.of 100 proof vodka. Shake the mixture once a week for up to 2 months. Strain the liquid through a metal sieve and then through a coffee filter to remove the fruit. Pour into pretty bottles. Drink as a cordial or use to flavor lemonade or iced tea or even ice cream. Thanks, Abby Schofield for sharing this recipe!

I donít know about other gardeners, but I have had a fantastic crop of French green beans, potatoes, Swiss chard, beets, basil and cucumbers. I picked 50 cukes from about 10 plants the other evening and then spent the rest of the night making pickles.

To keep annual baskets looking their best, trim the ends to stimulate new growth and then give them a good drink of liquid fish fertilizer or compost tea. Be sure to water the plants well before fertilizing them so that the nutrients will be absorbed throughout the whole pot and not just run along the side of the pot. Water lawns and shrubs less often, but when you do water, water deeply. This will encourage roots to stretch themselves as far as possible into the soil. If you have a lot of run off when you water, stop watering for a bit and give the soil a chance to absorb water and then continue to water until an empty tuna can has 1 inch of water in it. One inch is enough to keep your lawn looking great for a whole week as long as it is not just running off and being wasted.

Enjoy pickling, canning, freezing and dehydrating through Sept and into October.

August Garden Tip of the Month
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Instead of doing a lot of canning This August, you may realize that your produce has not grown or produced as it has in the previous last few years. I think the cold and wet spring kept a lot of us from planting at the usual times or the vegetable seeds did not have the needed heat to sprout or grow as fast as usual. I planted many seeds that never germinated so had to reseed later on in early summer. However this first week of August could change all that as itís predicted we may see over 100 degrees in some areas. Beans should be producing like gang busters soon if not already and tomato plants should be ripening soon. Keep watering less frequently but deeper than you may have been doing. Otherwise in case we should have water shortages, the roots will not have grown down deep enough to search for moisture and will be more susceptible to stress.

August is when I usually start making my flavored vinegars and I want to share with you my favorite discovery of a vinegar I experimented with and made last year. However I may not be able to pick the ripe fruit until mid or late August. After making, blueberry basil, raspberry, mulled blackberry and herb vinegars I decided to try and use up my abundance of figs off my tree. And it was delicious and is now my favorite.

Here is my recipe for fig vinegar which works for most other kinds also.

Fig vinegar

1 qt ripe washed and stemmed figs
5 cups white wine vinegar, divided

Place figs in a large glass bowl. With a potato masher crush figs with 1 cup of white wine vinegar. Add remaining vinegar, stirring to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in a dark cool place 70-75* for 3-4 weeks, stirring every 2-3 days. Taste weekly until desired strength is achieved.

Prepare hot water canner jars and lids.

Line a strainer with several layers of cheese cloth and place over a large stainless steel saucepan. Strain vinegar without squeezing cheesecloth. Discard cheesecloth and residue. Place saucepan over medium heat and heat vinegar to 180*F.
Ladle hot vinegar into hot jars leaving ľ inch headspace. Wipe jar rim and center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring that jars are completely covered with water. Place canner lid on pot, bring water to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remover canner lid and let jars remain in the pot for 5 minutes before removing the jars to cool and store.

I also tried some fig vinegar with the addition to the crushed fig and vinegar mixture of 2 cinnamon sticks broken in pieces, 1 tbls. each of whole cloves and allspice. It was also delicious!

July Garden Tip of the Month
Saturday, July 01, 2017
May and most of June just didnít give us any indication that Summer was right around the corner until around June 23 when the temperature started to soar. It was a relief to see that the sun still could heat our earth but it sure didnít do it gradually or gracefully. In case you havenít already been set on a watering schedule, the weekend scorcher should have made you aware that itís time to set it up. Lawns seem to the most water but watering every day does not keep your lawn green and healthy. Lawns only need about 1 inch of water a week so instead of just sprinkling daily, give your lawn a good soaking at one time. The grass roots will grow deeper looking for water and will be in a much better condition to fight off weeds and grow lush and green.

To test to see how long it takes to water to one inch in depth, try this very uncomplicated process. Place empty cans the size of tuna cans around your lawn where different sprinkler heads are wateringÖturn on your sprinkler and check to see how long it takes to water one inch deep in each location. You may need to adjust your sprinkler to cover all areas equally.

Watering potted plants will take more time as the pots will dry out much faster than plants planted directly in the garden. Flowers in pots need to be deadheaded once a week to keep them blooming. Otherwise they figure they have done their job in producing seeds for the next generation and decide to just grow old and retire since their work is done. Keep them young and healthy by removing spent flowers, adding fertilizer routinely and they will keep looking fresh and lovely. Think of it as a beauty treatment for your flowering pots.

Keep your vegetables producing by picking them as soon as they are ready. Hopefully you staggered the seeds for leafy vegetables so you will have a fresh supply all summer. Even beans, carrots and herbs such as basil and parsley can be reseeded occasionally.

I just emailed a question regarding humming birds to a site to get some information on beak rot. I had a hummingbird that stayed at my feeder, almost living there and was gaining weight so fast, I could see the difference almost daily. He had what I thought at first was an unusually long beak but then I realized that the end of it was floppy. I thought maybe something was stuck on his beak or his tongue was too long. He rocked back and forth on the feeder rest and I was able to get within a foot or two from him before he would fly off. I thought if I could capture him or her, I could take it to a vet but I was out weeding the other day and found him dead. His beak was definitely rotting away so I cleaned out my feeders and rinsed them with hydrogen peroxide.

Thanks and happy Summer gardening!

June Garden Tip of the Month
Thursday, June 01, 2017
The plants and seeds that do best in warm weather can safely be planted this month. That list includes tomatoes, squash, beans, corn, cucumbers, basil, eggplant and peppers. Bedding plants are best for tomato, eggplant and peppers as they take a while to mature and produce before the season is over. As I try to be as organic as possible in my gardening, I do not use any chemicals with my vegetable starts. When planting tomatoes, I add a handful of alfalfa meal into each hole, mix it in with home processed compost and then plant them and water well. Seeds for squash, beans, corn and cucumbers sprout readily in the warmer weather. Basil can be planted either by seed or small plants. Most of the veggies get compost and fish fertilizer except for peas and beans which are nitrogen fixers and require nothing except compost. They make a great soil additive as even their roots contain nitrogen and they continue to add nitrogen to the soil even for the next year.

Corn uses a lot of nitrogen to grow and produce while pole beans need good support so planting them next to each other is a win - win situation. There is one problem though and that is that raccoons love corn and will destroy the stalks along with the corn and beans just about the time the corn is ready to pick. There is an app for that! It's call growing cucumber plants around and within the corn plants. Those little corn thieves hate the prickly leaves on the cucumbers and will stay away from them which gives you the opportunity to actually salvage the stalks for Halloween as well as enjoy the corn.

Never plant nightshade plants of tomato or potatoes in the same place as either of them were grown the previous year. It helps to do a yearly drawing of which vegetable was planted where in the garden. Otherwise it is hard to wait until the next year and just try to guess where they were grown. The cause of the great potato famine in Ireland was caused by growing the same crop over and over in the same spot. The blight spread to epic proportions forcing many of their citizens to emigrate to the US rather than starve to death.

Most annual flowers can also be added to your garden to punch up your yard with sizzling color. Petunias, inpatients, lobelia, fuchsias and begonias are in this group. Give any of these plants a good soaking before removing them from their pots and planting them. Usually potting soil tends to be very porous and will let the water run right through and around newly planted plants so the soaking really gets them off to a good start. Osmocote fertilizer granules are great to add to your plantings along with a solution of Alaska fish fertilizer. The fish fertilizer gives instant nutrition and the Osmocote is a slow release granular fertilizer that continues to feed the plants for several months. Don't forget to deadhead the faded blossoms to not only keep plantings looking neat but also to encourage new blossoms.

Water deeply during the summer months but certainly not daily. Keep pulling weeds, use up produce before it flowers go goes to waste and enjoy the lovely weather.

March Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
This year the traditional ĎMarch comes in Like a Lion and Goes out Like a Lamb Ďis being replaced by ĎOrange is the new Blackí. That seems to have been the theme of this yearís NW Flower and Garden show in Seattle. Several of the display gardens not only incorporated edibles in the landscape but also vibrant displays of the color orange. The hardscape included brightly colored orange pillows and even orange tables. Along with the garden art that included lots of orange hues made the gardens really pop. I was a little disappointed though in the gardens as there were no large waterfall cascading gardens nor new varieties of that must have plant.

However the ones they did have on display were a lot more urban and suburban friendly with edible groundcovers and tons of fragrant blooming plants and flowers. Itís those fragrances that bring me back every year along with the canned bird songs playing.

You may want to incorporate edibles into your own gardens instead of using just a few shrubs and trees and having all that mulch and bark covering your garden beds. Instead of pulling out weeds all summer, it would be much nicer to cut some herbs, lettuces, peas and carrots to add to your meals.

March is the traditional month to plant and prune roses. Beware of sales on roses that are not marked and known varieties to our area. There are books on the care and growing needs of roses and which are climbers, blight resistant, the color or very fragrant. And today with the popular ĎGoogle ití phrase, do some research first so you know which roses to choose and how to plant and care for them.

Iím sure Iím not alone in feeling overwhelmed with the flowering weeds spreading all over our grounds. Just think of pulling them as free exercise. Besides the fact that pulling them before they flower and reseed as a time saver for this summer when you can enjoy putting on an apron, big flouncy skirt, high heels and a big hat for clipping bouquets. Ha ha haÖthat just never happens except in our dreams! Now my side is aching from laughing so hard.

Happy almost Spring.

February 2017 Garden Tip of the Month
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Get out your calendars and mark February 22 Ė 26 for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show at the Seattle Convention Center. This year promises to be even more exciting as it not only features garden seminars, display gardens and tons of garden supply and related products for sale but also this year features a display of handcrafted floral designed cakes.

I know that a trip to Seattle may seem daunting to many of you who donít do well in traffic, but just think how lucky we are to live as close to Seattle as we are. The event is the largest gardening event west of Philadelphia and not only draws people from Alaska and Vancouver, Canada to San Francisco and all the states east of us. There are over 100 educational gardening seminars demonstration gardens and a vintage market place as well as everything gardening related items for sale.

Itís a great place to look for ideas that you can reproduce in your own yard, see the newest shrubs and flowers and purchase seeds and plants. Itís a must for most garden clubs and just garden lovers.

I usually start my edible pea pods and tomato plants in mid to end of February so I enjoy shopping for the seeds I may not have saved from the previous year. If you look at the seed packages for tomatoes, they usually tell you whether the seeds are from Heirloom or hybrid plants. Remember that hybrids most likely will not produce the same tomato as the variety that you have saved from the previous yearís crop.

February is a good time to start the Great War on Weeds. Choose a fairly sunny day and focus on pulling out even a few of the shot weed and other flowering weeds that produce millions of seeds. Even if itís only for a few minutes at a time, you will be saving hours of summer weeding. And reallyÖisnít summer meant to be enjoyed instead of pulling weeds all day long.

Roses can be pruned in late February and usually so can hydrangeas. But donít be too severe in your pruning in case we should get hit with a real cold snap for the end of the month and into March.

January Tip of the Month
Sunday, January 01, 2017
Happy 2017 Gardening year!
Most of January tips I have written throughout the years, include suggestions for making a garden plan in January by reviewing what you liked or disliked about your previous gardening experience.
This year I have decided to just focus on making the remaining winter months a more pleasant place for visitors, which would be birds. And most people do not want to have bird seeds scattered all over their yards and thus encouraging rats, mice and raccoons to stop seeing your home as their local restaurant.
Many of those problems can be attributed to using birdseed that is scattered by the birds as they throw out most of the seeds and focus on the black oil sunflower seeds. I just use the sunflower seeds exclusively at the feeders and fill my suet feeders with something really tasty to the birds. In fact, your homemade version of suet can be so delicious, the birds stick their beaks up at prepackaged store bought suet until they realize youíre not feeling so inclined to be their personal chef. This is an easy recipe to experiment with and make any variations to within reason. Iíll occasionally add crushed unsalted peanuts or use different type of, sitting in the cupboard too long, rye, rice or whole wheat flours or different kinds of cereal. Just as long as it can hold a shape and not leek out of the suet cages itís worth experimenting.
Homemade Bird Suet
1 cup of lard
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 cup birdseed
Melt lard and peanut butter. Add sugar to the melted mix. Combine remaining ingredients and form into blocks* and then freeze.
* I save out the firmer of the old used store purchased suet containers and clean them up to store the suet in the freezer. You can easily double the recipe but just remember you will need a lot of plastic forms.

Happy 2017 Gardening year!