Monday, March 29, 2010

Flooded Spiral Furrows

With wind gusts in the 50 to 70 mph range and rain showers trying their best to keep up, when I found myself less than a block away from the Happy Valley Community Gardens, I decided to stop in to see how the gardens had fared. Obviously, it will be some time before the garden on the corner nearest to my plot will be ready for planting as standing water now clearly defines their spiral furrows.
I was glad that I had moved much of the straw that I had used to mulch my garden beds for the winter onto the walkway between my raised beds. Even though I heard the occasional squishing sound as I walked along, my feet stayed dry.
Having amended the soil in my raised beds last summer with a yard and a half of good quality 5-way soil mix from Bakerview Nursery, my garden remained well-drained with no standing water.
Just outside my garden though the center of the walkway was flooded, yet my raspberry bed was not. All the new starts that had sprung up where they shouldn't have been that I had recently transplanted into that bed looked to have taken hold and had not gotten beaten down or drowned out by all that heavy rain.
The new bed of rhubarb looked great. As did the pots filled with tulips and herbs.
My fence was still standing, but I noticed a few of the posts were leaning just a bit more than they had been. I guess when I put the fence up around my new garden spot, I had better take the time to give some of these posts a couple of reinforcing poundings too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gnat Control

Lucky for me this week's Red Plum ads were nearby. I grabbed the flyer, rolled it up, chased down some gnats (fungas gnats actually), and, I'm sorry, swatted them to death. I saw three gnats flying around my seedlings today. First, one in the afternoon when I peaked in on my little plants, then two more later in the evening. Brushing my hands over the rows of leaves hoping to stir out any others that might be hiding yielded nothing, but my seedlings are doing so well and I don't want to risk ending up with a gnat infestation, so I went to my kitchen and pulled out the ingredients needed to make traps to catch the gnats.If you notice gnats around your plants and want to get rid of them, it's easy enough to make up some traps. All you need is vinegar and water and all you do is pour a tablespoon or two of regular or cider vinegar (wine or fruit juice works well too) into a small container. Then add a few drops of dish detergent.The gnats are attracted to the smell of the vinegar (or wine or juice) and will fly right into it for a taste. The small amount of detergent makes the vinegar slightly sticky so the gnats cannot fly out. Trapped, they drown. Haha gnats! I made up several gnat traps and placed them around my trays of plants.
Overwatering, the most common cause of fungas gnats, is what I think happened with my plants. I've been known to do that before and I need to be more careful about not leaving standing water in the trays the pots sit in after I've finished watering. Gnats, even though rather annoying, typically do not harm healthy, mature plants, but larvae can cause some extensive damage to seedlings. Their larvae are like little grubs, and by gnawing away on the tender roots of seedlings, they can easily kill them. Now I wait, and watch as the soil in my seedling pots slowly dries out, hoping that no more gnats are spotted, and if any are, that my gnat control will be effective.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tomato Leaves

Have you ever looked, I mean really looked, at the leaves on your tomato plants? Even though I've raised lots of different varieties of tomatoes in my gardens over the years, I haven't paid much attention to their leaves. My focus is usually more on picking out the strongest looking plants at the nursery and keeping them healthy so that I could enjoy as many delicious, vine-ripe tomatoes as possible. This year is different though. This year I have lots of seedlings started, so I really have been paying a lot of attention to leaves.As a participant in the "EXTREME" Growing Challenge, one of the three crops I committed to grow from seed was tomatoes, so I'm paying lots of attention to my tomato plants - and their leaves. As it turns out, there are two main leaf types for tomatoes - Regular and Potato leaf types, and there are even variations within each of those two main leaf types. One variation, the Rugose, a Potato leaf that is a darker green and has a puckery surface, and another, the Angora, a Regular leaf that is hairy in its pubescent stage.

I am growing several different varieties of tomatoes and can clearly see the difference in their leaves. These German Pink tomatoes are a Potato leaf tomato. Notice how their leaves have a smooth leaf edge with no interruptions and are deep green in color. Some say that this type of leaf is more tolerant of foliage diseases. That sounds reasonable to me because the heirloom German Pink tomatoes that I'm growing are from seeds my son saved last year from tomatoes he grew from seeds that his neighbor gave him. Those tomatoes, with seeds saved season after season for over a hundred years since being brought to this country from Germany by relatives of his neighbor, would have to be disease tolerant in order to continue to produce such tasty fruit year after year.
The Lunch Mate and Big Boy tomatoes, Regular leaf tomatoes. Both are hybrid tomatoes but I do not believe that has anything to do with their leaf type. The edges of their leaves have a more serrated-like edge and even though still tiny plants with very few sets of leaves, the leaves of the Lunch Mate tomato, pictured in the upper left of this photo, appear dissected and are a bit longer.
It's my observation that the Regular Leaf tomatoes seem to be faster growers - at least in the seedling stage. With close to a month yet before our last average frost date here in the Pacific Northwest, my seedlings have plenty of time yet to grow quite a bit before they are transplanted into my Happy Valley Community Garden spot. Now I wonder from which variety I will eat my first vine-ripe tomato.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


My granddaughter Megan is going on a mission trip this summer to Kamonkoli, Uganda! A junior at Platte Canyon High School, Megan is an honor roll student and an active member of the speech club and the swim team. In addition to school activities, Megan works part time as a waitress at the cafe in Bailey, Colorado and stays active with the church youth group at Platte Canyon Community Church.Megan tells me that she feels missionary work is something that she wants to continue throughout her life and that this upcoming trip to Uganda is a great opportunity to once again delve into that line of work. You see, this will be her second mission trip. Last summer, she went on a mission trip to Cortez, Colorado and helped make improvements to a school building.
In Cortez, she and her friends not only worked hard, but they had a wonderful opportunity to learn about and experience the culture there.
Megan is now faced with the challenge of raising the necessary funds for this upcoming trip and has sent me this letter:
Dear Grandma Rose and friends,

I hope that all is well on this cold March day and that you are staying warm! I am very glad to tell you about my opportunity to go on a trip to Africa this summer. I have committed to joining a group of people from my church, the Platte Canyon Community Church
, to set out on a mission trip to Uganda in July.

My trip is scheduled from mid July through early August. Our group will be partnering with Katherine Hines and her ministry called Hine Ugandan Ministries, or HUM. My church has been supporting Katherine since she began her ministry in the late 90's. When my group travels to Katherine's ministry in Kamonkoli this summer, I am expecting to serve in a variety of ways. Some ways could be visiting the children in her program, teaching Bible studies and life skills classes, leading worship, performing skits, food distrubution, helping with the AWANA program, or construction of new facilities.

When my pastor Jay approached me about this trip, I was thrilled. My love for going on missions trips started last summer when I went on a trip to Cortez, Colorado. I loved knowing that I was making a huge difference in the lives of the people I was serving. This chance to go to Uganda and help HUM is an opportunity I never even dreamed I would ever be presented with.

Throughout the difficulties and hurdles to overcome in this world, the need for committed and willing hearts grows all the more. I believe that one thing is true throughout all struggles:
With men this is impossible, with God all things are possible, (Mark 19:26). This verse is one I always keep in mind even in the darkest of times.

A struggle I have to overcome on my journey to Uganda is the money I need to go. I have the task of raising $3,000.00 by July 1st, 2010. It is with a sincere heart that I ask you for a monetary contribution of any amount to help me reach this large financial goal. If you are able to help with funds for this mission, please make your check payable to PCCC and send to:

(for: Megan Mercier - Uganda)
PO Box 147
Bailey, CO 80421

Donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be sent to you for your contribution. Any and all help will be appreciated! I thank you for your support and hope that you keep my missions team and I in your prayers during our journey.

Megan Ann Mercier
Having spent a couple of years in and around Africa myself, I am thrilled that Megan will have the opportunity to not only see Uganda, but also to help the people there. To learn more about this mission trip, follow this link - 2010 Uganda Mission Trip Page - to visit their mission trip page on Facebook. There you will find updated information, photos from their previous church mission trips to Uganda, and you can follow their fundraising efforts.
Here is Megan during the mission trip to Cortez last summer.
What an outstanding young lady this granddaughter of mine!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Early Spring Zone 8a

USDA hardiness zones based on average minimum winter temperatures rather than average high temperatures and length of the growing season, are a good guideline to follow when determining which plants you might expect to survive outside during winter, but I'm not convinced they help much with my seasonal vegetable garden. Gardening in the most northwestern county of Washington State, my Happy Valley Community Garden plots are located just under three miles inland from the coast, in Zone 8a according to the map. The key to this map indicates the average minimum temperature in Zone 8a to be 10 degrees F. This last winter, even though exceptionally mild and lacking in snowfall, did have a few nights early on where the temperature dipped even a little lower than that, so an average minimum temperature of 10 degrees sounds reasonable to me. Even though that doesn't tell me anything about what I can expect during the spring, summer and fall growing season, I do take the fact that I garden in Zone 8a into consideration in the fall when mulching around periennial flowers, herbs and fruits that are established in my garden.

I pay more attention to our average last frost date than our average minimum temperature when determining when to start planting the most tender vegetables outside. According to Jeff Renner, Chief Meterologist for King 5 in Seattle, the last average frost date for Seattle is March 22 and the last average frost date for Bellingham is May 5. Even though we seem to be experiencing an early spring with highs already into the 50s nearly every afternoon, most mornings I still see a thick, crunchy frost on my lawn. It is obviously still too early to set out tomato, squash or pepper plants. But it's not too early to start cleaning up the garden, so that's where I've been lately. I've been spending my afternoons puttering around with my rake and wearing my garden gloves in my already established garden at the Happy Valley Community Gardens.I've raked up some of the straw mulch put down last fall and pruned the raspberries, transplanting those tender new sprouts that poked up where they shouldn't be back into the boundaries of my raspberry patch. I uncovered a couple of the smaller raised beds, raked off the mulch, worked in a little fertilizer and planted my first crop of some of my favorite cool-weather vegetables.
In one bed, I planted Bok Choy Cabbage, Italian Lacinato Kale, Cool Weather Fava Broad Beans, Oregon Giant Snow Peas, Early Wonder Tall Top Beets, Baby's Leaf Spinach, French Breakfast Radishes, and then some Jester Marigolds to discourage the pesky bugs.
In other raised beds, I sowed seeds for my first planting of Red Russian Kale, Prizehead Leaf Lettuce, "America" Spinach, Crimson Giant Radishes, Little Marvel Bush Peas. After pruning back the snapdragons that survived the winter and are sprouting again, in between those plants, I scattered some Brilliant Red Oriental Poppy seeds.
All safe crops safe to sow in the garden even in the late fall in Zone 8a. The lettuce won't even begin to sprout until the soil temperature reach close to 70 degrees, but as a gardener, I was getting a bit of spring fever so felt the need to get out there, do some gardening, plant something.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Everyone Loves a Parade

Bellingham kicked off its Saint Patrick's Day celebrations a little early this year with its first annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade. Starting at noon, the streets were lined with cheering crowds as the parade worked its way up Cornwall Avenue and on through downtown Bellingham. Helping to spread awareness of the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network within our community, with stranding response team members Trisha and Julie, I helped carry the banner for the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network along the parade route.
Followed in the parade by the Bellingham Roller Betties, we certainly heard lots of applause and cheers. The afternoon ended with a huge after party at Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro. With a stage in the beer garden filled with lively Irish musicians and dancers, and great food coming off their barbeque, it really was a lot of fun. Everyone loves a parade!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Barry's House

As the construction continues, it really is looking more and more like a house - Barry's dream house. Barry, as his own contractor, is very busy every single day.
Barry's house viewed from the street today.

Some of the house-building guys working at the Bosch.

View the latest constructon progress.

Follow these links to Barry's blog - - and to his website - - to read more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Personal Garden

Adding my name and number to that list at the 2nd Annual Seed Swap seemed appropriate as I had just learned that my garden space had doubled this season and felt a little help would be great. It was a list for those putting in a new garden, or new to gardening, interested in receiving a garden kit. Celt telephoned me the other day to schedule a time for me to pick up my kit. With boxes stuffed with neatly packaged envelopes lining her living room floor, she handed me a packet labeled "A Personal Garden" and indicated that everything I needed, seeds and instructions, were all inside.
Celt has been giving away seeds since 2002. She writes in the information provided in her garden kit that it's her way of being the change that she wants to see in the world and giving back to her community. Each kit contains enough seeds to grow several hundred pounds of vegetables, providing a small family most of their fresh vegetables for a year. The dollar amount of savings from this kit is truly worth hundreds of dollars, and as Celt states in the "About Celt Schira and the Garden Kits" portion of the printed materials she provides, the joy of gardening - priceless. So true! I was excited to see what was inside as I poured the contents of my garden kit onto the table.Dozens of seed packets spilled out, all individually labeled, and then three pages of carefully folded instructions landed on top.
Organizing the packets into the categories mentioned (cool season, early spring, spring, warm season, late July/early August and late summer, August through September) was easy to do as it was all spelled out in Celt's easy-to-follow instructions. With directions for sowing a small amount of seeds directly in our gardens in intervals in the spring and again in the late summer/early fall to yield a long harvest, the Cool Season crops include several varieties of green onions, lettuce (described as lettuce riot - a happy mix of many heirloom leaf lettuces for cut-and-come-again salads), a fast growing, 30-day spring radish and fava beans, a nitrogen fixing edible cover crop yielding tender shelled beans when young, or when more mature, delicious shelled and sauted or simmered.
The early spring packets include mixed flowers referred to as a "beneficial mix". Described as a mixture of flowers and flowering herbs that attract pollinators and predator insects to help take care of the garden, some require cool weather to germinate so the instructions indicate planting a pinch as soon as the ground can be worked and then planting a few at a time until June. Also included for spring planting are red and yellow beets, broccoli (to be started in small pots indoors and transplanted into the garden once they have four true leaves), a packet containing heirloom varieties of savoy and red cabbage, Nantes carrots, Swiss chard, cilantro, dill (with instructions to plant near the cabbage to discourage the cabbage butterfly), a mix of Asian greens (oriental greens, pak choi, mustard and other stuff great for stir fries when young and tender), Italian flat leaf parsley, edible pod peas, spinach, leeks and sweet yellow clover, a nitrogen fixing cover crop that mines phosphorus from the subsoil to plant as a cover plant the first part of May in any garden beds that won't be used until fall.
Sowing directly around June 1, or starting in pots in May for early June transplant to the garden, the warm season crops include sweet mammoth and genovese basils and two varieties of bush beans and cranberry pole beans (from Krista's bean project), sweet marketmore cucumbers, two to three different colors and shapes of summer squashes, small winter squashes - acorn and delicata, 3 to 4 mixed varieties of hard shelled winter squashes, a mixture of sunflowers (edible white and black oilseed) and two varieties of tall flowers (zinnias and large marigolds).
Turnips and rutabagas are included for the late July - early August catagory. Rutagagas, one of my winter root vegetable favorites, always seem to taste so much better when grown in your garden.
August through September late summer vegetables include a fall salad mix called Mesclun, or salad nicoise, that contains a mix of chicories, radicchio, Italian parsley, chives, green onion, spinach, romaine and other green stuffs that add flavor and crunch to heirloom leaf lettuces. The instructions say to plant a pinch weekly for continuous fall salads. Spinach, black Spanish winter radishes, a mixture of heirloom kales and a packet labeled Happy Green are also inluded with the late summer vegetables. Happy greens are described as one of Celt's own breeding projects, a broccoli cross kale or red cabbage that makes delicious leaves. Sounds like these happy greens get quite large as each plant requires about a square foot of space, and when kept harvested, the leaves will continue to come back. In the milder winter climate of the Pacific Northwest, the description says that in the spring it may even come back a broccoli. Tyfon, a winter hardy, edible cabbage-family cover crop with mild tasting leaves that can be cut repeatedly and sauteed or steamed is the cover crop included with this group of seeds to help protect our garden soil.
Celt estimates the "street value" of each of the kits she gives away, including her vegetable starts, to be at least $30.00. Based on the prices I've seen for heirloom and organic seeds and starts, I suspect that estimate to be on the low side in today's market. She also offers heirloom tomato starts along with some herbs and other vegetables for sale from April to June. Celt cheerfully accepts donations to help fund her purchase of seed envelopes, seeds and potting soil in which to grow her starts so that she can help more gardeners grow edible food gardens. Tell your friends.
Celt maintains an informative garden blog at Celt M. Schira Blog. For more information or to make a donation, contact Celt at Celt writes that when we save seed and pass them along, we gain skill in growing and saving them, and in cooking the bounty of our gardens, it all becomes part of our heritage. Thank you, Celt, for so generously sharing!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

The Garden Song, performed by hundreds of other great performers, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary, Arlo Guthrie, John Denver and even the Muppets, to name just a few of my other favorite versions, makes for great springtime inspiration. Here it is, performed by its author, David Mallett, in concert at the University of Maine at Augusta.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Summer Carnival

With majestic spikes of colorful blooms from mid summer to fall, hollyhocks have long been one of my garden favorites. These are some of the beauties I grew in my 2003 garden in Wenatchee, WA.With full double flowers in shades of deep crimson, rose, light pink, yellow, apricot and white, the Summer Carnival Mix (Malvaceae Alcea rosa) made the All-American Selections (AAS) list in 1972. A biennial, I have one dozen of these beauties started for my garden this season.The Summer Carnival variety promises to flower within four months of planting, so hopefully we will see some flowers this season. I think I'll plant six of these hollyhocks where my sunflowers were last year, and the other six along one of the fence lines of my new garden space.
And won't they be absolutely lovely there.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Growing Challenge - German Pinks

As part of this year's "EXTREME" Growing Challenge, I committed to (1) grow three crops from seed, (2) plant the seed in three new people by inspiring them to grow plants from seed, (3) tell the story about my seed plantings "here" at One Green Generation, and, since I'm participating in the "EXTREME" version of this challenge, I will (4) make it seed to seed by harvesting some of my own seed.While it is only the first of March and still just a tad too mucky for me to actually start playing in the dirt in my own garden, my growing three crops from seed portion of this challenge is well under way.
Choosing the heirloom German Pink Tomato seeds that I received from my son as one of the three crops to grow for this challenge, late last week I started some.
When explaining my particiption in the Growing Challenge to a close friend, a farmer and grower himself of hundreds and hundeds of acres of vegetable seeds for various seed companies, he asked me my definition of an "heirloom" crop. Even though I have certainly been hearing the term "heirloom" used a lot lately to describe many vegetables and flowers, often see it printed on seed packets in the stores or used in the plant descriptions online and in seed catalogs, and have been freely using the term myself, I didn't quite know how to answer his question. I decided I should do a little research about what could and couldn't be called an "heirloom" crop. Since I am also particpating in a GROW Project this year with sponsored by Renee's Garden, I had recently visited Renee's website and remembered seeing something about the definition there so that proved to be a good place to start. In Renee's online article called "Heirlooms and Hybrids - What's the best for the home garden", here is a direct quote from a portion of that article that provides a good definition,

All heirloom varieties are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated varieties can be considered heirlooms. Unfortunately, the definition of "heirloom" has been somewhat of a moving target recently; but, generally, it means a variety that is at least 40-50 years old, no longer available in the commercial seed trade and that has been preserved and kept true in a particular region."

There is more to the definition in the article and it is definitely worth the read, but based on that definition, these German Pink Tomatoes certainly are worthy of the term "heirloom" as they have been passed down, generation after generation for at least 100 years.
If how quickly seeds germinate are any indicator as to how well the crop will do, I think we are off to a great start because a after only three days, already tiny German Pink Tomato seedlings are poking their faces up toward the lights hanging above their tray.
Some of the other heirloom varieties I also have under my grow lights are the Waltham Butternut Squash and Round French Zucchini heirloom seed I received from the gardener/blogger over at 14 Acres blogspot, and Jester Marigolds I received at the Seed Swap. From beans to spinach to flowers, having received many varieties of heirloom seeds at that Seed Swap, I just might have difficulty narrowing my reporting down to only THREE crops for this "EXTREME" Growing Challenge. Hmmm, perhaps I should look up the definition of an "EXTREME" home gardener too.