Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale – This Weekend! April 30, 2009

This is to me the most exciting plant sale of the year. It’s nearly all edibiles, mostly organic, and you can just see people quivering with excitement about bringing home their plants and looking ahead to the delicious harvest.

In past years, I have braved the mobs and gone early on the first day, the better to have a good selection, but I’m betting that this year will be a record-breaker in terms of attendance so I might go on Sunday instead and just take what’s left. They are supposed to bring in a new shipment of plants for that day, so I figure there’ll be at least something interesting as long as I don’t get my heart set on anything in particular.

Will this be the year I finally break down and buy a stevia for sweetening my summer iced teas? Or try something really unusual like Persian Cress (similar to watercress but can grow in drier soil)? Or actually attend a demo put on by a Master Composter?

Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale

Meridian Park,4649 Sunnyside Ave N, Seattle

Saturday, May 2 from 9am to 3pm and Sunday, May 3 from 11am to 3pm

For more info about the sale, including PDFs of what’s for sale, click here.

Do you have an all-time-favorite can’t-miss plant sale that you move mountains to get to every year?

Edible Plant Sale Notice


Urban Fauna April 29, 2009

Filed under: fauna — greenwalks @ 9:15 am
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In the city of Seattle, we are pretty much accustomed to co-existing with creatures great and small, wild and tame. In the course of a single day, it’s unremarkable to see a wide variety of birds, insects, marsupials and rodents, as well as the usual variety of domestic pets.

It’s easy to get a bit jaded when there are eagles and herons close by and hummingbirds buzzing around the backyard on a daily basis. So you walk around and see these

Squirrel looking for acorns in spring

and some of these

City chickens free-ranging

evidence of moles unseen


hilariously wide cat posing in front of restored door

Big kitty and beautiful door

Nothing too out of the ordinary. But then, on a drive to see friends in the southern part of town but still within city limits, something a little different:

Cow in the city?!

Huh?! I know that Seattle just made it legal to own pygmy goats, but I hadn’t heard about cows! Turns out this is a family farm that has been passed down through generations and is one of two remaining designated farm plots in the city. I guess that’s one way to rid your grass of dandelions! Wonder if it makes the milk taste funky?

What’s the most unusual creature you ever saw in a city?


The Power of Pink April 28, 2009

One benefit of blogging about public spaces is that it’s making me look around a lot more this year and enjoy what’s going on in gardens other than my own. I don’t think I recall having noticed these trees in bloom before, even though they are right around the corner from my house.

Powerful pink flowering crabapple trees

My borrowed camera does not do justice to the intense purply-pink of the flowers. They are stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous.

The petals are thick and fleshy, and looking up into them they almost completely blot out the sky.

Zowie pink crabapple flowers

A few days after I took these pictures, I saw the owner coming out of his house and asked if he knew anything about the trees. He said he thinks they are crabapples, and that they do require a couple of rounds of spraying per year to keep them in good health and blooming so splendidly. My plant bible says that purple-flowering (and -leaved) crabapple, Malus x purpurea, is highly prone to both fireblight and apple scab. If that’s what they indeed are, then the sprays are probably for those reasons. I wonder if they’re using organic/non-harmful controls? I didn’t feel like I could ask that, already having been kind of nosy.

The petals are still hanging in there this week, although they will probably start to come down as the rains return today after a long departure. I’m going to make sure to walk underneath at least once more before their ephemeral beauty departs until next April.

Pink crabapple blossoms


SAGBUTT III: The Zombie’s Revenge April 24, 2009

Filed under: bloggers' gathering — greenwalks @ 6:09 pm
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A small but friendly crew gathered this past Sunday at the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle to yak about gardening, blogging, weather, weeds, seedlings and much more. Our genial hosts, Curmudgeon and Wingnut of Weed Whackin’ Wenches, brought homemade rhubarb bars from their freshly harvested fruit and provided us with a perfect space to meet and a very relevant view out the window of  Seattle Tilth’s leaf mulch bins. They have already got a lot of stuff going in their potager (they can use that word without sounding sniffy because Curmudgeon speaks fluent French), some under cloches that are keeping the cool nights and critters at bay.

We welcomed a new member, Devon, who is a fairly recent transplant to Seattle but seems to have already put her garden into high food-production gear. She is thinking of starting a blog to document her progress – I hope she does, as I’d love to hear more about her huge variety of edibles from loads of peas to plums, hardy kiwis, cherries, peaches and blueberries.

Paula from Petunia’s Garden spoke of all her happy little seed starts and brought more pumpkin seeds to share, including mine that I’d forgotten at the previous meeting. Thanks, Paula! I’m sure she will have a great time this summer when all of her broccoli, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, lettuces and other wonders are ready to harvest.

Another new member – Dakota. I completely forgot to take pictures during the meeting, so if you want to see what she looks like, you can click here. She was the quietest one of the bunch and didn’t seem to want to share her seed-starting or other garden secrets, although she is reputed to be perfectly well-behaved in the garden and also keeps it squirrel-free. I sincerely hope she recovers soon from her painful leg problem!

Every time I go to one of these get-togethers, I learn so much and also enjoy absorbing terms I’ve never heard before. This time around, it was new to me that carrot rust fly supposedly can’t fly higher than a foot off the ground, so planting carrots in tall containers might keep them pest-free. I also heard about a new potting soil that I want to try from Gardner & Bloome called Blue Ribbon. New terms: Bush Hog (turns out it’s a brand, Paula’s husband’s friend bought some kind of ground cutter off of Craigslist, super macho power mower deal), mountain beavers (large rodents who are actually not beavers at all, see this Seattle Times article for more info, they sound a little scary), and “zombie rhododendrons” (rhodie plants that are hacked down but sprout back unkillably from the stump – the inspiration for this post’s title).

It was a little hard to take that the sun was shining and it was perfect gardening weather while we were indoors, just talking about gardening… luckily, most people had time for a walk in the surrounding gardens after our mini plant swap (I brought inexpertly potted sarcococca and Devon came with a wayward strawberry and some happy little sedums which she’d pulled out of a crack in the rockery. I got to claim two of the latter, although I have yet to plant them – here’s what they look like.)

Two Little Sedums

After the meeting, I went off to meet my family in the park but as we were leaving we bumped into the Wenches, who were still enjoying the Tilth gardens and soaking up some sun and photographing bees. I didn’t have a lot of time to stay and look at plants, but took a few quick snaps on the way to the car. I have a giant batch of Tilth photos from earlier in the spring, but I can’t find them at the moment. Maybe next winter, when I have nothing to do in the garden, I’ll happen upon them and put up another post.

Brush pile in a cage construction, beautiful detrius:

Layered Brush Pile Cage

Mauve-flowering akebia, ready to take over the universe:

Purple-Flowering Akebia Vine

Colorful coffee bean sacks like the ones Paula brought us in February, used as a weed barrier:

Coffee Bean Sack Weed Barrier

Fruit tree trained into sculptural form:

Sculptural Fruit Tree

Our next meeting is slated for Sunday, May 17 and we need someone to step up to plan and host. I’d volunteer, but am putting on a crazy princess birthday tea party for my daughter the day before and one gathering per weekend is about my max as far as planning goes! Is anyone up for it? Or should we try for June and just spend that day in our gardens?


Skywatch Friday – Another Tree April 23, 2009

Filed under: digressions,sky — greenwalks @ 9:02 pm
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I just can’t seem to resist putting a tree in my sky shots. I know there are plenty of great sky views with no trees in them, but I seem not to look up unless I’m examining branches, a canopy, leaves, twig-borne flower petals, or other arborific views.

Park Tree Through Monkey Bars

Afternoon sky through unknown tree and red monkey bars at Meridian Park playground, Seattle, WA, USA in April, 2009. Head over here to see the many lovely and varied views of the sky from all over the world this week.


Worm Bin Bee April 22, 2009

My corner of the world is lucky to have a new organization, Sustainable NE Seattle, a small but growing group of neighbors working to find local and personal solutions to some of the thorny issues facing our planet. I recently joined a subset of the group, Urban Farmers, after seeing a front-lawn-to-food-crops transformation they devised and carried out in my neighborhood (blog post on that coming eventually,  I hope).

This past weekend, one of the group’s founders put out the call to everyone that she would host a tools-provided worm bin build in her backyard. She and her husband graciously allowed a bunch of us to get sawdust everywhere and take over the place to build six big-old bins for our own gardens. They also picked up all the materials, tossed in their own scrap wood to keep costs down, and kept everyone moving on the various phases of the project while graciously teaching many of us to use power tools for the first time.

Some people hammered:

Worm Bin Work Party

Others sawed (I didn’t take a picture of anyone while they were doing it, since I have a horror of power saws and didn’t want to jinx anyone into lopping off digits!):

Worm Bin Workers

I was on drill duty with this kind gentleman, who has taught carpentry and was astonishingly patient with my beginner’s fumblings:

Worm Bin Carpentry Master

Our trusty mascot, who was happy to chase tossed fir cones whenever anyone had a break in their duties:

Sweet Retriever

The other resident animals, who might not have been too happy with all the banging and sawing but were curious about all the activity anyway:

Hens in Backyard Coop

At one point I was making pilot holes for someone else to drill in the wood screws. We were a two-drill assembly line, and we did so many that I pretty much got over my fear I was going to put a hole in my finger. I liked this older Makita a lot, I can see why people get really into owning and handling wood-working tools:

Vintage Makita Drill

These gals dubbed themselves the “Womens’ Drill Team” and they got pretty into using a human-powered drill which I neglected to photograph, which is too bad because it was very cool. It’s called a Yankee Push Drill and you can see pictures of some like it here at a vintage tools site.

Women's Drill Team at Worm Bin Party

After the sides, bottoms and lids were assembled separately, they were all put together and large-bore holes were drilled in the bottom for ventilation:

Worm Bin Ventilation Holes

To keep rats from chewing through those, we stapled hardware cloth (i.e. incredibly tough screen material) over each hole. Despite various horror stories I’d heard over the years, all of the experienced worm composting folks there said that they hadn’t had trouble with rodents. So, I hope to continue that trend!

Ta-da! Two bins, finished and stacked for taking home:

Completed Worm Bins

Even with a lot of people and mostly pre-cut wood, it still took a long time to build the bins from scratch. I had to leave early (after coming late, bad work-party etiquette for sure but nobody made me feel bad!), so I have yet to bring home my bin. I hope to pick it up tomorrow, and then I’ll have to get going on shredding newspaper for the worms’ bedding and then getting actual worms. The ones I plan to use, Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida), are pretty pricey – $25 for 1/2 lb. at Seattle Tilth, so I might be able to get some from my mom’s compost pile or see if there are any left over from the gal who brought some to the bee.

It might be a smart idea to invest in a copy of Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, the definitive classic on vermicomposting human food waste. To find out more about composting with worms, this Treehugger article has a lot of info plus links galore.

For the free plan we used, also from Seattle Tilth, click here for a 3-page PDF. With a bit of scrap wood, total costs including hardware for ours were only $23 each. I’ve seen them for sale for over $100, so if you are handy or know someone who is, that’s a pretty good savings for a few hours of work.

It was great to meet a bunch of people who are interested in stuff like this, and I am super excited to start letting the worms make me some incredible compost. Starting later this week, I will stop giving our family’s food scraps to the city to compost, except for the worm bin no-no’s (meat/dairy/fish and, according to some folks, citrus – too acidic.) This is my small attempt to do a bit more to cut down on our little family’s impact on the planet. Happy Earth(worm) Day!


Happy (Early) Earth Day April 18, 2009

Filed under: environment — greenwalks @ 9:51 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

To most gardeners, every day is Earth Day. We are already connected to the cycles of the seasons, the needs of the soil, and the interactions between plants, wild creatures, and humans.

But if you want to get technical about it, April 22nd has been designated Earth Day and all week there are many events, activities and actions to take part in to help celebrate and assist our planet. The Earth Day Network has a plethora of offerings, from links to local events to info about greening up schools and bringing clean water to the developing world.

I am sometimes cynical about these one-day deals but with this the idea is to educate ourselves and others to make lasting changes that will benefit us all. The City of Seattle just made some of this a lot easier by expanding its recycling and composting programs so that less garbage ends up in the landfill. My personal goal for this year is to stop being lazy about letting the city do my composting for me and then buying it back in plastic (non-recyclable) bags. To that end, I will be attending a worm-bin-building event tomorrow and hope to use the result to turn our food waste into black gold.

What are your plans for Earth Day this week? Special action or just enjoying digging in your own dirt and continuing on with your good-earth practices?


(“Twins Image” of Earth taken by Messenger spacecraft, produced by Johns Hopkins University/APL. Image courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech. To see more images from this mind-bendingly large and free-to-use  gallery, click here.)