Easy Home-Grown Sprouts

Salad Sprouting Mix from start to finish

Sprouts are nutritious and add crunch, texture and flair to dishes.  If you love sprouts, you’ll know that finding them at even the best stocked grocery store is difficult.  Delicate and perishable, when available, they tend to come in plastic containers.  What to do when you’re craving them on a sandwich, salad, lettuce wrap or spring roll? For the best variety, freshest product and less plastic waste–grow your own!

You don’t need special equipment or skill to grow sprouts.  For years I used canning jars with a piece of nylon screen over the top, soaking the seed in fresh water for a few hours, draining off the water and re-moistening a few times a day.

Santa brought me a set of stacking seed starter trays/germinators especially for the kitchen and I must admit they’ve been quite handy to keep rotating batches of sprouts going in winter when home garden vegetable harvests are slimmer.  Clean, room temp water is poured into the top tray several times a day, after which it drains through the stacks to rest in a bottom storage tray.  Saves a step or two, and better air circulation to boot.

Finding local sources of food grade sprouting seed has turned out to be much easier than finding fresh sprouts. Buy only seed labeled expressly for edible sprouts (it will have been tested for absence of E. coli and salmonella bacteria).  I’ve bought seed sprouting mixes at my local independent nursery in large seed packet paper envelopes; mart-style box store and small town hardware store in zip top bags (with canning supplies); health food store bulk food section; and of course, seed companies through both catalogs and the web. I sourced my sprouting trays through a regional seed company catalog.

Sterilization of your jars and trays is important for food safety.  Clean well and let dry completely between batches and wash your hands well before handling the containers, seeds and sprouts.  

For a short and informative video on how to grow sprouts in jars and in sprouting trays, check out this video “How to grow sprouts” from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply:  https://www.groworganic.com/collections/sprouting-seeds

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Let It All Soak In: A Rain Garden Webinar (free!)

A rain garden in its second year after planting

Let it All Soak In: A Rain Garden Webinar – April 13, 2021 at 6:30 pm

A stunning landscape feature and stormwater device all in one!  Rain gardens are a unique way to protect your local creek, lake or shoreline from water pollution while spiffing up the garden at the same time.  Come away with a solid understanding of rain gardens–their benefits, suitable locations and tools for design and installation.  Have a look at lovely rain garden plants for sun or shade and become familiar with the Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington Homeowners.  After this 90-minute webinar by Colleen Miko, you’ll be ready to tame the rain. 

This webinar is put on by the WSU Clark County Extension Master Gardener Program in collaboration with Clark County Public Health – Solid Waste Outreach. Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 6:30 pm. FREE!

Register in advance for this meeting: 

https://wsu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYlfu-srzkqH9AtbW_8wyM515rxu15EngMa.

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ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE: Fresh AIR

Sometimes I forget that I am blessed with options and get caught up in self-imposed, rigid ways of doing and being.  To counter this, I have decided to be an “Artist-in-Residence” this month.

You may be familiar with these programs.  Imagine a set period of time staying at an inspiring institution with freedom to explore choreography, painting, or playing music in an environment conducive to your craft. Artist colonies exist apart from the distractions and obligations of every day life and provide a place to start or finish a creative project. 

An Artist’s retreat has long been my daydream, so I’m making and taking my own AIR (Artist-in Residency).   Who says you need to be a professional artist with an “established body of work” to explore your creativity removed from typical responsibilities? 

An AIR need not take place somewhere grand.  I’m not going anywhere since I’m fortunate to have a unique window of quiet solitude at home. Essentially my AIR is a matter of mindset; of my choice to dedicate time to artistic pursuits.  It is a space to challenge self-perceived limitations while being attentive to all my efforts, even things normally done rote. Choosing this for myself feels luxurious.

I’m grateful for the ability to set aside responsibilities for the pleasure of falling headlong into the creative process freed from my regular routine.  Of the creative projects I plan to explore, writing (this blog included) figures heavily, as does creating gardening videos with a friend, and fiddling with simple crafts when on a zoom calls. 

I have a feeling this time and space may become a regular gift I give myself. If you’ve taken your own AIR, I’d love to hear how you made it happen.

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10 THINGS THIS GARDENER IS THANKFUL FOR

Beneficial syphid fly on ‘Jelena’ Witch Hazel

Since the start of the new year I’ve been pondering a few of my many blessings…

1. Friends who visit my garden and don’t see any weeds

2. The song of wind in the trees

3. Kneepads and gloves

4. The fragrance of Sarcococca

5.  Raindrops on spider webs

6. A breath of fresh, moist, winter air

7.  Harvesting vegetables in winter

8.  The electric green fuzz of mosses

9.  The Witch Hazel in bloom honoring our kitty Hazel (RIP)

10.  The kind people who read my blog–THANK YOU!

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CYA (Cover Your Actinomycetes*)

*Actinomycete–filamentous bacteria that give healthy soil its characteristic “earthy” smell.

I just got around to covering my empty vegetable beds to safeguard my soil. Quite often I miss the late summer/early fall window to put out cover crop seed and have it germinate and fill in thickly.  Sometimes its because I have a few straggling veggies I’m waiting to harvest through September (this year was a good tomato year, for instance).  Other years I’m busy with other things, and certain years it’s not a bad idea to give my tendonitis a rest from the late winter effort of turning under or chopping back a cover crop.

landscape weed barrier used to cover vegetable bed for winter

It’s not too late to get out and do the same for your bare soil, regardless of what your fair weather intentions were.  What do you have in the garage or shed? You can use tarps or rolls of plastic you might already have.  If you like free and repurposed items, ask your local lumber yard if they’ll give you some of the “lumber wrap” that their product is delivered in to save it from the landfill. 

When talking about the cons of using a landscape weed barrier fabric in a class I gave a few weeks ago, my friend Laura suggested a good use for it was to cover bare soil for the winter. Her comment reminded me that I had a roll of landscape weed barrier fabric that I was given by a neighbor who moved into a condo with no garden.  It worked perfectly to cover the surface of my raised bed.

I overlapped pieces of the fabric to cover the bed completely, securing the layers to the ground with a landscape staple.  I placed a small square of repurposed thick plastic or nylon under each staple to prevent tearing from heavy wind.  Staples, as well as flat rocks in the centers and around the edges should help keep it secured until its time to plant my late winter crop.

Landscape staple with nylon underneath where two layers overlap

Benefits of covering your soil over the winter:

–Maintain soil fertility by preventing the leaching of nitrogen in particular

–Protect soil texture by preventing the erosion and compaction that occurs from heavy rain

–Covered soil will warm up faster in late winter/spring, the better for seed germination

–Keep new weed seeds from blowing in and existing seed bank of cool season weeds from sprouting

More information about building and protecting healthy soil:

WSU Extension Publications|Cover Crops for Home Gardens West of the Cascades (Home Garden Series)

WSU Extension Publications|A Home Gardener’s Guide to Soils and Fertilizers (Home Garden Series)

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Prettiest Mulch EVER!

And not just pretty mulch, but FREE mulch. Easy mulch. Nature’s mulch.

Bigleaf Maple and it’s lovely blanket of leaves

How I love the bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) trees along my driveway! Looking up into the canopy at any time of the year brings on a rush of gratitude. In autumn, its the the fresh carpet of golden leaves below that makes my heart soar.

A fluffy blanket of leaves is a gardener’s gift. It’s nature’s way of recycling plant material into organic matter, of feeding the soil and its denizens. Fallen leaves prevent erosion, insulate roots from extreme temperatures and help the tree through the dry season. I appreciate how the thick layer prevents most weeds from germinating.

True: the driveway must be cleared. Yet a rake or blower allows us to direct the leaves where their winter cover is most useful. Walking around gently tamps them down to keep them in place, especially after a soaking rain.

Any deciduous tree’s leaves can make a fine mulch–it doesn’t have to be maple. Enjoy what you have! An exception might be leaves from fruit trees, or if your tree has a serious foliar disease that is known to spread through fallen leaves. In those cases it might be best to either collect and trash, or use a layer of arborist chips for mulch instead.

I’ve had a neighboring gardener see me raking and ask: “You going to use those leaves?” I smiled and answered “Oh yes! But funny you should ask…” That was the year I played matchmaker (leaf broker?) for a friend with a tiny yard buried in maple leaves who hated to see them end up in the yard waste bin, or worse, the landfill.

The generous maple leaves have come in handy to mulch new garden beds in other areas of my yard, to bolster the brown component of my compost and as stuffing inside burlap to wrap and insulate potted plants during extreme cold spells.

Now, I’ll leaf you to appreciate your own trees and the free mulch they provide.

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THANK YOU, CLASS ATTENDEES!

WISHING YOU MORE TIME IN YOUR ADIRONDACK CHAIR

Thanks a bunch to those of you who joined me for my zoom class “It’s all in the Design: The Low-Maintenance Garden” last week. I hope that my 5 key concepts for designing a landscape that won’t run your life was helpful and enjoyable.

Please comment using this post if you have suggestions or comments about the class, or things you’ve done in your own garden to make it easier to care for. If you use the Garden Evaluation sheet that was part of the class handout, please share how you liked it, or what might make it easier to use.

It was rewarding for me to see so many friends’ faces and hear the great questions and comments you had. Have a lovely autumn and may the forest be with you!

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Reminder: LANDSCAPE DESIGN CLASS NOVEMBER 4, 2020

We all say we want one, but what is a low-maintenance garden anyway? In this one hour class on Zoom, Colleen will share 5 key concepts for designing a landscape that won’t run your life. 

Looking to make your existing garden easier to care for? Colleen is doing the same with her own landscape and has real-life examples of how to accomplish just that. See stunning photos of low maintenance gardens done right, AND real situations that could use some improvement–including from her own, current garden to-do list.

Whatever your motivation: lack of time, physical limitations, changing interests… this class will help you examine your own gardening practices and spaces for updates that will free up your time. You’ll get ideas for changes (small and large) to consider for a satisfying, personalized and easier garden. A helpful handout to use in evaluating your own landscape will be provided.

Want more time in your adirondack?

Colleen Miko has enjoyed a varied career in horticulture, including being the former Horticulture Educator for WSU Kitsap Extension, where she taught nearly 300 Master Gardener and Rain Garden Mentor volunteers.  In her work as landscape designer, she created winning  gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show and HGTV show “Landscaper’s Challenge”. She is a Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH) and freelance garden writer who journals to document and enjoy her garden and life experiences. 

Join me on November 4th and support the WSU Kitsap Master Gardener Program at the same time!

Zoom presentation begins at 10:00 AM
$5 Master Gardeners, $15 General Admission

To register:
http://bit.ly/LowMaintenanceGardens

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Ghosts in the Salal

The Salal leaf that started it all (thank you, Carol!)

It all started for me when my neighbor, with glee, presented the animated salal leaf she found while gardening. My first thought: “How funny! My second thought, “What insect did this?” 

I ran through scenarios in my mind: a variety of caterpillars or sawfly larvae could have randomly chewed what looked like a grimacing face.  Loopers or inchworms, perhaps? 

Sawfly larvae and leaf damage

Not a weevil, a type of beetle known for the ragged notches it chews, usually starting from the outside edges of evergreens like rhododendron. Weevils are often unseen, feeding at night.

Root weevil damage: tell tale notches

Not a beneficial leafcutter bee, whose characteristic damage is smooth and circular, starting from the margin, swooping inward. 

Rounded, smooth cut outs created by beneficial leaf cutter bees

A disease perhaps? Shot hole and other fungus can cause holes in leaves that once the brown, dead tissue disintegrates and falls away, there may be no hint that a disease caused the damage.

Leaf spots on salal with diseased tissue fallen away

Or maybe it was not biotic damage after all (caused a living thing), but rather abiotic (a non-living factor such as weather conditions).  Could it have been randomly punctured by sharp sticks as the tender new leaf expanded in the spring or as a dead branch fell on it from above?  Torn in a hailstorm?

Like all unsolved plant mysteries, the ghost in the salal haunted me. I began regularly scanning the swaths of salal on hikes, and in my garden.  Nothing, until…

Ghosts in the Salal

This month the ghoulish faces began to reveal themselves to me in great number.  Bizarrely, while strolling in a well travelled park amidst huckleberry, and other native plants, I collected 4 salal leaves with haunted faces on the 1 mile path.  Who haunts this forested park?  Could these faces be markers of good places to find chanterelles–un-noticed by those who don’t know to look for them?

Good mysteries are often never truly solved.  My neighbor’s curious salal face was indeed random. However, I think I can say with confidence the other leaf spooks are the result of a biotic agent: a trickster hiker who likes a good autumn mystery.

Research based links from WSU and PNW Pest/Disease Management Handbooks on identifying various insect and disease damage to leaves, some with pictures of types of damage:

Loopers and inchworms:

Root Weevils:

http://hortsense.cahnrs.wsu.edu/Search/MainMenuWithFactSheet.aspx?CategoryId=13&ProblemId=6026

https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/Product/ProductDetails?productId=4116

Leaf cutter bee damage:

https://pnwhandbooks.org/insect/hort/landscape/hosts-pests-landscape-plants/maple-acer-leafcutting-bee

Leaf spots:

https://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/host-disease/salal-gaultheria-shallon-leaf-spots

Posted in Call me Segmented: Arthropoda & Insecta, Garden Pests, Invaluable Invertebrates, Misc, Nature, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LANDSCAPE DESIGN CLASS NOVEMBER 4, 2020

We all say we want one, but what is a low-maintenance garden anyway? In this one hour class on Zoom, Colleen will share 5 key concepts for designing a landscape that won’t run your life. 

Looking to make your existing garden easier to care for? Colleen is doing the same with her own landscape and has real-life examples of how to accomplish just that. See stunning photos of low maintenance gardens done right, AND real situations that could use some improvement–including from her own, current garden to-do list.

Whatever your motivation: lack of time, physical limitations, changing interests… this class will help you examine your own gardening practices and spaces for updates that will free up your time. You’ll get ideas for changes (small and large) to consider for a satisfying, personalized and easier garden. A helpful handout to use in evaluating your own landscape will be provided.

Want more time in your adirondack?

Colleen Miko has enjoyed a varied career in horticulture, including being the former Horticulture Educator for WSU Kitsap Extension, where she taught nearly 300 Master Gardener and Rain Garden Mentor volunteers.  In her work as landscape designer, she created winning  gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show and HGTV show “Landscaper’s Challenge”. She is a Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH) and freelance garden writer who journals to document and enjoy her garden and life experiences. 

Join me on November 5th and support the WSU Kitsap Master Gardener Program at the same time!

Zoom presentation begins at 10:00 AM
$5 Master Gardeners, $15 General Admission

To register:
http://bit.ly/LowMaintenanceGardens

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