Oh, to be an English gardener

May 27, 2014

MasterGardenLogo 2013 copyEnglish gardeners are really something. They know intricate little secrets that we wouldn’t even dream of.

Years and years of trial and error have taught them what works, and it seems to work on all levels, not just aesthetics. English gardens seem to make plants, animals, good insects and Mother Nature all smile in appreciation.

For example, they might plant early daffodils under a Corylopsis bush. Why? There are many reasons, and these are a few: First, the Corylopsis will keep frost off the ground when the daffodils are trying to bloom. Second, the shrub allows plenty of sun on the daffodils with its sparse branching and bare limbs in winter. And finally, the shrub leafs out and spares us the indignity of looking at the old, dead and dying leaves of the daffodils.

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2013 Issaquah Sammamish Home and Garden Show

May 6, 2013

Food preservation goes beyond home canning

April 17, 2012

Samantha Zistatsis, of Issaquah, cans everything at home, like peaches and pickles, to better preserve nutrients. By Greg Farrar

As a child, Samantha Zistatsis grew up outdoors, with a garden, critters and the whole nine yards. Her family took the best of nature and canned it for healthy eating throughout the year.

But when she grew up, Zistatsis took a hiatus from the outdoors, moving inside to concentrate on a career in electrical engineering.

However, armed with a new understanding of processes, when Zistatsis married and had children, she left the workforce to become a full-time mom and return to her first love — healthy eating.

To achieve that goal, she dove full bore into food preservation. She knew she had everything she needed to succeed at her Issaquah home.

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Gaining ground for Puget Sound by building rain gardens

April 17, 2012

12,000 Rain Gardens campaign aims to curb pollution, create beautiful landscapes

A completed rain garden must be maintained through ongoing mulching, weeding and watering as needed and the avoidance of fertilizer and pesticides. By Stewardship Partners

As more than 14 million pounds of toxins enter the Puget Sound each year, two Washington entities are working hard to curb the contamination — 12,000 times over.

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Learn to grow more than vegetables in community gardens

April 17, 2012

Starting a community garden can lead to abundant beans, kale and squash all summer long — not to mention a closer bond among neighbors.

Still, despite the ample — and tasty — payoff, establishing and maintaining a community garden is not as simple as Miracle-Gro. The process requires a dedicated team, green thumbs aplenty and a lot of elbow grease.

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Puget Sound Energy offers solar energy guidance

April 17, 2012

Puget Sound Energy is providing contractor referrals to residential electric customers interested in installing home solar-electric photovoltaic systems.

Bellevue-based PSE added 14 solar installers to the Contractor Alliance Network — a group of independent contractors prescreened by the utility to perform energy-related home improvement.

Customers interested in installing a solar-power system and in need of a contractor can receive estimates from contractors when they request a referral at www.pse.com or by calling 1-800-562-1482 toll free.

In addition to installing customers’ home solar-power system, contractors can help customers prepare interconnection and production payment documents necessary to participate in PSE’s net metering program.

Overall, more than 1,000 PSE electric customers have had solar-power systems installed and connected to the grid — up from a little more than 500 such systems in early 2010. The total generating capacity from customer-owned solar-power systems is more than 5 megawatts, compared to 2 megawatts in early 2010.

Customers can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit and other financial incentives for installing a solar-power system.

The state provides another incentive, administered by PSE through Renewable Energy Advantage Program. The state incentive pays customers for every kilowatt of power produced by solar-power systems.

Landscaper is back for another run at Northwest Flower & Garden Show

February 7, 2012

Issaquah Landscaping is back with garden after four-year hiatus

Issaquah Landscaping’s show garden ‘Rhythm and Roots: A Tribute to Bluegrass’ nears completion at the Tacoma Home & Garden Show. By David Rogers

When the economy took a dip, David Rogers took a hiatus from entering his business in the annual Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

“It was nice to get our name out there, but we needed a break,” Rogers said of Issaquah Landscaping.

After four years off, the creativity bug was causing Rogers to itch regarding making a return to the venue renowned for its show gardens. From 2001 to 2005, Issaquah Landscaping won one gold, two silvers and a bronze medal for its creations.

“We could use another gold,” he said.

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Winters seem so short nowadays

February 7, 2012

One good thing about getting older is that winters go by very quickly. Of course spring, summer and fall do as well, but that doesn’t negate the fact that winters are now truly bearable — even enjoyable.

For gardeners, this realization is a real boon. We don’t have to stare out the window at the dripping rain and soggy soil for very long each year. We are always just a blink away from getting out there and rooting around in all that good dirt.

For many plants, our winters are more like a rather uneventful camping trip in the mountains than a hellish experience. In fact, some of them seem to like the discomfort and the inconvenience that winter has to offer. We know the bulbs like it — the narcissus, crocus, hyacinths and tulips. They don’t seem to be bothered by anything, snoozing from summer through most of winter, and then peeking out of the ground as the weather improves. They inch up during good weather, and stay put when it’s cold. Mine are up already with the warm temperatures we’ve had.

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Dust, mold and chemicals ranks as just a few indoor air hazards

January 10, 2012

Many home inspection services can help homeowners find indoor air hazards, such as dust and mold. Thinkstock

Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, according to Aileen Gagney, environmental and lung health program manager for the American Lung Association in Washington.

And indoor air can be up to five times as polluted as outdoor air, she said. That can be a very serious problem for the very young and the very old, as well as those with asthma and other lung problems.

And not incidentally, Gagney said asthma rates have shot up what she called an “amazing” 70 percent in 10 years.

Gagney obviously is well versed on the topic of indoor air pollution. She easily rattles off dozen of tips for cleaning your indoor air and can speak personally about the possible effects of indoor air pollution.

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La Niña vs. tomatoes

January 10, 2012

With La Niña we don’t know what is normal anymore. We used to be able to predict the weather around here.

In January, we expected our lowest temperatures — maybe even icy ponds. We used to get a break for two weeks in February, which would give us the false idea that spring would come early, and also the opportunity to prune roses and fruit trees. We expected showers and sun breaks in March and April and started seeds indoors. Then May would bring the first warm days, and we prepared our soil. June was never stable; we always had warmth and rain, perfect for planting warm-weather veggies.

The rain always lasted through the Fourth of July, dousing the fireworks fantasies. On the fifth came the sun and it would stick around until October. The veggies grew big and produced. Octobers were clear and cold as the last of the edible crops were brought in. Then on Halloween, the rain would come, dousing the kids again. Those rains would last until year’s end, falling sometimes as wet snow. We planned on it every year.

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