Gardeners: Prepare to endure another La Niña winter

October 18, 2011

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Jeff Renner tells us we are in for another La Niña.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not moping around, crazy mad about the weather. Every little ray of sunshine and every little tinge of warmth have been appreciated to the max by me.

But still, I’m unable to come to grips with the big picture. The issue of global climate change is huge, impacting much more than just gardening, making it hard to comprehend.

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King Conservation District offers soil testing for local lands

September 13, 2011

Homeowners can take advantage of free soil tests from the King Conservation District.

The conservation district offers up to five free soil studies per address for anyone within King County, with a few geographic exceptions. The exceptions do not affect anyone in the Issaquah area.

One main idea behind soil sampling is to prevent overfertilization, said Marcie Myers, a resource planner for the King Conservation District.

And, she added, there are several reasons why using too much fertilizer is a bad idea.

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A proper birdhouse is important for attracting native species

September 13, 2011

If house sparrows overtake a swallow nest box or European starlings claim a house meant for purple martins, the problem might be in the housing provided by gardeners and homeowners.

The design flaws can allow aggressive, non-native birds to thrive and push native species into decline.

Some ready-made birdhouses may look cute, but might not be designed to keep the bullies of the bird world out.

Birds do not need perches, for example, but the features attract house sparrows and starlings.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends for design and construction of birdhouses to be species-specific.

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Sip restaurant hosts free seminar

September 13, 2011

Vision Woodworks, Inc., presents “Re-Creating Your Space: Organize, Design, Build” at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at Sip Restaurant, 1084 N.E. Park Drive. Learn practical household tips for maximizing space, style and function from three local experts. RSVP to Jill Burwell at

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Nursery offers free seminars

September 13, 2011

The following free seminars are offered at 10:30 a.m. at Squak Mt. Greenhouses & Nursery, 7600 Renton-Issaquah Road S.E.:

  • Iron Clad Beauties: Sept. 17 — Learn about landscape plants that are durable, beautiful and provide year-round interest.
  • Fall Bulbs 101: Sept. 24 — Learn how to plant fall bulbs and the many ways to use them in your landscape and containers.
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Protect bugs to ensure beautiful, fragrant flowers

September 13, 2011

I was down at Boehm’s Candies the other day. The weather was gray but warm, and I was feeling a little flat.

When I got out of my car, I sniffed the air to see if I could find the wonderful scent of chocolate. I couldn’t.

I couldn’t, because the smell of a fantastic rose overcame everything. It flooded the parking lot, the air, and me. It was terrific. I was uplifted just by that smell.

The sense of smell is very strong and capable of bringing back images and memories that we think are lost, including childhood experiences or maybe a fantastic meal. A nice memory can lift your mood and change a cloudy day into a sunny one. I’m not sure if you can overload your senses or not, but it would be fun to try.

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Use some simple steps for natural lawn care

August 9, 2011

Drive through any neighborhood, and there always seems to be that one house with the lawn so immaculate that it cries out for a golf ball to be putted across its pristine surface.

When following natural lawncare guidelines, set the mower to mulching, trim the grass blades at about two inches and leave the clippings behind on the lawn. Thinkstock

Whether a labor of love or through the outside hands of professionals, many homeowners are becoming more conscious of how they got their lawn that way. As such, they’ve educated themselves about the affects of their lawn care upon local lakes and streams. The latest trend is natural lawn care, which features mulch mowing, wise watering, and using natural alternatives to fertilizers and pesticides.

Dave Rogers, owner of Issaquah Landscaping, shared some tips to help keep your lawn (and the waters) healthy, beautiful and pesticide free while using less water throughout the summer.

“The biggest thing you can do for your lawn is to mulch,” Rogers said. “It returns nitrates to the lawn.”

To properly mulch, Rogers recommends a double-bladed lawn mower and to mow high. Mowing high, about two inches, leaves the grass clippings on the lawn. They add nutrients back to the soil and reduce the need to fertilize as much.

To help an unhealthy lawn return to a luscious green the neighbor on the other side of the fence would envy, try composting.

“Cedar Grove Composting has many options that will add liquid nutrients back to the lawn,” he said.

Whichever product is used, spread a 1/4-inch layer and rake it in when the yard would normally be fertilized. If the soil is compacted, try aerating first.

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Ichijo’s zHome project manager shares insights

August 9, 2011

This month’s interview is with Nick Nied, of Ichijo USA Co. Ltd., who is project manager for development and construction.

Tell us a little about your background and interests.

My first experience in construction was building a fishing lodge in a remote area of Southeast Alaska. Completely off of the grid, we cleared the land, milled lumber from the trees that we had cut and built the lodge from the ground up using no electricity. The lodge had many green features, including passive lighting design and a rain catchment system used for drinking water.

I graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in construction engineering management and have been in the Seattle residential building industry for the past six years. I am an avid outdoorsman and if not found on the construction site will most likely be on some outdoor adventure with my wife and/or dog.

What does zHome mean to you?

ZHome is the opportunity, unlike any I have ever seen, to bring together key people and organizations within the building industry to challenge conventional building standards and create a project unmatched by any other. As a leader within the industry, this opportunity will forever change the way we build homes in the future.

Growing up I dreamt of homes that produced the same amount of electricity as they consumed, captured rain water that was used for all water needs, green roofs for growing food that the homeowner would consume, with passive heating and cooling, a little zHome Utopia if you will! Building zHome I feel that my dream is becoming realized and I feel extremely fortunate to accomplish this dream so early in my career.

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There’s still hope to plant for 2011 harvest

August 9, 2011

Sure, the bees weren’t around to pollinate anything this spring. And to be sure, it rained steadily day after day, producing record cool temperatures. And yes, on top of that, we have very little to harvest this year from vegetable gardens and fruit trees in our region. Still, there is hope.

You can still plant in Western Washington for harvest this fall and winter. Unfortunately, nurseries don’t carry rooted starts at this time of year, so you have to plant seeds. You can plant broccoli, some types of cabbage, cornsalad (lamb’s lettuce), leaf lettuce, mustard greens, spinach and turnips now; and garlic, shallots and chives in late October. You need to be careful about varieties and choose the most winter hardy. If you had started your seeds in July you would have many more choices.

Here’s the best part: row covers. In days gone by, gardeners used glass cloches, bell jars and any cover they could think of to extend the growing season. My dad used old, glass windows. With the development of new technology and materials we have something better. We have row covers, a white man-made fabric for both supported tunnels and floating applications. The material comes in long rolls in varied widths and is readily available at garden centers.

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DIY Network crashes Issaquah homeowners’ master bathroom

July 12, 2011

$70,000 upgrade transforms space into spa-inspired destination

The master bathroom in Jeremy and Carrie Paget’s South Cove home resembled a time capsule from 1981, the year the house was built — colorless tile, a slim skylight and oak cabinets accented in brass.

Factor in a leaky shower and a dearth of space, too, and the need for a floor-to-ceiling overhaul became apparent.

“We didn’t really use this room other than just to get ready and use the sink to brush our teeth, things like that,” Jeremy Paget said.

Reclaimed teak is a prominent feature in the renovated bathroom at Jeremy and Carrie Paget’s home after a ‘Bath Crashers’ makeover. By Greg Farrar

Now, after some persistence and TV magic, the blah bathroom is a destination. DIY Network’s “Bath Crashers” transformed the space. The episode featuring the Pagets debuted July 4.

The remade space includes a spacious shower outfitted with a pebble-tile floor, a deluxe bathtub and larger skylight to drench the bathroom in natural light. The upgraded bathroom also includes more electrical outlets than the 1981 original.

The reclaimed teak flooring and surround-sound system lend the space a feel more commonly found in a spa than a suburban bathroom. The estimated cost for the renovation: $70,000 in donated materials and labor.

Crews used some attic space above the garage and space from a closet to expand the bathroom. The team enlisted the homeowners to help install tile and flooring.

“They came through,” Paget said. “They made some really cool changes.”

The homeowners listed ideas for “Bath Crashers” host Matt Muenster, a contractor, and a crew descended on the house in March.

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