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Boost Your Brain Power With Gardening

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A month ago, we received a lovely email from one of our customers concerned for others afflicted with fibromyalgia.  She stated that gardening has helped her work through symptoms with her chronic illness by providing her with a type of physical activity that has proven to be highly therapeutic.  She believes gardening benefits the mind, body, and soul and it provides stress relief, physical activity, and stimulation for her brain.

She has written an article about her observations and sent it to us for others to read.  It is our hope that you may find wisdom in her words and inspiration in your garden.

pixabayBoost Your Brain Power With Gardening: Improve Mental Clarity And Keep Your Mind Sharp by Maria Cannon

There is no question that gardening provides health benefits on multiple fronts. It makes for a great form of exercise for people of all ages and it has been shown to reduce stress and even help with issues of depression. In addition to the benefits that come via physical activity and mental health, gardening can provide significant stimulation for the brain as well.

Gardening has a positive impact on brain health

Gardening helps to keep one’s mind sharp in multiple ways. For example, Eartheasy details that studies have found that daily gardening can improve your brain health and significantly reduce the risk for dementia. The process of gardening involves numerous brain functions and all of that activity provides strength in ways far beyond what most people would realize.

Huffington Post notes that some studies have shown that gardening is linked to mental clarity, and it also promotes problem solving, learning, and sensory awareness. Gardening is known to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, but evidence points toward it also strengthening the brain and reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s to a degree that cannot be ignored.

Gardening is accessible to nearly everybody

Slow Aging shares that increased physical activity is a key strategy for improving your brain function as you age, and gardening is an activity that almost anybody can do to some degree. Even if it is too difficult to get out on your own or do any kind of intense exercise, you can probably garden to some extent.

If you do not have the space for an outdoor home garden, you can look at doing some version of an urban garden. This may involve plants kept indoors or pots you maintain on your patio or balcony, or it could be via community gardening where multiple people share one space for their gardening. Some people may turn to utilizing a solar greenhouse, and the wonderful thing about gardening is that it can be done on a large scale or a small one.

Gardening can be done by anybody at any age, as even children benefit from the brain-building that comes from digging in to create a garden. PBS explains that there is evidence that children who begin gardening at a young age score higher in science achievement tests than kids who don’t, and the process of gardening can develop an inquisitive mind in a young child.

Brain health is impacted by gardening in many ways.

Adults who embrace gardening, both young and old, benefit from the brain-boosting that naturally develops throughout the process. Many people notice that their concentration improves, and this helps them recover more easily from mental fatigue. Oftentimes, those who are older and experiencing memory problems are able to recall key details about gardening, providing them an opportunity to strengthen their brain and feel connected to memories from their younger days.

The process of gardening stimulates your brain as you have to plan what to plant, schedule what needs to be done when, and tackle options like whether you do or don’t use herbicides. There is a problem-solving element to gardening that strengthens your brain and many people challenge themselves by learning new techniques or about new plants in the process, another brain booster.

When people think of the benefits of gardening, they typically consider the physical activity and mood-enhancing opportunities that come from digging in the dirt and watching a garden grow. There is growing evidence, however, that gardening provides wonderful opportunities to build brain strength and improve mental clarity as well. Given the variety of ways that people can garden, and the fact that gardening boosts brain power of people of all ages, it is no wonder that this is a favorite hobby of many.

[Image via Pixabay]


Tour Christianson’s Garden Wedding Venue on Sunday May 21

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TFloretFlowers__Green&WhiteEditorial_58our the venues of Skagit County and meet talented wedding professionals at each stop who can help make your wedding dreams a reality!

Spend the day exploring eight beautiful wedding venues in Skagit County, including Christianson’s Nursery, on Sunday, May 21, from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. We will be showcasing our elegant Schoolhouse and Rose Garden for weddings and special events.

Bring a notebook with pockets to place cards, tokens (given by each vendor) and wedding information as you meet the following wedding vendors: Photographers from Mistry&Scott.com; Wedding planner Tierney Jones at ChampagneandStardust.com; Officiant, Celebrations of Life; Caterer, Island Girls Catering;  Baker, Knock Out Bakery;  Antique and Vintage Wedding Apparel from Primrose at www.christiansonsnursery.com; Representatives from The Country Inn and Channel Lodge will also be here to discuss local accommodations and overnight reservations.

Toward the end of the tour, register to win a lovely 14′ hanging basket hand planted by our Christianson staff to enjoy all summer long!

Tickets: VIP, $30 per person includes transportation to all 8 venues, a boxed lunch (provided by one of our amazing caterers) and special VIP gifts throughout the day.  Self-guided: $5 per person. Venues are both indoor and outdoor so please dress for the weather!

Christianson’s Nursery & Greenhouse Hanging Baskets

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When is a Christianson’s custom hanging basket like a flower arrangement?
When it’s designed and planted by one of three women (Laura, Elissa or Toni) who have over fifty years of combined experience with flower arranging and basket planting. We are careful to plant wonderful combinations of color and foliage texture in the five-hundred plus baskets we plant every year. We have what we consider three different groups: Romantic; all white and pastel, Bold; primary colors in sometimes shocking combinations and Patriotic; red, white and blue.

When is a Christianson’s custom hanging basket not like a flower arrangement?
When it blooms for three to four months instead of five to seven days. All our baskets, because of their larger size, are planted with fifty percent more premium soil (holds water better and is lighter weight) and a slow release fertilizer; both of which contribute to a longer bloom time than smaller baskets. They also contain more plants because of the extra planting space.   So even with the greater expense of a large basket over a smaller basket, the value is definitely there if you consider how long a bigger basket blooms. And, the value is enormous if you consider over the three to four months a large basket lasts.
When shopping for a hanging basket be sure to ask for Christianson’s custom baskets. We also plant free-standing containers for decks and patios. If you have your own containers you would like us to plant, bring them to the Nursery and ask for either Laura or Elissa. You can also bring your hanging baskets back next spring for us to plant next year. Your baskets will then be less money because you’re not paying for new baskets. Just be sure to take a picture of your basket this season if you want the same plants next year.

Christianson’s Annual Antique Fair & Vintage Market

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Christianson’s  Annual Antique Fair & Vintage Market

Friday and Saturday, August 11 & 12

Antique Fair 2017_edited-2

Welcome to our annual Antique Fair & Vintage Market.  We are proud to present the Northwest’s top dealers showcasing the best in antiques, vintage and collectables.

Our dealers are individually selected by their quality of hard-to-find goods and creative displays.  The fair includes antiques (100+ years old), collectables, modern design (20th Century onward), retro and vintage.  There are no reproductions allowed at our top tier antique fair.

Our fairs have been incredibly well received, and we review our results and feedback with a serious view to continual improvement.

Have a vintage trailer to vend from?  This year’s new and anticipated addition will be hosting vintage trailers (on our grassy lawn just north of the schoolhouse) retrofit to sell one of a kinds, fresh cut flowers and the tastiest cupcakes in Skagit Valley!

We do hope you’ll come join us!We are looking for antique and vintage vendors!   To inquire: (360) 466-3821 or download or vendor registration forms at: 2017 Antique Fair.

To inquire: (360) 466-3821 or visit the nursery.

10 Tips to Saving Cold-Damaged Plants

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With our cold blasts that hit this winter, you may have damage to your plants.  Follow these 10 steps to ensure they survive.


1.) Resist Action:  Winter-stunned plants need to be left alone for a while until weather warms.

2.) Don’t Over Do It:  Don’t overwater a winter-damaged plant, as the roots may be unable to absorb a high amount of liquid causing rot.

3.) Don’t fertilize…yet:  Don’t fertilize and try to jump start your freeze-damaged plant.  You don’t want it to leaf out too quickly since it will stress the already suffering plant.

104.) Don’t heavy prune:  Even though your instincts may be telling you to prune all the dead growth away, wait until the plant has had a chance to adjust to its growth pattern.  5.) Be Patient:  Wait until temperatures begin to get warmer (April, May and even June) and the soil warms up to see if there is new growth or budding leaves.

6.) Get tools ready:  Make sure your pruners are sharp and clean.  There are many how-to videos to learn about sharpening pruners on YouTube, or simply resource a place to sharpen them for you.

7.) Clean your pruners:  We don’t want to spread disease from plant to plant.  Dilute bleach with water into a 1:3 ratio, dampen shop cloth and swipe both blades completely.

8.) New growth?  Now prune!  Once you see new growth, you can cut away the dead growth up to the first leaf bud that you see, leaving the new leaves and buds to flourish.

9.) Feeding your plants:  Once you have pruned the plant, fertilize a little bit around each plant to get it growing again.   We recommend an organic, all-purpose plant food that is a good, slow starting mix of 5-5-5 (5% nitrogen, 5% potassium and 5% phosphorus).  Water well.

10.) “One Ounce of Prevention is Worth More Than a Pound of Cure”:  Covering plants helps protect them from severe cold before it starts is the best prevention, such as a thick layer of mulch or a frost cover blanket.  Light snow provides the best blanket of protection and insulates the ground around your plants.  Wet, heavy snow can cause considerable damage.  If you see damage resulting from wet snow, carefully shake the snow off before damage occurs.

Primrose Antique and Gift Shop

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    Primrose Antique and Gift Shop.  

Prim Birds and Nature Art

“Collect things you love, that are authentic to you,

and your house becomes your story.”  – Erin Flett


Thank You!

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John_ToniJohn and I want to thank everyone who has recommended our Nursery to fellow gardeners looking for unusual plants. Not a day goes by that we do not hear from someone looking for a hard-to-find plant. John will order just a few of each of the rare plants that he can find because he loves the uncommon. It makes him smile to overhear a customer telling one of our staff members that they have looked all over for a particular plant and they are so excited to find one at our Nursery. After his trip to China with fellow horticulturists, he has been even more excited to carry any and every unusual plant grown in commerce that will survive and flourish in our climate. When I go on plant-hunting excursions with him it is like Christmas if he finds something unusual. He shouts out its name and literally leaps toward it with the excitement of a child. So, for all you gardeners, including Master Gardeners and Rose Society members, who have sent people to us we are very grateful. And, for all you gardeners looking for ‘gourmet’ plants, please email, call or come to see us for plants on your ‘garden wish list’.

The Garden In November

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturalist

The garden in November tends to not be very beautiful. I don’t mean to be a Negative Nellie here but take a look around. Perennials that haven’t yet been cut down for the season languish in varying states of decomposition and frost blackened leaves smell strongly of decay. Most deciduous trees have dropped their leaves and are skeletons of their former selves with bare branches clacking mournfully in the wind. And the annuals. Those bright, cheerful, flower power houses of summer color have been reduced to gelatinous piles of slimy goo unless they have already been cast off to the compost pile.  It’s enough to cause the most seasoned gardener to shudder and slam the door on it all, burrow deep into warm winter hibernation with feet up and aimed in the general direction of a toasty fire. A stack of gardening books waits on the table beside the cozy chair. After all, the most seasoned gardener knows, for all the garden’s grim appearances, that all is well and as it should be this time of year. Just as we retreat indoors and carry on planning, creating, celebrating and loving, so too the garden is carrying on.  Roots grow as soil dwellers help to break down plant material to create food so the plants can store this energy and save it for spring.   Sure, maybe things could be spiffed up a bit, but the work can also wait for a time when perhaps the wind isn’t blowing quite so hard and the rain isn’t falling quite so steadily.

In the ornamental garden (between rain showers, of course!)

  • Get your bulbs in the ground. Don’t forget about them! They don’t carry over season to season the way some seeds do. Besides, they are so refreshing and cheerful once spring comes around! You will be happy!
  • Let the fallen leaves lay where they land (unless they’re diseased). Leaves are an excellent mulch and if left alone they will provide shelter for important overwintering beneficial insects and spiders. Remember, these little critters do good work for us in our gardens and they need a safe habitat over winter. Plus, over time leaves will break-down and add nutrients to the soil and help improve soil structure.
  • Leave as much as you can to rot on its own and remove only what you need to in order to satisfy your sense of tidiness. Hydrangea blossoms hold their rich color long into the season and many perennials, like Eryngium, Sedum, and Echinacea, keep their form and lend interest to gardens when we forget to pay as much attention. Plus, they look lovely laced with frost.
  • Leave your grasses alone for now. Their tawny hues and graceful structure lend beauty and softness to the fall and winter garden.
  • Drain and store hoses for winter. If you have an irrigation system, make sure to drain it too so there’s no water left in the pipes to freeze.
  • It’s still ok to do a bit of rearranging in the garden. Part of the beauty and fun of gardening is that nothing is static. You can change anything you want in your garden. If you need or want to move perennials or shrubs, or even trees, fall really is the best time to do it. Plants are going dormant so there is less chance of transplant shock. Plus, you can count on more regular rainfall so you don’t have to do as much hand-watering. Always deeply water right after you’ve moved something to be sure to give your plant a good start.
  • Fall is also a really good time to create new garden beds or enlarge old ones. My favorite way to do this is by sheet mulching, mostly because it’s so darn easy! It does take time though. Plot out where you want your new bed installed and then dig out around the perimeter, removing only about six inches or so of sod (lawn). Leave the rest of the lawn alone. Cover your entire bedding space (including the part you dug out) with flattened cardboard or lots of layers of newspaper (I mean lots, like twenty pages thick). I prefer cardboard because it seems to smother the grass better, but avoid any cardboard that contains wax.  I’ve found that if it’s been dry, watering the grass helps with decomposition. In the past I’ve also sprinkled the ground to be covered with cottonseed meal, which is high in nitrogen, so supposedly it speeds up the process. My experiment was not scientific in any way, but it did seem to speed things up a bit. Water down the cardboard or paper to prevent it from blowing away before you have a chance to apply a mulch. Cover the cardboard or newspaper with a 6-8 inch layer of compost or woody mulch. You can mix straw and/or leaves in with the compost if you want. Then just leave it alone for about 6 months or so. The grass under the cardboard and mulch gets smothered and rots and becomes beautiful garden soil that is ready to be planted in the spring.  You can skip the digging out the perimeter step if you’d like.  I always do this step because it creates a nice crisp edge and keeps the grass from encroaching on your new bed.
  • Don’t forget to pot up a few paperwhites and Amaryllis for the holidays. There are lots of different varieties at Christianson’s and the bulbs are absolutely giant!  Size matters when it comes to bulbs and these promise lots of color. Paperwhites take about 6 weeks to flower and Amaryllis take about 8-10 weeks, depending on the temperature in your home.
  • If you have plants in ceramic pots outdoors, remove the saucers from underneath them so they don’t fill with water and then freeze. This task will help prevent winter damage to your pots.

In the veggie garden:

  • There’s still time to plant garlic. However, your window of opportunity is narrowing. Garlic should be in the ground by the middle of this month to allow time for the roots to develop before the ground gets too cold. If you can’t or don’t plant garlic now, it’s ok. You’ll have another opportunity to do so in the spring. It just means a different harvest time.
  • Mulch your empty veggie beds with fallen leaves or straw (NOT hay, as this contains seeds of whatever that grass is and they will sprout in your beds).
  • If you are growing asparagus, now is the time to cut the tops off down to the ground.  Mulch to protect the crowns over winter.
  • Make sure to bring in all of your winter squash so that it doesn’t rot. Wash away any mud, dry and store in a cool, dry spot.

I hope you all have a very great Thanksgiving, filled with all the good things!  Friends, family, tasty food, and a deep feeling of well-being and gratitude.  After all, we do have a lot to be thankful for!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

The Garden In October

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturist

Rachel with Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'

Rachel with Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

One of my favorite things about being a gardener is knowing that nothing stays the same.  Things change all the time, whether it’s because of something big like the changing of the seasons, or something small like when the delphiniums all begin to bloom at the same time, hogging all the attention in that particular area of the garden. And then they’re done and it’s someone else’s turn to shine.  Flowers come and go, seasons turn from one to the next and the only thing that is constant is the fact that everything changes. Almost on a daily basis.  It’s awesome!

In the garden:

  • Cut any herbaceous perennials down to the ground that are looking ratty and tired, especially those that bloomed earlier in the season like Peonies, Phlox, and Delphiniums. I like to leave Asters, Rudbeckia, and Echinacea for a while longer since I know the birds like to pick at the seed heads. Plus, they are still sort of interesting and pretty in the garden.
  • Rake fallen leaves into your garden beds as a mulch over the winter. Doing this helps to keep weeds down, insulates the soil (which is especially great for new plantings), provides habitat for beneficial garden critters which in turn, provides forage for birds over the winter. Be sure the leaves you are using aren’t diseased or buggy like those from roses and some fruit trees sometimes tend to be.
  • October is a great time to get new plants in the ground. If you’ve been waiting to revamp your garden until rain and cooler temps allow, then this is your window of opportunity. The soil is still warm which encourages new root growth and natural rain fall can usually be counted on to help get things established before next summer. Remember, if October and November turn out to be somewhat dry months, it is important to hand water any new plants! Even though it seems cool and damp outside, most of that dampness will not make its way down to the root zone.
  • Divide perennials that have out grown their space or have declined in vigor. Bearded Iris, upright Sedum, and phlox are good candidates. I like to dig up the entire clump (a true chore with phlox – that plant is tenacious!), and once it’s out of the ground, I rather unceremoniously chop it into quarters (or smaller) with a spade. With Iris I am a bit more careful, preferring to dig them up with a garden fork and gently pry the rhizomes apart with my fingers. I toss the shriveled ones and the smallest ones and keep those that are fattest, firmest, and have the most eyes to replant. Take care not to plant them too deeply or they may not bloom for you next year.  Keep the rhizome just at soil level and tuck the roots in firmly.
  • Don’t forget to pick up some paper whites to start indoors at some time this month. They take about 6-8 weeks from the time you plant them to the time they bloom, so if you want blooms for Thanksgiving, plan ahead and get them started about mid-month or so.
  • Plant bulbs! Don’t miss this narrow window of opportunity! All the interesting bulbs sell first and fast so don’t miss out.  Also, if you buy bulbs remember to plant them. I think we’ve all brought home a bag or two or three of tulips or daffodils and put them in the garage thinking we’ll get to them later. Then when spring rolls around we come across that same bag of now soft, slightly moldy tulip bulbs that never made it into the ground. Oops! When that happens I always say better late than never. I plant them and keep my fingers crossed. I’ve been pleasantly surprised before!
  • Bring in any house plants that have been on vacation outdoors. Check closely for bugs and slugs and ask them to kindly stay outside, please and thank you.
  • Clean up time! Rake leaves, pull weeds and cut things back. Don’t be too tidy though. Leave grasses alone for now; they are interesting pretty long into the winter. Leave the seed heads of perennials on for the birds. Don’t prune roses or fruit trees yet, but do a good job of raking up their leaves, especially if they’re diseased. There’s a fine line between a garden that looks ignored and a garden that has been gone through and tidied but still looks natural, beautiful, and seasonal.

In the edible garden:

  • Leave sunflower heads out for the birds (and squirrels) to enjoy.
  • Make sure any seedlings you plan to overwinter are generously spaced to allow good air circulation. Mulch them with straw (not hay!), leaves, or compost for extra insulation. Sometimes I will stake a few things too, like Brussels sprouts, to help keep them upright during high winds.
  • Plant garlic towards the end of this month or the beginning of November. Spread a deep layer of straw over the bed to protect new roots and shoots.
  • Any beds you plan to leave fallow this winter should be mulched also. Bare soil is subject to compaction due to all the rain we get, and an extra layer between the elements and your soil will help to keep it loose. Soil is precious! It’s important to take good care of it, especially when it comes to growing food.

It’s soup and tea season. Dig out the wool sweaters and shake the spiders from long forgotten rain boots. Make pumpkin pie. Enjoy the seasonal change and celebrate fall!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, Click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.


The Garden In August

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturist


Blooms on a crepe myrtle ‘Zuni’

Hallelujah!  Let the good news ring down from above and echo in all the valleys!  My crepe myrtle is going to bloom this year!  Finally!  After 9 years!  While this may not seem “Hallelujah” worthy to some of you, it is for me and I need to share the good news because there is a cat to thank in the end.

I bought my crepe myrtle because I saw the most lovely display of these plants, blooming and glorious, at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle.  There were many different varieties all looking perfect and beautiful despite being planted in CUH’s parking lot. They were planted in a hot area with poor soil and were neglected.  I was smitten at once and had to have one.  I had the perfect spot in my parking strip in Anacortes!  I planted a variety called ‘Zuni’, a smallish tree 8-10 feet tall. I think it has purple flowers, but I honestly don’t remember. I have refrained from looking it up because I want to be surprised.

If you’re not familiar with crepe myrtles a.k.a Lagerstroemia indica, that’s okay.  They’re not commonly planted around here as they tend to be more synonymous with the south.  That being said, there are a handful of Indian named varieties introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum that are hardy down to USDA zone 5 (we’re zone 7).  These are the varieties that are most commonly available in our neck of the woods.  Crepe myrtles are known not only for their showy flowers (IF they flower, more on that later), but they also have gorgeous fall color, rivaling many Japanese maples, and beautiful, multicolored peeling bark for winter interest.  The new growth in spring is colorful too. They’re drought tolerant, pest resistant, and the deer don’t eat them.  So there’s a lot to recommend crepe myrtles even if they never flower, which is why I was perfectly content with mine as just an unusual foliage specimen.  Then this summer I noticed flower buds!  Why now?  It turns out that crepe myrtles bloom on new growth, and my poor tortured specimen put out very little new growth each year probably because I don’t tend to water a lot, especially in my parking strip.

This year is different, however, because of two things.  First, I planted a dahlia near the crepe myrtle that I adore and don’t want to die of dehydration.  And second, our kitty Ernie was killed earlier this summer and we buried him beneath the crepe myrtle, where he liked to hang out in the evenings on the warm sidewalk, greeting passersby.  Naturally, I planted a catmint atop his grave, which he adored to such a degree that I could never grow it because he would roll in it and eat it down to nothing.  I did NOT want this new start of catmint to die of drought because it is a very special symbol of our good friend.  To make a long story short, I watered that section of our parking strip more than usual. And lo and behold,  the crepe myrtle sprouted new growth followed by flower buds! They are yet to open.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  And thanking Ernie.

In the garden:

  • If you don’t have an automatic irrigation system, then you’re probably pretty tired of hand watering.  However, just because August brings a few cooler days (hopefully!) and more foggy mornings, it’s not time to give up on the watering quite yet.  Keep going!  And if it was difficult for you to keep up with it this season, maybe consider having an irrigation system installed next year.
  • For me, August in the garden always conjures up the image of crispy dry lawns and tired bloomed out perennials that have begun to flop over in their rush towards a more restful time.  After all, they’ve been working hard and going strong for months now!  They deserve a nap! However, there are some amazing perennials that are just now coming in to their season, ready and willing to take over for their earlier blooming cousins.  Look for Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Asters, Goldenrod, and Miscanthus.  These late summer stars are at their best in August and September.
  • Divide bearded Iris if your clumps are getting too large or didn’t bloom very well last spring.  Remember to replant the rhizomes shallowly or they will not flower.
  • This bit of advice is going to sound crazy to those of you who still have both feet firmly planted in summer, but towards the end of this month the Nursery will have begun to get in their bulbs for fall planting.  That means bearded Iris, Crocus, Narcissus, Allium…so it’s time to start thinking about next spring!  What?!  Crazy!  But smart gardeners know that timing is everything and planning ahead makes good garden sense.
  • Remember tent caterpillars?  Remember how frustrating and devastating they were?  I had nearly forgotten about them until one day when I was taking a slow stroll around my garden and I noticed a fresh tent caterpillar egg case on a low branch of one of my apple trees.  It was still soft to the touch, but I had a hard time peeling it off the branch and when I turned it over, there was row upon row of tiny eggs ready and waiting for another season of garden destruction.  Be on the lookout for these egg cases throughout the rest of the season.  They are silvery gray and resemble a small blob of foam adhered to a woody branch, especially but not exclusively on fruit trees.  Pick them off and destroy them because they will inevitably hatch into tent caterpillars.

In the edible garden:

  • If you’re interested in keeping a winter garden, there’s still time to sow seeds for many veggie crops.  Try spinach, radicchio, cabbage, kale, and radishes. Sow peas, lettuce, and radishes for fall harvest.  The sooner the better for peas.
  • A late summer batch of cabbage white butterfly larvae is emerging about now, so be on the lookout and hand pick them when you see them, or use a floating row cover.  If you have a large area and a heavy infestation, Bt  can be used as a last resort.  This pest is a pretty, creamy white butterfly with 1 to 4 black spots on its wings.  It has an erratic flight pattern.  The larvae are green (or sometimes purple if they’re feeding on purple cabbage) and favor brassicas like kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts….The larvae can quickly turn a lovely patch of cabbage into a holey mess, stunting growth and disfiguring your crop.
  • Empty veggie beds are great candidates for cover crops.  Sow buckwheat, bee bread (Phacelia tanacetifolia), or calendula and let it go.  These plants grow quickly and smother weeds.  They provide a nectar source for many beneficial insects and when finally turned under, will feed the soil for next year’s crops.

I hope everyone has a ‘hallelujah’ moment this summer!  It is so much fun to make a discovery and learn something new, even if it is the most basic of things.  It doesn’t matter where it comes from as long it makes you smile (or scrunch up you face in bewilderment)  and want to know more.  I realize I’ve said this a million times, but we gardeners are so lucky to have these opportunities to ask questions and learn from the things that are happening right in our own backyards.  Keep asking questions, and learning and above all, keep gardening!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.