The Joy of Composting (with Worms)

by Diana Brooks, MG Class of 2013

cartoon-wormsI know that many of you Master Gardeners compost in various ways. Yard waste, for sure. Many of you probably already have worm bins. But for those of you who have not tried vermicomposting yet and might like to know more, this article is for you.

I won’t preach. You already know the benefits of composting food: keeps the methane-producing decomposing food out of the landfill; produces black-gold for your garden; saves you money; and you get to have a clear conscience when you find spoiled food in the fridge: it gets re-purposed as worm food.

Right now is a good time to experiment with your first worm bin! It’s super-easy. All you need is get started is 1) a container with a tight-fitting lid; 2) some worms; 3) some shredded newspaper or sawdust for bedding. Easy 10-step directions follow:

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Garden Club Talk: Greenhouses, Simple to Complex

Charlet in his greenhouse!

Charley’s in the (green)house!

Do you wish your tomatoes would ripen sooner and last longer, through the fall rains?

For over 38 years, Charley Yaw, the foremost expert on greenhouses in the United States, has helped thousands of gardeners across the country select, build, equip and enjoy their greenhouses. Fortunately for us, he is located in Mt Vernon, WA and will be here to tell us everything we need to know about greenhouses. Don’t miss this one!

That’s Wednesday, October 15, beginning at 10 a.m. at Orcas Center, 917 Mt. Baker Road on Orcas Island. Free to Garden Club members, $5 admission for guests. Following the program, members and guests are invited to a social hour with coffee, tea, and appetizers.

For more info, visit the Orcas Island Garden Club.

Green Manures: Let’s Look at Legumes

by D.A. Salazar, MG Class of 2009

Young faba beans.

Young faba beans.


We’ve all heard that legumes are “nitrogen fixers”, and can do great things for poor, tired soil. It being the season for planting cover crops (a.k.a. green manures), and as legumes figure large in that capacity, let’s take a look at how legumes work their magic.

First a refresher: Legumes are of the family Fabaceae, also called Leguminosae, and their fruit takes the form of a dry seed or pulse that grows in a pod. Grain legumes include chickpeas, faba beans, lentils, field peas and winter or Austrian field peas. Forage legumes include alfalfa, clovers like red and sweetclover, and the vetches. Legumes are plants high in protein — and proteins are full of nitrogenous amino acids, which means legumes require a high intake of nitrogen.

Also known as “N.”

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Keep it Growing: Planting Fall and Winter Vegetables

by Daniel Robison, Communications Specialist, Oregon State University Extension

Vintage pea vine
Gardeners can extend the season well into fall in many parts of the Pacific Northwest with a little knowledge and protection of their plants from the elements. When space becomes available after harvesting the last spring-planted peas or greens, keep those veggies coming.

Even though your summer vegetables are growing like mad, July through mid-August is time to plant many of your fall garden seeds in the Pacific Northwest. Lettuce and winter greens can be put in until September in many locations—but realize that each area has different growing requirements and results.
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Winter Blows A Frosty Coat: Taking Stock of Cold Weather Damage

by D.A. Salazar, MG Class of 2009

Ahhh,  Sunday in the San Juans!

Ahhh, Sunday in the San Juans!

This winter we’ve seen some pretty weird weather combinations around here: dry air with freezing temperatures, bursts of sleet or hail falling from the clear blue sky, bright sunny days suddenly overtaken by hammering cold rains. The promise of a warm, crystalline Thursday is usurped by a weekend of steadily dribbling snow.

By this time, your plants are probably as confused as you are. Such schizophrenic winter temperatures can test the fortitude of even the healthiest plants – especially with the sudden freezing and thawing that our soils have been experiencing. Winter injury, frost injury, and desiccation from cold and wind can result in a smorgasbord of damage to plant life – including stem and bud death, frozen roots, sun scald and wind scald, bark splitting, leaf droop and roll, leaf burn, and limb breakage. And sometimes the damage isn’t evident until spring.

Well, at least it keeps things interesting.
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Using Horticultural Oils in Winter

by Jeanette Stehr-Green, WSU Clallam County Master Gardener

Garden Pest cartoon Although small in size, some insects and mites can affect the health and productivity of your fruit trees and berry bushes. If you have had past problems with these pint-sized pests, consider using horticultural oils this winter to control them.

Horticultural oils, typically applied to your plants as a spray, are used during the dormant season (that is, in the winter when deciduous plants shed their leaves and stop actively growing). Horticultural oils kill overwintering soft-bodied and slow-moving insects and mites. They block the air-holes through which insects and mites breathe. They also penetrate the shells of insect and mite eggs, decreasing the number that hatch.
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Garbage Gardening

As this year’s colder-than-usual temperatures already have us hunkering down indoors, we can still keep our green thumbs limber — and keep the young’uns from climbing the walls — with some off-season gardening projects. Marianne C. Ophardt, Director of the WSU Extension at Benton County, has a couple of fun tips to keep both young and not-so-young gardeners entertained until we can get outside again.

Vintage PineappleWhat is garbage gardening? It’s growing plants from seeds and sprouts that you would ordinarily just throw away.

For example, you can grow your own pineapple from the leafy top of a pineapple that you buy in the grocery store. Fresh pineapples are a tasty treat at this time of year and make us longingly think of the tropics where they grow. Alas, a trip to these tropical paradises isn’t an option for most of us, but by gently twisting the leafy top off of a pineapple you can grow your own plant at home. This should be fairly easy if the pineapple is fully ripe.

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