My good friend, Stacie, has graciously agreed to lend us some of her horticulture wisdom in a new Urban Natural Homes newsletter article called “Ask a Gardening Guru.”
Welcome Stac! You are currently in the process of completing the Master Gardener program. Will you briefly share your experience with us?
Thank you, Tamara! The Master Gardener Program is offered through WSU Extension with the goal of training volunteers to be community educators of sustainable gardening and related environmental issues such as hazardous waste disposal, water conservation and invasive species. The program consists of a classroom portion (approximately 80 hours) and 2 years of volunteer commitment, with a minimum of 40 hours per year, working in community clinics and demonstration gardens.
The program is open to everybody, regardless of their gardening experience. For example, I had not received any “formal” gardening education prior to the MG program. My experience consisted of trial and error in the microclimates of small suburban yards to watching my dad build nesting boxes for the bees that pollinated the farmers’ fields next door and helping my mom plant, nurture, harvest and process the fruits and veggies we grew in our quaint yard in rural Boise, Idaho. The MG program expanded upon my past experiences through the teaching of basic botany, soil science, plant pathology, entomology, and numerous other topics that cover the intricate world of gardening in the Pacific Northwest. I highly recommend you go to http://mastergardener.wsu.edu/ to find out more information about their Master Gardener program.
With Fall upon us, what are some key gardening tips you would suggest for getting our plants ready for the cooler months ahead?
Ah, Fall. Pumpkin spice lattes, mulled wine, cozy sweaters and fall gardens! My favorite time of year and also a great time to prep your plants and beds for winter. First and foremost, you should help prevent disease and pest problems by cleaning up your beds! Clear all plant waste out of the beds, especially diseased leaves or other plant parts as fungal spores can overwinter on infected plant debris. Place disease-free debris in the compost and diseased waste in the garbage. Make sure the beds are weed free then mulch with either a good quality fertile mulch (avoid piling mulch directly against the base of your plants and trees) or, for veggie gardens, plant a winter cover crop which works well in empty beds. Cover crops are a great way to add green matter to your veggie soil, help control weeds and capture nitrogen which otherwise may have washed away with the rains. For more information on cover crops that do well in western Washington, go to http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS111E/FS111E.pdf
Fall brings still warm soils and dissipating summer heat which makes it a great time to plant trees and perennials whose roots will grow in the warm soil until the first frost (around mid-November, according to the Farmer’s Almanac). You can add compost when planting your trees and perennials but make sure to thoroughly mix it into the existing soil to encourage spreading root growth. This is also the time of year to plant your spring blooming bulbs such as tulips, hyacinth, alliums, crocus and daffodils. Mix and match your bulbs (such as tulips with hyacinth) and plant them in clusters for beautiful spring color!