Vertumni Fine Landscaping News

Get Ahead of the Weed Curve…

by admin - February 8th, 2011

Now is the critical time to get ahead of your weeds before spring makes them pop. Regular weeding is the key to a weed-free garden. Technological solutions such as landscape fabric can seem like a tempting alternative to spending time pulling weeds. But in my encounters with landscaping fabrics installed around Seattle, these barriers are not the promised solution they claim to be.

For one thing, the notion of laying down a barrier on the ground to prevent weeds from growing up out of the soil might make sense if you yourself went out into your garden and scattered seeds for dandelions, shot weed, and buttercups. But chances are you don’t spend time planting weeds. In fact, the vast majority of weeds growing in your yard arrived as seeds by air from above, not below, the ground—so ground barriers are poor weed stoppers.

Landscaping fabric can also trap organic material, which gives those weed seeds a perfect growing environment. Also, it is very difficult to remove: Organic matter on top and roots below make them a mess when you are ready to move plantings or redesign a garden area. So fabric barriers aren’t going to keep weeds from appearing, though they can keep nutrients from assimilating into the soil.

What I do recommend in terms of weeding is to do it regularly, get all the roots of the weeds, and disturb the soil as little as possible—tilling the soil completely brings more seeds to the surface where they germinate. We also recommend that you follow up with mulching. This is the practice I follow with my clients’ gardens. As far as I’m concerned, it is essential. Mulching before the start of spring greatly slows down weed growth, aids in water retention for the summer, adds nutrients, and lessens soil compaction.

… Check back soon for “Daphnes Are Delightful”

Happy gardening!

Fall Garden Clean Up

by admin - November 18th, 2010

To clean or not to clean, that is the question.  How often do we have the luxury of any doubt in the cleaning department?  When it comes to the Fall garden it really amounts to personal preference.  As buckets of leaves fall, perennials die back, and annuals die and sow seed the garden obviously takes on a very different character.

It is entirely appropriate to cut back all perennials, pull your annuals, prune trees and shrubs that require fall pruning and rake out your beds this time of year.  If you do that,  make sure to put down a nice layer of mulch, perhaps an inch.  I like to use a mixture of aged steer or chicken manure and composted sawdust.  Traditional garden and kitchen compost is great too.

Another option is to wait until late February or even early March to cut everything back and mulch.  If you do this it is still a good idea to do fall pruning on trees and shrubs..  The advantage to this is that you will leave a better habitat for insects and birds during the winter time.  Just yesterday I noticed a fat Bushtit enjoying the seeds of a spent Hosta as pictured.  I wonder if he will spread the seeds around?  One way or another they are unlikely to germinate.  Just make sure you get to it before the plants break bud and start pushing up new growth.

Many people will not want the mess of seeing leaves and dead branches laying about their garden during the holidays and winter months.  However, if you can tolerate it you might even enjoy the interesting shapes of seed pods melting slowly under our rains or the changing colors and shapes of old leaves turning from golden to brown to skeletal over the winter.  If you do, just make sure that you get out on President’s Day weekend and give everything a good thorough cleaning for the upcoming growing season.

If you don’t want to do either, then give us a call and we’ll help any time of year.


Happy Gardening

Seattle Central Area Garden Tour

by admin - May 23rd, 2010

Yesterday I had the good fortune to take my friend, Kathy Hubenet, along with me on the 2100 Seattle Central Area Garden Tour.

It was very inspiring to see the great work that Seattle gardeners are doing in producing eclectic, sustainable, creative and unpretentious gardens.  In those elements there is a constant band of beauty wove, but, as is often said of design, form follow function in all of these gardens.

The Kirlay and Bravo-Stacey’s gardens both have an a passionate focus on sustainable, urban food production.  The Bravo-Stacey’s have spearheaded a highly successful program to transform a neglected and trash-filled alley into a mulched garden trail lined with native plants that choke out most weeds, require very little water, and provide excellent visual appeal for humans and great habitat for a range of other living things.  This alley can be a great model for anyone in the Northwest who is hoping to keep a garden low-maintenance, sustainable and beautiful.  It may not be appropriate for every goal and every garden but is very successful here.

We followed up with the McDonnal-Wyman garden, a wonderful reflection of the style, sensibility, and grace of the owners.  They have a riveting blend of formality, practicality, grace and beauty.  Found objects and antiques seamlessly blend into the planting and lap-pool.  They charm the local children (and most adults) with their miniature horse and Nubian goat.

The day got away from us and we had to finish at the James W. Washington Jr. home and the Fowler Art Garden.  These neighboring gardens reflect the creative energy and relationship to home and community of a legendary Seattle sculptor and a contemporary mosaic artist and motorcycle collector. The James W. Washington Jr. home serves as both a homage to the past of a great artist and view into the domestic and horticultural values of an artist working from home in a community setting as well as refuge, inspiration, and breeding ground for contemporary artists.

The Fowler Art Garden (and garlic farm!) shows how rich an artistic life can make a neighborhood.  This home and garden are surrounded and interwoven by his vision, collection, and craft.  The sterile surrounding townhomes but in high relief how bare our neighborhoods get when there is not room left for individuality and creative expression.


More photos and captions can be seen at:

http://gallery.me.com/vertumni#100160

Hats off to the organizers.

Landscaping with Seattle Spring Rains

by admin - May 12th, 2010

This time of year we humans tend to be thrilled by the increasingly frequent warm, dry days and put off by what seems and endless succession of rainy days.

Your garden, especially if newly planted, sees thing differently.

It most likely thinks its about to slow down its most verdant  growth to conserve moisture in the face of a dramatic reduction of moisture and increase in evaporation.

The reality is that very little moisture has been coming out of  the skies.  What may feel like a rainy day to you and me means almost no moisture reaching the soils.  In my 16 years of Northwest horticultural experience I see perhaps more damage from people not watering in mid-Spring than anytime of year.  Generally, we think to water in the height of Summer.  This time of year we let it slide.

What to do?  This is the nuanced part where it all depends on the amount of rain.  It is the time of year to most carefully pay attention to the weather and your garden soil.  I can guarantee that you don’t need to water during January.  I can guarantee, or almost, that you need to during August.  This time of year you are going to need to pay attention to the rains and how dry you soil really is.

Lawns will need 1’’ per week of rain.  Perennials, perhaps half that, depending the planting.  Best is to take a trowel to the ground and make sure it is not dry 1.5’’ below the surface.

If all this is too complicated, simply make sure your irrigation system is on by May first, with a rain sensor.  That will probably give a bit more than needed but will ensure you don’t miss the all important Spring growing season due to drought.  If you can set your lawn to every other day for ten minutes and the rest of the garden for once or twice a week you should be good.

If you don’t have an irrigation system, you might consider the investment.  Summer watering is right up there with weeding as the number one maintenance in our Mediterranean climate.


Happy Gardening,

Hello world!

by admin - March 15th, 2010

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