Personal Garden Coach

The Motivational Gardener at Large

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hiring a Personal Garden Coach! March 7, 2014

August 2008 garden 003 copyEnthusiasm for gardening is easy to acquire every single spring when you begin to see the first little plants start to line the front of the grocery store entryway. St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon you, here put this super cute clover on your desk at work and watch it…die. :-( Easter is coming and there are those fragrant, gorgeous Easter Lilly’s at every turn. YES!! Let’s get one of those for the kitchen window and enjoy the blooms…until it dies. See a theme here?

IMG_7208But its SPRING! You simply feel compelled to head to the Big BOX store and buy a flat cart load full of soil, mulches, fertilizers and dozens and dozens of plants. You eagerly roll up to the cash register pay for your loot and take it home. Now what? PLANT! We’re weekend warriors, we can DO this! Dump those bags of soil out, plant that one over there, that one the other side and zippity-doo-dah, you are very nearly the definition of a PRO-Gardener. You sprayed the fertilizer of green liquid just like the commercial, sat down, had a cold adult beverage and admired your handiwork while you called your friends and invited them over for a barbecue to admire your horticultural feats.

Sumner McLendon's 007Now its a month later, your plants are either dead or they look really sad. What? No one at the Big BOX store told you that those were actually not hardy OUTSIDE in your area? They may have also failed to mention that those pretty little flowers you were SO excited about are chock full of disease that will kill them quickly and the store knowingly sold them anyway? OUCH! They didn’t mention when you were shopping that you were buying “Potting Soil” for your perennial beds when you really needed a compost mix? The fertilizer you bought and sprayed all over everything with abandon not only isn’t organic for your edibles but you used 6X the recommended amount and now they have all turned black?

mowing-the-lawn
What happened? You went out with all of the very BEST intentions, but once again, you feel like you failed because it all turned out wrong. How come it doesn’t look like the magazines or all of the pictures on Pinterest? It’s NOT your fault!

It’s because you need a “Horticultural Hand-Holder”! Seriously, you’ve heard of people using Career Coaches, Nutritionists to help with a diet, or a Fitness Coach right? How about a Personal Shopper? Personal Chef? Dog Trainer? The bottom line is that we are all busy and you simply can’t be expected to have the time or inclination to be an expert at everything. And just like anything else, learning about YOUR garden takes time. Why not take the step to hire a Personal Garden Coach? Don’t be intimidated, just dive in, the beauty is that YOU set the pace. Once per month, once per season, twice a year, it all depends on what goals you have in mind for your landscape and what YOU intend to get out of it.

Head Shot IMG_6512
Here is what you need to know about working with a Personal Garden Coach:

  1. A Personal Garden Coach has the goal of saving you MONEY, TIME and, LABOR. By making informed decisions when you are shopping for plants, and hard-goods likes soils, fertilizers and tools. We have tried them ALL and made the mistakes for you. WE know who good vendors are, we know what products are worth spending a little bit extra on and even more important, we can help you save where it makes sense to save. By doing it right the first time, you aren’t wasting valuable time that you can be using to ENJOY your landscape.
  2. We want to see you succeed and eventually not need us anymore!
  3. A Personal Garden Coach wants you to find the PASSION in plants and gardening, not the drudgery.
  4. A Personal Garden Coach is on the journey with you, there WILL be mishaps. A plant WILL fail, a storm will happen at the wrong time, animals WILL cause problems. But, learning how to handle those issues as they happen is part of learning.
  5. A Personal Garden Coach is there to cheer you on to try NEW things that you might not have considered before. Want to create a fantasy miniature garden? Why not?
  6. A Personal Garden Coach is also the FIRM hand of reason. You want to begin collecting $1000 Koi fish? Maybe we should try our hand at building a self enclosed fountain first?
  7. A Personal Garden Coach is going to help you decide on your best options for that new Hot Tub and Patio you have always wanted- need a subcontractor, a Personal Garden Coach is going to help you find one.
  8. Feeling the need to Prune? A Personal Garden Coach is going to teach you how to properly to avoid situations like this one.
  9. Is your dream to have a sustainable vegetable garden and homestead for chickens? A Personal Garden Coach can help with that too!
  10. Got a fruit orchard and need help learning what to do with it all? A Personal Garden Coach is your foodie growing and preserving ally!

See? You CAN do this, don’t just settle for bland when your garden and landscape can be your proudest achievement without nearly as much expense and personal inner turmoil as you might have thought.

Enjoy this post?
Please do me the honor of sharing it with friends. And if you are on Facebook, you can find LOTS of neat info every day right here too! 

 

Winter Math in the Landscape January 7, 2013

December  2011 Foliage and Blooms (Some edited) 001 copy

January in the landscape is about math. Yes, you read that correctly, I wrote math. Not like the kind of garden math in The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. And not in the lovely “Fractaliscious” way either. I mean in the more relatively mundane, yet none the less important way that we’re all calculating what happened in the garden and what’s about to happen.

The addition is normally where I start in the dark days of winter. Right after the holidays, I’m already thinking, plotting, and strategizing my purchases. I want more shrubs this year, I added lots of trees last year, so shrubs are next….adding. How many packets of seeds do I want to order this year? How many yards of compost do I want to spread this spring? Some of my tools are getting old and in need of replacement or maybe I’ll FINALLY buy one of the tools I’ve had my eye on for SO long…adding.

February 2011 Seeds 001

The subtraction is at the forefront too. That perennial I have loved for ten years but have grown bored with, is SO yesterday, subtract. The super sale plant that was 50% doesn’t look like it’s going to make it…subtract. I bought and planted 24 tomatoes last year and 22 of them got tomato blight…subtracting. The matching pair of containers sitting at my front door are no longer a pair now that one has succumbed to a crack, subtracting (and maybe adding too.)

It’s too early for division yet. But soon… :-)

FINE FOLIAGE due out in March of 2013

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: Container Garden Season is OPEN! May 23, 2012

 

Garden Designers Roundtable: Designers Home Landscapes May 22, 2012

At the Garden Designer’s Roundtable this month we will show you our own gardens. This is no small thing for us, because most of us designers are busy at YOUR house making it look beautiful. And then we get home and experiment in our own gardens so you don’t have to. Truly, I don’t have a plant hoarding issue. Am I selling that well? :-) Actually it is true. I buy plants and trial and error them at home fairly frequently, strictly for testing purposes. Still buyin it?

OK, actually we do try out design ideas and test some plants from Growers and Breeders. We try to figure out the million dollar Bunny and Deer deterrent fixes. We use our gardens for our own blogs to show our successes and sad seasonal distresses, but it’s really just our own place to play just like yours, the good the bad and the really really bad. We just don’t usually bare our collective souls like this to the general public.

So, ready or not here is a snap shot of where my back yard landscape has begun and where it is today thanks to my friends at May Creek Landscape.

We downsized from our giant, custom-built dream home in 2007  just before the crash in 2008 to what I lovingly refer to as our “Barbie Doll House”. We bought our current home in the middle of the block in an almost brand new neighborhood about 30 seconds from our former home so that our teenager would be able to finish school and stay near friends until she went off to college.

As a former Real Estate Agent who worked for one of the 5 builders in this planned community I knew the neighborhood well and the small, contemporary San Fransisco lot styles with the alley in the back were just the right amount of maintenance for me to handle. Our side yard property line is right up to the neighbors foundation.

When we bought the home it had already had two owners, most recently 5 Bachelors with a motorcycle hobby. Yup, they were beloved by ALL the neighbors for sure. Not to mention that yard maintenance was not exactly a priority. So, it was a typical example of a NEW fixer upper these days. But, also a VERY blank canvas from the stand point of the garden.

I failed to get shots in 2007 of the gardens, I was too busy cleaning and planting! This pic shows the back yard in 2008, one year after we moved in. This gravel path and the beds on either side as well as all of the plants you see here did not exist at that time.

Back Yard in June of 2009.

I’m pretty sure I spent the better part of the first year simply adding soil to even make it diggable. Yes, that is the most correct Hort-term I could think of for this awful, hard-pan clay soil. Also, as you can see across the back side, privacy is an issue, so my baby Leyland Cypress trees that I started as 1 Gallons are 3 ft. tall in this picture. I also started creating English Laurel Standards from 1 Gallon babies too- wait until you see those now!

The drainage here is abominable. The lawn is just a bog all winter and most of spring until it dries out in summer and then it’s impossible to keep watered. Even the dog didn’t want to walk out there. Luckily all of those big tree roots have been helping to suck some of it up.

Now skip ahead to early spring of this year before any of the color and fluff came on and this was where we were in 2012. My MASTER Plan is about to unfold before your very eyes!

LAWN be gone!! No more mowing and edging- YUCK!

Construction day one, 7 years in the making…. no, waiting, yes, that’s it!

The Gravel base my patio and edging are down.The guys are getting the forms ready for the 3 concrete pedestals for my containers and building my water feature. The pedestals will be covered with slate tiles. Check out the size of my very pruned Leyland Cypress trees and Laurel Standards now!

Ta da! There are still a few tweaks and of course more plants needed. But, for the most part, it’s exactly as I had envisioned it. My landscape crew thought my idea was totally nuts, but now they see the light!

I adore my new veggie bins!!

A cool respite in the shade on a hot day.

More updates on the new back yard to come this summer as I finish planting and getting it just the way I want it, this is only 2 weeks old now! I’ve now bared my garden soul to all of you. I hope you enjoyed what took me a long time to get here.

Please be sure to take a look at what the other brilliant Lords and Ladies of the Round Table have to share as well!

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

 

Celebrating One Season at a Time April 20, 2012

Each spring I find that my wonder and exaltation of natures capacity to renew me after a long winter seems greater and greater. Once I’m able to be outside for any length of time without getting either soaked or numb is a wonderful day to be outside enjoying the garden.

In the Northwest we live with a constant paradox, our winter seems longer than a truly cold climate season due to our gray skies that seems to last for 6 months. Well, now that I actually think about it, it really is almost a 6 month winter. So, when we do get let out of the house we get a little nutty and want to plant tomatoes in March. Not that I would actually do it, but when we are pining for those lazy warm summer days that never seem to arrive soon enough, it’s a tempting thought.

While I can commiserate with my damp, often pale and possibly pruney gardening compatriots, I do firmly believe in celebrating one season at a time. Enjoy spring, people. It’s the lovely, bursting with juicy color season. It’s the time to wind your spring for summer. Exercise those gardening muscles in the slow warm-up to balmy weather madness. Don’t pass up the wonders right in front of your eyes in favor of the lure of Impatiens and Peaches. Seize the SPRING day and discover all of the shrubs, perennials and edibles that deserve to have that level of adoration too.

Here is a small taste of the spring delights that I have been able to capture so far in April. So, get out there and beat the drum, blow off steam, carouse a bit, exalt, extol, fete, and glorify. Have a ball, jubilate, kick up your heels, let loose, live it up, make merry, make whoopee, mark with a red letter, memorialize, observe, paint the town red, party, proclaim, publicize, raise hell, raise a glass, revel, rejoice, revere, ritualize, solemnize all that is spring rather than skipping it and moving right on to summer.

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Practice-Living-in-the-Moment-Seize-the-Day

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200810/the-art-now-six-steps-living-in-the-moment

 

Garden Designer’s Roundtable – Deer vs. Gardener December 13, 2011

It’s common for many gardener’s to be plagued by the dreaded problem of the garden becoming a Deer Buffet. Imagine a blinking red neon sign over your gate that reads, “EAT here” that remains on until the plants are nubbins, or just tipped enough that they never bloom.

Sometimes you feel like you put out the WELCOME sign for Bambi. :-)

There are oodles of resources on the web for researching Deer “RESISTANT” plants on the web. Here’s one of the very best that I’ve seen. The Sunset western Garden Book has a Deer-Resistant list is a pretty darn good compilation too. So, I’m not going to go into it in any depth on the plant list end of things. Particularly since you need to check with your local nursery expert to see which are appropriate for your area anyway.

Notice I use the term “RESISTANT’ and not “DEER-PROOF”. There is a huge leap of Horticultural faith that needs to take place here when you learn the difference.

The strategy that I use and teach my clients for keeping deer at bay in the garden is this:

1) Deer are hungry.

2) Adult Deer have defined palates.

3) Young Deer eat whatever Mom eats.

4) It’s the Teenagers that do all the damage and eat EVERYTHING at least once.

This explains why there is no such thing as any Deer PROOF plant. Plant choices can vary from Region to Region and Zone by Zone. The best we can do is be thoughtful about the strategies we use about planting in areas where Deer have access to our gardens.

Here is the full extent of my strategy:

1) Plant pokey and annoying plants.

2) Anything that will make it difficult or annoying to reach the food they want is fair game.

3) Think ankle biting plants like Barberry or Juniper that they might have to step through to get to the good stuff.

4) For annoying plants, think about anything that smells great to us, like Rosemary or Lavender. Deer have such a highly attuned sense of smell that to them, these lovely things smell horrifying.

5) In general, just make it too much work to get to your tender and tasty buffet.

Here’s a shot of my front yard this Fall. Not bad huh? No Deer damage this year at all!

The above picture shows my Red Barberry ‘Crimson Pygmy’ alternated with Spanish Lavender, Eunoymous Fortunei ‘Emerald-n-Gold’ and Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’. Plus ‘Tri-Color’ Sage for an extra dose of smelliness with Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ and a beautiful Heather that’s turned bright red for Fall and Winter. I can’t remember which one it is though, I’ve been collecting red Heathers and have not been good at record keeping.

Here’s is one of the best plants for shade and Deer-Resistance from Great Plant Picks, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, one of my favorites!

Photo Credit - Chris Hansen, http://www.GreatPlantPicks.org

Go forth and plant in your Deer grazing area, just do it thoughtfully. Deer munching WILL happen. Go with the flow, change plants out if need be. But mostly, don’t let the Bambi’s get you down!

Please visit the blogs of other Lords and Ladies of The Garden Designer’s Roundtable and read what valuable advice they have on Deer too!

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

 

Slug and Snail Attack Plan 101 March 24, 2011

If you live in a marginally moist environment as we do here in the Pacific Northwest, you no doubt have Slugs and you might have Snails too. Here is an outline for the plan that I’ve devised for conquering them!

The first few things you need to think about:

  1. Get ‘em early!
  2. Be consistent!
  3. Use pet safe products!
  4. A great link for some Slug and Snail basics here.

Applying your slug and snail product early in the growing season is key. Get the baby ones before they mature and multiply!

Sluggo is the product that I use here at home. (I’m not being paid or compensated in any way to promote this or any item.) This is one of few snail and slug control products not based on metaldehyde. The active ingredient is a 1% Iron Phosphate that organically breaks down in the soil into fertilizer. It can safely be used around domestic animals and wildlife. This product is also labeled for use in vegetable gardens.

Use your favorite pet safe slug and snail product early in the season. Ring the lawn, because one of the favorite egg laying spots is here so they can make a quick get away into the garden beds unseen by hungry birds. You want to get the babies when they hatch to be proactive in your efforts rather than after the damage is done!

Also, sprinkle the little pellets IN ground covers, rockeries, paths and any moist hiding place. Hide them where they live NOT where they feed. A slug or a snail will commonly climb up into a woody shrub as the sun comes out and come back out as soon as it cools down. Place your product any place where it’s cool and moist or at the base of the shrubs and under the ornamental grasses.

Remember this has a yummy scented bait! Slugs can smell for an impressive distance. If you bait where you DON”T want them to munch, you might kill a few of the bad guys, but you will also invite a bunch of your neighbors slugs to feast on your plants after the bait is gone.

If you want to create a barrier that you CAN safely put around Slug and Snail buffet locations, use a product made of Diatomaceous Earth. I use this brand, because it’s easy for me to find in a small quantity and it lasts forever.


Concern is a crawling insect killer that harnesses the power of diatomaceous earth (85%). Made from the finely ground fossils of prehistoric fresh water diatoms, this product kills cockroaches, ants, silverfish, fleas and slugs. A long-lasting control, it sprinkles into cracks and crevices where bugs hide. Insects cannot develop resistance as there is no build-up of chemical immunity. Insects dies within 48 hours of contact. OMRI-listed and compliant for use in organic gardening.

This product is finer than flour! So stay up wind of it and as it can be a lung irritant avoid inhaling. However, I have found this really easy, safe and convenient way to apply it:

I use these little squeeze bottles, labeled “BUG DEATH”, to get the powder down in the cracks and crevices of leaves and rocks and around the base of plants. This is the equivalent of them trying to crawl through ground glass- I love it!

However as I said above the key is consistency. If it gets rainy right away, you will have to re-apply soon after to be effective. I usually pick a day every week during the moist part of the growing season and patrol the landscape with my little powder, which is also great for Earwigs too!

Even living near MANY ponds and wetlands, I have successfully reduced the populations to more than tolerable levels in about 3 years. Now I only need to be applying when I have little trouble spots.

Good luck and happy slug hunting!


 

March Wordless Wednesday- Seed Starting March 2, 2011

 

The Edible Front Yard- Ivette Soler February 1, 2011

When I think of eating produce that I can grow in my front yard, I can almost hear the cries of the neighborhood Lawn Nazi’s now. Grousing not so subtly when passing by for inspection, “What about the green carpet of tweezed by hand, weed free, edged to perfection, pride of ownership that defines your island of possession and weekly proof of conquering nature?”

Surely Blueberry shrubs could be acceptable. They’re so pretty in Fall! Especially if I bake them a pie right? What about some Rhubarb? That can’t hurt if I have some strawberries growing underneath. Then they can have a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie! I could even have hanging baskets of berries growing on the porch. Certainly, the Lawn Inspector Generals can’t have a problem with that, right?

Simple- Strawberries and Lobelia!

Now, with the support of “The Germinatrix”- Ivette Soler and her brand new book called “The Edible Front Yard”, I have her chutzpah and encouragement to go for it! Ivette has written an entertaining and might I say, down right persuasive book for me to have the guts to stand up and plant my veggies, right here in my own front yard! Lawn Nazi’s be warned. I will not tolerate your irrational tyranny any longer.

With Ivette’s brand of witty and passionate support, her book is lighting the way to create a front yard landscape that is elegant AND tasteful, in the best possible way! The forward in her book is written by Fritz Haeg, the author of “Edible Estates”. Fritz challenges us to be brave, go forth and conquer our fear of the neighbors downward glances and make the display of your edibles beautiful!

Photos Worth 1000 Healthy Calories

Ivette has gathered hundreds gorgeous of photos of gardens and plants in this book that help tell the story of distinctive and beautiful edible plants. Photographer Ann Summa gets the bulk of credit, but there are also photos from edible gardening experts and designers from many varying locations. They give great example of aesthetic’s and variety of styles and ideas to springboard your integration of edibles into the face forward side of your landscape.

Style Advice for Star Quality Veggie-scapes


The “Rules For Front Yard Edibles” on page 15, gives four guidelines to follow so that your edibles to rise to the occasion. The performance AND the beauty necessary for making the most of the design and devourables is paramount. Ivette puts great weight on Beauty, Style, Regional Appropriateness, and your Home’s Architectural Style. Those are points that really ring bell’s with the neighbors and HOA so that they know you’re not going to be creating an eyesore.

The book is chock full of suggestions for ways to add edibles to your landscape that follow the four guidelines. Plus a whole slew of plant suggestions and even design renderings that you can copy in your own garden!

Fired up doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about tackling this Edible Front Yard revolution! This book also has a great section on the Reality Check needed before you really get going such as, Climate, Boundaries, Grading, Structures, and Sunlight or lack of it. There are even some suggestions for shade edibles!

Red Sails Lettuce, Lemon Thyme, Hellebore, Jasmine and more!

My FAVORITE Page

Of course it would be imprudent for me not to mention the VERY BEST part of the book – THANK YOU, Ivette and Timber Press, the column on page 131 about Garden Coaches!!!! YES WE CAN be of great help to a gardener who wants to embark on this great new gardening adventure in eating. Saving you Money, Time and Labor is my specialty!

The How-to’s

The chapters and sections that cover the removal and reuse of the lawn, working with existing trees and plants, making the most of hardscaping, and maintenance of your newly designed Edible Front Yard are fantastic! Ivette has written them with a green hand and responsible attitude for todays new gardeners. Setting an example for the neighbors and young passers-by is a truly noble ideal in this day and age. Worms, Compost Tea, Organic Pest Control methods are all topics that we need to be preaching from the top of the compost bin and Ivette has set in motion a beautiful means of doing just that!

Eating out of your Edible Front Yard will not a be considered a subversive act anymore. Even Martha is talking about it! The Mayor of San Francisco has also turned a public space into a fruit and veggie bearing garden for all to enjoy.  This can begin to transform a community, create great relationships with spectators and promote biodiversity that goes beyond lawn and Lobelia. Not to mention the financial and physical benefits of growing your own produce and staying in shape while you do it.

I WILL reflect my own style with veggies in the front yard and I WILL be removing some lawn chores from my routine this Spring while I add some produce curb-appeal! Thanks Ivette! :-)

*Leave me a FABULOUS comment for a free book give away of “The edible front Yard Garden” – drawing on March 1st!!

 

 
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