Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer in Seattle at Last

by Sue Shecket, Webmaster and NW Trial Garden

It seems unfair to complain when I hear horror stories about the brutal heat in other parts of the country, but here in the Northwest, where we have just emerged from June Gloom (our typically cool, wet and garden-challenging month of “pre-summer”) we have only recently been able to shed our polar fleece.

I was out of the country on a vacation most of the past month, and had my neighbor poised to water my garden, but he never even turned on the hose, given the almost daily natural irrigation provided by Mother Nature. So when I returned, I was confronted with a lush jungle of leafy greens of both of the edible and the weedy types, but also with anemic tomatoes, slumping squash, and bare beds where the baby cucumbers and beans had been devoured by our ever present population of slugs.

After many hours of hacking with my trusty CobraHead weeder, I managed to get things back into reasonable shape and happily on July 5 the rains stopped, the temperatures hit the mid-70s and the sunscreen came out at last. Everything immediately perked right up and took off, and it now looks like we may be on track for a good year after all.

CobraHead Weeder

I replanted the Lemon and Armenian cucumbers and my absolute favorite "Musica" beans, which all popped right up and took off – another reminder that waiting to plant until the days and nights are consistently warm is always best. Of course the lettuces and greens loved the June weather, and my neighbors have been supplied with plenty of salad fixings. I am given bottles of our fine Washington wine in return, so it’s definitely a fair trade.

"Rhapsody" butterhead lettuces are thriving next to my potato patch
and I've been harvesting the "Farmer's Market" mesclun daily.

My "Sugar Snap" peas flowered and set nice pods within days. They are delicious when stir-fried with ginger and my young onion thinnings.  The "Wasabi" arugula has been great fun to share – nobody expects that kick at the end and I always get a wide eyed “wow!”.

"Super Sugar Snap" peas on steroids!
I put black plastic on my tomato bed this year to gather and hold heat, and it definitely does help. I am particularly happy with the performance of the "Stupice" tomato, a variety that we are offering this next season in our new organic seed line. It soldiered right through the tough weather and stood up to the rain and chill without missing a beat.

"Stupice" tomato - a real trooper
The "Astia" zucchini squash also impressed me with how quickly it burst out in bloom and fruit as soon as it got a bit of sun and warmth. Its compact size is great for that corner spot in the garden bed or in a container. 

"Astia" container zucchini - great for a small space

In the floral department, I tried a technique recommended by the Clematis grower that Renee and I met at the Farwest show in Portland several years ago. He encouraged me to plant Clematis right next to the climbing rose as well as near the base of rhododendron and azalea bushes. The vines twine and climb up among the branches and cover them in bright blooms all summer long. It’s a great way to get double duty out of those spring blooming shrubs, and provides a beautiful compliment to the roses.

Clematis make a lovely compliment to the climbing rose
The azalea bush is perfectly happy under it's Clematis cover

Now that the sun is shining, I have to pay close attention to my containers, as our rain doesn’t get under the cover of leaves and into the pots. Hard to remember, since I’m usually carrying my own umbrella to keep that water out and not in!
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