Seattle fall gardening: pruning, winter vegetables & mulch

Hooray for fall gardening in Seattle & the Northwest! HAZEL is currently scheduling fall clean-ups, consultations, and specialty pruning sessions for the upcoming months, so give us a call. We will facilitate your transition from the summer garden to a productive, beautiful winter garden that will take you well into next spring. Now is also a great time to think about new trees, shrubs, fruit trees and berry bushes for next year — the roots will grow all the winter and give the new plant a jump start on 2013.
A few fall tips for Seattle gardeners:

WINTER CROPS:  Buy starts or seeds now from your local Seattle/Northwest nursery, or use your own saved seeds! New crops will appreciate the warmer temps of late summer, but keep them moist until they’re sprouted and growing. Plant seeds now for overwintering Carrots, Cilantro, Arugula, Cabbage, Mustard, Radish, Snow Peas, Fava Beans, Beets, Spinach, Lettuce, and overwintering grasses like Rye, Barley, Wheat (cover crops). Garlic, Onions & Shallots can go in now for harvest in the spring.

BULBS:  September/October is the time to plant daffodil, tulip, crocus, allium, scilla, hyacinth… all those spring beauties! They can go right in with your perennials because they’ll be done blooming and their leaves will fall down right when other plants start putting out new growth.

CHIPS:  Arborist chips are free, and much appreciated by our predominantly clay Seattle soils. Keep an eye out for arborist trucks in your neighborhood, and ask them to dump their chips at your house to use for mulching beds and pathways. Make sure there is no ivy, bindweed (wild morning glory) or holly in there! When spread thickly in your garden, arborist chips slowly break down and invite native micro-organisms into your soils while keeping weeds at bay and making a tidy, walkable surface. Lay down a swath of landscaping fabric first if you want to make a pathway or patio area. Smother grass with a layer of crushed cardboard boxes and then 4-5″ of chips to prepare a new planting area. Spread chips around existing trees of all ages to protects roots from foot traffic and erosion from rain this winter. Be careful not to pile the chips directly against the trunk of the tree.

JOURNAL your ideas, successes and failures, inspirational gardens you’ve seen in the Northwest or elsewhere, or anything that you might forget by the time spring comes around again. Write, draw, copy, snap photos, whatever, it doesn’t have to be pretty. This is helpful for you, and extremely helpful for me next time I talk to you about garden projects!
Call us for an appointment or to run any questions by us!


late summer harvest from my tiny urban farm

Here are the survivors of my own sporadic home gardening attentions, the slug attacks, and a very dry August! I swear, I take better care of my clients’ gardens, but my own often gets a little droopy looking in the hot summer weather when I’m most busy. (I also plant a lot of things in planter boxes and pots since I rent in the city, requiring more vigilant watering.) So these taste all the sweeter for toughing it out so that I can still call myself an urban farmer.


Ground cherries look like golden, marble-sized tomatillos in individual paper-lantern sheaths. With a sweet/acid flavor they make an excellent salsa fresca with red onions and some sweet Sungold tomatoes. And those are basil flowers, pinched off to encourage more leaf growth. I’m still waiting to pounce on the basil plant for a big batch of pesto, but it’s probably about time.

This assortment didn’t all make it into one meal, but it inspired several delicious separate ones:

The kale and fresh eggs from a neighbor went into an omelet with basil & onions from the garden.

Prunings from a huge parsley plant went into a delicious parsley pesto with some sour cream, fresh ‘fromage blanc’, a little olive oil and S&P (no garlic).

Two bags of pilfered plums from an overgrown tree in a neighborhood greenbelt went into a crisp, some are pickling in balsamic vinegar, and the rest got dehydrated into prunes.

Sungold tomatoes don’t last long in a bowl on the kitchen table, no need to do anything with them they’re so sweet and delicious.

Ah, yes, tomatoes– what is the epitome of hope if not the thousands of Seattlites planting tomatoes every spring! After a humbling visit to my parents’ lush, northeastern gardens during the height of corn, peach, bean and tomato season, it’s extra gratifying to pluck a sun-ripened tomato from my special Siberian hybrid tomato vine in the northwest. Greenies go into the frying pan or get pickled.

Artichokes from earlier this summer — they are space hogs but so dramatic and fun that they’re worth it to me. Now they’re looking fluffy & spiky, playing off the later perennials and sunflowers.

Summer sun drops in a jar, are canned peaches! Blanching and skinning them is just one step of many, but probably the most fun. We put up two boxes of Eastern WA peaches and made a lot of peachy desserts. I almost got tired of them but they’ll be a welcome injection of summer sweetness later.