Seeds For Thought
November 2023 – Volume 23, Issue 4
From the President
~~ Tana Hasart, MGFWS President
Our gardening year follows some predictable patterns, and for me, fall is always a time of reflection and planning. Attending workshops at the Advanced Education Conference in September provided so many insights to make 2024 an even better gardening year. Climate change, pollinator support, and enhancing public learning interactions create better opportunities to improve as a Master Gardener.
The MGFWS provides support for Master Gardener educational tools – Seeds for Thought and The Evergreen Thumb Podcast are just two examples. Each publication or episode brings relevant topics right to you. May this season be filled with pride in 2023 accomplishments and thoughtful consideration of those yet ahead in 2024. Enjoy!
This year, 3 WSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers were recognized at the Advanced Education Conference for their dedication and commitment to the Master Gardener program.
Below are excerpts from their nominations. Please check out the awards page for more details about the awards, their 2023 recipients, as well as fellow nominees.
WSU Extension Master Gardener of the Year
Cathi has been volunteering with the WSU Extension Spokane Master Gardener program since 2008. In that time, she led and participated in most of the Program and Foundation activities available. She also actively represents county, state, and national boards and program activities and, in doing so, earned her Presidential Lifetime Service Award.
Through her involvement, she has enriched the culture of the program at both the local and state levels. The legacy that she will leave is not limited to a particular program, but rather it is her modeling of the volunteer spirit. Her passion for gardening draws audiences young and old, novice to experienced.
Cathi’s commitment, leadership, involvement, and lasting impact make her the 2023 WSU Extension Master Gardener of the Year!
Ed LaCrosse Distinguished Service Award
Howard Voland is the epitome of a committed WSU Master Gardener. He has worked both as a Master Gardener volunteer and as a Program Coordinator at the county level and devoted more time to the state program than perhaps any person not employed at the state level.
Howard is one of those people who can work quietly in the background or stand in front and lead in new directions. He leaves a legacy of authentic, relationship-focused leadership and a WSU Extension Master Gardener Program that is better than it was prior to his involvement, commitment, and service.
WSU Extension Master Gardener Media Award
Pat mastered multiple media forms in her support of the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program in Spokane County and throughout the state. She has helped countless people across the state through regular newspaper columns, magazine articles like the ones found in Master Gardener Magazine and the American Gardener, and in her popular book Northwest Gardeners Handbook. Her voice can be heard on radio, podcasts, and in classrooms teaching new and experienced gardeners.
Christmas is Coming! The WSU Master Gardener Store is Open
Have you visited the Master Gardener store lately? In addition to the 50th commemorative magazine, you’ll find the newly added 16×20 50th anniversary art prints in five watercolor designs. They were a hit when introduced recently at the WSU Master Gardener Advanced Education Conference and can be ordered framed or unframed. Also available for a limited time are 50th logo wear and embroidered patches.
All proceeds benefit the WSU Master Gardener Program and the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State.
Free Membership to Pacific Horticulture
Two of the speakers at the Advanced Education Conference are on the Board of Directors of Pacific Horticulture, Ross Bayton and Frederique Lavoipierre. Frederique graciously offered a free membership to all WSU Extension Master Gardeners in Washington.
Pacific Horticulture’s mission is to “advocate for the garden and its power to enrich lives and heal the environment.”
You can redeem your free membership before November 30, 2023, here.
Making A Difference… Three Gardens At A Time
~~ Diana Pieti, Kelli Barton, and Camille Smith, Yakima County Master Gardeners
Yakima County Master Gardeners are busy bees with three thriving gardens that allow them to get their hands dirty. A fourth, the Kamiakin Food Garden, is in the developmental stage. Each garden serves a unique purpose in benefitting the community.
Our Demonstration Garden was beautiful this year! Although it has always been lovely, when we began an adoption program in 2022 we could not have envisioned what would become. Each part has benefitted the whole, and then some. Many members took on an area in the Garden and have dedicated their time. Each area is specialized, whether it be native plants, shade plants, cutting garden, dahlias, children’s area, or the Woods Walk, to name a few. This garden is the oldest of the three gardens maintained by Yakima County Master Gardeners and has come to maturity, becoming filled with thousands of flowers, shrubs, trees, and hardscapes.
Our garden is located in the Ahtanum Youth Park, owned by the city of Union Gap. We have an agreement with the city to help beautify the park in exchange for free rent for our classes and social gatherings in their event center called the Red Barn. We are grateful to the city of Union Gap. In addition to beautifying the park, we hold free summer classes twice a month at the Demonstration Garden throughout the summer where we, as Master Gardeners, learn more. The classes are well attended by the public as well.
If you are in town, come visit the Garden. For a guided tour, call our clinic at (509)574-1600.
We are very proud of our heirloom garden and how it contributes to the community. Each year it is planted with only open-pollinated seeds, many from heirlooms that members have saved down through the years in their families. The real purpose is to keep these varieties true, but they are also planted to support our free seed library. The co-chairs of the garden check with the librarian to see what to plant each spring to keep adequate supplies in the library. The librarian helps find seeds for this purpose as well. Each year we hold a class on how to properly save seeds. After you have attended you can ‘check out’ seeds in hopes that you will grow them correctly and return some seeds to the library. If you would like to attend the seed saving class which is always on a Saturday in February, please call our clinic at (509)574-1600.
In addition to saving seeds, much of the excess produce from the heirloom garden is donated to our local mission. Popular with both members and the public, vegetable-themed classes are held each month during the growing season.
West Valley Food Garden
The idea of a food garden was born during 2020, “the year of Covid 19,” when people were losing their jobs and more people were becoming dependent on Food Banks. A group of Master Gardeners decided that we could make a difference by contributing fresh produce to help our community. One of our veteran Master Gardeners, Karen Orange, stepped up and offered a piece of land to begin our garden. Consisting of grass and weeds, it took a lot of planning and labor to bring the garden to fruition.
In Spring 2021, we started our garden by killing the weeds and grass. Finding the ground to be compacted and consisting of heavy clay soil, we planted a cover crop of buckwheat and cowpeas to add the needed nitrogen to the soil. We also added in a healthy dose of green manure. After maturing, the crop was cut, and a team of Master Gardeners hauled in truckloads of composted manure that was tilled in with the cover crop. That fall, we planted winter rye which would help to further revive the compacted soil and add needed nutrients. The winter rye was cut and tilled in the Spring of 2022, and soil samples were sent to UMASS for analysis of the nutrient content.
While we were busy building our soil in 2021- 2022, we met several times with the Highland Food Bank managers to determine which vegetables to grow for their clients. From there, our food garden plan was developed. Twenty-eight 28 raised beds, each 20 feet long, were created. Using steel stakes and cattle panels, we built trellises and tunnels for our peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tomatillos. A local tree service donated 20 yards of chips for the pathways, and we hauled in partially composted yard waste for mulch. Finally, we were ready to plant our food garden.
In April 2022, we started our tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos in the greenhouse. In the first part of May, we added squash and cucumbers to the greenhouse starts and then began planting our early direct-seed crops, such as peas, carrots, and radishes, in the garden beds.
Our harvest for 2022 was just over 2,800 pounds of produce, which was delivered to Highland Food Bank. We changed a couple of crops out for 2023 based on the foodbank’s needs and requests, and to date, we have harvested 2,600 pounds. We recently had a record-setting harvest of 125 pounds of tomatoes in one week with more on the way!
This year, classes were added to what we do at the West Valley Food Garden. Our vegetable gardening classes have been a big hit with attendees.
We are extremely proud of our awesome garden and what we have accomplished. Developing, planning, planting, and harvesting has been a labor of love for all of us.
Winter Solstice in the Garden
~~ Barbara Faurot, Jefferson County Master Gardener
As the winter solstice approaches, the sun travels its shortest path through our sky, marking the longest night of the year – and the return of longer days of sunlight.
The solstice, December 21 this year, is a turning point for plants, too. “We depend on plants for our food, shelter, and medicine, and plants depend on the sun. The return of the sun is the return of life and the promise that life will continue,” says Kevin Moss, Student & Public Engagement Coordinator at Cornell Botanic Gardens in Ithaca, NY.
Kevin explains that many plants are woven into winter solstice and holiday traditions around the world. Across cultures, evergreens represent nature’s hardiness and cycle of rebirth. A Celtic tradition holds that bringing evergreens indoors gives woodland spirits and faeries a warm place to spend the winter and, in return, brings good fortune.
In Norse mythology, mistletoe, an evergreen parasitic vine, signifies returning love and life to the world. Oaks, considered one of the most powerful trees, are the traditional choice for the Yule log burned on the night of the winter solstice. “It’s about bringing light into the darkness,” adds Kevin.
Cornell’s winter garden is laid out with a central courtyard and concentric circles, ancient symbols for the sun, and the circle of life. The garden features plants with persistent colorful fruit, exfoliating bark, and interesting growth forms like curly willow. Many are found in Pacific Northwest gardens, too: evergreens, dwarf conifers, winterberry, and deciduous trees like river birch, paper birch, paperbark maple, and hawthorne. Dogwoods can be coppiced every few years to produce bright, colorful twigs on full display in winter.
How are plants responding to the arrival of the solstice? Many have begun their winter survival strategies, surviving on the nutrients and energy stored in their roots. As the days shorten, their roots have released water, and the resulting concentration of sugars and starches acts as a kind of antifreeze.
Plants can track the length of daylight or darkness through special light-sensitive proteins, a phenomenon known as photoperiodism. According to OSU research, the amount of uninterrupted darkness – not the length of daylight – plays a key role in determining flower formation for most plant types.
Popular winter-blooming houseplants like poinsettia, Christmas or holiday cactus, and the tropical succulent Kalanchoe are known as “short-day” plants. Exposure to long nights of uninterrupted darkness triggers their growth response. Once the minimum threshold for darkness is met, the plant progresses from leaf formation to flower formation.
Some summer-blooming plants and crops are “long-day” plants, requiring a short night to flower; examples include aster, coneflower, spinach, and potatoes. Others are “day-neutral,” and will form flowers regardless of day length; examples are begonia, geranium, tomatoes, and corn.
Indoor lighting can be used to manipulate light and darkness patterns and stimulate flowering. Adding light to a long-day plant to stimulate bud formation and early blooming is a common practice in the nursery and floral industries. Covering short-day plants at least 12 hours a day several weeks before their normal blooming period can stimulate early flowering.
Outdoors, winter-flowering shrubs enter their blooming cycles as the days shorten and temperatures drop. Many are evergreen: heath and heather, hellebore, camellia, mahonia, daphne, and others. They can still be planted in early December if the ground is workable.
Excessive artificial light at night can disrupt plant life cycles. It can also interfere with wildlife patterns such as migration, navigation, and reproduction. To help reduce these impacts, consider less disruptive outdoor lights with yellow, pink, orange, or red tints. White and blue lights can be shaded and facing down to reduce light pollution. The International Dark Sky Association https://www.darksky.org/ offers more information about outdoor lighting that can meet safety needs and improve efficiency while reducing unnecessary light.
In winter, there is still plenty of microbial activity in the soil. Many microorganisms can withstand the winter cold. Their metabolic activity slows, but they continue to break down organic matter and release mineral nutrients to support plant growth in the spring.
Well-insulated soils – whether by snowfall or organic matter like compost, duff, mulch, or cover crop residues – are better able to absorb and store moisture. Layering organic matter in the winter garden has the added benefits of maintaining consistent soil temperature, helping deter weed germination, improving soil tilth, and preventing erosion.
Healthy soil also offers winter food and shelter for wildlife. Songbirds, toads, worms, spiders, and insects benefit from a rich layer of duff. To recreate what might be found in a healthy forest, use a combination of shredded leaves, twigs, moss and lichen fragments, conifer needles, and wood chips. Decomposers will break down the organic matter, releasing nutrients to support new spring growth.
As we welcome the winter solstice, take a walk in a garden. If it’s a sunny day, observe your shadow, the longest of the year, at high noon. Celebrate the return of longer days of sunlight and new life in the garden.
Originally published in the Port Townsend Leader on December 14, 2022.
2023 WSU Master Gardener Advanced Education Conference
~~ Debbie Benbow, 2023 Conference Chair and Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
**Editor’s Note: Thank you, Debbie and the whole AEC team, for your work on the conference!
Spokane’s Newest Demonstration Gardens
~~Kris Moberg-Hendron, Spokane County Master Gardener
Summer 2023 was productive for Spokane County Master Gardeners. Two new demonstration gardens were created to encourage informed landscaping in our area.
A Perennial Demonstration Garden was created near the main entrance to the Extension building, and a Native Plant Demonstration Garden was created at the Quarry site in collaboration with the Spokane Conservation District, the Spokane County Noxious Weed Control Board, and Spokane County Certified Naturalists.
The creation of the Perennial Demonstration Garden started in early June with a design outlined in the existing turf. In that area, the turf was cut out and turned over, in place, to smother the grass. In late July, a deep layer of three-way mix soil was added to cover the upended roots, which had had enough time to dry out and kill the turf. On August 29, a group of dedicated Master Gardeners gathered to put donated perennials into the soil. Some of those plants had been stored for over a year, bringing this long-held dream to beautiful and satisfying fruition.
The Native Plant Demonstration Garden is located at the Spokane Conservation District Quarry site near the Master Gardener Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens. An Eastern Washington State University graduate student and employee of the Weed Board, Thurman Johnson, received a grant from the Washington Native Plant Society that provided the plants for this new garden. The collaboration worked through the spring and summer months to plan and prepare the garden site. Spokane Conservation District staff created the infrastructure for the Native Plant Demonstration Garden, including gravel paths, rock/timber placements, and a deep layer of arborist chips. On September 1, a group of Master Gardeners, Certified Naturalists, EWU students, Weed Board staff, and Conservation District staff joined together to plant over 300 native plants on the prepared site.
These new demonstration gardens join the Waterwise Demonstration & Research Garden, the Annual/Bulb Demonstration Garden, the Shade (Hosta & Heuchera) Demonstration Garden, and the other garden sites at the Spokane County Extension building. Spokane Master Gardeners plan to build more demonstration gardens in the future to aid in educating the public about horticultural and environmental stewardship topics.
Thurston County MG Foundation partners on Schmidt House Centennial Rose Garden.
~~ Pam Roberts, Thurston County Master Gardener
In the spirit of partnership and giving back, MGFTC members have begun working as volunteers to help keep the historic Schmidt mansion grounds in Olympia looking great. An announcement about the partnership was published a recent Olympia Tumwater Foundation Newsletter. Excerpts from the article follow:
“The Centennial Rose Garden on the grounds of the Schmidt House has been tended by a loyal group of volunteers since the garden was dedicated in 1989. However, these stalwart volunteers have been aging out, so we’ve been looking for some young blood to help out in the garden. The Master Gardeners of
Thurston County have come to the rescue!
On the first of August, 24 Master Gardeners attended an afternoon meet-and-greet hosted by the Foundation. The get-together included an informal talk on rose care by Dr. Gary Ritchie, nationally recognized rose expert and de facto leader of our rose garden volunteers. After a break for beverages and snacks, Gary and other existing volunteers led the newcomers on a tour of the rose garden, including a hands-on session on deadheading (removing spent blossoms to encourage new flowers).
A full dozen Master Gardeners signed up to continue volunteering in our garden! Midge Price, current president of the Master Gardener Foundation of Thurston County, was pleased to see such a big response. She says that our rose gardeners and Master Gardeners have many aligned interests. We all
look forward to a continuing friendship: the rose garden will get extra care, and the new gardeners will be able to learn from the best.”
What a fine example of alliance with community members! We at MGFTC look forward to a great community alliance!
Yakima Valley Fair Educational Display
~~ Diana Pieti, Yakima County Master Gardener
Sue Schauer has been a member of Yakima County Master Gardeners since 2014 and gives back so many hours in several ways. She is very active in our greenhouse and the gardens that we maintain, and has mentored new students.
She lives in the town of Grandview, which is near the Southern border of Yakima County, and she has been a big part of letting people in her area know all about what we do.
Last year she created, along with member Marjorie Consatti, a static display about the Master Gardener program and entered it in their local fair. The display took first place.
This year Sue decided to focus on the nine priorities we use in training and teaching, and had them all written out when she suffered the loss of her son. In her grief, she mentioned that the display was due in two days, and we assured her it was okay not to do it or we would find someone to complete it. She said she would somehow get it covered before she had to leave town.
The next thing we heard about the display was that her daughter, Shelly, and grandchildren, Audrey, Dahlia, Luella, Mya, and Gunnar, took the nine priorities and figured out a way to call attention to them, filled out the rest of the display with all their creativity and won second place. They were all so excited. It has been a very hard time, but working, displaying, and enjoying a red ribbon took away a bit of the sadness for a while. We are proud to call Sue one of our members.
Seeds for Thought is a quarterly publication of the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State. Submissions, corrections, and comments can be emailed to the Editor, Erin Landon
Copyright 2023 Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State