Saturday, March 26, 2011

The buzz on a "green" lawn...

Usually the sound of a lawnmower is a hated sound, compared often to nails down a chalkboard or an annoying barking dog. I'll be honest, I cringe when a neighbor starts up his mower, the peaceful garden now soundtracked by a horrible buzz...ugh, happy feeling gone! I would much rather be out in the yard enjoying my plants while listening to the chickadees, maybe even my screaming kids (maybe), especially on a gorgeous sunshine perfect day like today.
However, after months of hiding out under boxes in the garage, the mower has once again returned from hibernation, to work its magic on my shaggy and neglected looking spring is like music to my ears!

The one true day of the year, where the buzz of the mower is a welcome sound, when that buzz screams...Gardening season is here!!! And for us Seattlites the end of our winter hibernation!

Lawn Care...
This year we have decided to change up our lawn schedule a little. In my efforts to stay Earth-Green while maintaining Lawn-Green we will be forgoing our usual TrueGreen (chemical cocktail) fertilizer. We will be giving organic lawn fertilizer ago this year, in the form of fish and kelp spray or steer-grow/alfalfa mix. I am assured it is not to stinky and all natural, as the yard run-off ends up straight in our local river.
Our water plan this year is to use our irrigation system twice a week, longer and fewer watering's will help with deeper root growth. I also want to try a rain barrel for plant & excess garden watering.
For weed prevention, I am still to come up with a plan?!? Help!!! My thoughts are to just pull as soon as I see them and before they go to seed. I have heard about Corn Gluten and will be looking into this as a weed killer, stay tuned for that one!
We have also decided the moss is here to stay, why fight it when it is obviously winning!
I've even looked into making my own lawn fertilizer, but not sure my neighbors would appreciate the smell that comes from soaking cow poop in a bucket of water for a! Think I'll stick to buying the pre-made goodness for now!

My biggest lessons learnt from last year, things you hear over and over! Mow high!!! Poor lawn is still trying to come back after the shock of a crew-cut, it had less length than a brand-new Marines haircut...yikes! Also keep blades sharp! Not only was my lawn in shock from the length taken off, but also the ripping caused by blunt blades. Not a pretty sight, every blade looked jagged and stressed. Another thing, no one loves your lawn like you do. We had a horrible aeration and thatching job done (will share this in a later post) But I am now a huge advocate of DIY for the best job. 
Needless to say, this year is about making up for the pain and stress of last year...Sorry lawn, but this year will be better, I promise!!

Some wonderful lawn care websites that have been very helpful in green and organic lawn care! - Frequently asked questions about organic lawn care

Would love to hear your experience with organic lawn care....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Penny Pinching

Everyone loves a deal and a way to save money!
Unfortunately I could spend our paycheck 10 times over with all the dreams and big plans I have for my garden. Lately I have been coming across some wonderful deals and thought I would use my blog as a way to pass on some of these ideas and great finds....
Here at Polka Dot Galoshes I will (from time to time) be posting....

Budget friendly gardening tips
Best deals online and in store (especially at my favorite nurseries!)
Coupon codes
Do it yourself projects
And any other great tips & tricks you may have that you wish to share...

Please note, this will in no way be a means to make money, no commissions and nothing in it for me. I just love a good deal and want to pass on some great findings...stay tuned!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

gardening equals sanity!!

Hi, my name is Julia and I am a....gardener! Isn't that how most addict meetings start? Gardening is my therapy, maybe even my drug of choice! But one thing is for sure, its my sanity!
The escape of a quiet garden, the feeling of accomplishment, There really is no greater feeling than to have an idea and see it come to fruition, even if it is just clearing a garden bed of weeds or turning the compost over. Seriously, when you stand back and see the finished result, the feeling and "high" of achievement is amazing! Ahh, the tranquil, soul filling me time without interruption...priceless!

Yeah right!! Mom, whats for dinner? Mom, Thomas is looking at me funny! Mom! Mom! MOM!
Is it wrong to admit that there are days all I want to do is lock myself outside, to escape with my plants in a moment of peace. To ignore reality and retreat into my simple joy!

I really do love my boys, more than I ever thought possible! I have been blessed with two of the sweetest, loving, caring little guys...Thomas 5 and Harrison 8. They really are the joys of my-life (most of the time! And when they're not, wine helps!)
Last year, Harry my oldest was diagnosed with Autism after years of uncertainty, its been a crazy time to say the least. My life now revolves around the many needs and constant learning that comes with this diagnosis, to the point were it was becoming my identity too. I seemed to have lost who I was, I had no time for what my passions and interests were/are anymore. I was being swallowed-up and disappearing by this thing called Autism. There was very little sense of accomplishment, always feeling like I was failing my son, not to mention it was unpredictable, irrational and totally impulsive with lows and lower lows...depression sunk in!

Time for a change...Getting back to my love and finding balance in life once again. Now, when I am not enduring enjoying the craziness. From the highs of sweet moments filled with love, laughs and smiles to the lows of the torturous screaming, tantrums and messes.
You will find me out in the garden as a gardener...escaping the later and doing something for the sanity.

To me, gardening is rewarding in all the typical ways, seeing something grow, creating something beautiful...etc, But it is also (and I'm sure for so many of you) something a lot more. It is who we are! It is our happy place! Its our identity and our passion! Its were you can be you, with no feeling of failure, no constant demands, with no never-ending messes created by others to be cleaned...It provides a sense of accomplishment, It fulfills us!
.....Its pure, Its simple joy and its my sanity!

Thursday, March 10, 2011 Hope grows day!

OK, Love this idea! What a great way to blog a dream/idea/development for your garden. Although I am really thinking in my garden it should be called..."Hope it grows day!" I have not been very successful lately with my so called green thumb, as you will see from this months Hope!

So what is Hope Grows Day? Hanni over at - Sweet Bean Gardening - blog came up with this wonderful idea....

Post a photo of something in your garden that you are looking forward to in the next month. It could be a plant you're hoping to see bloom, a project you're hoping to do, really anything that you are hopeful to see/do in your gardens. Next month (on the fifth), come back and show us:
1. the results of what you were hoping for, and
2. what you are looking forward to for the next month

So I will pretend its the 5th of March and share with you, what my "Hope" is for my garden over the next month...

My Hope is that my Jasmine will survive and once again be lush and green! This winter has been hard on my beautiful evergreens and I am hoping it is not to late to help them!
As you can see its not looking well at all =( Even beautiful healthy looking green leaves are falling right off of it. I have four or these growing around the base of my trellis in my backyard, surrounding my sitting area, the smell is quite amazing all summer long! I try and keep them trimmed to about 3ft in height. I'm not sure what is going on exactly, I am guessing frost related as the leaves on top were the first to go. 

So I am off to investigate!
If you have any ideas or know what this could be...I would LOVE your advice! Hoping to post happier picks of my jasmine in April!

Here is what it should look like! I have wisteria growing over the top of the trellis while the jasmine is trained around the bottom of the posts, here looking all happy and alive...wish me (and my Jasmine) luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fluttering feathers & sing-a-longs...

There is something so comforting about the tweet of a little chickadee while out weeding the flower garden. It really is one of my favorite, simple joys of gardening!
My star singer!
This time of year not only brings the life back to my sleeping garden beds, but also brings the birds and other wildlife out to visit once again!
I have to say, the plants in my garden are only half the joy, the other love has to be the birds that flutter around, I really can't get enough of them. They help distract me from what I'm doing, to remind me to look up and to soak in all that is around, to put the tools down and admire through all of the senses...a welcome break of appreciation!

The birdbath is now cleaned, the feeders filled with fresh seed and the birdhouses are occupied! Once again my feathered friends are singing a happy song.

As a lover of the outdoors, I feel it my responsibility to take care of these special guests to the best of my ability, they grace me with their company and song. Their love of bugs, help with the creepy crawlies that eat my plants. I like to return the favor by trying to keep as pesticide and predator free of an environment for them that I can...Thank you birds for all that you bring to my yard, they really are my little helpers!

Here are some of my favorite backyard friends...
Black capped Chickadee
Stellar's Jay
Northern Flicker
Rufous Hummingbird
Here are some great tips for capturing your garden guests...

Excellent site for real indepth look at Northwest birds...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Camellia, i think i love you....

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is to take a walk around the neighborhood and drool over other peoples gardens. I am sure they must think I am such a sticky-beak, always checking out their yards. But there is just so much beautiful inspiration to be found, right on your own street. Not to mention its a great way of seeing what will work well or not so well in your own garden.

One plant that I am starting to see more and more in my area of the Northwest is the Camellia. It is quite stunning, with its lush gardenia-like flowers (I am partial to the white ones) and the glossy dark evergreen leaves, they really are a thing of year round beauty. I have seen them to take a natural form which would be perfect in a country garden and I've also seen them hedged to take on a very formal almost French look, love it all!!

Here is a very basic Camellia 1-0-1 guide. I have never had a Camellia, I am so excited to learn all about them. Although I will be even more excited when I find one at the nursery, I am totally in love! 
- You Camellia will be my new baby this year. I can't wait to plant you

Establishing good growing conditions

  • Evaluate both your climate and suitable sunlight before planting (or transplanting). Camellias do best in moderate climates (summers in the 70s and 80s and winters remaining 10 to 15 degrees above zero at most times). Both heavy wind and high humidity put strains on camellias. If rhododendron and azalea do well in your area, there's a good chance camellias will as well. Although they are more susceptible to insects like aphids (hence the humidity caution). Camellias do well generally in climates such as the Pacific Northwest and the MidAtlantic states, the British Isles and Japan (their country of origin). Intense sun is another enemy.
  • Plan drainage carefully. Like clematis, camellias like their "feet" cool but not wet. Prepare soil with peat moss, rotted organic matter and add some sand if you have any remaining doubts about drainage.
  • Keep soil slightly to moderately acid. The lime that keeps your lilacs flourishing will send your camellias into immediate and possibly irretrievable funk.
  • Water during dry periods. In addition to good drainage, camellias need a steady supply of water. By the time you see dry leaves and withered buds, it's too late.

    reviving existing plantings 

  • Check growing conditions from the ones listed above to plan your revival-strategy. Start with sunlight, wind and possible drainage problems. If your camellia is not enormous, consider transplanting to an area with richer, better-drained soil and filtered sunlight.
  • Check for drainage by digging with a trowel or spade on both sides of your shrub. Holes should be at least 12 to 18 inches deep and 2 feet from each side of the camellia, to avoid root-damage. Go deep to determine what surrounding soil is like. A common failure in planting is to prepare good soil for existing roots without planning for growth. If your planting site is surrounded by heavy clay soil or lots of rocks, improve it with peat moss and organic matter on all sides of the plant--this enables roots to expand.
  • Examine leaves and stems to determine whether the problem is caused by insects such as aphids or mites. Consult a professional to find the gentlest way to deter them--adding harsh chemicals to an already-stressed plant just makes things worse. Regular applications of soapy water or a nontoxic oily spray may be all you need to return your camellia to beautiful blooming.

    Read more: How to Care for Camellias |

    Here is a wonderful diagram to show the array of flower styles. I would be thrilled to have anyone of these, but the Peony is calling my name, fingers crossed I can be lucky enough to find one in white!! I'll update when I find it hopefully this spring!

    This illustration comes from Stirling Macoboy's "The Illustrated Encyclopedia on Camellias" which has some wonderful color images of the different camellia varieties. Check back to see which one I go with, also, if you have any tips for growing these, I would LOVE to hear from you...thanks =)

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Mark your calendars....

    Its that time of year again... 
    Northwest Annual Plant sales for Winter/Spring 2011!
    After missing so many last year and realizing "Oh, that was last weekend!" too many times. I thought I would be a little more prepared and make a list and wanted to share! I would love to add others you know of too!
    Next to the actual act of gardening my next favorite activity is shopping for plants. There is nothing quite as exciting as finding that elusive plant you have been hunting down for years. Or finding a new variety that is the perfect plant you didn't know existed, or just being surrounded by all the greenery and having one scream out to me! It should be called adoption day rather than plant shopping!

    Dates to remember for March/April.... 
    (if you see a sale I have missed, please let me know in the comments, thanks!)

    Bareroot Bonanza Plant Swap
    Saturday, 5 March, 2011 from 10:00am to 12:00pm
    More information:, or 425-885-5822. Besides bareroot plants, annual seeds can be traded for spring planting. No sales, just exchanges & freebies, please. Held at the Church of the Holy Cross.
    11526 162nd Ave NE, Redmond, WA 98052
    NW Horticultural Society 4th Annual Spring Ephemerals...and More! Plant Sale
    Sat-Sun, 12 March, 2011 from 9:00am to 5:00pm
    More information: or 206-527-1794. A larger venue will allow us to increase the number of vendors & widen the range of plants available. World renowned horticulturalist Dan Hinkley will be speaking. In addition, there will be horticultural displays featuring many great plants (with an emphasis on hellebores) & a raffle for some special plants. All proceeds benefit the Miller Horticultural Library, which will be open, featuring books related to the season & topics we’ll explore, & to answer gardening questions. Held at NHS Hall, Center for Urban Horticulture.
    3501 NE 41st, Seattle, WA 98105 

    Skagit Valley Dahlia Society Annual Tuber Sale
    Sat-Sun, 12 March, 2011 from 9:00am to 6:00pm
    More information:,, or 360-629-4439. Hundreds of varieties for sale with pictures of most of the dahlias. Held at Skagit Valley Gardens.
    18923 Peter Johnson Rd., Mount Vernon, WA 98273 

    Seattle African Violet & Puget Sound Gesneriad Society Annual Show & Plant Sale
    Sat-Sun, 19 March, 2011 from 9:00am to 6:00pm
    More information: 206-782-2543, or Many exhibits, education booths, & plants for sale. Free entrance to the show, which is from 12pm-6pm. Held at Swanson's Nursery.
    9701 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117 

    Seattle Tilth Early Spring Edible Plant Sale
    Sat-Sun, 19 March, 2011 from 10:00am to 2:00pm
    More information:, or 206-633-0097. “Early bird sale” for volunteers & ticket holders ($25) just before sale from 9-10AM. Cool/early season veggies, edible perennials (fruit trees, nut trees, fruit bearing shrubs, perennial vegetables), herbs & more. All plants organically grown from local & sustainable sources, with proceeds benefiting Seattle Tilth's educational programs. Sale held at Interbay Whole Foods Parking Lot.
    15th Ave W and W Newton St, Seattle, WA 98119 

    March Mania Plant Sale
    Sunday, 20 March, 2011 from 10:00am to 2:00pm
    More information:, 425-647-6004, or Sale formerly known as the Hellebore Open House. Features spring ephemerals, which are plants unique to early spring. You won't see these beauties at later sales, so don't miss this unique opportunity. Let experts help you choose some of the earliest bloomers of the season. The Hilton will be selling coffee, hot chocolate & pastries to morning shoppers. Free parking. Sale held indoors at the Bellevue Hilton.
    300 112th Ave., Bellevue, WA 

    Seattle Audubon Annual Spring Plant Sale
    Sat-Sun, 2 April, 2011 from 10:00am to 4:00pm
    More information:, or 206-523-4483. Many plants, including natives, for sale from variety of professional nurseries. Sale held at The Seattle Audubon Nature Center.
    8050 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115 

    Garden Affair (formally Annual Garden Faire & Sale)
    Sat-Sun, 2 April, 2011 from 10:00am to 5:00pm
    More information:, Sharon Christie at 425-238-5424or, Laura Carpenter at 425-319-1428 or Specialty nurseries, garden art & products, educational booths, artists & crafters, & more. Hourly raffle prizes - donate 4 non-perishable food items & get a free raffle ticket. Proceeds benefit the Stanwood-Camano Food Bank. Held at Stanwood-Camano Fairgrounds.
    6431 Pioneer Hwy, Stanwood, WA, 98292 

    Arboretum Foundation Early Bloomers Plant Sale
    Sat-Sun, 9 April, 2011 from 10:00am to 2:00pm
    More information: or 206-325-4510. Featuring plants that bloom early in NW gardens & many others, the sale offers a great start on spring planting with hundreds of favorite & unusual plants. Perennials, shrubs, small trees, herbs & much more, with many surprises. Sale held at the Graham Visitor Center at the WA Park Arboretum.
    2300 Arboretum Drive E, Seattle, WA 

    Hardy Plant Society of Oregon Spring Plant Sale & Garden Festival
    Saturday, 9 April, 2011 from 10:00am to 3:00pm
    More information: or 503-224-5718. Huge variety of plants from specialty nurseries, garden demos & displays. Also garden art & books for sale. Held at the Portland EXPO Center.
    2060 N. Marine Dr., Portland, OR 97217 

    Spring Garden Show & Plant Sale at the Puyallup Fairgrounds
    Thur-Sun, 14 April, 2011 from 2:00pm to 2:00am
    More information:, 253-845-1771 or 253-841-5045. Over 60 vendors representing nurseries, garden shops, non-profits & landscape artists. Also expert workshops, display gardens & more. Discount admissions available. Held at the Puyallup Fairground.
    110 9th Ave SW, Puyallup, WA 

    Children's Hospital 87th Annual Garden Sale
    Fri-Sun, 15 April, 2011 from 12:00pm to 6:00pm
    More information: or 425-348-1821. Perennials, annuals, shrubs & trees - many propagated on hospital grounds. All proceeds from the sale benefit Seattle Children's Hospital. Sale held at the Seattle Children's Administrative Building's parking lot, just across the street from Magnuson Park.
    6901 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115 

    Lake Washington Technical College Spring Plant Sale
    Fri-Sat, 22 April, 2011 from 9:00am to 3:00pm
    More information: 425-739-8279, or Bedding plants, fuchsia baskets, perennials, nursery stock, large selection of veggie starts & much more. Please bring boxes for your purchases. Sale held at Lake Washington Technical College Greenhouses.
    11605 132nd Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98034 

    Sno Valley 16th Annual Plant & Garden Sale
    Saturday, 30 April, 2011 from 9:00am to 3:00pm
    More information:, 425-788-2984 or 425-222-0790. Shoppers will be able to choose from thousands of unusual & familiar herbs, vegetables, annuals, perennials, shrubs, grasses & native plants from more than 40 local nurseries & growers. All proceeds support activities at the Sno-Valley Senior Center. Sale held at Remlingner Farms, just south of Carnation on Hwy 203.
    32610 NE 32nd St, Carnation, WA 98014 

    Arboretum Foundation FlorAbundance Spring Plant Sale
    Sat-Sun, 30 April, 2011 from 9:00am to 5:00pm
    More information: or 206-325-4510. Huge variety of plants from dozens of specialty nurseries at the largest Puget Sound region plant sale. Held at Warren G. Magnuson Park.
    7400 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA
    Again Please let me know if there are any others I can add to this list...Thank you bunches =)
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