Gardening:  A Growing Trend (Even City Dwellers Are Digging)

While many were stuck at home last year, there was an increased interest in gardening.  Seed companies reported shortages, nurseries had more sales of vegetable starts, and urban gardens saw a rebirth of activity.  All indications are that this activity will continue in 2021.

The many benefits of gardening – besides, of course, food!

There are many benefits, both practical and therapeutic to growing your own food.  Many see it as a way to control the food we eat – substituting store-bought food with their own produce.  But there are also great psychological benefits – something we can all use during times of stress. In addition to the comfort of briefly connecting to a Zen moment, there is immense satisfaction in growing something from scratch to full maturity.

Growing Tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest – The Great Tomato Machine

Cool weather plants like peas, beans, and lettuce do fairly well in the Pacific Northwest.  You can also grow tomatoes, but sometimes they don’t all ripen. One ingenious solution is the “Tomato Machine” – a trick we learned from Michael and Missy Stucky of Millennium Farms in Ridgefield.

They look odd for the first part of the summer, but the plants grow large and fast.  We typically remove the wrap mid-summer – once the plants start bursting out of their cages.  This approach always yields red, ripe tomatoes!

Container Gardens Are a Great Option

City dwellers who don’t have the space and no access to a community garden, can still grow their own food in containers.  They take up little room and reap the same benefits. Many plants are especially well-suited for containers: lettuce, herbs, and patio tomatoes come to mind.

Container gardens - a growing trend

Even with a full-size garden, we still grow a variety of container vegetables on our deck. Our best success has been with Northwest-specific tomatoes like Home Slice and Silvery Fir.  Add a container of lettuce and basil, and you have the convenience of a great salad. Right outside your door!

Gardening:  A Growing Trend. And Projected to Continue Growing.

We believe gardening will continue to be of great interest to everyone – city dwellers included. So, start small and try a few things – including container plants. Do some research on what grows best in your area. There are any number of web sites and YouTube videos to help you.  It’s best to start with seedling plants to get a head start on the short growing season.

However you do it, you will be rewarded with your own food and the mental satisfaction of growing and nurturing something living.

Want to learn more about container gardening or how to build the Great Tomato Machine?  Just contact us, we’ll be glad to share our experiences.

Filed under: Gardening | News

City Dweller Join Growing Trend.

With more people stuck at home, recent reports of the renewed interest in gardening is no surprise.  Nurseries report an uptick in sales of vegetable starts over ornamentals. Oregon State University’s offer of a free gardening class crashed their site.  And our favorite seed source, Baker Creek had to shut down for several days to restock and catch up on all their orders.

Many Benefits to Gardening

There are many benefits, both practical and therapeutic to growing your own food.  Many see it as a way to control the food they eat, without going to a store.  But there are also great psychological benefits – something we can all use during times of stress.  The biggest benefit is often just starting a living thing from scratch and nurturing it to full growth. It is very satisfying – even in the Pacific Northwest with a relatively short growing season.

 Growing Tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest – The Great Tomato Machine

The Container Gardening Option

Now, someone living in an urban or suburban settings might think “Yeah, but I don’t have any land for a garden”.  Well, the good news is, you can grow many items in containers and still reap the benefits of growing your own food.   Before moving to our country home, we lived in a townhome subdivision with tiny lots. Even there, we used our patio and small patches of ground to grow a variety of container vegetables.  Many plants are especially well-suited for containers: lettuce, patio tomatoes, and any numbers of herbs come to mind.

We feel extremely fortunate we have the yard space for our garden.  Yet, we still grow a few patio vegetables for convenience – they are both decorative and practical. 

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Our best success has been with Northwest specific tomatoes like Home Slice and Silvery Fir.  It’s great to be fixing a salad and, instead of running out to the garden, just stepping out on the deck and picking a few tomatoes.  Or adding fresh-clipped herbs to any dish.

So, start small and try a few things. Do some research on what grows best in your area. There are any number of web sites and YouTube videos to help you. Pick a few plants that are designed to grow in containers.  Starting from seed might work, but can sometimes be tricky.  So it’s best to start with seedling plants. There are several online services that will ship live plants to your home. Also, you may be able to order starter plants from your local nursery and have them delivered, or do a safe pickup like a grocery order. 

However you do it, you will be rewarded with your own food and the mental satisfaction of growing and nurturing something living.

Filed under: Camas | Gardening | News

Every year the Easter Bunny brings big hops and big hopes – and lots of Easter eggs.  We’re not sure which came first, the Chicken or the Egg.  But we do know Easter is the time of year when many thoughts turn to eggs, the universal symbols of rebirth.

Decorating them,
putting them in baskets,
looking for good spots to hide them,
and finding creative ways to eat them.
And a time to reflect.
We know a certain bunny has eggs on his mind. But on Easter, we also reflect on all the Good Eggs we know in life. Like you. (If you’re reading this post, or watching this video, we are talking about YOU!)

In a time when we seem to have so much division, Easter can return us to thoughts of a simpler time in our lives.  When we reflect on what makes us more alike than different. And a time when we celebrate the return of a vibrant season. When the earth comes back to life – hence, the egg as a universal symbol of rebirth.

Easter bunny brings big hops and big hopes

And you may wonder – how did a “Silly Wabbit” become the symbol for Easter? It’s really not clear, but some believe it originated with the pagan festival of Eostre (Easter). She was the goddess of fertility whose animal symbol was a bunny.  Known for energetic breeding, it is thought that, from the pagan celebration, the Easter Bunny emerged as a natural symbolize for fertility.

So, Easter – and Spring in general – represent resurrection and renewal in many different cultures. But to children it is one of those magical holidays filled with excitement and wonder. It’s a day when the Easter bunny brings big hops – and big hopes.  And our hope is to always remember to view life through the eyes of a child. With wonder and joy at the season!

We wish you a happy and joyful Easter celebration.

Filed under: Events | Gardening | Nature | News | People

Pruning Fruit Trees in Clark County, Washington


Spring is almost here and, if you live in the country, you might be thinking about pruning those fruit trees in your yard. Growing fruit trees is not a passive activity – especially on rural property where you often find lots of them. They actually require year-round attention for optimum health and better fruit production. 

Obvious chores include watering and fertilizing during spring and summer. But trees also require attention during the winter, even though they are mostly dormant for that season.  In fact, late winter is the ideal time for pruning and spraying – hence the term “dormant” oil for the type of spray used.

Pruning May Seem Counterintuitive

Cutting off branches from a healthy tree might seem counterintuitive. But careful pruning removes unproductive branches and shapes the tree to produce healthier fruit. After pruning, we spray a light mineral oil that is compatible with organic gardening – no fungicide or herbicide.  The oil coats the branches and seals it from mites and other bugs that might show up during the spring bloom. 

For ideal conditions, trees should be dry with no foreseeable precipitation for at least 24 hours. Likewise, ideal temps should be close to freezing.  Although in some areas, you may be able to prune as late as April as long as the trees have not sprouted leaf buds.

This past winter was a real challenge because it was so wet. Our continuous days of snow and freezing rain made it nearly impossible to get out and take care of the trees.  Finally, with dry weather and temperatures still below 40, we found a perfect day in March. 

Shaping The Tree For Better Fruit

While pruning is not that hard with the right tools, it helps to know what you want to accomplish with the trimming. A fruit tree continues to grow throughout the year, producing new shoots from its limbs.  Unless these shoots have fruit buds, they need to be pruned off. Otherwise, they divert nourishment from the branches that have fruit. Pruning helps direct the nutrients from the tree trunk to branches with fruit.

Likewise, the shape of the tree can determine how productive and healthy the harvest will be.  There are several schools of thought about this, but we prefer to prune the center lead (trunk) out. This helps the outer branches spread out and grow into an umbrella shape. The open center allows more air circulation and sunlight into the remaining branches, which helps blooming. This approach also makes it easier to harvest – as the outer branches bear fruit, they tend to bend down, making it easier to reach.  Proper pruning can help shape a tree into ideal production.

Sometimes Major Pruning is Necessary

You will often see a mature fruit trees laden with fruit at the very top branches. This makes the fruit nearly inaccessible when the tree hasn’t been pruned regularly.  We had a few mature trees on our property when we moved in four years ago.  They were overgrown with misshapen branches that criss-crossed inside the canopy. This not only creates a tangled mess, it also invites bugs and disease.  And, of course, the harvest was lacking.

So, two winters ago, we did a dramatic pruning that cut back many of the thick, older branches, and opened up the centers.  It is a scary proposition and, again, counterintuitive because it looks like the tree will die from all that major surgery.  Plus, trees often appear to “suffer” because they will skip a year in production as they recover.  However, after a major pruning, trees usually bounce back, and are healthier for it.

Proper Pruning Fruit Trees

And that was the case with our trees – there were no apples last summer. But spring weather has brought tons of flowering fruit buds, and the trees are thriving.  Plus, this summer, as the lower branches fill out, the fruit will be a lot easier to reach. Next winter, we will able to return to light pruning.

So don’t be afraid to trim your trees after you’ve determined how you want them to look. Regular pruning and dormant spray will keep them healthy and producing for years.

If you’d like to hear more about life in the country, with Nature as Neighbors, write or give us a call.