The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2016 gardening

The season of 2016 was/is not easy to garden: the lack of spring and early in the year hot temps, the fluctuating weather (temps wavered about 10–20 degrees on some days) created conditions hard for gardeners to balance between the nature and the culture.  Below are the lists: the good, the bad and the ugly of 2016 gardening, compiled at the Sunday, 9/25 work-party. + A short list of our winter garden plants and a  list of our future wishes.


RCG – 9/25/16 – bush beans still going


RCG – 9/25/16 – some of our tomatoes




RCG • 9/25/16 – healthy cucumbers

– We gained some new gardeners and retained the core old ones, yay and welcome!

– Tomatillos: splendid crops – waiting for Vickie’s recipe on salsa

– Garlic and shallots: excellent in spring, after planting them in fall 2015

– Tomatoes: very good harvests, after a rocky start. Note: the best performers in yield and taste were NOT the heirloom tomatoes we nursed from seeds, but volunteer cabernet cherry tomatoes which self-sown themselves from last year

– Lettuce and carrots did fabulously in summer in the new horse troughs:

– Bush beans: planted about 3 times (started from Roma, ended up with whatever we found in the shed) but finally producing very good, even now, the end of September

– Blueberries: super-fat and juicy. Note: they were about 3-4 weeks early, beginning of June

– Cucumbers:  very good, no powdery mildew and still going

– Peaches: super sweet harvest this year

– Herb boarder, esp. Rhubarb (harvested at least twice) – very good!

– Strawberries: they were good, but short to last. Note: failed to bloom/fruit again in the excessive heat

– Peppers (California peppers from seeds): None of them achieved the red state, but many green, good to eat. Note: how come they didn’t become red in all that excessive heat? & we have super sun exposure in our garden, too (for comparison: I planted same peppers at home, 5 blocks away from the garden: about ¼ of them did turn red)

– Red sweet cherries from the tree over the strawberry bed: most of us missed them, but they were good!

– Despite difficult season we were able to donate some produce to Facing Homelessness agency

2.) THE BAD:


RCG – 9/25/16 – bean tower slow climb up

– Basil – it ended up growth-stunted, slightly off color and never bushy, despite efforts of fertilizing, but we ate it anyway

– Pole beans, bed 5: oops, sown from seeds several times and just OUT and gone: eaten off the stalk, dead or dying. In the end of July we planted a row of healthy starts, but now have one lone vine going on there, the rest went same way as previous seeds.            –

– Pole beans on bean tower in bed 2: planted


RCG – 9/25/16 – stunted basil

from starts beginning of August, but may never mature the slow speed they are going…

– Squash:   dried up and disappeared on us (in poplar bed, but bed # 9 still promising with flowers)



RCG • 9/25/16 – potato coffin (no harvest)

‘The roots, the snails and the blight” (Tracy, referring to poplar roots, slugs in every bed, slimy slug trails and tomato early and late blight, yuck)

– Early lettuce, spinach, and brassicas all went bye-bye (too hot spring temps?)

– Peas in spring: dead on arrival (too hot?)

– Beets: we tended to them, but the leaf miner was still ahead (removed late summer ad replaced with some other crop – kale?}

– Potatoes dried up from heat and poplar roots chocking them (we need to dig up the soil and put heavy plastic on the bottom) – no harvest



RCG •9/25/16 – our winter garden

4.) FALL/WINTER GARDEN (started the end of summer):

– Kale, Swiss chard, spinach:  coming up in the new horse troughs

– Peas: second crop – look promising: blooming and some pods there already!

– I might have forgot some of the winter garden we started



– Gardening in sunken garbage cans under poplars (to avoid poplar roots)

– Green house under poplars

– Pilot project on aqua- or aeroponics gardening (less water, no soil, no insects)

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September 18th, 2016

We are still having a good harvest for almost fall in Seattle: tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, tomatillos, peppers, basil and rhubarb.

A note on rhubarb:  we cleaned it up from the bottom up, instead of going for the new, tender shoots at the top…  As a result some of the stalks were too tough and woody to eat,  but I managed to skin and cut up about  3-4 of them soft enough for my favorite childhood treat: sprinkled with sugar and left in the fridge overnight – symphony of sour and sweet in the morning!:)

Next work party: Monday September 26, 5-7 PM

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RCG – 9/18/16 – today’s harvest.  photo by Ann Marie.

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September 4, 2016

We harvested a TON of tomatoes, cucumbers, and a few beans and carrots.


We also planted new winter greens – kale, collards, and Chinese cabbages, after adding some fresh compost to the beds.


We also discovered more of the beds that have MASSES of poplar roots in them, and are having some big challenges with plants in those beds not thriving. It’s quite amazing how dense the roots get in the beds, and unfortunately how much water they rob from the plants we’ve been nurturing so carefully.

Sorry for the short post, it was a lovely day with a small group of gardeners, but we got some good stuff prepared for our FALL gardening adventures. Let’s hope for rainy nights and sunny days in the next few months so we can all eat our GREENS and be healthy all winter.

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August 15th work party


RCG • 8/15/16 – bush bean bed – mostly romano, but as we replanted the damaged areas we planted whatever we found…

Ann Marie took a few pictures after the work party: our bush beans planted and re-planted several times, finally outgrew what was ailing them and are blooming and producing delicious beans…

Unable to sucessfully raise ANY poll beans (ALL were eaten to the ground before they developed any wines) we decided to raise new crops in pots off the site: we finally planted them the previous  and this week, sprinkled them with a dose of food grade Diatomaceous Earth (death to predators! – off with their intestines, broken into shards after eating the D.E.) and hope for the late harvest.

We put some of the starts into the bed with newly planted


RCG • 8/15/16 – bean tower – Blue Lake and Kentucky wonder…

peas (it has pole and string support) and for the rest of the plants we utilized our glorious bean tower (except that we smarted after the last use and removed the string/cord-mat on one side and left it free of plants – the tower worked great the last time we used it, but  it was maddening not to be able to harvest the beans trapped inside of the tower!).

And, we are finally harvesting our heirloom tomatoes, yay, SOO good! After many problems maintaining them (we are still cutting off blighted leaves as we spot them) they are rewarding us with great taste and a few questions to ponder:


RCG • 8/15/16 – today’s harvest 

1.) ‘Ildi’ variety: mini, sweet yellow, pear shaped cherry tomatoes had profusion  of blooms, but many of them were never pollinated and/or turned into fruit:  we had the same results with them in our community garden as well as in individual home/gardens. Mexico is suggested as the origin of this variety,  but other sites suggest Hungary – perhaps we should raise Mexican/Hungarian bees?🙂  More about this variety here:

2.) ‘Malina’ variety turned out very sweet and tasty, but not quite how I remember it from its country of origin, Poland  – as immigrant to Seattle it lacks its distinctive delicious smell (normally you can smell them a block before approaching a farmers market) and some of the characteristic sweet tartness, but not bad still. More about this variety here:

3.) ‘Yellow Ellen’ – Ellen doesn’t know the name of this variety, but was gifted with seeds and told that they are a Russian variety with yellow fruit; the fruit grew  yellow, indeed and super sweet and delicious.

4.) ‘Black Krim’ variety – an heirloom tomato originating from Crimea with big, dark reddish-purple to black fruit -an absolute WINNER with a deep, intensely rich taste – we should definitely save some seeds for the next season! More about this variety here:

For the next post i will try photograph each of our heirlooms for posterity….


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Peach harvest

IMG_7990At the end of July we started to collect our yummy peaches!  This is Kathi’s email from July 26th:

Hi All,
We harvested a couple baskets of peaches on Sunday & more will ripen soon.
So check out the shed -(probably some peaches still in baskets) & gardeners will need to pick from the tree every few days.
My supply has ripened fast & are delicious. Also, Vicki & family have noticed folks (& kids, too, I expect) walking by have picked peaches. So if you want a taste…. act soon!


We still had a basket of them around while at potluck at Laurie’s on August 2nd, and they were delicious!


There were some very odd ones, too, though, like this Siamese Twin peach that turned one side of itself into the “brain”. So weird I just had to take a photo!



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Midsummer Garden’s blues

Last Monday Sue from our sister Meadowbrook Community Garden graciously agreed to stop by and give us consultation on our striving garden. Thank you very much, Sue!


RCG • 7/19/16 – Echinacea purpurea in our herb border

Sue told us ALL the gardens are having trouble this year, and largely attributed it to the climate change; in short – the temps are rising, the bugs are getting more aggressive and meaner and the whole ecosystem is basically out of whack.

Sue has been gardening for about 50 years (among other projects she had run an urban farm for the UW Center for Urban Horticulture) and said she had never seen the situation worse than this year, and expects the problems to grow exponentially. Essentially all the early spring/cold weather vegetables were failures this year (spinach, peas, etc.) and the summer veg is not looking much better.

The Meadowbrook Community Garden is normally growing large quantities of vegetables for the food bank – i forgot the numbers Sue quoted, in 100s of pounds each summer, but this year’s yields and donations are significantly smaller. She described previous years’ harvests as every garden member going home with a bag of produce after each work party, while this year they depart with 2 pea/bean pods and a 1 beet each…  Needles to say our garden has similar results; below specifics on our crops.


RCG • 7/20/16 – Leaf miner larva and damage on beet leaf

The stuff that is wasting our beets turned out to be a leaf miner. Sue showed us its larvae underneath the leaf: tiny, squarish whitish dots, which she said it’s best to squish/kill, before it it eats through tunnels it makes while traveling through the leaf. We had been cutting off the ruined leaves each weak, only to find more the following one. Kathi reported that she cooked the three beet roots that we harvested last week (hardly any greens!) and they didn’t taste too good😦.



RCG • 7/20/16 – Tomatoes, still green but growing!

On our collection of heirloom tomatoes – first a good news from Sue: if all other conditions are stable, the new higher temps will allow us to grow MORE heirlooms than in usually too cool PNW summers.


RCG • 7/20/16 – Our stunted tomatoes, AFTER the leaves with blight were removed

The bad news: she spotted an early tomato blight (fungus) on some of them (fairly large black/brown spots on leaves with yellowing areas around them) and recommended that we immediately remove the affected leaves before the disease reaches the fruit and turns it into a mush. And yes, Virginia, there is a late tomato blight to look forward to…

Many of our tomatoes suffered transplant shock, because the day after we put them into the ground we had 3 weeks of rain and cold weather: some plants got seriously stunted (oh, yes, we covered them to protect from element),  although still producing fruit now… Anne Marie spotted a shameless snail traveling up the tomato branch,  but she was too squeamish to remove it: Debra picked it up and flung it FAR away.



RCG • 7/20/16 – Our poor beans – something is eating them

Beans, both bush and pole ones: Sue commented that bean seeds have quite high rate of not germinating this year, and this is certainly our experience, too  – we have planted and replanted them several times, many didn’t come up at all, and those that did seem to be eaten down to a leaf-less stalk. According to Sue, there might be several responsible perpetrators: cut worm, earwig, or simply we got diseased seeds from the last year (we planted seeds from different sources, all with the same poor result).

Click here to read about Top 17 Problems with green beans….  In her home garden Sue went at night with a head lamp to inspect what is eating her beans: she found jolly crowds of earwigs sitting on a low bamboo fence that she erected: they found cozy homes inside of the bamboo stalks and a tasty dinner nearby…


RCG – 7/20/16 – Our formerly grand basil collection


I wish i took a pic of healthy basil starts when Susan brought them to the garden several weeks ago: right now they look sick and pale green (despite being treated with fish fertilizer), stunted and attempting to bloom/bolt. Sue recommended we remove the bloom and the top branches to encourage bushier re-growth.

Sue also mentioned the ants problems: the Meadowbrook Community Garden found several ant colonies in vegetable beds, munching on up-comming broccoli and what not. We haven’t searched for the ants yet, but who knows what is hiding in the large empty patches of soil or under poorly performing plants like basil.



RCG • 7/20/16 – Our peaches, mmm

Our peaches look lush and wonderful so far, still not quite ripe, but Sue warned to watch for brown spots on them – i forgot what is supposed to cause it, but yeah, the whole fruit turns into a mush, if not controlled. Click here to read about a spotted-wing drosophila – a fruit fly, one of the mean bugs that Sue had mentioned.

Looks like maybe we should start a night patrol in our garden: many of the bugs seem nocturnal and never there to meet us face to face. The gardening is frustrating this year, and I’m in Anne Marie’s camp – not too fond of squishing larvae or flinging snails – hopefully the rest of you, fellow gardeners, are more hard core and somehow together we’ll find a way to grow stuff because, as Sue put it in her pre-consult email: “it is important for our future if we are going to feed ourselves…..”


RCG • 7/20/16 Our magnificent lettuce bed

You know what IS doing well? Volunteer tomatillos (Vicky has good salsa recipe for them) and blueberries – we had tones of early (from beginning of June!) and fat blueberries. Also, our lettuce bed, in July! It looks almost plastic good, but it is real – we had a good sense to put it in fairly shady place, but wonder what else is in play for the lettuce to look that good mid-July! Sue recommended that instead of harvesting it root-and-all, we just cut the lettuce above the ground, as it’s likely to re-grow. Also, our fabulous herb garden border is doing great and gets compliments from many passers-byes .  Yay🙂

Sue also mentioned roly poly bugs (they mostly munch on rotten stuff, but like strawberries, too) and allium rust – I think i’ll wait a while with googling that one…

aleks. The wordpress platform is not steady today – won’t let me preview, so I’m going to click ‘publish’ – please let me know about any mistakes you see, so i can correct them.

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Sunday June 12

Small group today, but we got some work done. We dug up the VERY feeble potatoes and found about 20 teeny potatoes living in absolutely dry soil that was essentially choked with poplar tree roots. We dug up as much of the root network as we could, watered the bed very thoroughly, and transplanted about 5 tomatillo plants into it from the bed behind the wall where we are trying to prepare the area for squash planting. We are essentially fighting the very same battle with poplar tree roots in this area, and we did some hard digging  to get out the mats of roots that are sucking all the moisture (and probably many of the nutrients as well) from this bed. Again, it was dry as a bone down at least a foot, and we took two large bins of roots to the yard waste container. We got about 1/2 the bed dug, though probably not as thoroughly as would be ideal. Maybe we can get more help next time and clean it more thoroughly before planting.

On a happier note, we clipped off lots of garlic scapes, and the 3 of us took those home, along with a few delicious snap peas, which are finally producing a bit. The garlic should be ready in a week or so.


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Friday June 10, 2016

Today we had a group volunteers from San Diego, who were visiting the local Roots  Community Church for a week,  that came  to help spread chips over cardboard in the area around the kiosk and fig tree. Thanks to Dave Elliff, the church’s pastor for bringing these volunteers to help us!! Thanks also to David for bringing extra tools to work with, Rita for arranging it, Debra for being the “crew lead”, the Parks Department for delivering the chips, and everyone who donated cardboard to keep the weeds from poking through (for a while at least). The project looks great! THANKS FOR THE HELP!!



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May 15, 2016

LOTS of TOMATOES to look forward to this year!!

We planted FIVE beds of tomatoes, put in the drip irrigation system to water them, put sturdy cages around them, and then “tucked them in” for this chilly week ahead. They look fabulous, and they are a bunch of heirloom varieties including Polish Giant, Malina, Yellow Ellens and a couple other kinds that Aleks grew from seed – THANKS ALEKS!! Here’s how they looked before they got “tucked in”.


See the drip irrigation hoses?

And all tucked in to stay warm in the next chilly week.


We used lots of different “media” to protect them.

We’ve got lots of other stuff growing, too, including garlic that’s nearly ready for harvest,  two beds of it.


Can you see the curlicue scapes where the flowers would grow? Scapes are delicious!


Can you tell what’s growing here?

And Strawberries, too, that are very happy this year. Eat a few, but save some for others!


The strawberries really like the layer of Fertil-Mulch that we put on them.See the Asparagus stalks behind them?

And the Herb Border is looking really fabulous right now. Lots of work has gone into weeding and mulching, and it’s really making a difference.


Rhubarb, Daisies, and Bluebells mixed in with sage, thyme, chives, tarragon, calendula, borage, and lots of other herbs.

The next Work Party is MONDAY May 23, so come join us to plant more yummy food for this season!

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We’ve Been Working!!

Despite not posting much recently, we are working hard in the garden over the last 6 weeks. We’ve raised 4 of our beds, added irrigation, distributed a couple truckloads of new soil and mulch in the beds and the herb border, and planted tomatoes and peppers and beets. We’ll try to get some photos posted this weekend, but until then come check out our progress and join us at our next Work Party, on Sunday May 15 from 4-6 PM.

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