Interval gardening is my new strategy. I used to attack the garden in early spring, determined to get it all cleaned up, clipped back, fertilized and mulched in record time. I'd boot up in the morning and scarcely come inside until dark. What a luxury that was! This year I'm practicing interval gardening to keep my energy up and my back uninjured - this means tea/snack breaks every couple of hours, and slowing down enough to enjoy the work as I go along. I try not to be so goal oriented that I'm always hurrying and pushing to finish. The biggest drawback of interval gardening is the frequent putting on and taking off of hat, boots and gloves as I go in and out... but that's a small price to pay for avoiding that overwhelmed, exhausted feeling that is as familiar as plant lust to gardeners in springtime.
So this spring for the first time in decades, I didn't order a big pile of feeding mulch to be dropped off in the driveway. It always sits there like a reproach until it's all spread. Instead I buy ten bags of a rich, light manure mulch every time I go to the nursery, and work my way through it as I have time. This may not be as cost efficient, but what a pleasure not to work like crazy, usually on a day that pours rain if not sleet, to whittle away that vast pile. I do miss that rush of a big project, but am trying to learn to take my time, working carefully and closely, and enjoying every minute of lukewarm sunshine. And when it sleets I stay indoors..
I was shocked and saddened to see that my beautiful rosemary plants, hardy survivors of so many dry summers, perished after this very cold and snowy winter! These are the creeping, prostrate kind, not the big upright kind, and I wondered if this variety is known for being more susceptible to cold? Any chance it will regrow or is rip-out-and-replace the only option?
ANSWER: I've never seen so many dead rosemaries - not only here on Whidbey Island but all over Queen Anne hill in Seattle. But I've also seen a number that have survived, and I'd bet that's not so much due to the variety of rosemary, but to good drainage. The soggy mess of melting snow drowned many rosemaries that might have survived the freezing nights we had in December.
After the weather warms up a bit (remembering we had snow last year on April 18!!) you can try cutting your rosemary back nearly to the ground and see if it regenerates. It might. Or if you don't have the patience, you can dig it out and start over. A rule of thumb for choosing rosemary - plants with the palest blue flowers are the hardiest.
I read the Pacific Northwest magazine in the Sunday Seattle Times. You named some nontoxic products for gardening. I'd like to know the ratio of white vinegar to boiling water. I am assuming there will be no harmful residue in the soil for later planting.
ANSWER: Spraying weeds with vinegar and dousing them with boiling water are two separate techniques, both easy, organic and inexpensive. The latter requires nothing more than carrying your teakettle filled with freshly boiled water out into the garden and pouring it onto weeds, although it might take more than a single application to eliminate older and/or stubborn ones.
Vinegar is also environmentally safe, for household vinegar is made from nothing more than oxidized grain, apples and grapes. Just pour undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle and spritz weeds thoroughly; this will probably kill young weeds with one application while older/bigger/more stubborn kinds may need repeat doses to kill the roots. Vinegar may reduce the Ph of your soil for a couple of days, but other than that it's benign - just be careful to keep it away from desirable plants for it'll wither them away just as surely as the weeds.