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Dear Methow Gardener,
By Jane Gilbertson

Wow, what a great gardener and what a super cook I got to visit today!  The couple have an amazing garden and a fabulous outdoor kitchen all set respectfully into the greater landscape.  They grow most of their food and take the time and energy to process it well.  The wife was making her own apple pectin today.  I was so impressed.  

Everything was robust and lush, fed primarily with homemade compost with some chicken poop mixed in as nitrogen jet fuel.  They are located in a sunny spot with limited water so they make the most of it by getting started early in the year, great water planning, respecting their soil structure by loosening their soil with only a broadfork, and good layout design, both hardscape and planting.  

CabbageJust look at this gorgeous Savoy Cabbage.  Perfect.  So where are the cabbage moths that perforate so many crucifers?  Something is going right.  Sometimes irrigated gardens outside the usual farmland zone take awhile to be discovered by garden pests but these 2 have been gardening here for several years.  Sometimes plants are just so robust they seem to deter attack.  Everything here looked great - peach trees, blueberries (he uses MiracAcid Fertilizer too), mature onions from seed, huge red hardneck garlic, edamame, favas, squash, and more.  Mulching was organic, plastic for heat and water conservation and a bit of old carpeting.  The choice of mulch fit the needs of the plants. 

Garden with Stop Sign Post

Check out the fun use of old stop sign posts for garden posts. The posts held rusty, almost invisible welded wire for a bean trellis. They just made me smile.  It takes a good touch to include stuff, whether recycled stuff placed in an inventive way or actual stuff intended to be garden art, tastefully in the garden.  The perfect spacing of the posts and the cabbage and tomatoes in their matching cages gave order and dignity to the fun stuff.  The place felt like the Western version of Southern France.  Where lavender, yews and boxwood provide order to European semi-formal gardens, here gorgeous rows of healthy plants provide the same feel of structure.  There is a magic balance between order and disorder that gave me a feeling of healthy abundance and control at the same time.  It is hard to explain but you'll know it when it feels right.

Even their chicken coop was well planned (4 quadrants - 2 inside coops and 2 outside runs protected by hardware cloth, plus a big outdoor fenced area).  It is a wonderful mix of new materials and recycled stuff.  The solid walls give them more room for fun "art".

The outdoor kitchen made me drool with envy.  It included a sink, 2 gas burners, storage, an outdoor shower, dining table, wall art, sun shade and clothesline.  It was spacious and cozy at the same time.  Here are some pictures to savor.....

Garden sink
Chickedn coop
Washline and shower

Do note the Coolaroo Sun Shade.  You can buy them on the internet.  They come in triangles and squares in several sizes and the smaller ones come in gorgeous primary colors.  Using 2 triangles would be particularly fun.  We need, at least seasonally, to shade the outside expanse of our hard west windows and sitting areas on the south and west sides of our homes.  We also need, especially in new construction and in the firewise open zone near our homes, to have some non-combustible shade material.  Overhead shade protection both keeps things cooler and gives a space a cozy feeling whether it is a big old tree, arbor or sunshade.  The new sunshades work great and the prices are not bad.  But anyone can use a blue tarp and if it is property strung up, achieve shade, it just won't look so fancy.  I am using one now in one of the chicken yards to provide shade.  But wouldn't bright red and lime green triangle shades look terrific over a chicken yard or over your hammock?  

There is nothing like garden touring to get your energy up for home and garden improvement.  I totally recommend it.  So better get your tickets for the Confluence Gallery's  "Home on the Range", the annual home tour.  It on Saturday, August 13th this year.   It is a great way to spend the day.  Carpool and pack a lunch.  Get ideas to take home with you, the design talent in this Valley is always amazing.  (This year there is even a BBQ Hoedown at Bernie Hosey's Barn and Studio in the evening.)  Then you will have all winter to plan for next year.  And you know you need something to keep you going during those dark short days.  Dreaming up new garden plans will keep you going!

That's all for now, thanks for reading.

Jane, the terminally enthusiastic