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San Juan Islands’

Home Garden Spring 2012

Featured Inside:

Photos Contributed by The Journal

At last. Spring has sprung. It’s time to get outside and get ready for summer. Our Home & Garden section includes stories by local experts and a preview of upcoming events. We hope it will help you make the most out of the spring season.

• Ridding the home of hazardous waste — Helen Venada/Brian Radar, HG 2 • Master your garden — Jody Burns, HG 3 • Maintenance tips, for the home — David Mieland, HG 5 • Arbor Day & edible trees — Roger Ellison/Shann Weston, HG 6 • Selling this spring? — Gary Franklin, HG 7


Spring 2012

HG 2

Home Garden

Disposing of hazardous waste: 101

Hazardous waste roundup: one stop opportunity to get rid of all that really icky – and dangerous – stuff By Brian Rader, Helen Venada

What? The hazardous waste round-up collection event is our once-yearly opportunity to legally and responsibly dispose of poisonous, flammable, corrosive or other hazardous chemicals. Why? Taking responsibility for the waste you produce is the right thing to do. You don’t want this stuff sitting around your property. Proper disposal protects your health and the health of the workers that handle your waste. Proper disposal also keeps chemicals out of our drinking water and out of the environment. Where? At your island’s solid waste facility (aka, “the dump”). When? The schedule: San Juan Island: Saturday, April 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Orcas Island: Saturday, May 5, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lopez Island: Sunday, May 6, noon to 3 p.m. What can I bring? Pesticides and other poisons, gasoline and other waste fuels, wood preservatives, oil-based paints and stains, solvents, thinners, pool and photochemicals, resins, mothballs, polishes, degreasers, cleaning products, spent fluorescent light tubes. What not to bring? The following are not accepted at the round-up: Flares, explosives, ammunition, or radioactive material— deliver these to the Sheriff ’s Office. Antifreeze, motor oil, and vehicle batteries—recycle at your island’s solid

waste facility during regular business hours. Unbroken, spent Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)—deliver to your OPALCO office for free recycling. Latex paint – dry out (solidify) and dispose as regular solid waste. Children or pets? These are not hazardous waste and we want to keep them safe. How much will it cost? Households are charged a minimum fee of $12 for up to 200 pounds (about 25 gallons) of hazardous waste. Amounts over that will cost an additional $.06 per pound. Cash or check only. Businesses must preregister by calling 370-0503 and will be invoiced for their disposal costs. Please remember: what you pour on the ground or into your drain today, you may be drinking out of your faucet tomorrow. Please choose wisely, and contact us with questions. — Helen Venada, hazardous waste and waste reduction coordinator: 370-0503; helenv@sjcpublicworks.org; Brian Rader, pollution prevention specialist: 370-7581; brianr@sanjuanco.com

Contributed photo

Hazardous waste comes in many forms, from industrial to common household materials.

Do-it-yourself septic inspection: classes available In the past three years, more than 2,600 homeowners have attended San Juan County’s free on-site sewage system operation and maintenance workshops and have been certified to inspect their septic systems. Workshops are scheduled for Lopez, Orcas and San Juan islands through September of this year. The workshops provide homeowners an opportunity to become certified to inspect their septic systems and avoid the expense of hiring an inspector. Participants learn how septic systems function, how

they can be maintained to extend the longevity and reduce expenses and protect the environment. Since 2007, county homeowners have been required to have their septic systems inspected on a regular basis. Gravity systems that are not in designated sensitive areas must be inspected every three years. All other systems, including gravity systems in sensitive areas, require annual inspections. The class schedule is available online at: http://www. sanjuanco.com/health/ehswaste.aspx or through Health & Community Services at 360-378-4474.

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HG 3 Home Garden

Garden: be the master

By Jody Burns

Is your step a little lighter? Are you singing in the rain? Whistling while you work? It’s spring and we all feel better. At my house we know it’s spring when we open the doors to the unheated enclosed porch from which we can see Yellow Island and the inter-island ferry traffic as we eat breakfast and lunch. Yesterday, we opened the doors. It’s officially spring at our house. I hope it is at your house too – and in your garden. We had some lovely weather the week before last. We’re not out of the woods yet as far as rain goes, but mornings are no longer bracingly cold and sunset doesn’t send us running for our down jackets. The plants know it too. Daffodils, crocus, scilla, forsythia, and quince are blooming. Tree buds are swelling.

Red flowering quince and tall Oregon grape are bursting into bloom. And of course, the deer are back. Time to get busy in the garden. But what exactly should you be doing in the garden in spring? Lots of answers will be found at the Master Gardeners Spring Gardening Workshop, Saturday, April 21; a full day of practical workshops designed to improve your gardening skills. Graham Kerr, of Galloping Gourmet fame, is the keynote speaker. Workshops range from year-round vegetable gardening to water catchment systems, to flower arranging. to http://sanjuan.wsu.edu/ ( Go mastergardeners/ for the full schedule and on-line registration forms; registration forms are also at several shops around town.)

In the meantime, it’s clean-up and weeding time—again. Cleaning up winter debris in your garden eliminates inviting environments for both disease and pests (think slugs). Add compost to your vegetable gardens. Plant those bare root plants you got at the Native Plant Sale. Plant perennials that you fall in love with in garden centers and nurseries. Get your soil tested. Soil is the life-blood of your garden. You should know what’s in it before you add anything to it. The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass. does standard testing fast and inexpensively. They’ll email you the results with

Spring 2012

a detailed list of suggested improvements. Here’s the link: http://www. umass.edu/soiltest/ index.htm Spring is a prime time to build garden structures. Think about building a raised bed. Soil in a raised bed warms more quickly than the flat ground around it. Warm soil temperature is important for plant growth in our climate. I have a friend who created raised beds from two utility tubs she found at the thrift store. You know those tubs that were in everyone’s basement years ago? They have a drainage hole and they raise the planting bed to waist height. No more bending over. Feeling pinched and don’t want to spend money on materials? Get the shovel and pile up your soil in 4-by-4 flat-topped foot-high piles. Feeling flush and want to make it beautiful? Build it out of cedar with mitered picture frame trim on the top. Raised beds should be only as wide as you can reach. You don’t want to step in them to do the weeding. There are books galore with building instructions. Ask at the library or browse the gardening section at the local bookstores. If you are planting vegetable seeds, there are several cool weather crops you can plant now. Outside, plant peas, arugula, kale, and mustards. I love snap peas. You eat the pod and the pea, what could be more efficient? Super sugar snap or Cascadia are favorite varieties. Snow peas have the same advantage. Try Oregon Sugar Pod.

I grow shelling peas too; though if you have only room for one pea, choose snap peas. Plant them one inch deep and if the birds are a problem, cover them with Remay. Peas need to grow up a trellis, but you can make one inexpensively from material at hand. Arugula grows best in cool weather. Keep it picked and you’ll have it all summer. If seedlings are your choice, you can plant mustards, kale, chard, as well as peas. Remember that although our average last frost is mid-March, the safe planting date is April 15. If your garden is a cool one, cover your seedlings with a low tunnel of Remay, that will protect plants from a light frost. It’s water and sunlight permeable. The best part of spring is the new life in the garden. If you want to believe once again in the will to live just look around. Take your time, really look. In the rock pile, honeysuckle vines are beginning to peek out, on a nurse stump a tree seedling is putting out new growth, in the dirt, barely visible, is the first growth of a peony, and in the far corner of the vegetable garden is a mustard seedling the gift of last year’s crop you let go to seed. Outside new life is all around you bringing with it the hope of one more year of bountiful harvests, beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs full of birds – and deer who won’t eat the flowers. Enjoy! As always, the Master Gardeners are here to answer your questions and help. Call us at WSU Extension, 378-4414.

Thank you, Orcas Island for your continued support!

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Spring 2012

HG 4

Home Garden

SJ Garden Tour on June 9 Orcas Island Homestead Tour, June 23-24 Garden Club’s “themed” tour of farms and gardens

A scene from San Juan Island’s 2011 Garden Tour.

Journal file photo

San Juan Island’s 2012 Garden Tour is scheduled for June 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsored by the San Juan Horticultural Society and WSU Master Gardeners, the Garden Tour features four unique island gardens, with a docent to answer questions and lead walks at each. Tickets for the tour ($15 last year) will be available the week before the tour, at Browne’s Garden Center, Robin’s Nest and Griffin Bay Bookstore. Tickets will also be available the day of the tour. Tour proceeds benefit the Mullis Senior Community Demonstration Garden (maintained by WSU Master Gardeners), awards for the Flower Hall at the San Juan County Fair, and the “greening” of the gravel pit.

Hard to imagine that in just two months the storms of March and April will have receded and left us with our first harvests of vegetables and flower gardens in full bloom. The fever of spring is budding, bidding, bountiful and abiding. Please mark your calendars for the Orcas Island Garden Club’s Homestead Tour, a tour of five farms and gardens on the east side of the island whose emphasis is not only beauty, but the sustainable horticulture of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Three of the homesteads – the Doe Bay Garden (managed by Heather Watts) and George Orser’s Orcas Farm in Doe Bay; and the Eisner’s Cherry Hill Farm in Olga – date back

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to the 1880s, so you’ll get a serving of history with your horticulture. The other two gardens, Kevin and Carol McCoy’s homestead abutting Moran State Park and the Gainor-Kos Seaview Farm on Pioneer Hill, are more recent homesteads but also committed to a sustainable ecology. Included in the tour will be lectures about eastside history and various horticultural methods, such as seed saving, composting,

and crop rotation. As well, Eastside eateries Café Olga and the Doe Bay Café will offer box lunches to pre-order for tour-goers who would like to picnic at the sites. The Orcas Island Garden Club is excited about this “themed” tour into island

history and horticulture. Mark your calendars for “The Homestead Tour,” Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24. Watch for ticket information in the Islands’ Sounder newspaper, at orcasislandgardenclub.org and other venues.

Above and right: George Orser’s Orcas Farm is on the 2012 Orcas Garden Club’s Homestead tour scheduled for June 23-24. contributed photos

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Home Garden

HG 5

Spring 2012

Spring tips for the home

By David Meiland

Winter is over, and along with spring cleaning, this is a good time for home maintenance tasks. Modern homes have many parts that need regular inspection and service. Unfortunately, these are sometimes neglected, leading to expensive problems when they fail unexpectedly. Here are some of the more important items, in no particular order: If you have a wood-burning chimney, have it inspected and serviced by a certified chimney technician. Do it now and you’ll be ready for the next heating season. Get a flashlight and take a look inside your dryer vent pipe. Chances are good that lint has built up inside the pipe and should be removed. A shop-vac works well for this. Test your smoke detectors and replace the batteries, or even the entire detector, if necessary. Check your attic and crawl space for signs of water leaks, condensation, missing insulation, or pests. A thorough annual inspection of both spaces is recommended. Turn off your water heater and drain it to remove sediment build-up in the tank. This is especially important if you are on a well. Inspect the various flexible water connectors in your home, like those at sinks, toilets, the dishwasher, and the washing machine. These have a limited service life and should be replaced with new, highquality connectors periodically. Test the GFCI receptacles in your kitchen,

bathrooms, garage, and exterior. These can fail, and you are depending on them to protect you. It only takes a few minutes to test all of them in the home. Inspect your roof, gutters, and downspouts. If you can’t safely get on your roof, have a roofer or home inspector check your shingles and flashings for signs of trouble. Make sure that gutters are clean and downspouts are moving rainwater away from your foundation. Have your heating system serviced. Modern systems with heat pumps, boilers, and other complex parts need regular inspection by a heating technician to ensure that they are running correctly and efficiently. And of course, change your furnace filter regularly. Clean the grease filter in your range hood. If it won’t fit into the dishwasher, take it to the car wash next time you go. Trim trees and shrubs away from the house and roof, and make sure there’s plenty of room between the soil and your wood siding. Last but not least, have your septic system inspected periodically. Every three years is a good interval. Many of these tasks you can safely and effectively perform yourself. Others require a skilled person such as a contractor, plumber, or home inspector. Be sure to hire the right person for the job. A little attention now could prevent a big hassle later. — David Meiland is the owner of Bailer Hill Construction, Friday Harbor.



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Spring 2012

HG 6

Home Garden

Arbor Day: a timely tribute to our trees

Did you know some species are edible? Here are the Top 5 on our list By Roger Ellison/Shann Weston

“We inspire people to plant nurture and Shann Weston celebrate trees.” That is the mission of the Arbor Day Foundation. To that end, the Foundation celebrates Arbor Day all over the nation and provides many educational resources about trees. Trees can reduce the erosion of topsoil, cut heating and cooling costs, remove dust and carbon dioxide from the air, produce life-giving oxygen, provide habitat for wildlife, beautify our community, and feed our families. In the words of Arbor Day founder, Sterling Morton, “all the people strive on Arbor Day to plant many, many trees, both forest and fruit. May the day and the observance thereof be cherished in every household, and its name and fruits become as a shower of blessing to the long lines of generations who shall succeed us.” Forest trees of Cascadia provide the well-known evergreen coniferous character of our region. The Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is the state tree of Oregon. The Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is the provincial tree of British Columbia. The Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) was chosen as Washington’s state tree in 1947. Rain shadow trees, such

as the Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) and spectacular coastal trees such as the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) add to island character. Edible trees give us the same benefits as their purely ornamental cousins, plus the added benefit of fruits, nuts and salad greens. Producing more of our food from trees and shrubs preserves our soil, protects our streams, and gives us beautifully Roger Ellison productive landscapes. Besides the usual apples, pears, plums and peaches, there are several tasty and nutritious trees that we can choose to plant on Arbor Day. The following Top Five “Unusual Edible Trees” have been given the highest rating of Five Apples for edibility on the Plants for a Future web site (www.pfaf.org). All of them would grow well on our islands. Top Five Unusual Edible Trees: n Sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) for nuts n Hawthorns (Crateagus arnoldiana, C. pensylvanica, C. schraderiana and others) for fruit n Lime trees (Tillia cordata, T. platyphyllos, T. x Europaea) for flowers and leaves n Japanese Dogwood (Cornus kousa, C. kousa chinensis) for fruit n Hazels and Filberts (Corylus avellana and C. maxima) for nuts San Juan Island Grange will celebrate Arbor Day, Friday, April 27, 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Grange Hall in Friday Harbor. National Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care.

Landscape & Desgin, is master of the Friday Harbor Grange. — Shann Weston is the Grange’s program director.

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The National Arbor Day Foundation has plenty of ideas on how schools, groups and civic organizations can celebrate Arbor Day. But you’ll also find a few suggestions on its Website of ways to celebrate Arbor Day simply on your own. Here’s a few: n Plant a tree yourself. It is an act of optimism and kindness, a labor of love and a commitment to stewardship. n Read a book about trees. Learn to identify trees in your yard and neighborhood. n Enjoy the outdoors. Visit a local park or take a nature hike. n Attend a class on tree and plant care. n Volunteer with a local tree-planting organization. You’ll meet new people and make a difference in your community. For more ideas, visit the National Arbor Day Foundation at, http://www.arborday.org/arborday/celebrate.cfm

A yellow finch, a sure sign of spring in the San Juans, finds a cherry tree makes a nice perch.

Journal photo /Scott Rasmussen

— Roger Ellison, owner/operator of Thornbush

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HG 7 Home Garden

Selling a home this spring?

Simple improvements will boost appeal; bathroom, kitchen are key By Gary Franklin

When you’re getting ready to sell your property, you want to be able to get the best price possible for your home. Remember when you took your trade-in to the car dealership? Didn’t you clean it up beforehand? Depending on how long you have lived at your current residence, you may want to invest a little time and money into a few simple improvements. Many sellers may become

wary of taking the necessary time to help spruce up their home’s appearance due to the cost associated with upgrades. Yet, even simple improvements to a property can make a big difference and won’t always cost thousands of dollars to accomplish. So let’s look at some great ways to increase value and make the most impact: Improve curb appeal: You can achieve this in several ways. First, you can fill in empty spaces and add a few plants or shrubs to your landscaping. Additionally, some flowers or potted plants near the front entrance can make a great first impression. Adding a tree for additional shade and patching up a worn out lawn can work miracles to draw buyers in. Space and cleanliness: There is nothing worse to a buyer than a cluttered or unclean home. Take the time to remove unnecessary items from your closets, clean out the garage or carport, remove clutter or toys from the living areas, and make your floors shine. Your home needs to be staged in such a way that your buyers can visualize themselves living there. The way you decorate your walls and ceilings will also affect how your buyers perceive open space. Aim for an earthy appearance: Many buyers appreciate materials and paint colors that tend to have more of an earthy appeal. Each room will be different, so be sure to choose wisely. Also, consider using ceramic tiles or wood flooring instead of carpets or linoleum. Tiles in both the bathroom and kitchen could also make a huge difference. Change outdated items: This can be as simple as replacing old light and sink fixtures, doors, handles, or even windows. These items

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Spring 2012

can greatly impact the price of a home and don’t always require huge amounts of investment. Additionally, maybe a new coat of paint or trim is all you need to fix up an otherwise “old” appearance. Ask an expert: Whether you need advice on decorating, how to improve energy efficiency, or would like to find some items that could use a little “TLC”, it could be worth a small one-time investment to get another opinion. This is a way to proactively make changes before you even consider listing your home. And you may be able to avoid bigger problems that could arise down the road. Bathrooms and kitchen: Finally, if you are able to make the extra investment, two areas that have the biggest impact on price are the bathroom and kitchen. Whether this requires replacing the floors, sinks, tubs, fixtures or appliances, there are many ways that you can astronomically boost your home’s appeal by making improvements to these two key areas. We hope these tips prove helpful when the time comes to sell your home. If you would like an expert opinion from an experienced realtor on how you can command top dollar for your property, be sure to contact us today. — Gary Franklin is an agent/broker with Windermere San Juan Island; http://www.windermeresji.com


HG 8

Home Garden



Spring 2012

Tips to grow an island veggie patch By Cali Bagby

Taking on the task of growing food in your backyard may seem daunting, but Marlyn Myers, former Orcas Garden Club president and avid gardener, has a few tips to get you started on an island veggie patch of your own. Step 1: Soil The pH in your soil measures its acidity or alkalinity. Most vegetable gardens require less acidity, said Myers. We have two types of soil on Orcas - waterfront with no nutrients and inland soil, which is much better. If you have waterfront soil, you will need to add nutrients like your compost or fertilizer. You can purchase a pH soil testing kit from any garden supply store or call the Washington State University at 3784414 for a list of testing labs. Step 2: Sun… and heat Myers said you absolutely need to have sun for your vegetables to grow, so make sure you start your garden in a spot with plenty of rays. Many plants need the soil temperature to be 60 degrees, so until the earth warms up it’s good to start growing plants in a greenhouse.

Other options to heat your soil are: • Raised beds, think a garden in a sandbox, which puts soil higher than surrounding soil • Grow covers, which are basically above the ground tunnels with plastic wrap for insulation • Cold frames, which are wooden enclosures with glass windows on the top. When it’s cold you close the glass and when it’s warm you open it Step 3: Water Water is vital from the moment seeds are sown through sprouting to the end of the growing season, but be careful not to drown your plants because veggies can rot if they get too much water in cool island weather. Step 4: Plants Myers said there are a variety of cool season crops that are an ideal fit

for Orcas gardens, but that it’s also important to pick plants that you and your family will enjoy eating. Here are Myers recommendations: Peas, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, carrots, parsnips, beets and radishes. Be adventurous and try plants like artichokes if you have a lot of sun in your garden, said Myers. She also suggests people plant flowers like nasturtiums and marigolds around the edge of the garden, which will help keep pests away. And mixing in some seaweed with your soil wards off slugs. Herbs grow well in pots and are an easy way to jump start your green thumb. Chives, oregano and parsley are low maintenance because they grow back every year. Step 5: Enjoy it Gardening keeps your body in shape and you have the benefit of knowing exactly where your food comes from, said Myers. For her, gardening is a peaceful feeling that gives her a sense of independence. “Start small or you’ll get overwhelmed and give up,” Myers said. “But once you get into it, it’s a joyous thing.”

5 steps to compost

By Cali Bagby

1. The Outside: Compost bins can cost anywhere between a few bucks to $300. They came in various shapes from round to square to wire to cedar to plastic. Buy wire for a 10-feet by 36-inch compost. Get creative with an old or new trash can and cut holes in the top and sides to let air in and cut a square out in the bottom so you can let the water out and get easy access to composted soil. If you want an aesthetically pleasing bin for less hassle you can spend a pretty penny on bins that roll or have cranks to sift through your contents. You can also just heap your compost in the yard, but you may get unwanted visitors like rats or raccoons. 2. The Inside: Keep a container by your kitchen sink and collect egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels, even pet hair, lint, newspaper, jell-o, pickles and other discarded material. The more you shred these items down the faster they will compost. Most kitchen leftovers can be composted, but beware of meat products like fats and white bread, which are like neon fast food signs for rodents. 3. Move it and shake it: Mix up the contents of your compost, with a turning crank inside your compost bin or stick a pitchfork inside and toss materials around. Strategically place your items to allow oxygen to break down items. Too much is sometimes too much - mix equal amounts green and brown items, think of a dirt and garbage parfait. 4. Let in the light: Place your bin in a spot where it will get sun and a little bit of shade. 5. Keep it moist: Moist is good, soggy and slimy is bad, so add more green items, like yard waste.

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