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SPRING 2013

Island trends in homebuilding A kaleidoscope of early bloomers Harnessing the sun and wind Edible greenery to grace Langley Vermicomposting

Published as a supplement of the Whidbey News-Times, South Whidbey Record & Whidbey Examiner


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VERMICOMPOSTING: Red wigglers turn food scraps into rich, healthy soil.

6 10 11

EARLY BLOOMERS:

Island nurseries offer a full spectrum of floral color.

REMODELING: The new trend in homebuilding.

GEAR TO GET YOU GROWING

12

HARNESSING THE SUN AND WIND

14

Take a bite out of Langley:

Edible greenery to brighten the town.

contents

H&Gstaff Executive Editor & Publisher Keven Graves

Advertising Manager Lee Ann Mozes

Editor Jessie Stensland

Marketing Sales Gail Rognan, Kimberlly Winjum Production Manager Michelle Wolfensparger

Copy & Photos Betty Freeman, Megan Hansen Michaela Marx Wheatley & Nathan Whalen

Advertising Design Rebecca Collins, Ginny Tomasko & Leslie Vance

Additional copies of this publication, subscriptions and advertising information can be obtained by contacting: WHIDBEY NEWS-TIMES | 360-675-6611 SOUTH WHIDBEY RECORD | 877-316-7276 WHIDBEY EXAMINER | 360-678-8060 PO Box 1200, 107 S. Main Street, Suite E101 Coupeville, WA 98239

on the cover A water feature utilizing local stone, native plants and some imagination is a wonderful spring project. Many home centers have do it yourself fountain kits which can easily be modified to suit any landscape design. Several Whidbey contractors also build custom water features.


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WhidbeyH&G

vermicomposting

Red wigglers turn food scraps into rich, healthy soil By Betty Freeman | STAFF REPORTER

“Food waste is actually an extremely valuable resource,” said Langley resident Todd Spratt, who has been recycling, composting and growing organic food for over 35 years. Spratt is sold on the idea of vermicomposting – using worms to break down food waste into rich, dark soil. “Earthworms play a key role in the development of the soil,” said Spratt. “I refer to them as the honeybees of the soil, pollinating it with beneficial microorganisms.” “Red worms make the best composters, consuming up to one and a half times their body weight in organic debris in a day,” Spratt said. “Worms have a gut like an incubator. Their castings are alive with beneficial organisms like friendly bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. Castings contain nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, trace elements, minerals, hormones and growth regulators.” In their seven years on Whidbey Island, the Spratt family members – Todd, Teresa and son JaNoah – have made it

Betty Freeman Photo

Todd Spratt shows off the rich, healthy soil created in his worm bins. their mission to educate the public and public agencies about vermicomposting. Cary Peterson, who manages the gardens at Good Cheer and the Whidbey Institute, sought Spratt’s help in devising a new system for creating and manag-

ing compost. “Good Cheer was using commercial tumblers for their compost, and they couldn’t use dairy, meat or citrus scraps. The bins smelled bad and attracted flies in the millions,” said Spratt. “Their problem was in not covering the compost with bedding material that hides the worms – they’re shy and don’t like light or heat – and encouraging the breakdown process,” said Spratt. “Also, above ground bins are not friendly to worms, who do their best work at cooler, below-ground temperatures.” “One big difference between a worm bin and other composting methods is that you can put in all your food scraps, including meat, bones, dairy, citrus, coffee filters and even paper towels,” said Spratt. “The more diverse the feedstock, the more diverse your soil will be,” he said. “And, you’re cutting down on what you’d normally put in the trash that will end up in a landfill.” The BugaBay worm bins designed by

photo courtesy of Todd Spratt

A handful of red worms. Spratt are 2-by-4 feet long with a partition down the middle. They are made of locally grown cedar with a hinged lid on top. Spratt advises installing a worm bin in an area with good drainage. Starting a vermicomposting system involves a few easy steps. First, install the worm bin several continued ON page 5

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Pg 5 ond side. The worms will migrate to the new side through the partition in the center of the box. When that side is three-quarters full, it’s time to harvest the castings from the first side. Harvesting castings is simple. Loosen the top two inches of castings with a small rake, close the lid and wait two days. After a couple of days, rake the castings to the sides of the box, giving the worms below a chance to migrate either laterally to the second box or down deeper into the first one, an exodus that takes about 10 minutes. Finally, use a hand trowel to dig your castings and put them in a portable container to use directly on your garden soil. Extra castings can be

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stored in bags for later use. “The beauty of making your own soil using your family’s food scraps is that you not only drastically reduce your carbon footprint, but the quality of your garden produce increases dramatically,” said Spratt, holding up a handful of the rich, dark vermicompost. “It’s all we ever use to amend our garden,” said Spratt, pointing to the healthy lettuce and other greens growing strong in his garden even in midFebruary. “I’ll never have to buy soil again, ” he said. For more information about the BugaBay vermicomposting system, visit bugabay.com.

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inches below grade, on a foundation of bricks to keep tunneling rodents out. “Installing the box several inches below grade insulates it and keeps the inside temperatures more consistent,” Spratt said. Second, add a two-inch layer of bedding material like manure or peat moss. Then add red worms. “A pound of red worms will create one pound of castings per day,” he said. Next add food scraps and disburse them into an even layer, and cover them with another layer of bedding material. Cover the food waste with bedding material every time you use the bin. When the first side of the worm box is full, repeat the process on the sec-

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WhidbeyH&G

Island nurseries offer kaleidoscope of

Early bloomers By Betty Freeman | staff reporter

I

f you’ve been poring over seed catalogs and trying to warm your hands over pictures of bright blooms, don’t despair. Spring is truly on the way, and now is a great time to visit your local nursery to see what’s new. At Mailliard’s Landing Nursery in Oak Harbor, bare root fruit trees are in stock now and ready to plant. “We buy our fruit trees from Skagit Valley growers, so they’re acclimated to this region,” manager Barbara Counts said. “Now is a great time to plant, so spring rains can help trees and shrubs settle in.” “Our best sellers are rhodies and Japanese maples,” said Counts as she pointed to a quarter acre of healthy rhododendrons in front of the nursery office. Counts doesn’t stock annuals at the nursery, but she has a good supply of roses, perennials, natives and rain garden plants. “People can bring in pictures of their garden spaces and we can help them get the right plants for the right place,” she said. At Sally’s Garden in Coupeville, owner Sally Clifton said, “We’re just getting started with early spring color and people are starting to come in and check out our

In the big greenhouse at Bayview Farm & Garden, primroses in rainbow colors welcome visitors.

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Sally’s Garden in Coupeville has primroses in surprising colors such as these orange-yellow combinations. heathers, primroses, daffodils and hyacinths. We’ve also got a good selection of bare root roses.” “Customers are coming in now to buy fruit trees for small home orchards. The self-pollinating varieties are really popular, especially for gardens with limited space,” said Clifton. Later in the spring, Sally’s Garden sells veggie starts, herbs, annuals and hanging baskets. On April 13, Larry the Orchid Expert will give a free talk at 2 p.m. about orchids and he’ll diagnose orchid ailments for growers, Clifton said. The staff at Sally’s Garden is always available to give garden advice. “With beginning gardeners, we tell them about plants that are easy to grow, so they’ll start with success,” Clifton said. On South Whidbey, Bayview Farm & Garden’s

Bunnies stand guard in Bayview Farm & Garden’s greenhouse. huge greenhouse is ablaze with early spring color. Primroses in rainbow hues dominate the display now, but the real stars are the new hellebores in unusual colors like deep purple and apricot. “Hellebores are stylish this season,” said Vanessa O’Donnell, staff member at Bayview Farm & Garden. “Valerie Easton did a blog entry about hellebores and we’ve got the ones she mentioned in stock.”

Easton, a Seattle garden writer, wrote about “onyx odyssey,” a new deep purple hellebore that’s a far cry from the usual pale blooms that shyly hang their heads in late February. Hellebore, or Lenten rose, is a reliable, low-maintenance early bloomer that heralds more riotous blooms to come. If you’re looking for shrubs or trees, talk to Eric See blooms, Page 9

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spring2013

Pg 9

Blooms CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7

Studebaker at Bayview Farm & Garden. After 30 years of nursery work, Studebaker is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about new shrubs and trees that he says “are constantly being improved by horticulturalists.” “The plant world is exploding with new developments,” said Studebaker. “For example, we’ve had about 30 new varieties of hydrangea in a year’s time. They’ve now developed one called ‘pistachio’ that blooms on both old and new wood.” “Hydrangeas are perhaps the worst plants for pruning mistakes, because most bloom on old wood, so if you cut off too much, you’ve lost your blooms for the next year,” said Studebaker. “But now with this new variety, your pruning mistakes won’t cost you the next year’s blooms.”

Studebaker also admires the new ash leaf spirea shrub that stays compact and has attractive apricot-colored foliage, and the “golden ruby” barberry with its coppery leaves. “There are so many shrubs now that are grown just for their beautiful foliage,” he said. Another newcomer at Bayview is the “bountiful blue blueberry,” a compact, mostly evergreen blueberry that has pink blossoms in spring and reddish foliage in the fall, and grows only about three to four feet tall and wide. Aside from the showy foliage, the berries are said to be large and super sweet. Bayview Farm & Garden will celebrate 20 years in the nursery business with a “Spring Fling” on Saturday, March 30, with classes and events all day. No matter where you live on Whidbey Island, garden inspiration and good advice is right around the corner at your local nursery. Heather is in bloom now and ready to plant.

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Pg 10

Remodeling

WhidbeyH&G

The new trend in home building

By NATHAN WHALEN | Staff reporter

O

ver the past several years, recession-minded builders and homeowners have been on the same page. Rather than build a new houses, they are improving the value of current homes. Whidbey homebuilders in recent years have been busy renovating homes with projects ranging from making minor repairs to stripping a home down to the studs and building it back up. Scott Yonkman, owner of Yonkman Construction in Oak Harbor, said that the trend toward renovation is economically driven. “We’re a company that wants to serve the community,” Yonkman said. He said his company recently completed several major renovations to Whidbey homes. He is also willing to complete anything from replacing exterior doors and windows to switching the insulation. continued ON page 11

before

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spring2013 B.J. Martin, who, along with his wife, Karen, hired Yonkman to renovate his house located in the San de Fuca area of Whidbey Island. The house, which is around 30 years old, was once a duplex that was transformed into a single family home years ago. He hired Yonkman to improve the layout. “It was a very odd and unworkable interior,” Martin said. He noted the “door to nowhere” on the front that opened to an open space between the house and the garage. Martin said he decided to go with a renovation because it was more economical than building a new house. The current structure had a foundation, electricity and plumbing. He also complimented Yonkman’s staff and the designer tapped to develop the renovation, who were receptive to his needs. Yonkman said people look to the economic benefit that comes with improving their homes. He noted a recent study compiled by Remodel magazine that notes the fiscal impacts of various improvements to a house. For example, 79 percent of the cost of a bathroom remodel and 81 percent of kitchen remodel is recouped through an increase in a home’s value, according to the report. “It’s an investment that can bring some comfort and pleasure,” Yonkman said. Yonkman said he is one of many homebuilders who focused their efforts on home renovations rather than new construction. Regionally, though, homebuilders are starting to see an uptick on home construction, said Wayne Crider, executive officer for the Skagit Island Counties Builders Association. “All around us, it looks like housing is coming back,” Crider said. He added that builders are looking at the situation cautiously. Even though there’s been a slow pickup in home building, any kind of increase is encouraging because housing starts last month were down 8 percent nationally, Crider said. He said builders are cautious about hiring additional employees for projects. Crider said he was concerned about sequestration at the federal level, which could trickle down and affect construction in the area, which could hurt a rebound in construction of new homes.

Pg 11

great gear to get you

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Winter hibernation is behind us, and spring has about sprung.

So, now’s the time to start prepping those planting beds and getting your green thumbs ready for another growing season. The folks at The Greenhouse Florist and Nursery have a few tips on what essential tools will keep you growing strong this season.

1

“It helps scratch up the soil to loosen it so you can remove weeds. They’re also great to make shallow troughs.”

Hand cultivator Hand trowel “You’ll need it for digging all your small planting holes.”

Tool belt, sheath or bucket caddy

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Protective gear

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Plant ties & stakes

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“They’ll keep your plants growing strong and tall.”

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Reference guide “Books like the Sunset Western Garden Book talk about plants that grow best in our area, how to grow them, and information about diseases and pests. It’s also good to have a friend at the local nursery.”

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Pg 12

harnessing

WhidbeyH&G

Sun and wind

for the home

By Megan Hansen | Editor

H

ome ownership can be expensive, but paying for some utilities doesn’t have to be. An increasing trend on Whidbey Island is offsetting the cost of electricity through solar energy. Whidbey Sun and Wind, a Coupeville business, is trying to get the word out about how residents can save money converting to solar energy. And now is the time to do it. Washington state has fantastic tax benefits, said Kelly Keilwitz, owner of Whidbey Sun and Wind. Right now, Washington residents who install solar energy units at their home have several initiatives to do so. Installations are exempt from state sales tax until June 30. Also new installers get a 30 percent federal tax credit. The company also receives tax credits that are then passed down to the customer. “If we get enough people on board, we get savings we can pass on,” Keilwitz said. Material costs have dropped nearly 75 percent in the last decade, he said. “They’re much more affordable than they were five years ago.” Customers generally see an 8-15 percent return on investments. It usually takes 8-12 years to get money back, after that it’s free energy. Installations are customizable depending on the customer’s goals. They are customized to meet energy needs, Keilwitz said. Installations can be the recognizable continued ON page 13

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Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Sun and Wind

John Dueringer, of Camano Island had a solar picnic shelter installed in 2012. The solar energy value is $3,500 per year in offset energy and production incentives until June 2020.

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panels on the roof of a house or even a series of panels in the yard. Keilwitz said his personal solar installation is in his yard in the sunniest spot on his property. Energy produced by a home’s installation is converted to savings in the form of credits. “You’re basically offsetting the cost you need to buy,” Keilwitz said. Most energy doesn’t make it past the house. Solar energy is also more valuable. “The solar energy we produce on our roof is worth more,” he said. Keilwitz said solar energy is priced 2.5 to 6.5 times higher than traditional energy sources. Whidbey Sun and Wind is one of three companies within the state working in renewable energy. The first two solar hookups in Puget Sound Energy’s system were started in 1999 on Whidbey Island. Currently 109 businesses and homes on Whidbey Island are connected on the solar grid with PSE. Whidbey Sun and Wind is currently running a promotional campaign aimed at spreading the word about the state and nation’s current incentives. Whidbey Solar NOW held a series of community meetings throughout the island featuring detailed presentations on how to join the program. For more information go to www. whidbeysunwind.com.

Photos Courtesy of Whidbey Sun and Wind

ABOVE: A family in Stanwood installed a roof-top system to their home. AT RIGHT: Vern and Marthan Olsen, of Coupeville, installed a 3.6 kilowatt system to their home in 2008.

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WhidbeyH&G

Take a bite out of Langley:

edible greenery to brighten town

By Michaela Marx Wheatley | STAFF REPORTER

I

n its centennial year, Langley is laying seed to transforming itself into a garden town – an edible garden town. The Langley Street Garden Initiative is in the process of designing a citywide landscape that showcases Langley as a gardening attraction and invites tourists and locals alike to take a bite out of the landscape, quite literally. The Langley volunteers were inspired by Pam Warhurst, an English activist who has turned her town into a giant vegetable patch and is now spreading the word throughout the world to inspire others to do the same. The volunteers will begin planting berries, beans, tomatoes, edible flowers and other blooming and fragrant foods. “It’s edible and pretty,” said Janet Ploof, one of the gardening volunteers. “Rhubarb looks like a big jungle. Artichoke, spiky and wild. Strawberries in red and bright yellow. Cherry-red tomatoes and sunny orange pear tomatoes. Handfuls of blueberries with pretty, red evergreen stems. Snap peas for kids to pick and fresh produce for our

neighbors to share or to go to the food bank,” she added. An edible landscape could also be another attraction for visitors. Wurhurst refers to the concept as vegetable tourism.   This spring a group of volunteers will start working on a garden around Langley City Hall. It will be called the Langley Centennial Garden to mark the city’s 100th year. As the summer progresses the designers hope that the idea will spread into other green spaces and flower baskets around town. Following the lead of the English model, Langley hopes it will be a winwin for all. Warhust describes her organization’s work as centered around three spheres: community building, education and local business.  The group engages schools in the growing process, and artists from around town help create signs to inform residents and visitors about the program.  Furthermore, the Todmorden project has had success beyond its initial goals.

Michaela Marx Wheatley Photo

Cathy Rooks and Janet Ploof at Langley City Hall. Local farmers have seen a marked increase in sales, as the movement has sparked a lasting interest in local food and attracted visitors from around the world.

You cut the lawn, pruned the plants and trimmed the trees.

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This concept appealed to a group of gardening experts in Langley, who have been involved in previous initiatives to green the town. “We think that makes sense in Langley where we are surrounded by farms, gardens and vineyards and where we have a summer-long farmers market on Second Street,” Ploof said. But it’s not just about growing food, it’s also about growing community. “Planting organic strawberries that anyone can pick reminds us that the city belongs to its citizens,” Ploof said. The project is funded by community organizations including a grant by the Whidbey Island Garden Tour, funds from the Langley Main Street Association of which Ploof is the president, and other donations. Cathy Rooks, a local garden designer/horticulturist and one of the creative forces behind the project, said the group would start clearing beds and pulling out old plantings momentarily. They will begin installing raised beds and putting in plants that will provide year-round interest. Rooks said among the highlights are a Pollinator Pathway Promenade, a bean teepee and other visually stunning, yet practical groupings. The design will include metal sculpture by local artists and a winter evergreen framework. A new sitting area to rest and take it all in is also planned, Rooks said. “Then in summer it will come alive with vines, peas, scarlet runner beans, strawberries and raised beds of carrots and greens,” Ploof said.   You may follow the progress on www. valeaston.com, where Valerie Easton, a gardening columnist and author, will chronicle the project.


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Home and Garden - Spring 2013  

i20130228085916826.pdf

Home and Garden - Spring 2013  

i20130228085916826.pdf