dried eggplant, pepper and bell pepper. dried to cook in winter

Here’s a great idea to consider for what to do with all the fresh edible bounty you’ll harvest from your Pacific Northwest garden when you’re making your general gardening plans, especially during spring. Sometimes, even after consuming them, selling at a farmers market, and giving some away to friends and family, you still have more than enough left.

Well, you don’t have to force yourself to eat more fresh fruits and salads, or try to invent new ways to include vegetables in your sandwiches. There are numerous ways to preserve them for later use, including freezing, canning, drying, and pickling them. In this article, we will be sharing the steps for preserving your garden’s bounty through drying.

How to Preserve Your Fruits and Vegetables through Drying

A lot of fruits and vegetables can be dried for long term storage and later consumption. Dried fruits and vegetables are just as tasty and nutritious as fresh ones, so you don’t have to worry about a loss of taste or nutrients. They also have the advantage of being lightweight, and they take very little space compared to canned and frozen food.

Dried produce also lasts very long, so you can be sure to have them long after they are out of season. After drying, your fruits and vegetables can be stored in plastic bags or jars, and then kept in a cool, dry space for weeks.

There are different methods of drying, including using a dehydrator, oven drying, sun drying, or room drying. The method you use depends on you and the type of garden produce.

4 Steps for Drying Your Fruits and Vegetables

Outlined below are the four general steps to effectively preserve your garden’s bounty through drying, so you can enjoy them later.

Step #1: Preparation

You have to prepare the fruit or vegetable by thoroughly cleaning to remove debris or dirt, as well as moisture. After washing, simply drain and blot dry with a lint-free towel. After excess moisture is removed, cut away unwanted parts such as pods in beans, rinds in winter squash, and stems in vegetables. Finally, cut vegetables like tomatoes or peppers into slices.

Step #2: Blanching

Just like if you were freezing the produce, you need to blanch your vegetables, by briefly immersing them in boiling water. This blanching step destroys enzymes that would otherwise survive the dehydration process and cause the food to decline in quality over time. However, your fruits should not be blanched because that will change their taste. After blanching your vegetables, cool with ice water, drain, then allow to dry.

Step #3: Drying

This is the most important procedure. We recommend drying with your oven. However, ensure that you set the oven to the lowest temperature setting (usually 170 degrees Fahrenheit). Place the fruits or vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet, then insert in the oven and keep the door slightly open. Drying with your oven can be done within 2-24 hours depending on the produce.

Step #4: Storage

After you are done drying, the next step is to pack the fruits or vegetables away and put them in airtight containers. You can also use zip-top plastic bags or glass mason jars if you like. You must ensure that you use containers that are about the same size as the produce. to keep their flavors for as long as possible.

With these steps, you can dry and preserve your fruits and vegetables, so your bounty does not go to waste. Remember to always monitor your produce during the drying process, as they could become too dry if you let them stay in the oven for too long.

If you need help preparing your garden to yield a bountiful harvest, you can contact us at Levy’s Lawn and Landscaping today!

You could plant the best flowers and shrubs in your garden, but if your soil quality is low, these plants will hardly thrive. Therefore, you need to amend your soil before you grow your plants. Soil amendment is vital as it balances the soil pH, improves soil nutrient and structure, as well as encourages beneficial microbes. All of these are important factors for the growth of your plants.

Although the benefits of soil amendment can never be overemphasized, it’s often quite expensive. Thankfully, some household materials can be beneficial in soil amendments. While these materials may not fix your soil quality completely, they’ll amend your poor soil to a large extent.

Outlined below are five common household materials which are ideal for soil amendments.

  1. Coffee Grounds: Composted coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen for your soil. If you don’t make your own coffee, you may want to consider getting coffee grounds from your local cafe to add to your compost pile.
  2. Eggshells: You may hardly go a week without breaking one or more eggs in your kitchen. Gather the shells, crush them and add them to your garden to improve your soil calcium content.
  3. Epsom Salt: This offers the right amount of sulfate and magnesium to your soil. Gardeners who like to amend their soil organically often go for Epsom salt.
  4. Bananas: Just like you like bananas, your garden soil craves the peels. When you toss banana peels into your garden, they help your shrubs and flowers grow healthier and fight against aphids and some other pests.
  5. White Vinegar: When mixed into water, white vinegar serves great acidic purposes. It works best when your soil pH is too high or basic. A tablespoon of vinegar mixed in a gallon of water works well.

You don’t have to break the bank to improve your soil quality. Try these common household items to achieve a better soil structure, texture, and nutrient that is perfect for your plants. If you need more help with garden problems, you can reach out to us at Levy’s Lawns and Landscaping today!

If you have only a small plot available for gardening in your pacific northwest home, you can still garden all year round. Succession planting is a style of planting that enables you to make use of the small plot judiciously. It entails growing various plants in the same space sequentially, in the same planting season. It could also involve the planting of the same type of crops in different portions of your garden at different intervals.

Unlike crop rotation, succession planting allows for continuous harvest. It also allows the planting of the same crops in the same land portions for at least three years. However, when practicing succession planting, you should avoid planting crops of the same botanical family in same land portions, successively.

A good approach to succession planting in the Pacific Northwest is to know which crop to plant, when to plant, and how to space them. Basically, when it comes to succession planting, it’s better to think of crops and their windows, and not just an individual crop. An example of how you can practice succession cropping in the Pacific Northwest is explained below.

Cool weather crops such as early beets, beet greens, early cabbage, etc. can be planted early on in the planting season. Then, warm-weather crops such as beans, eggplant, pepper, or tomatoes can be planted after the cool weather crops.

Afterward, cool-weather crops that mature during autumn, such as chard, Chinese cabbage, kale, lettuce, and mustards can be planted after the warm weather crops have been harvested. In order to gain more time, later crops can be planted among the first crops to be harvested at a later time. This process is known as interplanting or intercropping.

Step-By-Step Process For Succession Planting In The Pacific Northwest

  • Compile a list of all the crops you want to grow.
  • Have the basic knowledge of days in the growing season. This will help you make better planting decisions.
  • Know the number of days it will take you to harvest the crops you plan to grow.
  • Decide on whether you will extend the growing season during spring and autumn.
  • Sketch the growing space for the beginning, middle, and end of the growing season.
  • Be flexible, and make provision for unforeseen events during the growing season.

With succession planting, growing different plants in the same space simultaneously, no matter how little, can be very successful. If you have a small plot for gardening in the Pacific Northwest, you can contact us at Levy’s Lawns and Landscaping to help you get the best of your small garden, with succession planting.

Landscaping your home with well-tended lawns is a great choice which you can use to beautify your home. A beautiful lawn takes a considerable amount of time and effort to pull off effectively. It involves countless hours of cutting, watering, fertilizing and removing stubborn weed from the grass, which may not necessarily result in a perfect looking lawn. But what if you don’t want a lawn? Maybe you want something simpler, that takes less time and expense to maintain.

Why not try landscaping without grass?

Top 5 Landscaping Ideas without Grass

To save you from the time and labor involved in tending to grass, you can ditch the lawn and make use of other equally eye-catchy landscaping options. Ditching your beloved grass does not mean giving up on the space left in its wake. In fact, there are some well-designed and spectacular yards which do not have a single blade of grass in them. Some of these grass-free landscaping ideas are outlined below.

  1. Potted Garden

Trade in your lawn for a cute little garden with potted plants. This is a great way to do away with grasses while still retaining some form of foliage. Potted plants are much easier to care for than grasses, and you also have an array of planting options. You can decide to arrange the planters in clusters, rows or columns, or even have some suspended throughout your patio.

  1. Tropical Canopy

Another landscaping idea which does not involve grass is planting a tropical canopy. Transform your flat landscape into a vertical oasis using trees which can beautify your home as well as provide shade and privacy. Consider using fully grown dwarf varieties of evergreens or palms, as many trees take several years to mature to their full height.

  1. Lay with Mulch

Organic mulches such as pine bark or cedar is another landscaping option you can try out if you don’t want the stress involved with grass. Mulches are a stress-free but beautiful alternative to grass, which can give your home a rustic ground cover. It is important to first lay landscaping cloth on the bare soil before laying the mulch down, to prevent weeds from growing to the surface.

  1. Put a Patio

Your lawn can be transformed into an elegant hardscape when you add a lovely patio to it. Natural stones, stamped concrete or patio pavers can be used to create a functional and stunning space which can be used to entertain visitors. You can even decide to brighten up the patio space by furnishing it with strategically placed containers brimming with welcoming greenery like colorful flowers and ornamental plants. You will hardly even notice that your lawn is no longer there.

  1. Rock Out

To achieve a spectacular display of textures and color, create a rock garden using stones and rocks. The rugged simplicity of stones and rocks contrasts nicely with certain vibrant blooms around your home which help to create a one-of-a-kind landscape design. Also, during winter when flowers die and fade off, you still get to enjoy the scattered boulders throughout your yard.

There you have it! If you can’t find the time or it’s difficult to mow your lawn because of the landscape, you can get rid of the grass totally and still have a beautiful yard with these landscape ideas. For professional help with any of these ideas, Contact Levys Lawn & Landscape Today!

Vintage tin buckets filled with spring flowers in the garden

Most of us have an abundance of “stuff” around the house—things we no longer want or use. Before tossing these discarded items in the bed of a truck and hauling them off to be used as landfill, maybe you can take a second look—they might be used as planters for your yard and garden. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Your old canary, Petey, is long gone. What to do with his birdcage? Simply remove the top, line it with sheet moss from the garden store, and plant trailing plants, like fuchsias, or plants that sprawl, like petunias, lobelia, or calibrachoa. Replace the top and set it outside in your window planter or on the deck.
  • After a major bathroom remodel, what to do with your old clawfoot bathtub? Have the guys haul it to the garden, fill it with dirt, and plant a variety of plants inside and around it.
  • What about that old metal colander? Spray paint it, affix lightweight chains from the hardware store to three sides, and add a swivel connecter at the top to hold the chains together. Line it with moss purchased at your garden supply store, add dirt, plant petunias, and voila! You have a lovely hanging planter.
  • An old tea kettle with a few holes drilled in the bottom, makes a lovely container for herbs.
  • Take that old watering can you found in the garage and fill it with thyme or oregano.

Get creative with your unusable items. You might give them a second chance with lovely appeal, placed throughout your yard.

The deck is built, the outdoor chairs and tables have been set out for use…now what? Why not plant an edible garden?

Landscaping with vegetables and herbs is a fun and time-honored tradition. Herb gardens have adorned many a backyard, from village to the royal court.

In earlier times, herbs took on religious significance, and were credited with providing protection from evil spirits, ghosts, and even the devil. Medieval Europeans assumed all plants to have some medicinal value. In the middle ages, plans for St. Gall, a Benedictine monastery, included a large, rectangular kitchen garden with 18 beds of vegetables and potherbs and a smaller square garden with 16 beds of medicinal herbs. 15th century rural manors and townhouses often contained small square or rectangular beds arranged in a simple grid pattern in their yards.

During the Renaissance, garden makers went beyond simple grid-layout of the medieval garden, organizing the squares and rectangles into more complex patterns. According to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, “the knot, with its decorative interlacing bands of clipped herbs, became a feature of the pleasure garden. A geometric design within a square, rectangle, or circle was drawn on the ground, and each figure in the pattern was planted out with a single herb, closely clipped to maintain the design.”

Herb gardens were an important feature of pioneer homes. Placed in sunny corners near the house, they were readily available to the householders. As the population of America grew, herbs were carried aboard the ships heading for their new home. In the 18th and 19th centuries, farmers and householders usually combined vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers in a single garden.

Whether your yard is large or small, an apartment or a teeming ranch, an edible garden can add beauty and value to your home. You don’t need lots of space to plant your garden. Even containers on the back porch will do.

Here are a few of our favorite plants to add to your edible garden:

  • Gourmet Greens: Plant mixed rows of various colors and types of lettuces and greens such as arugula and kale as an outstanding border in your yard, in containers on the back deck, or in window boxes. When ready to harvest, simply snip a few leaves, leaving the rest of the plant to grow.
  • Huckleberry: A hardy 4’ evergreen, perfect for shady conditions, the huckleberries produce bright blue berries, perfect for jams, cakes and ice cream.
  • Tomatoes: Plant cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets, along a trellis, or supported by a tomato cage in your garden.
  • Beans: Sow beans directly into your planting bed or container (transplants don’t do well). Make sure to train them up a trellis or tower.
  • Herbs: Herbs make a fantastic addition to your container garden, or, interspersed throughout the garden. Thyme, basil, oregano, mint and dill are all cooking favorites.
  • Oregon Grape: The Oregon grape yields tart berries in the fall, perfect for making jams and jellies.

There are many other herbs and vegetables you can add to your garden. Our suggestions are simply a start. Have fun planting!

Love the fragrance of a marinara sauce, flavored with garlic and basil, simmering on the stove? What about big bulbs of roasted garlic nestled next to your baked chicken? Or, a thin crust pizza covered with mushrooms, garlic, and fresh basil leaves? If your mouth is watering, you might want to consider planting your own garlic this year.

Ridiculously easy to grow, fall is the best time to plant garlic. You’ll find your bulbs to be plumper and more flavorful if you plant them in autumn. Here are a few tips for planting garlic:

  • Choose a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. You can also plant them in raised beds, or even containers on your porch or deck.
  • Add compost or a good fertilizer to the soil.
  • Make sure and get your garlic cloves from a nursery or mail order supply. Plant the garlic gloves 4” – 6” apart. Rows can be space about a foot apart. Make sure the pointy end is up and the blunt end is down. Push the clove about an inch into the soild.
  • Mulch the garlic bed well after planting. Water if the soil is dry.
  • Garlic is resistant to pests. You might keep an eye out for White Rot, though, a fungus that can harm garlic when the weather is cool.
  • In the spring your new plants will emerge. Feed them high-nitrogen fertilizer. Add from fresh mulch. And keep the weeds out—garlic doesn’t like to share space.
  • In June the plants will stop producing green leaves and put energy into the bulb. Remove the mulch now and cease watering.
  • Mid-July or August, your garlic will be ready to harvest. Carefully dig the bulbs up, being careful not to bruise them. Lay them flat in an area with good circulation, free of moisture (like rain—something we get in summer months here in the Pacific Northwest). When the roots get dry and brittle, tie them in bunches and hang them up until you’re ready to use them.
  • Enjoy!

Need help making a raised bed to grow your garlic? We can help! Give us a call at (360) 265-5231.

Whether you’re an animal lover or hater, hunter or photographer, most people residing in the Pacific Northwest will agree—deer don’t belong in our yards. You might have already experienced the shocking disappointment of having your vegetable garden or prized flowers ravaged by deer. Keeping them out of the yard, however, can be a daunting task—they leap over fences and take what they please. Not only that, when its time to deliver their newborn fawns, and care for their young, deer can be protective to the point of aggression. We’ve seen protective deer mamas chase cats and dogs and even kill a family pet to keep their young safe.

How do you keep them out? High fences can certainly help. However, deer are athletes when it comes to jumping. Unless your fence is at least 8’ high, a determined deer can leap right over it. There are many solutions to preventing deer from consuming your plants, but in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite deer resistant plants:

Bellflower

  • A long bloom season plant with bell-shaped flowers in shades of blue, pink, or white.
  • Growing Conditions:Full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil
  • Size:From 6 inches to 4 feet tall and to 2 feet wide, depending on type

Corydalis

A long blooming perennial with an abundance of flowers.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade and moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: To 18 inches tall and wide

Bigroot Geranium

A great ground covers for shady sites, with woodsy-scented foliage and clusters of magenta, pink, or white flowers in early summer.

  • Growing Conditions: Part to full shade and well-drained soil
  • Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

Foxglove

A super deer deterrent because it’s poisonous. Has tall spikes of pink, purple, cream, or white blooms in early summer.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade to sun and moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: To 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Epimedium

A knockout perennial with cute flowers (in shades of pink, red, orange, white, and yellow) and deer-resistant foliage.

  • Growing Conditions: Shade and well-drained soil
  • Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

 

Jerusalem Sage

Has fuzzy silver or green foliage and spikes of soft yellow blooms in summer.

  • Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
  • Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

Ligularia

Ligularia is a known for dramatic foliage; each leaf may be more than a foot across. They also have pretty spikes of yellow flowers in summer.

  • Growing Conditions: Part shade and moist soil
  • Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Lupine

Colorful spikes of flowers though the first half of summer.

  • Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and well-drained soil
  • Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Meadow Rue

Looks like a giant relative of its cousin, the columbine. Both are deer resistant and possess attractive blue-green foliage.

  • Growing Conditions: Sun to shade, depending on selection, and moist, well-drained soil
  • Size: From 6 inches to 6 feet tall and 6 inches to 3 feet wide, depending on selection

The list is just a start. Check with your local garden supply for more ideas.

Pro Tip: Contact Levy’s Lawns and Landscaping for information on building a privacy barrier or fence, or hardscaped yard. (360) 265-5231

edible gardening

Ever try an edible landscape? Edible gardening is a great way to provide ornamental, decorative color in your yard, as well as integrating food-based plants throughout. While the design principles are the same as with any garden, you’ll substitute lavender, lettuces, herbs, blueberries, vegetables and fruit trees for some of the shrubs, landcover or flowers you’d normally plant. The result of your carefully designed and planted edible garden can mean owning a beautiful yard with added health benefits—food from garden to table!

The first thing to do when planning your edible garden is determine the sun exposure. No sense planning sun-loving tomatoes or peppers in the most shaded part of your garden. Almost all fruits and vegetables prefer the sun. Some can tolerate partial-shade.

If you have an area that gets less than six hours of sunlight each day, consider planting evergreen huckleberries or alpine strawberries in these areas. Or, you might try herbs, lettuce, chives, kale, Bok Choi, spinach, or Swiss chard. These leafy or root-based plants can tolerate two to four hours of sun.

Peas, potatoes, carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, basil, and strawberries prefer at least six hours sun.

For areas with all day sun, melons, tomato, squash, pepper, eggplant, cucumbers, corn, and beans will thrive.

Choose a well-trafficked area of your garden for integrating edible plants. You’re more likely to take good care of an area outside the window, or one you walk past on a regular basis.

Once your area has been selected, have fun with the planting. Integrate your edible plants with other edibles, or with ornamentals. Try a border of lettuces, spinaches or other salad greens interspersed with dwarf nasturtiums. Colorful peppers provide a bold contrast when combined with marigolds or the cardinal flower. In shady areas, plant alpine strawberries near fuschias. Try arranging your dwarf fruit trees in patterns, in and amongst a border of culinary herbs. Or, line your driveway with lavender plants.

We hope you love your new edible garden!

Pro tip: Let Levy’s Lawns and Landscapes build a hardscape patio, surrounded by raised beds. Relax on the patio with friends and family, while being surrounded by flowers, fragrant herbs and vegetables.

Once February rolls around, chances are good you’ve had enough of dark, gloomy weather. You’re already salivating at the thought of home grown produce, picked, and prepared for your family’s dining.

Purchasing seeds can be a way to brighten your spirits and plan your yard or garden. Seed buying can be overwhelming, however—there are so many kinds of seeds available! From organic, to pest resistant to pollinated to hybrid—how do you make a choice? Your eyes might glaze over, staring at page after page of seed packets. Or, you might stand in front of the seed display at your favorite garden shop, staring into space, unable to decide.

Here are a few suggestions to help you make choices.

  • First, make a good plan for what you want to plant and where you want to plant it. When the store clerk asks you where your rutabaga will be planned, you’ll know it’s the south-side of the yard, behind the garage, with abundant sun. Or, the part of the yard with northern exposure and partial sun. He or she can advise you accordingly.
  • Make sure if you’re purchasing from a catalog, the recommendations given are for your Growing conditions in Georgia, for example, are vastly different from our conditions here in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Organic vs conventional seeds? What’s the difference? Organic gardening/farming methods produce organic seed, using the same procedures used to produce organic food. To be certified organic, they must be produced by a certified organic operation. Organic seed has not been exposed to any chemicals throughout the growth process.

    Conventional treated seeds, on the other hand, are usually dusted with USDA approved chemicals to help fight common issues that can affect germination and early plant growth. The kinds of chemicals applied to seed crops aren’t as strongly regulated as those applied to food crops, however.

  • If the prospect of all your hard work in prepping, planting and watering your veggie garden, only to lead to disease-ridden plants doesn’t appeal, consider buying disease resistant seeds. Many seed companies, including Burpee, Harris, Stokes and Johnny’s Selected Seeds, offer seeds that are resistant to certain common pathogens including mildews, black rot, bolting and wilt. Check with your local garden supply store for disease resistant seeds or starters for the plants you want to grow.
  • Days to Maturity. Here in the Pacific Northwest, our growing season is shorter and cooler than some. Make sure to read the Days to Maturity section when making your selection to determine if your seed will grow successfully, enabling an abundant harvest, in our area.
  • Hybrid, open-pollinated, or heirloom? Don’t get caught up in fancy terms like heirloom when making your seed or starter purchase. Generally, an heirloom plant is one that has stood the test of time in growing, producing a tasty yield year after year. However, make sure the test of time happened in your growing area. Just because an heirloom tomato seed grew well in Nebraska, doesn’t mean it will produce good fruit in the Pacific Northwest.

    Open-pollinated seeds are those pollinated by insect, bird, wind, humans, or other natural means. In brief, OP seeds tend to mature over a longer harvest window and are often less expensive.

    Hybrid seeds (often called F1 in seed catalogs) usually yield a consistent, uniform crop. They may show more hardiness than their OP counterparts, but are generally more expensive. Please note that hybrid seeds are notthe same as GMO. Organic gardeners can plant them in good conscience.

Have fun with your seed selection. If you need help designing your yard or garden, give us a call at (360) 265-5231.