With the holiday season upon us, it’s that time of year again when we transform our homes from the everyday and fill it with our festive favorites. As much as we may love our seasonal favorites, bringing the beauty of nature indoors for the holidays can give an organic, all-natural aesthetic.
Christmas Mantel with Greenery
From garland to wreaths to a table centerpiece, incorporating greenery cut from trees around the home is the most easy and inexpensive approach to layering nature into your holiday décor. Cut greens, from a fir, pine, and/or cedar, can be perfect for the mantel, table, or door.
This mantel beautifully displays a swag-style cedar garland draped on the mantel, while cut magnolia leaves adorn varying sized vases. So simple, yet sophisticated.
Festive Natural Table Spaces
Birch branches are accessible elements in nature. Arrange a cut birch log on a mantel or table as the base for a tablescape. Layer in evergreens, pine cones, and twigs of red winter berries – real or artificial – to instantly create a beautiful all-natural arrangement like this one
Citrus Paired with Cloves
Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are the perfect pairing with seasonal décor. Against the bright hue of the fruit exterior, cloves can be added to make interesting and unique patterns. Combine fruit with greenery or fresh herbs to create a dynamic and festive focal point. Whether for an ornament on the Christmas tree, like this decorated lemon or grouped with other fresh finds, fruit can be an easy and inexpensive element to decorate with this holiday season.
Adding cut wood can truly bring the outdoors in to create a rustic, organic aesthetic. From the table to the tree, wood slices – small or large – can be a beautiful layering element. Use small cut wood slices to make an adorable tiered Christmas ornament for the tree. Add simple embellishments like bows or beads to give unique, one-of-a-kind flair.
Winter Wonderland Ornaments
As much as we may love our seasonal favorites, bringing the beauty of nature indoors for the holidays, creates for a warm and welcoming rustic aesthetic. Decorating the tree with ornaments that reflect the outdoors is a beautiful way to create a winter wonderland. Using glass ornaments, fill the center of a terrarium-style decoration using elements found in the great outdoors.
Whether a traditional style or contemporary setting, magnolia leaves are also a seasonal favorite that can beautifully compliment a holiday vignette. The large leaves of a magnolia are reversible; the brown side is just as beautiful and can be a gorgeous compliment when layered against a contrasting background.
A wreath can be the perfect way to decorate with magnolia leaves. Whether on their own or mixed with other cut greenery, magnolia leaves are ideal for the Christmas season and will look beautiful on the front door.
Nature Inspired Setting
Along with the many lights and ornaments, one element that is simple, free, and apropos to incorporate into holiday decorating is nature. What’s more beautiful than bringing the outdoors in and decorating with natural elements to evoke an organic elegance? From the garland to the wreath to the tree, this living room is enveloped in natural beauty.
Gardening Tips for Fall Garden Cleanup
- Any spent plants should be removed. If they had bugs or were diseased, get them off your property. You don’t want to add anything to your compost pile that could harbor diseases or insects.
- Just one weed left to mature can produce hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds that will grow into weeds to plague you next year, so weed the garden one last time. I have been digging perennial weeds such as dock—whose roots go down to China—out of the flower beds. The holes left behind are perfect spots to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Bye-bye noxious weeds, hello spring color!
- Fall is a great time to create new planting beds. No digging necessary! Just set your mower as low as it will go and scalp the grass, then cover the area with a thick layer of newspapers. Cover the papers with a layer of compost and top it all off with lots of chopped leaves. In the spring you’ll have a lovely new planting bed full of worms.
- While the mower is out, mow around the fruit trees one last time to discourage mice from nesting there.
Install mouse guards made of fine mesh hardware cloth around the base of your fruit trees to keep mice and voles from eating the bark and killing the trees over the winter.
- If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to make a note of what plants were grown where in your vegetable garden. Don’t rely on your memory! This will help in planning next year’s planting. It is never good to grow plants in the same family in the same place year after year. Not only does it allow pests and diseases specific to that family to become entrenched, it also depletes the soil of the same nutrients each year.
- While we are talking nutrients, fall is a great time to get your soil tested. Take a representative sample by mixing scoops of soil from several beds located around the garden instead of from just one spot. Armed with the recommendations from the test, you can apply the right amounts of the proper amendments this fall so they will have time to break down and be available to your plants next spring. No guess work or expensive mistakes! See more about testing your soil for a better garden.
Local Flavors are available year round throughout Western Washington. You just need to know where to start.
If you’re new Fall & Winter planting, this list with dates will guide you all summer for an impressive Fall & Winter harvest.
Western Washington has generally cool summers and mild winters in most locations. At altitudes below 1000′ frost in the soil is rare and can usually be prevented with a light mulch on the soil surface.
This combination of weather conditions allows home gardeners to produce satisfactory crops of many vegetables for fall and winter harvest. However, since the fall and winter months are normally quite wet it’s important that gardens be well drained. The following vegetables can be planted in summer or early fall for winter and early spring harvest.
Plant Bush beans until late July to produce a good crop before frost. The plants develop more rapidly in the warm summer months than in early spring. Pole beans require more time to develop and should be planted by July 1 for a fall crop. Plant Fava or Broad beans the second week of November for June Harvest.
Beets can be planted until August 1 and produce a dependable crop. If you want beet greens, plant until September 1.
Direct seed until mid-July and transplant until mid-August. A fall broccoli crop will usually continue producing past Thanksgiving and sometimes until Christmas.
Brussels sprouts require a slightly longer growing season than broccoli. Direct seed by July 1 and/or transplant by August 1 for a dependable fall crop. In protected spots harvest can continue into mid-winter.
Ballhead cabbage for fall harvest requires the same culture as Brussels sprouts. Treat Savoy cabbage as broccoli. Fall cabbage crops will hold in the garden for prolonged periods and can be harvested in to early winter. Jersey Wakefield cabbage can be seeded from September 1-15 to winter over.
Chinese cabbage is best planted in late July for a fall crop.
A fall crop will keep in the garden until used. Plant by mid-July for wall and winter harvest.
Culture for a fall crop is the same as cabbage or Brussels sprouts.
Witloof chicory or French endive can be planted until mid-July. Roots can be dug in late fall, placed in a box of moist soil, covered with sand and forced in a warm room for winter greens.
Cornsalad, (lamb’s lettuce or fetticus), can be planted early September for fall use or late October to winter over for early spring use.
Plant either curled or broad leaf types until mid-July. In October tie leaves together to blanch hearts. A light mulch of straw will protect it from early frosts and permit harvest into winter.
Plant garlic in late October to November 10 for early summer harvest.
Plant seeds in July and transplant until mid-August.
Sow seed until mid-July for fall crop. Both white and purple varieties are suitable. Harvest when stems are 1-1/2″ to 2″ in diameter, before the stems become woody.
Plant in spring but hill or much in fall and harvest as needed all winter.
All types of lettuce are suitable fall crops. Sow head lettuce and Romaine in July. Leaf lettuce varieties can be planted until mid-August.
Mustards germinate and grow rapidly. Mustard can be seeded through September to produce fall greens. Bok Toy (Chinese mustard) should be seeded by mid-August.
Onions for green or table onion use can be seeded until mid-July for fall use. Seedlings made in August will normally winter over for spring use. Onion sets can be planted anytime during the fall and winter if the soil is well drained and workable.
Can be seeded in early July for fall and spring use.
Can be planted in early November for an early June crop. Green peas and edible pea pods (sugar peas) can be planted until mid-July. A moderate harvest can be expected in the fall.
Early varieties can be planted throughout the growing season until mid-September. Winter radishes (oriental types and Black Spanish) should be planted in July and harvested all winter.
Plant in early and mid-July for fall and winter harvest. Leave them in the garden and harvest as you need all winter.
SHALLOTS AND CHIVES
Plant or divide both of these in late October or early November each year. Leave in the garden the year around and harvest as desired.
Plant spinach in mid-August for a fall crop. Plant in September to winter over for an early spring crop.
Chard planted by mid-July will produce a fall crop or planted in late August the plants will winter over and produce and an earlier crop the following year than spring planting.
For mature roots plant turnips by mid-August. For greens, plant through September.
In Western Washington it is normally a good practice to seed garden areas which are not occupied by fall and winter crops with a cover crop. Cover crops such as crimson clover or vetch or a combination of annual rye and vetch will benefit the garden soil by conserving nutrients, reducing weed growth and preventing erosion. A fall cover crop becomes a valuable green manure crop to plow or spade under the following spring. Till in the cover crop at least two weeks prior to planting.
Try to choose only early maturing varieties of all these crops to assure enough time for them to mature before frost slows them down or halts growth entirely.
Everything You Need to Know About Growing Oregano
Oregano is a must-have in a culinary garden. Its pungent, spicy, slightly bitter flavor pairs well with almost any vegetable preparation. And since it’s easy to grow, oregano is go-to for the first-time gardener.
Why Should I Grow Oregano?
Oregano is a low-maintenance herb, and it performs well both in the garden or indoors, when given the right conditions.
There are actually two main categories of oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican. The main difference is that Mediterranean oregano is a member of the mint family, and Mexican oregano is a relative of lemon verbena. The flavors are slightly different, but the means to grow them are quite similar.
Perennial or annual? Although oregano thrives in a warm climate, it is a hardy perennial that returns year after year, without much work. A couple of my oregano plants are almost 5 years old, and they have withstood all kinds of weather and still continue to produce healthy, vibrantly colored leaves. Older plants still yield delicious leaves, but their potency decreases once they reach three or four years in age.
How to Plant Oregano
- Where: Oregano is one of those plants that looks beautiful planted within the landscaping or along a path. It is a “garden anchor” that comes back every spring, providing height and dimension within the garden. Oregano also grows well in containers, so if you live in an apartment or have a limited growing space, it is a great option. Oregano also performs well indoors, when given enough light and warmth.
- When: You can grow oregano by planting from seed, by dividing, or from a cutting taken from a healthy, established plant. When planting from seed, plant seeds outdoors about six weeks before the last frost. If you are planting a cutting or transplanting a seedling or small plant, make sure the ground temperature is at least 70°F.
How to Cultivate Oregano
- Soil: Plant oregano in light, well-drained soil. Oregano actually grows better in moderately fertile soil, so no fertilization or addition of compost is necessary. I let my oregano do what it does on its own. My only complaint might be that I can’t keep up with the harvest!
- Sun: Oregano performs well in part to full sun, but the flavors intensify when it receives a full day of sunshine. Oregano will grow well indoors, but it is important that the plant receives adequate heat and sunshine in order to grow.
- Water: Don’t overwater oregano. Water thoroughly, only when the soil is dry to the touch.
- Spacing: Plant oregano eight to 10 inches apart in your garden. Oregano grows up to two feet tall and spans about 18 inches across. If you are planting oregano in a container, be sure the pot is about 12 inches in diameter; oregano is a prolific grower.
- Companion planting: Oregano is a great companion plant to almost anything, so don’t worry about planting it next to something it won’t get along with. I plant oregano alongside my tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, and rhubarb. Oregano keeps away a tomato’s archenemy, aphids, by means of predation. Aphids actually love oregano, but oregano also attracts syrphidae (flower flies), which then dine upon the small bugs. Oregano’s thick foliage also provides humidity, which supports peppers’ growth.
How to Harvest Oregano
Harvesting oregano couldn’t be simpler. You may harvest oregano once the stems are at least four inches tall. I tend to let mine grow to about eight inches tall, and then I cut back up to 2/3 of the plant. Reference the photo above and cut just above the leaves. And don’t worry if you think you’ve cut back your oregano too much — regular trimming encourages new growth and prevents “legginess.”
→ Tip: Want to know the easiest way to harvest oregano? If you won’t be drying your oregano by the bunch, and you only need the leaves, simply grab the stem about 2/3 down the length of the plant and run your fingers along the stem. The leaves will collect in your hand, and then all you’ll have to do afterwards is trim the now-leafless stem. Eureka!
To obtain the optimum potency of flavor, harvest oregano leaves just before the plant flowers, if you can time it perfectly. Even the subtly flavored flowers are great topped on salads. Otherwise, either clip as needed or, as I do, trim your oregano plants all at once and turn on the dehydrator.
Have you participated in a Sustainable Gardening or a Lawns To Lettuce Class with us? We have our presentation available for download for easy referencing. Sustainable Gardening PDF
Americans consume about 285 million pounds of honey each year. Help your local bees out with simple gardening techniques!
Photo by Getty Images
According to Green Homekeeping (Mango Publishing, 2018) with the gentle guidance of eco-expert, Alice Mary Alvrez, you can start with baby steps and progress to an advanced eco-warrior! Start with these inspired ideas and the 52 simple ways to reduce your waste, eat organic, and keep toxins out of your home. Inside this helpful and hopeful guide, you’ll find tips for greening up all the areas of your life. Learn surprising facts about your impact on the environment and change your habits with do-it-yourself ideas.
Does this sound a little odd to you? Well, encouraging bees to hang around your yard may not sound reasonable, but the truth is that the declining bee population has recently become a hot-button environmental topic. No bees means no pollination, which will do some serious damage to the world (and our food supply).
Nobody is certain of what is causing the bees to die off, but the leading theory is the overuse of pesticides in commercial farming. Scientists are also looking at various other pathogens and diseases as potential causes. Regardless of the cause, bee populations are dropping drastically.
Plant Bee-Positive Flowers
The first and easiest thing you can do is to make sure your yard has a few bee-friendly types of flowers in it. The more food you can supply for our poor bee friends, the better off they’re going to be. Think about adding some of the following to your garden:
- bee balm
These are all gorgeous plants and their heavy pollen supplies will make the bees happy too. A shallow dish of water with some stones in it will also make a nice water source.
Nix the Insecticides
Chemicals that kill the pests in your garden are not going to help bees, whether you are targeting them or not. Keep the toxins out of your garden to make it a healthier place to live (for bees and yourself). Use more natural options for bug control, or just accept that you have to share your garden with a few extra insect guests.
Regardless of the cause, the bee populations are dropping drastically. There are roughly half the number of commercial bee colonies in the U.S. compared to 60 years ago.
Excerpted from Green Homekeeping© 2018 by Alice Alvrez. Published by Mango Publishing.