Seattle Press
Notes from the Garden
After this last July 4th weekend with its soaking and unremitting rains, most Seattle gardeners simply wanted to throw their tools away and abandon all hope. The famous adage that gardening is 11 months of hard labor for one month of keen disappointment seems to have become just entirely too true this year. Yet gardeners are, on the whole, a stubborn lot and with the renewed warm weather there are many projects to attend to now.

The tomatoes need further staking and it is important to place a good layer of mulch at their feet. The mulch prevents soil-borne diseases from contact with the leaves and effectively eliminates weed growth and water loss. Every gardener has their own theory on how to prune the plants to maximize the crop, so if this is your first season with the ubiquitous tomato plant, ask a neighbor, call WSU Cooperative Extension (296-3425), or Seattle Tilth (633-0451), log onto the Web and check out or, or visit your local P-patches and talk with the gardeners and observe their gardening skills. I think you will find that the three key points are to not over-fertilize, which produces too much leaf growth, to prune small side shoots between the leaf branch and the main stem, and to water thoroughly and deeply during the hot weather ahead.

While waiting for that taste of the first home-grown succulent tomato, be sure your basil crop will be large enough this year. With all the new varieties, the basil plant can find itself at home as a brilliant foliage contrast element in container arrangements, or as edging plants in the perennial border or vegetable garden, and even as an aromatic ground cover in the spots left bare after your spring bulb extravaganza. While the new Thai basils may be too pungent for your culinary needs, their deep maroon-tinged leaves and intense purple flowers can add an easily grown splash of color to your summer gardens. Basils simply need warm soils and full sun in well-drained soil. Too often we get impatient and sow the seed into soils that are still too cool. If you have had trouble with your basil plants, experiment this year by sowing several of the new varieties now in many different places.

It seems frightfully early to be thinking about spring bulbs again, but the best prices and supplies are now available through mail-order catalogues such as McClure Zimmerman (1-800-883-6998), The Daffodil Mart (1-800-ALL-BULB), or John Scheepers (860-567-0838; E-mail catalog@ After calculating your bulb costs, either reduce your order by 20 percent to these national firms or remember to include in your garden budget the funds to support the Arboretum's annual Fall Bulb Sale, which has been scheduled this year on October 4th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. This sale is great fun, a bonanza for hard-to-find specie bulbs, and helps to support our world-renowned Arboretum.

If you love trees (who doesn't?) be sure to get yourself and others informed about Seattle's Department of Neighborhood free trees for projects in your neighborhood. Application deadline is August 7, 1998; call Laurie Ames at 684-0320.

Madeleine Wilde is a garden designer and writer who firmly believes that we are all great gardeners.