Putting Your Lawn Into Rehab!

Putting Your Lawn Into Rehab!

Lawns are an interesting phenomenon.  We homeowners will dedicate small and large pieces of land to the planting, care and maintenance of only one desired organism.  This botanical organism is prone to stress from naturally occurring events like sun/shade and rain/drought. In addition, the homeowner is trying to isolate this one plant from invasion by other plants and wind borne seeds as well as a Northwest bumper crop of moss and algae!

(Moles, voles, raccoons, dogs and cats are fodder for a separate blog!)

Before you throw your hands in the air and surrender your lawn to either the onslaught of marauding blackberry or pay enough to put your lawn professional’s kid through Harvard, lets break down the various aspects of caring for your lawn and maybe you’ll re-gain the confidence to bring it back from the land of the lost.

Your soil is a major player in the success of a healthy lawn.  The germinating seed must have something to root into. When it roots into thatch, moss or hard-pan, the roots stay small which translates to stunted growth above ground. For those who just want to throw out some seed and hope for the best, remember my corny adage, “Why throw babies out where the adults can’t survive?”

Aerating the soil is a great first step.  You can either rent an aerator or have a local landscape/yard care professional do the job for you. De-thatching is also recommended if it hasn’t been done in a few years.  It is very important that the new seed has soil to root into and not a layer of thatch or moss.  After de-thatching you should rake out the area.  Aerating will leave numerous plugs of soil on the surface.  Leave them there as they will break down when exposed to watering

If moss is a major problem, you can attack it either before or after aerating.  Moss can be controlled with Ferrous Sulfate, (iron) which will kill it and turn it black. Rake out the dead moss and throw it in the yard waste bin. Another method for controlling moss is to add lime to your soil twice a year.  This makes the soil less acid and more alkaline.  Moss, as well as native plants do not like alkaline soil so keep the lime away from Rhodies, Azaleas, Camellias, Blueberries etc.

Note – I had a major problem with moss over ¼ of my front lawn.  I started calculating the expense of trying to control it in this area and quickly realized I could put that money to better use!  I cut out the scraggly thin lawn and planted a few native shade-loving plants and it looks great, moss and all!

Note 2 – Moss is a natural organism which grows abundantly in the Northwest.  In addition to growing on the ground it will climb trees and call in a few friends like algae and lichen.

To some, this symbiotic relationship is not the most attractive but bear in mind it does not harm the tree at all.  In fact, most attempts to eradicate it will end up doing more harm to the tree than the moss.

Choosing the right seed for your lawn is just about as important as the preparation.  Blends of Perennial ryegrass work best in sunnier locations and Fescue blends are better for shade.  At The Grange we carry blends for everything from full blazing sun to heavy shade.  Our seed comes out of Northern Oregon and is ideal for this area.

Using a hand or push broadcast spreader is best to insure even coverage although smaller areas do well with hand spreading.  Once the seed has been spread lay down another thin layer of compost to cover the seed.  This will help keep moisture around the seed as well as protect it from birds.

For those who have “dog spots” (as I call them) one trick is to fill a 5 gal bucket ½ full with compost and about 2 handfuls of seed.  Add water to make a paste.  Scratch up the “spots” with a bow rake and make a “mud pie” from the bucket and pat it over the spot!

It is not critical to apply fertilizer at this time but if you feel the need, we recommend using an organic lawn food.  Organics will not burn the new seedlings and work to help improve the soil.

Now the easy part is done!!

Watering…watering…watering.  The new seed must be kept damp. This is why spring and fall are the best times to re-seed as the rains help to keep the soil moist.

Now, you’ve saved enough money to put your kid through Harvard!

Email any questions to me at Michaela@grangesupply.com

Vegetable Gardening!



Vegetable gardening in the Northwest is always an adventure. Our ever-changing weather patterns have sent the urban farmer back to the drawing board, looking to utilize that unpredictability to our benefit.

Leading the way is the use of raised beds, containers and straw bales which help to warm the soil faster and allow earlier planting of seeds and starts.

In addition, raised beds, etc. give you greater control of growing conditions such as soils, fertilizer application and pest management.

There are literally hundreds of books, articles and publications that rely on specially blended soils, homemade fertilizers, PH adjusting amendments and more.

Our intent is to help you understand the basics, so you can then experiment and add your own personal touch.

There is no absolute right or wrong in gardening.  What works for you and produces the best results is the right choice.



Soil is a combination of ground rocks, decomposed organic plant material, sand and clay.  It also harbors trace amounts of minerals, insects, beneficial microbes, bacteria, fungal growth, water and air.

The Grange offers the following soils and amendments to compliment your particular type of garden.


Potting Soil – A lightweight blend containing a good amount of peat moss and perlite.  A great choice of indoor houseplants and any native plants that require an acid soil.


Planting Mix – Combination of topsoil, compost and PH adjusters. Great as an all purpose soil for garden beds and outdoor containers. Can be used for direct planting.


Planting Compost – Similar to the planting mix but heavier on the compost. Can be planted directly.  Best for planting fruit trees or larger broadleaf and coniferous trees.


Raised Bed Mix – Good, lighter weight “ready-to-use” soil for the raised bed or container,


Soil Building Compost – This is a good “all purpose” compost used for supplementing garden beds, top dressing flower beds and as a mulch to cover new grass seed.


Harvest Supreme – Mostly used to amend garden beds. This is a very rich compost that should be mixed in with existing soil.  It contains 15% chicken manure making it the only additive you will need for refreshing your garden beds.


For those folks who prefer the old standbys, we still carry chicken and steer manure as well as wormgold compost.



N-P-K – This is the rating given to fertilizers that indicates the percentages of active ingredients.  The numbers differ in regards to what is being fertilized.


N – Nitrogen.  This is for greening.  Higher nitrogen is used for lawns, conifers and other “non-flowering” plants. Blood meal, fish meal, bat guano and ammonium sulfate are good sources for nitrogen.


P – Phosphorous. For buds and blooms. Those fertilizers listed for flower production will have a higher P percentage.  Bone meal, fish bone meal, soft rock phosphate and triple super phosphate are good sources of phosphorous.


K – Potash. This aids in root development and general plant health.  Higher levels of potash are good for root crops like potatoes, carrots and beets. Kelp meal, myriad of potash and wood ash are good sources of Potash.


Organic vs synthetic – The most noticeable difference is in the NPK ratings.  Synthetics can be concentrated to reach higher levels.  Lawn food can be as high as 46% nitrogen whereas organic lawn food is usually around 9%.

Synthetics directly feed the plant, organics feed the plant as well as the soil microbes.

Some synthetics are coated for a timed release feeding and will provide food earlier in the season when the soil is cool. Organics tend to last longer but usually activate when the soil is above 50 degrees.


Over-fertilizing with organics is usually just a waste of fertilizer but over doing it with synthetics can burn the plant and lead to shorter root growth and decreasing plant health.


Organic vs Certified Organic – “Organic” means the ingredients come from natural organic materials such as cottonseed meal, bone meal, etc.

“Certified Organic” means there is a paper trail documenting that the ingredients were grown free of GMO’s, synthetic pesticides, and chemicals.


What & When

Veggies are broken down to cool and warm season.

Cool season vegetables are those of which we eat the leaves, flowers and roots, (lettuce, broccoli, carrots, spinach).

Warm season includes those that provide us with seeds, pods and actual fruit, (tomatoes, green beans, squash). The one exception is that peas prefer a cooler season.

Contingent on the weather, cool season can be planted March through May with a secondary planting in August.  Warm season usually starts around late April to mid May or whenever the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees.

Straw Bale Gardening!


The Grange way!

Straw bale growing is a gardening method used for raising vegetables and herbs directly on a bale of straw!  Straw is preferable over other baled grasses, (orchard, timothy, etc) because they tend to have more weed and grass seeds.

 There are advantages to this type of gardening.

1 – The bales are not permanent and can be added to the compost pile at the end of the season.

2 –  No digging or soil prep is needed which means they can be grown on hard rocky surfaces with success.

3 – Weeds and garden pests will be held to a minimum.


The bale should have two to three strands of twine holding it together.  Choose the area that will provide the most amount of sun exposure as well as water accessibility.  You can lay down landscape fabric to help prevent weeds from below.

 Days 1-3

Once the bales are set, water thoroughly and keep moist. This is important as the bales will start to create heat as they decompose.

Days 4-6

Sprinkle the top of each bale with one cup of Ammonium sulfate, (21-0-0). This speeds the decomposition process.  You can use organic nitrogen such as blood meal or fish meal but it will take longer to start the breakdown process of the bale.

 Day 7-10

Sprinkle ½ cup ammonium sulfate on top of the bale. 

Note – Although keeping the bales moist throughout the entire process is a critical, make sure not to over water which will leach out all the fertilizer and nutrients. 

Day 11

 Feel the heat on top of the bale. If too hot check every day until the bale cools to around 99 degrees or lower.

 Planting Methods

The bales should be ready for planting in about 3-4 weeks.

There are two ways to plant the bales; 

1 – Create pockets 3-4 inches deep and fill each with planting soil. The number of pockets will vary depending on what you are planting. This works well for plant starts

2 – Put a 3 inch layer of planting soil on top of the bale and plant directly into it.  This method works well for seeds


Watering is very important to straw bale gardening as the water moves through the straw quickly.

Drip irrigation hoses with timers can be very effective and take a lot of guess work out the process.

A regular fertilizing regimen should be established to replace nutrients being used by the microbes to break down the bale.

Nitrogen is normally the fastest to go.  A lack of nitrogen will result in the plants turning yellow, (chlorosis)

We recommend using a good organic fertilizer such as Gardener & Bloome specific to the particular crop, i.e, tomato vegetable, bud and bloom, etc. 

Fertilize every 3 weeks and water in lightly so as not to wash the fertilizer off. 

Weed control is usually not a major problem as the bale is above the ground surface and any that take root in the bale can be easily picked off.

Ground dwelling insects such as cutworms and root weevils will not be a problem as the bale is usually used for only one season which breaks their life cycle.

Other harmful pests can be controlled by the use of Bon-neem, pyrethrins, or beneficial insects.

At the completion of the growing year the bales can be recycled in the compost pile or simply worked into the existing soil.


Companion Planting Cheat Sheet

Follow this cheat sheet to help your plants thrive with their right companions in your garden bed!









Companions:                                       Enemies:


ONIONS               CABBAGE




Companions:                                       Enemies:

SAGE                BEETS                           TOMATOES

ROSEMARY     CELERY                          PEPPERS





looseleaflettucevarietiesCompanions:                                                 Enemies:

CARROTS                CUCUMBER                     CELERY

RADISHES               BEANS                              PARSLEY


BEETS                      CABBAGE FAMILY


Onion-and-garlic-varietiesCompanions:                                                     Enemies:

CARROTS                   TOMATOES                      LEEKS      PEAS

RADISHES                   LETTUCE                         BEANS

STRAWBERRIES        CABBAGE                        PARSLEY 



Companions:                                     Enemies:

LAVENDER         BEANS                    ONIONS

CARROTS          CORN                       GARLIC



*Grows well with most veggies & herbs.



Companions:                                            Enemies:

TOMATOES          CARROTS                     BEANS

GERANIUM          ONIONS                         KALE

BASIL                   EGGPLANTS                 CABBAGE FAMILY



Companions:                                                   Enemies:

BEANS                         EGGPLANTS               PUMPKINS       MELONS

CABBAGE FAMILY      PEAS                           CUCUMBERS    TOMATOES

CORN                                                                SQUASH  


images Companions:                                     






Companions:                                            Enemies:

BASIL                 CARROTS                        POTATOES

OREGANO         CELERY                           FENNEL

PARSLEY           GERANIUM                      KOHLRABI

CHIVES              ASPARAGUS                   CABBAGE FAMILY













No Gardening Space? No Problem!

Many of us aren’t fortunate enough to have spacious yards to enables us to plant various fruits and veggies.  With limited gardening space, it requires us to be more picky & selective on what to plant each season. Especially when we have high hopes of having a bountiful harvest from what we’ve planted.

Luckily, there are plenty of SPACE SAVING options available. Using one of these methods can also help you achieve that end result that every gardener desires… A SUCCESSFUL HARVEST WITH ENDLESS AMOUNTS OF VEGGIES & FRUITS!

During this time of year, it’s the right time to plant your SEED POTATOES & ONIONS SETS OR TRANSPLANTS. Click below to figure out which SPACE SAVING method will fit best with your ‘small’ situation.

You Can Grow POTATOES…

potatobox-300x194        potatoes-grown-in-a-bag_medium            

In a Wooden Box                                   In a Garbage Can 

Marshalls-Seeds_179                               finished-tower-sm

        In a Sack                                              In a Tower

You Can Grow ONIONS…

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Vertically on a Windowsill               In a Burlap Sack

container Onions                   growingleek-211x300

      In a Container                              In a Mason Jar

Master Gardeners TIP: Onions are cool weather veggies that can be easily grown indoors year-round!  

Guide to Growing Garlic

Growing garlic is a gardener’s answer to whose green thumb isn’t at their prime yet. It’s insanely easy to plant, care for and takes up so little space in your garden bed. The end results are beautiful and full of great taste garlic bulbs that you’ll be fully satisfied with!


Selecting Your Garlic

They’re two type of categories for garlic:

  •  SOFTNECKS: Get their name because the whole green plant dies back and leaves nothing but the bulb with flexible stems that make it easy to braid. This category is easiest to grow in regions where the weather is mild and keep longer than hardnecks. However, they’re less hardy and are likely to produce small, very-strong flavored cloves.


                Red Toch              


  • HARDNECKS: Have a stiff stem in the center that ends in a beautiful flower, or a cluster of little bulbs, which then dries to a rigid stick that makes difficult to braid. This category of garlic thrives best where there is a real winter. When growing in warmer climates, they refuse to produce and are more vulnerable to splitting.

chesnok red.jpg

Chesnok Red


Planting Your Garlic

  • Plant your bulbs in mid- fall ( October for most temperate places in the U.S. or at least 3 weeks before the ground freezes) so your garlic can grow their own root system before winter arrives.
  • Make sure that the soil is loose, weed- free and very fertile.
  • Divide the bulbs into cloves but don’t remove all of the papery covering on each clove.
  • Plant the cloves root side down about 8 inches and 2 inches below soil.
  • Space your garlic 6 inches apart -> the further your garlic is spread, the better!
  • TRICK: You can plant your cloves around & between other plants in your garden in use as an alternative to pest control.
  • Green shoots will come up and will need mulch around them.
  • Avoid pouring watering into the crown of your plants!

And that’s all of the hard work that it requires!

Harvesting Your Garlic

  • Depending on the type of garlic that you’re growing will determine when it will be harvested.
  • These varieties are divided by early, mid-season and late. However, it depends not only on your climate zone but on the weather you have during your growing season. Meaning; the warmer the growing season, the faster they’ll grow!
  • When the lower leaves have browned yet the upper leaves are still green… it’s time for the bulbs to be harvested.
  • Make sure to harvest your bulbs on an overcast day when the soil is dry.
  • Gently loosen the soil with a digging fork while making sure to keep it away from the heads and then lift them out of the soil.


Fall Gardening Tricks

Fall is the perfect season to prepare your garden for SPRING! During this time of year, it’s all about cleaning up landscape while preparing for the gardening season ahead.

Other than cleaning up & preparing for the spring season, you can also grow veggies! Colder temperatures doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening completely. Remember those COLD SEASON VEGGIES you planted right before the warm season began…? Those plants can make another appearance in your garden again. Hardy plants, like kale & broccoli, thrive in colder temperatures and can even survive occasional frost! The colder season also wards off pests making a great, natural pest control for your garden. Another great plus to having a fall vegetable garden means more to harvest! Your harvest time is extended longer that has an end result of more food!

Here are few tricks to help your fall garden grow into a success:

Clean Up

  • Rake up & remove any debris in your beds to decrease pests, diseases and weeds.
  • Cut off any diseased stems on your perennials.
  • Dig up & remove from your garden all of your sensitive bulbs and tubers.
  • Clean up your shed and sharpen your gardening tools!


  • To enrich the soil, add an inch or two of good rich compost before planting.
  • Add a layer of mulch that is 3 to 4 inches thick to help buffer plants’ root systems from fluctuating temperatures and moisture levels throughout the colder seasons. (Remember to avoid piling against the stems, crowns & trunks which can cause the plant to rot.) This also helps with suppressing the growth of weeds.
  • Before planting your seeds and/or transplants, make sure your soil is moist and warm.


  • The key of success in your fall gardening is to prevent the plants from freezing.
  • Extreme cold & damp conditions are the enemy and can cause your plants not to flourish.
  • Options for protection against the cold are:
    • Cold frame


  • Polytunnels (also known as ‘hoop houses’)



  • Row covers


  • Sheets or blankets (use whenever sudden cold weather arises)


  • In the fall, it’s best to plant hardy seeds (poppies) and flowering bulbs (daffodils).
  • For a list of cold hardy vegetables to plant, refer to this.
  • You can also plant fruits like: blackberries, blueberries, cherries, plums & pears.


In your spare time, you can plan ahead of what to add into your garden when spring comes around! Come up with a general plan of what you what and when to plant.. Do your research ahead of time to make sure you don’t leave anything out and have yourself fully prepared before spring arrives!

Growing Dahlias

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Dahlias are perennial flowers that come in various shapes, sizes and colors. These flowers thrive in cool and moist climates which make them perfect for us Pacific Northwesters to grow! However, many struggle with growing these plants into blooming beds of rich color and then turn away from trying to grow them ever again.

Here are TIPS that’ll make you rethink twice about how difficult it is to grow dahlias.

 Preparation for  Planting

  • Soil temperature should be at 60 degrees.
  • Location of planting should receive full sun ( 6 to 8 hours of sunlight)
  • PH level of your soil should be 6.5- 7.0 and slightly acidic. Dahlias grow better in rich, well- drained soil.


  • When planting the dahlia tubes, make sure the hole in the soil is slightly larger than the root ball of the tube with some compost or peat moss into the soil.
  • Plant the tubes 9 to 12 inches apart. For small flowering types, space two feet apart and for tall, large flowering types, space three feet apart when planting.
  • Plant tubes that have a little bit of green growth instead of ones that appear to be wrinkled or rotten.
  • Do NOT cut or break individual tubes as you would with potatoes and plant them WHOLE.
  • Plant them with the growing points, or ‘eyes’ pointing up and about 6 to 8 inches deep.
  • Do NOT water right after planting since this encourages rot to happen. Instead, water when you notice sprouts have appeared above the soil.
  • Do NOT cover with mulch or bark which can challenge sprouting to happen.
  • Blooming will start to occur about eight weeks after planting.


  • Do NOT fertilize at planting.
  • Use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen (5-10-10 or 10-20-20 are recommended).
  • Apply fertilizer when plants begin sprouting and then every three to four week from mid- summer to early Autumn.


  • Do NOT water the soil until the Dahlia plants appear.
  • Do NOT over water which can cause the tubes to rot.
  • Once plants are established, do a deep watering two to three times a week for at least 30 minutes ( a little longer during warmer climates).


  • To achieve nice stems for cutting: compact plants, pinch out the center shoot above the third set of leaves.
  • To get the most out of your cut flowers, place them in very hot water (160 degrees F) and leave it in there until it cools down.

After Season Care

  • Foliage blackens when the first frost happens.
  • In zone 8, dahlias can be cut back and left in the ground during winter but cover with a deep, dry mulch.
  • In other areas, the tubes should be taken out of the ground. Wait a few days after the foliage blackens to remove from the soil.


Still think Dahlia’s are difficult to grow? 

Come to our DAHLIAS SEMINAR on JUNE 7 at 11 A.M. to learn from a MASTER GARDNER on how to be successful with this flower!



Key Ingredients to Growing Tomatoes

Follow these ingredients and your tomatoes will be the BEST that you’ve grown EVER!


  • Light

Place your tomato plants in a bright spot where they can receive daily sunlight for 8 to 10 hours.

  • Soil

When choosing the right soil to use for you tomatoes, it needs to be well-drained soil that is also slightly acidic (ph 6.4 to 6.8).  If your using containers, mix three parts potting mix with one part of garden loam.

  • Planting & Spacing

Make sure that your plants are at least two feet apart from one another. When your plants have space placed between each other, air can easily circulate and  may won’t succumb to fungal diseases.

When planting your tomato seedlings, plant it up to the first true leaves. When doing this, it’ll help with new roots sprouting quickly on the stems. Which means, more roots equals more fruits!

If your transplanting your tomatoes, put in six-foot stakes while re-planting them to avoid damaging their roots.

  • Watering

Growing tomatoes doesn’t require to be watered daily, instead just ONCE a week. Tomatoes need just about an inch of water and two inches during warmer months. When watering them, make sure that soil receives it and not the leaves. Remember to water deeply and infrequently. Keeping a steady watering level can help reduce the cracking on ripening fruits.

  • Compost

After the first fruit ripens, scratch compost off around the stem and trim some of the upper leaves off. Doing this will help encourage new growth and a continued fruit set.

Another trick is to use a layer of straw or other organic mulch. This trick will help to maintain the soil moisture and prevents weeds from sprouting. It also helps  with controlling blossom- end rot, a calcium deficiency that happens when soil moisture fluctuates.

  • Fertilizer

Key thing to remember when using fertilizer is NOT TO OVER FERTILIZE! When you over fertilize, it causes a rapid leaf growth caused by too much nitrogen which causes less fruits to grow. 😦

Use a specialized fertilizer formulation, like Dr. EARTH’s ‘Home Grown- Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer’, with blends nutrients & limited nitrogen that tomatoes need in help with it’s fruit production.

  • Rotation

Relocate your tomato bed once every year will help to avoid early blight and soil borne diseases. Alternating your bed just two spots is an easy alternative and a quick way to avoid possible problems with your plants.

  • Pruning 

Does your plants have some branches that haven’t fruited? Trim it off! This action will help to direct your tomato plant’s energy into growing bigger and better fruit.

In the fall, after frost happens, pull the plants up by the roots and take away any fallen leaves or fruits.


After you put these ingredients to use on your plants , your results will be the best pick of tomatoes out of  your friends and neighbors!




Want to learn more about how to be successful with growing your own tomatoes? Join us on Saturday, May 10th, at 10 a.m. with a Master Gardner who will be sharing his secrets about growing the juiciest & bountiful tomatoes!