The 20-acre Pelindaba Lavender farm on San Juan Island has some 35,000 plants. Its annual lavender festival is scheduled in July. (Pelindaba Lavender)

The 20-acre Pelindaba Lavender farm on San Juan Island has some 35,000 plants. Its annual lavender festival is scheduled in July. (Pelindaba Lavender)

Gardening experts will get you prepped for growing season

The Snohomish County Master Gardener’s Winter Speaker Series runs from Jan. 4 to April 5.

Yes, it’s December, but it’s never too early to start thinking about gardening.

There’s a practical way to quench that yearning. A series of eight gardening lectures kicks off Jan. 4 and continues through April 5, sponsored by the Snohomish County Master Gardener Foundation.

The 16th annual Sustainable Gardening Winter Speaker Series includes talks on bonsai, microbes, garden photography, fuchsias and lavender. Of note, Seattle’s gardening guru Ciscoe Morris is scheduled to share what he’s learned from 30 years of gardening.

The series begins with “The Secrets of Veggie/Herb Companion Planting” led by Carey Thornton, an educator at Tilth Alliance of Seattle.

Thornton said her class is appropriate for both newbie and long-time gardeners.

“Whether just starting out or growing food and wanting to gain more skills, we talk about companion planting in vegetable gardening,” she said.

The talk also will include applying the principle to perennial food production, such as fruit trees.

So what is companion planting? If you’re growing a vegetable garden, you can get more harvest out of putting plants next to each other that won’t compete for space and resources.

In short, it’s the benefit from putting two or more plants together that help each other in some way.

Here’s one example: planting lettuce and carrots near each other. Lettuce has shallow roots. Carrots have deep roots and can access water and nutrients at lower depths.

“You can plant them closer together than you think,” Thornton said.

Tomatoes and basil also grow well in close proximity. They both like the same amounts of sun and similar amounts of water.

“I train my tomatoes up and prune them from the bottom, so there’s no leaves touching the soil,” Thornton said. Then there’s room for the basil to flourish.

Plant onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme and mint around your garden to distract insects trying to find their food through scent.

For example, planting onions and garlic around carrots will help ward off rust flies, which lay their eggs at the base of the vegetable. “If you interplant with onions and garlic, it can be harder for them to locate that carrot smell,” Thornton said.

On Feb. 15, Stephen Robins, owner of Pelindaba Lavender on San Juan Island, will discuss the types of lavender that thrive in the Northwest.

Robins will talk about how he converted 20 acres of open space on San Juan Island into what is now a farm with 35,000 lavender plants.

“The micro-climate of the San Juan Islands lends itself particularly well to lavender,” he said.

That’s not to say that the plants can’t thrive on the mainland, although they’re not likely to live quite as long as they do on his farm, which shares a climate similar to that of Sequim (home of the Sequim Lavender Weekend each July).

Local gardeners should look for areas with well drained soil and good sun exposure for as many hours a day as possible to have healthy plants, he said.

By using different varieties of lavender — Spanish, English and French — which bloom at different times you can have blooming lavender all summer, Robins said.

Lavender is a very hardy plant, but remember not to over-water what naturally is a desert plant, he said.

Prune them in the fall to about 2 inches of the green on the plant. “If you do that it will prolong their life significantly,” Robins said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you go

What: Sustainable Gardening Winter Speaker Series

When: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Fridays from Jan. 4 through April 5

Where: Trinity Lutheran Church, 6215 196th St. SW, Lynnwood

Tickets: $20 per session; $85 for the series

More: 425-357-6010 or http://www.snomgf.org/winter-speaker-series.html

Sustainable Gardening Winter Speaker Series

The following is the list of dates, speakers and lectures.

Jan. 4: Carey Thornton: “The Secrets of Veggie/Herb Companion Planting”

Jan. 18: Tony Fajarillo: “Mindful Gardening Through Bonsai”

Feb. 1: David Montgomery and Anne Bikle: “Soil and Microbes from Garden to Gut”

Feb. 15: Stephen Robins: “Lavender: A Multi-Faceted Gardening Adventure”

March 1: Susie Egan: “The Wonderful World of Trilliums”

March 15: Darcy Daniels: “Beyond Pinterest — Unlocking the Secrets Behind the Pretty Pictures”

March 29: Ciscoe Morris: “Life’s Lessons — What 30 Years of Gardening Have Taught Me”

April 5: Kevin Jones: “The Hidden Treasures of Pelargoniums and Fuchsias”

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