Questions, questions… and a few suggestions

One of the things I enjoy the most about working in my business, is the variety of folks that I get to meet.

Unlike my previous career, people come to my place of business or contact me for services because they want assistance or need guidance. They actually WANT to be there.

Just as you are knowledgeable in your field, I am knowledgeable in mine. I am not an expert and would never claim to be. I believe that we all have something to learn and that we learn best by sharing knowledge. NO ONE KNOWS EVERYTHING.

I live and breathe horticulture and landscape design. I am an observer of the natural cycles. I pay attention to the seasons and the cycles of life. Pests and diseases, environmental and cultural factors, seasonal variations… Everything that impacts the health and wellbeing of the plant material that I work with, and our environment.

I’ll be honest, I do not know everything and sometimes I forget (for a moment) what I have learned. Fortunately I know where to find the information I need and I have hands on experience doing what I do. I shock myself some days with just how much information I am able to retain and apply. It is a great feeling when I confer with a colleague with many more years of experience than me, to find that I am spot on with a diagnosis or suggestion. Or, when I learn new things based on that same number of years experience. Real learning takes experience and time, observation and application. Nature is funny that way, not everything is exactly like it is outlined in a text or reference book.

One reason I love working in the nursery environment is the amount of questions I get and the number of things I get to see. Issues or problems that I would not necessarily encounter in my own business.

What is this (plant, pest, flower, etc.)? What can I grow in my yard? Why did this plant die? Can you help me figure out what to plant here (shows me a picture)?

I love it when people come into the nursery to browse. I mean who wouldn’t want to just walk around and look at all of the pretty and interesting things… Hundreds of trees, shrubs, plants… It is like a candy store filled with sights, sounds, textures and smells.

Contact in 3…2…1

The usual response when I ask if I may help someone is “I’m just browsing” to which I respond – “Great! I won’t hover then. If you need anything I will be right over here…(watering, I am always watering)”

Then, almost immediately comes the “Well… Actually, I do have a question” or “I could use some help with…”, and then we start the process of determining what the person needs.

Just like when I seek out professional advice, I recognize that while I may have some knowledge of a topic, I trust the person that I am working with. Trusting that they know what they are doing and will guide me in the right direction. I trust that they will speak to me in a language that I will understand and treat me with respect even though I may not have any clue as to what they are talking about.

I also recognize that they cannot know everything about my particular situation or every detail about my lifestyle and habits. It is my responsibility to give them the information that they need in order to assist and guide me in the best way possible.

Teasing out the issues…

It is important to know what you are trying to accomplish. You have arrived at the nursery for a purpose. You have an idea in mind. Maybe you are an avid gardener and you know exactly what you are looking for. More likely, you are a home owner that has very little experience with landscaping and are looking to freshen things up or fill things in.

We are here for YOU! Whatever your level of experience, we will help you find what you need.

I ask a lot of questions. 

What is the exposure of the area you are working on? Full sun? Part sun? Shade?

How big of an area are you looking to fill?

What are you trying to accomplish (screen out your neighbor who walks around nude every morning, or keep your neighbor from seeing you walk around nude every morning)?

What type of plant material are you looking for? Tree, shrub, perennial, deciduous, evergreen?

It isn’t about selling you things you don’t need.

I am a horrible sales person. Seriously, I have talked people out of more things than I care to admit.

Sure, it would be awesome to sell you a whole bunch of things, but quite frankly I would rather see you more frequently because you know you can trust me to help you pick out just the thing you need.

Building relationships and having regular customers is important to me.

There is nothing more satisfying to me than going home at the end of the day knowing I have helped someone pick out the perfect plant material for their outdoor space.

The best thing you can do is stop by your local nursery and get to know your professional horticulturists. I am always referring people to resources that will help them with their landscaping questions and needs. I don’t have all of the answers, but I usually know where to find them.

There is no greater joy for me than seeing people happy and feeling like they have learned something.

~ Molly

Tomato, tomaaahhhto…. Why does it rot(o)?

Thanks Doug for getting the question ball rolling…

Do you have any idea what I’m doing wrong with my tomatoes? They look like they are rotting from the inside out. They are heirloom San Marino variety. I am growing them in full sun on the south side of the house, in Edmonds, WA. This year, I tried something new. I planted the tomatoe plants around a 5 gallon bucket that was buried in the ground. I had drilled a bunch of holes in the bucket, an filled it with compost. I watered the plants by filling the bucket with water.Thanks – Doug MacKay

In 2015 my cropping assignment in school included growing 1000 tomato plants from seed. Remind me never to do that again. By the of the quarter I couldn’t stand the smell of a tomato plant… But I did learn a few things along the way.

After asking a few clarifying questions and getting a few more photos from Doug, I believe that this is a classic case of “blossom end rot”.

Generally, blossom end rot is the result of Calcium (Ca) deficiency. Often the Calcium deficiency is the direct result of the plants inability to transport Calcium to the plant tissues.

Two (2) causes that contribute to this problem include inconsistent watering – leading to a drought/water cycle and /or too much nitrogen in the soil.

Symptoms may include a decaying area at the blossom end of the fruit – the area furthest away from the stem. The pictures Doug provided clearly show this. 

Not all fruit are necessarily affected as the tissues involved are mainly low or non-transpiring tissues furthest away from the stem. Plants need a continuous supply of calcium as they grow. Since calcium does not move about the plant, it must be present in the tissues of the flowers and fruit all through the season. Consistent watering assists with this process by ensuring continuous transpiration.

Transpiration is the process where plants absorb water through the roots and then give off water vapor through pores in their leaves. An example of transpiration is when a plant absorbs water in its roots.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition Copyright © 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Read more at

Sometimes rapid growth from high-nitrogen fertilizers may exacerbate blossom end rot. Nitrogen causes fast growth of the foliage and the disease is especially prevalent when rapidly growing, succulent plants are exposed suddenly to a period of drought. 

From Dougs description above, his issue may have been the direct result of the change he made this year with the addition of the bucket of compost as an interface to his watering routine. While I cannot be certain of the c:n (carbon/nitrogen) ratio, it is possible that the leaching of nitrogen from the bucket through the watering process is creating an imbalance and thus contributing to the blossom end rot problem.

It sounds like Doug had water management under control and thus prevented water stress (drought stress), which can be a contributing factor in the plants inability to uptake calcium into the tissues. While the concept appears to be sound, substituting a material other than compost may be a more viable solution. Maybe filling the bucket with a soil/sand mixture and distributing a vegetable fertilizer via that system.

**Edit… One thing I forgot to mention, even though it appeared that Doug had watering under control, we did have a number of very hot days in the area. IF nitrogen was the issue causing foliage growth, it may have been helpful to water (even a bit extra) prior to the onset of high temperatures to ensure enough water was in the soil to assist with the transpiration process.

A symptom of transpiration issues (and the transport of calcium) is curled or brown edges on the leaves.

We saw this on a number of trees and shrubs around the nursery this year. We just couldn’t keep up with the watering due to the prolonged heat.

Some sources recommend spraying foliage with calcium chloride solutions. My experince has taught me that having the correct cultural environment and balance will go a long way in preventing problems thereby negating the need for treatments such as these.

Hopefully, this information helps.



Cornell Vegetable MD Online

Blossom End Rot Prevention and Treatment – Mother Earth News

Helping People Learn

I am a teacher at heart… I really enjoy helping people learn new things.

Actually, I enjoy helping people learn how to DO things. For themselves.

I believe this approach was something I learned from my dad. He never told us what to do. He always asked us “what do you think you should do?” and “what is the worst thing that could happen if you decide to do ‘that thing’?”

This approach fostered a curiosity and a level of confidence that has helped me accomplish many things. I was taught to think critically and formulate a number of scenarios that would help me figure out what to do in any given situation.

Have I made mistakes? Absolutely! Have I learned from my experiences? NO DOUBT!

When I am interested in a topic, I learn everything I can about it. Once I have a background knowledge in place, I work to apply that knowledge, usually through trial and error, so that I have a practical application and actual experience “doing” whatever it is I am trying to do.

I spent over 20 years in the healthcare industry. I had so many initials after my name with my various degrees, licensure and certifications that I needed two business cards to hold them all. My resume was 12 pages long and listed many accomplishments and awards… Yet I felt hollow. In the beginning it was exciting, I felt like I had a purpose. But, the industry changed and it came down to tasks and numbers and objectives that I could no longer buy into. I could literally feel the life being sucked out of me.

That knowledge and experience helped me start a new career as a college professor. Teaching all aspects of business administration. It was awesome seeing students develop their skills and to see them apply what they were learning. I did not see myself as the “all-knowing” professor imparting knowledge upon my students. I viewed myself as a partner and guide on their journey.

The main lesson I learned from those experiences is that I am not suited to the corporate life. It was depressing and oppressive. All of those things that were once important and critical for career advancement no longer matter to me.

I am creative and fluid and perform at a higher level when I am able to define my work and work space.

Now I am taking all of that experience and applying it to my new life, in horticulture. I am a sponge. Fortunately, everything that I am learning, I am able to apply every day in my position in the retail nursery and also with our business.

Going from management to worker bee has been the easiest transition I have ever made. Yes, I manage things in my own business, but I do not manage people…

People have asked why I still work for someone else when I have my own business. Quite frankly, I enjoy the connection to people whom I have been privileged to meet by working for someone else. It keeps me up to date with the industry and trends. I have other professionals to bounce ideas off of and none of us are threatened by each others skills and dreams.

We have been very busy with our business, Every Bit Handcrafted. So much so that we are actually booked up a few weeks to a month in advance. We are now getting referrals and repeat customers.

I am certain that if I devoted myself full-time to our business that it would grow enough to support us completely… I just don’t want to lose the connections and interactions that I have right now.

My next goal is to create and offer monthly “gardening tips” and to expand out the blog to answer landscaping and gardening questions via blog posts on specific topics. Those will be featured on the “In The Garden” section of the blog.

My hope is to engage our readers and to help you learn about horticulture and creating your outdoor space. Of course I will continue with my own lessons that I am learning with regard to permaculture and cooking, DIY, crafting and any other things that I find interesting.

The Blog continues to evolve and hopefully the new menu on the page will help you find what you are looking for.

Welcome! We hope you enjoy what we are working on… If you haven’t subscribed already, it would be great to have you do so…

Please visit our FaceBook page and follow us there too… Sharing with your friends would be awesome.

Thank you in advance for your time.

~Molly & Fred

I have a scoby!

Living on the Hedge(row)

A little over two weeks ago I decided I wanted to get back into making Kombucha. I need to get back on track with my health and this is a good first step.

One problem, I didn’t have a scoby and didn’t want to beg/borrow/steal one. So, I searched the trusty Interwebs and found a post on the Kitchn web site for how to start my own… Who knew?!

On July 5th I followed the instructions and crossed my fingers as I placed the container into my dark cupboard… It was all I could do to just leave it alone.

July 10, 2016 (I KNOW, I was supposed to wait an entire week, I couldn’t), I checked on the scoby and lo and behold it was doing what it was supposed to… So far so good!

July 17, 2016 – I am so proud of myself… I waited an entire…

View original post 48 more words

The making of a scoby

We moved into our apartment mid-February. I’ve been telling myself that “when we get settled I’ll…” do whatever…

Four (4) months later and I still haven’t done what I have set out to do. So many plans. So little time. 

Fred and I have been working a steady seven (yes 7) days per week. Trying to make ends meet. We are doing pretty well, but we cannot slow down quite yet.  We need to get a cushion put away for when things slow down, and they will. That is the nature of the business. 

Fred has been out of town this week and today is the very first day that I have taken a day off, meaning, I made NO plans to do anything with, or for, anyone else. I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do today (other than laundry) and I did manage to put together the ingredients to make my own Scoby for a new Kombucha brew.

Being that I do not have a scoby handy and really didn’t want to order one, or beg/borrow/steal one, I conducted some research to see how to grow my own. In about four weeks, we’ll see if I have been successful. 

I found a recipe on the Kitchn web site for how to make a scoby. I followed the instructions and we’ll see where it goes from there. If I am successful, I will take that new scoby and some starter Kombucha a brew my first batch. 

I made a batch of sweet tea, added some raw unfiltered Kombucha that I bought at the store, put a hat on the container (hopefully it will work), and placed it up in the corner of the cupboard that doesn’t get used.

Baby steps, right? Have to start somewhere!

Change of plans… Again!

While we don’t change our plans as often as we change our underwear, it sure feels like it!!!

It is a good thing we are resilient and flexible! Seriously! 

Our ultimate goals are the same, our location is needing a bit of adjustment. Disappointing? YOU BET! I can’t tell you how homesick I am for Alaska. There are so many things we want to do and dreams we want to fulfill… But alas, reality sets in and life is what it is.  

We don’t know if we are ever going to make it back to Alaska now. That makes me sad. At this point we are just trying to get by. Working non-stop to make ends meet. Not going to cry about it. Wouldn’t help if I did.

We still have dreams. Who knows if we will ever see them come to fruition. On a positive note, we are enjoying our work… Thank goodness for that because I cannot imagine working this hard doing something I hate…been there and done that and this is sooo much better!

I think it is time to revamp the blog a bit… I’ll be making some changes, so please stay tuned and if you have any suggestions I am totally open for feedback. TOTALLY!

~ Molly 

It’s no secret…

We are very open about the fact that we are moving back to Alaska. The original plan was to leave by May of 2016. Not gonna happen. 😕

Things happen. Sometimes they happen and aren’t what you were planning. In my case, I lost my high paying job (which was a blessing) and took a detour to get a degree that will help me reach our long term goals.

My new career pays a whole lot less than my old career but it is much more satisfying.  It also tends to be seasonal in nature… So, me being me, I ramped up a business I started in 2014 and took a huge leap into being “official”. This is no longer a “craft/hobby” business, we are now a full blown, serious, professional services provider.

We are licensed, bonded and insured as general contractors. Good golly Miss Molly! What have I gotten myself into now?!

When I was meeting with the insurance broker he made the comment “you sure have your fingers in a lot of things”, my response was “gotta make sure I stay employed”. I’ve got bills to pay and a future to fund.

Here is what we are doing;

* Landscape design and maintenance

* Pruning and weeding services

* Plant material selection and placement/installation

* Container design and maintenance

* Client Education & Garden Coaching

* General contracting

Why are we moving to the village? Why are we changing our entire way of life?

Now more than ever I am feeling called to make a difference. To help with a long-term solution to an increasing problem facing our small villages in Alaska.

Why? This is why… Angoon, Kake and Tenekee face ferry shut down

Even if this is a short-term issue, I foresee that it will continue in various ways and force people away from their homes and culture. It will force people to live in the larger communities in order to meet their basic needs.

When a community is only accessible by boat or plane, not having access is a huge deal.

I get it that people make choices, and that living in remote communities means that a person will not have the same access to services as they would in a larger community. I totally get that. I lived in Juneau for 11 years. A very different way of life than living here in Seattle, or even in Anchorage.

Fred and I both believe that people should not have to move away from their homes in order to survive. The subsistence culture is alive and well in these places. We aim to expand on that in a way that will allow people to access additional resources in order to stay where they are.

Our native communities/villages are shrinking. Children are seeking life away from the villages and the elders are having to leave in order to seek or receive needed medical care. With that exodus, culture is fading away. Fortunately there are efforts to revitalize the language and the culture… But is that enough?



We will keep plugging away at our goals. We will get back to Alaska. We will achieve our dreams.

Here is another view of our future home –

We are stuck here for the foreseeable future, but not for forever. Where there is a will, there is a way… We have the will and we will find a way.

Angoon or bust!

~ Molly & Fred