Pacific Northwest Gardening forum: Relocating to Whidbey Island

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Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
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JamesAcclaims
Oct 19, 2017 6:32 AM CST
Good morning,

I am a Texan who currently resides in Florida. We may be relocating to Whidbey Island, WA in the upcoming months. If anyone here has any suggestions in regards to Island County such as housing locations, better/best parts of the islands, or in general just any kind of information on the area, I would greatly appreciate it. What is the weather like? (I'm assuming wet). What are some things that you may love or dislike about the area?

I know, moving from Florida, it is going to be a massive change, but we would be being relocated with the Navy. I have never been anywhere in the PNW, and in fact never been anywhere further west than San Antonio, Texas and I have never been anywhere further north than Northeastern Oklahoma.
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
Name: Lauri
N Central Wash. - the dry side (Zone 5b)
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Enjoys or suffers cold winters Greenhouse Foliage Fan Vegetable Grower Organic Gardener
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lauribob
Oct 19, 2017 10:32 AM CST
James,
The weather will be wetter than you are probably used to in Florida. The climate is mild, and the islands are a bit of a banana belt in general. I lived on the very south end of the island for a time and liked the small town atmosphere as well as the beautiful scenery of the island itself and of Puget Sound. You will be stationed up at the north end of the island at Oak Harbor, which has access to the mainland nearby via a bridge, as opposed to the ferry that services the south end of the island. The pacific northwest is a gardener's paradise with its mild coastal climate and ample precipitation. If you're craving some dry heat, you can head across the Cascade Mountains to the dry side of the state in the summer time. (We have lots of snow over here in the winter so you probably won't want to venture over in those months.)

I don't know much about the area around the navy base, but the people on the island are friendly and outgoing. Boating is fun and you should take the opportunity to explore the San Juan Islands, if you get a chance. Best of luck to you in your big move!
More costumes, less uniforms!
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Plays in the sandbox Greenhouse Sempervivums
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plantmanager
Oct 19, 2017 10:51 AM CST
Wow you didn't get to stay in Florida for very long. I think you'll like Whidbey Island, James. We've visited there and loved it.
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Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Deer Ferns Herbs Dragonflies
Spiders! Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Birds Fruit Growers Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Bonehead
Oct 19, 2017 11:06 AM CST
Whidbey is a large, mostly rural, island accessed by ferry at the south end or by a bridge at the north end. It also has another ferry on the west side that connects to the Olympic Peninsula. I have never lived there, but have done a lot of camping at various parks and have always found it quiet and peaceful (except during the navy's 'touch-and-go' exercises). As with any secluded region, you will need to adapt to ferry schedules or the drive up and across the bridge. I love our temperate weather. Winters are mild and wet and can be rather bone-chilling. Layers are good. It does not rain every day, and often when it does rain it is more of a drizzle rather than a drenching downpour (although we do get those). A good set of waterproof shoes and hooded coats are more important than an umbrella. We do have a lot of gray days, which some folks find depressing. I rather hole up inside during the winter and work on indoor projects or curl up with a book and blanket. We get occasional snow, which rarely lasts longer than a day or two. Whidbey will get less due to the proximity to the water.

As a gardener, you will be able to work in the yard from about February (pruning and weeding) until late October (clean up and mulching). Your prime planting time will be March through May, although you can still put things in the ground in June if you water diligently. September and October are also good planting months. May and June are the prime months for a dazzling flower display. Plants most often grow bigger than stated, and there is little need for any sort of irrigation system (although some folks do have them). Summer is hotter than I would like but you will find it much cooler than you are used to, we rarely get above the 80s, and don't have a problem with humidity. July and August are good months to kick back and relax, not too hot but reliably sunny, good BBQ or camping weather. Fall is gorgeous, the contrast of the changing leaves against the evergreens is really stunning. I personally think everyone living in the PNW should own or have access to a boat, whether it is powered by paddles, sails or an engine. You will be surrounded by Puget Sound, as well as lakes and rivers. Cascade mountains to the west, and Olympic mountains to the east. Lots of outdoor activities within easy reach. The Pacific Ocean is rougher and much colder than the Atlantic, and is also much less populated along the actual coast - mostly tribal land. When you do relocate, I'd be happy to send you ideas on places to go and things to see that are a bit outside the normal tourist fare.

I've only visited Florida once, and found it quite lovely -- you'll be in for a huge change!

P.S. While we have no poisonous snakes or insects on the west side, this will be your new garden nemesis:
Thumb of 2017-10-19/Bonehead/8df097

I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
[Last edited by Bonehead - Oct 19, 2017 11:10 AM (+)]
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Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator Garden Photography
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JamesAcclaims
Oct 19, 2017 12:36 PM CST
Thanks so much for the responses!

Lauri, I had to look up what the term 'banana belt' meant. In regards to the small town atmosphere, I am from a very small town in the Ozarks of Oklahoma, and have not been in a small town since I left. Sometimes I miss it, but sometimes I quite enjoy the offerings of a city. We are actually looking to be somewhere a little south of Oak Harbor, maybe even mid-island or somewhere towards the south end (not all the way down). Neither of us really want to be by the base and we heard that it's really only about a 40 minute commute from the bottom to the top. We have heard varying things about Oak Harbor and Anacortes, that are not all good. We have been told that the island has a bit of a drug problem in those areas. If we end up there, I may end up venturing over to the Cascades anyway, just have a look-see, and some actual warmth might be nice by that time. I have heard wonderful things about the San Juan islands, and it will be on our list! Thanks for the well-wishes!

Karen, We are kind of "up in the air" right now. It is seeming like we have about an 80% chance of going to Whidbey and a 20% chance of staying here. Things may change, but of course, we won't know until last minute. (you know how that goes).

Deb, Thanks for all of the additional info. Great tips, especially about the waterproof shoes and hooded jacket. Not an issue for us, in regards to the "touch and go's", we are used to it. I may have an issue with the grey days, but I might get used to it. I have lived in very sunny and warm areas for quite some time. If we are relocated, I can't wait to see snow, even if it only sticks around for a day or two. I haven't seen snow for years and years. You're telling me that the trees actually change colors there? Whistling Palm trees and pine trees do not change colors, and that's about all we've got. In regards to the offer of local areas, I will definitely contact you about that when/if we arrive. I would love to see and explore those "off-the-path" areas. I have not ever dealt with them, but I think I would rather deal with slugs/snails than rattle snakes, coral snakes, scorpions, wild boar, etc. Hilarious!
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator Garden Photography
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JamesAcclaims
Oct 20, 2017 3:58 PM CST
As an update, it looks like we're officially at about a 97% chance of moving to Whidbey in February or March.
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Deer Ferns Herbs Dragonflies
Spiders! Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Birds Fruit Growers Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Bonehead
Oct 20, 2017 4:16 PM CST
I hope you will like it out here. Nice time to arrive, you'll be able to watch the spring unfold. I think the crayola people nabbed 'spring green' from us -- when the trees and grass start greening up, the whole outside looks exactly that color.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator Garden Photography
Image
JamesAcclaims
Oct 20, 2017 5:12 PM CST
I haven't experienced real seasons in a very long time, so I am kind of excited, but I also haven't experienced real winter in a long time. Whistling I'm glad that I'll get one last southern winter. Hopefully it's a mild one. In general, we are both very excited to experience something new and to fully explore the PNW.

PS. I hope 'spring green' is beautiful. I have a red green color deficiency (Protanopia) so I'm not super great at shades of green.
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Oct 21, 2017 1:17 AM CST
Oh James Welcome!
Sadly you will move here during the dim and moist season, but Feb and March are already Spring here. Summers typically are very dry for months. Really. Not joking. Sunny and 75 degrees. I like Whidbey Island, it is less rainy than elsewhere around here. You can grow Palm Trees there! But also lots of other stuff. Winter is also prime bird migration time, if you are interested. You will have easy access to the Olympic Mountains which are terrific, and there is Whale Watching. And Vancouver and Seattle are close. When you miss TX you can drive across the cascades for the weekend for hot weather. When you miss Florida you can go to the Olympic Rainforest out by Forks. Sadly, it seems like pretty much everywhere has a drug problem anymore... The Island has low population, with a very noticeable military presence. Oak Harbor is not particularly attractive, but in general the Island is pretty, in my opinion. Housing prices are lower on Whidbey rather than In Anacortes, which has become popular with retirees, also prices rise near the ferry to Mukilteo, as some people commute. The entire area is quite popular with military retirees, who were stationed here, and liked it so much they came back.
Anyway, I have lived in both Texas and Florida myself. I think what you might really like here is- no poisonous snakes, no poisonous spiders, no gigantic flying cockroaches, no fire ants, no alligators eating your dog, and mosquitos are so rare I never used bug repellant this year. At all. Dallas and Jacksonville and Seattle are all Zone 8, but the climates are totally different! People here generally do not even own umbrellas! The rain is mostly a misty drizzle, so in Feb it may be 51 degrees and rainy at 7 am- I see the kids out at the bus stop in the dark in tee shirt and shorts and sandals, no raincoat or umbrella, just a bit damp and they don't even mind. Buy some fleece, Smartwool socks, and a rain jacket from REI.
Your plumeria and adeniums will suffer greatly. I have one pathetic adenium. It survives. It wails "I need heat and sun" but it does not get that here.
My midnight ramblings. Anyway, welcome to the PNW!
Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator Garden Photography
Image
JamesAcclaims
Oct 21, 2017 4:10 PM CST
Pistil, thanks! I'll probably survive dim and moist for a bit, as I'll just be glad to be somewhere amidst all the stress of moving, etc. Glad to hear that summers are drier, that'll be nice. Warm enough to grow palms? Really? We are hoping that we don't end up in Oak Harbor, but we'll see. We will be renting at first and deciding where on the island we like the most, and then probably buying if we get stationed there for more than 3 years. I imagine that Oak Harbor has the most rentals, as it is close to base. I've already kinda started looking, just to get a feel, and I haven't seen too many rentals. I'll have to search around on different websites. I will have to decide what I am doing with my plants. I may send all my plumeria to my sister in south Texas.
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
[Last edited by JamesAcclaims - Oct 21, 2017 5:08 PM (+)]
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Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Oct 21, 2017 5:51 PM CST
Well, there are a couple kinds of short palms that do fine here, there are lots in my neighborhood! Strange to see them next to Rhododendrons.
One thing to think about with moving, although we don't get hurricanes or tornadoes, or even many thunderstorms, this is earthquake country. Every 300-1000 years there is a massive earthquake here, and it's been over 300 years since the last one. The tsunami it produced was devastating in Japan (they have written records of it) and the geologists and the Indians tell us it was here too, so you might not want to live at sea level, or at the edge of a cliff. Remember those awful videos of the walls of water in Japan a few years ago. Well, you asked for advice, and that is my advice ;-)
Here is a photo of a house here, note it was taken on New Years Day, has Christmas Lights, Palm Trees, Evergreen Trees and Palm Trees!
Thumb of 2017-10-21/Pistil/f07c6a

Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Deer Ferns Herbs Dragonflies
Spiders! Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Birds Fruit Growers Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Bonehead
Oct 21, 2017 8:27 PM CST
I always think palm trees look out of place here, but likely is just be me. As Pistil notes, a palm next to a rhody is a bit odd.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator Garden Photography
Image
JamesAcclaims
Oct 22, 2017 12:21 AM CST
Eek. Hopefully the big one doesn't happen while we're anywhere around.

I think those are Chinese windmill palms (Trachycarpus fortunei), which are cold hardy down to about 10 degrees. They utilize those all over the place in central Texas, where the winters get down fairly low.

Seems weird to see those in Washington. Aesthetically, they just seem like they wouldn't belong. But I can't really speak on the subject, as I've never been up there.
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Nov 2, 2017 11:24 AM CST
James- Are you a reader? We can make recommendations for gardening books if you or your wife like to read. I devour books, and can recommend ones for folks who like short and simple, or long and detailed info. There are some you might want to buy, but lots to just get out of the library and try out.
One of the COOLEST things about where you are moving is the library. The Sno-Isle library includes my county (Snohomish) and yours (Island), all except the City of Everett. It has zillions of books, and a top-notch, fabulous system. Each library is small, but you just go on-line in their card catalog, order your books, and someone delivers them to your library and you get an email they are ready. They have a truck that just drives around all day doing this. I pay well over $100 a year in library taxes, and I know I get my moneys worth.
Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator Garden Photography
Image
JamesAcclaims
Nov 2, 2017 11:55 AM CST
I used to read all the time, but I have kind of waned in the last few years (just reading an occasional e-book). I may start back up if there is a nice library system in place there, which it sounds like there is. We did not have a library system worth paying for in South Texas and we haven't been in Florida long enough for me to attempt it here. I would love some recommendations. My partner does not read as much as I do (also not into gardening), but he will pick up a book now and again. Shortly after we arrive, I'm sure that he will be whisked away on a deployment, so I will have plenty of time to read over the next few years. Since I know virtually nothing about the climate or what is able to grow there, I could definitely use some reference books.
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
Name: Sorellina (Julianna)
Victoria, BC, Canada (Zone 8a)
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Sorellina
Nov 2, 2017 12:32 PM CST
Ciao all-

I'm a new transplant also, James. We just moved to Victoria, BC from Toronto, ON and yeah, the palm trees, they grow here also and yeah, next to rhodies. We moved here in May so not a lot of time to get things unpacked and start gardening, but we did pick up a few transplants and had a rather small container garden. Herbs and any greens do awesome here. Rosemary and lavender appear to be perennials as I see large plantings done by the city and now that it's fall, I see them pruned, but not pulled up. Both plants are annuals in Toronto, so that's huge positive news!

I wanted to take a mushroom ID class this summer, but we don't have a car and the class was up in Courtney, about an hour away. Hopefully, next year we will have saved enough to get a car and can do more exploring of the island. We're both big campers, hikers, and foragers so kind of in paradise here.

I see a lot of PNW gardeners offering lots of salvia seeds, so I'm thinking they must do amazing here. I've got a pineapple sage plant trying to flower right now and we're forecast to get a wintery mix overnight, so that thing's going to get tarped. I like to make jelly from the flowers. Depending on how many I get this year, I may try to do some other things with them as well.

One thing we're missing is ethnic diversity. Victoria is sadly lacking in that area, especially compared to Toronto. There are very few Italian immigrants here, probably because tomatoes don't grow here although it's most likely some other reason. Super hard to find decent espresso, olives, ciabatta, and mascarpone here. I've started baking my own bread and I have time now since the garden is so small.

Palm Tree in our neighbourhood
Thumb of 2017-11-02/Sorellina/59d6c7

Grazie a tutti!
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Nov 2, 2017 12:36 PM CST
James- oops sorry about the wife comment. I had a vague recollection of you mentioning a wife, but clearly have now revealed my stupidity and my background of wrong assumptions. My only excuse (not a very good one) is that this issue does not even register enough with me that I apparently easily mis-remember something like this. Please accept my very humble apologies.

I will make up a little list of book recommendations after you are moved. Or before if you are getting eager to plan. Also for the past few years in the Spring we have had a little local meet-up and plant swap, likely will do it again. Newbies with nothing to offer are welcomed, everyone always brings extra to share. If you are renting you might not be doing much gardening in the ground, but there are often houseplants too.
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
Image
Pistil
Nov 2, 2017 12:51 PM CST
Hi Sorellina!
Salvia. Well, at my prior house with trucked in sand, they did well, also penstemons. But now I garden on clay just a mile away. I have a single surviving salvia (Salvia forsskaolii- indigo woodland sage from Turkey and the Balkans, I offer seeds on the seed swap). And my only Penstemon is P. pinifolius planted on a little mound. I have probably tried 10 different varieties/species of each. So it totally depends on your soil if they will stick around for you.
I have both Lavenders and Rosemary (Arp is the most perennial variety and the only one that stays for me. My rosemary shrub is now 5 feet tall and 8 feet wide and I might have to take a chainsaw to it soon). But Victoria is a bit milder so maybe you can have other varieties). Just across the Straights from you is a town called Sequim (pronounced "Skwim") where they have large commercial lavender farms and have a lavender festival in the summer.
Name: James
Anacortes, WA (Zone 8b)
(Heat zone - 1, Sunset zone - 5)
Region: Pacific Northwest Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents
Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator Garden Photography
Image
JamesAcclaims
Nov 2, 2017 1:02 PM CST
Sorellina, Sounds like you are really enjoying the area so far. Hopefully, like you said, you get a vehicle soon that you can really start exploring. From Toronto to Victoria is about the same hike that we will be making. Looks like that drive time would have been about 42 hours. Ours will be about 41 (that is non-stop of course, which we will not be doing). Did you come through the States to get there or did you fly? A mushroom ID class sounds like it would be fun, sorry you had to miss it. I will definitely miss southern food, how you are missing Italian food. Good that you are able to make bread. I have never attempted that myself, and would probably fail Hilarious!

Mary, Thank you, but apology not needed. It is quite alright. I do my fair share of remembering things that did not happen--way too often at times Whistling . Yes, we likely won't have much space at first, unfortunately. Maybe it is a good thing so that I am not trying to do too much at once. I will be bringing a few houseplants with me, but I am sure that I will need a few more, because who doesn't Hilarious!
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
[Last edited by JamesAcclaims - Nov 2, 2017 1:04 PM (+)]
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Name: Sorellina (Julianna)
Victoria, BC, Canada (Zone 8a)
Image
Sorellina
Nov 2, 2017 1:41 PM CST
Ciao all-

Pistil, thanks for the info re: salvias and such. I know about Sequim. I lived in Seattle (Queen Anne) for 9 years before moving to Toronto. Mom's in California (Paradise near Chico) so I'm a native West Coaster and thrilled to be back! The time zone alone is worth relocating for. I could never get used to sports being televised so late and having to wait forever for political returns, ugh.

James, we have 4 children, all with paws and claws so we had to fly here. We were able to find a pack-it-yourself moving company so all of our stuff arrived after we did. We hoteled it for a week while looking for housing and work. Fortunately, we arrived just as students were ending their term so housing was easier to find than we might have found otherwise. For whatever stupid reason, housing is almost a crisis here on the island and even worse for people with fur children. There's a massive movement happening right now to rectify that and make it illegal for homeowners to discriminate against renters with pets. I'm really hoping that moves forward as quite a few people are opting for homelessness rather than surrendering their pets.

We're starting over entirely with a brand new climate. I was able to bring my seed collection but no plants and sadly, our grow-op lighting set-up did not make the trip nor did my husband's bbq. It's ok, don't be overly sad for us. Lots of stuff did make it and it's actually a good thing short-term that we didn't bring all of the soaker hoses or the vast collection of stakes and pots. We don't have garage access right now so we'd have to rent a storage unit for all of it. We had a massive garage sale before we left and got hundreds of dollars for the garden stuff because it was spring and lots of people needed it. The kids at our community garden bought a lot of it so I know it's going to good use.

I do have a portable greenhouse, the kind with a plastic cover and zippered doorway and metal frame with 12 shelves so I can start some things early. There's no room inside for a grow-op, at least I haven't figured out how/where we might rig one up. Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes do fairly crappy here. We had 3 cherry tomato plants, but they did not reach their full potential, at least by Toronto standards. I just need to figure out the "new normal".
Grazie a tutti!

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