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With all of the graduations, I have been thinking back to all I learned in my classes at the UW. Three topics have been constants in my growing experience: soil temperature, proper watering, and keeping plants hungry. Let me explain:
First up, soil temperature. When the weatherman gives the temperature on the news, it is typically taken at 3 to 6 feet above the ground. But the air temperature and the soil temperatures vary greatly throughout the seasons. Why? Soil can hold heat better than air does. In fact, the deeper you go into the ground, the more insulation, and the higher the temperature until you get about 30 to 200 feet below the surface, where the soil temperature is relatively constant (about 55 degrees F.). Early in the spring, soil temperature may average slightly below air temperature, under bare soil. From early June on, the soil temperature is typically higher than the air temperature. It’s all about the sun hitting the soil surface.
Temperature greatly impacts humans and plants as well. When a plant freezes, ice crystals punch holes in the cell walls. In reality, a change of one degree can kill everything.
Next, proper watering. Plants are a lot like humans and can go days with out food. However, try to go 24 hours without water and we are both in trouble! For the most part, plants get moisture from the soil. If you keep the soil evenly moist, plants will be happy. The most important element to a great crop is to water evenly.
In experiments with hydroponic plants grown in different levels of fertilizer, most of the plants did well. This is because plants have a remarkable ability to take just what they need to thrive when grown in reasonably good soil. 
The last topic might not be good for our fertilizer sales, but plants do better when they are a bit hungry. Plants are like us when it comes to food. If you give them too much of any one nutrient, it is not good. Studies suggest that humans live longer if we restrict our calorie intake. America’s Best Flowers plants get a little fertilizer every day but it keeps them hungry. Almost all other growers give their plants excess fertilizer every day. You can’t blame them, as it is what the books and websites tell you to do these days. 
Having spent my life refining these three topics, I can say with all of my heart that this is why we have better plants.
Signing off until next week,  
Gift with $50 Purchase:
Featured Shrub:
Saturday, June 22
What does garlic do when it gets hot? 
It takes its cloves off
“What do you call an angry pea?”
Beer Cheese Spread
There’s something about the cool, creamy, spreadable allure of cheese spread, especially when it’s homemade. I have nothing against slices of cheese off the block, but when homemade beer cheese is this easy to make, it’s hard to say no.
  • 6 ounces amber or brown ale at room temperature
  • 8 ounces mild cheddar  freshly grated
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar freshly grated
  • 2 garlic cloves  minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly snipped chives
Serve with assorted:
  • crackers
  • pita chips
  • pretzels
  • veggie sticks
  1. The first step is to flatten the beer! Remove as much of the carbonation as possible. Add the beer to a bowl and whisk it well – off and on for 5 to 10 minutes. Set it aside.
  2. Place the cheeses and garlic in a food processor and pulse until it’s in coarse crumbs. Add the Worcestershire, mustard, hot sauce and salt and blend until combined.
  3. With the processor on, slowly stream in the beer until the mixture is smooth, about 5 full minutes. The cheese will look mousse-like. Scoop it into a bowl, top it with the chives and serve!