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Mossy Knoll Circle Garden on San Juan Island, WA
While we were living on the sunny southwest side of San Juan Island from 2010 - 2014 we created as a series of formal gardens, a herb garden, a Zen garden, and a large vegetable garden/labyrinth. We used cement walls for raised-bed gardens, created a formal pond with waterfalls, had a greenhouse, and a composting area.

These gardens were organic and sustainable. During the four years we were there, we offered seasonal organic produce for sale - culinary herbs, vegetables, salad greens, and cut flowers. A herb shop featured dried herbs, tea blends, everlasting flowers, garlic braids, and more. We provided gardening advice, encouragement, and inspiration to all who stopped come by, and hoped the gardens were an example of what an individual or family could create in a small growing area to feed their families in the Pacific Northwest.

Labyrinth Garden on San Juan Island WA

We started this garden by fencing in an area 35 feet wide and 55 feet long. We made a two foot wide 8 inch high raised bed on the inside perimeter of the fence - 130 feet long - thinking that would provide enough growing space. As we finished the perimeter garden bed, we realized there was not going to be enough growing space so we made another two foot wide bed inside the other bed - 100 feet long - with a two foot wide path between them.

Since we had such a good start, we made a third bed inside the second bed - 65 feet long - with another two foot path between them, working our way into the center, where there are are two small beds, one 5 feet by 8 feet, and one that is 7 feet by 9 feet with a fruit tree. We have a total area of 1925 square feet with 700 feet of growing space in these winding two foot beds.

Mossy Knoll Pond and Waterfalls
The beds are made with cement walls about eight inches high and four inches wide, partly for durability and partly for practicality (you can sit on them, step on them, and they will not rot). We have planted perennial flowers, artichokes, squash, a variety of berries that will be trellised along the south edge of the fence, snap peas, beans, kale, winter and summer squash, red and green chard, and a lot of lettuce varieties and salad greens. Interspersed throughout the garden are fruit trees that will be "trimmed to fit" the areas they are in.

Watch   "How to build cement walls for raised bed gardens" - a You Tube video by Frank and Vicky Giannangelo
Instructions for building cement wall raised bed walls for a garden - step by step!

When these gardens were finished, we realized we had unconsciously created a  Labyrinth

One of the newest gardens was a Zen garden, featuring a Pergola, and a pond with waterfalls.

Read a great article about us:  Here we go again...! "Last night I had the opportunity to stroll through beautiful Mossy Knoll Garden, and asked that the owners write a column about it..." published by Friday Harbor Now  San Juan Island's newest online newspaper!

"The spontaneous energies of the earth are a gift of nature, but they require the labors of man to direct their operation."
Thomas Jefferson

Mossy Knoll Herb Garden on San Juan Island, WA

With a temperate zone 7 growing season, it is relatively easy to have a bountiful garden in the pacific northwest. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the islands, creating a garden in such a setting is a pleasure and a joy. The growing season is around 250 days with the first and last frost dates are around mid-April and mid-November. With the proper row covers and protection, it is easy to grow salad greens year around. We have had Kale, lettuce, and spinach varieties go through an entire winter. Root crops may be left in the ground and dug up as needed. The areas with a good soil  depth sufficient for gardening or farming are generally slightly acidic, and can range from a quickly draining rocky, gravelly, or sandy soil to a mucky soil with poor drainage.

Soil pH is determined by mineral content in the subsoil. pH is the symbol for the logarithm of the reciprocal of Hydrogen ion concentration in gram atoms per liter. For example, a pH of 5 indicates a concentration of .00001 or 10-5 gram atoms of hydrogen ions in one liter of solution. Acidic soil has a pH range from 1 to 6.5. Alkaline soils have a pH range from 7.5 to 10. Neutral soil has a pH of 7. Lime (Dolomite) or oyster shell lime increase the alkalinity in an acid soil; soil sulfur and gypsum lower the pH in an alkaline soil. For the best results, add these amendments in the spring when soils are warming and microorganisms are active. Most plants grow well in a pH range of 6, but will tolerate a pH between 5.5 – 7.

Mossy Knoll Pocket Garden on San Juan Island, WA
When the garden design has been created, the soil tested, and the areas fenced, work on building the soil can begin. For information on soil building go here -  How to build a sustainable organic soil.  Once missing nutrients have been added to the soil, the pH of the soil balanced, and rich compost and manure have been tilled in, the planting can begin.

Raised beds are generally best for a garden because they define the growing area and protect it from compaction. If your ground is solid rock or hard clay you can build the beds right on top and just fill them with soil. A three foot wide bed is easy to reach across and provides enough room for growing. The sides of a raised bed will hold in the three-inch top layer of mulch.

The best mulch is a shredded mixture of alfalfa hay, manure, and compost. Earthworms abound under a layer of mulch providing free fertilizer. This layer of mulch to help conserve water and to keep the soil temperatures constant and the plant roots cool in the summer. This temperature stability allows each plant to maximize its growing potential and reduces plant stress.

Below ground, plant roots release amino acids, vitamins, sugars, tannins, alkaloids, phosphatides, and glucosides into the soil, affecting plants either positively or negatively, resulting in plant health, or disease. Chemicals emitted from plant roots will either attract or repel underground insects. A healthy happy plant will be able to withstand insect attacks. Mossy Knoll Labyrinth Garden on San Juan Island, WA

Slugs and snails, raccoon, and deer, can be a problem on the island. Vegetable gardens should, if possible, be fenced with at least a 6' high barrier against deer. Perennial gardens can be planted with deer resistant varieties. Compost bins need to be made out of wood or strong wire to keep out raccoons.

For slugs we design our gardens so we can line the perimeter of a fence with sawdust and in an indentation in the sawdust we lay a line of rock salt. This will prevent slugs and snails getting into the garden. If possible, put a little 1 x 4 roof over the sawdust/rock salt, to keep the rains from washing into the sawdust. We have had slug/snail free gardens here in the past by following this method. Once you get them out of the inside of the garden with hand picking, beer traps, and other organic methods, the problem will be diminished.

Aphids can be a problem in the Northwest climate. Using an organic soap solution when they are discovered will help control the problem, and ladybug attracting plants will also help. For more information about insect control go here -  Garden Pests & Organic Controls

Shooting Star wildflowers on San Juan Island, WA

"Gardening is more than 200 years old on these islands in the Pacific Northwest. The region's first gardeners were Native Americans, who cultivated a local tobacco. Europeans, who arrived on the coast in the eighteenth-century in search of the legendary northwest passage, brought seeds with them. They planted region's first vegetable gardens, hoping that however meager the return from these plots might be it would still be enough to stave off the scurvy that ravaged their crews.

However modest these beginnings, the region (now British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington) would soon make a name for itself in gardening. In just a few years, botanists from Europe were studying the region's flora, sending home plants that would find a place in royal gardens. By the middle of the nineteenth-century, the Pacific Northwest had become known as an horticultural Eden. Gardeners and farmers, even those with little skill, were almost certain of good crops, thanks to the mild climate, rich soil, and nearly pest-free growing conditions.
Wild Mullen on San Juan Island, WA

Subsequent generations of gardeners explored different ideas, styles, plants, fads, and fancies. Hard times motivated gardeners. Science and the hope of building a better lilac, lily, cherry, rhododendron, pansy, or improving another species spurred some to action. Others sought beauty, tranquility, and aesthetic pleasures in the garden. More than a few just enjoyed watching things grow. It is these and dozens of other stories about outstanding gardeners, prize-winning plants, and world-class gardens that make up the region's gardening past."
Source:  Pacific Northwest Garden History

Our Gardens, Beaches, Wildlife, Flora, Hikes, Landmarks, Places, and Parks

San Juan Island's Farms & Gardens
 Formal Garden at English Camp
 Roche Harbor's Formal Gardens
 Pelindaba Lavender Farm
 San Juan Vineyards
 Buy Locally: Island Farms
 Farm Finder: San Juan County, WA

map of san juan island washington


Geologically , the Puget Lowlands are a low-lying region between the Cascade Range to the east and the Olympic Mountains and Willapa Hills to the west. In the north, the San Juan Islands form a division between the Puget Lowland and the Strait of Georgia in British Columbia resulting in a rainshadow. The 7500' high Olympic Mountains act as a wall that protects the northeastern Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands from the bulk of the rain that moves into the Pacific Northwest. Rainfall on San Juan Island averages between 18-29 inches per year, with 62% falling between November and March. This is about half the amount of rain that nearby Seattle receives. The elevation of the island ranges from sea level to over 2,400 feet. Unlike most of the Pacific Northwest, it is sunny an average of 250 days a year, with the sun shining an average of 62 percent of the time in summer and 28 percent in winter.
waterfall at deadmans bay on juan island washington

San Juan County is abundant in native plant  species. In the spring wildflowers are everywhere, and along the shoreline even Prickly-pear cactus and Gumweed can be found. There is abundant wildlife: whales, dolphins, seals, otters, bats, Black-tail deer, silver fox, mink, three species of garter snakes, and raccoons.

There are more than 200 species of birds, including great blue herons, oyster catchers, Trumpeter swans, Peregrine falcons, ospreys, and eagles. San Juan Island has the highest concentration of nesting Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons in the state. Golden Eagles have nested here. Short-eared Owls and Northern Shrikes over-winter in the short grasses. There are crows and ravens. In the winter House Wrens, Chickadees, Oregon Juncos, and Sparrows are abundant. In the Summer there are hummingbirds, nuthatches, towhees, finches, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, starlings, cowbirds, and a plethora of other birds at our feeder.

Watch   "Best Friends: Black Cat and Red Fox" - a You Tube video by Frank and Vicky Giannangelo
A black cat and a red fox spent two years together on the north end of San Juan Island!

san juan island washington bald eagle
There are fields, mountains, and dry, open, rocky slopes and more than 300 miles of shorelines with heavy surf and tides. There are open prairies, and forests with Western Hemlock, Red Alder, Western Red Cedar, Western White Pine, Bigleaf Maple, and Madrone. Garry oaks line the grassy hillsides. On the west side there are seasonal waterfalls. There are lowlands with shallow lagoons and marshes. We see sword ferns, salal, salmonberries, evergreen Huckleberries, Red Elderberry, Oregon Grape, Snowberries, Ocean Spray, and Vine Maples.

Three resident pods (J, K, & L) of Orca whales, Transient Orca Whales, Minke Whales, Humpback Whales, and many more sea creatures inhabit the waters from May-September as they feed on the migrating salmon populations, herring, and quill. They are commonly seen passing by the Westside of San Juan Island. Minke whales are small Baleen Whales from the Salish Sea and are seen in the summer and fall. We see Dall's Porpoise, sometimes called “false killer whales” because of their markings. There are also Harbor Porpoise, which are gray-brown in color and have a triangular dorsal fin. We have seen Harbor Seals which are small and spotted gray in color. During the summer months they give birth to their young on the rocks along the shore.

Take a Photo Tour of San Juan Island
Beaches, Wildlife, Flora, Hikes, Landmarks, Places, and Parks

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San Juan Island Links
Friday Harbor Now
San Juan County List of Farms
San Juan Islands Washington
San Juan Island's Weather
San Juan Island Hiking
San Juan Island National Historical Parks
San Juan Farmers' Market
San Juan Island Preservation Trust
The San Juan Nature Institute
The San Juan County Marine Resources Committee
San Juan Island Land Bank
The San Juan Island Agricultural Resources Committee
The Whale Museum
Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Historic Friday Harbor
San Juan Island Trails Committee
San Juan Island Parks
San Juan County Parks
San Juan Road Map
San Juan Road Map

Washington State Links
The Washington Native Plant Society
The Nature Conservancy in Washington
The Whale Museum
Center for Whale Research
San Juan County, Washington

Website designed and maintained by Vicky Giannangelo
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Created by Frank and Vicky Giannangelo, copyright (c) 2001-2014

Home Page    About Us    Sustainable Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest    Botany Basics    "You Can Grow!" Workshops    Composting    Soil Building
Hardiness Zone Map   WebRings    "You Can Grow" CD's   "Tid-Bytes" Insights   Garden Pests & Organic Controls
Biodiversity and Genetic Engineering    Sustainable Organic Gardening in New Mexico    Companion & Intensive Planting     Permaculture    Labyrinths
Seed Starting Guide    Creative Garden Design    The Greenzbox    Culinary Herb Gardens    Xeriscape
"Growing with the Seasons"    Photo Tour I    Photo Tour II    Photo Tour III    Photo Tour IV    Photo Tour V
Organic Products    Gardening Books   Gardening Supplies     Recommend This Site    Resources

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