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In Good Thyme

"I feel sorry for Martha Stewart. She's such an easy target for the gossip mongers of the world. She's rich, smart, talented, attractive, and has a fabulous garden. But according to the tabloids, she clawed her way to the top on the backs of her indentured servants, coerced her aged mother to weed the basil bed, and her compost doesn't stink.Hey, Martha, I don't mind if you garden in your Guccis and deadhead your roses with silver secateurs. I'll pour manure tea with you any time.I'll bet Martha has a tidy garden shed. The tools are likely cleaned and polished after each use, then hung from custom racks in alphabetical order. The pots are probably made of Tuscan terra cotta; they line the shelves like tubby little soldiers. Potting soil and peat must be stored in galvanized steel bins with handles crafted from 18th century New England barnwood.Martha's garden shed is surely a sharp contrast to mine. Hers wouldn't store brown paper sacks half filled with the shriveled remains of long-forgotten daffodil bulbs. She wouldn't abide plastic spray bottles incubating blue-green mold. And heaven forbid there be any insects or (gasp!) mouse droppings!I have a very unglamorous and downright dirty garden shed. I can blame it partly on the fact that it's a decaying, turn-of-the-19th-century root house. It's a spider Shangri-la, and houses more mice than the Magic Kingdom. And it's overdue for the annual summer sorting and sweeping ritual.Every year it's the same. The shed starts out neat, if not exactly spotless. But by the end of May, the plastic nursery pots seem to have mated and multiplied in there. I used to take them to the local nursery to be recycled. Now the one in my neck of the woods will only accept five-gallon or larger pots. I hate throwing them away, so they either proliferate in the garden shed, or I fill them with soil and seedlings to give to all comers. Then there are the bits and pieces of 14 plastic-coated wire fencing that I had hoped would keep my dog out of the perennial border. He didn't exactly get into the border, but the fence didn't stop him from lifting his leg on the candytuft. So now I have this tangled, sharp-edged mess that will no longer roll into a neat coil.Worst of all are the chemicals. I've been a mostly-organic gardener for a long time, so I don't have a lot of containers of ominous-smelling liquids and granules in the shed. I do have some of that thick, black liquid slug and snail poison. It hasn't been used since the new, non-toxic (except to mollusks) granules came on the market. I'll take it to the Island County Solid Waste Disposal site, where it will receive special handling as the hazardous material it is. Last spring a friend of mine helped a neighbor clean out his storage shed, which was crammed with three generations of interesting old stuff. She was horrified to discover among the antiquities, a container of DDT, which was banned in the U.S. in 1972. You can't just throw that in the garbage can. The hazardous material folks must have been astounded! What are you supposed to do with garden (and household) chemicals you no longer want? First of all, keep them out of the house. Store all pesticides and herbicides in their original containers in a locked cabinet or shed. Your precautionary measures can mean life or death to a curious child. Make sure the storage area is protected from temperature extremes to prevent chemical reactions. As soon as you're able, take the stuff to the hazardous materials people in Coupeville, 678-3328, Oak Harbor, 675-6161 or Bayview (360) 321-4505. After you've used up a liquid garden chemical, rinse the bottle with water at least three times and pour the rinse water into a spray tank. Spray it out in a safe place, away from people, pets, plants and livestock. Drain the bottle well. Empty glass containers should be broken, if it can be done safely. If not, put the lid back on, wrap it in newspaper and put in the trash for pickup. The same goes for rigid plastic containers. Cardboard, soft plastic and bags should be rinsed if possible, then crushed or punctured to prevent reuse. Again, wrap in newspaper and put in the trash for collection. Do not burn! Dispose of garden chemicals properly, responsibly. As Martha would say, It's a good thing.-------------------August garden tipKeep perennials flowering through regular deadheading. Let a few seed heads dry and collect them to sow for next year's flowers.-----------------------------Mariana Graham, a writer and former editor, is a Master Gardener certified through the WSU-Island County Cooperative Extension Service.If you have questions or comments, contact her at the Whidbey News Times, 675-6611; fax 675-2732; or e-mail wnt@whidbey.net. "

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