We seem to be hitting our stride. The spring weather is here and that means days of showers and days of sun. We just enjoy the rains for the newly growing plants and the sun when it teases us with its warmth. I’m actually glad the rains returned this week. The pollen was getting so bad it was hard to concentrate. Once these showers pass we can get back to the garden and enjoy the outdoors again. We are also hitting our stride in doing the hour long show. It takes a few days to remember to do all the things we have to do to get this longer show on the air.
Speaking of enjoying the outdoors, you can do that this weekend at Drake’s 7 Dees in SW Portland on Scholls Ferry Road. Drakes is having their Spring Gala event and William and Judy will be there on Saturday! Stop by, sample some wine and say hi. More details are below!
This week we featured...
OSU Turf Tips
Everyone wants a nice lawn, but how to get to that point without spending a ton of money. Does my lawn need lime, are bugs a problem, is it getting enough water? There are simple ways of determining the answers to those questions without having to buy a bunch of testing kits and tools. We met with Alec a Turf Management Specialist at Oregon State University and talked to him about 4 simple ways of testing your lawn for some of the most common problems.
• Ruler: Mowing your grass to the right height will help you create a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn. Wait until your grass is three inches tall before mowing, and then cut it to two inches in height. By only trimming one-third of the blade length, you will avoid stressing the grass while leaving enough leaf to protect the roots from the sun.
• Screwdriver: It’s good for your pocket book and your lawn to avoid overwatering. By watering your lawn only when it needs it, your grass will develop longer roots capable of pulling moisture from deeper in the soil. To see if your lawn needs to be watered, test for moisture by pushing a screwdriver into the ground. If it’s difficult to push the screwdriver in, the soil is dry and your grass needs a drink. If the blade goes in easily, you don’t need to water yet.
• Mason jars, vinegar and baking soda: Good soil is critical to a healthy lawn, and most turf grasses prefer soil with a neutral pH. You can test the pH of your lawn in a pair of pint mason jars. Fill each jar about half full of soil. Add a half-cup of vinegar to the first jar. If the mixture fizzes, your soil is highly alkaline. If you get no reaction, add a half-cup of water to the soil in the second jar. Mix well and then add a half-cup of baking soda to the slurry. If this mixture fizzes, the soil is very acidic. Overly acidic soil can be amended with lime, while alkaline soil can be amended with sulfur.
• Dish soap: As your lawn starts its spring growth, watch for dead patches which could be caused by grubs feeding on the roots in the fall. To treat 1,000 square feet of grass infested with grubs, dilute 2 tablespoons of lemon scented liquid dish soap in a gallon of water and spray it on the lawn. The grubs will come to the surface, where you can collect them if the birds don’t do the job for you.
If you are interested in getting more information about your turf and other tips you can use. Check out the website for Oregon State Turf Management at www.BeaverTurf.com or Grass Seed USA at www.WeSeedAmerica.com.
Spring Pond Prep
The weather is warming and that can create a few problems for your pond or water feature. We stopped by Tsugawa Nursery (360-225-8750) to get some tips from Brian Tsugawa to learn what you should be doing now to get ready for the season. Tsugawa’s uses the ‘4 It’s’ of spring pond care. They are Kill it, Sink it, Eat it, and Starve it. First you want to kill the algae in your system with a treatment of Algae Fix. Next you want to sink it with Accu-clear. This will drop all the algae to the bottom of your pond or pool. This is actually the bottle of ‘instant gratification’. If you are having a party you can use this and your pond will be clear in just a day. Next you want to ‘Eat it’ with Microbe-lift. This is a bacterial pond clarifier that introduces bacteria to your system so it can eat all the nasty stuff at the bottom of your pond. Finally you can starve it with a good selection of pond plants. You should be cleaning up your plants. Get rid of the dead and damaged foliage; it will just add nutrients to your water that will foster the growth of algae, but be careful of the new growth and the flower buds. Now is also the time to fertilize your pond plants. Use a pellet fertilizer that will release over time. You can also start monitoring your fish. Remember that you need to be careful about feeding them right now. If the temperature of the water is below 45-50 degrees they won’t be able to metabolize the food that you feed them, so you will want to feed them a wheat germ product until the water warms up and they can process the protein in a regular food. The warmer weather will also mean a bloom of algae and mold in your system. You can control it with a variety of natural and organic products. For more information on pond maintenance you can always check with the experts at Tsugawa Nursery.
Spring Wasp and Stink Bug Control
If you have been bothered by wasps in the summer months now is the best time to prevent them. We recommend that you place your yellow Rescue wasp traps outside now. The queens are emerging from their winter hiding places and looking for places to build their new colonies for the coming season. If you put your traps out now you can capture those queens and prevent nests from forming in your yard and garden. Another trap that we would recommend is the Stink Bug trap from Rescue. We have always had native stink bugs in our area, but in the last couple of years we have seen an invader from the east coast coming into our area. The brown marmorated stink bug is a vicious pest. This little bug can literally suck the life out of your plants and can devastate your fruiting plants. By using the traps now they can be captured and their numbers can be reduced.
If you already have your traps, you will need to refresh the pheromone attractant to make sure you get the best use out of them. For more information on these traps stop by your local garden center or check out the Rescue website, http://www.rescue.com.
Jan’s April Tips
It is the middle of the month and time for Jan’s tips. Jan McNeilan was an OSU extension agent for years and she joins us once a month to share some of her expertise and tips. This month we thought she was making chocolate milk shakes in the garden, but she was getting ready to show us how to check your soil for sand, silt and clay. You just get a mason jar put in about a cup of soil and then fill it up to the top with water, leaving about an inch of space. You then shake it up for about a minute and leave it sit overnight. In the morning you should see the separation of the different layers of sand at the bottom, silt in the middle and clay at the top. You can then use those layer to determine percentages of the 3 and that will tell you what type of soil you have. This should help you to determine if you need to amend your soil to make it better for your plants. Jan also talked to us about the moisture in your soil. When the weather starts to get warm people are in a hurry to spade and rototill their gardens, but the soil may not be ready. Make a ball out of the soil in your garden or planting beds. Drop it from about 3-4 feet off the ground, and if it breaks up it might be dry enough to work it. If the ball stays intact then it might be too wet! Jan also showed us her seed starts from her greenhouse. Some of these are doing really well, but she still may not get them outside yet. If you are looking for more tips for the spring garden we welcome you to check out the OSU Extension website, http://extension.oregonstate.edu, for monthly garden tips and OSU research publications.
Drake’s Spring Gala
Spring is busting out all over. One place where it is showing up is Drake’s 7 Dees (503-292-9121) on Scholls Ferry Road. This weekend they are having a lot of specials and events so you can be ready for the upcoming gardening season. Starting on Saturday, they will have a speaker to talk about edibles in the garden at 3pm, a local glass artist will be there to talk about her art work, Hip Chicks Do Wine will be serving their wine and William and Judy will be there to meet and greet friends and fans. Robin, one of the Drake’s landscape architects will there to talk about starting a landscape plan. In fact on today’s show Judy talks to Joe about how to get started and take the fear out of it. Joe mentioned that you don’t have to get in over your head. The first step is to meet a Drake’s professional and start making a plan. Once the plan is done you can work with the designer to see what you want to do and what they can do. That will help keep that price down too! Plus, since Drake’s is a nursery with plant professionals, you can be sure that they will help you pick the right plants.
Stop by this weekend and say hi, and kick off your spring in style!
A lot of people think that orchids are hard to grow and difficult to care for. We put that myth to rest with a visit from Lori from the Oregon Orchid Society. Lori is an avid orchid grower and collector. She also loves to share her knowledge with people so they can love orchids as much as she does. She told us about the 5 major things to consider if you want to grow orchids. These include: Light, Temperature, Humidity, Water and Fertilizer. If you can work within those 5 major areas to figure out what your plant likes, then you will be successful. Generally if to get to the extremes in any of those 5 areas, that’s when you have problems. Most people kill them with kindness and water them too much. Really they are not that touchy. You can find different varieties. There are some that are fragrant, some are delicate and some are pretty tough. If you are interested in orchids you can see a bunch of them at the 2014 Oregon Orchid Show and Sale, happening next weekend, the 26th and 27th of April, at the Ambridge Event Center from 10am to 5pm both days. This event is bigger than ever, they even had to move it to a new venue to get more room! If you have questions about orchids you can stop by the show or you can also find out more at the Oregon Orchid Society website.
Easter and Passover have a huge significance in the spring, especially for the gardener. There are lots of plants that have become associated with Easter and Passover, mainly because there are so many blooming plant in the spring. Plus, because the holidays change from year to year, there are different blooming plants that may be in season when these holidays appear. For Passover the plants tend to be those in the blue range of color. Hydrangeas and hyacinths lead the list of plants for this Jewish holiday, but most of the other blooming plants of the season also qualify. Tulips, azaleas and other flowering bulbs and shrubs are popular. Bitter herbs are also a Passover tradition, but those are generally only used for the Passover meal and not as a garden plant.
For Easter you have plants like the Easter cactus, and the ‘Crown of Thorns’ Euphorbia with its spiky stems and flowers that some say looks like the drops of blood from Christ. Like the poinsettia at Christmas, the Easter lily is the plant of choice in the spring for Easter celebrations. Actually these plants are forced into bloom for the season so they look their best for the holiday. A lot of people also remove the yellow stamens because the pollen can stain everything from your clothes and tablecloths, to your nose if you get to close for a sniff. The bell shape of the flowers also remind people of the horn of Gabriel announcing the ‘good news’.
The best news is that most of these plants can be easily transplanted in your garden after the holiday, so you can enjoy them for years to come. They also make great hostess gifts if you are invited to a home for the holidays. Check with your local garden center for some of these plants and for planting instructions.
Natural Easter Egg Dye
Easter is here and it is time to dye those Easter eggs, but this year we decided we needed to add a little twist so we stopped by Geranium Lake Flowers (503-228-1920) to get some ideas from one of the most creative people we know, Kim Foren. She brought out her recipe for ‘botanical inspired’ Easter eggs. These eggs are made by using onion skins or beets to create a dye. First you need to get some raw, unboiled eggs. Then you take some small, pressed flowers and foliage from your garden and then hold them in place with a small piece of nylon. You pull the nylon tight over the egg (don’t break the egg) and tie it tight with zip-tie or string. Then you boil the water with vinegar and the onion skins in the water bath. After it boils about 10 minutes you pull the egg out and let it cool down. After it cools, cut off the nylon and rub a little vegetable oil on it to give it a sheen and you are done. People will be amazed how great they look and they add a great touch to your holiday table! You can find the step-by-step directions here.
Roasting Spring Vegetables
If you have been to your local grocery store you may have noticed the huge selection of fresh garden vegetables that are now showing up. It is so exciting to see all these new veggies, but most of us just seem to cook the same vegetables over and over again. To get a different take on cooking these vegetables we stopped by World Foods Portland (503-802-0755) at their new Everett Street location and talked with Chef Mirna Attar. Mirna is the chef at Ya Hala (503-256-4484) and supervises the cooking staffs at both grocery stores. She loves this time of year because of all the great fresh fruits and vegetables that are showing up. Judy joined her in the vegetable section of the store to pick some fresh vegetables for her simple dish. Mirna started with Fava beans and then picked up okra, broccolini, asparagus, mint, sugar snap peas, shallots and garlic. Then we moved to the kitchen. On 2 large trays she cut up the vegetables. One the first tray she sliced the fava beans down the middle. She can use the fava beans with the pods early in the spring while they are soft. If it were later in the season she would only use the beans themselves. She then sliced the okra down the middle as well. Sliced shallots and garlic cloves were sprinkled on the top and then she covered it all with olive oil, salt and pepper. This went into the oven first since these are larger and harder vegetables and need a little longer to cook. The oven was set at 450 degrees and these need to stay in the oven around 15 minutes.
Next came the second tray and this had the asparagus spears, the broccolini and the sugar snap peas once again covered with sliced shallots and garlic cloves, plus the usual olive oil, salt and pepper. This just needed to cook for about 10 minutes. Once the trays came out they were combined in one bowl and then dressed with parsley, mint leaves, feta cheese and drizzled with olive oil again. It was fantastic and so easy to do!
If you are looking for a great grocery store that carries a lot of what you need and things you have to try, then stop by either World Foods locations, on Everett and on Barbur. They have a huge selection of wines at both locations, full deli’s and some of the best ethnic food selections from the Mediterranean region in the area.