Is it spring or is it summer? There have been some of those typical spring days of upper 40s and rain, and then there are those 80 degree days that even have the plants confused! We can see this when we are out shooting every week. This week we stopped by the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland, Washington and they are nearing peak bloom! The fragrance is incredible. Check out our story this week to get a sample of the color! The warm weather also has pest and diseases showing up sooner than we expected. Check out our story on slugs and be watching in the coming weeks for more stories on early garden problems.
Still, it is nice to get our and not be cold! Get out there and enjoy this wonderful spring, but be sure to watch our show first!
This week we featured...
When some people see agaves they think of the desert or the tropics, but these plants are very versatile and some work really well in our climate. To see some of the best for the Northwest gardens we stopped by Blooming Junction (503-681-4646) at 35105 NW Zion Church Road, near Cornelius and visited with Ron. He talked to us about these unique and interesting plants, and brought out a few favorites. Most of these can be pretty prickly, but not all of them. The first one we talked about was the ‘Calamar’. Ron called this his ‘friendly’ one. It looks like an octopus and easily grows little plants at its base if you are looking for more plants to propagate. It get about 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide. That’s not a bad height, but some get much bigger. The next one, ‘Frosty Blue’, gets 6 to 8 feet tall! It is hard to believe since it is in such a small container right now. One that looks tame, but is not, is the Narrow Leaf Agave. This one is really sharp! You will want to be careful around it. If you can handle the occasional poke, this one is stunning in the garden and only gets about 18 inches tall. One agave that looks almost tropical is the ‘Ocahui’. It has dark, thick leaves with cream colored edges and red tips. The most unique looking one on the table was the ‘Black Widow’. It gets the name because of its pattern on the underside of the leaves. This one also has cool little tendrils that curve off the side of each leaf. The final two that we looked at were larger leafed varieties. The silver agave which gets about 18 inches tall and the ‘Sharkskin’ with the cool sharkskin texture to the leaves.
We also talked about maintaining your agaves. You start by planting them in very well drained soil. They have a drought tolerant display garden at the nursery and it is mainly gravel and crushed concrete. Perfect for agaves. They will also get old leaves that start to look pretty bad sometimes. Those you can just cut off. New growth on most agaves starts in the middle of the plant. The older leaves will probably be on the outside of the plant, and fairly easy to cut off. Ron also recommended using a pre-emergent to control weeds This will keep weed seeds from starting and help save your hands if you have to weed around one of these sharp little plants.
If you are looking for a unique structure plant for your garden, stop by Blooming Nursery and check out their agaves!
Hulda Klager Lilac Days
It is that time of year, Lilac time. We took the short trip up I-5 to Woodland Washington to check out the lilacs at the Hulda Klager Lilac Days (360-225-8996). The 2016 Lilac Days will run from this weekend through Mother’s Day. Hulda hybridized many lilacs and became known as the ‘Lilac Lady’ in the Woodland area. She opened her garden to the public for an open house in the spring during the 20’s. She passed away in 1960.
The Hulda Klager Lilac Society now runs the garden and opens it every year for this festival. They have spent a lot of money in the past few years to improve the gardens and grounds. The improvements include restoration to the historic home and water tower. New seating areas and even an expanded and improved parking lot. Right now the blooms are spectacular. The early spring heat has the lilacs in full bloom. Normally the society members would tell people wait until the end of the month come out, but this year the perfect time is now! They charge a small fee during the festival. That, and the proceeds from the gift shop, keeps this garden going all year long. Another way that the group raises money for the garden is through a lilac plant sale. Of the hundreds of varieties of lilacs in the garden you will find a great selection available for sale. Some are blooming in pots and when you take them home they can make an instant bang in your garden. All these funds are used to continue to improve the garden, including the ample covered seating! Take the time and visit it when you get a chance, it is spectacular!
Simple Hoop House
In the last couple of years we have shown you how to build your own raised garden bed. Recently we had the itch to get out and do a little early gardening so we came up with a simple way to build a basic hoop house to protect our tender vegetables and get an early start on the gardening season. The one we built was very easy to construct. We stopped by a local hardware store to pick up 4 different materials we would need. We needed 3 hoops for our 6 x 4 foot bed. So we needed 6 pieces of 2 foot long rebar (you might need to get 3 foot pieces if your soil is soft). 3 - twelve foot pieces of PVC ½ inch pipe, plastic sheeting that is clear and at least 6 ‘mil’ thick, and finally some clamps to hold the plastic on the poles. Drive the rebar in the ground on each side of your raised bed. Be sure to call 811 to locate any underground obstacles. Leave about 6-8 inches above the ground and slide the PVC over the rebar on one side. Get some help, bend the pole and slide it over the rebar on the either side of your bed. We did this until we had 3 nice hoops. Then we pulled the plastic sheeting over the hoops and secured it to the hoops with the clamps. At the ends we folded the plastic and secured that to the sides of the raised bed. Remember to check and water your plants since they will not be receiving any direct rainfall. Also, keep your eye on the weather and when days get above 55 degrees you may want to take the plastic off for a few hours until dark.
Now you can plant your tomatoes, peppers and other tender plants out a little sooner than you normally would, or in our case we want the bed to heat up so we get asparagus a few weeks sooner. What a quick and easy way to start your garden early or extend it later this fall!
Jan’s April Tips
This month we are talking about vegetables with Jan for one of our tips of the month. A couple of years ago a company sent Jan a weed fabric that had specific holes cut out for planting certain vegetables. We all found it funny because they had holes for tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini squash all growing in one 4x4 space. Just the zucchini alone would fill the entire space. This company is no longer in business, but they bring up a good point. Make sure you check your plant tags and seed packets to get the correct spacing and growing requirements for all your vegetable crops. You want to make sure you get the best harvest, so start with the correct conditions. If you are looking for more information on planting there is a great publication from OSU Extension called ‘Growing your Own’. We than talked about planting potatoes. Jan read on-line about planting from a well-intentioned home gardener. They said to cut your ‘natural’ store-bought potatoes into 1 inch cubes and plant them. A couple things wrong with this scenario. First, your potatoes need to have ‘eyes’ to grow new potatoes. Eyes are the sprouts of new plants; no eye, no plant. Also, the store bought potatoes are treated so they don’t sprout on the shelves. It is harder to grow plants from these treated potatoes. That is why you should look for seed potatoes at your garden center to get the best results.
Once again we talked about soil temperatures. It is still a little too cold for your warmer weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and basil. The temps right now are hovering around 45 degrees most days. They need to be in the mid-50’s consistently for your plants to survive and take off. Finally, we saw the latest in gardening tools, the metal detector. Jan was helping a friend do some pruning and lost her pruners in the tall grass. She just grabbed husband Ray’s metal detector and in minutes she had her pruners back. Now if only I could use one in the house to find my car keys…
There are only a few animals that will get most gardeners wound up and freaked out. The big 3 are spiders, bats and snakes. All three of them are great garden helpers but the one that gets the least attention is the common garter snake. Recently we made the trip down to Corvallis and Oregon State University to talk to one of their biggest fans, Dr. Bob Mason, a professor of integrative biology at OSU. His specialty is snakes and once you talk to him you become a big fan too! He told us that garter snakes are the most common snakes you will find in our area and they are great in the garden. These little wonders will take care of most of our worst garden pests. They feed on slugs and grubs, and with larger snakes you can even take care of your mice, voles and rats. The warmth of the spring is bringing them out of hibernation right now and soon they will be breeding. Most of the time they are scurrying off to avoid predators, like humans, cats and dogs, so we don’t see them much in the garden, but if you do that is a good indicator of the overall good health of your garden. If you want to attract snakes to your garden you will need to make a welcome home for them. Leave piles of yard debris at the back of your yard, include a few boards and maybe even a little bit of black plastic for them to crawl under. It may take a year or two before you get any, but if you build it they will come. To keep them in your garden, limit your pesticide use, protect the area from your pets, and walk your lawn before mowing to scare them into hiding. For more information, click on this link (link to list) for a list of reference materials from Dr. Mason or you can check out the OSU Extension website, http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening.
Hens and Chicks
Hens and chicks may seem like a boring plant but they are a group filled with plants that have a wide array of colors and textures. To see how they are bred we stopped by the home of one of our favorite hybridizers, Kevin Vaughn. Kevin is an expert in hens and chicks, also known as sempervivums, houseleeks or succulents. He told us that the name sempervivum means ‘lives forever’ and these hardy plants can trace their heritage back to the Alps. They are generally a rosette looking plant that spread mainly by offsets (or pups). They do flower and seed but not as prolific as your other garden plants. When Kevin is looking for a new plant he will take 2 plants that he likes, either for their color, texture or other characteristics, and he cross pollinates the plants. He then takes the seed from that cross and plants them. The first year they don’t look that great. They mainly look like little green dots on your soil. The second season they are transferred to a garden bed and allowed to grow. The best of that bunch goes into another bed and is grown for a couple more years. This is to make sure that they keep their form, color and texture. If the seedling doesn’t give Kevin something new or spectacular, it goes into the compost bin. He has had great success with Hens and Chicks. His very first successful crosses happened when he was 9, and he has been going strong ever since. In fact, he shared a few new varieties that he recently developed. One was ‘Patent Leather Shoes’. This one was as close to black as any we have seen. The next one was ‘Big 6-0’, which he hybridized when he turned 60 a few years ago. Finally we looked at one that was completely different! It’s cousin was called Fuzzy Wuzzy and this one is going to even more ‘fuzzy’.
If you are looking to buy these plants you won’t find them at Kevin’s place. He just comes up with the new varieties. You will need to check out some of your local specialty nurseries for a selection. Who knows, maybe your next new plant for your garden is one of Kevin’s introductions!
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 2016 Oregon Orchid Show and Sale, happening this weekend, the 16th and 17th of April, at the Ambridge Event Center from 10am to 5pm both days. 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.
Plant Pick – Epimediums
Our plant pick this month is a star of the early spring garden. We stopped at Shorty’s Home and Garden (360-892-7880) in Vancouver to talk about Epimediums. We first chatted with Lisa about the growing conditions that this plant needs. She told us that this is the right plant for those dry shade areas in the garden. These plants have tons of different bloom colors and are either evergreen or semi-evergreen in the garden. To get the best show of blooms and foliage you will want to cut off all the old foliage in the late winter. In the spring you will be rewarded with dainty colorful blooms followed by luscious foliage that will look great all summer long. Then we talked to Mark from Little Prince of Oregon, who grows these wonderful plants. They grow about a dozen varieties. He had a few that were with him at Shorty’s. The first was epimedium ‘sulphureum’, with small yellow flowers and red variegation. The second was ‘Lilafee’ with purple and white flowers and ‘rubrum’ with a reddish tinged flower. All are looking great right now!
If you are looking for a great spring color plant, check out the epimedium. You can find a great selection at either location of Shorty’s or you can check out the Little Prince website for the garden center nearest you. Don’t forget to also like Little Prince on Facebook or sign up for their blog.
Slug and Snail Control
SLUGS and SNAILS!!! These little pests will devour your new plants and vegetables. If you are looking for a way to keep them in check, William and Judy had a selection of different ways you can deter them or just get rid of them. Slugs are a real problem here in the Northwest and spring is the time when you may notice them the most. They will eat the foliage off your nice garden plants and may even eat the plants as they are just coming out of the ground. Look for holes in the leaves of your tulips, iris and hostas. These are a few of their favorites. First we talked about the chemical baits that you can use. These tend to be the most effective and are made with Metaldehyde which goes by the brand name of Meta. You can get this bait in a liquid, meal and pellet form. If you have children or pets and are looking for something safer, you can check out the products that contain iron phosphate. These are safe around pets and children. William talked about the non-chemical methods of control. He covered beer traps, which works like a scent trap, copper tape which gives them a shock and even an electric fence. You can even stalk your garden in the early morning and just drop them in a bath of soapy water or just cut them in half with your pruners. Take the time to find the method that’s best for you and check with your local garden center if you need help.
Setting a Fence Post
When you are doing a big structure in your garden and you want to make sure that it lasts for a while you want to make sure that there is a good foundation. And the beginning of a good structure is a solid post. This week we walked you though the steps for setting a post. You first need to start by digging a good hole. At least 18 inches is good for the starting depth. You will also want to check to make sure that you are in line with your property and that you are not digging into any underground gas, electric or communication lines. You can call 811 and have someone come out for free and mark the lines with just a couple of days’ notice. Then you will put a couple of inches of pea-gravel in the base of the hole. This will allow the rain water to drain into the soil and will prevent your post from rotting at the base. Put in your treated post and next set up braces to keep it level and sturdy while you pour your cement. Once the concrete is poured you will want to wait for a week or so for it to cure. It may take longer if it is wet or cold. You can then remove the braces and put your brackets in for fencing or begin building your trellis or arbor. Once you have this solid base you should be able to enjoy years of sturdy support!