Hot and cold, wet and dry. Welcome to the new ‘normal’ of spring in the Northwest. We are now in a cool, wet phase after a record setting mini heatwave, and the garden is loving it! Our plants are popping out all over and it isn’t just in our garden. We have heard from flower growers around the area. Things are progressing faster again this year. The tulip festival started a week early. The lilacs, which normally peak around Mother’s Day, are at peak bloom now. Plus we saw this week that the peonies are starting to show up early as well. In fact Adelman Peony Gardens had us come out to see the tree peonies in bloom. Check out our story below. With all this bloom how can you not be excited for the coming summer?
Of course, the early heat has brought some problems along with it. As you can see by our story on Powdery Mildew, hot and wet don’t always go well together in the garden. This is just the start of some garden problems you will notice because of the weather and the mild winter. Keep your eye out for more friendly warnings in upcoming shows.
This week we featured...
Planting a Strawberry Pot
With the push for edibles in the garden the last few years we had the idea of bringing those edibles to your doorstep. We stopped by Little Baja (503-236-8834) to get some ideas from Wayne about planting strawberries and how to choose a strawberry pot to bring your fruit and vegetables to your deck or patio. First we pulled a strawberry pot out of his inventory, which was no problem with all the pots he has on the lot. We learned that you need to plant in layers. You don’t just fill the pot full of Black Gold soil and shove plants in! You fill your pot with soil up to the first holes and then place your plants in and then move to the next layer. We also learned a little bit about strawberries. ‘June-bearing’ gives you one crop. ‘Ever-bearing’ and ‘Day Neutral’ gives you 2 or more good crops of berries through-out the summer if you treat them well. There are a couple of other things that growers do to get a good crop… plant new berries every 3-4 years. For a list of varieties and recipes, check out www.oregon-strawberries.org. Finally we talked about planting trees and other fruits and vegetables in pots. Smaller varieties of fruit trees are very popular right now and you can even find single trees with multiple varieties on one trunk. These are great in containers. Wayne even told us about people who plant tomatoes in pots on their deck! Sounds like a winner to me! The reason for choosing a clay terra cotta container is in the clay. Clay breathes and allows air and water to move freely through the sides of the container. This makes for a healthier and happier plant. If you are looking to bring your gardening ‘up close and personal’ check out the selection of containers at Little Baja on Burnside in Portland.
Spring Powdery Mildew
The unusually warm days and spring rains are starting to create some problems in the garden. Recently we found a plant, a nine-bark, fighting off a common problem, powdery mildew. I say common because we normally see it in the fall on our cucumber and zucchini leaves. It is a mildew that looks like powdered sugar on your plants. Because of the early heat and spring rains, the conditions are ripe for it to start appearing on some of your garden plants a little early. We have a few tips and products that can help in your battle. First, Judy showed us how to pick off the infected leaves. If the outbreak is small or just starting, you can pick off the leaves with the mildew. Remember to throw these leaves away since they are infected with the spores. If you compost them you will just be spreading them when you spread your compost later in the year.
If you have too many to count, then you will want to use a topical application. We found a bunch of products from Bonide (Rose Shield, Infuse, Fung-onil) that will help kill the spores or protect your plant from further damage. They can use a RTU, Ready-to-use, spray which you just spray on the plant, or you can get a concentrate and mix it up in a sprayer for those big jobs. If you are mixing the product in a sprayer remember to follow all instructions so it is used correctly and in the right amount. If you would like to go a little more organic you can use Neem Oil. This product coats and smothers the spores and is all natural. The worst case scenario is that you may have to remove the plant. If that is the case, look for a replacement plant that is mildew resistant. For more options you can check with your local independent garden center.
The warm spring has the plants popping up early and one of those plants is the peony, but it isn’t the herbaceous peony that is showing up, it is the tree peony. Carol Adelman met us at Adelman Peony Gardens (503-393-6185) and talk to us about the tree peonies in bloom. These beauties are showing up early because of the heat and the herbaceous peonies are not far behind. The difference between the 2 types is that the tree peony doesn’t die back to the ground in the fall. This one has stems that look like trunks. They have a ‘bark’ look to them, where the herbaceous peonies have fleshy stems that completely disappear in the fall. You don’t prune back the stem of the tree peony. You wait until spring and then cut off the dead branches that show up when the new growth appears. If you do need to cut back the tree peony, expect to wait a year or two before the blooms make their return. Another thing about the tree peony, they usually have a larger bloom, with some getting as big as 12 inches across. They have the same requirements as the herbaceous peony, they like the same amount of moderate water and fertilizer.
If you want to see these tree peonies, Adelman’s will be open for their season in the next week or so. Be sure to call or check their website for dates and times when they will be open. We’ll be back in a few weeks to see the rest of their blooms once the season is in full swing.
TOW – Raised Bed Cat Deterrent
We have a great way to exclude cats from your raised beds. One way is to buy bird netting and stretch it over the bed. However, you have to pay attention to when the plants start to grow, because if they get too big, you will tear them up as you take off the netting. So we have another way that's a little bit easier. You just need some push-pins and some kind of line. Put the pins in at intervals on the wood, and stretch it across in a zigzag. You can also use fishing line, which can be reused year after year. Once the plants are big enough that the cats won't bother them, you can remove the line.
Oregon Garden Monarchs
Monarch butterflies have been in the news a lot in the past few years. Because of increased use of pesticides, loss of habitat and interruption of their migratory routes we have seen a huge decline in their numbers, but there is still something the home gardener can do to help. The Oregon Garden (503-874-8100) is a huge supporter of not just plants, but also the species that surround those plants. We stopped by the garden and talked to Delen to talk about what is happening to the butterflies and what the garden is doing to promote their return. Delen told William that the home gardener can plant a variety of plants, including nectar plants for the adult stage of the Monarch life cycle, including their migration. More importantly they should plant milkweed for the caterpillar stage of their lives. This plant is what they need for those early weeks of their life.
For those of us that want to learn more about the Monarch and the plants they need, the garden is hosting a seminar on April 30th. Kris Hendricks and Barbara Slott of the Elkton Community Education Center are passionate about sharing the importance of monarch butterflies and the milkweed they depend on. Attendees will learn about the lifecycle, identification and preservation of this beautiful species during an educational presentation and view a demonstration garden that teaches home gardeners how to help create "butterfly waystations" in their own yards and community. A selection of milkweed starts will also be available for sale. The seminar is free for garden members, and discounted for others if you call the garden early. The cost of the ticket also includes admission to the garden! For more information contact the Oregon Garden and soon you may be welcoming Monarchs to your backyard!
Shoe and Tool Caddy
We found cool tool organizer on-line that we just had to share! We found that if you take a normal clear plastic shoe caddy and hang it in your garage or shed, you can make it a great tool caddy. If you put your tools in the caddy in a predetermined order you will always know when there is a tool missing. By using a clear plastic caddy, you will always see where your tools are located. Just be sure to store your tools with the tips pointed up to keep them from punching holes in the plastic. The best part, you can still use it as a shoe caddy if you put your garden clogs in the bottom slots!
Gardening is very healthy for you in more ways than one. It is well known that working in your garden can help you relax and promote good overall mental health, but did you know that there are lot of beneficial properties from plants for your physical wellbeing? One of our local experts in medicinal plants is Laura Altvater at Portland Nursery (503-231-5050) on Stark. She joined us in the greenhouse with just a few of the plants that have known health benefits. We started with a Rosa rugosa. This is a species rose that has many beneficial parts to it. You can use the rose petals in teas which is good for your heart. The rose hips can be used in making jams and jellies. Rose hips are very high in vitamin C which is great for your immune system. Next we looked at a mahonia also known as Oregon Grape. The roots of this plant can be used in a tea as well to help you deal with phlegm and getting over a cold. Laura then had a bag of yarrow that she had dried. This plant is good for stopping bleeding. You just chew a small piece of the plant and apply it to small cuts and scrapes to stop the flow of blood. It can also be used in teas for fevers and colds. Elderberries were next and they have a couple of uses. The flowers can be used in teas for colds and the berries can be made into a syrup which will strengthen your immune system. Calendula was next. Laura harvested the bright yellow flowers to use in oils and salves. This is used for its antimicrobial properties so it is great for scrapes and wounds. This was just a small sampling of the plants that you will find in our area that have medicinal uses. If you are interested in more information she recommended a few books including ‘Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West’ by Michael Moore. You can also stop by either location of Portland Nursery to get some tips.
Spring is wildflower time in the Columbia River Gorge. The problem in the past has been knowing when to head up for the best flower show! That was the problem that led Greg Leif to start the Oregon Wildflowers website. If he went too early or too late he was always missing peak bloom. This website is a great resource for the hiker. It covers most of the public trails in the gorge and around most of Oregon and SW Washington, and since it is interactive people are constantly updating the site with reports so you know when fields are blooming. We found our field of blooms at the Mosier Plateau in the gorge. The fields were full of Northwest Balsam Root and Columbia Gorge Lupine, and a host of other flowers, all showing off. The website is a great resource!
The Mosier Plateau is actually owned by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust. We also met with Rick Ray from the Land Trust to learn more about their mission. The trust purchases land from interested private parties and then work to make sure that they stay wild and native, or they hand them over to groups or governmental agencies. Rick told us that they are also working to develop plans that connect everything in the gorge to create a web of connections between all these trails and towns. This will help preserve the land and create economic opportunities for the communities. They are always looking for help and support. If you would like to get involved you can contact he trust at www.GorgeFriends.org.
If you are looking to go organic, it might seem like a daunting task. There are so many choices on the market! To help sort it out we stopped by to talk to the local experts on organic gardening, Concentrates Inc. (800-388-4870). We met with Heather at their store in Milwaukee and she talked us through the steps for using organics. First of all she recommended that you get your soil tested. It is always good to know what your soil needs before you throw more stuff on it. They have information in their store to help you get started and you will probably save a lot of money by doing this because you won’t be adding more fertilizer than you need. Then once you have the soil test done, they can help you pick the right ingredients for you garden. Some of the types of amendments you will find include kelp meal which is good for overall plant health, feather meal or cotton seed meal are good for adding nitrogen to your soil. Another amendment that is high in nitrogen is blood meal which is very popular. We also looked at bone meal. Some people believe that if you use this your dogs will dig around the plants that have it, but that is not true. In fact, it is high in phosphorus which makes it good for your roses and tomatoes. If you would like more information about organics and how to use them you can stop by and pick up some of their informational handouts or sign up for a class. They make using organics easy.
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.