Welcome to another Garden Time and another week of cold and wet weather! The spring is off to a roaring start. Not only are we still getting colder weather, it is now accompanied by hail and thunderstorms. Then the sun comes out and it looks like spring has finally arrived. Let's just hope that we get more of the sun and less of the cold and rain soon!
Even though the spring is colder it isn't keeping people from getting out and planting. We are still getting out and planting, cleaning and prepping our gardens for the wonderful summer. We get a little taste of it this weekend for Easter. Hopefully, this is the start of better weekends ahead.
The cooler weather has done one thing. It has made the bloom hang on a little longer. We noticed that when we went out to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. Check out our story and then head that direction for some fun Easter festivities!
Jan's April Tips
The cooler weather is not keeping Jan McNeilan out of the garden and it shouldn't keep you out either! We met Jan under her flowering plum for this month's garden tips. The flowering tree brought up a question about all our fruiting plants. The blooms this year seem to be more prolific than in the past. Jan told us there might be two reasons behind that. First, we have had a rough winter so everything bright and sunny just looks better! The other reason is because the cold may have shocked some of our flowering trees and fruiting plants. They got stressed and that caused them to push out lots of blooms thinking that they need to reproduce before they die! Either way just enjoy the wonderful blooms, and maybe you'll get more fruit this summer! Speaking of trees, Jan had some thoughts about the recent wind storm. People are wondering why these tall, healthy tree fall over in the storm. It has to do with team work! There are strength in numbers. A large grove of trees can handle the wind and stormy weather better than a single tree. They help each other by buffering the wind so no one tree has to face it alone. When you start to cut down trees, it makes the 'stand' less likely to handle the brunt of the storm. Jan had an example in her neighborhood. Someone took down some trees, down the street from her. Without their protection soon other trees began to fail and fall. Her advice? Check with a certified arborist before you remove your trees. The arborist can also help remove and thin dead and diseased branches so you won't have as many problems in the future. Trees may still fall, by disease or other means, but at least you will reduce your risk.
We then moved to a much happier topic of vegetable starts! Jan warned that it is still too cold to move your tender veggie starts into the garden. Keep them indoors with good water and lots of light. The soil temperatures are just not warm enough. To get a better idea about when to plant and other vegetable gardening tips you can get the Grow Your Own brochure from OSU Extension. It lists frost dates for all of Oregon, so your plants won't freeze! Judy also noticed slugs and snails showing up in her garden. Jan mentioned that the best time to treat for those guys is in the fall. They lay about 100 eggs each and then they can also burrow down to avoid the frost, so they are not affected as much from the cold as other pests. Once again she recommended looking for them and baiting with an appropriate slug bait. There are lots of natural and organic solutions, pet and kid safe too, so check your garden center for the right product for you. Also, when you are in the garden you should be tackling those weeds. During the spring they are new and small, later in the summer those weeds get big and the drier ground makes it tougher to pull them out.
Finally, we talked about the importance of garden mulch. If you are thinking about applying garden much she recommended that you wait a little bit until the ground gets warmer, so the mulch doesn't trap the cold
near the surface. Don't avoid mulch, in fact it is one of the best things you can do for your garden. It suppresses weeds and brings more nutrients to your plants. For more gardening tips, you can always check out the OSU Extension website, http://extension.oregonstate.edu.
Plant Pick - Little Prince Ferns
People are always asking for cool and interesting plants for those shady areas in their garden. If you mention ferns, the image is of a typical sword fern that you might see in the forest, but there are so many more varieties that you can choose from! Mark from Little Prince of Oregon invited us to stop by Thicket Outdoor Living (503-926-3817), a small garden center in NE Portland to check out some really unique and interesting selections of ferns that are available on the market. We started with an 'Autumn Fern'. These are cool because of their wonderful orange/yellow foliage that changes to green and then to red in the fall. The next two ferns didn't look like ferns at all. Siebold's Wood Fern has wide solid leaves that look great in a shady spot in the garden. The other one was Hart's Tongue Fern, with undulating wide leaves which is also very 'un-fern' like. One fern that you should try if you have the room is the Jeweled Chain Fern. This one gets BIG, with fronds that are 6 to 8 feet long. These fronds are also a wonderful color with reds, oranges and greens all on the same frond. We move to a Ghost Fern next. It gets its name from the light and airy foliage and the silvery color of the fronds. Adria, the owner of Thicket, brought in one of her favorites, a Maidenhair Spleenwort. It is a small delicate fern that can dry out a little without damaging it. It looks really great in mass plantings since it won't take over your garden.
As far as fern maintenance for the spring. You can take off all the old fronds and just leave the new fronds to unfurl for the season. If you are looking for a way to display lots of ferns and other woodland plants you should try a stumpery. This is an old log or stump that you plant with forest plants and just let it decay with these cool plants growing out of it. These ferns are so diverse you can find a place for them in any shady spot in your garden. For more information on where to get them you can check out the Little Prince website, or check out their Facebook page.
Stakes and Plant Supports
No one likes floppy flowers! Especially in the garden. We all have grown beautiful plants in the garden only to have them flop over in the middle of summer when the blooms got too big. To remedy that we stopped
by our local garden center to see what we could pick up. Our first support was a large round ring from Garden Gallery Iron Works in Hubbard. It helps hold up large stands of peonies, dahlias and gladiolus. You simply train the plant through the rings as it grows. William also said that it would be great for ornamental grasses. When they get big it holds them steady and then you can enjoy their late season foliage. Another stake was the 'Y-stake'. This one has a solid stake that you push into the ground and the top wires split into a 'Y' shape that you can wrap around your plants to keep them upright. The third stake was for more of a long single bloom. This was a garden stake with a loop at the end of it. If you are growing a plant with just one or two flowering stems, then this one is for you. Finally we looked at a grid support. This is one that you need to place now around your peonies and irises. You lay it flat on the ground with the plants new growth buds poking through the grid. As the plant grows you simply raise the grid to keep your plant up-right. It works great!
Thinking about plant supports now will help your flowers from flopping all summer long!
You don't need a huge garden to enjoy fresh grown edibles. All you need is a container, some quality soil and some shorter growing varieties of fruits and vegetables. To get an idea of the variety of vegetables that you can grow on your deck or patio we stopped by the new Al's Garden and Home in Wilsonville (503-855-3527). There we met with Mark Bigej by a table full of plants. The main difference between a patio garden and a large 'in-ground' garden is watering. You will need to keep an eye on moisture in your pots, because the plants will tend to dry out a little quicker than if they were in the ground. We started by talking about tomatoes. Yes, you can grow tomatoes in containers. You should check to see if the varieties you choose are determinant or in-determinant. Determinant will grow to a certain height and then stop. The in-determinant will just keep growing with long vines. Those could take over your patio if you let them. Mark also recommends you use a tomato cage to hold them up and also a good fertilizer and lime to prevent blossom end rot. Herbs are also great for patios and decks. When you grow herbs you will find that you will use them more. You can just step outside and pick them fresh for your dinner or salads. Cilantro, mint and basil are all great for containers. Strawberries are also wonderful for a pot. Look for an everbearing variety like Seascape. These will give you waves of berries all summer long, instead of one big crop in June. A few last recommendations from Mark. Use a quality organic fertilizer, he had some Espoma products that they have available. Also if you are confused at which varieties to look for, they have a little 'patio friendly' logo on their plant tag showing plants that will work well in those smaller spaces. If you are looking for help you can stop at any of their 4 locations!
Plus this weekend they are having a tomato sale on 1 gallon tomatoes going on right now, only $2.49 each!
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
We visited the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm for the Annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest (1-800-711-2006). This event showcases the fields full of beautiful tulip blooms. This year the colder weather has everything running late! Barb Iverson met Judy out in the fields to see the blooms. Even with the cooler weather they were really starting to pop. The festival is always changing and this year is no different. Last year they had added a wine tasting room to their facilities. This year they have also added a second field of flowers so people don't get too bunched up. There is more room to wander. Another thing that has become popular is the Steam Tractor Spark Show on April 22nd. This is an evening event that features those wonderful antique steam tractors. During the event they burn hazel nut shells that throw sparks into the air. It is quite a display. That event takes place after the normal business hours. There is another way where you can come early or stay late in the fields and that is with a season pass. This pass is good for the whole season and you can use it as many times as you like . Plus you will be able to get into the fields an hour before sunrise and stay an hour after sunset.
Still, this is a festival about the blooms! One area that we found interesting was the small display areas out in the fields. These areas featured all of the bulbs that they have planted in the field. You can take a look at these bulbs and compare them side by side. Once you figure out what you want, you can order them for next year. Also, if you are confused about which ones to get, you can order special prepackaged mixes of bulbs. This guarantees that you will have a nice combination of bulbs that will continue blooming for months. The flower fields are just hitting their peak and the farm is full of events and it is still a must see for anyone, even non-flower lovers. Every weekend they are packed with different activities including a wooden shoe carver, pony rides, arts and crafts, and other entertainment for a small fee. Even when the weather is a little damp, the fields never disappoint. You can even check out their 'field report' link on their webpage for the most up-to-date bloom report. Bring a camera; this is a scene you have to capture on film!
While you are there, you can pick up the Garden Time tulip. It is a must have for any garden!
Call 811 Before You Dig
There is no better feeling than turning some soil in your garden. That feeling will disappear quickly if you dig into a utility line. We found out that there is a new, easy way to avoid this problem. Scott from NW Natural Gas told us about the 811 number. This number is a nationwide number to help homeowners and businesses locate buried utility lines so you can stay out of trouble. The 'Call Before You Dig' program is not new, but people still don't know much about it! One call will help you locate any line. If you don't call you can be held liable for the damages of cutting a line. Besides, it is the right thing to do! Just call 811 two
business days before you dig.
Bats and Bat Houses
Talk about a bad rap! Bats in the garden! A lot of people are afraid of bats and would prefer them to stay away from their gardens, but they would be better served to invite more of these hungry little insectivores to their backyards. We stopped by Backyard Bird Shop in West Linn (503-303-4653) and met with Mitch again to learn more and dispel some of the rumors. One of the big rumors is that they will chase you or get stuck in your hair. Both false. They are just flying around and looking for bugs, and they will keep their distance. They are also no more likely to carry rabies than any other mammal. The best way to attract these little guys is by creating a welcoming place for them. That includes a source of water nearby, and a nice house to live in. Bat houses are not like bird houses. Bats fly into a house from the bottom. They will climb up inside and rest for most of the day and only emerge at dusk to hunt. The rest of the time you probably won't notice them. The common Little Brown Bat can cram a couple dozen of his relatives into one house. They are social and like tight spaces. They also like heat, which is why you should place your bat house about 12 to 15 feet off the ground, protected from the wind and facing south towards the sun. Keep it away from trees and limbs so they fly unobstructed and away from predators. The best part about having bats in your neighborhood? You will notice a difference in the amount of bug bites you will get. In our neighborhood we hardly use any bug spray at all! For more information on bats and how to make them welcome, stop by any Backyard Bird Shop location.
Mole Cinch Traps
One of the most common pests in the NW garden is the mole. They can really tear up your flower bed and lawn. There are lots of products out there to deter them. Don Sprague of Don Sprague Sales and Garden Gallery Iron Works (1-800-423-0158) has found that most of them don't work too well. The products that don't seem to work include the vibrators, the home remedies, and the gases and bombs. And with some of these products you may be doing more harm to your garden than the moles. The problem with getting rid of moles, if you don't remove them, they will just leave and will return later. The best way of getting rid of moles is to trap them. Don showed us how to use the Cinch Trap. The Cinch Trap is VERY effective. This product will trap them and remove them forever.
We want to let our viewers know that in the State of Washington it is illegal to trap moles under penalty of law. Check with your local garden center for other types of deterrents.
Tip of the Week - Bad Gas
Our tip of the week comes to us from our friends at Stihl Tools. Wayne Sutton from Stihl told us about the importance of keeping fresh gas in our power tools and equipment. He recommended 89 or higher octane rated fuels that are not more than 30 days old. Gas gets weaker as it ages and weak gas creates most of the problems a homeowner will encounter in their power equipment. For other power tool tips check out the Stihl website.
Terra Casa Outdoor Accessories
You are getting your deck, patio and garden ready for the late spring and summer and you notice things are just not right! You may need to add a few accessories to your garden. Just like accessorizing anything else in your home or wardrobe, sometimes you need to add a few things to make you yard warm and welcoming. To get some ideas we stopped at Terra Casa (503-577-8242) in Damascus to talk to Diana. We started by looking at coolers, but these were not just ordinary coolers, these were coolers with style! They were large coolers made from recycled metal from Vietnam. They were made into the shapes of cars, trucks and trailers. The metal artwork also was made into planters, animal shapes and wall art. It was very bright and colorful. We also looked at outdoor tables and settings. When you entertain outside you want durable tables, chairs, linens and fixtures, and Terra Casa has a nice selection of these. Speaking of durable, we saw some Adirondack Chairs that are so well built that they will last for decades, plus they were as colorful as the metal art. Finally, we checked out a garden accessory that is pleasing to both the eye and the ear, a fountain. Terra Casa has one of the best selections of pottery in the area. They can take any piece of that pottery and make it into a wonderful fountain. With all the textures and colors of the pots, you can create a visual centerpiece for any space. They can also set it up and come back to winterize it in the fall too! Take the time and make the short trip to Terra Casa and create a beautiful space inside and outside your home.
We hear of new tool introductions every year, but every so often we discover a new tool that really stands out. Recently we were introduced to the Sow EZ (http://www.sowez.com) a precision hand seeder which will make one of our spring jobs a lot easier. We met with Earl Weber, a local man, who is the designer of the seeder, and good friend Nadia. This tool is based on the same principle as a large seeder that you can use in a field. The problem with the large seeder is with dealing in smaller seeds and tight spaces. This tool addresses those problems. The Sow EZ has a wheel which you can turn to handle smaller seeds, and by just squeezing the handle you can get a single seed to pop out. It is so smooth. It is great and will save us time when we are planting this spring. If you would like to get your hands on this new tool you can check out their website or order one through Territorial Seed.