Is summer ending? We are closing in on the last days of summer as we approach Labor Day. Still the calendar says we have about four more weeks to enjoy before the official beginning of fall. These are the days of the harvest. The late season crops are starting to come in. Apples, pears, zucchini, tomatoes, and others, are filling up our veggie drawer in the fridge. It is the time to enjoy and even think about long term storage. We’ll be featuring canning stories in the next couple of weeks, so for now, just keep on enjoying your fresh fruits and vegetables.
This week we featured...
Jan’s August Tips
This month we were out in Jan McNeilan’s garden for the tips of the month. Her vegetable garden was looking tremendous, but if you looked closely you could see where the summer has taken its toll. We started by one bed that had been cleared out of vegetables. Jan told us that she was going to plant some red clover there. Red clover is a great cover crop to help reenergize a garden over the winter. The clover is a nitrogen fixing plant. That means it helps return nitrogen to the soil when it grows. The clover plants also help the soil from becoming too compacted from winter rains. Jan was planting the seed now so it had plenty of time to germinate and grow before the colder temperatures of fall. We also noticed the raised bed right next to that one was full of flowers. Jan had planted a flower seed pollinator mix. This bed full of flowers was buzzing with a bunch of happy bees. She told us that this bed helps attract more pollinators to her garden since vegetables don’t always have a huge amount of blooms to attract them. This means her production of vegetables tends to be higher. Speaking of vegetables, we noticed that one of her tomato plants was wilted and dying. The strange thing about that was, there was a nice healthy plant next to it. Jan told us that the stricken tomato had a mole tunneling underneath it. She had left the tomatoes on the plant because they will continue to ripen and can be harvested later. It shows that you can have a healthy plant and some critters will kill it anyway! Still talking about veggies, we saw a couple of cucumbers that had a nice shape at the bottom and were small and twisted at the top. This was due to a lack of consistent watering. If your zucchini, cucumbers and squash have this weird deformity, it is because the consistent watering wasn’t there when they were fruiting. They are still good to eat, but they might be a little bitter, another characteristic of uneven watering.
The next thing we saw was kinda weird because it looked like a dog had gotten sick in her garden. It was actually ‘Dog Vomit Slime Mold’. It looked like a huge pile of dog vomit and is very common. It can be different colors but it is harmless in your garden. The fungus is just digesting the organic material in your wood chips or garden mulch. Finally we talked about her crop of kale. It was going crazy and the leaves looked great. Jan was going to harvest those leaves now before the powdery mildew and leaf miners got to them. Since she had such a large crop she was going to make kale chips out of them. This is a recipe she shared with us a couple of years ago and they are truly easy to make. Just clean the leaves, removing the woody center stems. Dry them and spread them out on a cookie sheet, add some olive oil, sea or kosher salt and some nutritional yeast for some extra flavor. Then put them in an oven heated at around 300 degrees for 10-20 minutes. Check them until they are the crispness you like.
The late summer is a great time in the veggie garden. Get out there and have fun harvesting. For more great garden tips, check out the OSU Extension website at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/.
Swan Island Dahlia History
This is the time of year when the dahlias are in full glory, and when you think of dahlias, you think of Swan Island Dahlias (800-410-6540) in Canby. Canby? It is a question that the owners, the Gitts family, get all the time. People are always wondering where does the name come from since they are nowhere near Swan Island in north Portland. Nick Gitts joined William to explain the history of the company and the family. The original business was operated out of an office on Swan Island by the McCarter family starting in 1927. They grew their dahlias originally in the Sellwood area of Portland and eventually moved to Canby. Nick’s father was a dairy farmer who grew dahlias as a hobby and opened a small stand to sell dahlias along with running the dairy farm. In 1963 the McCarters decided to sell the flower business and Nick Senior, now a lover of dahlias, purchased it. Currently the Gitts family has made San Island Dahlias the largest grower of dahlias in the United States. They grow on nearly 40 acres of ground and produce over 350 different varieties of dahlias that they have for sale at the farm and through their website.
The signature event that we know them for is the big festival that happens the last weekend of August and Labor Day weekend. Nick reminded us that the festival happens on Saturday, Sunday and Mondays of those last 2 weekends of summer. This year that would be August 24th to the 26th and Labor Day weekend August 31st and September 1st and 2nd. During that time you can tour their indoor display rooms and see over 15,000 cut flowers in over 400 floral displays. This area is open between 10am and 6pm during those weekends. On those same days of the festival you can stop by this free event and enjoy the fields of blooms, live music, beer and wine, and wonderful food vendors. They also have free flower arranging (at 1pm) and tuber dividing classes (between noon and 4pm). As I mentioned before, it is all free! This year they are asking a favor from everyone who comes to the festival. They would like visitors to bring a can of food or a non-perishable food item to donate to the Canby Center.
This festival has been a consistent ‘must see’ for residents and visitors every year so don’t miss it.
Sebright Gardens – Jewel Box
What do you have in your Jewel Box? Some old rings and pendants? How about checking out our jewel box? We stopped at Sebright Gardens (503-463-9615) where they are hosting the annual Jewel Box Sale of the Cascade Nursery Trail this Saturday. The Cascade Nursery Trail is a group of small but unique nurseries that offer some really cool plants! In the spring everyone is looking for some great blooming plants, but now you can find plants that will reward you with wonderful late summer and early fall color and texture.
Thomas from Sebright brought out a huge selection of plants for us to talk about. We started with some great late summer bloomers, hibiscus and Rose of Sharon. These plants, like ‘Tie Dye’ and ‘Red Heart’, are loaded with colorful blooms. Tie Dye gets huge and will die back every year, to return in the mid-summer with hug blooms again. Red Heart is a perennial that stays small and is covered in smaller, bright blooms. We then moved to some smaller perennials like the pulmonaria with early spring blooms and unique spotted foliage the rest of the year, and the Heucheralla ‘Mojito’ with tiny flower spikes and wonderful green and burgundy foliage, and the Beesia with foliage that looks great all year long and almost looks plastic with thick leaves.
Of course, no trip to Sebright would be complete without looking at ferns and hostas. Thomas had 3 ferns for us to check out. The ‘Golden Zebra’ had sword like leaves with a bright yellow ‘zebra’ pattern down the center of the leaves. Fern – cristata ‘The King’ had cool fronds that had little crests on top of tiny leaves. Finally, we saw the Brake Fern ‘White Striped Cretan, with near all white foliage with a green edge. All were truly unique and would be a perfect spark for any shady garden! We finished with a hosta that can tolerate a little more sun than most hostas. This one, ‘Invincible’ is fragrant as well.
If you would like to see these and a whole lot of other wonderful plants check out the Jewel Box sale today only, Saturday the 24th at Sebright Gardens, featuring the members of the Cascade Nursery Trail. There will be food vendors and even wine tasting! Stop by between 9am and 3pm for a great time.
Dramm Hose Connectors
Recently we broke a hose connector at our outdoor faucet. This connector was under constant strain from our constant pulling and tugging as we made our way through the garden. That is when we learned about some new hose connections from our friends at Dramm. The first thing we found was a Hose Protector and Extender. This little connection was a short piece of reinforced hose that you can attach to your hose bib. Not only does it move and bend when you pull your hose, taking all the abuse, it also extends the connection to your hose so it is easier to attach your garden hose without scraping your knuckles on your house!
The second product from Dramm was their ‘Quick Connect’ system. These connectors allow you to switch watering attachments and hoses from your hose bib quickly and without screwing and unscrewing hoses! You just snap in or snap out your watering tools!
Heidi Dramm Becker sent a note to us pointing out that these connectors are great for elderly gardeners or those with physical challenges too. They allow some gardeners to continue gardening even if their mobility or lifestyles change. You can see all of these products on the Dramm website, or you can look for the colorful Dramm display at your local garden center.
RWPC – Water Sources
Do you know where your water comes from? With summer here and all the water usage, it was a question we had to ask. To get our answer, we met with Tacy Steele who was representing the Regional Water Providers Consortium and the City of Hillsboro Water Department. We met at Fern Hill Reservoir where a lot of the 350,000 plus people in Washington County get their water. She told us that, during the summer, people use 2 to 3 times more water than they do in the winter. This usage is due to increased water usage for our gardens and lawns. The summer also creates problems for water providers because of the lack of rain filling our streams and other water sources. To combat this demand for summer water they have built two 20 million gallon reservoirs to help meet the need. During the winter they may only use one full reservoir a day, during the summer that usage can be 3 times that amount per day.
This was only what one water district has done. If you are interested in learning about other districts (and maybe your own), you can go to the Regional Water Providers Consortium website at www.Regionalh2o.org and click on the ‘Our Region’s Water’ link to learn more about where your water comes from. While there you can also get tips on efficient water usage in your home and garden, and even download a guide to ‘Water Efficient Plants of the Willamette Valley’. So enjoy your summer, but be aware of your water usage and help save this precious resource.