We are happy with the rain, aren’t you? We had a nice couple of weeks of great weather to get out and do a little garden cleanup and planting. Now with the rain we have a little break to clear the pollen out of the air. Also it is a great time to get to the local garden center to pick up some plants for the next round of good weather that is sure to come. Of course, we have masks with us and we are going to practice some good social distancing when we do make our trip to the nursery. We recommend that you do the same.
Also, as you get outside, we want you to know that it may a little cool for your tender vegetables in some parts of the state. Make sure you check for the last frost date for your area. If you are in the Portland Metro area here is a chart to help you, http://www.multnomahmastergardeners.org/sgp-frostdates.
Remember, gardening is not cancelled, so get out in your garden and enjoy the spring.
This week we featured...
Al’s Victory Garden
One old phrase that has taken on a new meaning is ‘Victory Gardens’. Victory Gardens were popular during World War II and the Korean War, and Jack Bigej from Al’s Garden and Home (503-726-1162) saw that first hand with his family while growing up. Victory Gardens were planted to help families cope with vegetable shortages and to provide extra nutrition during those tough times, and people are seeing similar reasons for starting them today. He joined Ryan to talk about how to start a Victory Garden. Jack told us that you don’t need a lot of land to start a victory garden. You can use a pot and plant some of your favorite vegetables or if you had a small raised bed you could grow even more. He said it was amazing how much produce you can get from a small plot if you just did a little planning. He brought up the example of planting a determinate variety of tomato. A determinate plant will only grow a certain height and then stop, while an indeterminate will just keep growing and take over an area. Those ‘determinate’ tomato plants will give you lots of tomatoes without a lot of vines and leaves. Lettuces are great too. You can plant and replant lettuces all summer long to get fresh salads on your table. They grow quickly and are easy to take care of. Onions are also good. They can be planted in between other crops and take up hardly any room at all. The same is true with seed potatoes. For every little piece of potato, you will get about 20 fold back at the end of the season. The timing of planting is key. You can start with some of your early crops now like peas, onions, potatoes, carrots and lettuce. Then follow it with tomatoes, cilantro and peppers in the late spring, and then with some of your ‘cole’ crops for fall like broccolis, cauliflowers and root crops like beets. Plus, don’t forget your fruits. Strawberries don’t take up much room and blueberries make great landscape plants for your other parts of your garden. Dwarf fruit trees, raspberries and blueberries can also provide fruits without taking up a lot of room.
If you would like to try to grow your own food, whether a little or a lot, you can check with the experts at your local, independent garden center or any of the 4 Al’s Garden and Home locations.
French Prairie Gardens Spring Plants
Spring is all about color, whether in your garden beds or in your hanging baskets. To see what is new this season we stopped by French Prairie Gardens (503-633-8445) near St. Paul (via Zoom) to talk to Stacy about what they had new for the 2020 season. The first thing we talked about was the Skyscraper series of salvias. These are taller and hardier versions of salvia. Last year they had a couple of colors and this year they have more colors to choose from. Roman Red was the first one we saw and it is REALLY red. There is also a new dark purple one called ‘Purple in Bloom’. These are in addition to the orange and pink versions that are hummingbird magnets! If you deadhead the old bloom spikes off when they are done and continue summer fertilizing, you will get blooms all summer long. Another plant that is getting more attention this year is the Night Sky petunia. This is another series of plants where more colors have been introduced to the market. There are purple, burgundy and pink colored blooms. The fun thing about these petunias are the color spotting on the petals that look like stars against the night sky. These can be planted in hanging baskets or even planted in the ground, in fact French Prairie Gardens has them in baskets and they can match those with ones for your garden too.
Speaking of hanging baskets, they are trying out some new combos this year on the farm. Pinks and reds in one basket are making a bold statement that looks spectacular! Stacy also told us that this is the perfect time to get your sun or shade hanging basket. With the cooler temperatures the plants grow slowly and so they stay fuller and don’t get too straggly or leggy. Once the growing season is in full swing, you will also want to give these a weekly watering of water soluble fertilizer to keep those blooms coming.
If you want to make a trip out to the farm you can get a lot more than some blooming plants. They also have fresh vegetables, meats, bakery items and lots of canned and bottled treats to enjoy. You can also get all your gardening stuff including fertilizers, soils and containers. They can even do your shopping for you if you want, just contact the store or check out their website for details!
Margie’s Succulent Container
Succulents are a hot garden item. They are pretty hardy and very easy to care for. What is great is that they can work into any garden or container. To see how easy they are we called on Margie at Margie’s Farm and Garden (503-866-6123) to put together a container for us. She had picked some tender succulents which can be outside for the summer and then moved inside for the fall and winter. She had started with a nice large center piece of Euphorbia ‘Fire Stick’ with nice bright colors. Then she started to mix in other colors and textures of succulents into the pot. The rules of planting a normal container also can be used on this pot; the Thriller (the tall center plant) the Filler (those medium sized plants of different colors and textures) and the Spillers (those plants that hang over the sides of the pot to soften the edges). One of the cool spillers was the ‘Senecio rowleyanus’ also called String of Pearls. The key was to put plants that need the same growing conditions to survive in the same pot.
You can get a few larger plants to anchor the pot, but Margie also has smaller ‘plugs’ of plants that you can plug in anywhere in the container. You should plant these in a loose well-draining soil and, if they are outdoors, water them twice a week. Once they are established and are going back inside for the winter you can water them once a week or even twice a month! They don’t need a lot of water once established. Margie also added some decorative white rocks to her container which really made the succulents pop!
Margie’s is open for business right now and they are using extra precautions to keep everyone safe too. Check out their website to see some of steps they have set up for the nursery and then get out and build your own succulent container.
Terra Casa Garden 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. Well, we stopped at Terra Casa and found some accessories that are also great for the environment too. We are talking garden art! Diana at Terra Casa (503-577-8242) in Damascus walked Ryan around to show her some of the great art pieces that they have at the store. We started with spinners! These garden stakes are colorful and entertaining too. Different shapes and patterns attract the eye and a few even have lights in them for nighttime interest. Another colorful addition to the garden are the bright little mushroom stakes that can fill in those empty spots between your garden plants. Then there is the incredible art for ‘Think Outside’. You may have seen the 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, trailers and even animals. The metal artwork also was made into planters, animal shapes and wall art. It was very bright and colorful. They even have made a dog house that looks like it was pulled from a colorful children’s book! We can bet you’ll not find these at too many places and they do make a statement when you’re entertaining! Right now Terra Casa is open by appointment so give them a call and set up a time to drop by. Then you can create a beautiful space outside your home.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Update
As most of you know, the annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (1-800-711-2006) was cancelled this spring. However, that didn’t mean that the flowers stopped blooming! We checked in with Barb from Wooden Shoe to see how the sudden end to the festival was affecting them. We talked about how they were still able to share the color of the fields with people through their website and Facebook page. They posted still photos and video nearly every day. So at least we were able to see all the wonderful color. We also talked about how they were able, through generous gifts, to share the blooms and potted tulips with care facilities and first responders in our area. It was great to follow all the smiles being posted on various websites after a delivery of color to various groups!
Now with those deliveries done and the end of the bloom season approaching we wondered how people can care for their own flowers and how they can support Wooden Shoe. Barb suggested that people snap off the top of the blooms once the petals had dropped. This removing of the seed head focuses the energy from the plant to the bulb, making it stronger for next season. If you are looking to support Wooden Shoe, Barb recommended that you call their offices and place an order for next season. Their bulbs will be shipped in the fall and then you can plant them for some great spring color next year. You can also stop by their farm store and pick up a bottle of wine from their vineyards and some great CBD products from their sister company, Red Barn Hemp!
So even though the bloom season is coming to a close, you can still look forward to some great color next year and for years to come.
Grimm’s Spring Mulch
Now is the time to apply a good layer of mulch to your garden. Jeff Grimm from Grimm’s Fuel (503-636-3623) joined us to talk about the different types of mulches you can get for your garden beds this spring. We were looking to add some mulch to our garden this year and Grimm’s came out and blew a unit of it into our garden beds. No shovels or wheelbarrows for us! Jeff told us about all the different materials they offer. In the spring you can get gravel for pathways, wood chips for under your swing set and bark dust in all different styles and colors. Garden Mulch, which is what we got, is VERY nutritious, protects your top soil, prevents weeds and retains moisture. They also have top soil which will improve your beds and they even have a fine mulch that is great for renewing your lawn when you over-seed. In the fall and winter they can also supply your heating needs with wood for your fireplace or woodstove and heating oil for your furnace. If you need it, Grimm’s has it. Grimm’s has all this and can deliver them in bulk or even blow them in, as we found out, so the work is done and you save your back!
This year we had a great lemon year! We grow an Improved Meyer’s Lemon tree which is a variety that does well in our area (with some winter protection). This past winter we had over 30 lemons on our small tree. What do you do when life hands you that many lemons, you don’t make lemonade, you make Limoncello! Limoncello is an lemon liqueur from the south of Italy. It is the second most popular drink in Italy and is very easy to make. We started by cutting up the lemons into small wedges. Those were placed, tightly, into a wide mouth jar. Then we added grain alcohol in the jar to the top. You don’t have to use grain alcohol, you can use an unflavored vodka or another spirit, or even just water. Then we placed the jar in a cool dark place for a month. Every few days we would turn the jars to mix the lemons and alcohol. This would release the oils and juices from the lemons. After the month was up, we emptied the jar into a large strainer to separate the lemons and the infused alcohol. You save the alcohol for later. Next we made a simple syrup. This was 4 cups of water, 3 cups of sugar and then we added something different, a cup of honey. This was dissolved together in a pan over low heat. When everything was dissolved we added the lemons into the pan and using a potato masher we got as much lemon juice as possible from the lemons. We once again strained off the mixture adding it to the infused alcohol in a large bowl. That was strained and placed in bottles for us to enjoy all summer long. This is just one of the recipes you will find on the internet. If you would like to try something different, just type in ‘Limoncello recipes’ and see what you come up with!
Bonide Lawn Weeds
The return of the spring warmth also means the return of the dreaded lawn weeds. Broadleaf weeds and weedy grasses can easily take over your turf grass and take your yard from a thing of beauty to a weedy mess in no time! To get some help we stopped and talked to Tom Combs from Bonide. Bonide makes a lot of the garden products that you have come to trust in your yard. Today Tom decided to educate us about the most common weeds in your lawn. The first group were broadleaf weeds. These are weeds like clover and dandelions. You can tell a broad leaf weed because it has a branching of the veins in the leaves. These plants are called dicots. A grassy weed is a monocot and they have a straight vein along the center of the leaf. Crabgrass is a typical weed in this category.
To battle these weeds there are two different types of products to use. Tom brought out the ‘Weed Beater’ line of products from Bonide. The first was the ‘Weed Beater FE’. This is a natural weed control for broad leaf weeds and you can tell that by the tan edge on the label. The other product was ‘Weed Beater Ultra’. This one was a synthetic that also takes care of the broad leaf weeds. Both of these products need to be applied on a dry day and will need 3-5 hours to set on the plant with no rain or watering. Tom told us some other rules that you have to follow when you spray. First of all this product needs warmth to work. Average temperatures need to be above 65 for the product to work the best and be careful not to apply it when the temperature gets above 80. Try to spray on a day when there is no wind and be sure to not let it drift into your flower beds since it will damage your ornamental plants if you hit them. One more tip, walk backwards. By going to the farthest area first and walking backwards you are sure to not walk through the product and then transfer it to your flower beds if you walk through them.
Then Tom brought out a product for those monocot, weedy grasses. This product ‘Weed Beater Plus’ was a synthetic that takes care of the grasses and also handled the broadleaf weeds too. The rules for using this product were the same as for the other products. For more information on the complete line of Bonide products be sure to check out their website and while you are there you can download their Problem Solver’ app for your iPhone or Droid.
TOW – Cleaning Up Your Japanese Maple
Ryan traveled the long distance to his front year to get us our tip of the week. He stepped out to trim his Japanese Maple for the spring. Now you can prune your maple any time of year, but in the spring you can see the branches that are dead and the ones with new growth, making it easy to get rid of the old and make way for the new. This is just a simple pruning of your maple, if you haven’t taken care of your plant for quite a while, you may need to seek professional help. For that we recommend Bartlett Tree Experts (503-722-7267). They can do the big pruning jobs so your plants are something to be proud of.