COVID-19 AWARENESS: Please note that we are taking all necessary precautions to keep our on-air personalities, interviewees and crew safe during this challenging time. However, we do run repeat stories and segments that were shot earlier this year, before social distancing practices were recommended by health officials. If you see our hosts standing close to someone, please be assured that the segment was shot before March of 2020. We thank you for your concern and your interest in Garden Time.
Happy Labor Day weekend. The weekend celebrates workers and this year the spotlight needs to be brighter on them. There’s a lot of attention on front line workers, but let’s not forget the other workers that keep our country moving. Specifically in the garden area, we are talking about growers, suppliers, and plant vendors/retailers. Our gardens shine due to their efforts.
We hope you have a safe and fun weekend!
This week we featured...
FPP – Fall Color Grasses
Late summer and into fall the grasses in your garden really start to shine. For most grasses, the foliage has great colors and textures, plus you get those wonderful seed heads too. Kerry from French Prairie Perennials (503-679-2871) loves grasses and she brought out a few to share. She started with her favorite, Hakonechloa or Japanese Forest Grass. There are many different types, but they are all great in the garden. They stay low and in slow growing clumps. They are easy to maintain and they also have various colors and variegation. Behind those two grasses was the tall Japanese Bloodgrass. These have blades of blood red grass that are striking in the sunlight and really look great if you have a little breeze running through it. Another grass that has the wonderful dark foliage is the Purple Fountain Grass. This one is the only one on the table that is an annual and will not return next year. However, it is a great grass in the garden for the foliage color and for the soft and fuzzy seed heads. The cousin to the Fountain Grass, Pennisetum ‘Hameln’, was next on our list. This one is tall, green and perennial, but shares some of the same characteristics as its deep purple cousin. It also has those beautiful seed heads and is a clumping variety, so it won’t take over your garden. There were a couple of shorter grasses that we looked at next. The Carex or sedge family also have a large number of varieties on the market. The first one was ‘Blue Zinger’. This is a great grass when used as an accent plant for something darker or lighter in the garden. ‘Morrowii’ was next to the Zinger and had wonderful variegation and works well in a container. Speaking of variegation, the final plant we looked at was one that is a little weird, but very distinctive in the garden. Miscanthus ‘Gold Bar’ has its variegation running across the blades as opposed to along the length of the blades. This creates a cool zebra effect which is a real eye catcher!
Kerry told us that grasses are great as a transition plant in the garden. They are great for the late summer/fall garden, but they help make the transition into the winter with the great foliage and those wonderful seed heads that hold on though those winter breezes. If you would like to see these and many other types of grasses, perennials, trees and shrubs, stop by their location in downtown Aurora.
This year has been a record year for tomatoes. If you are having a record year for tomatoes, you might be thinking about preserving some for the year ahead. One way of doing that is to can them. We found some great canning instructions at the OSU Extension website. Let’s walk you through the steps, briefly, on how to can, though you can find the complete instructions at the website.
To start we picked tomatoes that were ripe or just getting ripe. You do not want to can over ripe fruit. If it has started to spoil it could taint the rest of the jar. We also picked a lot of different varieties for our canning. This will add different flavors and textures to our soups, salsas and stews. If you are making a sauce or ketchup you may want to stick with one variety.
There are 2 methods for canning a ‘hot pack’ method and a ‘raw’ or ‘cold pack’ method. We are doing the raw/cold pack method. Start by washing and sterilizing the jars, rings and lids. Boiling water is the best way of doing this. Make sure you check the jars for chips (don’t use those) and the rings for rust (don’t use those either). Next, fill your canner with water and start heating it to a boil. Fill another pot with boiling water for blanching your raw fruit. You will also need an ice bath for the fruit after it is blanched.
Now place the tomatoes in the hot blanching water for about a minute until the skins start to crack. Then remove them and place them in the ice bath. You can now remove the skins and cut out the stem cores. Take your sanitized jars and stuff the blanched, skin-less tomatoes in until it is filled to the neck of the jar. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the jar (to help preserve the fruit) and ¼ teaspoon of salt (this is for flavor). Then fill the rest of the jar with some of the blanch water to fill the jar to about ½ inch from the top of the jar. Run a butter knife or spatula around the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Put the sanitized lids on the top of the jar and secure with the rings till they are hand tightened.
Then you will place them in the canner full of water. Once they are lowered into the canning bath they should have about an inch of water covering the tops. Let them boil in the bath for 45 minutes. Once out of the bath, let them cool. You will hear the lids popping. This is a sign that they are sealing.
Once cool, mark the lid with the date and store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Now you can go to your pantry when you are working on your favorite recipe and enjoy the taste of summer long after the sunny days are gone!
If you have any questions about food preservation you can check out the OSU Extension website or you can call the Food Safety and Preservation Hotline at 1-800-354-7319.
Little Baja Container Tree Watering
Our tip of the week is from our friends at Little Baja (503-236-8834). Little Baja are the experts in containers. They sell terra cotta, concrete and glazed containers for the home gardener. One of the biggest questions they get this time of year is how do I keep my plants from dying. Wayne told us that the problem is water. When a tree or large shrub is in a container they are reliant on you to keep them watered. They cannot pull water from an extensive root system in the ground. Plus, when you water them, they need LOTS of water. A little bit on the top won’t make it to the roots. You have to give a large tree about 1-2 gallons of water every day during the heat of summer. This is especially true if you have a tender tree like a maple. An evergreen tree with needles will dry out slower and can make it by if you miss a day, but a maple if left alone can be damaged permanently.
Also, it does make a difference on the type of container you use in the garden. Concrete and glazed pots help to seal in the moisture, but a terra cotta pot breathes. That is what makes them so great for your plants (they stay healthier in Terra Cotta), but that also means that they can lose moisture faster too. The key is to pay attention and make sure your plants stay well hydrated. If you have any other questions about pottery, or statuary, stop by and ask our friends at Little Baja.
Cut Flower Dahlias
The late summer is dahlia time and a lot of people want to bring in all that wonderful color to enjoy indoors. To learn how to make your dahlias last the longest inside your home we stopped by Swan Island Dahlias (800-410-6540) in Canby to talk to Heather about some tips that they use to make their cut flowers last a long time. First we learned that you need to pick a bloom that is not quite at its peak. A peak bloom is just getting ready to fade and will not last as long as a fresher bloom. Also if you are going to cut a flower in bud, it may not bloom. Green buds don’t bloom, but one that has a little bit of color may reward you with some petals. She also told us to cut far down on the stem. They cut their flowers at least 18 to 24 inches down the stem. You will also want to cut using a sharp blade or pruner. Since the dahlia has a tubular stem you need a clean cut to avoid crushing the stem, and that helps with preserving the bloom after heat treating it, which is the next step.
At Swan Island they heat treat their fresh cut blooms in a couple inches of 160-180 degree water. You put the hot water in a bucket with your blooms well above the edge of the bucket. Boiling water is too hot, so make sure you have the right temperature before you put your blooms in the bucket. You want those blooms above the edge of the bucket so they don’t get boiled by the steam. Let them sit in the water for about an hour or until the water cools. Once you pull them out you will see a brown coloring at the base of the stem. This heat treatment open up the vascular system on the stem and the flower can take up more water, and last longer. You can cut off the brown part and the blooms will still stay in prime condition in your arrangement! There is one bloom that is hard to preserve and those are the Collarettes. These bloom have a flat petal surface and a large yellow center. They can sometimes lose their petals during this process.
If you usually pay a visit to the fields at this time of year for their festival, be aware that they had to cancel the festival, however you can still enjoy the fields, pick up some cut flowers, visit the gift shop and even grab a bite to eat (if one of their food vendors is on location). The fields are open until the end of September, 6 days a week. They are closed Wednesdays to restock and take care of the fields. So you have plenty of time to stop by and you don’t have to rush while you are there! For more information and protocols for a safe visit, check out their website or their Facebook page.
Bringing fruit into the backyard garden is something we are all trying to do and with the abundance of small and dwarf varieties it is easier than ever. But with some fruit, like pears, it is hard to know when to pick the fruit. This week we gave you a few tips on ripening pears that we picked up from a flyer we got from the OSU Extension Service. Look for a slight tenderness at the top of the pear where the stem is located. You can also lift the pear about 90 degrees and if it comes off the tree it is also ready. If there is a little ‘give’ pick the pear and then store it in your refrigerator (the time in the refrigerator depends on the variety of pear). Pears tend to ripen from the inside out and this will help even out the overall ripening of the fruit. If you follow a few simple rules you can have a sweet luscious pear that won’t be mealy or gritty!
Squirrels and Cones
Are you noticing a lot of cones in your backyard or garden? A friend of the show brought up the question when he noticed a huge amount in his garden. He also saw a bunch of cones dropping from the fir trees in the morning. We found out that it is squirrels! In our neighborhood it was a few Eastern Gray Squirrels, but a lot of Douglas Squirrels too. They nibble off the cones and let them drop to the ground. Once on the ground they can take the cone apart to get to the tasty seeds inside. The seeds are called ‘mouse tails’ because they look like the tail end of a mouse burrowing into the cone. A very cute name. Once they have the seeds you can see these busy little squirrels burying them in your garden beds, lawn and containers. The one thing we heard while researching this story was listed in the Old Farmers Almanac. They said that when there are a lot of cones and squirrel activity, it will be a colder and wetter winter. Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry, Will cause snow to gather in a hurry. We’ll see…
Blooming Junction Tea Plants
There is nothing like a relaxing cup of tea. Did you know that you can grow your own tea plant? We stopped by Blooming Junction (503-681-4646) and talked with Madeline to learn about that plant and a few others that you might not consider for your next ‘cuppa’ tea. The Camellia sinensis is the plant that is most commonly used for tea production. The new leaf growth of this evergreen shrub is the part of the plant that is used for tea. The leaves are picked and then dried to give us white, yellow, green, oolong and dark tea. The difference in processing these leaves gives us the different styles of tea.
There are other plants that Madeline also had to share that will spice up your tea drinking choices. Plants like Chamomile, lavender, and mint are classic herbs that many people have used in their cups. They can be crushed and used fresh, placed in water in the direct sun for ‘sun tea’, or dried and steeped in hot water to capture their delicious flavors. Some even use culinary herbs like sage and thyme for a different flavor. Other perennials that you might consider for tea include lemon verbena, lemon balm, Echinacea (which you can use the whole plant including leaves, stems and roots) and lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantine), a member of the mint family. Some of these perennials are also considered to have medicinal properties as well.
For more information on tea plants, be sure to check out their website or stop by and ask one of their great staff! Then relax with a nice, unique cup of tea!