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Happy spring! Today we recognize the changing of the seasons on the calendar, but for a lot of us the spring started on the first warm day a couple weeks ago. The weather people say that we are past the threat of severe weather, but that doesn’t mean that frost and cold temperatures will not be visiting us during the next couple of months. So even though we may be itching to get some plants in the ground, it is always good to check that last ‘frost date’ in your area to make sure you are not ‘jumping the gun’ on getting your garden going. In fact, in this week’s show we have tips from Jan and Blooming Junction to make sure that you get your timing down for a healthy start to your garden this season.
We also visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival to show you the modified system they have set up this year so you can enjoy the fields safely. Tulip time means spring is here!
This week we featured...
Jan’s March Tips
The spring is here and people want to get planting and active in their gardens. However, it is still a little too cold for most of your veggies and flowers. To learn why, we stopped by to visit with retired OSU Extension Agent, Jan McNeilan. Jan talked about how, even with the sun coming out and temps in the 60’s, it may be too cold in your soil for seeds to germinate and grow. Even warm weather vegetable starts would die in these temps. She recommended getting a soil thermometer so you know when to plant you garden safely without the threat of colder temperatures affecting plant growth. Once you have the thermometer you can now check your seed packets for the right temperature to plant your spring crops. Colder crop seeds can go in the ground in the next week or so, but the warmer crops like basil, tomatoes and cucumbers will have to wait to go into the ground. For those crops you can start those seeds indoors, either in your kitchen with lots of sunlight, or a greenhouse. In a few weeks, once the threat of frost is gone and the soil is warmer, they can finally go outside. If you want a great guide for starting your garden check out the Vegetable Gardening in Oregon from OSU Extension.
We also checked in on her lemon tree in the greenhouse. It had ripe fruit that was ready to pick. Once they are picked, Jan will fertilize the plant and get it ready for spring. After the last frost, it will go back outside for the summer. It already had a jump start of new blooms just ready to pop!
We then moved to the raised beds in the main garden. Out here the clean up from the winter ice storm was ongoing. The smaller fir branches were placed in the walkways between the beds. These will help keep the weeds down and there is no need to worry about making the ground more acidic when the branches break down, they are in the paths and not in the wonderful soil of the raised beds. Finally, Jan reminded us that the ice storm did damage, but we shouldn’t be in a hurry to do pruning on ‘damaged’ plants. Some plants may pop out of that damage and could actively grow again. If you were to cut back plants you could be cutting off this seasons blooms! Know your plants, do they bloom on new or old wood, and then wait to see if they start to show new growth later this spring.
For tips on spring gardening you can follow Jan on Facebook or check the OSU Extension website.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
One of the first signs of spring for many people is the annual appearance of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (503-634-2243) in Woodburn. Last year the festival was one of the first casualties of the Covid crisis. This year things are changed for the better! Karen from the farm joined us in the fields which were just starting to pop with color, to tell us about some of the changes. This year they will have a timed ticketed entry. You can go to their website and book your time and ticket there. Once you get to the farm you can visit one of two different fields of flowers. This will allow people to distance so they can feel safe visiting. Speaking of safe, the farm is following all of the State of Oregon guidelines for masks, crowds and distancing, so please bring your mask and be considerate of others. Of course Karen also reminded us of the ‘Field Report’ link on their website so you can see where they are in the bloom season and how close they are to peak bloom!
The fields are only part of the fun once you get there. To learn more we stopped by the gift shop to chat with Cassidy about some of the other opportunities for visitors to enjoy. Once you are on the grounds you can visit the gift shop, which is full of tulip and Dutch themed gifts. There are a limited amount of food vendors also on site if you get a little hungry after walking the fields, and you can also pick up Wooden Shoe wines or Reb Barn Hemp CBD products for your family. You can also pick up cut tulips and potted flowers to take home with you. There are other activities, but things are changing as protocols change, so go to their website to get the most updated information!
We are so happy the tulip festival has returned! Let the spring begin!
Early Spring Hellebores
The Hellebore is a mainstay of the early spring garden. Many older gardeners have had this plant in the garden for the wonderful early spring color, in fact some call her the ‘queen of the winter garden’. In the past few years new and old gardeners alike, have found some of the new varieties in the garden centers. Growers are working hard to bring us some new and exciting variations that can actually bloom in the early spring all the way through April. We met with Sara from Portland Nursery (503-788-9000) at the Division St store. She had some of the newer varieties from the garden center that are blooming now, and will continue to bloom for quite some time. The benefit of the hellebore is that it doesn’t take much care or special conditions to survive. These newer varieties also have flowers that are more ‘upright’ instead of the old plants which have flowers that face the ground. The newer varieties all have foliage that survive the winter pretty well without looking all chewed up. The older varieties in most gardens have foliage that can be looking pretty tired right now. In fact the foliage on these late season varieties have patterns and colors that make them stand out on their own, even without the blooms. Some of the ones we featured included some double blooms like ‘Berry Swirl’ and ‘Sally’s Shell’. These also had blooms that start out bright and colorful and fade into another color all together! One of the most unique hellebores is the ‘foetidus’ or Stinking Hellebore. This one earns its name from the stinky scent that you get when you rub the leaves. It also has non-traditional leaves and a green bell like flower that is edged in red. Some the newer varieties also include the ‘Gold Collection’ of hellebores. Judy held up ‘Jesko’ which has an incredible long lasting bloom.
So if you think that the hellebore is only for winter, stop by either location of Portland Nursery and get a ‘spring bloomer’ for your garden.
Planting Cole Crops
With the warmer spring weather we may be itching to get out and plant our vegetable gardens, but hold on, it may be too early for some of your favorites yet. You may not be able to plant your tomatoes and basil outside yet, but you can enjoy vegetables if you aim for cole crops instead. We stopped by Blooming Junction (503-681-4646) to talk with Justin, the farm manager, about what you can and can’t do now. First we started by talking about cole crops. A lot of people call them ‘COLD’ crops, but cole refers to plants in the Brassica family including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, kales and Brussel Sprouts. These can be planted in the ground now because they can handle the colder soils and outdoor temperatures. Other plants that can go out right now are onion starts, leeks and garlic. Seed crops that can go in the ground right now include carrots, radishes, turnips and beets. Peas can also be planted right now as well.
Most of your other crops like tomatoes, basils and cucumbers will have to wait until the soil temps get a little warmer. Use a soil thermometer and wait for an average temperature of 45 degrees to get some of your other crops in the ground. The ground temperature is only part of the equation for veggie success. For the colder night time air temperatures you may want to cover your plants with a floating row cover or frost cloth. This will protect them from the cold temperatures and maintain the warmth that they need to get a good start. Justin also recommended that you use a combination of seed plantings and vegetable starts so you get a combination of plants and harvest times.
Justin also talked about the importance of baiting for slugs. He uses a product called Sluggo which is safe for pets and children, though he did caution that you need to always follow the directions for use. Failure to use a slug product could mean losing your entire crop overnight and having to start all over again. If you do need to start again, Blooming also sells the plant starts for all your favorite vegetables.
If you are not a big vegetable gardener and still want fresh produce, you can stop by the farm store at Blooming Junction. They grow a lot of what they sell so you are going to get the freshest produce around. One way to ensure that you get all the veggies that you need is to sign up for the CSA program. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. If you sign up you will get lots of fresh produce, once a week, for 20 weeks starting in the early summer.
For more information on the CSA program, some fresh vegetables, or even a beautiful plant or two, you can stop by Blooming Junction in Cornelius.