Saturday, October 10, 2020


Which is it?  I can't decide.  Every time I hear of a tomato variety that is new to me I get an adrenaline rush.  I immediately want to look it up, track down sources, try to learn the origin--European or US developed.  Then the BIG question, will the variety grow in Central Oregon?  So many questions to be answered.  

I never feel the impulse of "I want it NOW".  What I do want is to immediately start researching.

I can  thank friend Toni for sending me into a tailspin of who, what, where and when's.  The tomato new to me (thanks to her) is 'Bloody Butcher', a horrible, but certainly memorable name.  I have already created several scenarios in my mind as to the origin of the name.  With Halloween just around the corner, how could I help myself?

What I have learned so far is that 'Bloody Butcher' is a reliably early heritage variety, it's origin is believed to be Germany.  The 3-4oz cluster tomato ripens in 55-70 days, about the same time as Early Girl. There were several reports that felt it is tastier than Early Girl.  The taste reports ranged from "unique, sweet tangy flavor", to "rich tomato flavor"  to "tasteless".  It is an open pollinated variety which means the seeds can be saved.  The plant is indeterminate in growth so production would be over a longer period of time.  It was rated as being an excellent producer in the greenhouse as well as the open garden.

The variety is potato-leafed.  The term may be unfamiliar to gardeners who are early into tomato culture.

We are most familiar with the multi-lobed, serrated tomato leaf.  There are many variations of regular leaf tomato from color differences of green or green/blue hues to width and length of the leaf.  Some varieties have heart-shaped leaves and some have droopy dissected foliage referred to as wispy droopy leaves.  There are also varieties that have dark green puckered leaf structure referred to as Rugose, a hairy regular leaf structure is referred to as Angora.

The potato leaf lacks the lobes or notches seen on regular leaf tomatoes.  They look like the leaves of a potato plant.  The young potato leaf seedlings are less obvious in their difference as they do not show this lack of serration until they are a few inches tall. 

Potato leafed tomatoes tend to have more heft than regular leaf tomatoes and there has been some claim that this makes them more resistant to disease.  Purple Prudence, and Brandywine are examples of potato leafed tomatoes.

At the end of the day, potato leaf tomatoes can be chalked up to just another of nature's curious quirks. There doesn't seem to be any scientific involved explanation other than, after all, tomatoes are in the same nightshade family as potatoes.

I remember in my early days of tomato growing and the first variety we grew of potato leafed plants, I was sure there was something wrong with the plant.  That was long before research could be accomplished with the flick of a switch and a mouse!

Be sure to listen to the Gardening: Get Good at It "Spring Bulbs to Plant Now" segment Tuesday October 20 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.


Saturday, September 26, 2020


 I listened to an interview with a wildfire evacuee recently.  Someone much like us who never thought her area of Oregon would be involved in such a devastating wildfire.  She said she thought she was prepared but in the end result of taking what she had with her she realized she had forgotten her jewelry.  When she was able to make a quick trip back, nothing was left of her neighborhood to give her a landmark as to where her house had been.  She lived on a cul-de-sac and finally found the mailboxes for her street.

The interview gave me another smack on the forehead.  I had already been asked by 2 Master Gardener friends--"Are you ready to pick up and run if need be?  Do you have a list?"  My answer has been with an ashamed --"Well, no." 

There are preparedness lists on line.  The value of the list is to customize it to the needs of you and your family in an organized and detailed fashion.  One friend shared their detailed list with me.  Perhaps it will help motivate you to prepare for what we hope never happens.  

Thinking you know where all the individual items are and being able to grab them on the go from various cupboards, drawers or closets is idealistic.  Time needs to be spent now to organize back packs,(each family member should have their own color), duffel bag, personal files and items for the car.  Sounds like a lot, but remember that you are taking your "life" with you.

The bags should be packed and left all year round with reminders to check and renew food items, change seasonal clothing, recharge radio battery every 3 months, check bottled water supply.  If you have a pet, pack a bag of supplies including a collar, leash, bowls.  Larger items like a crate and a bag of litter could be on a list for a car

All back packs should contain 2 face masks per person, a whistle, house keys or keys to outbuildings, flashlight, nut bars, a protein source, maybe jerky or dried sausages and goggles.  COVID concerns would be to include wipes, sanitizer and gloves. 

The duffel bag could contain PJs for all. underwear for all, socks, extra shirts, extra shorts & pants, sandals/slippers, for a cat-leash/collar, bowls.  

Back pack # 1--Device chargers, hard drive, toothbrushes for all, first aid kit, radio(recharge battery every 3 months, can opener, tuna, matches, extra batteries for flashlights, forks, extra glasses, packable jacket., wallet with cash.

Back pack #2--Jewelry bag, checkbook with extra checks, plastic bags, sunglasses, packable jacket, pen/pencil pad, wallet with cash. 

Things to think about--who will carry the medications or will everyone carry their own?  Are the medications currently in a container that can quickly be covered and picked up?   Is there room in the car for sleeping bags or blankets?

Important papers should be together in a file box that is easily identifiable by using red tape.  Password list for all devices, any home photos or photos of valuable belongings could be helpful for insurance purposes.

All the items should be in close proximity to your exit path--close to the car, a laundry room closet?  Everything should be tagged so their isn't any question of "Does this go?"  The list that was shared included what to wear--jeans-natural fabric, long sleeve shirt over short sleeve, hat.

Think about leaving early once the warnings are being issued, even the Level I.  It will help you get ahead of the traffic plus hopefully find a hotel room.

All this being said and done, let us hope our "packed up life" will never have to leave the driveway.

Don't forget to  check out the Gardening: Get Good At It "Putting the Garden to Bed" segment on Tues. October 6, on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.         

Saturday, September 12, 2020


 I love this season of starting to reap the benefits of summer labor.  I love the harvest season as much as I love the spring seed starting.  If my childhood home in Wisconsin didn't smell of pickling spices in August and September, something was definitely wrong.  The end of the world must be near.

For years, job transfers and unique locations prevented carrying on the fall tradition.  Then we moved to Bend in 1978 and I unpacked all the canning equipment.  Those were the days when the common talk at the water cooler was, "You can't grow anything in Bend".  So we didn't try.  

Instead we made regular August-September trips to farms in the Eugene-Springfield area, plus the gigantic fruit and vegetable market in Sandy that no longer exists.  For years we preserved either by canning or by drying just about everything that was in season. A big crock of shredded cabbage for kraut, at least three kinds of pickles, jams, relishes,  Cranberry Mustard for Christmas gifts, and lots of fruit leathers for school lunches from the dehydrator.   Even tried horseradish one year, decided to leave that one to the Tulelake Horseradish professionals.  You can understand why at this time of year, I get the overwhelming urge to "can".  I fully understand the survival frenzy of the squirrels at this time of year!

I have been asked why I preserve when the freezing process is so much simpler.  My answer comes from a thought provoking  statement made by Glenda Hyde, Extension Associate Professor and in my eyes, Queen of the Canner.  Glenda presented the thought--what would happen if we lost power for an extended period of time?  The discussion centered around learning to preserve meat.  In all truthfulness, I probably will never learn that process but it was a good reminder to keep a full pantry of hearty, meaty soups and tins of seafood to add to the shelves of canned fruits and vegetables.

I grow sweet banana peppers in large black plastic tubs which provide extra heat as opposed to in-ground planting.  The harvest has started.  I didn't pick Peter's peck of peppers but I did pick enough to pickle the first batch which was one pound.  I always wondered how big a peck was, looked it up and it is a "dry goods measurement that equals a quarter of a bushel".

The recipe is a combination of white and apple cider vinegar, plus some sugar, mustard seed and celery seed.  The peppers can be refrigerated up to 3 months but I opted to use the water bath canner and processed for 15 minutes.

Next on the list will be Tuscan Tomato Jam.  It is more of a savory jam, sweet and tart making it a great addition to a cheeseboard or to replace ketchup.  It can be addictive with a cracker and cream cheese.  The recipe calls for 6 pounds, which from my garden will be a mix of slicers and cherry varieties. The jam is a combination of tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, dry white wine (not much), dried herbs, and sugar

I always preserve peaches in a light sugar syrup for serving as well as using for cobblers and crisps.  This year I am excited to try Peach Cardamom Jam using  Pomona's Universal Pectin which I have never used before.  Pomona's recipes call for calcium water, the calcium powder comes in the Pomona's box.  The recipes call for calcium water because the pectin is activated by the calcium, not by sugar.  The recipe calls for 3 1/4 pounds of ripe peaches, 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice and the ground cardamom. I will process in the water bath for 15 minutes. 

I thought I would have an over abundance of the Minnesota Midget cantaloupe but they are picked and consumed as soon as they ripen.  I have also shared with neighbors.  So far, no extras to preserve.

Thinking back to 1978 and the negative attitude regarding the growing season, I feel we are indebted to the OSU Extension Service for their public education programs.  We should also be grateful for the research done by OSU in developing vegetable varieties for our unique climate.  Our success as gardeners is choosing the right plants keeping in mind our short growing season and the quality of our native soil.

Don't forget to check out Gardening: Get Good At It  Harvesting Your Herbs segment Tuesday September 15 on KPOV 88.9 FM "The  Point" between 9-9:30 am.


Saturday, August 22, 2020


     I had an increased amount of deer damage this year.  My assumption was the deer preferred our landscapes to the tinder dry native shrubs and trees.  In April I decided to do a  study and compile a list of deer-resistant annual flowers.

I referenced existing lists from reliable non-commercial sources and pulled 17 varieties that I knew grows well in Central Oregon.  I started 6 varieties in my greenhouse, purchased 3 and relied on finding the remaining 8 at local nurseries.  I became very familiar with "Sorry, all sold out".

The original list of 17 included calendula, Dusty Miller, larkspur, lobelia, wax begonia, annual poppy, impatiens, statice, annual geraniums, sweet alyssum, snapdragon, petunia, nasturtium, signet marigold, heliotrope, cosmos, and ageratum.

I seeded calendula, lobelia. 2varieties of sweet alyssum, 2 varieties of snapdragon.2 varieties of nasturtium and cosmos.  I purchased the Dusty Miller, impatiens and petunias.  As the varieties became of age to leave the greenhouse, I planted them in raised wood planting boxes.  No need in going into the first few  days of anxiety.

Bambi and mom did several weeks of taste testing.  I was tempted to do some covering but gritted my teeth with hopes they would find a tastier menu down the road.  The exclusion of covering would have defeated my goal  There may have been some additional help in the taste testing as I found evidence of animal frass I wasn't familiar with.  The neighborhood (one block from the busy 27th Street)  had sightings of a fox, rock chuck, racoon, plus a skunk. Take your pick!

A quick progress report:

Lobelia which I have planted every year for over 25 years suffered the most in the beginning being nibbled almost to the ground every night--new growth during the day, gone by morning.  Never had that much trouble in years past.

Impatiens: purchased, continued nibbling except for a strong fuchsia color which they step over to get to the orange.  Go figure.

Calendula: continually nipped early, but now that plants are budded and blooming they are being left alone.

Cosmos: didn't think I would even see one flower stalk, lots of nibbling.  Maybe it was the hot days that pushed them into production and now I am the only one interested.

Petunias: purchased, -- it's a battle of the wills, they pull out, I replant same plant.  It does seem they have been passing them by lately so maybe I won.

Nasturtiums: never been a big fan until this year.  I have been taken with an heirloom Alaska Mix from Renee's Garden that will become a staple from now on. Beautiful variegated cream and green striped markings, blooms are strong colors, salmon, orange, mahogany and gold.  Some nibbling when small, but tolerable.  Also tried a variety that was labeled as climbing, heirloom called Climbing Phoenix.  Flowers are smaller and cover the foliage.  Flowers are edible.  Not as climbing as I thought, but makes a good base on the trellis.

Dusty Miller: purchased,  Why do you think every public planting in the nation is bordered in Dusty Miller?  Need I say more?

Sweet Alyssum:  Suffers browsing.  Had hoped that the solid border of light fragrance would discourage the munching, apparently not strong enough.

Snapdragon: slow to develop buds, still an occasional nibbling before the buds are in full development.   Considered an annual but my 2019 plants rebloomed this year.

Hopefully there are more annuals that have been tried and can be added to the list.  Please make any additions in the comment section and I will add them to the list to try next year.


Saturday, August 8, 2020


If asked in the height of the season "Where do melons come from in Oregon?", most would answer -- Hermiston, OR and they would be correct.
BUT, wouldn't it be wonderful if Central Oregon gardeners could produce their own tasty bites in their home garden?  I think we can if we choose the correct varieties, plus making sure we can provide the extra warmth if needed.

In years prior to 2020, the Central Oregon Master Gardner plant sale team grew Minnesota Midget cantaloupe and Sugar Baby watermelons for the sale and also for planting in the Redmond Demo Garden.

Sugar Baby watermelon is small to medium in size, 6-8 inches in diameter and very juicy. Maturity is approximately 76 days.  Lucky were those volunteers who were on site when the first melons were harvested and taste tested. (Taste-testing is another big advantage for volunteering at the OSU Extension Redmond Demo Garden).

Minnesota Midget is an heirloom melon producing mini fruit 4-6 inches across.  The plants do well in a container or in small garden spaces.  Maturity is is 65-70 days.  Add the 14 days for the variance of day to night temperatures in Central Oregon and you still have a crop to be considered.

Last week I counted 10 developing Minnesota Midgets.  This week I counted  16 melons larger than a softball and the bees are still working hard on the many new blossoms.  As the melons begin to ripen, it is suggested that withholding some water helps to concentrate sugars.

A quick word of advice if you are buying cantaloupe from the market.  It is recommended that you wash and SCRUB a melon thoroughly because the surface can contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella.  True--we aren't eating the rind but we could be bringing the bacteria into our kitchen.

I definitely will be sharing but I am also extremely interested in what else can be done to extend the benefits of the fruit beyond the season.

Good ole Google came to the rescue of providing more interesting ideas than I could ever come up with.  Maybe some will appeal to you. 

I also found recipes for cantaloupe popsicles, cantaloupe sorbet, meringue pie, Bundt cake, muffins and sweet bread. 

Cantaloupe Gazpacho Soup with crispy prosciutto and crème fraiche sounds refreshing and worth a try on a hot day.  Melon must be pureed very well so it isn't grainy.

Cantaloupe Crunch is made using a white cake mix.  Reviews --  "not a cantaloupe fan but would make it again".  The negative reviewer was short and sweet writing "cantaloupe just doesn't taste good baked."

Martha Stewart offers a Chickpea, Melon & Rosemary Salad recipe.

There are several recipes on-line for Cantaloupe Jam. The one that interested me was the crockpot Vanilla Cantaloupe jam from Creek Line House.  After reading the reviews, I would reduce the sugar.

I have been putting together packets of mixed fresh fruit in the freeze for my wintertime breakfast smoothie  As the melons ripen, I will make sure to grate some slices and add to the berry pouches already in the freezer.  You can also remove the seeds and rind of the melon and cut into slices.  

Place on cookie sheet and freeze for several hours.  Package in freeze quality bags  or package slices wrapped in wax paper and placed in freezer bags. Can be frozen from 4 to 6 months. 

Who knew there were so many options?!                                                                 


Saturday, July 11, 2020


I've been reading "OH, LA LA!" by Ciscoe Morris.  Ciscoe Morris is familiar to many in the Northwest as a noted speaker at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, radio host and garden writer.  He is also the retired director of the grounds department at Seattle University.

The mentality of commercial landscapers as well as policies of institutional grounds keeping in 1978 was "Spray first, ask questions later."

Not long after he started he was surprised to see someone spraying the campus trees.  When asked, the sprayer identified himself as the campus painter and apparently in the eyes of Morris, the self-appointed exterminator.  The painter/sprayer said he sprayed most of the trees at least four or five time a year.  He didn't know what bugs he was trying to kill  but it didn't really matter--"the only good bug is a dead bug."

Around 1981 Morris attended a WSU County Extension seminar on integrated pest management (IPM), considered to be a new method of pest control.  As they say, "the rest is history".  Morris was convinced that IPM was the way to go.  He had never really believed that spraying was the right way to go.  Morris had more than one battle to fight with the good ole boy regiment until the positive results were seen and it was realized that the budget for chemical treatments could be eliminated.  Money talks.

The book is a collection of his gardening experiences in the Seattle area, many of which we can't fully appreciate because we don't culture the same plants.

The principles of gardening are the same all over--right plant in the right place, water, fertilizer, soil maintenance.  We may not have slugs but we have earwigs to damage our gardens.  As I read his stories I mentally substituted our problems with problems he had experienced in the Northwest.

We are one step ahead of him in how to deal with big rocks when landscape redesign is necessary.  We accept the big rocks as part of our natural landscape. We work around  them, incorporating them into our planting beds.  Generally we accept them and appreciate their ability to absorb heat to be released on those chilly nights when the temperatures are starting to threaten   When he finally conceded that he couldn't move a large boulder, the result of an excavation, it became a focal point on campus and everyone loved it.

After reading his tale of Mollusk Marauders, I realized Thanksgiving, a day of giving thanks, isn't just a day in November.  The day should be celebrated everyday we work in our gardens.

Studies has shown that there can be as many as 6,000 slugs in the average Northwest garden in spring.  Morris states slugs have both male and female reproductive organs and are capable of mating with themselves if necessary.  The eggs are laid in clutches of 30 to 50 eggs at a time and they lay at least  200 eggs per year.  The brown garden snail can lay as many as 500 eggs in one season.  That is a good enough reason to be vigilant about checking the bottom of a container when purchasing a plant.  Those pesky slugs apparently have also decided Central Oregon is the place to settle and hitch a ride across the mountains on nursery trucks.

As we mutter and sputter over gardening this and that--remember to be grateful.  We could be fighting "mollusk marauders" not earwigs!

Saturday, June 27, 2020


She looks so sweet and innocent, but oh, is she devious.  She doesn't exactly tell you all about herself in the very beginning.  She is a believer in the bait and hook philosophy of life.

We were still comparatively new to the idiosyncrasies of gardening in Central Oregon when we moved from 80 acres in Tumalo and alfalfa growing, to 2 acres in Bend with a beautiful natural lava flow that had been crafted into a rock garden with additional soil.  It was obvious it has not been created through a process of moving some big rocks and then adding some smaller rocks but rather it had been created by enhancing the natural beauty right out the back door.  I was thrilled.  

The move was in early April when planting fever is really taking hold and I had a blank canvas to work with.  I had read about Vinca minor, periwinkle and sometimes called myrtle, as being hardy to Zone 4, appears to be deer resistant plus it blooms in April.  Who could ask for anything more?

The information I read was probably in a glossy seed catalog with color enhanced photos.  Unfortunately the write up failed to mention that the plant is an aggressive ground cover.  That is a great attribute if you are filling the need for finding a plant for erosion control.  However, it's not so great in a natural formation of lava rock with all its crevices and irregularities.

The plant growth can be described as mat-forming with 3 to 6 inches of ground trailing stems that can reach 18 inches in length.  It roots at the nodes where stems come in contact with soil (it seemed even in a minuscule amount).

The first three years were passable as long as I  kept a vigilant eye on the growth and kept the plants in check.  By the fourth year Miss Periwinkle decided she was in control.  She crept over the rocks and under the rocks, making the removal of roots an exhausting chore.  I've given up on trying to maintain the back side of the rockery.  I had planned on a massive dig when the grandsons reached the show off the muscles and high energy stage, thinking it would be this summer.  The self-quarantine has saved Miss Periwinklefor another year.

So the moral of this story is to thoroughly research any landscape materials you buy BEFORE you make the purchase.  List the purpose of the plant, at maturity will it fit the space intended, how much care  is involved to keep it looking good.

Yes, I will admit that it was fun to see the bright green leaves and perky blue blossoms in the very early spring but there was a price to pay and as I grow older, the price gets higher each year!

Be sure to listen to the Gardening: Get Good at It "Critter Control" segment on Tues. June 30 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 a m.