Saturday, February 8, 2020


I'm being corrupted by the longer days and if I don't discipline myself I will be in big trouble.  It is plain and simple--I want to plant,  I have been thinking of starting a limited amount of salad greens in my unheated greenhouse.

An extensive article in the March issue of Consumer Reports on the safety of purchased salad greens with reference to E.coli outbreaks convinced me I should be growing my own.  Personally, I should do it for two reasons: quality (controlled growing conditions) and quantity.  More often than not, half or less of the boxed greens end up in the compost.

Many years ago a friend became very ill from what she said was from eating romaine lettuce.  The ever-knowing circle of friends laughed at her and commented how could that be, you probably just had a bad glass of wine.  Now, of course, we realize it was probably E.coli.  Unfortunately it is too late to apologize.

Until I read the article I didn't know how extensive damage from E.coli could be.  The article cited the case of a 72 year old woman who had been in excellent health, had developed a form of kidney failure as a result of eating a healthy salad instead of pizza and contracting E.coli.  After three days of extreme illness she was admitted to the hospital.  During her 14 day hospital recovery she was in and out of consciousness, and had to relearn how to talk and to walk.  After two months she was back to normal.

Am I being an alarmist?  No, my intention is that with the next salad greens recall you pay attention.  The article brought forth the fact that "triple washed" may sound safer but water cannot remove the bacteria.

E.coli bacteria can infect the lettuce food supply through irrigation.  Toxic  E.coli is found in farm animals and in many cases the contamination was related to nearby cattle feed lots. The bacteria was taken up by the plant growth either through irrigation or carried by the wind.

The article is an in-depth exploration of the complete process of farm to table production.  It is interesting that the favored romaine variety for many years has been replaced by the old favored iceberg head lettuce.

We are fortunate that salad greens are now being grown and packaged by small farms in Central Oregon and available in local markets.  Yes, we will pay a little more but putting our minds to ease is priceless.

I have solved my concerns about quality by growing my own.  Now I have to control the seeding to be able to control the quantity.  If you are like me and need a garden fix start thinking how you can start growing your own greens.

Check out Gardening:Get Good at It "Growing Veggie in C.O." segment  Tuesday February 18 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am

Saturday, January 25, 2020


Every year is a "new year" in gardening with new plant developments, improved tools and techniques. I have read and re-read articles in the January-February editions of my garden magazines and have come to the conclusion that Master Gardeners may have some new challenges this year.

Fine Gardening magazine featured an extensive article on nine new variegated conifers in their January-February edition. The photographs are beautiful and detailed. The features of including them in your landscape are many: excellent focal point, year-round color and texture, plus generally a slower growth than other varieties in their species. The varieties are listed for USDA Zones 3-5b so there is a possibility we could see them in our market.

The article explains that variegated plants lack chlorophyll in some cells, resulting in white, cream, yellow or light green coloration that creates the multicolored effect on leaves or needles. These colorations in many plants can indicate a problem.

Variegated conifers are produced through grafting or root cuttings. Several variegations can occur throughout the growing season.

New growth in 'Golden Candles' white pine is lemon yellow, changing to medium green with lots of gold frosting on the end of new growth.

'Sunshine' mugo pine doesn't display its full variegation until late summer when gold-banded rings form on the needles.

White frosted tips on the branches of 'Albosppica' Eastern hemlock might be a cause of concern if you didn't know that is the normal growth and eventual coloration.

Perhaps the irregular growth and the generous amounts of random yellow variegation of the 'Gelbbunt' Korean fir might bring a client to Plant Clinic with questions. Again, it is normal growth.
The point of this posting is that we become aware that there are new variegated plant varieties that may start to appear in our marketplace.

We have all had the experience in Plant Clinic of a client bringing in a plant sample that they perceive to be having a problem, when in fact, it is showing its normal stage of development.

Most clients want instant answers and in many cases that isn't possible. We need to review our cheat-sheet of diagnostic questions to ask so we have enough information to give creditable answers.

Some growing tips were also listed to be aware of. The new growth may revert back to the original of the species or cultivar. The advice is to prune out these green branches ASAP so as not to lose the character, shape and color of the plant.

The manipulated loss of pigment in the conifer's needles can result in winter burn. Care needs to be taken as to planting site and wrapping new plants in fabric for the winter.

As tempting as the pictures are, I will use the article as a winter garden fix, but personally, I will stick with the tried and true landscape materials of the Central Oregon High Desert.

Check out the Gardening: Get Good At It "Central Oregon Climate" Tuesday February 4, 2020 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.

Saturday, January 11, 2020


The holiday season has perhaps dulled our brain from being too relaxed, totally drained from being a perfect hostess, or exhausted from working extra hours to be able to spend extra hours at home.  It takes a few weeks to recuperate and get back into the routine of daily life.  Never fear, I am here to help put the brain back to its top notch high gear.

Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener training for Central Oregon starts on Wednesday January 15.  It's a 3-cheer moment to have the classes at the new OSU Extension Office Building #3.  Sit up straight, take a deep breath and start reviewing some of the terminology you'll be hearing again.

Be forewarned, not all  the definitions of the terms I have chosen are research based or approved by local or state Extension staff.  They are meant for entertainment purposes only to provide some lightheartedness and brain stimulation.

The definitions are taken from the glossary section of our giant Sustainable Gardening Handbook as well as from my favorite book titled "A Dictionary for Weedpullers, Slugcrushers and Backyard Botanists" by Henry Beard and Roy McKie.  The book is dedicated "to all those who have heard the call of the land".

The scheduled Botany class reminds us we need to review terms to provide correct information in plant clinic.  The question of the difference between an annual plant and a perennial plant can be confusing to new gardeners.

The research based answer to an annual is "a plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season."  The Beard, McKie definition is "any plant that dies before blooming."

So what is a perennial?  Research based definition is, "a plant that lives 2 or more years and produces new foliage, flowers, and seeds each growing season."  The Beard, McKie definition is "any plant which, had it lived, would have bloomed year after year."

Photosynthesis is one of the multi-syllable words that takes a bit of tongue twisting.  Research based  definition teaches us that it is a process of converting carbon dioxide and water into food (sugars and starches) using energy from sunlight.  Beard, McKie  defines it as a method of presenting specimens in color photographs displayed in seed catalogs using a novel printing technique called Rotogravure in which the various vividly colored inks are applied directly to the flower or fruit before the actual picture is taken.  I'll have to admit to sometimes wondering about the vivid colors in seed catalogs and why the same variety in my garden doesn't come close.

In our less than perfect climate for growing, questions may be asked on the use of cold frames.  In answer--research based defines cold frames as a glass or plexiglass covered frame that relies on sunlight to provide a growing environment for tender plants.

Beard and McKie don't mince words in their definition as being "elaborate display case for showing off a gardener's collection of freeze-dried specimens."

I've checked off the classes I will retake this year. I look forward to the presentations and reviewing subjects we never seem to know in entirety and if we can learn with a chuckle here and there who's to say that's not a bad idea.

Mark your calendar for the KPOV Gardening: Get Good at it "When and What to Prune and Why" , Tuesday January 21 on KPOV 88.9 FM "The Point" between 9-9:30 am

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Blog
In the process of adding to my "Bits & Pieces" file I reread one clipped idea that I had forgotten .  This is the perfect time to share.

In a few weeks the Christmas wreaths will be taken down.  Then what to do with the frames?  We feel guilty tossing in the trash, so we save it with good intentions.  The question remains--what to do to give the frame an extended life?

Here's one idea.  Use the wreath frame for a plant support.  Attach bamboo or metal stakes as "legs".  Give it an outdoor spray paint job and you've got bragging rights for a recycle project.

Are you a flower seed-saver?  Here's an idea for marking and saving a special color variety.  Save the plastic tag fasteners that secure bags of bread and baked goods.  When the flower is in full bloom, write the color on the tag and slip it on the flower stem.  It is an easy way to tell which seeds to collect when they ripen.

Writing on plastic that is used outdoors and is exposed to the elements can be problematic.  The ink usually disappears even if the pen is labelled permanent.  This year I am going to follow a garden hint and use a marker that is designated as a "laundry marker-permanent-stays on when washed".  The pen might also be marketed as a "fabric marker", also water resistant and permanent.

Christmas has traditionally been a sock giving gift for sports minded guys.  If you are a sweet talker maybe you can talk a favorite guy into recycling an old pair as a gardeners sock-sleeve.  Cut about 6 inches off a long tube sock (the foot end).  Pull the tube onto your arm so the elastic band is around your wrist.  When you are gardening near plants that can irritate your skin, the sock-sleeve offers protection in addition to your gloves.

Soon we will be thinking of seed starting.  Many native plants' seeds germinate only after being exposed to a cold period of at least three months.  The cold treatment is one of the processes of seed stratification.  Some gardeners stratify seeds by placing them in the refrigerator.  I tried that one year but was not successful.

Seeds sown directly in the ground in the fall generally aren't successful being either washed away or eaten by critters.

A Massachusetts garden coach and author offered the following method for seeds that require cold treatment.  Examples include columbine, milkweed and phlox.

The gardener created mini-greenhouses using recycled produce containers.  Wash the containers in a 10 percent bleach to remove any possible pathogens.  Poke holes in the bottom and top of the containers for drainage and ventilation.  Add 2 to 3 inches of moistened seed starting mix.  Sow seeds at their recommended depth.  Affix the lids tightly.  Allow the containers to sit inside overnight to ensure the seeds are moistened before being exposed to the cold.  Place the containers where they will be safe from animals and high winds.  Come spring bottom-water the containers to keep them moist.  Monitor the temperature and remove the lid on sunny days that are over 60 degrees.  Transplants may be small but they will be hardy.

No matter the season, there's always a project on the horizon!

Check out Gardening: Get Good  at It "T'was  the Night Before Christmas" segment Tuesday Dec. 24 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am

Saturday, December 7, 2019


The pictures  posted are my first attempt at creating a seasonal porch pot.  Like many aspects of my life--I'm a "day late and a dollar short".  I'm the one who thinks of making everyone's Christmas gift on Dec. 10th.

As I have mentioned previously, I have container envy every time I visit Minneapolis in late fall.  However, that is hardly the time to start thinking of my own seasonal porch pot.

It should start with clearing out the petunias in the half barrel containers and not letting the soil freeze.  Maybe a mulch of leaves or compost, or some sort of covering to keep the soil from freezing.
According to an  article in the Sept.-Oct. 2019 issue of the American Gardener, seasonal porch pots "are supported by the existing soil in the pots so no Styrofoam is needed."
Gathered Materials

I was able to collect some dried materials before the snow limited my wanderings through the property.  I harvested rabbitbrush, sagebrush, Oregon Grape, various dried seed heads, plus ponderosa pine, blue spruce and juniper branches.  Friend Shelby offered dried allium blooms that were on their way to her compost pile.  I also picked a few branches from my brush pile to use for wrapping yarn as a color blast.

Being snowbound offered a good opportunity to meet the challenge of the yarn stash and use up some bits and pieces.

Since this wasn't a pre-frost planned project I did use an empty container with a Styrofoam florist block as the base.  The soils in the summer containers were frozen solid.

Ideally next year I will start gathering early.  The process according to the article should be to place the cut materials in a bucket of water and then recut the base as you place it in the container  that also has moist soil.

Magical Yarn and Glue
The same design principles apply as you would use for a summer container: thrillers, fillers and spillers.  The thriller would be something bold and upright, a filler would help to create the framework and the spiller would be greenery that would drape over the container.

Using Up the Stash
After the holiday season I will take out the holiday colored yarn branches and replace with spring colored yarns and probably freshen up the cut greens.

A pipe dream will be that next fall I will cut fall leaf foliage, maybe find some mountain ash berry branches, or a branch or two of rose hips.  Those selections would carry the porch pot up to the holiday theme.

Will be interesting if I receive any comments from the neighbors.  Hopefully your imagination will move you to creating the most exciting porch pot in the neighborhood!

Don't forget to check out the Gardening:.Get Good At It  segment "Design for Winter Interest" you may find some ideas for spring planting that relates to winter enjoyment.  The segment airs on Tues. Dec. 10th on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am
Ready for the Front Porch!