Saturday, January 22, 2022


In my winter quest of reducing the contents of my file cabinet, I find many
"treasures" worth sharing.  Especially at this time of year when our spirit and our body are starting to drag a bit.

The treasure was an article from the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of the High Desert Pulse, which was an insert in The Bulletin several times a year.  The information was sourced from the National Institute of Health, Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

The article is titled "Food Synergy--Eat THIS + THAT".  The combinations would have the most benefit if the suggested combinations were organically grown.  Some combinations will surprise you and perhaps make you curious enough to try.  If not to possibly realize a health benefit but to reawaken our palate after weeks of holiday treats.

Peanuts + Whole Wheat.  Natural peanut butter and whole wheat bread combine to provide an entire chain of amino acids (protein) which is the best way to build and maintain muscles.  We will definitively need the muscle power when we begin gardening.

Oatmeal + Orange juice.  That sounds like the breakfast many of us grew up with.  But do we know what makes it a beneficial combination?   The vitamin C rich orange juice and unprocessed oatmeal (the old-fashioned kind that takes a few minutes to cook) consumed together helps to stabilize bad cholesterol according to the US. Department of Agriculture study.

Now to some combinations that maybe even a teenager might try.

Apples + Chocolate.  Red delicious apples are high in an anti-inflammatory component called quercetin, particularly the skins when the fruit is grown organically.  Chocolate contains catechin, an antioxidant known to reduce the risks for cancer and atherosclerosis, a disease of the arteries.  Quercetin
and catechin combined can "loosen clumpy blood platelets, improving cardiovascular health and providing anticoagulant activity" according to a study from the National University of Singapore.

Blueberries + Grapes.  Blueberries are known for containing powerful antioxidants.  The same is true of grapes.  While eating a single serving of fruit has health benefits, combing nearly any two fruits triggers a reaction that increases the antioxidants according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Eggs + Cantaloupe.  The protein benefits that come from an egg are increased when the iconic breakfast food is eaten with good carbohydrates, such as fruit, whole grain and vegetables.  "This synergy helps by minimizing insulin and blood-sugar spikes" according to nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  By slowing the absorption of glucose, your body can better read the cues that you are full.  This helps prevent everything from overeating to indigestion."

Broccoli + Tomatoes. A cancer research study in 2007 showed broccoli and tomatoes eaten together shrunk prostate-cancer tumors in rats.  John W Erdman Jr. PhD, of the University of Illinois concludedthat other than castration nothing was more effective in shrinking cancer.  Why? That's a mystery in 2018 researchers hadn't solved.

Avocados + Tomatoes.  The fats in avocados bring out the lycopene in tomatoes. Lycopene is an antioxidant  known as carotenoid, "which reduces cancer risk and cardiovascular disease" according to a Men's Health article based on multiple medical studies about food synergy.

Next week is grocery shopping week and I will be adding some new items to the list.  Will be fun to try some new combinations--like chocolate and delicious apple!

Saturday, January 8, 2022


 even if it ends up being a bad decision, you've satisfied the longing.

When we lived in Singapore, I got tired of seeing orchids everywhere you looked.  Granted, beautiful beyond belief, especially the vendor's cart  loaded to the max and being pushed down the neighborhood streets hawking their beauty and unbelievable cheap price.

I finally wrote my mom in Wisconsin to please send me some zinnia seeds.  Maybe it was an underlying degree of homesickness or maybe I wanted something more structural in form--who knows.  Neither one of us had any knowledge of customs regulations, etc.  They finally arrived through the regular mail process.  I didn't have to go to the customs office or offer lengthy explanations of what they were.

I asked our gardener to plant them in the window box.  It would have been unheard of for me to plant my own seeds.  We lived in a local neighborhood not a designated American community so I am sure the word passed quickly about the crazy American lady and her window box.

It pained me to see someone else planting my seeds--different worlds, different cultures.  I had to remind myself that was part of being where we were--learning.  Sadly the seeds never produced  the vase full of flowers I wanted to see on the dining table.  But I probably provided more giggles for the neighbor ladies.  That has to have some value.

The point in sharing the story is to recognize where you live NOW and to help teach others to avoid costly mistakes in purchases.  Now I look back at the missed opportunity to absorb and learn about orchid culture.

When we moved "south" to Bend from Anchorage I was so filled with gardening optimism that I ordered Luffa Sponge seeds (maturity 110 days!).  Little did I know, but it certainly didn't take long to learn, the erratic weather patterns in Central Oregon.

However it happens, we are heading into a new year of teaching gardeners new to the area or maybe new to gardening about how to be successful.  The Master Gardener program is so valuable and satisfying to all of us who like getting our hands in the dirt.  It's our responsibility and obligation to continue to foster the "research based" credo, and not rely on beautifully formatted publications.  The pictures are always eye-candy and many times we are able to visit national Botanical Gardens we would never be able to travel to, all which has its value.

Bottom line is--spread the gardening word whenever and wherever you can.  Central Oregon is a great place to garden--once you get the hang of it!   

Saturday, December 25, 2021


 The "Fa-La-La" season is almost over.  It is time to add "finis" to the last page of your 2021 garden journal; then take a deep breath and turn the page.

Course we all know what happens next--the traditional list of resolutions.  The first one is always to lose weight.  Think about it--of course you will as you'll be eating less rich foods.  Now we need to get real and list resolutions that will improve our gardening endeavors.

My list this year includes resolving to always label plants that have been shared from friends.  I always record the info in my journal but sometimes forget to do the in-ground labelling.  Resolution: Make the tag first, then add to journal.  A tip: Write the name on both ends of the label.  If the name above the soil fades, the ink in the soil still looks readable.

In the past I have written "edit the rockery".  I have realized that edit is not a direct action verb that works for me.  I need a verb that elicits more aggression.  This year I will change the wording.  Resolution: "Pull" plants that aren't working in my yard.  

In 2022 I resolve to be more conscientious in my choices of irrigation needs of annuals and perennials in an effort to conserve water.  There are enough water-wise and native plants available to satisfy my gardening soul.

In 2022 I resolve to stop being so enticed by the newest and  so called, better plant introductions.  Instead I will focus on plants that attract pollinators.  I will use the "Top 10 Oregon Native Plants for Pollinators" list from the OSU Garden Ecology Lab study.

In 2022 I resolve to increase my plant inventory to create a more effective potential organic pest control.  I recently read that a packet of radish seeds  could help fight the flea beetles on tomato transplants.  Nasturtiums planted among the zucchini may limit damage caused by squash bugs.  To limit cabbage worms, plant brassicas with sage, hyssop or chamomile.  Resolution: Read Jessica Walliser's book "Plant Partners: Science Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden".

Many years ago a Master Gardener spoke for many of us.  Shelia's resolution was "to find a handsome, strong, young able-bodied man who with the click of the fingers could appear and do all the chores we never get around to doing".

May we all be successful with the execution of our resolutions (longer than the first 6 weeks of 2022!).  

For more New Year's Resolutions from a Master Gardener, listen to Gardening: Get Good at It on Tuesday, January 4th on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.

Saturday, December 11, 2021


then grab the aspirin bottle?

I'm referring to the annual family event of Christmas tree shopping. The coverage I saw on various media was disheartening. Being a gardener, I am totally sympathetic to the tree growers and the price they need to charge, which probably doesn't even come close to the cost of production, let alone a small margin of profit.

In our early years of living in Central Oregon we did the traditional "thing". We got our cutting permit from the Forest Service and journeyed off over hill and dale to find the perfect tree. 

It wasn't exactly a Charley Brown tree. If you turned and twisted the tree enough, and then only looked at it straight-on it was great. We decorated it with pride and passion and patted ourselves on the back for being so environmentally conscientious.

 The following year the snow was deeper and the temperatures lower. We opted to do the next best thing  and bought a living tree of fair size from a local nursery.

 I'll confess that it did not go well. This was in the pre-home computer days and pre-Master Gardener classes to reference. We placed the pot in a large pan, watered it very well then draped the pot with a glitzy Christmas tree skirt. Again, we patted ourselves on the back for being so "environmental" buying a tree we could plant into the landscape come spring.

 It didn't occur to us that we would be doing damage by bringing a tree accustomed to the cold crisp winter days and placing it in our warm and cozy living room.

TIP: Transition a potted tree in an unheated garage for a few days before moving into a warm room.  

TIP: Watering. I overdid the first watering. Although we had placed the tree in a pan the overly generous amount of water resulted in the pan overflowing. With the pot being clothed in the glitzy tree skirt, the damage to the wood floor went unnoticed until we took the tree down.

TIP: The tree should be thoroughly watered while it is spending a few days in transition making sure it has drained well before bringing indoors. Placing a plastic covering under the pan is good insurance. Recently I read that using ice cubes on the soil is a slow and easy way to apply moisture during the indoors stay.

I think we committed every misstep in the book. We loved lots of lights and of course, they were the old bulb style.

TIP: Use miniature lights and only for a short period of time to avoid dehydrating the branches.

The final blow was that after being indoors in our less than ideal conditions for 2 weeks it started to look pretty sad and droopy and it was still a few more days till Santa arrived.

TIP: A living tree should not be inside for no more than a week to ten days.

The final confession is that the tree never made it into our landscape. We hadn't given any forethought to care after it left the living room. We transitioned it back to the garage to await spring planting. It looked pretty sad. 

THE LAST TIP: If you are having thoughts of a living tree--quick go outside and dig a planting hole before the ground is frozen solid. Cover the hole and the dug soil with a plastic cover so you don't have to wait for spring to plant. Do the transition procedure in reverse, making sure it has been watered and has drained. Plant at the same level it was in the pot. Treat it to fertilizer in the spring.

However you "tree",  enjoy the holiday season!

Mark your calendar for Gardening: Get Good at It's "Gifts for Gardeners" segment Tues. Dec. 21, on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.

Saturday, November 27, 2021


I admit to the term of being 'scatterbrained', (at times).  I prefer to think in terms of 'being interested in many things at the same time'.  I can rationalize it another way by saying a bit of this and a bit of that keeps my mind open and my life interesting.

This posting was intended to be a subject entirely different but then--a friend called and wanted to share the wonders of a new cookbook of the old traditional Irish recipes.   The recipes used the traditional meat cuts, vegetable names and herbs.  Being of German heritage I am more familiar sauerkraut, German noodle dishes and pfeffernusse (peppernut) Christmas cookies.

My culinary world expanded, in more ways than one, with an afternoon of  cookbook browsing.  The cookbook concluded with information of foraging the forests, including the Irish name of the weed, a little history and how it was prepared.  

The purpose of this entry is to increase our appreciation of the plants that we commonly call weeds.  These weeds are just a minor sample of what may have sustained our ancestors in their nutritional and medicinal needs.  I have only used the weeds that I was able to cross reference with Weeds of the West, the reference we generally use for weed identification for our area.

One of the common weeds we share, probably world wide, is the dandelion - Taraxacum officinale from the French dent-de-lion (meaning lion's teeth).  Dandelion is considered a gateway herb for foragers.  It can be  blanched briefly as you would spinach, then toss with nuts and garlic.  Other uses include being made into root beer, beer, wine and as a coffee substitute.  Gardeners now consider it especially important for bees in the early spring.
"Fat Hen"

Known as Fat Hen, Chenopodium album in Ireland is a form of wild lentil.  The name comes from people feeding the seeds to their hens to fatten them. Surprise, surprise, we know Fat Hen as lambsquarters.  The seeds are difficult to harvest. The leaves are easy to harvest and can be used as a  substitute for spinach in cooking, or basil in pesto.  The young shoots can be treated like baby broccoli or pickled like lovage stalks.

Goatsbeard-Tragopogn pratensis is known in Ireland as Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon.  Unfortunately, a brief history of the name was not given.  In Weeds of the West, goatsbeard is listed as the non-standard name for Western salsify. 

Shepherd's purse
Shepherd's purse-Capsella bursa-pastoris is a member of the cabbage family and is good as a garnish or in salads.  The herb takes its name from the resemblance of the seed cases to a purse. You can infuse the herb in boiling water to make a tea.

Yarrow-Achillea milleflorium is the European equivalent to our Western yarrow-Achillea lanulosa.  Yarrow is imbedded in folklore.  People travelling on long journeys were instructed to pick ten leaves, then throw away one and put the nine remaining into a white cloth and tie with a string around your neck.  This would ward off evil spirits that you may encounter along the Irish country roads. Medical properties of yarrow have been known through generations for being a remedy for colds and fevers.  Yarrow leaves can also be added to a green salad.  Buttered new potatoes can be dressed with young chopped leaves because the leaves taste similar to rosemary.  The benefit gardeners value is that yarrow attracts pollinators.

It was an afternoon filled with many thoughts.  Now I have to try and find the story behind the name -- Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon.

Tune in to next Tuesday's Gardening: Get Good at It to learn how to "Garden on a Budget" - Nov. 30 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 a.m.

Sources:  The Irish Cookbook by JP McMahon

               Weeds of the West, published in cooperation with the Western U.S. Land Grant Universities.


Saturday, November 13, 2021

A FEW RANDOM TIPS from one gardener to another

A tip to keep handy come spring that will help conserve water. Before you throw out a sizeable nursery pot repurpose it into a water ring. Cut off the top 4 to 5 inches of a pot creating a wide ring of plastic. Place the ring around a plant, working it in an inch or two into the ground. When it's time to water, fill the ring and enjoy watching the water soak directly into the root zone.

The tall bamboo stakes serve many purposes between the greenhouse and the garden.  I keep them stored in a 5 gallon bucket in the garden shed.  I need to put into practice a hint I saved.  The gardener stored her bamboo stakes in a tree trunk wrap.  The rigid plastic protector keeps all the stakes together and would be far more convenient to carry the bundle than carrying the 5 gallon bucket with the stakes flopping around.

One fall job still on my list is to wax the wooden handles of my wheel-barrow, several rakes, and a shovel.  Yes, I still have wooden handled garden tools.  I use Minwax, but I am sure there are many wood waxes available. 

Reuse the hanging wire baskets that you'd normally fill with a liner and soil as a low-cost holiday light feature.  Years ago creative folks at the Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles, Michigan filled a wire hanging basket with Christmas lights and hung the basket in a pergola.  Or, adopting that idea it could be part of a front porch or patio decoration; much easier and safer than stringing lights following the roof line.

I am still toying with the idea of using an upside-down tomato cage as an outdoor Christmas tree.  The dream tree I cut out years ago featured the cages wrapped in woven grapevine and honeysuckle pruning's.  The tree was designed by a gardener in Eugene which explains the  bountiful grapevine cuttings.  Suggestions also included flexible  pruning's of redtwig or yellowtwig dogwood, willow, wisteria or woody clematis.  Lights are woven around and between the branches to twinkle at the front entry at night.  I think it will probably have to remain my dream tree and I will go to idea #2 which is to follow the instructions to create a whimsical tree using wide wired craft ribbon in holiday colors wound in and around the form and scattered here and there with a holiday bobble, plus lights, of course. 

An early November newsletter posting from OSU horticulture department advised using wood ashes in the garden.  That is a definite NO for Central Oregon gardeners.  Our native soil composition is based on a high percentage of volcanic ash.  That was one of the first lectures when the Master Gardener program was introduced to Central Oregon in 1982-83.  It was a time when most everyone had a wood burning stove so it was an important first lecture in how to be a successful gardener in C.O.  I decided I had better recheck my facts 38 years later and the NO still stands.  Please keep in mind that we need to follow the guidelines of Central Oregon Master Gardener studies that are appropriate to our area.

Mark your calendar for Gardening: Get Good at it "The Winter Landscape Garden" segment on Tues. Nov. 16 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 a.m.

Friday, October 22, 2021


Before you know it daylight savings will be ending, Sunday November 7th, to be exact.  Then the days seem to really fly by and the Holiday season will be here.

I looked at the containers next to the front door and felt sad.  The bountiful bright marigolds are brown and drooping; the white calibrachoa is limp from the frosty nights.  The deep burgundy red flowers of the geraniums have been replaced with withered brown flower heads.  However, there is a glint ofhope.  The geranium leaves are still green and pliable so the project will be to dig out the geraniums and repot to a container in the sunroom.  To clarify--the sunroom is an enclosed patio, unheated but for the good graces of the central Oregon sun.  Since it is smaller than the greenhouse it stays warmer.  What's left in the containers will go into the compost.

I'll miss the color spot on the front porch so I've decided to create fall colors by wrapping pruned branches with yarn which I have a stash of from project leftovers.  Hopefully it will look like a massive bouquet of color.  I will use some rabbitbrush and artemesia to soften the look, plus a pumpkin or two to add different shapes.  That should carry the eye candy through Thanksgiving. 

Probably some passerbys will raise an eyebrow and think "Oh my, a busy hands at home project."  I agree, it is pretty simplistic but how can gardeners live without color and without keeping busy till spring seeding time?

I did the yarn wrapping last year for Christmas on a small scale to add color to a basket of greens.  It's a little tricky working with the glue and keeping the yarn looking neat as you go round and round but I think it's worth the effort, plus it used up scrapes of yarn.

It's not too early to think of and collect ideas of natural ornaments for the holidays.  I can't help but wonder if the DIY craft supplies will be limited due to the shipping problems that seem to be universal in all industries. 

Have you been thinking you really need to toss out long expired spices before the new year?  Coat the surface of a craft (Styrofoam) ball with glue.  Use good craft glue or a cool glue gun.  To make the hanger knot the ends of a ribbon or cording together.  Bend a 4 inch length of light weight wire in half (even a straightened out paper clip would do).  Attach ribbon or cording to the ornament with wire  and secure with a dot of glue.  Do the hanger before coating the ball.  Or if you are using the decorated balls in a basket, you can eliminate the hanger.  Working in small areas at a time, spread with glue and firmly press in the spices with your fingers until they adhere.  You could also add juniper berries, rose hips, seed pods, lavender buds or or anything else of interest from your garden.  I shamefully admit that I found several seed packets that are at least 10 years old so I am going to use those also.

Currently I am being tormented with the ideas I have collected for recycling tomato cages into Christmas trees--just can't decide which way to go--fancy or natural--decisions, decisions.

Don't forget to check out Gardening: Get Good at It "Five Easy Houseplants" segment on Tues. November 2 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 a m