Saturday, June 27, 2020

HAVE YOU MET "MISS PERIWINKLE" ?

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.

                             


  

   

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A SHOPPING TRIP ON THE HORIZON

You'll have to admit that our self-quarantine has given us permission to dally.  I am getting accustomed to puttering here and there throughout the day.  I accomplish what needs to be done but I also entertain too many distractions along the way.  Is that a bad thing?  Probably not, it keeps the blood pressure stable and is a daily reminder of our obligation to Mother Nature.

Swallowtail Butterfly
As we go about our daily routines give some thought to June being declared "National Pollinator Month".  Specifically June 22-28 is designated as "National Pollinator Week" sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

It is a sobering thought that 75% of the worlds flowering plants depend on pollinators.  One out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of pollinators.

 Pollinators are attracted to the same things we are: color, fragrance and flower form.

Butterflies seem to be attracted to red, orange and yellow.  I never think about night blooming plants.  Truth be told, I don't think I can name any other than the Moonflower Vine which is an Ipomoea and cousin to the Morning Glory.  The night blooming plants are also important to support moths and bats.

There are some fine points to consider when choosing plants for pollinator food.  Avoid modern hybrid flowers with double flowers.  Sometimes plant breeders have left the pollen, nectar and fragrance out of the blossoms creating the biggest, most perfect blooms.  That's great for Country Fair entries and the possibility of a blue ribbon winner but of little help to the sustainability of our environment. 

Swallowtail Caterpillar
Eliminate pesticides whenever possible.  If you must use them, spray at night when bees and other pollinators are not active.  I know, that's not the directions on the container.  You have to follow your own path. 

Don't be such a neat-freak.  If you want beautiful butterflies you have to be tolerant.  Accept the fact that some host plants are actually WEEDS.  

 A well planned, efficient pollinator garden has many parts.  It is a healthy balance of grasses, garden flowers (annuals and perennials), shrubs and trees.  Think about including some native plants to support the native bee population.

Spend some time studying the possibilities in your copy of "Water-Wise Gardening in Central Oregon".  The butterfly, bird and bee symbols are there for a reason.  They help us to simplify  and make choices that benefit our environment.

Be sure to listen to the Gardening: Get Good at It,  "Your June Veggie Garden Care" segment on Tues. June 16 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

ARE YOU A GRUMPY GARDENER?

After a week of generally chilly, gray, rainy days, I was ready to declare myself a "Grumpy Gardener".  I  realized the weather had a greater impact on my mental state than the self-quarantine, stay-home edict.

When I was about to contact wildlife photographer, Michael Smith offering a gardeners sequel to his photo "The Mad Bluebird", I woke up to a weather forecast of a MOSTLY sunny day.  The forecast of mostly sunny was enough to put me back on the glass is half full, positive track.

I have added another project to the gardening list.  You may have read in The Bulletin about tracking annuals that have a possibility of being deer-resistant.  I have put together a list from various sources and I have designated two areas to experiment with.  I have purchased seeds for 6 varieties and will purchase starts for the remainder on the list that fit our USDA zones.

I am using the heat mat and a gro-light rather than relying on the inconsistency of temperatures and natural light in the greenhouse.   A real moral booster on a rainy day was finding the Purple Royal Carpet alyssum germinated in two days and the Honey-Scented alyssum from Renee's in three days.  It is amazing how spirits can be lifted over a tray of germinating seeds.

I am old enough and have been living in the area long enough to know this final study will not be the be all, end all, document.  What worked on my side of the street may not work on your side.  Regardless of the end result, my landscape will be filled with snapdragons, cosmos, zinnias, nasturtiums, calendulas marigolds, impatiens for the shade and a few zonal geraniums.  Among the flowers will be some of the tasty vegetables deer can never resist.   It will be interesting to keep track rather than just complain.

I always plant Minnesota Midget muskmelon but have never been interested in watermelon varieties.  Descriptive words caught me off guard.  Words like "tiny treasures of sweetness, 3 to 5 pounds, longer harvest window in the garden, takes less space in the fridge".  I surrendered and on March 24th ordered Ocelot F1 a new watermelon variety.  The seeds were on backorder and were received on May 18.

However, there is always the fine print.  The long awaited envelope finally arrived with 2 seed packets and an instruction sheet for planting watermelons.  My reaction was how nice that the company sent a complimentary packet of free seeds since I had to wait so long.

The fine print----there was no mention in the description of the melon being seedless.  The seedless trait, according to the fact sheet, is a result of a traditional cross of a normal seeded diploid parent with a tetraploid parent.

The seeds should be started in separate trays.  The triploid variety is the Ocelot, the diploid variety is the pollinator-Ace.

At planting time a row of the Ace (diploid) would be followed by 2 rows of Ocelot (triploid), then another row of Ace.  A diagram was offered for a planting of 56 plants.  Now I need to break it down to a small experimental patch.  Considering the ill-fated luck we Central Oregon gardeners sometimes can experience at harvest time, one phrase, with adaptations comes to mind.  "Oh what fools these gardeners be".  My apologies to Wm. Shakespeare.

To be truthful, I think the deer-resistant study will be more fun and of more general value.  Henceforth, in years to come, I will make a point of purchasing a watermelon at the Farmers market.

Don't forget to check out Gardening:  Get Good at It "Two Plant Clinic Topics" segment Tues. June 2 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.







Saturday, May 9, 2020

MASTER GARDENERS LOVE DIGGING (RESEARCH & DIRT)

One of my hopes for the new "norm" is a continuing, ongoing interest in backyard gardening be it in flowers, shrubs, or veggies.  Our responsibility as "furloughed" OSU Master Gardeners is to look around our neighborhood or communicate with our circle of friends and offer encouragement, even advice if asked.  Keep your eyes open to who is doing what and show interest and encouragement.

I think my seeding frenzy is almost over.  If I don't stop soon I will have to build another greenhouse.  My challenge with the "stay home" advice has been to experiment more with geminating perennials.  My experience so far leads me to believe that the nursery price we pay for perennials that are ready to burst into bloom is well worth it.  Perennial seeds, for the most part take more attention and patience.

In the March 28 blog I wrote of my beginning experiments.  I started with the ice cube cold stratification method for Eryngium, Sea Holly.  Of the 12 seeds, only 1 germinated and the plant growth is very slow.  It may be the cold treatment wasn't long enough - only a week - or the seeds had lost their viability from the 2019 harvest.  There was no germination in the second tray.  I do have another tray of seeded cubes that have been in the freezer for 1 month and I will try again.  In doing some research, the recommended process is to direct seed in the fall of the bloom season giving the seeds their natural cold stratification.

The herb, Winter Savory was started March 22 using seed starting mix,  heat mat and eventually the grow light.  Germination started a week later. The seedlings are very delicate and slow growing.  Germination was less than 50%.  I feel I missed a step along the way--more research needed.

At one point I put aside the perennial project and started the tomatoes.

On April 27 I planted a half flat of Ratibida, Mexican Hat, in seeding mix for germination in the greenhouse.  Covering was very light, just enough to keep the seeds in place as they need light to germinate.  The dried flower heads were still intact; I gently massaged the seeds off the dried flower heads.  I suppose you could call that scattering.  Germination time was listed as 2 weeks.  I had germination in 10 days.

The Echinacea, Purple Coneflower, seed packet was marked by me as expiring in 2020.  I used the Park Start plant plugs on the heat mat to germinate and will use the remainder of the seeds to direct sow when the time is right.  The seeds were started on April 27 and germinated on May 7.  Germination rate was very high.

I ordered Climbing Phoenix, an heirloom nasturtium from Renee's Garden .  There are 12 started in the Park Starts on April 27.    As of May 7, 2 have popped up with indications of 8 more not far behind.  I will direct sow another 12 to the garden when the time is right.

The Monarda fistulosa, Wild Bergamot, is also an extremely small seed.  I used the Park Starts but I fear they may gotten lost in the dark cavern of the plug.  They were seeded on April 27 and I don't see any signs of activity.  According to the research, they are a member of the mint family.  Care will have to be taken  as to where I plant if they do follow the family trait of uncontrolled spreading.  Also listed was a deer resistant characteristic  Let's hope!  Like other Monardas powdery mildew can be problematic.

The tomato variety list this year added up to 18 varieties.  Some are tried and true, others are being given a second chance and 2, the AAS selection Celano Grape and the other is a no-name, just a number from Seed & Such being trialed.

The results of the soaking of the garden peas prior to planting, in water and the mid-west tradition of milk resulted that the peas soaked in water germinated quicker and at a better rate.  That's not to say the mid-west tradition was wrong.  Rather, it lends itself to my thinking how milk has changed over the years.  I used my usual purchase of 2%.  My mother and her peers would have used the whole milk right off the farm delivered to the front door by Kells Dairy.  Makes you wonder.

Check out Gardening: Get Good at It "Composting" segment Tues. May 19 on KPOV 88.9 between 9-9:30 am.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

BUGS, BIRDS, BEES & BUTTERFLIES

We all have our bittersweet moments.  Maybe as we grow older we have more of them or at least we are more sensitive to them as they happen.

Such was the day I needed to try and finish cleaning the irrigation ditch before the water came rolling in.  It was one of those wonderfully warm sunny days that was hitting close to 70 degrees.  I started out using the weed-eater for as much as I could, but the reeds had to be either hand clipped or dug.

I got down on the trusty OSU kneeling pad and that was when I started noticing things.  Or rather "seeing"  things.  I saw soft bodied bugs and hard shelled beetles.  I saw short legs, long legs, light colors, dark colors.  Some raced across the cleared ditch bed looking for shelter, a worm inched along looking and wondering what had just happened.  I did have pangs of guilt for the overall unexpected eviction of their safe space.

I did what we normally don't take time to do.  I sat back, watched and truly "saw".  It was an extravagance of time that we normally don't allow ourselves when we are in hopes of finishing a chore.

 I have petitioned the irrigation district for two years to pipe my ditch.  It is wide and deep and I am on the near end of the line.  The ditch is one of the original irrigation ditches meant to serve the farms that existed in the area 75 years ago.   Those have been replaced by subdivisions, churches and two acre hobby farms.  My concerns are for water conservation.  I am sure the water loss through seepage is substantial and each year our snow level seems to be less and less.  This year more of an interest was taken and there was a scheduled walk-through of the property to access the length and depth of the ditch to consider piping.

Why was cleaning the ditch my bittersweet moment?  Perhaps this is the last year of its visual existence.  I thought about the many years of grandkids playing in what they called, the creek. Now as young adults when they come for the yearly visit they talk about the fun it was to build their boats out of the scrap lumber and race them down the ditch, so they do have lasting memories.  Life changes.

I have, more than usual,mourning doves this year.  When I heard frantic bird sounds I looked around.  On the utility wires were two doves enjoying the day, when a third dove joined on the wire all pandemonium broke out.  Lots of noise, lots of in-flight chasing and more noise.  Had it occurred before, probably.  I had never taken time to "see".

I watched several bees at ground level .  One investigated a hole in the ground, went in for a look-see, surfaced and flew off.  I realized I needed to spend some time studying the "Bees of Oregon" placard since I didn't know one bee from the other.

The entire day was an enforcement of the saying, "Take time to smell the roses."  Whatever your interpretation of the saying is, flowers, bugs, bees, birds and yes there were several butterflies, take time to stop and "see".

On the seed starting front, the peas planted in the unheated greenhouse on Good Friday are breaking through.  I soaked half in milk and the other half in water.  It is too early for results but it looks like more soil activity on the milk side.  Will keep track and report.

I planted an oval shaped poly container that I am calling my salad bowl on April 14th.  I planted a new mixed green from Johnny's called Cheap Frills-20 day maturity, and two rows of Champion radishes.  Both germinated in a week.  The bowl is in the unheated sunroom, no cover at night.

It is wonderful to be playing in the dirt, even with the end of day moans and groans of aching body parts.

Check out Gardening: Get Good at It "Vegetable Garden Site Selection" segment May 5, on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.








Saturday, April 11, 2020

BE PREPARED

We have had some good laughs on how to handle our temporary restricted life.  Humorous e-mails from friends and family, Facebook videos, collective live performances on TV to replace our favorite nighttime shows.  Even the Metropolitan Opera is streaming operas at night, go to metopera.org for details.

Our life is different.  Our limited trips to the grocery store in particular should be acting as a heads up for Central Oregonians.  A conversation with a friend has prompted some deep thoughts.  We have ended another winter of limited snow, and there haven't been any significant springs rains.  Aren't we facing a high probability of forest fires when supplies might become limited or we are advised to stay indoors because of severe air pollution.

Within the last few weeks Utah had an earthquake.  Thankfully it was a jiggle-I never did hear the registered reading.  We have had many warnings over the past few years that an earthquake is a possibility in our state.  How many have given any thought to preparedness?  Earthquakes don't send out advance signals to the press and when we hear scientific reports, we tend to neglect them and continue to live as normal.

We experienced how quickly life can change and how unprepared we might be.  I am not suggesting we adopt the "toilet paper" hoard mentally.  Rather,  just become more aware of  the non perishable items you consume and purchase one extra to tuck into a storage container.

I lived in Alaska at the time of the 1964 earthquake.  Our town, Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula was totally cut off from Anchorage, no trucks bringing supplies, no communication.  It was a homestead community where everyone shared with each other.  Even at best with sharing, you quickly learned what the saying "Be Prepared" means.

Being prepared can be as simple as checking your spice cabinet for your favorite seasoning. Recently I ran out of my favorite seasoning, curry powder and only had half the amount I needed to finish the sauce.  Do you have any dehydrated soup mixes, they can be used so many different ways.  Canned foods  are great for when electricity isn't available, but in this high tech age, do you have a manual can opener?  If you are a camper, you are already well equipped.

News reports from the mid-West as well as West coast farmers who supply so much of our fresh produce, indicate that they are having problems getting their fields planted due to lack of employees.  Another good reason to do some vegetable gardening this year.  You don't need acreage, just a few containers to grow greens, some cherry tomatoes and even kale that can be dehydrated into kale chips.

Sixteen years ago my husband passed.  Friends brought our family a potted Peace Lily that was in bloom.  For 16 years the plant has not bloomed.  Three weeks ago when life seemed to be falling apart, the plant set a bloom.  Why now?  Is the beautiful flower a sign of faith that all will be well?

Check out Gardening:  Get Good at It "What to Plant" segment Tues,   April 21 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am








Saturday, March 28, 2020

HOW YA DOIN'?

In case you haven't heard, the one thing that has not been cancelled is gardening.  In fact, this may be the spring you will have time to start seeds that have been on your list for "someday".

I set up my seed starting table on March 22.  I constructed the light system years ago to fit a 33" x 33" folding table.  The size of the table limits the light fixtures to 2 rather than the 3 as pictured.  I did not use PVC glue  as I wanted to store the pieces in a plastic storage bin.  I did number the pieces and color coded them for easy assembly.


I had been planning on some herbs to start and had ordered winter savory seeds in Febuary.  Winter savory, Saturega montana, is a bushy perennial herb with bright green leaves and small white flowers.  It does not require a lot of water and does well in a container..  The leaves are a combination in flavor of all the Italian herbs: marjoram, thyme, oregano and sage.  The leaves can be used fresh or cut and dried.

Germination of winter savory is listed as 10-20 days.  The seeds  are not covered, they take light to germinate.  The seeded tray is on a seeding heat mat, soil temperature needs to be 70-80 degrees.  I planted 2 seeds per cell.  The seeds are minuscule which ended up being a labor of love and eye strain for several hours. Personally waiting for seeds to germinate is as nerve racking as waiting for childbirth!  I am like a mother hen, I check the table at least 4 times a day hoping to see a seed pop through.

My next hands on adventure was to try a technique that has been in my "try it" file for several years.

The technique involves seeds that require stratification to germinate.

Two terms that are often confusing are scarification and stratification.  I found the following definitions helpful and easy to remember.  Scarification is the process of cracking the hard outer shell of a seed to promote germination.

Stratification is the process of fooling seeds into thinking it is winter.

A friend shared sea holly, Eryngium, seeds last fall.  I should have followed the recommended process of direct seeding then in late fall.  But, you know how that goes--the best laid plans---etc.

There are several methods of stratification.  One is to place the unopened packet of seeds in the refrigerator for several weeks, you'll get better results if the seeds are damp.  The next method would be to place the seeds on a damp paper towel and roll them and place in a plastic bag to chill in the refrigerator for a week.

A third method appealed to me.  The method is using ice cubes.  Fill an ice cube tray half full of water and freeze.  When ready to seed, set the tray on the counter for a few minutes to thaw just long enough to get a thin film of water.  Drop several seeds on each cube, then carefully add more water to the cube and refreeze.

On March 23 I planted a half-flat with seeding mix and the ice cubes.  The ice cubes were  sprinkled with a small amount of seeding mix so that when the cube melted, the seeds would be lightly covered.  I planted a second half-flat with seeding mix and seeds that had no prior chilling treatment.  I moved the flats to the greenhouse which is not heated.  Now we'll play the waiting game and let nature take over.

What is left of my forsythia started blooming on March 25th.  I checked my journal and it usually blooms between the 27th and end of March.  The deer really had their way with the bush this winter--lots of broken branches and pulled out saplings.  The cycle for years has been when the forsythia starts blooming within 2 weeks the daffodils start blooming.  Not sure for this year.  I checked and the daffodils are only up about an inch.  Is this another sign of a dry winter?

Check out Gardening:  Get Good At It: "The Best Irrigation for Your Plants" segment Tues March 31 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.

LATE BREAKING NEWS--Couldn't help myself, had to check the winter savory and three cheers, I could see 2 very tiny dots of green!