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!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Decorate Your Holiday Entry

I will never give up my Central Oregon residency of my own volition.  Although I must admit to having seasonal envy when I make my fall pilgrimage to Minneapolis each year.

This year the visit was different.  I traveled two weeks earlier, leaving in late September which made a difference in the leaf coloration.  It was getting a good start when I left.  It rained a lot, which put the damper on enjoying warm fall days outdoors.  I'm not complaining.  The purpose of the trip was family time, not to collect colorful leaves to press or to toast marshmallows at the fire pit.

What I did miss was coming home filled to overflowing with fall/winter landscaping inspiration.  It was too early for the local creative juices to start flowing.

In Minneapolis from my observations over the years, has been that once the pumpkin stands open the containers of petunias are tossed and the fall d├ęcor takes over.  It's not just pumpkins and cornstalks but beautiful arrangements of locally sources dried materials.  It is an assortment of branches with berries, dried seed pods, grasses and greenery.  As soon as Thanksgiving is over the containers seem to magically morph into a winter theme with maybe just a dab of Christmas embellishments that can be removed after Christmas.

Materials that are still in good condition are retained and the container freshened with the addition of a variety of pine boughs and branches.  My favorites are the containers that add the white birch "logs" that are approximately 3-4 inches in diameter and in various lengths.

I have often wondered why we don't carry through with seasonal front door containers.  We do a fabulous job of creating summer color spots, maybe we should give a try at something to catch the eye during the winter.  BUT PLEASE, NO PLASTIC POINSETTIAS OR GREENERY.

Remember a few years ago when wrapping yarn around public objects was popular?  Why not wrap colorful yarn around cut branches for a color spot in a container of juniper branches.

I looked around my yard today and started making a list.  So far I have some up with Oregon Grape, blue spruce, juniper rabbit brush, dried weed seed heads, branches of sage brush and ponderosa pine.  You just need a few branches of different varieties, not enough to do any damage to your prized landscaping plants.

Check the blog site on Dec. 7 for pictures and hopefully be inspired to celebrate winter with color.

Have you wondered about "Winter Tree Care"?  Tune in the Gardening: Get Good at It segment  Tues November 26 at 9 am on KPOV-The Point 88.9 FM.

Saturday, November 9, 2019


Gray Junco
You know fall is here with winter not far behind when you start seeing the dark-eyed junco in your landscape flitting about.  The dark-eyed junco earned an "LBJ" moniker from my husband when we moved to central Oregon in 1978.  We had much to learn about our new environment and until we had all the this's and that's properly identified, Dick referred to the dark-eyed junco as an "LBJ"--little brown job.

The LBJs usually start arriving in central Oregon when the snow starts falling in the Cascades.  They flock to the lower elevations in search of feed.

For newcomers so that you don't have to go through the learning curve,  the bird is a little gray bird with white outer tail feathers that flash when it flies.  I haven't seen any as of this date.  Perhaps the snow at the higher elevations hasn't triggered their instinct that it's time to find new digs.

Lamb's Quarters
Dark-eyed juncos are seed-eaters in the winter feasting on seeds of chickweed, buckwheat, lamb's quarters and other weed seeds.  According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, juncos forage mostly on the ground while hopping and running.  They are often seen scratching with their feet in leaf-litter or snow in search of seeds.  Generally they will not come to a bird feeder.

During the summer half of their diet  consists of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs and spiders.

On a very serious note that we should all give  thought to is that the bird population in general is experiencing the loss of habitat.  The bird declines are due to human activity that would include agricultural land being converted to urban development.  That would be hard for us as Master Gardeners to have much control over.  But we can continue to have a strong voice in the excessive use of pesticides, which kills off insects, an important source of food for many bird species.  We need to spend time this winter continuing to learn more about integrated pest management rather than depending on a squirt bottle to solve problems.

The LBJ moniker also applied to the nuthatches, mountain chickadees, house finches and wrens.  We always kept several bird feeders filled with black-oil sunflower seed which is easier for the smaller birds to crack than that of the striped sunflower seeds.  A plastic 10 inch plant saucer is available for their watering needs.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch
There are a few tricks to getting birds to visit your feeder.  Birds need to feel secure so feeders should be placed near shrubs and trees from which they can observe the area.  They like to make sure Felix the friendly cat isn't lurking about.  To prevent the spread of diseases among birds, it is recommended that you clean and disinfect bird feeders every few weeks, letting them dry thoroughly before refilling them.  Remove seed hulls and spilled seed from the ground each week for the same reason.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

What Do We Do Now?

During my gardening lifetime I have probably filled to overflowing at least 4 file folders of what I label "Bits & Pieces".  The bits and pieces are collections of gardening tips written on scraps of paper, pages torn from magazines and newspaper articles sent by friends and relatives.

I wish I could say I am smart enough to be the originator of these ideas, but alas, I can only admit to collecting and sharing.  Call them a hodge-podge or a potpourri, use what is helpful to you, and share with friends.share with friends.

This is such a transitional time of year--too late to do "this" and too early to do "that".

Many times I have found in freezing my garden produce I haven't been able to remove the excess water.  After steam blanching and then cooling in ice water, place the vegetables in a salad spinner.  It does an excellent job of removing the water from the vegetables.  This method is more efficient than the  kitchen strainer.  Label and pop in the freezer.

I have a tendency to fill the wheelbarrow to overflowing with the fall cleanup debris headed either to the compost pile or the yard debris container.  I was only too happy to put this tip into practice.  To keep the debris from bouncing out as I wheel them to their destination, I hook a bungee cord under one lip of the wheelbarrow, stretch it across the load and hook the other end under the opposite lip.  I usually use two cords.

Chrysanthemums can be a little tricky to overwinter in central Oregon. I adapted this tested method from Iowa State University at least five years ago.  They tested 19 varieties of mums and noted that plants left unpruned will survive the winter better than those that are cut back in October or November.  Stems that are left standing hold fallen leaves and snow, which insulate plants' roots from the cold. Of course, it doesn't hurt to add a toasty blanket of loose mulch once the ground has frozen.

Fortunately I haven't had any cutworm problems these past few years but I will keep this tip in the file just in case.  Maybe it is my good luck charm.  We have all probably saved and cut out the bottoms of tuna cans or cut cardboard strips to make cutworm collars.  This tip is especially good at this time of year when someone in the house might be looking for a project.  It could be a great Christmas gift for a gardener.

Use a thinwall PVC drainage pipe, about the same diameter as a tuna can.  With any type of saw cut  into 3" to 4" lengths.  The best part is when the season is over the collars can be washed and stored until next year.

Share your favorite fall tip!  I need to add to my file--I discarded three of them recently.

Don't forget to check out the Gardening: Get Good At It "Next Spring's Soil" segment Tues Oct. 22 on KPOV 88.9FM "The Point" between 9-9:30am.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Once a month I gather with three long-time friends for a brown bag lunch.  We rotate houses, bring our lunch and celebrate life in general be it good, bad or ugly.

September was my turn and we participated in an activity that made us realize fall and harvest time is on its way.  We taste tested the tomato varieties I grew this year.

Some were the tried and true, others were new trials.  All in all, we tested 5 of the 8 varieties.  Sweet Aperitiff, a cherry, and Early Bush Beefsteak, a slicer, needed another week.  We had tested Beaverlodge, a Canadian developed slicer, last month with lots of kudos.  It will be on the 2020 list to grow.

Orange Slice, an exclusive from Burpee won an excellent flavor award from the testers.  Some "critter" also found it tasty, at least partially.  When I reached to pick a very large specimen, I discovered it had been half eaten on the vine.  The damage was far greater than a hornworm, deer didn't get accused this time--maybe raccoon, skunk or rock chuck.

Cobra, a greenhouse variety I have grown for years also rated the "now that's a tomato" excellent flavor award.  Territorial Seed lists it as also grown outdoors so maybe I will try one outdoors also next year.

Applegate, also a greenhouse variety that I have grown for years is very productive .  Testers agreed that it was more acidic than the first two.

Rocket, Camp Joy,and Sweet Million will also stay on the list for 2020.  The comment on Celebrity was "tastes like a store bought".  Siletz may be early but I find it lacks flavor.

The question did come up as to the how's and why's of the tough skin on some varieties.  The "Magic Machine" has all the answers and did confirm some of our thoughts.

Typically three things can cause tough skins on tomatoes: variety, watering, temperature.

Roma tomatoes will naturally have thick tomato skins because they have been bred that way.  Romas are often used for canning and drying.  The thick skins are easier to remove when canning and the thick skins also hold together better when dried.

High heat can cause a tomato plant to have thick skin.  In high heat tomatoes can be scalded by the sun.  In order to protect the tomato, the plants will start producing tomatoes with tougher skins.  Nature protects its own.  During a sudden heat wave you can provide some shade during the hottest part of the day if possible to lessen the possibility of the tough skin.

When tomato plants have too little water, a survival reaction sets in.  It will take steps to conserve the water it does get by growing thicker skins.  The thicker skin holds the water in better.

At this time of the year it would be wise to pinch out any new blossoms as there won't be time or plant energy to ripen what is on the vine plus develop new tomatoes.

Yes, the season is ending--where did all the time go?

Don't forget to check out the Gardening: Get Good At It segment " Bulb Lasagna: What's NOT for Dinner" Tues. Sept. 17th on  KPOV 88.9 FM "The Point" between 9-9:30 am


Saturday, September 7, 2019


Some workdays at the OSU Master Gardener Plant Clinic are more exciting than others, especially when the "chief bug lady" gives a shout out of "I'VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE".

Two days before a shift at Plant Clinic, I found an insect on a lawn sprinkler.  It appeared dead and since we are always looking for insects for you know who, I put it in a jar with a few leaves, just in case there was a breath of life left.  Apparently there was.  On the second day of capture it looked like there had been an effort to find an escape hatch but with no luck.

My clinic partner and I started the search for identity using the tools we've been taught to use: books, computer sites, microscope.

After close to two hours we found a match on The specimen is a Cyphocleonus achates, a knapweed root weevil.  The weevil is a valued biological control and is host specific to spotted and diffuse knapweed.  The integrated pest management approach has been sought in controlling the weed by the releasing of C. achates in 13 states including Oregon.

The reason I thought it was dead is that it can't fly.  Their defense mechanism is to play dead.  For a predator I suppose half the challenge is catching your prey in motion.  Why bother with something that appears dead?

You may be wondering why I used a bouquet of dried knapweed.  If you look at the dried seed heads and compare that to the brown-gray mottled coloration of the weevil you will see the wonderful camouflage nature provided.  To view the weevil go to, click on images for Cyphocleonus achates.

C. achates overwinters as larvae in the tap root of the knapweed.  Adults emerge from late July through late September.  The adults feed on the knapweed leaves, preferring tender leaves in the center of the rosettes.  The eggs are laid on the plant root just below the soil and hatch in ten to twelve days.  The larvae burrow into the root and commence feeding on the root of the plant.  The larvae destroy the interior of the tap root and expose it to bacterial and fungal invasion which helps kill the plant.

I left Plant Clinic in a state of wonderment--do I have more, I certainly have plenty of knapweed on my two acres.  I should probably warn my neighbors not to worry, I'm just crawling around looking for the knapweed root weevil.

Be sure to check out the Gardening: Get Good At It segment on Tuesday August 27 on KPOV 88.9 FM "The Point between 9-9:30 am and learn all about "Getting Ready for Fall."