Saturday, November 9, 2019

DO YOU HAVE 'LBJ's"?

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.


Source: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/



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

TASTY TOMATOES

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

GOOD GUY OR BAD GUY?

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 Bugguide.net. 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 Bugguide.net, 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."




Saturday, August 24, 2019

OH HAIL

When bad things happen in the gardens of our friends it affects all of us.  The gardens of my friends in Tumalo and Culver have been foremost in my thoughts these past 2 weeks.

The months of tending to vegetables and looking forward to produce---all gone.

Perfectly color coordinated annual flower plantings---all gone
July Shasta Daisies
.
Favorite container plantings---all gone.

Perennials prone to the ground.  Fruit trees and deciduous trees were stripped bare.  Juniper needles and berries are inches thick on the ground.

Hearing the sadness in their voices and the disbelief of what remains gave me an inkling of what it must be like to suffer the losses of a wildfire.

The question now is what to do?  It's not one of the problems you can ask google.  How would you phrase it?  "Plant damage caused by 6 inches of hail in August in the High Desert: edu sites only."

A conversation at the Extension Office offered the following thoughts.

Looking at the calendar, August is the time that perennials and landscape materials are starting to shutdown.  Their roots systems have probably absorbed all the nutrients needed to go into the dormant season.

Fertilizing trees and shrubs would push them into a new growth cycle.  You know what can happen in the unpredictable weather cycle of Central Oregon--we could have a damaging frost next week.

It is best to move into a triage  process determining what is the severity of damage and can something be done.  Limbs that were broken should be pruned in the appropriate manner.  Otherwise, let nature take its course.

Perennials should be cleaned up removing any broken stems.  Would staking or adding a cage be of value in helping the plant recuperate?

There won't be time for a new crop of tomatoes to develop even if you have been left with some blossoms.  If you're determined, you could revert to the early spring practices of using row covers, plus a dose of a tomato food.

Shasta Daisies After August Hailstorm
There's a strong possibility that the cabbages will produce off shoots after the main head has been removed and broccoli usually continues to produce florets after the main stalk is removed.

The encouraging news is that you can do some fall plantings of cold hardy vegetables like carrots, beets and fall mixed salad greens and don't forget it is getting time to plant garlic.  I planted beets on August 5 and they germinated starting August 11.  They germinated so quickly because the soil temperature has reached and maintained a warmer temperature than the spring planting.  In the spring they seem to take forever.

If you lost some herbs that you had intended to dry, call Don Schnack at 541-389-4440.  Don is offering FREE herb cuttings (not plants) at his property in the Plainview area between Bend and Sisters.  Herbs that need cutting are mints, anise hyssop, basil, parsley, chives and tarragon.  Bring scissors and bags.  Call Don for more information.

Don't forget 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.



Saturday, August 10, 2019

KUDOS, MANY TIMES OVER

I can't let the 26th OSU Extension High Desert Garden Tour pass into history without making comments.

IT WAS WONDERFUL and I wish I could do it all over again.  Approximately 250 tickets were sold.  In the survey tally only two attendees complained that  it was too far---did they not look at a  map of Central Oregon and realize the tour was beyond the Bend City limits?

My friend and I opted to take advantage of the van transportation offered by the Oregon State University Extension Service .  Yes, it added an additional $10. to the ticket price but it was door to door delivery plus the opportunity to interact with 10 people you may not have met previously.

Over lunch in a downtown Madras restaurant we exchanged all the pertinent garden information with each other of who, where, and when and discovered we had more things in common than not.

It wasn't until I got home that I realized I had a book that tied in with the Plant Select reference brochure provided by the Madras Garden Depot at the information table at Garden #1.

"Pretty Tough Plants" was compiled by experts at Plant Select and released in 2017 by Timber Press.  Plant Selet began in the 1980's as an idea among staff at Denver Botanic Gardens at Colorado State University and members of the local horticultural industry.  The focus was to introduce new and unusual plants to fast-growing regions with a challenging climate, using fewer resources.

It was exciting to note that many of the gardens displayed choices from the "Pretty Tough Plants".  Perhaps that was why the tour seemed so satisfying to so many of us.  The plant choices were appropriate to the geography of the area.

Strolling through the gardens is a wonderful experience but the true depth of the experience is the knowledge gained from the labeling of the plants.  Adding the variety helps in making decisions  for your own garden.  Catmint is a great perennial but the variety I have reseeds to the point of being invasive.  According to Plant Select, Nepeta 'Psfike', Little Trudy is non-seeding, compact and very hardy.  The next step will be to pull out the old and plant Little Trudy.

I applaud the homeowners for making our day more enjoyable than we could have imagined with your interaction with your visitors and your willingness to share information.  Many thanks to the OSU Master Gardener Volunteers who hosted each garden.

Don't forget to check out the Gardening: Get Good At It -- Tending Arborvitae segment Tues August 13 on KPOV 88.9 FM "The Point" between 9-9"30 am




Saturday, July 27, 2019

WHO DONE IT??

Garden tours are so inspiring and the choices of Madras gardens this year were overwhelming.  For the 26th time I ended my day of OSU Garden Tours ready to bring in the bulldozer and start anew.

When I settled my thoughts back to earth I opted to be creative with a concrete birdbath that had seen its best days as a functional birdbath; it had ceased holding water.

I decided to plant the birdbath with Stonecrop 'Tricolor', a perennial sedum with variegated pink and white foliage and rosy-pink flowers.  I bought a bag of proper cactus, succulent potting soil and in no time had an attractive arrangement.  I bordered the sedums with a trailing variety of bright blue lobelia.  The combination was eye-candy to me--the bright blue made you look twice to appreciate the delicate coloration in the "Tricolor'.
Chewed Up Stonecrop

My creative smugness was short-lived.  Within 48 hours all I had left were stubbles of both the sedum and the lobelia.

I have seen a rabbit darting from bush to underbrush on the property but unless it was a flying rabbit, and landed atop the birdbath,  it couldn't have done the damage.

The rockchuck that decided to visit my sunroom one morning several weeks ago was too big and too fat to have gotten to the height of the plants, plus he wouldn't have had space to sit and enjoy his meal.

 I guess I am back to blaming the doleful-eyed "who me?" deer.  The sedums are now replanted, minus the lobelia, to a container that will reside in the sunroom.  Come the chill of winter the container will over-winter in the greenhouse.

With fingers crossed I think I have found a plant that I will enjoy and the critters won't.  It has been planted for five days with no sign of any nibbles.

Origanum 'Aureum'
The plant is Origanum 'Aureum' a golden creeper (let's hope) with 1/2 to 1 inch wide rounded leaves.  Late summer will bring on small lavender to purple flowers.  The leaves are fragrant and can be used in cooking.

To border the planting I gathered some of the more interesting rocks we have collected over the years and they have added the bling that makes you stop and appreciate all aspects of nature.

Don't forget to check out the Gardening:Get Good At It: What is Powdery Mildew? segment on Tues July 30 on KPOV 88.9 FM "The Point" between 9-9:30 am