Saturday, November 28, 2020

X-MAS SHOPPING MADE EASY


 I heard the conversations ramping up a week ago. "I don't know what to get X,  Y & Z for Christmas".  Hopefully X, Y. & Z are gardeners as they are the easiest people in the world to shop for.  However, with some items you know they want or need, you will find it difficult to gift wrap and ship if necessary.  In that case, buy a gift card, print out a photo from the internet, write a personal note on the merits of the tool and send it off with love and hugs.

Rakes have been on my mind, probably because I had a new rake but donated it to a call out for garden tools when the clean-up started after the summer fires. 

Would you believe there are 32 different rakes for your garden and landscape?  Even rakes have a history to be acknowledged.  Rakes were invented in 1,100 BC in China and were all wood.  In 1874 a U.S. patent was given to a rake design that was described as "like a dustpan and broom combined".

The rake most popular is the garden rake but even there you have choices.  A flathead or a bowhead.  The flathead attaches to the handle.  When you look at it straight on, you see a "T".  Think of Mr. McGregor's rake as he was chasing Peter Rabbit from the garden.    

The bowhead is probably the one we are most familiar with.  It has an arching support that gives the rake more stability.  The best ones have a head, think frame, of forged high carbon steel.

I keep thinking of asking Santa for a thatch rake but in thinking it over, the better idea is to ask my lawn service if they could add thatching to their work list.  There are choices here also.  Some thatch rakes are one-sided, some have two-the sharp crescent-shaped blades remove debris and the round side is for cultivating.  Adjustable thatch rakes let you choose the angle that works best for the amount of thatch you have.  If your thatch is 1/2 inch deep or more, you need to rake, or perhaps use a power dethatcher.

Leaf rakes--that's another study in the tool fitting the purpose.  Sorry, there is no one-for-all rake that combines the garden rake and the efficiency of a leaf rake.  I have a 24 inch wide plastic leaf rake that is great for using in the wide open lawn.  Some leaf rakes go to a width of 30 inches, probably better used by someone who is taller than I am.  Because of the repetitive nature of leaf raking, comfort should be a major consideration.  The ergonomic designs have evolved into designing a curved handle.

The meal leaf rakes are good multipurpose rakes.  The springy nature is perfect for removing debris from less dense shrub borders along with fluffing the soil.  Look for metal rakes that have an enamel-coated stress bar that runs across the tines.  The stress bar keeps the tines from tangling with their neighboring tines.

A shrub rake makes cleaning under a packed perennial border a joy instead of a drudge.  I bought one this summer with a long handle and an expanding head.  It got a little tricky adjusting to where I wanted to clean out but still much easier than trying to clean out  under shrubs using hand tools

The rake we should all have is a roof rake to remove snow and ice from roofs.  Remember February 2019 when we had a recorded snowfall of 37.1" (average snowfall for February is 5.5")  At that time if we didn't have one, we vowed we needed to get one as soon as the stores restocked.   Did you?  Maybe it is time to buy ourselves a present.  Perhaps if we are pro-active now we could ward off the massive snowfalls.  What we need is a few inches at a time, followed by a few sunny days to melt the snow on the roof.  Wouldn't it be great if we could direct Mother Nature!

The next blog on Dec. 19th will focus on some hand tools.  Too late for Christmas, put it on the list for the next special occasion.

Be sure to listen to the Gardening: Get Good at It "Creating a Pollinator Garden" segment on Tues. Dec. 1, on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am .

 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

THROW OUT OR GROW?

When you see snow flurries mixed with rain, it is time to get serious about storing the remaining garden seeds from 2020.  

I have several seed viability charts for flowers and for vegetables but not a good source for the viability of herb seeds.  Since it was too nasty to be outside I started a search.  

Growing up in the "waste not, want not" generation it is really difficult for me to throw away anything that may still have a purpose, and especially garden seeds.  However, it is a total waste of time and energy to be ever hopeful that some 6 year old marigold seeds will germinate, even at a 25% rate.  I discovered that depending on type, marigolds have a viability of 2-3 years.  I now feel I have permission to throw out the seeds and not feel I am being wasteful.  Back in the day, I probably would have tried to do something crafty with them.  Now I would rather read a book.

Apparently my computer doesn't totally understand the catch phrase I use on my searches, which is edu sites only. Even though I specifically noted "herb seed viability charts: edu sites only"  I had to wade through germination tables, ideal climate charts and charts on soil recommendations.  Plus many commercial sources to purchase seeds.

I did find two sources that I printed out for my garden notebook.  One was from Johnny's Seeds and the other was from Snoqualmie Seed Savers.

Johnny's chart labeled as a Seed Storage Guide wasn't as informative as I had hoped.  Most all entry's were  classified with a range of 1-4 years viability.  I had hoped for a chart more definitive from them.  I have been a customer for years and always felt they did an excellent job with their cultural information.  That's why I was surprised their chart wasn't more detailed.

Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange is a 10 year old volunteer based seed exchange located in Duvall, WA.  Their criteria for participation in the donation of leftover seeds is that the seed can be no older than 3 years, or you have tested their ability to germinate.  With that standard in mind, I feel confident that their definitive charts are more accurate.  The chart is available at 

Parsley is an example of the differences in listings.  Johnny's list reflects 1-4 years, the seedsaver list is 2 years and the Iowa State Extension lists 1 year for seed viability in their cultural info on parsley.

The optimal conditions for seed storage is low humidity and low temperatures (45 degrees F).  A general formula is that the sum of he temperature and % of relative humidity should be less than 100.  According to Johnny's fact sheet the actual storage life will depend upon the viability and moisture content of the seed when initially placed in storage, the specific variety, and the conditions of the storage environment.  

When you get right down to the nitty-gritty of life there are no guarantees.  The only way to be sure of germination is to count out 10 seeds, germinate them between damp paper towels in a plastic bag.  After several days check for germination to see how many have germination.  If 5 have germinated, you have 50% germination.

Be sure to listen to the Gardening:  Get Good at It "Winter Chores" segment on Tues. Nov. 17 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.








   

Saturday, October 24, 2020

IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE

 There's no cooking involved, we don't have to clean house or polish the silver.  It is time to sit back and as Master Gardeners accept a heartfelt thank you from the Oregon State University Extension Service staff.  The week of Oct. 26-30, 2020 is "Celebrate Master Gardener Week"  I hope you can find time to take advantage of the weeklong events being provided to celebrate the volunteer work of OSU Master Gardeners.

The celebration events include a film festival showing of three films.

The Love Bugs follows entomologists Charlie and Lois O'Brien and their world-wide collection of over 1 million insects.  The colors, shapes and sizes are fascinating along with some of their stories.  Charlie has Parkinson's disease which now limits his daily life and restricts his days of collecting.   Lois was 90 years old and still collecting when the film was recorded two years ago.  Together they made the decision to donate their collections to Arizona State University where they had spent many years.  The O'Brien's are truly dedicated in their love of the insect world and their love for one another is evident in their humorous exchanges with each other.  The quality of the photos is fantastic--makes you want to grab a net and capture a few.  I watched the film and was overwhelmed with the feeling of gratitude I had being able to share their heartbreak in moving on in their life.  If you need a few giggles and maybe a tear or two in your day, I highly recommend watching The Love Bug. 

The second film is Land Grab.  It is the story of a political firestorm in Detroit.  An eccentric finance mogul wanted to spend $30 million of his fortune to create the world's largest farm in the most economically devastated neighborhoods of bankrupt Detroit.

The third firm is The Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.  The film features the Dutch garden designer and plantsman in a documentary sharing his creative process, his theories on beauty, and the ecological implication of his ideas.  Oudolf has been considered a leader in the 'New Perennial' movement also referred to as the 'New American Style'. 

After viewing each of the films there is an opportunity to take part in film discussions on Zoom with the filmmakers and/or local experts.

On Friday Oct. 30 you can test your insect smarts on an interactive trivia tournament hosted by OSU Klamath County horticulture faculty member Nicole Sanchez.  

It is mind-boggling to think of the amount of time and effort that has gone into offering the OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers such a bountiful, generous "thank you" gift.

Registration is required to attend the events as was noted in an e-mail from the Deschutes Extension Office sent on Oct. 21st.  In case you missed the Registration, it is open at:

https://envisionextension.thinkific.com/enroll/958130?price_id=1051846

Some films and discussions have capacity limits so sign up early.

On Oct. 29th at 6 pm PST Langellotto will livestream an update on the Master Gardener program in Oregon.  It is hard to think that come the new year our Master Gardener life won't be back to what we have known.  It is especially important that we have an overview for what the expectations are for the coming year.

I will just be so happy when we can get back together for a massive group HUG! 

Be sure to listen to the Gardening: Get Good at It "Native Plants" segment on Tues. Nov. 3 on KPOV 88.9FM between 9-9:30 am.

   



Saturday, October 10, 2020

ADDICTION, FIXATION, OBSESSION----

Which is it?  I can't decide.  Every time I hear of a tomato variety that is new to me I get an adrenaline rush.  I immediately want to look it up, track down sources, try to learn the origin--European or US developed.  Then the BIG question, will the variety grow in Central Oregon?  So many questions to be answered.  

I never feel the impulse of "I want it NOW".  What I do want is to immediately start researching.

I can  thank friend Toni for sending me into a tailspin of who, what, where and when's.  The tomato new to me (thanks to her) is 'Bloody Butcher', a horrible, but certainly memorable name.  I have already created several scenarios in my mind as to the origin of the name.  With Halloween just around the corner, how could I help myself?

What I have learned so far is that 'Bloody Butcher' is a reliably early heritage variety, it's origin is believed to be Germany.  The 3-4oz cluster tomato ripens in 55-70 days, about the same time as Early Girl. There were several reports that felt it is tastier than Early Girl.  The taste reports ranged from "unique, sweet tangy flavor", to "rich tomato flavor"  to "tasteless".  It is an open pollinated variety which means the seeds can be saved.  The plant is indeterminate in growth so production would be over a longer period of time.  It was rated as being an excellent producer in the greenhouse as well as the open garden. 

The variety is potato-leafed.  The term may be unfamiliar to gardeners who are early into tomato culture.

We are most familiar with the multi-lobed, serrated tomato leaf.  There are many variations of regular leaf tomato from color differences of green or green/blue hues to width and length of the leaf.  Some varieties have heart-shaped leaves and some have droopy dissected foliage referred to as wispy droopy leaves.  There are also varieties that have dark green puckered leaf structure referred to as Rugose, a hairy regular leaf structure is referred to as Angora.

Potato Leafed Tomato vs Regular Tomato 
The potato leaf lacks the lobes or notches seen on regular leaf tomatoes.  They look like the leaves of a potato plant.  The young potato leaf seedlings are less obvious in their difference as they do not show this lack of serration until they are a few inches tall. 

Potato leafed tomatoes tend to have more heft than regular leaf tomatoes and there has been some claim that this makes them more resistant to disease.  Purple Prudence, and Brandywine are examples of potato leafed tomatoes.

At the end of the day, potato leaf tomatoes can be chalked up to just another of nature's curious quirks. There doesn't seem to be any scientific involved explanation other than, after all, tomatoes are in the same nightshade family as potatoes.

I remember in my early days of tomato growing and the first variety we grew of potato leafed plants, I was sure there was something wrong with the plant.  That was long before research could be accomplished with the flick of a switch and a mouse!

Be sure to listen to the Gardening: Get Good at It "Spring Bulbs to Plant Now" segment Tuesday October 20 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.

     

Saturday, September 26, 2020

IT'S TIME TO TAKE TIME

 I listened to an interview with a wildfire evacuee recently.  Someone much like us who never thought her area of Oregon would be involved in such a devastating wildfire.  She said she thought she was prepared but in the end result of taking what she had with her she realized she had forgotten her jewelry.  When she was able to make a quick trip back, nothing was left of her neighborhood to give her a landmark as to where her house had been.  She lived on a cul-de-sac and finally found the mailboxes for her street.

The interview gave me another smack on the forehead.  I had already been asked by 2 Master Gardener friends--"Are you ready to pick up and run if need be?  Do you have a list?"  My answer has been with an ashamed --"Well, no." 

There are preparedness lists online.  The value of the list is to customize it to the needs of you and your family in an organized and detailed fashion.  One friend shared their detailed list with me.  Perhaps it will help motivate you to prepare for what we hope never happens.  

Thinking you know where all the individual items are and being able to grab them on the go from various cupboards, drawers or closets is idealistic.  Time needs to be spent now to organize back packs,(each family member should have their own color), duffel bag, personal files and items for the car.  Sounds like a lot, but remember that you are taking your "life" with you.

The bags should be packed and left all year round with reminders to check and renew food items, change seasonal clothing, recharge radio battery every 3 months, check bottled water supply.  If you have a pet, pack a bag of supplies including a collar, leash, bowls.  Larger items like a crate and a bag of litter could be on a list for a car

All back packs should contain 2 face masks per person, a whistle, house keys or keys to outbuildings, flashlight, nut bars, a protein source, maybe jerky or dried sausages and goggles.  COVID concerns would be to include wipes, sanitizer and gloves. 

The duffel bag could contain PJs for all. underwear for all, socks, extra shirts, extra shorts & pants, sandals/slippers, for a cat-leash/collar, bowls.  

Back pack # 1--Device chargers, hard drive, toothbrushes for all, first aid kit, radio(recharge battery every 3 months, can opener, tuna, matches, extra batteries for flashlights, forks, extra glasses, packable jacket., wallet with cash.

Back pack #2--Jewelry ba
g, checkbook with extra checks, plastic bags, sunglasses, packable jacket, pen/pencil pad, wallet with cash. 

Things to think about--who will carry the medications or will everyone carry their own?  Are the medications currently in a container that can quickly be covered and picked up?   Is there room in the car for sleeping bags or blankets?

Important papers should be together in a file box that is easily identifiable by using red tape.  Password list for all devices, any home photos or photos of valuable belongings could be helpful for insurance purposes.

All the items should be in close proximity to your exit path--close to the car, a laundry room closet?  Everything should be tagged so their isn't any question of "Does this go?"  The list that was shared included what to wear--jeans-natural fabric, long sleeve shirt over short sleeve, hat.

Think about leaving early once the warnings are being issued, even the Level I.  It will help you get ahead of the traffic plus hopefully find a hotel room.

All this being said and done, let us hope our "packed up life" will never have to leave the driveway.

Don't forget to  check out the Gardening: Get Good At It "Putting the Garden to Bed" segment on Tues. October 6, on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.         

Saturday, September 12, 2020

"PETER PIPER PICKED A PECK OF PICKLED PEPPERS"

 I love this season of starting to reap the benefits of summer labor.  I love the harvest season as much as I love the spring seed starting.  If my childhood home in Wisconsin didn't smell of pickling spices in August and September, something was definitely wrong.  The end of the world must be near.

For years, job transfers and unique locations prevented carrying on the fall tradition.  Then we moved to Bend in 1978 and I unpacked all the canning equipment.  Those were the days when the common talk at the water cooler was, "You can't grow anything in Bend".  So we didn't try.  

Instead we made regular August-September trips to farms in the Eugene-Springfield area, plus the gigantic fruit and vegetable market in Sandy that no longer exists.  For years we preserved either by canning or by drying just about everything that was in season. A big crock of shredded cabbage for kraut, at least three kinds of pickles, jams, relishes,  Cranberry Mustard for Christmas gifts, and lots of fruit leathers for school lunches from the dehydrator.   Even tried horseradish one year, decided to leave that one to the Tulelake Horseradish professionals.  You can understand why at this time of year, I get the overwhelming urge to "can".  I fully understand the survival frenzy of the squirrels at this time of year!

I have been asked why I preserve when the freezing process is so much simpler.  My answer comes from a thought provoking  statement made by Glenda Hyde, Extension Associate Professor and in my eyes, Queen of the Canner.  Glenda presented the thought--what would happen if we lost power for an extended period of time?  The discussion centered around learning to preserve meat.  In all truthfulness, I probably will never learn that process but it was a good reminder to keep a full pantry of hearty, meaty soups and tins of seafood to add to the shelves of canned fruits and vegetables.

I grow sweet banana peppers in large black plastic tubs which provide extra heat as opposed to in-ground planting.  The harvest has started.  I didn't pick Peter's peck of peppers but I did pick enough to pickle the first batch which was one pound.  I always wondered how big a peck was, looked it up and it is a "dry goods measurement that equals a quarter of a bushel".

The recipe is a combination of white and apple cider vinegar, plus some sugar, mustard seed and celery seed.  The peppers can be refrigerated up to 3 months but I opted to use the water bath canner and processed for 15 minutes.

Next on the list will be Tuscan Tomato Jam.  It is more of a savory jam, sweet and tart making it a great addition to a cheeseboard or to replace ketchup.  It can be addictive with a cracker and cream cheese.  The recipe calls for 6 pounds, which from my garden will be a mix of slicers and cherry varieties. The jam is a combination of tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, dry white wine (not much), dried herbs, and sugar  https://www.freshpreserving.com/blog/tuscan-tomato-jam

I always preserve peaches in a light sugar syrup for serving as well as using for cobblers and crisps.  This year I am excited to try Peach Cardamom Jam using  Pomona's Universal Pectin which I have never used before.  Pomona's recipes call for calcium water, the calcium powder comes in the Pomona's box.  The recipes call for calcium water because the pectin is activated by the calcium, not by sugar.  The recipe calls for 3 1/4 pounds of ripe peaches, 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice and the ground cardamom. I will process in the water bath for 15 minutes.  https://taprootmag.com/blogs/journal/taproot-at-home-peach-cardamom-jam 

I thought I would have an over abundance of the Minnesota Midget cantaloupe but they are picked and consumed as soon as they ripen.  I have also shared with neighbors.  So far, no extras to preserve.

Thinking back to 1978 and the negative attitude regarding the growing season, I feel we are indebted to the OSU Extension Service for their public education programs.  We should also be grateful for the research done by OSU in developing vegetable varieties for our unique climate.  Our success as gardeners is choosing the right plants keeping in mind our short growing season and the quality of our native soil.

Don't forget to check out Gardening: Get Good At It  Harvesting Your Herbs segment Tuesday September 15 on KPOV 88.9 FM "The  Point" between 9-9:30 am.

  





Saturday, August 22, 2020

SETTING GOALS IS A CHALLENGE

     I had an increased amount of deer damage this year.  My assumption was the deer preferred our landscapes to the tinder dry native shrubs and trees.  In April I decided to do a  study and compile a list of deer-resistant annual flowers.

I referenced existing lists from reliable non-commercial sources and pulled 17 varieties that I knew grows well in Central Oregon.  I started 6 varieties in my greenhouse, purchased 3 and relied on finding the remaining 8 at local nurseries.  I became very familiar with "Sorry, all sold out".

The original list of 17 included calendula, Dusty Miller, larkspur, lobelia, wax begonia, annual poppy, impatiens, statice, annual geraniums, sweet alyssum, snapdragon, petunia, nasturtium, signet marigold, heliotrope, cosmos, and ageratum.

I seeded calendula, lobelia. 2varieties of sweet alyssum, 2 varieties of snapdragon.2 varieties of nasturtium and cosmos.  I purchased the Dusty Miller, impatiens and petunias.  As the varieties became of age to leave the greenhouse, I planted them in raised wood planting boxes.  No need in going into the first few  days of anxiety.

Bambi and mom did several weeks of taste testing.  I was tempted to do some covering but gritted my teeth with hopes they would find a tastier menu down the road.  The exclusion of covering would have defeated my goal  There may have been some additional help in the taste testing as I found evidence of animal frass I wasn't familiar with.  The neighborhood (one block from the busy 27th Street)  had sightings of a fox, rock chuck, racoon, plus a skunk. Take your pick!

A quick progress report:

Lobelia which I have planted every year for over 25 years suffered the most in the beginning being nibbled almost to the ground every night--new growth during the day, gone by morning.  Never had that much trouble in years past.

Impatiens: purchased, continued nibbling except for a strong fuchsia color which they step over to get to the orange.  Go figure.

Calendula: continually nipped early, but now that plants are budded and blooming they are being left alone.

Cosmos: didn't think I would even see one flower stalk, lots of nibbling.  Maybe it was the hot days that pushed them into production and now I am the only one interested.

Petunias: purchased, -- it's a battle of the wills, they pull out, I replant same plant.  It does seem they have been passing them by lately so maybe I won.

Nasturtiums: never been a big fan until this year.  I have been taken with an heirloom Alaska Mix from Renee's Garden that will become a staple from now on. Beautiful variegated cream and green striped markings, blooms are strong colors, salmon, orange, mahogany and gold.  Some nibbling when small, but tolerable.  Also tried a variety that was labeled as climbing, heirloom called Climbing Phoenix.  Flowers are smaller and cover the foliage.  Flowers are edible.  Not as climbing as I thought, but makes a good base on the trellis.

Dusty Miller: purchased,  Why do you think every public planting in the nation is bordered in Dusty Miller?  Need I say more?

Sweet Alyssum:  Suffers browsing.  Had hoped that the solid border of light fragrance would discourage the munching, apparently not strong enough.

Snapdragon: slow to develop buds, still an occasional nibbling before the buds are in full development.   Considered an annual but my 2019 plants rebloomed this year.

Hopefully there are more annuals that have been tried and can be added to the list.  Please make any additions in the comment section and I will add them to the list to try next year.