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October 26, 2017

After months of getting out early to harvest the garden bounty and water the vegetable beds, fall is here and I have a little extra time. I’ve used some of it to think about garden planning. 

I think everyone agrees that a successful vegetable garden requires some planning, especially if space is limited. But I’m an impulsive gardener who can’t abide empty ground. I tend to amend and immediately replant any row or patch that becomes vacant.

September 28, 2017

Most gardeners would like to do a little less routine yard maintenance and spend more time being creative, or even relaxing. But the low maintenance garden, while a seductive idea, is not always easy to achieve. 

It’s partly a matter of design decisions and the materials you use. If your starting point is an existing garden, you can make it a bit easier to care for by paying attention to where you spend most of your uncreative time, then eliminating or modifying the features that create the demand.

May 25, 2017

It looks like the school garden concept is getting some serious respect from the 4J school district. 

April 20, 2017

Don’t miss a golden opportunity to pick up some locally sourced native plants while supporting the efforts of the Friends of Buford Park and Mount Pisgah: From 9 am to 1 pm on May 6, the Friends will hold their annual fundraising sale at the Buford Park Native Plant Nursery. I have had great success with plants I purchased at this sale in years past. 

March 16, 2017

Planning is one of the most important elements of gardening. It is also one of the easiest steps to overlook, especially for the beginner. Knowing a few months ahead of time when you’re going to need to plant and harvest your vegetables can save you serious heartache in the long run. Having your seeds, starts and preservation methods prepped and ready will ensure you the longest growing seasons, the most fruitful crops and the longest lasting life from your produce.

February 9, 2017

What’s the most cost-effective crop you can grow in a small space? Many commercial growers agree that it’s culinary herbs, and I think this may hold true for home gardeners. 

November 23, 2016

There’s something very cheering about fresh flowers in winter, and some of the most reliable providers of cheer in that way are the winter-flowering viburnums. The most familiar of these is Viburnum x bodnantense “Dawn,” sometimes sold, aptly but incorrectly, as “Pink Dawn.” 

“Familiar” is relative, of course. I am always surprised, when I drive around town in December and January and spot those bare brown branches liberally sprinkled with rosy flowers, to realize how few people in fact plant this viburnum or, for that matter, any other winter-flowering shrub. 

October 20, 2016

Significant rain in early October is a boon to gardeners who value the fall gardening season. This goes in spades for those of us who don’t irrigate heavily in summer. Some years we can be well into winter before the soil is fully workable, and that’s frustrating because we count on a long rainy season to get new plants established. 

What’s more, this is the best time to move or divide certain plants that are naturally adapted to dry conditions in summer: For example, a number of iris are excellent low-water perennials, and several of them put out new roots in fall.  

September 8, 2016

August went by in flash, as usual. Daily watering chores. Jam making. An ocean of applesauce.

After a week’s vacation in a cabin by the Metolius, I somehow carved out time to think about the fall and winter vegetable garden. Space must be carved out, too, and I’m grateful for any crops that can go in after the pole beans and tomatoes are torn out in October.

But starts of red Russian kale, my favorite for winter eating, need to go in as soon as possible. By October what you see is more or less what you get until growth starts up again in March.  

June 16, 2016

Not every garden in the Willamette Valley has super river-bottom silty loam. If your soil sets up like concrete when it’s dry it probably holds lots of moisture in the winter. Some wonderful summer blooming perennials have a problem with that. I’m thinking in particular of the many ravishing cultivars of agastache (ag-ah-STAK-ee) and salvia that have hit the market in recent decades. Lots of them need really good drainage to over-winter reliably in our region. 

May 26, 2016

A few weeks ago, I ran into Steve Solomon and Marina McShane at the Lane County Farmers Market. This meeting was remarkable for two reasons. One, Solomon, a guru of Northwest vegetable gardening and founder of Territorial Seed Company, has lived in Tasmania since 1998. Two, McShane had recently given me a copy of a book she and Solomon wrote together. 

March 17, 2016

Annuals rarely get a mention in books and articles on gardening with native plants. That’s too bad, because a succession of annual species can add a lot of color to your springtime garden, and attract pollinators, too. Flourishing plants of farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) can bloom for many weeks — a happy thing, because it’s one of the showiest natives we have, and an eager self-sower. Mine escaped into a well-watered blueberry patch last year, providing months of gorgeous rose-pink flowers on bushy plants, not to mention abundant seed. 

March 17, 2016

The 2016 Lane County Propagation Fair will take place from 11 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday, March 26-27, at the old Whiteaker School, now the Whiteaker Head Start Building, 21 N. Grand Street. There will be outdoor workshops on a variety of topics on Sunday, March 27.

This free annual event aims to promote local food security by supporting home orchardists, vegetable gardeners and native plant enthusiasts in and around the southern Willamette Valley. 

February 11, 2016

A search for escarole seed late last summer led me to the excellent website of Adaptive Seeds (adaptiveseeds.com). The seed they sent so promptly (for escarole “Diva” and a locally bred fava bean, “Aprovecho”) was terrific, delivering uniform, vigorous germination at a rate close to 100 percent. “Diva” has proved exceptionally cold-hardy, and the beans are growing strong. 

February 4, 2016

Most Willamette Valley gardeners know the popular native groundcover kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). Less familiar are larger members of the same genus known as manzanita. I fell in love with manzanitas when I visited a botanic garden in the Berkeley hills, where I saw mature specimens of several California species and could really appreciate the stems and bark that are their most striking feature.

September 24, 2015

This summer really got me thinking. Should summers like that of 2015 become frequent, just how much yard am I interested in watering? I let some areas go dry this year, out of sheer exhaustion combined with a sense that it’s inappropriate, with all of Oregon in a state of drought, to have sprinklers going all the time. Some areas I placed on a regular but restricted water regimen. It has been interesting to see what survived and what did best.

August 26, 2015

In flower gardens, there’s not a lot to do in August besides attempting to keep up with watering and deadheading, but the food gardener doesn’t get a break. Just when watering and harvesting chores are peaking, it’s time to think about a fall and winter veggie garden. 

You are, in fact, a bit behind the eight ball if you like to grow everything from seed. July’s the time to get that going. Nurturing seedlings through July is never easy and this year must have been especially challenging. 

June 11, 2015

Few things in the plant world are as blue as the flowers on the bluest ceanothus. Otherwise known as wild lilac or California lilac, shrubs of this genus (which are not lilacs at all) are native to the Americas, mostly California and south to Guatemala. The majority are evergreen. That and their often stunning flower color makes the genus popular in gardens. Wild lilacs with the deepest blue flowers mostly come from California species, but Oregon has several species well worth growing. 

May 14, 2015

When someone asked me to help her design a grazing garden, my first thought was, “Wow, I’ve never done that.” But I quickly realized that I have my own grazing garden at home. I didn’t design it for that purpose, but it’s rare for me to go into the garden without nibbling on something. My friend’s request put me on the spot, though: How would I define and plan a grazing garden?

April 16, 2015

Carol Deppe knows we want tomatoes. “And you want them earlier,” she says, “and you want the most delicious varieties, and you want different kinds and colors.” Deppe, who lives in Corvallis, is a plant breeder, farmer and author. Her book The Resilient Gardener, published in 2010, catapulted her to prominence as an events speaker. Her talks at the Good Earth Home Show in Eugene are always among the best attended.

February 19, 2015

Most gardeners are aware by now that honeybees are in trouble. This knowledge is driving a surge in amateur beekeeping. Other pollinators, including native bees, are in trouble too, from the same disastrous cocktail of causes — habitat loss, pesticides, disease and parasites. Keeping a hive of honeybees is quite a commitment, and for gardeners and small orchardists, encouraging native bees is a pretty good option. You can do it by growing native plants; leaving some areas, shall we say, unmaintained; and by providing nesting opportunities.

January 15, 2015

Since I work at home a lot of the time I frequently eat lunch there. Lunch usually means salad, and many of the components come from my own garden. For the past three years I’ve been recording, month-by-month, what goes from the garden into my salads. Picking garden greens for lunch on a nearly daily basis, all year round, turns out to be one of the real pleasures of having a vegetable garden, and I probably eat salad more often because of it.

December 18, 2014

I recently took a couple of hours to do something I’ve been putting off for ages: cleaning and oiling my gardening tools. Until we moved into a different house five years ago, I kept my tools in a dry, attached garage. Now I keep everything but my best pruning tools in a garden shed that’s more or less open to the moisture-laden air.

Although the tools are out of the rain, they are rusting. Perhaps this would have happened eventually in my old garage, but whatever deterioration there was in 15 years, I didn’t notice it.