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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.

November 13, 2014

London’s many squares, parks and gardens are planted with a good deal of ingenuity and flair, always with an eye to ease of maintenance and year-round visual value. I have spent quite a bit of time there in recent years, mostly in the colder months, so I have had a chance to observe how much use is made of woody plants that are especially striking in winter. They include winter flowering viburnums and trees and shrubs with distinctive or colorful bark and, of course, evergreens such as Garrya elliptica (an Oregon native) with its long, silvery winter catkins. 

October 9, 2014

Big houses on small lots. Teeny town houses and condos with no garden. Infill. High-rise balconies. There seems to be an ever-growing inventory of places where there”s hardly room for shrubs at all. Luckily there is also a growing inventory of slim-line shrubs. Virtually all shrubs and trees, including skinny ones, get broader as they age. Pruning to control height is relatively easy, but pruning to limit girth can be trickier, especially with conifers.

September 11, 2014

Hats off to gardeners who grow a fall and winter vegetable garden from seed. You have to get started at the height of summer, when watering and harvesting are at their most demanding. Sowing in situ is often impractical, so starts must be raised under shade cloth or in some cool part of the garden not occupied by summers’s heat-loving crops. 

August 13, 2014

Are any of your rhododendrons looking pale? You may be bugged. If you see pale speckles all over rhododendron or azalea leaves, turn over an affected leaf. If there are smutty-looking, blackish spots on the underside, especially along the midrib, then you may be looking at the larvae and poop of azalea lace bugs. You may see adults, too. An adult lace bug is a small, slow-moving, fly-like creature about one eighth of an inch long, its transparent wings marked with a black and white pattern. Last year, Hendricks Park staff noticed damaged plants in the rhododendron garden.

June 26, 2014

I like farms and I like beer. What could be better, on a sunny evening in mid-May, than a visit to Agrarian Ales? Brothers Ben and Nate Tilley set up a brew house in an old dairy barn on the family’s organic farm, just west of the Coburg Hills. Ben senior and his wife Debbie grow chilis and sell them at the Corvallis and Lane County farmers markets. You’ll recognize the Crossroads Farm stand — it’s the one where, later in summer, peppers will be fragrantly roasting in a rotating drum. 

June 5, 2014

A recent trip to a hiking destination near Oakridge reminded me that early May is peak bloom time for camas lilies. Camas can bloom quite a bit earlier in some locations (on the west-facing grassy slope at the Masonic Cemetery, for instance, and the well-drained, sunny top of the Oak Knoll in Hendricks Park). 

April 24, 2014

“Until last August, this was disused horse pasture.” Forest Weaver, Sean Ferrigno and I are standing at one end of a rectangular field. It’s mostly rough grass, but snaking mounds of soil wind over the mid-section, ready for planting. One is already planted with blueberries, and nearby are grape vines and some young fruit trees.

March 20, 2014

Gardeners! Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at corn. We are not talking about sweet corn here, nor the notorious modern field corn that gives us corn syrup, ethanol and animal feed — and most of which is genetically modified.