Eugene Weekly : Spring Planting Guide : 3.8.07

Spring Planting Guide

Keeping the Garden
Packing productivity into a small yard

I could tell there was something special about John Pitney’s garden the first time I cycled by. Perhaps it was the fleeting impression of roses, abundant fruit trees, and a general lushness and variety. Perhaps it was the impressive freestanding photovoltaic array or the electric Gizmo parked out front. Last month I met the owner there for a closer look, and saw just how much productivity and pleasure can be packed into one small space.

John and Debbie Pitney

To start with, there are well over two dozen apple trees on mini-dwarfing stock, planted only a few feet apart. In winter they are under planted with cover crops, in summer with many kinds of vegetables rotated with grains and flowers. Pitney has grafted branches of additional varieties on these little trees. Grafting is something he really enjoys, he says. In addition to all the other usual tree and vine fruits, there’s a nectarine, an almond and a fuzzy kiwi. “We had our fist kiwi fruit last year,” he said, with obvious satisfaction.

Mature blueberries and deciduous azaleas, here when the Pitneys arrived eight years ago, share their bed with hybrid tea roses. Two Japanese maples shade the west-facing front door, and a camellia blooms in a sheltered spot near the patio in back. Making a focal point in the central ribbon of lawn is a stone edged pond. “We put the pond in just because, but then we began to notice dragonflies. One morning I saw a kingfisher perched on a corner of the solar panel.” There have also been herons, great blues and once a green.

Pitney, who grew up on a grass seed farm north of Eugene, is a Methodist pastor, social activist and accomplished singer-songwriter. He became interested in food security and environmental issues about 20 years ago. That interest (commitment would be a better word) is embodied in this garden, his lifestyle and the lyrics of his protest songs. We stood in the garden on a nice February day and talked about the future of solar power and the founding of That’s My Farmer, a group that brings together members of faith communities and farmers who practice Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

“I was hearing a lot of voices damning the corporate food system but there was very little being done about the situation,” Pitney said. “When we started looking at how to keep some profits at home, CSA seemed to be an accessible way to connect churches with an economic system that fit their values.” While That’s My Farmer organizes primarily through faith communities, everyone is welcome at the annual launch. “TMF uses existing social structures to reach people that wouldn’t be investing in local agriculture otherwise, and some of the social structures I know best happen to be religious ones,” said Pitney. “The farmers are incredibly enthusiastic about what we’re doing.” An important part of the annual launch is an opportunity for farmers “to express something that gets below the surface, like what gets you out of bed every morning.”

At home, Pitney and his wife, Debbie, do what they can to live consciously. The 990-watt solar array provides about 15 percent of their power. Two more panels on the roof heat their water. Behind a handsome, roomy garden shed are two 250-gallon rainwater collection tanks. A dozen or so thriving chickens enjoy a sophisticated coop and ingenious run that extends along two sides of the garden perimeter, taking up very little space. (It took “one Saturday to build it, but a few years to think about it.”) Six families share the eggs for eight or nine months out of the year.

A long hoop house covered in plastic film sits beneath grape vines on a pergola – a structure Pitney built to support existing vines. In February the greenhouse held radishes, leeks, and some fine looking broccoli, and Pitney had just sown lettuce, and peas were already coming up. “The greenhouse is dismantled as the grapes start leafing out in the spring,” he explained. “Then I like to put in a temporary chicken run to consume what’s left of winter greenhouse stuff. … I try really hard not to kid myself or others that we are growing a significant percentage of what we eat. I invest in the local food economy to do that.”

Pitney has now had his Gizmo for six years. “I’ve driven it about 17,000 miles,” he said. “It takes about as much electricity to recharge on an annual basis as we generate with our 1K photovoltaic system.” That’s food for thought.


8th Annual Launch of That’s My Farmer!

This year’s launch will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Tuesday, April 17 at the 1st United Methodist Church, 13th & Olive, Eugene.

That’s My Farmer is an inter-faith project that challenges people to join farms that practice Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). People who buy into CSAs pay local farmers directly, at the beginning of the season, to share the economic risk with farm families. Farmers get cash to start the season without going into debt. Members receive a weekly box of fresh produce from their farm, May through October. A membership may be split with another person or family, if a full box is too much.

The event on April 17 is open to everyone. Last year, more than 300 people showed up to sing songs, win great door prizes and enjoy homemade ice cream. People will have the opportunity to talk with the farmers, pick up information about CSAs or buy That’s My Farmer Bucks — vouchers redeemable at participating booths at the Farmer’s Market. Donations at the door go directly to funding CSA boxes and TMF Bucks for low income families.



Oregon Plant Fair
World’s shortest horticultural road trip set for May 12

Rooooad trip! Gardening road trip! This year you’ve determined to add the latest and greatest plants to your yard, and how better than by visiting Oregon’s innovative specialty nurseries? Imagine you and your best hort-head buddy, touring the state on a quest for extraordinary plants. Swing by Cottage Grove to sample fabulous new varieties from Log House Plants and fantastic lavenders at Champion Acres. Venture up the McKenzie River toward Walterville and discover a trove of green treasures at Bloom River Gardens. Loop back over to Northwest Garden Nursery near Fern Ridge for the hottest in hellebores, then head to the coast to collect native azaleas from Thompson’s Nursery at Waldport. Roam north to Sauvie Island for zone-defying wonders from Cistus, or roll down south to Talent and check out the rock garden selection at Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery. Pack your bags; it could be a long trip!

Or not.

What if all those nurseries came to you? One short drive to Alton Baker Park — one glorious day of plant perusal. That’s the idea behind the Oregon Plant Fair 2007, a one-day garden festival and sale May 12 presented by the Avid Gardeners and the Willamette District Garden Clubs. Sandra Rossi, vice president of the Avid Gardeners, explains it quite simply: “We like plants. We want to see plants. We want to buy plants.”

“We’re suckers for cool plants,” adds Alice Doyle, co-owner of Log House Plants and another Avid Gardener. So bring together some passionate gardeners, invite their specialty nursery friends – Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery in Scapoose, Fred Weisensee and Leonard Foltz from Dancing Oaks in Monmouth, and Jim Gilbert from One Green World in Molalla, to name a few — and you’ve got a dream road trip come true for plant fanatics and novices alike. “It’s the ultimate in one-stop discovery for rare, traditional, and specialty plants,” says Doyle.

The garden party will include community resource demonstrations, an “Ask the Experts” pavilion staffed by experienced growers and master gardeners and offerings from the gardens of Willamette District Garden Clubs members. The plant people also have invited their artist friends, who will show custom metalwork, mosaics, sculpture, pottery, furniture, wood crafts and glass creations for gardens large and small. All this will take place against the grassy green backdrop of Alton Baker Park, with food and live music to fuel the festive atmosphere.

In keeping with this year’s theme, “The World is Your Garden,” plants or artwork purchased for your backyard will help cultivate an important natural corridor for the local environment: A portion of proceeds will benefit the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah Arboretum.

It’s an exciting opportunity for area greenthumbs, says freelance garden writer Mary-Kate Mackey, another avid gardener. “Our state has an incredible diversity of small independent nurseries,” she says. “We’re third in the country for wholesale plant sales. Independent nurseries are Oregon’s gardening gold.”

Doyle adds, “It’s a party – mark your calendars!”

For more information about the May 12 event, email info@loghouseplants.comor call 942-2288.



The Spring Planting Guide 2007


Cultivation: Plant 1- or 2-year-old crowns during March, spacing them 12 inches apart in trenches 8 inches deep. Hold off on harvesting spears during the first year for stronger plants the following year.

Soil/Sun: Loose, rich, well-drained soil with a high pH. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Mary Washington, Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight.



Cultivation: Sow seeds May-July, 1 inch deep, 3-4 inches apart, at the north end of the garden if possible. Space rows 12-24 inches. Thin pole beans to 8 inches; thin bush beans to 4-6 inches. Build trellis or pole support for pole beans before planting to avoid injuring roots. Do not soak or pre-sprout seeds. Treating seeds with a non-chemical legume inoculant will help plants add more nitrogen to the soil.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained soil, pH 6.0-6.8, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Bush — Oregon Blue Lake, Tendercrop, Venture. Pole — Cascade Giant, Kentucky Wonder, Romano, Blue Lake Pole. Shelling: Jackson Wonder Lima, Montezuma Red, Cannellini.



Cultivation: Sow seeds March-July 3/4 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Gradually thin to 5 inches by harvesting baby beets. Maintain consistent watering during dry weather.

Soil/Sun: Loose, well-drained soil, pH 6.5-7. Beets don’t like acidic soil but will tolerate low fertility. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Globe: Early Wonder, Detroit Dark Red. Cylindrical: Cyndor. Greens: Lutz Green Leaf,



Cultivation: Plant transplants March-July, spaced 12-20 inches apart. Don’t overuse nitrogen fertilizer. Needs plentiful, consistent watering.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Small Miracle, Shogun, Umpqua Dark Green.


Brussels Sprouts

Cultivation: Sow seeds for transplants 1/4 inch deep in 4-inch pots April 15 and plant out May 15, 18-24 inches apart. Needs plentiful, consistent watering.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Prince Marvel, Rubine, Vancouver.



Cultivation: Sow seeds for transplants 1/4 inch deep in 4-inch pots before April 15 and plant out May 15, 18-24 inches apart.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Derby Day, Ruby Ball, Early Jersey Wakefield.


Chinese Cabbage

Cultivation: Plant transplants after May 15, 12-18 inches. Closer spacings produce smaller, more flavorful heads.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun to partial shade (shade may slow down bolting in summer crops).

Suggested Varieties: China Express.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, 1/4 inch apart, March-July 15. Thin to 2 inches. Do not use fresh manure or nitrogen fertilizer or you will get hairy roots. Keep soil moist during germination.

Soil/Sun: Carrots require rich, loose, deeply-worked soil that is free of stones, pH 6.0-6.8 (slightly acidic soil is okay). Full sun to light shade.

Suggested Varieties: Royal Chantenay (esp. for heavier soils), Scarlet Nantes, Nantes Bolero.



Cultivation: Plant 6-week-old transplants 24 inches apart after April 15. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Early Dawn, Snowball, Fremont.



Cultivation: Plant transplants 6-12 inches apart, April 15-June. Requires plenty of water.

Soil/Sun: Rich soil, pH 6.0-7.0. Prefers full sun; will tolerate poorly-drained soil.

Suggested Varieties: Ventura, Golden Self-Blanching.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1 inch deep, 4-6 inches apart, April-June. Thin to 8-12 inches. Plant at least 4 rows of the same variety in a block to ensure adequate pollination.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-6.8, with full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Early Sunglo, Seneca Horizon, Jubilee.



Cultivation: Sow seeds in June. Space seeds 2 inches apart in a row and thin to 12 inches, or plant 5-6 seeds in mounds spaced 3-5 feet apart and thin to 2 plants per mound. Grow on a trellis to save space. Provide consistent, plentiful moisture to prevent bitteness.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil with plenty of nitrogen, neutral pH, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Pickling: SMR 58. Slicing: Marketmore.



Cultivation: Plant transplants 18-24 inches apart in raised beds in June after nighttime temps remain above 45F (eggplants require warm days). Use a black plastic mulch to warm the soil.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile, slightly acidic soil, full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Dusky, Bambino.


Endive, Chicory, Escarole

Cultivation: Sow the seeds of these cool-season European greens 1/4 inch deep, 2 inches apart, April-August. Thin to 8-12 inches. Keep well-watered and shaded during warm weather to avoid bolting.

Soil/Sun: Well-worked seedbed. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Arugula, Radicchio.



Cultivation: Best planted in fall or February. Place cloves 2 inches deep, point up, 4-6 inches apart. Keep well-weeded. Don’t use supermarket cloves. Big cloves produce big bulbs, so don’t plant the skinny, small cloves — save them for cooking.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil (raised bed ideal) with full sun. Tolerates wide range of soil but prefers pH 6.2-6.8.

Suggested Varieties: Oregon Blue, Spanish Roja, Purple Italian, Elephant.



Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants May-July. Seeds should be 1/4-1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 12-18 inches. Drought-tolerant, but flavor suffers without plenty of watering. Flavor improves after a frost.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5. Full sun to light shade.

Suggested Varieties: Tuscan, Redbor, Dwarf Siberian, Winterbor, Winter Red.



Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants during April and early May. (Late May plantings will mature in hot weather, producing dry, woody bulbs.) Seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep, 1/4 inch apart. Final spacing should be 6-10 inches. Needs plenty of water; consistent moisture greatly improves germination.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Superschmelz, Kongo, Grand Duke.



Cultivation: Sow seeds in March or plant transplants in April. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 4-6 inches. Plant leeks in trenches 8 inches deep and fill in soil as they grow to “blanch” the stems. Leeks require consistent watering for good yields.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Giant Musselburg, King Richard.



Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants April-August. Sow seeds 1/8 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 12 inches for head lettuce, 6 inches for leaf lettuce.

Soil/Sun: Prefers loose, well-drained, cool soil, but will tolerate a wide range. Sensitive to acidity; prefers pH 6.2-6.8. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Butterhead: Buttercrunch, Continuity, Optima. Leaf: Red Sails, Fire Mountain, Revolution. Crisphead, Summertime. Romaine: Cimarron, Valmaine.



Cultivation: Sow seeds or plant transplants mid-May to mid-June. Soak seeds in warm water for 6-12 hours to improve germination, then sow 1/4-1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 12 inches.

Soil/Sun: Rich, well-drained soil. Full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Cajun Delight, Burgundy, Annie Oakley.



Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants April-June. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, 1/2 inch apart. Final spacing should be 4 inches for larger bulbs, 2 inches for smaller bulbs (and higher yields). Onions require consistent, even watering for good yields.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.2-6.8. Full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Sweet Spanish, Walla Walla Sweet, Yellow Ebenezer, Red Burgermaster, Redwing.



Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants March-June. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 2-3 seeds per inch. Final spacing should be 8-10 inches.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained soil, full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Giant Italian, Curled Dwarf.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart, April-July. Thin to 3-4 inches. Using fresh manure or high-nitrogen fertilizer will produce hairy roots. Hardy parsnips develop their best flavor after overwintering through many frosts.

Soil/Sun: Loose, well-drained, fertile soil free of stones. Heavy clay soil can cause crooked or cracked roots. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Gladiator, All American.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1 inch deep, 1 inch apart in a 3-inch-wide band; space these rows 18 inches apart. Support with a trellis. Don’t use high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained soil, pH 6.0-7.0. Full sun to light shade.

Suggested Varieties: Snow Peas: Oregon Sugar Pod, Oregon Giant. Sugar Snap Peas: Cascadia, Sugar Snap.



Cultivation: Plant transplants May-June, 12-18 inches apart. Black plastic mulch will speed early growth and help warm the soil.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Sweet Bell: California Wonder, Gypsy. Hot: Anaheim, Jalapeno, Ancho.



Cultivation: Plant spuds starting on St. Patrick’s Day through June. Space 10-12 inches in rows 2 feet apart. Hill up soil over the growing foliage or mulch with straw to increase yields.

Soil/Sun: Potatoes prefer loose, well-drained, acidic soil (pH 4.8-5.5) and full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Yukon Gold, White Rose, Yellow Finn, Purple Peruvian, Red Pontiac.



Cultivation: Plant transplants late May-early June in hills 4 feet apart. Water generously. Black plastic mulch can speed growth.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 5.8-6.8, with full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Frosty, Small Sugar, Spirit, Cinderella.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1/2 inch apart, March-August. Thin to 1-1 1/2 inches. Radishes require plentiful, consistent watering.

Soil/Sun: Fertile, well-drained soil free of stones, pH 5.8-6.8. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Cherry Belle, Altaglobe, French Breakfast.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 2 inches apart, June-July 15. Thin to 6 inches. Flavor improves after frost.

Soil/Sun: Loose, well-drained soil, pH above 6.0. Tolerates low fertility. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Marian, Laurentian.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart, March-August. Thin to 6-12 inches by harvesting baby greens. Water generously; dry soil and heat encourage bolting.

Soil/Sun: Rich, well-drained soil. Sensitive to acidic soils; pH 6.5-7.5. Full to partial sun.

Suggested Varieties: Olympia, Bloomsdale, Tyee, Skookum.


Summer Squash, Zucchini

Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants May 15-June 15. Sow seeds 1/2-1 inch deep in hills, 4-5 seeds per hill. Space hills 3-4 feet; thin seedlings to 2 per hill. Requires consistent watering for good fruit set. Black plastic mulch speeds growth. Seeds will rot in cold, wet ground.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 5.8-6.8, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Squash: Yellow Crookneck, Sunburst, Butterstick. Zucchini: Gold Rush, Spacemiser.


Winter Squash

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2-1 inch deep in hills, 4-5 seeds per hill, May 15-June 15. Space hills 4-6 feet; thin seedlings to 2 per hill.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 5.8-6.8, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Gold Nugget, Acorn, Zenith Butternut, Waltham Butternut, Spaghetti.


Swiss Chard

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2-1 inch deep, 2-6 inches apart, April-July. Thin to 6-12 inches. Harvest leaves throughout the season to encourage new growth.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 6.0-7.0. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Rhubarb, Fordhook Giant, Bright Lights.



Cultivation: Plant transplants May-June. Space determinate varieties 18-24 inches; space indeterminate varieties 20-30 inches. Place transplants with the lower leaf set just above soil level. Tomatoes should be staked or supported by a trellis.

Soil/Sun: Fertile, well-drained soil with full sun. Clays and loams produce higher yields, but loose soil warms faster and provides an earlier harvest. Prefers pH 6.0-6.8 but will tolerate acidic soils.

Suggested Varieties: Early: Oregon Spring, Willamette VF, Medford, Big Beef, Early Cascade. Sauce: Oregon Star, Principe Borghese. Cherry: Gold Nugget, Sun Gold, Isis Candy.



Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/4-1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart, April-September. Thin to 4-6 inches. Flavor best if harvested during cool weather.

Soil/Sun: Fertile, loose, well-drained soil, pH 6.0-7.5. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Purple Top White Globe, Scarlet Ball, Shogoin (greens).




Plant trees and shrubs.

Prepare new areas for planting.

Divide and plant perennials.

Pull weeds before they flower and set seed.

Fertilize just about everything unless you did it in February.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs as blossoms fade.

Protect new growth of bulbs and perennials from slugs.



Start new lawns.

Watch for local plant sales.

Plant perennials, gladiolus and hardy annuals.

Feed bulbs while they are green and growing.

Continue pruning spring-flowering shrubs.

Shear ivy and heather. Cut old leaves off sword ferns.

Trim lavender and sage after new growth begins.

Check irrigation systems.



Plant dahlias and other tender bulbs.

Plant perennials, annuals and container plants.

Remove dead flowers from young rhodies.

Water rhododendrons and bulbs liberally.

Start aphid control—flush with water, spray insecticidal soap.

Control slugs.

Weed and mulch between plants.


Begin regular feeding of container plants.

Prune rhododendrons and azaleas.

Control aphids with water and insecticidal soap.

Watch for cutworms and hand-pick!

Stake summer-blooming perennials.

Cut back those that have bloomed.

Continue mulching.



Watering lawns is not essential but it helps discourage weeds.

Prune broad-leafed evergreens.

Watch for cutworms. Hand-pick or use BT.

Shorten new growth on espaliered apples and pears.

Deadhead early perennials.

Stake tall perennials before they flop.

Replenish mulches to hold moisture.



Water annuals liberally, in flower beds or pots.

Dead-head perennials, roses.

Remove diseased leaves from roses, rose beds.

Groom and feed container plants regularly.

Replant tired containers.

Order spring-flowering bulbs.

Remember to moisten compost piles.






After May 15 (frost free date for our area) you can sow squash and beans and plant out seedlings of tomato and pepper (protect from 40 degree nights! Cool temps can stunt plants).

Hold off on planting basil till June 1!

There’s still time to plant onion and shallot sets.

You can still sow peas and parsley through May.

Water garden if rainfall drops below an inch a week.



Continue sowing squash and beans.

Plant carrots (seed) and celery (transplants).

Plant basil and other annual herb starts.

Apply organic mulches while ground is moist.



Net blueberries if you want fruit!

Prepare soil freed up by early vegetable crops;

you can still sow lettuce, carrots, beans and chard.

Plant broccoli and Brussels sprouts for fall harvest.



Sow lettuce, mustard greens, turnips and spinach.