Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Every week should be pollinator week

National Pollinator week was June 19-25, 2017…
but, hey, every week should be pollinator week in our gardens.  http://www.pollinator.org/guides  provides a terrific plant finder to ensure you are supporting our pollinators year round.  For example, in our climate zone 8, the following make good and drought tolerant choices to attract the right bugs each month coming up:    

Hellebore in rare January sunshine

A few plant choices to keep blooms going all year:

July – Gaura, Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’
Aug – Coreopsis ‘Moonlight’
Sept – Penstemon Campanulatus ‘Garnet’
Oct – single Rudbeckias and Asters
Nov – Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’
Dec – Fatsia Japonica, Hammemelis (witchhazel)
Jan – Hellebores and Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ 

It’s not too late to sow and transplant veggies.  According to Steve Solomon’s Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, you can still sow cucumbers, summer squash, melons, snap beans, beets, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, fall and winter cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and scallions in June and transplant seedlings of peppers, eggplant and melon. 

Tips from Corvallis Evening Garden Club:

Put off pruning evergreens until early December to have greens for holiday décor

If you let your lawn go dormant in summer (good for water conservation) avoid walking on it till it greens up—it can turn to dust and not recover

Don’t forget water for wildlife!  A simple large plant saucer or other shallow bowl on a stump will attract birds, bees and other insects.  Change it often to discourage mosquitoes and prevent disease among birds.

Try a conversation starter plant by the sidewalk…

Voodoo Lily – Drucunculus Vulgaris
Beware the aroma - this flower is pollinated by flies and smells like something that would attract them.  It's exotic beauty makes it worth the occasional whiff, though.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

EGardenGo website

This website could be quite helpful when choosing or identifying plants.  Plus, the photos are great and it's just fun to browse through.

Click this link to check it out:  EGardenGo

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How Can You Make your Vegetable Garden More Sustainable?

By June most of our seeds have been planted and are up and growing.  And yet there may still be bare areas in our garden.  Perhaps we are leaving room for tomatoes or peppers or squashes to grow.  Often we think that leaving room means leaving bare soil, but naked earth is exactly what we do not want. 

Bare earth is “dirt,” in the words of soil microbiologist Dr. Elaine Ingham1.  What we want in our garden is not dirt, but living soil.  She and other scientists tell us that most of the life in our garden is beneath the surface and needs plant roots in order to thrive.  We need to feed those microorganisms around our plants’ roots by making sure there is little or no bare areas in our gardens.

We grew up learning about the types of soil (sand, silt, loam and the clay we have around here) in which we grow our plants and the chemicals in the earth that support plant growth, particularly N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that we use to feed our plants).  We learned about composting to improve our soil texture and chemistry, but until recently most of us had not heard much about the biology of the soil, all the little organisms eating and being eaten, pooping and reproducing in our dirt so that it becomes living soil.
These little guys include -- but are not limited to -- bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and micro-arthropods as well as earthworms.  We know that worms are signs of good soil, but until recently scientists did not understand that they were part of a complex soil food network that involves thousands of kinds of organisms.  Worms are the part most of us can see without a microscope, and they and the rest of the soil community are essential to the life of our plants.  Most of these soil organisms live near the roots of our plants.  As they eat, grow, and move through the soil, they make it possible to have cleaner water, cleaner air, and healthier plants.
They decompose manure, dead plant material, and even pesticides, preventing them from entering water and becoming pollutants. They sequester nitrogen and other nutrients that might otherwise enter groundwater, and they fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, making it and other nutrients available to our plants.”2 Many of these little guys enhance soil texture, reducing runoff, and they also prey on crop pests.  Because they thrive around the roots of our plants, where there is bare ground, they die off.

So, what do we do with bare soil that is waiting for our tomatoes, peppers, squashes and pumpkins to spread over it?

Several things come to mind:

We can plant quick-growing plant seeds like radishes that will cover the ground until our crops fill in the space, preventing weed seeds from finding a home and giving food to the millions of micro-organisms in our soil,   

or plant flower seeds that attract pollinators to our gardens. Territorial Seed Company informs us that a female pumpkin flower needs to be visited 8-10 times by a pollinator for adequate pollination.  They suggest planting bee-attracting flowers such as borage or cosmos next to pumpkins to help generate higher yields3.

Interplanting in our garden beds can increase our yields and keep our underground workers happy as well.  Look at this idea:  baby spinach growing between rows of garlic.  The spinach leaves will be harvested before the spinach plants bolt and the garlic is ready to pull.  Lettuce is another ideal crop because the thin garlic leaves partially shade the early leaf crops as they, in turn, keep weeds from spouting in the garlic.

Here is the same idea in reverse:  onion sets growing between rows of broccoli and kale.  Plant tall leaf-growing plants in between wide leaf-growing plants and wide leaf-growing plant in between rows of tall leaf-growing plants. 

Also consider growing crops in blocks rather than rows.  Here are blocks of Swiss chard, beets, and lettuce separated by rows of beans.  The beans were planted between the blocks when seeds were not sown evenly.

All these growing ideas are like green mulches – keeping the weeds out and the soil moist on hot summer days -- and also helping the little organisms build a living soil.

We can also help the food web within our soil overwinter by planting cover crops.  And that’s also why we encourage all gardeners not to till their gardens in the spring because tilling interrupts the food web that is being built up in our soil.  Remember that building a living soil makes for healthy, delicious, sustainable plants in our gardens.

1Elaine Ingham, www.soilfoodweb.com

3Territorial Seed Company seed packet for Small Sugar Pumpkins.

For Additional Information on Soil Organisms

The Soil will save us, Kristin Ohlson, © 2014, Rodale Publishing.

Many thanks to Karen from the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition's Food Action Team, Edible Garden Group (FAT EGG) for this very informative and beautiful post!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Five small tough maple trees for your garden
Once upon a time when lots were big, we could plant large growing shade trees.  As house lots have gotten smaller, big trees just don’t fit into the landscape very well. Smaller trees that are attractive and tough are what many people are looking for. With that in mind, here are five different types of small maples that are suitable for yards and as street trees where power lines preclude using large trees.

Tridant maple, Acer buergeranum
Photo credit:  Pat Breen Oregon State University
This tree gets about 20 ft tall and wide and is adaptable to urban environments. As an added feature it has red and orange fall color

Hedge maple, Acer campestre
Photo credit:  Pat Breen Oregon State University
Hedge maple gets about 30 ft tall and wide, has a medium growth rate and is long lived. It has a reputation for being tough and for tolerating urban conditions. As it ages, it develops corky bark. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Cultivars include Carnival, Metro Gold, and Queen Elizabeth.


Flame maple, Acer ginnala 'Flame'
Photo credit:  Pat Breen Oregon State University
Another small maple rarely getting larger than 20 ft. tall and wide, this is one of the hardiest trees available. Specimens are very interesting in form because of their spreading branch pattern. Flame is a seed source selection, chosen for improved form and consistent brilliant orange-red-deep red fall color. 

Paperbark maple, Acer griseum 
Photo credit:  Pat Breen Oregon State University
A tree of rare beauty, this trifoliate maple's compound leaves give it a delicate texture in summer, then long lasting red fall color. Exfoliating orange-brown to cinnamon-brown bark creates year round interest. It rarely gets more than 25 ft tall and 20 ft wide. This is a true specimen tree.

Japanese maple, Acer palmatum 
Photo credit:  Pat Breen Oregon State University

The seedling Japanese maple is tougher than nearly all named varieties. It has fine textured foliage and a light airy appearance. It is generally faster growing and adapts to more difficult environments than the hundreds of cultivars which are derived from it. Fall color ranges from yellow to orange to orange-red. Size is variable but rarely gets larger than 20 feet tall and wide.

Written By Tom Cook, City Beautification and Urban Forestry (CBUF)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Link to an Inspiring Ted Talk About Sustainable Community Building

This 20 minute talk will give you some fun easy ideas for bringing neighbors together.  We can all make a difference!

Take a Street and Build a Community Shani Graham at TedxPerth

Our NPKs could be a part of something like this - good information for great verges!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What your trees need now!
First and foremost any newly planted or struggling trees probably need water. That water should be delivered weekly and in a large volume, rather than daily in a light sprinkle. Deep watering helps trees develop deep drought resistant roots and keeps them out of your lawn. Water trees with at least 10 gallons per inch of tree diameter. The easiest way is to purchase a watering bag from a local nursery. These hold between 15 and 20 gallons.

This is a great time of year to spread mulch, don’t wait until it’s hot and dusty. Get out there now and add a few inches in a circle that extends out to the drip-line of your tree. Mulch should not touch the trunk or surface roots as this can lead to decay. Keep mulch 3-4” deep starting 6” from the tree. Mulch helps reduce weeds, moderates soil temperature, helps keep soil moist and reduces compaction.

Keep an eye out for pests
Early detection can make control of insects and disease much easier. Often people wait until a tree is in crisis mode before calling an arborist. If you see something odd or unusual, such as scorching of leaves, yellowing or drooping of foliage, insect damage, or excessive dead limbs call a professional, early detection can save a tree's life and save you money and frustration.

Homemade watering bucket
If you don’t want to shell out for a watering bag or have a lot of trees to water try making your own watering bucket. Just take a 5-gallon or larger bucket and drill a bunch of 1/8” holes in the bottom. Then just fill the bucket as many times as it takes to provide the amount of water in the formula below.

Watering formula
Tree diameter (inches) × 10 = number of gallons per week.