Gardening Tips

Kids garden toolsBy Kym Pokorny
When grubby little hands grip your pant leg as you head for the garden, put them in the soil and they may dig up a lifetime of learning and pleasure.
“One of the keys to getting kids interested in gardening is to get them engaged,” said Joy Jones, Oregon State University Extension Service master gardener coordinator in Tillamook County. “Let them explore what catches their attention, especially small children.”
Stimulating a child’s imagination can be as simple as filling a dishpan with dirt, passing them a hand lens and letting them delve into the world that lives underground, she said. If it’s gross, so much the better.

SlugBy Kym Pokorny

Follow the glistening trail and you’ll find the gardener’s most familiar, frustrating and certainly slimiest pest, the common slug.

It’s spring, after all, and as soil temperatures start to climb, slugs rise from their winter hiding place underground to munch tender seedlings, emerging perennials and even seeds.

“What slugs want is a place that’s warm and moist,” said Claudia Groth, an Oregon State University Extension Service master gardener. “That’s why they’re coming out now. The soil temperatures are getting to be above 50 degrees, which is perfect for them.”

Mason beeBy Kym Pokorny

For mason bees, the wait for their first meal is a long one, six months if it’s a day.

There’s no TV, no smart phone, not even a book to while away the time as these solitary bees hang out in their tight cocoons waiting for the cool temperatures of early spring to break them out of lethargy, to convene at the floral banquet waiting for them among the branches of fruit trees.

And because honeybees and other pollinators haven’t made an appearance yet, there’s more sweetness for the native mason bees.

Lavendar photoBy Kym Pokorny

Pop some flowers in among the beans and lettuce and you’ll have two times the chance for an edible harvest.

“Edible flowers look great in the garden and on the plate,” said Brooke Edmunds, horticulturist for the  Oregon State University Extension Service. “Some especially pretty and tasty ones are the blue blossoms of borage, classic roses and chamomile with its little, white flowers.”

Others on her list include annuals such as happy orange or yellow flowering calendula, marigold or nasturtium; the distinctive faces of Johnny jump up or pansy; and traditional blue bachelor button. All of these are easy to start by seed indoors right now or directly seeded into the ground when the soil warms up in May. Follow the directions on the back of the seed packet and you’ll be golden. Don’t forget to thin the little seedlings, Edmunds said. Otherwise, they’ll compete each other out of existence.

OnionsBy Kym Pokorny

Get onions in the ground in spring and avoid heartbreak when it comes time to harvest big, beautiful bulbs this summer.

Plant as soon as the soil is dry enough to work, said Jim Myers, a plant breeder at Oregon State University. March and April are prime times.

Most onions grown in Oregon are long-day onions. They make top, green growth until a critical day length is reached, which triggers bulbing. That generally begins at about 14 hours of light per day.

If you plant onions in early spring, they’ll grow to fairly large plants by the time daylight reaches 14 hours. Large bulbs result. However, if you wait to plant until the end of April when days are already 14 hours long, bulbing will begin immediately and you’ll have small pearl onions.

RoseBy Kym Pokorny

Valentine’s Day is coming up and that means it’s time to pay attention to your loved ones and your roses, too.

On the west side of the Cascade Range, mid-February is generally time to start thinking about pruning, according to Amy Jo Detweiler, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. In Central Oregon, April or May is the best time. In both cases, take your cue from the plants. When the buds begin to swell and get ready to break open, pull out your pruners.

Detweiler recommends using bypass pruners rather than anvil because they cut more like scissors and won’t crush the stems. Make sure they are sharp. Have some rubbing alcohol on hand to for dipping the blades in between cuts, especially as you move from rose to rose.

WreathBy Kym Pokorny

Wreaths hung on the door with care call out a festive “Happy Holidays.”

Share that message in a special way by making your own circle of cheer with plants clipped from the garden or gathered from friends and neighbors.

“A good part of the fun of making your own wreath is going around the neighborhood, collecting plants and talking to people,” said Susan Hoffman, who has been a master gardener with Oregon State University’s Extension Service since 2012.

Be sure, she added, to ask before you clip.

Paperback mapleBy Kym Pokorny
When trees get dressed with the colors of fall, it’s time to go shopping.
“If you’re specifically interested in fall color, it will soon be the time to start looking,” said Neil Bell, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. “There are already some trees starting to display color.”
First, though, Bell recommends doing some research. Walk around neighborhoods, parks and public gardens to get ideas.  If you can’t identify the trees you like, snap good photos, pick up several leaves or ask the owner for a cutting. Take them to the nursery or to your local OSU Extension office for identification. You can also cut out pictures from magazines and flip through garden books to find possibilities.

SpiderBy Kym Pokorny
In corners and along baseboards, on ceilings and spun between shrubs, spiders crawl through our lives this time of year.
“Spiders are on the move right now because they’re looking for a mate,” according to Gail Langellotto, an entomologist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service.
“The domestic house spider is one that regularly makes its way into houses in fall and if you haven’t seen one in the past, it can be a startling sight,” she said. “If you include their legs, they’re about as big as a silver dollar.”

Russian lavenderBy Kym Pokorny

Hotter-than-usual temperatures and longer stretches between measurable moisture this year mean plants need more water from the end of a hose.

Choose plants that require less water and you’ll save time and money and help sustain Oregon’s water supply, said Amy Jo Detweiler, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service.

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McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.