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  • What's the real story? Garden myths debunked

    Kym|Apr 4, 2024

    Reality can get skewed when there are so many sources of information – books, magazines, newspapers, nurseries, and, most of all, the internet and social media open up lots of room for contradiction. So, how do you find the right answer to gardening questions? Nine experts from Oregon State University Extension Service stepped up to bust some common gardening myths. Read on to get some research-based answers to 10 common misconceptions. MYTH: You should top a tree to control its height. R...

  • With the right care, asparagus beds will last decades

    Kym Pokorny|Mar 28, 2024

    Growing asparagus requires patience—from planting to harvest, it takes two to three years—but the wait is well worth the reward. Homegrown asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables of spring. Its quality is much better than store-bought spears and less expensive. Once established, this vegetable is easy to grow. And asparagus is beautiful. A member of the lily family, its fern-like foliage turns from green to gold in fall and can be a backdrop to chrysanthemums or other late-season flo...

  • Offer robins what they need and they'll stick around

    Kym Pokorny|Mar 21, 2024

    American robins are a favorite harbinger of spring, but most people take this ubiquitous Oregon native for granted. Though still abundant, robins are declining in urban settings and could use some help from homeowners. Oregon State University Extension Service wildlife experts encourage Oregonians to learn about these underappreciated native birds. They’ve developed the following information to help people foster robins in their landscape. * Robins (Turdus migratorius) seen in the winter months...

  • Five tips for properly planting a conifer tree

    Kym Pokorny|Feb 8, 2024

    If conifer tree planting is on your late winter or early spring to-do list, there are some things you can do to improve your success. When it comes to planting conifers, timing is everything, according to John Punches, Oregon State University Extension Service forester and associate professor in the OSU College of Forestry. Punches recommends planting when the upper 10 inches of soil is moist, the soil is not frozen more than a half-inch deep, the snow cover is less than two inches and air...

  • With the right care, asparagus beds will last decades

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Feb 1, 2024

    Growing asparagus requires patience – from planting to harvest takes two to three years, but the wait is well worth the reward. Homegrown asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables of spring. Its quality is much better than store-bought spears, and it’s less expensive. Once established, this vegetable is easy to grow. And asparagus is beautiful. A member of the lily family, its fern-like foliage turns from green to gold in fall and can be a backdrop to chrysanthemums or other late-season flower...

  • Learn the terms on seed packets to make the right selection

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Jan 25, 2024

    Beautiful seed catalogs hit mailboxes every January, tempting gardeners with full-color photos and glowing descriptions. Before you buy, though, read those enticing seed packets. Nichole Sanchez, Oregon State University Extension Service horticulturist, tells gardeners to plan before choosing seed. It’s so easy to go overboard. Of course, if you do there’s always someone happy to take them off your hands. Understanding terms associated with seeds will help you pinpoint which selections best ser...

  • Feed the birds in winter with berry-bearing plants

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Jan 18, 2024

    When winter comes and the menu for birds shrinks in urban backyards, they rely on the kindness of humans. That doesn't mean just a bird feeder of seeds and nuts. "Different birds are attracted to different foods and it's good to have a variety," said Dana Sanchez, a wildlife specialist for Oregon State University's Extension Service. "In addition to bird feeders, which people sometimes forget to fill, they need plants to forage on." This time of year, you'll notice winter wrens, pine siskins,...

  • Wisteria care: Take out clippers twice a year and go to town

    Kym Pokorny|Jan 11, 2024

    Wisteria delivers a beautiful spring display, but this vigorous vine needs plenty of pruning to keep it from swallowing the garden. “Wisteria are very vigorous vines and can climb easily to 30 to 40 feet,” said Neil Bell, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. “They can be quite heavy and should be grown on a strong structure.” When people see the jaw-dropping blooms erupt in mid-spring, they covet wisteria for their garden. But, they should first know that in addition...

  • Study shows some urban gardens contain too much organic matter

    Kym Pokorny|Jan 4, 2024

    If you’re a gardener, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Add compost to improve the soil, feed the microbes that release nutrients, and grow better plants. But what if that isn’t always the case? Believe it or not, research by Oregon State University found too much organic matter can have a negative effect. Wait. What? There are the environmental consequences of fertilizer leaching and runoff, the expense and time to buy and apply the compost or other organic matter and, in some cases, plant...

  • Get a leg up on fruit tree problems with dormant oils

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Dec 28, 2023

    Just when you’re ready for a long winter’s nap, it’s time to tend your fruit trees. If you don’t, chances are they’ll struggle in the coming season. Giving them attention now helps ward off insects and diseases, said Steve Renquist, a horticulturist for Oregon State University Extension Service who has taught hundreds of gardeners the basics of managing fruit trees. Applying dormant sprays – such as Superior dormant spray oil, copper, and sulfur – helps control nasty pests and diseases, inc...

  • Stay on top of moisture and insect damage or pay the price

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Dec 21, 2023

    Ignoring moisture and insect damage in the home leads to serious problems down the line. An annual inspection is essential to head them off. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone, start your inspection by checking out this article from the Oregon State University Extension Service on home moisture problems to help solve many problems you might encounter. If you plan to inspect, maintain, or repair yourself, begin by taking a tour around the exterior of the house. Does water wick up the...

  • Set seeds on the right path with homemade planting medium

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Dec 14, 2023

    While you’re battling the winter blues, make your own seed-starting mix and plan for the gardening days ahead. Home gardeners can start vegetable and flower seedlings indoors from four to 12 weeks before the last average spring frost in their area, which means it’s time to get started. Making homemade planting medium can be more economical than buying a sterile mix at the store, said Brooke Edmunds, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. A good germinating mix must...

  • Maintaining a moss-free roof takes some effort

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Dec 7, 2023

    In the moist Pacific Northwest, moss on roofs is inevitable. The ubiquitous plant clings to shingles, causing damage that can lead to expensive repairs and replacements. There’s nothing to be done about the moisture, but moss also needs shade to grow. The key to keeping it at bay is to trim trees so sunlight filters to the surface of the roof. “You can clean all you want but to keep moss at bay, the environment needs to change, said Jay Pscheidt, a plant pathologist with Oregon State Uni...

  • Colorful indoor plants make delightful gifts for the holidays

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Nov 30, 2023

    Winter-blooming indoor plants are a welcome way to take the edge off the chill and gloom of winter and make delightful gifts for the holidays. The choices go beyond traditional poinsettias and amaryllis. Colorful African violets, gloxinia, cyclamen, orchids, ornamental peppers, and Christmas cactus are blooming and readily available. Dress them up with bows and cellophane or combine a few in a basket with store-bought or garden-harvested moss and some decorations and present them as gifts or to...

  • Six stellar shrubs to brighten the winter garden

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Nov 16, 2023

    Six stellar shrubs to brighten the winter garden In January and February, the flowers of winter arrive, blooming as cheerfully as the showoffs of spring. “One of the coolest things about gardening in the Pacific Northwest is winter gardens,” said Neil Bell, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. “Spring is overwhelming with flowers, but in winter it’s surprising. It’s nice to see something that’s so unexpected. And then there’s the scent; such an enjoyable thing.” One...

  • The debate over native plants and their cultivars gathers steam

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Nov 9, 2023

    Research to prove or debunk current opinions remains scarce as the debate over whether native plants or their cultivars attract and nourish the most pollinators. The research that has been done – primarily on the East Coast – hasn’t been conclusive. In fact, according to a doctoral candidate in the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences who is completing her dissertation on native plants, their cultivars, and pollinators, the findings have been all over the map. “We were in...

  • Gather nuts frequently as they fall from the tree

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Nov 2, 2023

    Hazelnut, walnut, or chestnut trees in your home orchard can keep you supplied with nuts for months if you know the best ways to harvest, handle, and store them. Harvesting hazelnuts means gathering them as they fall from the trees – before autumn rains, if possible, said Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. You can shake branches lightly, but in most cases, the nuts will fall on their own. Walnuts are mature as soon as the husk cuts free from the...

  • Go underground for colorful spring bulb bloom

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Oct 26, 2023

    When it comes to plants, bulbs are about as easy as it gets, and now’s the time to get them in the ground. “You plant spring-flowering bulbs in fall, they grow over winter, flourish in spring, and go dormant in summer,” said Heather Stoven, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. “Once they’re in the ground, they do quite well over multiple years with little maintenance.” On top of that, bulbs are drought-tolerant. “That’s one of the great things about them,” St...

  • Saucy shrubs strut their stuff in fall

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Oct 19, 2023

    Mild days and cool nights this fall promised a spectacular show of color, and the promise came true. “This fall has been the best year for color in recent memory,” said Neil Bell, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. “The weather has been perfect for the brilliant show we’re enjoying.” It takes a slow progression of cool to warm days and cool but not freezing nights to bring on such a glowing display, he said. That kind of weather brings on dormancy slowly and leads...

  • Five steps for saving tuberous begonias as frost approaches

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Oct 12, 2023

    In spring garden centers stock a tempting variety of brightly colored tuberous begonias that are hard to resist. Gardeners have a tremendous choice of flower color in shades of orange, pink, yellow, white, and bi-colored. But these lush plants don’t grow over winter and must be protected. The tubers can be saved and planted again the next spring for another year of showy color. The tuberous begonias should not be confused with the low-growing wax begonias often called annual bedding begonias tha...

  • Educate yourself before using organic pesticides

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Oct 5, 2023

    Reaching for a pesticide – even an organic one – should be a thoughtful act. Nothing used to kill pests is risk-free. First, decide if you need pesticides at all by practicing Integrated Pest Management or IPM, said Kaci Buhl, Statewide Pesticide Safety Education Program coordinator for Oregon State University Extension Service. Buhl defines IPM as a way of thinking about pest management that values: * Using knowledge about the pest’s habits, life cycle, needs and dislikes; * Using the least...

  • Now's the time to spiff up ragged lawns

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Sep 28, 2023

    Lawns languish in the heat of summer unless showered with the water they require to thrive. But not to worry, the grass isn’t dead. Come fall when the rains start again, grass greens up quickly, said Alec Kowalewski, turf specialist for Oregon State University’s Extension Service. While letting your lawn go dormant in summer isn’t a bad thing — especially with concern about water shortages — lack of irrigation does allow weeds to gain a foothold, he said. And regular wear and tear can cause com...

  • Know when it's time to pick pears and apples

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Sep 21, 2023

    Anticipation of ripe pears and apples peaks in fall as fruits hang heavily from branches and begin their gravity-aided trip to the ground. But how do you know when it’s prime picking time? According to Steve Castagnoli, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service, the signs are different for apples and pears. “It’s much easier to recognize ripeness in apples,” he said. “Pears typically won’t ripen to eating quality on the tree so you can’t go out and taste one.” Still, th...

  • No-till gardening keeps soil – and plants – healthy

    Kym Pokorny, OSU Extension|Sep 14, 2023

    While the practice of no-till gardening is not new, information has traditionally centered on agricultural field crops. Now, home gardeners are catching on. “The concept of no-till has been around for a couple of decades, but research has been very focused on field crops like wheat and corn, things largely grown in the Midwest,” said Erica Chernoh, Oregon State University Extension Service horticulturist. “There’s not much on vegetable production or fruit. There’s a lot to learn, and research...

  • Planning now brings a good tomato season next year

    Kym Pokorny|Sep 7, 2023

    For most gardeners it’s been a normal or above-average year for the country’s most popular vegetable. “It was a fairly decent season for tomatoes,” said Brooke Edmunds, horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. “We got warm enough and didn’t have any early cold spells. If you were irrigating, you probably had a pretty good year.” Some things – like weather – you can’t control. Tomatoes, which are actually a fruit, thrive at ambient temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees and...

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