07 December 2009


Here in Portland we're on day 3 or so of what's probably going to be 10 days of below -- well below -- freezing weather. Clear, dry, windy. High around 30, low around 17.

I should have watered well before this happened. Hydrated plants have a much better chance of surviving this kind of weather. But, I didn't.

Now I wait. And hope.

27 November 2009

Tasks - 11/27/09


* Assisted JW as he cleaned the blocked gutter drain. Yay!

* Covered the picnic table and benches.

The birds & the bees

I grow sunflowers because they're pretty and easy -- and useful! Near the end of the summer, whichever sunflowers have grown strong and tall stay in the ground while the others are cut for vases or pruned away.

The ones left become food for birds and bees. Bees like the pollen and birds like the seeds.

Birds will eat the seeds well into late Fall. Usually some time in November, I chop the sunflowers down and put the dry husks and stalks into the compost.

25 November 2009

Tasks - 11/25/09


* Added used coffee grounds to blueberry bed.

* Moved small frame from front yard to next to blueberry bed. Filled it with dirt, compost, and used coffee grounds. Planted a new blueberry bush -- Northblue, a mid-season semi-dwarf -- in this small bed.

24 November 2009

Tasks - 11/24/09

With several days off around Thanksgiving, I'm hoping the weather will cooperate so I can get some things done outside (and in).


* Unhooked water hoses and left to drain down driveway.

* Pruned neighbor's laurel that's growing through and over the fence in the backyard. Placed leaves and branches on strip of dirt along fence as way to keep weeds down.

* Pruned dead growth off all lavenders.

07 November 2009

Tasks - 11/7/09


* Pruned all the roses.

* Removed eucalyptus from front yard -- all but the rootball (a spring task).

* Weeded the blueberry bed.

* Cut back the maximillions.

* Cut back some driveway overgrowth.

* Moved worms from a worm bin to the rotating composter.

* Tomato bed in back yard: Removed plants & cages; planted cover crop (hairy vetch) and placed grate and bamboo skewers for cat protection.

* Removed tomato plant from small bed in front yard.

07 October 2009

Noxious Weed - Level B

As of December 31, 2009, butterfly bush are only allowed to be sold by a few licensed nurseries in Oregon. Existing plants, both at nurseries and in home gardens, must be dead-headed so they can't go to seed.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has classified the butterfly bush as a Level B noxious weed because:
"This plant is a pioneering species that dominates open habitats. It poses an ecological threat to dry-land meadows, open slopes and dunes, dominating these sites as much as Scotch broom has historically. It also invades reforested sites, resulting in a loss of forest productivity."
Today I dead-headed the one butterfly bush I have on my sidewalk strip, placing the seed heads into my worm bin where they will be obliterated by hungry red wigglers.

ODA Plant Division. Noxious Weed Control

Tasks - 10/7/09


* Dead-headed butterfly bush on sidewalk strip.

* Continued pruning overgrown eucalyptus in back yard.

06 October 2009

Tasks - 10/06/09


* Weeded and tidied the herb bed, removed the volunteer pumpkin since its fruits kept withering.

* Finished gathering seeds, and storing them.

* Removed last tomatoes, will cook&freeze what I can, compost the rest. Cut some greenery & composted it.

* Moved small cold compost from tumbler to next to the herb bed, within easy reach of the worm bins.

* Trimmed overgrown eucalyptus in back yard.

* Made the woodpile smaller and more tidy.

* Removed goldenrod from back yard garage strip.


Something new this year was the plethora of beneficial insects in my garden. It's true I added the ladybugs early, but they liked the party and hung around all season. I saw about 5 different kinds of bees, including the teeny green jewel-like mason bees. Butterflies! Dragonflies!

And then the supremely creepy but very useful preying mantis made an appearance among the coconut lime echinacea. Not sure how I spotted it while I was watering, but lo!

I must have been doing something right to attract all these good bugs! This made me do my happy dance.

27 September 2009

Tasks - 9/20/09


* Walked the whole lot, making a to-do list. It took 2 hours, 12 pages, and sharpening my pencil 6 times.

* Weeded and pruned kiwi bed, removed spent squash plants, added more soil & compost, sowed seeds of arugula Italian Wild Garden Rocket.

* Composted spent herbs in pots by the kitchen door, cleaned pots to store in basement.

13 September 2009

Tasks - 9/12/09


* Gathered seeds from several plants for sowing next year.

* Continued working on potting shed area, digging up blackberry roots and putting down a floor of straw.

* Pruned tomato plants, and harvested as many ripe or near-ripe fruit as possible to make sauce for freezing.

18 August 2009

There are tomatoes everywhere.... everywhere!

Since several earlier posts were devoted to preparing for and planting the tomatoes it only seems fair you, my dear reader (yes, I only have one ;)) should reap the harvest. Got tomatoes out the wazoo now.

The Sun Gold cherry variety is a solid performer. Staggered ripening assures a constant but reasonable supply.

The German Green has been disappointing so far. Uneven ripening and trouble with blossom-end rot despite my precautions. I don't need to fuss so much over a tomato when other varieties are producing with no trouble at all. Maybe it will improve in the late season.

The San Marzano has good flavor, texture, and versatility, but disappointing fruit production. One plant has only yielded four fruits so far this season and no new flowers have developed so I think it's done already. If I were to use this variety again I should plant at least three, which perhaps explains the enthusiastic Italian grandma buying all the starts she could find that day at Garden Fever.

17 August 2009

Tasks - 8/17/09


* Gathered seeds from spent marigolds, white cosmos, and calendula.

Bolting arugula

My experiment with Spring-sown arugula in pots near the kitchen had seemd to fail. The arugula took forever to mature, then bolted as soon as it did, leaving me with a lot of teeny, woody, bitter leaves.

Ready to chuck the whole thing in the compost, I did happen onto a use for these tough arugulii -- add them to sauteed vegetables, such as the zucchini, squash, and tomatoes coming out of the garden now.

16 August 2009

Tasks - 8/16/09


* Cat proofed the pink jasmine berm.

* Weeded blueberry bed.

* Weeded herb bed.

* Weeded kiwi bed: The kiwi might yet survive, and the squashes in this bed are doing very well.

* Planted a few zinnia in a large pot.

13 August 2009

Twice bloom lavender

All my Spanish lavenders are blooming again this week. Beautiful, but strange. I don't know if it's because I dead-headed them after the first bloom or if it's because of the record-breaking days 105+ heat in late-July. Either way. Lovely and fragrant.

I picked up a yellow lavender for the empty spot in my lavender walk, but no chance to plant it yet. Maybe this weekend, maybe...

10 August 2009

Tasks - 8/9/09


* Weeded pink jasmine bed, rebuilt the berm, and pruned the jasmine.

* Gathered nasturtium seeds from spent flowers around the yard.

* In the kiwi bed: removed melon salvia because it was blocking sun on UFO squash, weeded, trimmed, and added more dirt/compost now that plants have settled in. Both the squash and zucchini in this bed are producing well.

30 July 2009

Make it stop

Portland is suffering through a week-long heat wave, triple digits since Monday, we're actually all excited today that it "only" reached 95.

I've been watering sometimes twice a day, but there's only so much water can do. Did what I could to create makeshift shade for those plants that looked particularly affected, but I may lose a couple a things.

It's snowpocalypse all over again, but with neverending sun. That's climate change for you.

23 July 2009

Summer, Summertime

And the living is easy.

Not exactly. The Garden blog has been quiet lately not because the garden needs no attention but because so many other things are demanding it. Pleasant things. Birthdays and camping and outdoor movies and hula hooping.

And enjoying just being in the garden. It's lovely.

19 July 2009

Tasks - 7/19/09


* Finished weeding North fence strip.

* Pruned laurel coming over North fence.

* Snap pea bed: weeded, deadheaded both shasta daisies to encourage more blooms, began removing dead snap pea greens.

* Continued to work on "potting shed" area: dug up more blackberry vines, weeded other invaders, set up bamboo screen, and put down some hay.

07 July 2009

Tasks - 7/7/09


* Dug up 4 granddaddy blackberry roots in the soil under the bathroom window.

* Removed some of the blackberry vines that are over-growing into the side yard.

05 July 2009

Before & After - Blueberries

Tonight's dessert!

June 3

July 5

Tasks - 7/3-5/09

This weekend:

95+ degree weather in Portland severely limited my big garden plans for this weekend. Bummer.

* Finished pruning all tomatoes, and weeded their beds.

* Finished pruning and deadheading Spanish lavender.

* Weeded most of the strip along the North fence, and planted nasturtiums.

* Weeded volunteers from the kiwi bed.

* Weeded lavender walk.

* Made a memorial planter for beloved puddy Manx (RIP 12/03/07) with black mondo and a cool rock.

Manx Memorial

30 June 2009

Tasks - 6/30/09


* Repaired fig stake, probably blown apart in wind.

* Continued dead-heading Spanish lavender.

* Pruned tomatoes. This is often discouraged though I don't understand why. I've heard that the cuts can open the plant to disease, but in 10 years I've never experienced that (knock on wood). I find that pruning increases air flow, reducing the chance of fungal and bacterial problems, and gets light onto the flowers in the center of the plant, increasing fruit production.


Back home from vacation in the North Cascades of Washington. Many thanks to the friend who watered my massive garden with two cranky/kinky hoses. All is well.

Except for the half dead apple. Now it's all dead. Looks like one of the neighbors' tabbies crash-landed on it coming over or falling off the fence. Oh well. Now I can blame the cat instead of whatever I did wrong.

A 3-day weekend is ahead of me, and good. The yard is out of control and a long weekend will give me a chance to wrestle it before the summer garden party season.

22 June 2009

Before & After - Shasta Daisy

June 10

June 21

July 4

21 June 2009

Tasks - 6/21/09


* Weeded area around the apples and rebuilt the berms. Fencing didn't keep cats out, so I removed it and used the bamboo skewer method instead. The sad apple looks bad, but it's still pliable. I cut off the definitely dead leaves and will keep tending it unless it dies completely.

* Thinned the maximillions and supported them with the fencing previously blocking the apples.

* Weeded the blueberry bed -- the berries will ripe soon soon soon. In the blank area between the two bushes I planted sunflower seeds Vanilla Ice and Moulin Rouge.

* In the blank area in the cut flower bed (aka sweet pea bed), I planted sunflower seeds Apricot Twist.

* Weeded an area next to the apples and planted sunflower seeds "Flash Bed".

* Began dead-heading the Spanish lavender and, now that the plant is large, pruning off lower limbs that drag on the ground.

* Continued cleaning up the "potting shed" area under the bathroom window.

* In the herb bed, planted another geum Mrs. Bradshaw. It's ruby red. Also, two Italian parsleys.

* In the kiwi bed, planted squash Yellow Scallopini against the fence, and zucchini Cocozelle which is a bushy rather than viney.

* Planted a Cuban basil in a pot, placed with the cilantro (which is already bolting, no worries, I like coriander too!) and arugula.

* Planted various types of marigolds with the tomatoes and in the kiwi bed: Disco Red, Tangerine Gem, Safari Yellow Fire, Disco Marietta.

* Placed ant traps inside house where the sweet ants usually appear, and around the outside of the house where I've seen their trails.

Snap peas is good eats

The snap peas were abundant and delicious this year, if a bit late. At the peak, I was gathering the amount above every afternoon. Just over the peak now.

I either ate them raw, or blanched them and tossed with everything from mustard to pesto. YUM.

16 June 2009

Tasks 6/12-14/09

This weekend:

* Mixed remnant of one worm bin with remnant of compost under rotator and remaining bag of mushroom compost. Used about a third of this mixture to fill in kiwi bed.

* Made a better, though still not best, protection of kiwi vine plant. In the bed planted Creeping Rosemary Escondido

* Seeded now-empty worm bin and rotator with wet shredded paper, fresh kitchen scraps, dry leaves, and red wigglers from other worm bins.

* Pruned and added more support to the climbing rose on the sidewalk strip.

* Pruned Tamora rose for airflow.

* Cut back geranium. It will regrow quickly. May need to do this one more time this season.

* Planted more nasturtiums around yard in blank spots and to cover other vine plants as they die off later in the summer (such as sweetpeas).

* Planted sunflower King Kong seeds on the sidewalk strip and in the kiwi bed.

* Saw a hummingbird! hovering around the laurel bushes poking up over the neighbors' 'new' fence.

* Had another omg moment, while digging around in the kiwi bed, wondering what that hum was. Not another hummingbird. Bees! Hundreds! Hovering all over the shrubby tree that's growing over the driveway and currently flowering-- these awful little white flowers that turn brown and shed everywhere, with this allergy-inducing cloying smell. Bleh. Bees!

* Went to Garden Fever for advice about the sad apple tree. They think I'm under-watering -- who me? I'm a chronic over-waterer -- and suggested more water and an application of compost tea. We'll see. It may be too late. If so, I'll chalk up to The Learning and get another one in the Fall. Also, got a few other things while I was there (ruby red geum, unusual marigolds, Cuban basil).

Flower Sale

It's late in the planting season, the time when many gardeners will fill blank spots in their beds with colorful annuals.

Save some money and support Portland's Rose Festival by buying the flowers and plants that were used to create this year's Festival of Flowers design.

The plant list includes marigolds, red & blue salvia, sunflowers, tomatoes, and culinary sage.

Sale begins June 17 at 8am.

10 June 2009

Tasks - 6/10/09


* Added support structures (string, ties, etc) for the fast-growing sweetpeas. Only necessary for the ones not planted against a fence.

* Noticed that the Golden Sentinel columnar apple isn't looking good. The leaves look a little wilty and some have large brown spots. Looked great a week ago. Hunh. Initial research suggests "apple scab" or "frog leaf eye spot", both of which are treated with a fungicide. Double hunh.

* Empty the rotating compost bin onto the ground below.

* Finished weeding herb bed and cutting back over-grown herbs.

09 June 2009

Tasks - 6/09/09


* Added more dirt to the bases of all the sweetpeas for support. Likely the last time I will need to do this.

* Weeded the snap pea bed, and planted Bells of Ireland seeds in a couple of blank spots. Probably too late in the season. I'll be surprised if they come up and develop well.

* Weeded volunteers (mostly other tomatoes!) from the tomato beds, and noticed that the marigold seeds didn't take well. Also noticed first fruit on the Sungold !

Before & After - Alliums

These decorative alliums (onions) are new to my garden this year, planted as bulbs last fall. They didn't get as tall as I expected, but perhaps next year. We'll see.

Alliums in various stages of bloom

After the purple flowers fade, these green orbs appear.

The green-headed orbs are beginning to lean as the stalks yellow. I cut one and it's doing well in a vase with other cut flowers. I'm wondering if with enough time the green orbs will develop into bulbs that can be planted. That would be rad given how pricey the large decorative alliums can be.

08 June 2009

Tasks - 6/08/09


* Went to Garden Fever for squash starts.
* Cut back driveway overgrowth
* Began trimming and tidying the herb bed -- the cats enjoyed the fresh cut catnip especially.
* Cut flowers for vases inside -- not sure I've listed this "task" before, but I've been doing it weekly. One of the things I love about having a garden is having fresh arrangements in the house.

To Victory!

Earlier I mentioned the snap peas were coming in. Oh boy howdy. I'll be eating sides for free for a couple weeks at least. Wonder how well they freeze?

And EJD says you can eat the greens too!

03 June 2009

Tasks - 6/3/09


* In the snap pea bed, planted two annuals to fill in blank spots: Cosmos Sensation Purity, Brachyscome Toucan Tango. Also trimmed some of the plants that are crowding each other.

* Noticed the snap peas are fruited and some ready to eat -- which I did! yum! -- so will keep close eye on them next couple of weeks. Fresh sugar snaps, right off the vine!

01 June 2009

Tasks - 5/29-31/09

This weekend:

* Planted third tomato -- San Marzano -- in small bed in the front yard intended for melons (that never sprouted) and sprinkled surrounding soil with marigold seeds.

* Planted "curlique" seeds in the empty spot in the crocosmia bed, and protected from cats with skewers and an old window screen.

* Planted pineapple sage in bed between kiwi vine and culinary sage.

* Planted two coneflowers Double Decker in the back beds near the cafe ole roses.

* Weeded the snap pea bed, and planted an annual Blue Star Creeper. Noticed that some of the older plants are too close together, and noted this on my Fall to-do list. The goldenrod has powder mildew, likely from constricted air flow.

* Cut back some of the driveway overgrowth.

* Filled a yard debris bag with stuff I hacked out of the South side yard jungle.


Wow! It's June already! How did that happen?

March was so dreary I wasn't able to do much in the garden so April and early May saw me rushing like mad until social plans encroached on my time. Now this blast of sustained and unusual hot weather is making it impossible to plant anything I missed in April. Just gotta skip straight to summer stuff.

Oh well.

I love the work, but it's supposed to be about enjoying the space too. And the last couple of weeks have been very enjoyable in the garden: Gin & Tonic parties, BBQ's, and my little brother's visit.

21 May 2009

Tasks - 5/19/09


* Added some copper decorations to the tomato cages for the pretty pretty but also because copper is good for the garden (uh, don't ask me to cite a source, just trust the Wooga). Ions or something...

* Soaked and then planted nasturtium seeds all around the garden in nooks and crannies, for their beauty but also because they distract pests. Oh and the flowers are edible.

* Sprinkled marigold seeds throughout the tomato bed. Marigolds repel pests.

'L' is for Loser

It's that magical time when late Spring begins to turn into Summer and the early hard work begins to pay off. Vines climb to the sun, roses and peonies bloom, bees zip around honeysuckle and lavenders.

It's also the time when mistakes become obvious, plants put in the wrong spot, or at the wrong time, seeds that never germ, pests unchecked.

This past weekend I had the "I've done everything wrong and I'm a loser" moment or two (or 30) in my garden. Here's a list of the mistakes and what I'm going to do about them.

Chinese lantern. After planting this in turned soil I did not put skewers around it to protect it from the cats, and they killed it dead. I will save that spot for zinnias or sunflowers, which I typically plant later in the summer.

Muskmelon. The seeds never sprouted. Don't know why. I considered buying a start from the nursery but have instead decided this is the perfect spot for that third tomato I had no space for.

Sidewalk strip weeding. While I concentrated on the back yard, the weeds on the sidewalk strip have gotten out of control which was stressing me! Solution: I'm going to just relax about it. The garden should be at least as much fun as it is work. These weeds are not threatening any plants; it can wait.

Roses health. The mites and their corollary disease and pest issues could have killed my favorite plant. I should have taken that problem seriously, quickly. Bringing it back to health is now a top priority.

Jupiter's Beard. These seeds never sprouted either. The packet says it can take up to 24 days so I'm going to wait just a bit longer but will save some dwarf sunflower seeds for the spot if necessary. Next year, I should be more realistic about which things I have success with as starts vs. seeds.

Dahlia. Dahlias should be planted on Mother's Day, which means that duh I should have purchased the tubers before, *well* before Mother's Day. By the time I went shopping, everything was gone. No new dahlias in the garden this year, but I will look for Fall red tag sales and get on the ball earlier next year. The spot I had reserved for a new dahlia will instead be filled with annuals.

As June fades into July we'll see what else I've blown. ;)

20 May 2009

Tasks - 5/16-17/09

This weekend:

* Went to Garden Fever and bought a few annuals for blank spots.

* Washed egg shells.

* Planted two tomato starts -- Aunt Ruby's Green and Sungold -- in the new bed, adding in egg shells for calcium and hair for protein. Put up tomato cages and re-arranged the red plastic to reflect light. Added skewers to empty dirt to block cats.

Before & After - Ladybugs

Recent tasks lists mention a mite problem -- specifically a plague on my favorite plant, the Cafe Ole roses. The poor roses have a few other problems -- black spot and caterpillars -- all likely related to the mites weakening the plant's overall health. Are mites a cause or a symptom? Either way, I decided to tackle them first.

With ladybugs. Most nurseries sell them in a mesh bag, which can be stored in the frig for no more than 10 days, though it's best to use them as quickly as possible. Both for the ladybugs (how long have they already been sitting around the nursery?) and for the plant you're trying to save from the pest.

The mites got out of control because I attempted to kill them by blasting them with the hose. Does that method work for anyone?!? Seems like it just spreads them around to bother more plants.

At sunset, the ladybugs free because they are less likely to fly away -- you want them to stick around and the eat the mites. Do two things. First, water the plant well because the ladybugs will be thirsty. Second, lightly spray the ladybugs with a mixture of water and a sugary soda like Coke. That will make their wings stick for a day, again, encouraging them to stick around and gorge on mites.

Add a little rum & lime to the rest of that Coke and watch them do their work!

Took about 6 days for them to eat all the mites. With luck, they'll decide to make a home and create successive ladybug generations to keep pesty bugs under control.

14 May 2009

Tasks - 5/14/09


* Pulled up that parsley that sprung up from last year because it was bolting already.

* Set up a temporary protection of the kiwi since the cats are attacking it.

* Finished assembling boards for kiwi bed.

* Checked on the work of the ladybugs. Good job. The mites are mostly gone, but will keep a close eye on the affected roses.

* Brought lawn chairs out of the basement and cleaned them off for garden party season!

Hee hee, hee hee, hee hee

Plants & Puppies

Or, how to send Wooga into apoplexy. OMG, puppies! And plants.

Scanning garden calendars for this weekend, this particular event jumped out at me. Visit with puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind while shopping among shrubs, perennials, grasses, etc.

Saturday, May 16 10am - 5pm
5432 SE Hawthorne

12 May 2009

Tasks - 5/12/09


* Finished pebble project begun over the weekend.

* Added a small weed bin -- an old terra cotta pot -- behind the astilbes.

* Assessed the ladybugs' success combating the mites on the roses. Not bad. I'd say 60% of the mites are gone. Keeping an eye on it. May do more this weekend if necessary.

* Began pulling up old strawberries. They are past their peak and located in a bad spot, requiring far too much intervention to monitor water and shade given how few berries they are likely to yield this year. I'll plant new ones next year.

* Planted a small Armeria Victor Reiter next to a small weed bin. It's a flowering grass. Part of my attempt to pretty up and mask the bins.

Building a Bed - Tomatoes

Continuing with the tomato theme (and perhaps demonstrating the amount of work involved in growing the goods), let's talk a little bit about building a raised bed for the plants.

I decided to use an existing frame (formerly dedicated to flowers for cutting), and began using its dirt for other projects. Once that soil was mostly elsewhere, I moved the frame in line with other beds, which also freed up the patio area near the lavender walk.

Since I placed the frame over grass, I started with a layer of shredded paper to help kill off the grass. The paper comes from my home shredder. Good-bye and thank you junk mail.

Then comes a layer of twigs and dry leaves. These provide drainage and will release nutrients into the soil as they decay.

Next I added dirt mixed with my compost and mushroom compost. The soil level is deliberately low for two reasons. One, when I plant the tomato starts next weekend, I'll be adding much more dirt because they like to be buried, so I'll need room to do that.

Two, when the paper and leaves decay by the end of the summer, the soil will sink again, leaving me room to add a fresh layer of dirt & compost next year. Tomatoes need fresh soil each year. The Wooga plans ahead.

The soil needs to warm up a bit before the starts go in. The plastic will help with that (the 90 degrees predicted for Saturday will too!). The screens will deter cats from bathroom activities, though I caught the teeny Boo (this cat weighs maybe 3 lbs wet) sneaking under the screen.

10 May 2009

Tasks - 5/9-10/09

This weekend:

* Extended Saturday morning walk to Garden Fever, bought a few gladious bulbs and a couple of plants. No dahlia bulbs to be had.

* In the herb bed, planted English thyme and French Tarragon.

* Moved old raised bed and re-built soil from ground up. Covered with red plastic to prepare for tomato starts next week.

* Weeded strip between patio and the raised beds, and began adding layers of washed pebbles.

* Mowed front, side (North), and back yards. Killed my arms! And why does it smell like blueberry poptarts?

* Saw a lot of wasps/hornets in yard so carefully examined house exterior and other likely hideouts for nests. Found nothing.

* Placed ladybugs on the roses with mites. Waiting for the magic to happen.

* Planted mixed gladious in the sweetpea bed, which is also a cut flower bed.

* Planted Astilbe Arendsii Amethyst near the lilac.

* Planted Daisy Clara Curtis in the crocosmia bed, and another in the sweetpea bed.

* Near the large cold bin, planted Phygelius Janet's Tears.

* Near apples, planted a chinese lanterns start.

* Uncovered and placed both BBQs, happy that no pests wintered over in them. :)

* Uncovered picnic table.

* Cleaned covers.

* Went to Portland Nursery on Stark. Also no dahlia bulbs! Wah!

07 May 2009

Help ?!

Like with most things in life, when it comes to gardening, I know more than some people and less than others. With a few years and a lot of mistakes behind my gardenbooty, Trial and Error have been my mentors.

Wouldn't it be great if there was someone who knew everything, especially about the pecularities of this climate, that you could just ask? Forgo wading through the Interwebs, forgo messing it all up big time, forgo denying yourself the joy of growing some tricky plant (clematis, I'm looking at you).

I present you with such a someone, or someones:

OSU Extension Service Hotline 503-445-4608

Staffed by volunteer Master Gardenders Monday - Friday from 10 am - 2 pm. See the website for more information.

Now, about those black spots on my roses....

03 May 2009

Tasks - 5/1-3/09

This weekend:

* Weeded last of the back beds, from the cafe ole roses to the Japanese cedar.

* Thinned 3/3 of the arugula. The third sowing was done in the same pot that held cilantro last year and there are a few cilantro starts coming up also.

* Repaired the support structure for the climbing rose on the sidewalk strip, damaged in Saturday's surprise storm.

* Added more dirt to support the bases of all the snap peas and sweetpeas planted previously.

* Now that the apple trees have gotten a few good rains in, I created burms around them and added a small protective fence. Between them I planted a Verbena bonariensis (perennial) and some seeds of Jupiter's Beard Centurion's Shield.

* In the snap pea bed planted another Verbena bonariensis.

* In the small bed in the front yard, planted five seeds of Muskmelon Cantaloupe Earlichamp.

* In the jasmine bed in the front yard, planted a Yarrow Achillea Walter Funcke and a Verbena Obsession Apricot (annual).

* In the kiwi bed, planted a culinary sage Salvia officinalis Berggarten.

* Planted two foxgloves Digitalis Alba in the back beds, near the fence, behind other plants.

* Chopped down and dug up a wheelbarrow full of sneaky blackberries.

* Noticed several plants budding and near blooming already: roses, alliums, peony, columbines, and two of the lavenders (white and Spanish) !


* Went to the new King Neighborhood Farmers Market and bought herb starts, English Thyme and French Tarragon.

02 May 2009


So, you might be wondering, which tomatoes did I buy at the recent Tomatomania event? Plied with free pinot gris, I had a little bout of tomatomania myself, purchasing not my usual one plant, but three. Three! Where am I going to put them?

Thankfully the weather is such that I have a week or two to figure that out. While I ponder, they enjoy a west facing window.

Sungold Indeterminate Cherry (that means small)

A lovely tangerine color when ripe, guaranteed orgiastic cries when eaten fresh off the vine on a hot summer day. I've grown these twice before with Great Success!

Aunt Ruby's Green (aka German Green) Indetermine Beefsteak (that means huge)

Um, I don't know. What was I thinking? There was some wine and huge sexy beefsteak sounded good.

The attached note described this greenish-pink tomato as having a sweet, spicy taste with sturdy flesh. Sounds good for salsa, no?

San Marzano Determinte Roma (means the same thing as cherry, maybe a tad larger)

Older woman started exclaiming vividly in Italian, finally repeating "San Marzano! San Marzano!" til I was sure she would faint. She grabbed 4 or 5. If it's good enough for the Italian grandma, I want one too. Luckily she didn't snatch them all. I found one hiding behind the Siberian Black Dung Cherries no one seemed to want.

30 April 2009

Ask yourself two questions

If you want to grow tomatoes, first you have to ask yourself two questions:

1. What kind of space & time do you have?

It goes without saying you must have a sunny spot. Is this spot small or large? Tomatoes come in two types.

Determinate: Have a fixed size they won't grow beyond, and bear their fruit in a short time span.

Indeterminate: Will grow and grow unchecked unless you intervene, and bear their fruit in stages.

Determinates are best for small spaces, for when you don't have time to prune and manage, while indeterminates are great for large spaces where they can grow as they please (or, as you please if you have the time to direct them).

2. What are you going to do with the tomatoes?

Tomatoes also come in different varieties. Do you want to recreate grandma's sauce from the Old Country? Buy a "saucing" tomato. Do you like thick slices on your summertime BBQ burgers? Buy a "slicing" tomato. And so on.

As always, if you have any questions, ask your local nursery employee. They can point you to varieties that are best for your needs and best for your local weather. For example, here in Portland, varieties that fruit early and can tolerate cooler, wetter weather (such as the prolific Siberian choices) are popular.

29 April 2009

I'm a tomato!

Love this t-shirt! Don't love tomatoes, not so much, no. Don't really even like them. But I'm from The South, and growing tomatoes is just what you do.

Besides, my friends love them and I will cook with them or make salsa, so it all works out.

I won't share all my tomato lore in this post, only just to say that it's time to choose my starts. And my favorite local nursery is ready to help me out with a perfectly timed event.

Thursday, April 30, 5:00-7:00pm
Garden Fever, 3433 NE 24th

Refreshments and prizes from 750 KXL Radio. Choose from organic tomato and vegetable starts (it's time for peppers too!). I'll be there!
Join us for an evening of gardening fun with refreshments & prizes from 750 KXL Radio
Choose from a full selection of organically & sustainably grown tomato & vegetable starts.
Join us for an evening

28 April 2009

Before & After - Weeding

This is the Southeast corner of the backyard, hosting a lilac tree and an assortment of hostas, astilbes, and hellebore, and plenty of blank spots for weeds to multiply. Filling those blanks spots is a task I will tackle this year. But first I have to weed, weed, weed.

Before the application of gardenbooty.

After the application of gardenbooty.

27 April 2009

Before & After - Sunshine on apple trees

Who doesn't like a make-over? Here's the first of what will become a regular feature: Before & After.

Before the sunshine.

April 18

After the sunshine, 6 days later.

April 24

26 April 2009

Tasks - 4/26/09


* Went to Garden Fever. Bought a few fill-in plants and a pair of cotton gloves.

* Killed and dug up one "granddaddy" blackberry root at the base of the house in my soon-to-be potting area. This is likely the root of the vine that grows out of the siding. Roughly 4 or 5 left to be dug out.

* Weeded from the lilac to the Cafe Ole roses. Moved a plant (not sure what it is? smells like a lemon sage, serrated leaves like a French lavender) to the green bed.

* Discovered some kind of winged mite on the Cafe Ole roses and blasted them with water. Will keep an eye on them.

* Discovered new shoots at the base of the dead, seemingly dead eucalyptus in the backyard. Hunh.

* Went out after dark to look for caterpillars, thought I saw their signature damage in the beds today. Found 4, as opposed to the usual 40 during a plague.


One way to expand your garden on the cheap is to share and trade plants with friends and neighbors. Many plants spread and unless you have infinite room with perfect conditions, you'll have extra plants on your hands anyway.

Hostas are such a plant. Unless split vigorously, they will multiply in on themselves in an ultimately harmful way.

When the nubs first appear in March or April, you can divide the mass into smaller clumps and replant elsewhere. They survive the division very well.


The ones that can't be used in blank spots in my garden go into pots to share with my friends.

25 April 2009

Tasks - 4/25/09


* Thinned 2/3 of the arugula.

* Weeded geranium bed. Moved the border to accommodate changed plants -- including what looks like a volunteer columbine?

* Split hostas and moved around the geranium, lilac, and ash beds. Put spare hostas (7 in all) in pots to share with friends.

* Moved a white hellbore and a fern around in the geranium and ash beds. Never moved a hellebore before; fingers crossed.

* Weeded lilac bed. The lilac is beginning to bloom!

24 April 2009

Day Off - Tasks - 4/24/09

Took today off work:

* Finished weeding green bed.

* In snap pea bed, planted delphinium Black Knight.

* In herb bed, planted geum Mango Lassi to replace geum that died.

* Planted purple pansy in pot with sweetpeas on front porch steps.

* Weeded bed under ash & split two of its hostas.

* Began weeding bed that occupies area along South fence from the "artistic" twig pile to the lilac. Let's call this the geranium bed.

23 April 2009

Sale at the Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

Portland's Japanese Garden is hosting its annual plant sale this weekend. More than 25 local nurseries will be selling an outstanding selection of conifers, peonies, orchids, camellias, hydrangea, bamboo, bonsai, Japanese maples, azaleas, rhododendrons, and more.

Japanese Garden Plant Sale
Saturday, April 25, 10:00am-3:00pm

20 April 2009

Tasks - 4/20/09


* Went to the hardware store for brackets to lash boards together for new kiwi bed.

* Finished setting up watering hoses.

* Applied one gallon of compost tea + one gallon water to the sidewalk strip, as a way to replenish nutrients without trouble of replacing soil.

* Declared an end to slug & caterpillar watch season (barring some unforeseen weather, pfft, that never happens).

Keeping the Kitties Out

Doing my best to stave off becoming "that crazy cat lady", I nonetheless very much enjoy how all the neighbor cats play in my yard. Sinclair terrorizes Boo, who likes to sniff dandelions. The tabby sisters leap into the air, climbing trees and fences, chasing dragonflies and birds. Luna stalks at night. And many others. It's a treat to watch them cavort.

Except. Sigh. They poop. And they dig up plants to do it. And it stinks.

They target loose soil, areas that are unplanted and recently turned, or, worse, areas that are newly planted. They can destroy hours of work in a moment. Once a new plant is big enough, then they tend to leave it alone. The trick is protecting something new until it's grown.


Raised beds can be covered with screen mesh or other material that lets in light & water while blocking kitty paws & butt. Direct in the ground, though... that's hard. Cages can be expensive, especially in a yard my size (100x50).

I've found a cheap, effective method of creating a barrier around new plants (see foto above). Bamboo skewers! A large pack -- usually found in the BBQ section of any grocery store for about $2-3 -- lasts me a couple of years.

Space them close together around the plant. Re-use until they break down; then toss 'em in the compost.

19 April 2009

Tasks - 4/18-19/09

This weekend:

* Thinned 1/3 arugula

* Removed items and spent tulips from cut flower raised bed and used good dirt for other projects (planning to move this bed).

* Planted columnar apple trees

* Moved bay tree into a large pot near basement door stairs.

* Planted fig tree in front yard where bay had been. Fig should grow no more than 10 ft. tall and so will not conflict with newly strung electric wire.

* Thinned sugar snap peas and added more dirt to support their bases.

* Assessed herb bed. Removed plants that died in snowpocalypse (sad, some I've had for many years, from my small garden at the old apartment): silver thyme, geum, rosemary. Planted sweetpeas against fence.

* Turned cover crop into soil in old tomato raised bed. This is now the cut flower bed. Added a conical tomato cage, but will use for flowered vines. Planted sweetpeas on cage.

* Planted sweetpeas in blueberry bed so that bees will be attracted when pollination necessary.

* Planted sweetpeas on the dry compost bin and the large cold compost bin - an attempt to pretty things up.

* Planted sweetpeas by front porch stairs, one in a pot and one near the handrail.

* Moved stored items away from the back side of herb bed. Began building a bed there. Lacking a critical piece of hardware to lash boards together, just went ahead with the soil building and will finish the boards later. Planted Japanese kiwi in bed. It is a self-pollinating variety.

* Began cleaning overgrown area under bathroom window. Planning to use this as a "potting shed" area.

* Weeded pink jasmine semi-circle bed in front of the house. Discovered a wee black mondo that must have rooted somehow off the pot I stored there (the one I bought at the Chinese Garden Sale) for a few weeks.

* Began cleaning overgrown "green" bed -- this is a new bed began last year. Most of the flowers are green. Will get re-done in some way this year.

* Un-rolled new 100ft hoses in the sun to loosen up the rubber. With 80 degree predicted this week and so many new plants in the ground, I will probably have to water at least once this week!

* Shopped at Garden Fever, dodging the n00bs who want to grow their own food now, like Michelle Obama. "Uh, excuse me, where can I buy the 'organic garden'?"

18 April 2009

Ginger Rogers

"Anything Fred Astaire could do, Ginger Rogers did backwards and in high heels."

So the saying goes. I got a tremendous amount of work (cumulative task list posted tomorrow) done today, but at a price. I've given myself what I call a "lady" injury.

As in, I was doing what ladies shouldn't do -- namely carry something far too heavy for far too long to prove how strong and independent I am. Now it hurts, and I will stubbornly aggravate it while I manically gardenbooty the remainder of the weekend. Did the same damn thing two years. Guess I never learn.

I learned today. Just because I can do pretty much anything a man can do doesn't mean I should.

My strong male friends can expect requests for help from now on. Don't worry. I'll bribe generously in order to preserve my immense pride.

17 April 2009

Tasks - 4/17/09

"I'm just going to do a couple of things before dinner..... (4 hours later) .... did I eat? What day is it?"


* Inaugurated the backyard firepit, Xmas tree hissing at its final humiliation. Wooga drinking tea, feet up, after these tasks and thinking about tomorrow's.

* Tidied the woodpile - as a Southerner, I approach this task with some trepidation, though in Portland we only find harmless spiders and worms in the crevices of the woodpile.

* Renewed slug pellets around still vulnerable plants.

* Inventoried hostas since they're now poking a bit out of the ground - holy hostas clavata! Last year's split was not enough. Not at all. Anybody want any hostas?

* Finished weeding fence strip.

* Weeded the old tomato bed, will be a cut flower bed or potage this year.

* Weeded crocosmia bed.

16 April 2009

Ly-lack, Ly-lock

I say ly-lack. I say Portland is the best place to live if you love lilacs because it's so close to the best place to find lilacs.

Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens
115 S. Pekin Road, Woodland, WA

The four-acre garden hosts a festival and plant sale every year when the lilacs are at their peek, which is April 18 - May 10 this year.

foto, lilac

In 2004 I bought this Michel Buchner lilac at the festival. It's a lovely bluish lavender with a strong fragrance. Kept in a pot for years, it was planted in the backyard last year and is already showing lots of buds.

Perhaps it needs a friend? See the website for more information.

15 April 2009

Tasks - 4/15/09


* Filled melon bed with dirt & covered with black plastic. See: Yummy Summertime

* Began weeding pink jasmine bed in front yard.

* Began weeding area in front of porch (very overgrown, didn't plant or mulch last year).

* Continued hacking away at driveway overgrowth

Yummy Summertime

If I want to eat melons in the Summer, it begins now. I built a small bed in the front yard, over a patch of dead grass, with full sun.

First, the bed is filled part way with poor, rocky soil left over from my neighbors' fence project, which gives the bed good drainage (and gets the unsightly soil pile out of my backyard).

Then a mixture of good soil and compost goes on top.

I don't trust the weather to warm the soil up fast enough for melon seeds, so I'll jack the temp with some warming black plastic. Once the soil warms - 2-10 days - I'll plant the seeds of Muskmelon Cantaloupe "Earlichamp".


14 April 2009

Tasks - 4/14/09


* Finished weeding the lavender walk - the first pass, anyway. Probably will have to weed again at least once.

* Began weeding an area new to my yard this year. I'll call it the "fence strip" - a long, mostly narrow strip of poor quality dirt between my neighbors' new fence and an old concrete driveway on my property, in the back yard. This first year I'll work on improving soil quality and plant some easy annuals like sweetpeas & sunflowers. In the one wider portion, I will plant two columnar apples.

13 April 2009

Tasks - 4/13/09


* Continued weeding the lavender walk. Discovered one of the lavenders I thought dead, is not. Cool.

* Sowed 3/3 of the arugula plantings. See: A-wooga-la!

* Built a small frame for a bed in the front yard. This will host melons, and maybe some squash later.

* Shook my head at the damn grass. Why, why, why must it grow?

Tubers, oh my!

I am officially an old lady: I am going to a dahlia tuber sale and auction, in a church. Yes, "and auction". I imagine myself elbowing some other old lady, vying for the Dinnerplate Princess Di Dahlia or some such. Maybe I'll pull her flowered hat down over her face while frantically waving my numbered card in the air. Mine! Mine! Mine!

The sale is Tuesday, April 14 6:30pm, sponsored by the Portland Dahlia Society, at the Rose City Park United Methodist Church, 5830 NE Alameda St.

11 April 2009

That plastic thingie

On a recent walk, JWD asked, "What are those plastic thingies around the bottom of trees?" Nearly all the trees on the sidewalk strip of next door's condoplex have them.

foto, tree

I speculated wildly in my best authoritative librarian voice, which seemed to satisfy his curiosity. But mine was piqued, so later I turned to a favorite garden guide: The Truth About Garden Remedies** by Jeff Gillman.

Gillman's book is an encyclopedic examination of home remedies for the garden. You'll learn the history, theory, and practice of each remedy, along with Gillman's report on his own experiments to test the remedy. Myth Busters for your yard.

Turns out my fancy guesswork about the plastic thingies -- a "tree wrap" -- was darn close (protection against pests, lawn equipment, frost cracks). Gillman's conclusion is that they are largely unecessary, especially in Portland's climate, and that the plastic ones can do far more harm than good.

** Book featured for purchase : see bottom of page

10 April 2009


foto, greens

I've experimented with various cold weather greens and had the most success with arugula. Reliable and versatile, it tastes good too!

foto, greens

My seed choice is "Garden Rocket Italian Wild Arugula" from Nichols Garden Nursery. In the Spring, I stagger planting in three stages, while in the Fall I plant all the seeds in the spent, bare herb bed.

The difference is that in Spring I'm trying to keep the greens cool (so they don't bolt, ie flower and become inedible) and the best spot, which happens to be by the kitchen door (bonus!), requires pots. I stagger as another way to deal with possible bolting, but also so I have a steady supply.

In the Fall, the herb bed is cooling anyway and gets more light, which is needed then. And I don't worry about the supply so much because the greens grow more slowly. Any leftovers that somehow survive winter are either munched early the next Spring (with a slightly woody flavor) or tilled into the soil.

The first foto above is the pot that was planted March 3. It needs thinning soon. Harvest in maybe another 3 weeks? Depends on the weather. No problem, there's still some in the herb bed from last Fall. Yum.

06 April 2009

Tasks - 4/06/09


* Continued weeding the lavender walk. Tedious, slow work pulling up the laurel seedlings.

foto, seedlings

* Finished part of the garden area in the basement, and converted to-do list to a tasks bulletin board. (Still need to finish organizing tools, etc.)

foto, desk

Weekend events

Gardening season is in full swing, so you have a choice between a gazillion events this weekend. If you're ambitious you might be able to do more than one -- but, then, when will you garden?


Learn about worm composting (especially useful if you produce more kitchen scraps than yard debris) at this workshop hosted by Pistils Nursery. Even if you do have compost piles in your yard, more worms can come in handy to jumpstart a pile or provide extra fertilizer for a project.

The workshop is Saturday, April 11, 1:30-3:00. $10 Follow the registration instructions on their website.

Hardy Plant Sale

The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon is a volunteer, nonprofit group devoted to the promotion of hardy herbaceous perennials. Put that on a t-shirt.

They have a huge sale! They offer a lot of good advice! The sale runs Saturday and Sunday, April 11-12 at the Expo Center. See the website for more information.

05 April 2009

Tasks - 4/4-5/09

This weekend:

* Mixed 1 bag of aged mushroom compost with three times as much of my own compost.

* Applied compost mix to beds: blueberries, white hellebore, herb, pea.

* In the pea bed, planted a "Sweet Grapes" penstemon and a "Lemore" goldenrod.

* Weeded beds: sidewalk strip, garage strip, cut flower bed.

* Began weeding beds: lavender walk, green flower bed.

* In the garage strip, planted a Russian sage (moved from the cut flower bed) and a "Lemore" goldenrod.

* Re-built crabapple's berm on sidewalk strip.

* Accidentally opened another leaf bag, which disintegrated, so moved leaves to new dry/cold bin.

30 March 2009

Signs of Spring

The crocus are gone, and in their place the daffodils and tulips are popping up. Depending on the variety and placement, these two Spring bulbs may bloom together or weeks apart.

foto, tulips

My lollilop tulips (on the sidewalk strip) are blooming well though the stems are stunted. They should be about 4 inches tall. I blame snowpocalypse.

Of course, if it's tulips you love and the Willamette Valley is closer than Holland, you can't pass up the Woodburn Tulip Festival. March 25 to April 26. The link provided points to one farm, but there are several. Pick one you like, or drive around for free.