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.

Tasks - 3/30/09


* Applied used coffee grounds to soil in blueberry bed. I do this twice a year: in the Spring right as the new leaves bud, once the Fall as the shrubs go dormant. Blueberries like acidic soil.

* Continued getting basement "garden" area organized.

29 March 2009

Tasks - 3/29/09


* Finished weeding the herb bed.

* Weeded the blueberry bed.

* Moved a bag of leaves into one of the leaf bins. My neighborhood doesn't have the over-abundance of leaves problem that others have, so in the Fall I collect leaves from cross-town neighbors, even from off the street corners downtown, so that I have a steady supply of leaf material for my garden's needs.

* At Oscar Albert: Bought 2 columnar apple trees, each a different variety which is required for pollination.

* At Garden Fever: Bought 1 Vern's Turkey Brown fig tree.

22 March 2009

March thus far

This weather blows. Too cold and rainy to do much of anything, just warm and light enough for the grass to grow. Feh.

Speaking of grass, today's urban goating workshop provided me with some basic information. Goats are not the answer to my grass problem. They don't graze the ground. While I could use their manure for compost, they're better suited for people interested in milk, particularly for making cheese and yogurt.

On the way home, I stopped by a Starbucks to pick up a bag of used grounds. Many coffeeshops offer this free service, but I use the nearest Starbucks because they collect the grounds in neat, easily carried bags, that they stack by the door. Convenient.

Today's grounds are destined for my blueberry bushes, any remainders will heat up the youngest of my compost bins.

21 March 2009

Tasks - 3/21/09


* Went to the Portland Farmers Market, which in addition to foodstuffs, also sells starts and plants.

* Went to the Chinese Garden plant sale and purchased one black mondo.

* Went to Garden Fever and picked up a few red tag plants and some sweet pea starts (I never have much success growing from seed, probably because I blithely disregard the planting instructions).

* Sowed 2/3 plantings of arugula.

* Cut back a little more of the driveway overgrowth.

* Weeded the white hellebore bed on the North side of the house.

* Began weeding the herb bed on the North side of the house.

17 March 2009

Mondo mondo mondo

Every Spring, Portland's Chinese Garden hosts a plant sale. It's a great opportunity to support the garden and obtain some neat plants for your garden. Plus, knowledgeable volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice.

I buy a black mondo every year. It spreads easily (but not invasive) and can be divided, so it's a good value if you have a little patience.

After careful selection of the best mondo, I stroll around the garden, always surprised at how much life is stirring so early in the season. Then tea and almond cookies at the onsite Tao of Tea. Nice.

12 March 2009

Never mow again!

Never mow again! That's my fantasy -- one which my neighbors might suggest is already fulfilled.

Okay, so, I've got this idea that a goat could eat the grass. Okay, so, typing that idea out loud makes it sound not as good as it did in my head.

But I'm not the only one with goaty ideas. Following quickly behind the city chicken movement is a nascent interest in goat keeping. If you'd like to know more, join me at Pistils Nursery's Urban Goat Keeping Workshop on Sunday, March 22 at 1:30pm. Email them soon to reserve a spot.

10 March 2009

Slugs, damn slugs

As fresh, pale green growth first appears so do the slimy, rapacious slugs. Some plants are ruined for the whole year and may even die if the slugs aren't held off. This March so far has been a bit cold for them to venture out, but it will warm soon enough. This is war and I am ready.

foto, plant

First, I protect the most vulnerable plants with a moat of slug-repellent pellets. The pellets don't hold long in Portland's wet weather and must be replaced once a week. I use Slug&Snail Bait by Lilly Miller which purports to be safe around animals. No problems (knock on a half-dead eucalyptus) in 4 years. Clearly, it's Monkey-approved.

foto, cat

Second, I make nightly rounds, headlamp strapped on, and bamboo skewer a steady spear in my right hand. In my left hand, I carry a small bucket with an inch or so of cheap beer (Hamms!). Skewered slugs are dropped into the beer. No mercy.

Finally, in the Fall (slugs slack off in the summer when it gets warmer and drier) I'm especially diligent about the nightly obliteration ritual, and I also put down "walking planks." That's a thin piece of wood soaked in water (or, Fall rain) which slugs congregate on the underside of. Sluggy walking planks get tossed in the firepit. No mercy.

The more slugs I can eliminate in the Fall, the fewer there are to breed in the Spring. But, it's a war never won, a battle always waging.

09 March 2009

Tasks - 3/09/09


* Planned next tasks for the pea bed

* Sketched ideas for area in front of new fence along north side of back yard

08 March 2009

Tasks - 3/08/09


* Placed slug repellent around new shoots.

* Weeded the "pea" bed and dressed with compost/mulch.

* Pruned storm damage off lavenders. One, which was planted late last Fall, looks dead. If so, I'll replace later in the summer, which is a better time to plant new lavenders.

* Cut back a little more of the driveway overgrowth.


foto, snow on fern

That's a first. Snow down the plumber's crack of my gardening jeans. Ooh! Cold! Today's snow looked more like a leftover slushy spilled here and there, so I was able to do some work -- when it wasn't also hailing. Today was of course nothing compared to what we here in Portland jokingly call the "snowpocalypse".

foto, snow

I will refer to the 2-week snow storm from December 2008 often, boringly often, because it has had such a great impact on my garden, probably more than I know now. Not much snow compared to other parts of the world, but record-breaking for Portland, its weight and cold damaged many of my plants and trees.

07 March 2009

Tasks - 3/07/09


* Planted sugar snap pea seeds.

* Aerated two compost piles, assessed worm bins.

* Visited Oscar Albert, a new (to me) garden store/nursery, which also happens to be a wine bar, at SE Division & 48th. They have a supply of columnar apple trees.

06 March 2009

Tasks - 3/06/09


* Picked up several gardening books on hold at the public library.

* Pruned honeysuckle bush lightly. I limit pruning because once it blooms, I'll cut more branches and stems for vase arrangements.

* Prioritized tasks for this weekend.

05 March 2009

Busy bees

We're all busy as bees in our gardens now (rain or shine). It's still too cold for real bees, but they'll be here soon. There are some things we home gardeners can do to help them out. And lately, with global reports of widespread colony die-off, they could use the help.

Pistils Nursery is hosting a bee-keeping workshop Saturday, March 14 for $8. Sign-up now to reserve your spot. These workshops fill up fast!

From their website:

"Backyard Bee Keeping

Over the years, we have seen a rapidly growing interest in backyard bee keeping. We have established a relationship with a bee keeper who is an advocate of the "top-bar" hive philosophy, which is much easier and more accessible. Perfect for the urban backyard.

Come and glean fascinating how-to information about how to keep bees in your yard holistically and simply and receive an abundance of honey and increased pollination for the plants in your garden.

Send us an email at workshops@pistilsnursery.com to sign-up. Please provide your phone number in the email so we can reserve your spot."

04 March 2009

Lenten rose by any other name

Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose, Helleborus.... are all names for the genus Helleborus, which I first learned of from a Martha Stewart article, lo, many years ago, long enough ago that the common "white" was the only color mentioned, and the only color I saw in gardens for several years.


Hellebore (pl.) bloom very early and reach their zenith around the beginning of Lent. My own interest in hellebore admittedly increased when color variations began appearing in American nurseries. But, at $15-20 more than their plain relations, not many of the flashy hellebore have made it into my garden, except for the "Black Magic" pictured below.


In Timber Press's Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide**, authors Burrell and Tyler note that aside from a handful found in Britain and one in China, "the rest of the species fall in between, with the bulk of them centered in the Balkan region of the former Yugoslavia." This excellent book may be available at your public library, or you can support my garden by purchasing the book through the Amazon widget (at right).

Because of our shared Balkan connection, I nicknamed the dark beauty above Helleborus mavrud after the blood red wine indigenous to Bulgaria. Cut, the flower-like stems last a very long time in fresh water.

** Book featured for purchase : see bottom of page

03 March 2009

Tasks - 3/03/09


* Planted one of three sowings of arugula.

* Cut back and composted .03% of the "overgrowth mess" bordering driveway.

* Gathered all garden items together in basement. Needs to be better organized; trying to keep tools and dirt etc out of main house areas.

* Went through tin of saved seeds, discarded some, made note of others on to-do list.

* Stood around, staring at new power line, recalling most colorful expletives from HBO's Deadwood.

Best laid plans

As I left for work this morning I found two Pacific Power workers climbing the utility pole on my sidewalk strip. One fellow explained that they needed to restring the line to my house. Their placement of the line was too close to the roof and they had been cited by the PUC (Public Utilities Commission).

Good to know the PUC is looking out for me - now (I've been in this house since July 2003). The Power guys were nice too. My flirtatious attempts to get them to clean the gutters while they were on the roof were almost taken seriously, which reminded me a little of the flaming squirrel story from This American Life.

Then I came home. They restrung the line from a completely different angle!! Why do I care? Because the trees in the front yard were planted so that they would not grow up into the power lines. Now, at least two are directly under the new line.

Now what? I must puzzle on it.

02 March 2009

That whole mulch thing

Every spring I order a buttload of mulch, usually 4 cubic feet, usually $120 delivered.

It is left on my sidewalk strip/street and I haul it up the steep driveway bit by bit, by bucket and by wheelbarrow. My kind neighbors always offer to help, but I genuinely enjoy the exercise and the empirical evidence that I could have survived the gulag.

I make a couple of big piles in the yard because you're really not supposed to leave it on the street for long, and then dip into the pile as needed to dress newly weeded beds, to mix with compost or manure, to fill in a new bed or container, etc. The mulch I order is usually some mix of aged composted debris and manure. This acts as a light fertilizer, and I can mix in more manure or other amendments as needed for the task at hand.

Why mulch? It helps keep weeds from growing, helps plants maintain moisture and regulate temperature, provides nutrients vital to new growth (especially as winter becomes spring), and it looks nice.

Obtaining mulch is necessary and ordering it is convenient, but $120 is hard on my budget. This year will be different! I have created enough of my own compost that I won't have to buy anything this year except maybe a bag of manure -- and those are cheap (or, free, wink) at Fred Meyer.

01 March 2009

3/1/09 - Tasks

Weather and social activities conspired to make this a short day in the garden. There are no short days in the garden, only short gardeners! ... wait...


* Added a lot more to the to-do list after taking a closer look at some of the beds.

* Pruned storm damage off "cafe ole" roses in back yard. Shhh, don't tell the others, but these very rare roses are pretty much the only plants I would have actually cried about if snowpocalypse had killed them. They are a lovely pale lavender fading to fawn brown, and extremely fragrant. I bought them from a now-closed nursery after being on the waiting list for two years.

* Pruned crab apple on the sidewalk strip. I prune this slow-growing tree every other year.

* New leaves and growth on the aster and bee balm (both planted near the cafe oles). Removed last year's deadwood I had left intact to mark their spot. I use various methods to mark plants which "disappear" over winter so that I won't accidentally dig them up or mistake the first spring growth for a weed.