With our relatively dry spring, it’s a great time to prepare garden soil for spring planting. Remove weeds from the area as much as possible. Incorporate generous amounts of organic materials and other amendments, into the sandy soils. Most soils in our area tend to be all sand; they have almost no organic content, resulting in a lack of moisture holding ability and microbial action and food. We like to add a mixture of our royal soil and blended mint compost for vegetable gardens. For herb or flower gardens, we suggest substituting some of our potting soil to the mix to increase the drainage capabilities of the soil.
You can also make raised beds to help increase the soil temperature aid in adding new materials to the area. You can simply create a mounded row for your garden, or you can build a raised bed out of wood or concrete block. Start off your beds by adding vital nutrients with additional topdressing of organic soil amendments such as greensand, bone meal or cottonseed meal. You can use a premade with a slow release fertilizer such as our pro perennial plus or organic blend like Vegan Mix or Rose and Flower food. Sprinkle it on the top of your bed and incorporate it into the top few inches of the soil. Add some lime a few weeks before planting to “sweeten” the soil’, raising the pH. Avoid adding lime too close to planting potatoes as it can cause potato scab.
Use a soil thermometer to help you know when to plant vegetables. When the soil is consistently above 60°F, plant some warm season vegetables such as zucchini, beans, and cucumbers. Usually this is in the middle of May for our area. In April we recommend planting potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, peas, carrots, cauliflower, onion sets, garlic and lettuce.
You can start many vegetables from seed. Make sure you follow the directions on how deep to plant the seed. Bait for slugs as the baby seedlings come up. You can add additional fertilizer to your vegetables as they grow. A good way is to foliar feed them with a water based fertilizer. Organic options include fish and kelp fertilizer, or you can use other nonorganic foliar feeds. Be sure to thin out your seedlings as they grow; use the tiny sprouts in salads and soups.
Enjoy the bounty and goodness of the earth!
Many times I have wanted to be covered in the tiny feathers of a junco when caught in a rain shower. I watch the rain drops roll off the feathers as they happily spend their April days scavenging the last seeds from our perennial beds. Why is it that wetness annoys me so much? My rain gear works, my feet are dry, my hood covers my yet to be mussed hair…it’s something about gardening that I want the competing of sunshine and soil under my fingernails at the same time.
Now if I were a plant, I’d love April’s weather. Showers, not a lot of wind, warming temperatures. What else could a four inch perennial want? Maybe some protection from slugs or some additional compost mixed in to get the microbes around my roots working.
Or maybe some herbs or companion flowers planted next to me to keep me company. Many gardeners like their garden design and layout in a very solitary orderly fashion: Every plant has a place; all plants are individualized, framed by a space of mulch around them and no room for any vagrants from reseedings. It’s a nice clean orderly garden, no clutter, no fuss. There are others who prefer mass chaos, survival of the fitness, the “oh I have an opening there, I’ll put a new plant in to see what happens!” kind of gardening mind. And the rest of us fall in between.
Great perennials to add to your beds in this kind of weather, if you prefer more plants than less, are Centranthus rubrus, Jupiter’s Beard and Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus, are two great perennials that add lots of flowers to your garden. Jupiter’s Beard is not for the faint of heart as it will take over an area quickly, while sweet williams are more centralized in their growing habit. Lily of the Valley is a great perennial to add to shady areas that will spread over the years and add beautiful bell flowers for years to come. There is even a pink flowering Lily of the Valley available. If you prefer a more controlled look, add Agapanthus or Asian lilies for summer color. Two of my favorites are perennial lobelias in blue and red. Their tall upright blooms add gorgeous color for months in the summer and the blooms withstand summer rains with ease.
Oops, the sun is out for at least twenty minutes, I need to run and stick my hand in some dirt! Enjoy the showers and the sun; it’s what makes Oregon so wonderful in the Spring!
The Azalea lace bug, Stephanitis pyrioides, is a relatively new pest that home gardeners should be on the lookout for. First detected in Oregon in 2009, this bug has been causing significant damage on plants in the Ericaceae family, which includes rhododendrons, azaleas, and pieris. Because of our mild climate, this pest can survive the winter and breed multiple generations each year. The Azalea lace bug becomes active in mid- to late May and early June, when it starts laying eggs. So starting in mid-May, gardeners should keep an eye out for the eggs, which are partially embedded in the tissue underneath leaves. The azalea lace bug uses its mouth to pierce the underside of the leaves of the plants and eat small holes in the leaf tissue. This leaves a yellow dot-like pattern on the surface and black fecal spots underneath. Large populations can cause azalea leaves to turn white. On rhododendrons, severe damage may look like iron chlorosis with yellow leaves and green veins. Heavy feeding can kill plants.
The best defense against the Azalea lace bug is early detection. Examine the leaves of your plants if they appear stressed, turning them over to look for small pin holes and black dots of fecal material. You can apply insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and neem-based products regularly to the bottom of the affected leaves to reduce or prevent further damage, but they will not restore the plant to its untouched appearance. Additionally, you can spray pesticides that kill insects on contact, such as pyrethroids or carbaryl. Coat the leaves well, including on the underside. Be sure to only spray the affected plant and be careful of spraying when other beneficial insects are out such as bees and butterflies.
Some azaleas are immune to the pest, including Indica alba, Flame Creeper, Hino crimson and the new Encore azaleas. Azalea lace bugs are more likely to damage plants in hot, sunny locations or in drought stressed conditions. So for new plants, choose a protected spot in your yard, out of direct coastal winds. Add lots of topsoil and compost when planting for a healthier plant. Water and fertilize regularly..
Fargesia rufa, also called the panda bamboo, is a species from China. As with all of the fargesias, this bamboo is a clumping bamboo, meaning that it does not spread rapidly with runners. The new shoots on fargesias come up on the outside edge of the plant, resulting in a slow outward growth. Fargesia rufa is a hardy and versatile bamboo, adding screening at a mid range or a nice bamboo for a large pot on a deck. Rufas are able to regrow quickly from heavy thinning or pruning, which is why it is one of the principle bamboos that the Giant Panda feeds on. The average height of this bamboo in our coastal climate is seven feet. The canes, or culms as they are called on living bamboo, grow up to approximately ½” in diameter. New culm sheaths are pale orange red or pink in color.
This bamboo is a great addition to a small landscape and makes a good choice for a non invasive medium sized hedge or a vertical element to a small patio garden.
Rugosa roses Rosa Eurosaare a specific botanic class of roses native to northern Asia, eastern Siberia, western Alaska, and the northeastern American continent. The “parent” plant (R. rugosa) was discovered (by western rosarians) in Japan and western Asia in 1796.
Rugosas received their name from a Latin word which means “wrinkled” due to their dark green, leathery, crinkled leaves (from which due to ). They are extremely cold hardy and typically rated to Hardiness Zones 4 or 5 (-10 to -25F/-20 to -30C). For rosarians in southern climates, this may mean some difficulty in finding specimens which can adapt to hot, dry summers; although I have three specimens in my north-central Texas garden (Zone 7b).
R. rugosa roses are usually “singles” that is, they have one row of five petals. Hybrid Rugosas are “doubles” having numerous, informally-formed petals. Colors range from white to pink to red to purple. All are noted for their strong perfumy scent. Rugosas are remontant (repeat-blooming) if one removes spent blossoms. If left to remain on the shrub, however, brilliant red-orange rosehips are produced to feed man and beast during the winter.
Canes produce numerous prickles. On some cultivars, it is almost impossible to find any portion of the cane that is not completely covered. At least one hybrid, Therese Bugnet, a pink hybrid introduced in 1950, produces stems which turn deep, maroon-red in winter, adding a touch of color to an otherwise dull winter rose garden. (Terese Bugnet, that’s pronounced “Tear – EES boo – nay” but affectionately known as “Terry Bug Net” among Rugosa lovers.)
Rugosas are also noted for their suckering (their production of stems from the roots). In some parts of the U.S. they have become a pest and are routinely weeded out. Hybrid Rugosas are less likely to sucker than the species types. Likewise, purchasing specimens grafted to root stocks will also reduce this suckering characteristic. When planting Rugosas grown on their own roots, it is wise to place them carefully in the garden, allowing plenty of room for them spread.
Rugosas are also notoriously disease resistant. And because of their floral form, do very well when used in a less toxic IPM program. Most specimens do not like to be sprayed with anything (except plain water). I do not recommend applying any pesticides or fungicides, even if a rarely seen bout of black spot is noticed. Otherwise, phytotoxicity is quick to follow and the shrub will rapidly defoliate. This also means one may have to “let Nature take its course” if pest beetles like Japanese or May/June Beetles are a problem. To control pest beetles, applications of beneficial nematodes (Steinernema or Heterorhabditis sp.) to the soil around the rose may be a better method of control.
For a first time Rugosa grower, I would recommend Hansa (picture above), a 1905 introduction which produces brilliant red-purple, extremely fragrant blooms. It is comparatively small growing (4 – 5ft./1.2-1.5 m). In fall, it produces red-orange hips suitable for making rosehip jams or jellies that is, if you can get to them before the birds do.
Enjoy some of our past newsletters as we update our site.
During the cold wet days of spring, seed catalogs can only do so much to satisfy the primal urge to dig in the dirt. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse, you may find that you can reach that “happy place” by growing bonsais. It works for me! Different species of plants are grown as bonsais for indoor or outdoor display. There are several tasks associated with this art form that are performed in the late winter months. Bonsais do best with regular monitoring for water (especially proper drainage, if grown outdoors), light pruning, moss control, and perhaps most importantly, planning. As I look out my window at my humble bonsai collection, I am transported to that inner-growing place that I seek in late winter. By studying each branch and bud, I find inspiration for my quest to grow bonsai trees that I would be proud to show to others. I explore each plant to prepare for upcoming re-potting, pruning and wiring. Written notes are helpful to remind you of what care you give your plants. Without foliage on the deciduous varieties, it is easy to see where improvements can be made, but even conifers and other evergreens seem to beg for attention at this time of year.
While the conventional methods for shaping these miniature trees is using aluminium or copper wire and proper pruning techniques, I get a certain satisfaction from departing from the norm and tying weights onto branches, wedging small wooden blocks between branches, or tying branches down to the benches or under the pots. Care must be taken not to split or cut into branches, but the more you shape and control these plants, the more they become a part of you. The real payoff of growing bonsais is that you have to slow down and wait for the plants to respond to your training (a valuable lesson for all of us). Monitor the effects of any training techniques you use to ensure you have not been too “heavy-handed.” Time can heal all wounds. Plan on keeping your bonsais for life, so treat them well. As you fulfill their needs, you will find that your needs will be met as well.
Phyllostachys praecox is a running timber bamboo that originated from the Zhejiang Province of China. This bamboo can reach over feet in height, although in our coastal area, it will probably reach only 15 to 20 feet high and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The stems are green with short intermodal growth. This bamboo shoots early in the spring. The large fresh shoots are great for eating and are the spring vegetable in many parts of China. Praecox prefers to grow in full sun and produces the most shoots when planted in a topsoil/compost blend with room to spread.
Barbados Aloe is a clump forming aloe that is a major source of the aloe used for medicinal purposes. Aloes are native to Africa, and various species occur their respective regions in southern Africa, the mountains of tropical Africa, various islands off the coast of Africa including Madagascar, and on the Arabian Peninsula. The grayish green waxy leaves grow in a rosettes, with leaf margins armed with whitish to reddish teeth. The leaves can grow to two feet in length. Aloes make excellent houseplants and are very easy to grow. In our area that can be grown outside in the summer and brought inside before the first frost. They are hardy in USDA zones 9-12.
In early summer, aloes often develop small yellow tubular flowers on a long stem. Aloe barbadensis need full sun to partial shade. If grown in the home, they need good light, preferably a south facing window. Plant them in a pot with well drained soil mix such as 1 part peat moss to 1 part loam to 2 parts sand or perlite. Water aloe plants thoroughly and let them dry out somewhat between
waterings. Fertilize only once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. You can propagate Aloe by culturing offshoots or by seed when available.
Come check out our new shipment of Aloe plants at the nursery.