Gardening “in my small slice of paradise”

Pashalle Johnson in her lush garden.

Pashalle Johnson joined OSU Extension Master Gardeners of Benton County in 2017. She has a degree in Sustainable Horticulture from Oregon State University and works as a horticulturalist. Pashalle often volunteers at Master Gardener Plant Clinics where she welcomes all gardeners to learn something new. She shared her story (complete with delicious recipes) in August, 2019.

Tell us about your hometown.

I am from the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, an archipelago of some 700 plus islands and cays which lies 50 miles south of the Florida Keys.  The Bahamas is a small island nation with a population of around 370,000 citizens, most of whom live on the New Providence Island.  Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is located on New Providence and is home to  the majority of Bahamians, some 270,000 primarily because it is the economic centre of the country.  As a member of the Commonwealth of nations,  Queen Elizabeth II,  is recognized as monarch  and both our educational and governmental systems are based upon the United Kingdom’s.

My family and I moved from Portland so that I could complete a degree in sustainable horticulture and have remained.  While living in Portland I became immersed in community gardens, and garden volunteering. I volunteered with a number of  non-profit agro-businesses, like Growing Gardens, The Urban Farm Collective based in north east Portland works to both build community and reduce food insecurity in poor neighbourhoods; Produce for People which fights food insecurity by enlisting community gardeners to donate directly from their individual garden plots to  and Zenger Farms a teaching farm with summer camps,  urban farming instruction and programmes that introduce urban kids to life on a farm. 

What does being a Master Gardener volunteer mean to you?

 Becoming a certified  Master Gardener allows me to realize one of my values, community activism, which is built into the programme.  The title, Master Gardener, indicates that my knowledge and experience goes well beyond that of the  novice gardener and lets people know that I am passionate about gardening.  Being a volunteer allows me to interact with the public in a meaningful way; helping resolve gardening issues, to give advice that is backed by the research and science-based information provided by OSU Extension. 

 What’s a favorite garden memory—a sound, sensation, smell or taste associated with a favorite garden in your life?

Harvesting and shelling peas with friends on weekends at my grandmother’s home is a fond memory.  My sister and I spent weekends at our my  grandmother’s Ivy’s home.  Ivy’s home was a boisterous and lively place constantly abuzz with activity; her garden surrounded the house. Vining plants like Malabar spinach and Noni, vegetable beds, fruit trees; tamarind, plums, avocado and my aunt Nita’s prized roses.  Dinner preparation usually began with harvesting and shelling Pigeon peas.  Pigeon peas, Cajanus cajun, are a perennial legume, typically a shrub that grows to about six feet . Harvesting and shelling these are typically a job for children. As there were always many hands and lots of giggling, the time passed quickly.  Pigeon peas are a great source of protein and an important food crop in many African, latin American, Caribbean, Indian and Asian cultures. The peas are consumed both as a green (fresh) or dried. Peas and Rice is served as a side dish with both lunch and dinner.

Peas ‘n’ Rice

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil                                1/2 cup tomato paste

1 small onion, diced finely                                   3 slices thick bacon, diced

1/2 green bell pepper diced                                               1 stalk celery, diced

3 c water                                                                                      fresh ground black pepper to taste

3/4 cup cooked pigeon peas                                              2 cups uncooked white rice

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

 1.   In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings, set aside or discard the remaining.

2.    Add the onion, celery and green pepper to drippings; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Stir in the pigeon peas,  tomato paste, thyme, salt and pepper.

3.    Add the water,  and cooked bacon; bring to a boil. Stir in rice. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove thyme sprigs.

Tell us about your current garden

Currently, my garden, Camas Corner, (because of the beautiful clump of common camas that appeared my second year) is a 400 square foot perennial plot  in the Dunawi Creek Community Garden, part of the Bruce Starker Arts Park.  It is home to about 90 annual and perennial garden plots.  I have gardened here since 2013.  My garden style is that of the French potager or French kitchen garden which focuses on both beauty and production.  I grow vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers; the flowers adds splashes of colour but also attract beneficial insects to my garden which of course aids in good pollination. I practice a four-year crop rotation, intercropping and some successional gardening.  Because my space is small, gardening vertically allows me to grow much more food. This means I incorporate a fair number of vining plants and those vegetables that lend themselves to trellising.

Describe one plant that you grow which reminds you of home.

One of the greatest pleasures of my current garden has been successfully growing Bitter Melon (Momordia charantia). This vining plant, grows wild  in the Bahamas, similar to Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) found here in Oregon. It is a tropical and subtropical vining fruit grown from Africa, to Asian and the Caribbean. The leaves are served as a tea for curing the common cold or flu and are also cooked and eaten like spinach. The melon which grows to 6-8 inches, is eaten as a vegetable when immature and when fully mature becomes  sweet and changes from bright green to a beautiful bright orange-red that bursts open to expose  sweet red sticky gelatinous seeds. Served raw or prepared in desserts!

What’s a favorite garden memory—a sound, sensation, smell or taste associated with a favorite garden in your life?

The wonderfully pungent, spicy  scent of basil is something I look forward to each year.  Growing Basil, Ocimum basilicum, a member of the lamiaceae family, is one of the highlights of my summer garden, the delicious smell of pesto: pungent basil, toasted pine nuts or walnuts, drizzles of olive oil, fresh cracked pepper,  a few turns of salt and a little lemon makes me happy. I add basil in my dried herb mixture for grilling vegetables or meat on pasta and chicken.  I grow a bed of basil which provides enough to make a few gallons of pesto. My go to recipe appears in The Joy of Cooking:

Pesto from The Joy of Cooking

Enough for one pound of pasta

Process to a rough paste in a food processor:

    2 cups loosely packed basil leaves

    1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan

    1⁄3 cup pine nuts or walnuts, toasted

    2 medium garlic cloves, peeled

    With the machine running, slowly add:

    1⁄2 cup olive oil, or as needed

   Salt and pepper to taste

Use immediately or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

  What’s one thing people might be surprised to know about you and/or your garden?  

One surprising thing about my community garden plot is the sheer number of flowers, vegetables, and herbs I grow in my small slice of paradise!  I love to experiment with new foods, new flavors and to learn new things!  I have tried to grow a little bit of everything.  You name it, I have most likely grown it at one time and each year I attempt to grow one new variety or new vegetable.  My 400 square foot plot has over the years provided me with a great abundance of produce: purple sweet potatoes, quinoa, okra, bitter melon, oca, gourds: basket and luffa, red corn ( this year), dwarf blue corn (last year), cucumbers, parsnips, four varieties of potatoes, five different varieties of winter squash, summer squash: zucchini and crookneck, snow peas, snap peas, eight different types of tomatoes, basil, watermelon, cantaloupe, raspberries: black, gold, red, blueberries, Marion berry, Aronia, Swiss chard, spinach and a beautiful new variety of red kale, two kinds of pole beans and peppers. Somehow I make room for flowers and herbs such as common camas, echinacea, shasta daisy, sunflowers, chocolate cosmos, cape fuchsia, black-eyed Susan, dahlia, marigolds, alyssum, carnations, bee balm and lemon verbena for tea, borage, salvia and purple sage and more.

You can help grow knowledge, gardens and communities. Applications for 2020 Volunteer Program open October 1st. Learn more and join us.

“Talking less and doing more” empowers new gardeners

Person in garden gear with flower bulbs
Emily Herb showing off a nice collection of homegrown onions.

Master Gardener trainee Emily Herb brings the skills of an educator and sign language interpreter to re-envisioning the popular Seed to Supper classes in Benton County. Offered in collaboration between Master Gardeners, Oregon Food Bank and other community partners, Seed to Supper aims to connect low-income households with the know-how and resources to grow tasty and healthy food. Learn more and find out how you can get involved in Seed to Supper with Master Gardeners in Benton or Linn Counties.

A parsonage garden

I grew up in Southern Oregon where my mother’s family is from. We lived in Grants Pass, which was a small timber town at that time.  Grants Pass in the 1980’s was struggling with the fall of the timber industry and the houses, yards, and lives of residents reflected that struggle.  I do not remember many ornamental flowers or trees.  My father was a minister there and we lived in a small parsonage with a small yard. My mom was a gardener and did her best with that little yard. She was always fond of roses and iris, which grew well enough in Southern Oregon. When I was sixteen we moved to Corvallis, and I remember my mom’s excitement about moving to the Willamette Valley where almost anything could grow. When I first moved here I rode my bike up and down the streets looking at the magnolia and flowering cherry trees. I had never seen such full beautiful trees before. Corvallis amazed me with so many yards spilling over with beautiful plants.

Rescuing bargain flowers

All my early gardening memories involve my mother. She loved plants just like she loved animals and children, and she couldn’t stand to see them suffer. I have a childhood memory of when she and I were at the grocery store on our bikes and she came across a flat of half dead chrysanthemums the store was selling cheap. We had to figure out a way to bike all of them and our groceries home so she could save the mums from death.  My mom loved scouting out a deal and the hunt for the plants was a big part of the pleasure. We drove far and wide to go to nurseries and gardens all around the Willamette Valley. This was sometimes a trying experiences, but her passion and care instilled in me a love of plants as well as the knowledge of how to care for them.

A new family garden

My favorite gardening memories center around family gardening in the house I live in now. Eleven years ago my parents, my husband, my two children, and I moved into a house across from Corvallis High School. The house came with a coveted Corvallis double lot and we were able to buy another adjoining lot to make a very nice ¾ acre in the middle of town. Our front yard is terraced and we planted the first terrace with roses for my mother the fall after we moved in. It is filled with roses bought on sale at the annual Heirloom Rose garden summer sale.

In the years we have been here, my mom and dad lined the north facing fences with rhododendrons. We went to all the local garden sales and created beds of shade and sun perennials. My husband, my gardening partner and personal backyard engineer, put in berries that came from his father’s berry fields and taught himself to prune the large gravenstein apple tree and pear tree that came with the property. I am lucky enough to have two huge vegetable gardens, raised beds, and a chicken mansion. My children learned to garden and weed with the family in this massive backyard. It has been our family group project and when I go outside I see all of us reflected in the gardens we have created. My mother died a year ago and my father is less inclined to work outside than he once was, but through the help of the children and my best friend who lives in the neighborhood, my husband and I are able to keep up and even continue creating our backyard project, which of course is never done.

Seed to Supper : hands-on

I decided to become a Master Gardener because I have a passion for growing food and I want to assist and teach people with limited access to fresh, organic produce the skills to grow their own. When I saw the Master Gardening Seed to Supper program advertised in the newspaper one year I decided that this might be the way to become involved in work I believe in. Since completing my Master Gardening training and starting on my volunteer hours I have had the opportunity to be part of a team teaching Seed to Supper and then part of a team who has redesigned the Seed to Supper course into a completely hands on class we piloted this Spring.

The new class that we taught this spring came from an interest among several people on the Community Garden Action Team (CGAT) to teach a basic gardening class that contained all the content of the original Seed to Supper class, but using a completely hands on approach out in an actual garden. The idea was to talk less and do more, or perhaps talk while doing. We all thought that gardening is something one learns best through practice. I volunteered to go through the Seed to Supper book and to organize the content of the text book into hands on “stations” that participants could rotate through to learn all the skills and concepts normally taught through power point slides in a classroom.

Gardening 101 & 102

Through this curriculum redesign we ended up with eight stations that teaches the same concepts of Seed to Supper, including some helpful redundancy. This past spring we taught the class over the course of two Saturday mornings out at Willamette Community Garden. We called the classes Gardening 101 & 102 and each class lasted three hours and included four stations full of content. The reviews back from our 20 students are very positive and we plan to teach more of this class in the future. It has been an amazing experience for me to get to be an important part of curriculum writing, program planning, and then teaching. This process has been everything that I hoped Master Gardening would be.

P.S.

Now I am supposed to tell you something surprising about myself. I don’t know if this is surprising, but I feel like in my life I am a generalist. I enjoy doing so many things that I find I am not an expert at anything; nonetheless I am proud and grateful for all the many things that are part of my life. I am a Sign Language interpreter by profession, but am a potter, gardener, cook, food preserver, musician, family member, and many more things in my “off time.” I am very happy to add Master Gardener to this list.

Sick plants? Get the most out of Master Gardener Plant Clinic!

By Elizabeth Records, Master Gardener Program Assistant

Previously published in Growing.
 

Three gardeners standing at info booth.
Master Gardeners are here to help at Pop up Plant Clinics in a location near you.

It’s gardening season! Whether you’re a longtime gardener or are new to growing things, OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are here to help you grow your best garden yet and deal with garden challenges.

Master Gardeners are volunteers who complete a specialized training program and work as a team to help find solutions to garden problems for people in our community. We are from all walks of life and have widely varied gardening interests and experiences. Together we bring lifetimes of collective garden knowledge to solving plant problems with research-based information. Here are some scenarios where Master Gardener volunteers can help:

Plant Identification

You are digging in the garden and find an unfamiliar plant that you did not put there. Will it produce lovely flowers or tasty food? Or will it prove to be an invasive weed that takes over your garden? Master Gardener volunteers can help you find out. Bring a sample of your plant including a full branch or stem with any leaves, flowers and fruits that may be present.

Insect issues

You find a mystery insect in the garden and wonder if it is going to harm your plants or be a helpful pollinator or a useful predator of insect pests. A dozen insects appear in your garage, and you don’t know if they are a simple nuisance or are likely to feed on you, your pets or your home. Master Gardeners can help identify insects and suggest how to manage them! Bring the insect in a sealed jar, or a high resolution photo of the insect on a pale colored background, next to a ruler or coin so we can tell the size.

Gardening guidance

Just starting your first veggie garden and wondering when to plant, or what varieties do well in your location? Want to make your garden more sustainable by using less water, attracting more pollinators or using fewer chemicals? Short on space but excited to grow fresh herbs or salads on your windowsill? Whatever your gardening goals, Master Gardeners can help you find research-based information to get the most from your garden.

Diagnosis and recommendations          

Your previously healthy plant suddenly wilts. Brown spots appear in your grass. A tree that produced lots of fruit in the past stops setting fruit. Master Gardener volunteers can help figure out what is going on and decide what to do next for best results. Bring samples and/or photos that show the problem and also the surrounding area.

Get the most out of plant clinic
  • Be ready to answer questions that will help Master Gardeners hone in on the source of your problem so we can provide the best advice possible. Master Gardeners might ask, “how long has this problem been going on?” and “Are all of the similar plants affected, or just one?” “What treatments have already been attempted to remedy this situation?”
  • Bring good samples – you can always call us for suggestions to bring the most helpful samples.
  • Master Gardeners cannot answer questions about State or Federally controlled plants, identify mushrooms, or offer medical advice. We are pleased to assist with all your other garden questions to the best of our ability.
  • Sometimes we may need input from other team members or horticulture faculty to resolve your question. Be ready to share an email or phone number if we need to do some extra research and follow up.
  • Have fun and enjoy your garden, even when things don’t go as you expected!
Plant Clinics near you!

Find us at your local office most weekdays from 9-12 and 1-4. Email or leave a phone message anytime.

Benton County

  • 4077 SW Research Way, Corvallis, OR97333
  • Call with your question: (541) 766-6750
  • Email your question and any photos to: bentonmg@oregonstate.edu

Linn County

Do you have fruit trees? Tips on codling moth management from MG Alan Taylor

Alan Taylor has been a Benton County OSU Extension Master Gardener since 2015. When he’s not growing grapes and fruit, Alan puts his scientific background to use at the Master Gardener plant clinic by helping communities, teaching new volunteers and troubleshooting equipment.

If you have ever bitten into an apple and gotten a taste of a worm, there is a good chance it was the larva of a codling moth, a major pest of apples in the Pacific Northwest. Read on to see how Alan uses the data to get ahead of codling moths– and how you can, too!

biofix (plural biofixes)
(biology, pest management) A biological event or indicator of a developmental event, usually in the life of an insect pest, that initiates the beginning of growing-degree-day calculations.

Codling moth larva exiting fruit to pupate (Washington State University – E. Beers, July 2007)

For codling moth, this is the first date of consistent capture of adult moths in pheromone traps, and this year the consensus date for the mid-Valley biofix appears to be 29 April.

Now the fun part: CLICK HERE to visit the IPPC codling moth model (Brunner and Hoyt).

This link to the degree-day model gives a map to let the user select the weather station, and the correct biological model has already been selected. The user will need to enter the biofix date (I’ve been using 29 April) and then the calculations will give the appropriate dates for spraying.

For example, I clocked on a weather station in SW Corvallis, then entered 4/29 as starting date. This gives 20% hatch at 6 June and 50% hatch at 18 June. These two dates are the timing of the two sprays of insecticide for the first generation of codling moth.

Then I selected a site NW of Corvallis with an elevation of 780’, more representative of where I live (unfortunately no good sites both to the SW and at elevation are shown in the map), and the prediction is 20% hatch on 11 June and 50% hatch on 23 June. You can see the effect of a cooler location or microclimate. I have consistently noted that bloom and ripening of my fruit (apples, pears, grapes, etc.) is 7 – 10 later than that of friends down in Corvallis. Being at ~700’ and somewhat closer to the coast does make a difference, and I’ll be allowing for that in my sprays this year. Realistically, this is a conservative estimate, because I should also have a later biofix at my site, but I’ve chosen to ignore this. Last year, I used the timing for the Valley sites, and my apples were very clean.

Just to complicate things, not all insecticides remain effective for 12 days. I think spinosad, which I used, is supposed to be good for 10 days. Always compromises, so I used the model timing of the first spray, then waited 10 days for the second spray.

Finally, there are 2 and sometimes 3 generations of codling moth in the Valley. I’ll use the model to predict the spray timing for the second generation (we can cover that later), and I chose to ignore the potential 3rd generation last year. Four sprays is enough!

Read more about codling moths and how to manage them in the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook.

“Project Happy Apples: Reducing codling moth damage in backyard orchards” is a free webinar for Master gardeners and home orchardists alike. Watch it HERE.

 

Tips for Growing Caneberries from Master Gardener Sandy Nado

a person holds a double handfull of berries
There is nothing more delicious than a handful of homegrown berries. Photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Raspberries, Blackberries, and their Hybrids

Raspberries, blackberries and their hybrids (boysenberries, tayberries, and loganberries) are members of the Rose family.  They are often called caneberries, as they produce berries on whip-like structures known as canes.

Caneberries have perennial roots but produce canes that live only two years. In their first year of growth the new canes are called primocanes; they produce leaves but not berries. In their second year of growth, the canes are call floricanes and will produce berries before they die in the fall. The first summer after planting there will be no berry harvest as all of the canes will be primocanes; the second year, a new set of primocanes will appear and the floricanes will produce berries.  With proper care, caneberries will produce crops for 15 to 20 years.

Tips for Growing Caneberries

Choose a site that is in full sun for best yield. The site should also have well-drained, fertile, loam soil. Blackberries are somewhat tolerant of heavy soils, but raspberries are sensitive to wet soils and if planted in heavy soil they may die from lack of oxygen in the soil or from root rot or other root diseases.

Avoid planting caneberries where potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, or other caneberries have grown in the last 3 years, as these crops may have been infected with the same insect pests and diseases that can damage caneberries.

Begin preparing the soil in the year before you plant by eliminating all perennial weeds and keeping remaining weeds from going to seed. Add organic matter to the soil in the summer or fall to improve soil aeration and drainage. Check soil pH about 6 months before you plant, and amend soil as needed. Raspberries require a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, blackberries between 5.5 and 7.

Select a cultivar. Caneberries come in a variety of cultivars which differ in growth habit and disease resistance, as well as color and flavor. Buy certified disease-free plants from a nursery for best results. Whenever possible, choose plants that are resistant to at least some pests and viruses.  For more information on cultivars that grow well in the Northwest, see:

Plant caneberries in the spring as early as you can work the soil. You will need to supply trellises for all cultivars of blackberries and for most raspberries. For detailed information on planting styles (hill vs. hedgerow) and trellising styles, see the publications at the bottom of this page.

Fertilize caneberries with a well-balanced fertilizer (such as 16-16-16) three times per year: early in the spring, and at one and two months later.

Water requirements for newly planted caneberries are ~1 inch per week from planting until late summer. Established plants will require 1 – 1½ inches per week from mid-June through late summer.  Drip or under-canopy sprinklers are recommended as they reduce the chance of disease in the crown and canes.

Manage weeds by cultivating no deeper than 1-2 inches to avoid damaging the caneberry’s roots. Mulch may also be used to control weeds.

Prune only the floricanes and any damaged canes after the plants stop producing berries in the fall.  See the publication(s) below for additional information about special pruning needs for plants with various growth habits.

Caneberries are sensitive to cold damage, heat damage, and a variety of insect and plant diseases. In general, blackberries are less susceptible than raspberries to these problems. See the publications below for more information.

Do you want to find more berry and fruit resources for your garden? CLICK HERE to check out this collection of resources from OSU Extension.

Sale Emphasizes Native and Pollinator Plants

Plants for sale lined up on tables in a barn.
Over 10,000 plants will be available at the Master Gardener Plant Sale.

For their May plant sale, Benton County Master Gardeners have emphasized growing native and pollinator-friendly plants. The sale, May 4 at the Benton Fairgrounds, includes well over 10,000 plants–vegetable and herb starts, perennials for sun and shade, trees, vines, and shrubs.

This year, the selection includes several thousand plants particularly favored by local pollinators—bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Over 80 varieties of native plants include those particularly important for local insects, such as several lupine varieties, blue gilia, goldenrod, and milkweed. Other natives include ferns, vine maples, and shrubs such as red-flowered currant, a particular favorite of hummingbirds.

Many other plants offered are blooming garden cultivars known to be good nectar and pollen sources.  These include many easy-to-grow perennials.  For example, bees and butterflies are particularly drawn to Echinacea, lavender, and catmint. They also favor popular shrubs such as lilac and spiraea.  Hummingbirds love bee balm, penstemon, salvias, and hardy fuchsias, often perching nearby to protect their favorite plants.

Help the local pollinators while you plant a beautiful garden at bargain prices. Master Gardeners will be on hand to help you choose what would grow well in your garden and give tips about how to be successful. All proceeds from the sale support Master Gardener educational projects in our schools, demonstration gardens, and community.

See you at the sale: 9:00 to 3:00 on Saturday, May 4, at the southwest corner of the Benton County Fairgrounds.

–Kathy Clark, OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

Excited about blue orchard mason bees? Check out Nurturing Mason Bees in Your Backyard in Western Oregon, a free publication from OSU Extension.

I grow things that remind me of my southern roots

Woman on a lawn tractor, smling
Susan Morton with her trusty lawn tractor.

Susan Morton brings the wit and wisdom of her career as a forensic scientist to her endeavors as a Master Gardener. Whether she’s playing the role of “Bee Czar” in organizing the Beevent Pollinator Conference, teaching new gardeners to grow produce on a budget in Seed to Supper, or serving on the board of the Linn County Master Gardener Association, Susan always shares a dry and delightful sense of humor. Susan has been a Linn County Master Gardener since 2011 and shared her story in winter, 2019.

A way for non-literate people to read nature

I grew up in the small town of West Point, Georgia, on the banks of the Chattahoochee River about 100 miles south of Atlanta. My father was an engineer, but he came from a long line of farmers and loved to garden. We had about half an acre of fruit and vegetables which we enjoyed all summer. His mother also lived with us and she, too, liked to work in the garden. I was their chief assistant. My job was picking, watering and keeping an eye out for pests. One of my fondest memories is sitting with my grandmother after I had been out picking shelling beans or peas for my mother to cook. My grandmother had very little education, but she knew how to plant by the signs. When I got older, I realized there was nothing magical or superstitious about these signs—they were a way for non-literate people to read nature to know when it was time to plant or harvest various crops. So, if you are in Georgia, plant your sweet corn when the wild dogwood is in full bloom.

A philodendron named Arthur

When I was deciding on a major in college, I was drawn to biology. I had to pick either botany or zoology and picked botany. I figured at least I would not have to chase my specimens. I attended a small women’s’ college which at the time had a very strict policy about students going out at night unescorted, with a male escort being much preferred. I had a philodendron named Arthur which my friends and I would list as an escort on our sign-out forms. And, of course, we took Arthur with us to theaters and concerts so as not to be dishonest. Arthur was cultured as well as cultivated.

In the early years of my career as a forensic scientist, I lived in apartments and could not do much gardening. I always managed to have at least a few house plants. Later on, I bought a small house with a large yard near the San Francisco airport. After years of deprivation, I gardened frantically.

When I put the house on the market, the real estate agent went through the house and made suggestions as to how to stage it. Then I took her to the back yard.  It was a wonderland. Didn’t have any trouble selling that house even in 2009 when the real estate market was in the dumpster.

Cluckingham Palace

As I neared retirement, I realized I had to do some introspection to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had never been big on introspection. Considering what bubbles up on its own, I was not keen on looking in there on purpose. But I did it. To my utter amazement I discovered that what would complete my happiness was chickens. CHICKENS. I decided to move out in the country so as not to have to deal with chicken laws. I came up to look at properties in this area.

After a couple of days of trudging through very gloomy places, I came to the place I am now. I got out of the car and fell in love. Lots of room to garden, but not too much land to take care of. Deer fence. But best of all was the view—over a waterfowl refuge pond with Mary’s Peak framed perfectly between trees. The real estate agent asked if I wanted to see the house inside. I just waved her off and said that if it had indoor plumbing, we were good.

So I got my chickens installed in their fancy coop dubbed Cluckingham Palace, and they give as much joy as I had hoped. After years of being cross-examined in court by lawyers, I find the chickens to be refreshingly noble and intelligent.

I grow some things that remind me of my southern roots. I have to have butter peas in the summer and turnip greens in the winter. I also have a sweetshrub, Calycanthus albus. They grow brown flowers that look like loafer tassels and smell like Jergens hand lotion. Actually, it is the other way around. Jergens Lotion is scented the shrub’s flowers. When I was growing up, everybody had a sweetshrub planted by their trash cans. Trash cans do not smell nice during August in Georgia. The shrubs were supposed to mask some of the aroma.

 Master Gardeners & Seed to Supper

As soon after I moved in as my life permitted, I became a Master Gardener and have made wonderful new friends. I find helping others to enjoy their gardens as much as I enjoy mine gives me great satisfaction.  I also like to think I am keeping pesticide use down by showing people better ways to manage their gardens. Seed to Supper is the type of program that is the reason I became a Master Gardener. Life has been good to me, and I want to give something back and to help those who have not been as fortunate as I have.

Postscript

Now I am supposed to tell something astonishing about myself. Well, I have already confessed that I dated a philodendron in college. Not sure what I can say to top that, but I will give it a try:

  • I have been to Antarctica, Pago Pago, Timbuktu, and Tbilisi, among many other unlikely places
  • I have driven a locomotive
  • I spent an afternoon appearing before the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria impersonating a barrister
  • I single-handedly destroyed communism in Russia by explaining to a Russian housewife the benefits of having shopkeepers competing for her rubles rather than getting a salary, paid out of her taxes, whether they sell anything or not. The Soviet Union fell two years later
  • I won a Russian speaking contest in St. Petersburg. No idea what I said since I do not speak Russian. I may be engaged to be married. In my defense, several vodka toasts had taken place before the contest.

Seed to Supper is a comprehensive six-week beginning gardening course that gives novice, adult gardeners the tools and confidence they need to successfully grow a portion of their own food on a limited budget. CLICK HERE to learn more.

A rose is my connection to my mother

Paula Lupcho in her garden on a sunny winter day in 2019.

Lifetime Master Gardener Paula Lupcho has served over 6,000 hours as a volunteer and was named Benton County Master Gardener of the Year in 2011. She has held many positions on the board of the Benton County Master Gardener Association  and has mentored numerous Master Gardener trainees. Paula shared her story in winter of 2019.

I am a native Californian and grew up in Newport Beach, California. Because we lived on an island in the harbor, I learned how to swim about the same time I learned how to walk. My dad had two passions—deep sea fishing and gardening. My sister got the fishing gene and I got the gardening gene. She hated gardening and I hated fishing that was helped along by persistent seasickness. My mother’s parents were also gardeners/farmers. They had fruit trees, berry bushes, and vegetable beds.   It was a double dose of an inherited gardening imperative.

My earliest memories of gardening aren’t really memories but experiences that were captured in home movies. As a toddler, my sister and I were let loose into the yard with nothing but our undies when my father was out working in the garden. He grew great big tomatoes. We got to run, play, and get thoroughly dirty.   When he watered, we were thoroughly muddy. All was put right by a nice bath that Mom had waiting. I think that sunk into my own parenting mentality because I always thought my boys had a good day at school if the came home dirty.

Currently, my husband and I live in Benton County just west of Philomath. This is the second home we have built and the second garden that I have established from bare dirt.   We started work on the garden in 2008. The only plants on the property were native oaks and hawthorns, and conifers like Doug fir and Grand Fir from an old Christmas tree farm. It is amazing to me to see pictures of the house before it was finished with absolutely nothing in the ground. Today, pictures show a complete garden with fully mature trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. It took lots of hard work, but it is deeply rewarding to see it all come to fruition.

In each place that I have lived, I have been exposed to a wide variety of plants as in Southern California, which is a subtropical zone, to the Sierra Nevada alpine zone. The Pacific Northwest offered another huge palette of plants and most of them were unfamiliar to me. During my Master Gardener training, I was is a state of buzzing confusion as people rattled off names of PNW plants that I had never heard of. Over time, most of these plants now seem like old friends. But, wherever I live, I will always have at least 1 rose (with the exception of the Sierras). A rose is my connection to my mother, grandmother, and aunts. They all grew roses. It is one of my favorite memories of my grandmother’s home. Standard roses lined the front walk, and there was a large rose garden in the back. All of them were fragrant. I think Mr. Lincoln is my favorite. It has everything a rose should have; it is a gorgeous velvety red color and has the most wonderful fragrance. It’s perfect.

I suppose I am quite judgmental about plants. I have strong opinions about what a plant should or should not be. Shrubs and trees must have good shape and a strong silhouette—nothing floppy is allowed. Plants that are too exuberant and cause too much work to keep them in check are removed. No yellow or orange flowers are permitted—ever. Golden foliage is okay.   I love annuals. The riot of color that they add to the summer garden makes me happy. These rules have happened over time as I have matured as a gardener as I have found my gardening comfort zone.

Just after we moved to Oregon, I learned about the Master Gardener program. I attended one of the lunchtime lectures conducted by MG volunteers. It was the right time of year to submit an application to join the program. I was accepted and so lucky to be in a great class of trainees. Being a part of the gardening community was like finding my way home. I have loved every minute of being a Master Gardener. Giving back to the community through public service is the core of the program and is personally rewarding. But, I have gotten back so much more than I have given.   My real gardening education has happened over time as I continue to stay active and learn from fellow gardeners, most of whom are far better gardeners than I am. And, I have made lifelong friends along the way.

Do you share Paula’s enthusiasm for ornamentals? Find research-based resources for growing your best flowers, shrubs and trees with OSU Extension.

Barefoot gardener cherishes Albany childhood memories

Judi DeBord grew up in Albany Oregon. After some time away, she has returned to join her local OSU Extension Master Gardener program. She  gardens in neighborhoods where she spent girlhood days climbing street trees. Judi shared her story in November 2018.

A group of people gazes up at a large walnut tree in Albany Oregon.
Judi DeBord (in red) returns to a tree of her girlhood adventures as part of a Master Gardener educational tour.

My hometown is Albany, Oregon. I was born and raised here, and graduated from South Albany High School in a year that will remain unspecified.

One of my earliest memories of gardening are of a pussy willow bush that grew outside my bedroom window. Every spring, my friends and I would pick several branches of the fuzzy-ness and make things out of them. My mother had to deal with the fuzz floating everywhere for days. We grew tomatoes and had apple, pear and plum trees in the back yard. Summer and fall were busy with making apple sauce and making plum, pear and apple leather in the dehydrator. We enjoyed our fruits all winter long.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of climbing the beautiful, old trees in and around downtown Albany. My cousins lived “in town”, and when I spent the night at their house, we’d go off for most of the day, exploring. We climbed any tree we thought we could climb without getting caught or needing help to get back down! Sometimes it was a contest to see who would climb the highest. We also came to know every inch of Bryant Park, scouting for tadpoles, guppies, frogs or any other creature we could catch and fit into our cup or box. Of course, my aunt made us relinquish all captives before we came in the house, unless we managed to sneak into the basement before she saw us!

I grew up outside of town, with open fields all around our house. In mid-summer, the grass and scrub bushes grew taller than we were. We built forts in the grass, forged trails, rode bicycles, picked seed heads to wear, and played until my mother called to us and ordered us in for dinner.

One aspect of gardening I enjoy today is the smell and feel of good soil. I don’t know many people who garden barefoot as much as I do; maybe it’s from all those summers running around barefoot as a child. As soon as it seems warm enough outside, which for me is usually sometime in April, I’ll be out in the garden, with gloves on my hands but shoes on the sideline. Once in a while I’ll pay a small price – a splinter or thistle in my foot – but it always seems worth it.   Maybe someday I’ll invent a ‘tactile gardening sock’ for other barefoot gardeners like me.

Being a Master Gardener volunteer has been on my goal list for a long time. The Master Gardener program offers volunteers an opportunity to learn from nationally recognized experts from all around our state, which is just amazing. I’ve enjoyed volunteering many times before, mostly focusing on educational activities. Having access to resources to help others grow some of their own food, or grow beautiful ornamentals is fun and very fulfilling, even when things don’t go according to plan!

Join Master Gardeners in Linn County Oregon, or take a FREE short gardening class with us! Learn more HERE.

Millersburg gardener shares produce to connect with neighbors

Jesse Garcia joined the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program of Linn County in 2018. Jesse balances a full time career with volunteering and gardening. Raised in Oklahoma by a family of gardeners, he is now at work on creating a garden where he now resides in Linn County. Jesse shared his story in October of 2018.

Man in sunglasses greeting visitors at a garden tour.
Master Gardener volunteer Jesse Garcia greets visitors at Through the Garden Gate in 2018.

Elizabeth Records – OSU Extension: What can you share about an early gardening experience?

Jesse Garcia: My earliest gardening experience would be when I was very young, early grade school age in my hometown of El Reno, Oklahoma. I would go into the garden with my mother. I often asked her questions about the different types of plants, such as tomato, watermelon, and peppers. My mother displayed lots of patience in answering my questions. I truly believe this early experience is what directed my curiosity in gardening that I continue to this day.

ER: Tell us about your current garden – who, what, when and where?

JG: I currently do not have a home garden. I moved to Oregon in December, 2016 and recently bought a house in Millersburg (July, 2018). I am still in the process of landscaping our yard, which is a work in progress. I do plan to continue my home garden. I will put into practice the knowledge/training that I learned from the OSU Extension Office’s Master Garden program. In the past, I grew a vegetable garden for many years in Oklahoma. My garden consisted of many varieties of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, green beans, snow peas, squash, kale, spinach, lettuce, and peppers.

ER: Describe one plant that you grow which reminds you of home.

JG: Growing tomatoes has always reminded me of the times that I spent in the garden with my mother. But my father also influenced my gardening habits. Many years ago, he gave me some Amaryllis belladonna bulbs (also known as “Naked Ladies”) from the family flower garden to transplant in my own garden in Oklahoma. At the time, I only focused on vegetable gardening. “Naked ladies” are now included in my gardening. I hope that I will have some success with them in my future garden even though the growing conditions in Oregon are not similar.

ER: What’s a favorite garden memory—an experience, sound, sensation, smell or taste associated with a favorite garden in your life?

JG: As a very young boy, I was asked to deliver vegetables from the family garden to our neighbors. To this day, I do continue taking vegetables from my home garden, door to door. I do this as a way of getting to know my neighbors.

ER: What does being a Master Gardener volunteer mean to you?

JG: I talked with volunteers at the Master Garden booth (Corvallis Farmer’s Market, July 2017) they encouraged me to apply to the volunteer program, even though I currently work full time. I am so glad that I took the time to complete the application and was accepted into the program. I was able to attend all training sessions and to complete my required volunteer hours for the program.

The class has provided me a very good foundation for gardening in the Pacific Northwest. The Master Garden volunteer experience has been a very rewarding experience. I continue to build upon my gardening network with some of the local fruit growers. I enjoy meeting new people at the Master Garden volunteer events.

ER: What’s one thing that people might be surprised to know about you and/or your garden?

JG: I would have to say my culinary interests. I often try new recipes on the grill and I have become somewhat experienced in smoking meat such as ribs, chicken, brisket and everyone’s favorite (do not laugh) bologna. Yes, in Oklahoma the true pit masters like to include smoked bologna with their finest cuisine.

Did you know that numerous Master Gardener volunteers balance work and volunteering? Learn more about joining us in Linn or Benton Counties.