Lime won’t fix your moss problem and other garden myths debunked

By Kym Pokorny | For The Oregonian/OregonLive

CORVALLIS – Reality can get skewed when there are so many sources of information – books, magazines, newspapers, nurseries and, most of all, the internet and social media open up lots of room for contradiction. So, how do you find the right answer for gardening questions?

Nine experts from Oregon State University Extension Service stepped up to bust some common gardening myths. Read THIS ARTICLE on to get some research-based answers to 10 common misconceptions.

Some myths addressed by the experts include:

  • You should top a tree to control its height.
  • Lime will remove moss from your lawn.
  • Ponderosa pine needles make the soil more acidic (low pH).
  • Just add more compost to the soil.
  • Bee houses help promote and conserve bee diversity.
  • Tree roots go only as far as the branch crown diameter or drip line.
  • Epsom salts are a must for great tomatoes. Use them in every garden.
  • When you plant a new tree or shrub, dig the hole and add an amendment to the soil before you backfill the hole.
  • Brown recluse and hobo spiders are common in Oregon.
  • Watering on hot sunny days will burn the plants because the water droplets magnify the sun’s rays.

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Check out Chip’s latest newspaper column for a discussion of voles, owls and spiders!

Voles continue to be a problem

Meadow mice, more properly known as voles, are short tailed and plump. They can’t climb much so spend their lives in shallow tunnels or foraging on the surface. Their populations rise and fall for reasons that are still obscure. Right now, numbers seem higher than average.

Voles cause a lot of damage in winter. When food gets scarce and especially when there is snow on the ground, they turn to young trees and shrubs for dinner. After snow melts, there are often 2-3 –inch vole holes in patches, evidence of a lot of activity in the area. Their gnawing can girdle trees at the soil line or remove roots. Next spring, your trees leaf out but without roots and the “plumbing” in the stem, can’t move water and they die. Voles also love carrots, beets, and potatoes left too long in the ground.

To reduce damage, you have to make voles uncomfortable. Cut grass short near trees so voles are more visible to the owls, cats, and hawks they fear. Trap moles since their tunnels provide safe access for voles to roots. Collapse the tunnels if possible. Finally, be careful in the use of mulches including landscape fabric and black plastic – they provide vole cover.

I have had several recent calls involving voles and mulch. One was a blueberry patch with grass clippings piled around the plants to conserve moisture. But covering soil in a 6-8 inch radius of the stems encouraged voles to gnaw without fear. A similar thing happened with a very heavy bark mulch application around young fruit trees. Most of the trees were a total loss. Finally, I once visited with a gardener that planted a new rose bed. He worked the soil, put in a drip irrigation system, and covered the bed with landscape fabric. Then he planted his new roses through holes in the fabric.

In the second year of growth, the gardener started to “high prune” his roses in November. As he pruned, he felt them to be poorly anchored. He tugged on one and it pulled right out. It had virtually no roots. It was much the same with the rest of the roses. The voles had been in food heaven, eating rose roots that they dearly love, protected by the fabric from any predators. The fabric was removed and all but a few of the 25 or so roses had to be replaced.

Trapping voles can work if pursued persistently. Standard mouse traps will work. Dig a shallow “swale” about six inches deep, about two feet wide and four feet long. Put some apples pieces in there and then cover it with a piece of plywood or some other cover that you can keep in place, leaving openings at both ends. If you see vole feeding on the apple pieces, place the traps in the swale, bait them with peanut butter, and cover the swale back up. Voles, unlike rats, aren’t very savvy and you can trap vole upon vole with the same traps in the same place.

There are a lot of issues with vole baits injuring non-target animals and there are few if any baits registered for home use much beyond the immediate area adjacent to structures. If you feel you can use them in your situation, please read and follow all instructions. The bait will need to be placed where nothing else but voles can get to it.

Encouraging barn owls

Barn owls were once considerably more common around Columbia County. The transition from the old-fashioned hip-roofed bard to the modern pole barn has removed some nesting sites. In addition, the conversion of farms to residential living has removed lots of farm structure period.

Yet, these birds are tremendously valuable. They will eat 5-10 rodents per day. Besides, how can you resist the chance to see their ghostly flight through a moonlit night? Or the opportunity to collect and take apart owl pellets to see the skulls of their prey within.

This link describes design and placement for barn owl boxes. They have researched the size that works best for them and other issues with having them adopted by the owls. The best time to install them is late fall through February. What a great weekend project. If the link below is too complicated for you to use, email me (chip.bubl@oregonstate.edu) and I will send you a PDF of the article. slconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2019.10-BARN-OWL-NEST-BOX.pdf

Spider symmetry

If you’ve ever looked at spider webs, you probably have noticed that some are rather straight forward affairs and others have a lot of extra zig-zaggy silk added to the structure.

It is the business of biologists to speculate on these subjects. Are the extra strands of silk there for reinforcement? The best evidence indicates that the “stabilimenta” is not rein-forcing material. So why do certain spiders expend the time and resources to produce it?

Because they catch more bugs. A scientist monitored the prey interception rates by noting the damaged areas in the web. He found that those decorated with the silk strands had 72% more “hits” from flying insects than those without the extra silk. His theory is that the extra strands reflect more ultraviolet light, making those webs more attractive to the flying insects that orient themselves to UV. These insects include many pollinating in-sects that use UV patterns from plants to guide them.

Have questions?

If you have questions on any of these topics or other home garden and/or farm questions, please contact Chip Bubl, Oregon State University Extension office in St. Helens at 503- 397-3462 or at chip.bubl@oregonstate.edu.

Free newsletter

The Oregon State University Extension office in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and farming topics (called County Living) written/edited by yours truly. All you need to do is ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call 503-397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at extension.oregonstate.edu/columbia and click on newsletters.

Many Extension publications available online

Are you putting up salsa, saving seeds, or thinking about planting grapes? OSU has a large number of its publications available for free download. Just go to catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu. Click on publications and start exploring.

The Extension Service offers its programs and materials equally to all people.

Contact information Oregon State University Extension Service–Columbia County

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You can grow olives in Oregon! Guest Presentation by OSU Extension Agent, Javier Fernandez-Salvador

November 19th 2020 – Presented via Zoom Video conference at 6:30pm

Extension Agent Javier Fernandez-Salvador stands next to a three- to four-year-old olive tree planted in the field. He’s experimenting whether olive trees grow better planted in the ground as babies or potted and then transported to the field. (Photo by Aliya Hall)

When people think of Oregon, they typically don’t think of olive trees and olive oil production; that’s been the purview of the Mediterranean and our neighbor to the south, California. Javier Fernandez-Salvador, assistant professor of practice at North Willamette Research and Extension Center, believes Oregon’s growing environment produces exceptional olive oil and he is embarking on research to expand the nascent industry.

Javier Fernandez-Salvador currently works at the Department of Crop and Soil Science, Oregon State University. Javier does research in berry, small fruit and tree fruit soil fertility and plant nutrition, mostly in organic production systems. His most recent publication is ‘Changes in the Organic Blueberry Industry in Oregon 2015-2016.’

Please join us at the online November 19th chapter meeting of the OSU Columbia County Master Gardeners, and register for this special guest presentation here: https://beav.es/oH6   After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. This online meeting and guest presentation is open to the public – please invite your friends! (Chapter business meeting to follow presentation.)

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These 10 trees bring fiery fall foliage in Oregon

By Kym Pokorny | For The Oregonian/OregonLive

CORVALLIS – When trees get dressed with the colors of fall, it’s time to go shopping.

“If you’re specifically interested in fall color, it will soon be the time to start looking,” said Neil Bell, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service. “There are already some trees starting to display color.”

First, though, Bell recommends doing some research. Walk around neighborhoods, parks and public gardens to get ideas. If you can’t identify the trees you like, snap good photos, pick up several leaves or ask the owner for a cutting. Take them to the nursery or contact your local OSU Extension office for identification. You can also cut out pictures from magazines and flip through garden books to find possibilities.

But wait, you’re not done. After filtering down your favorites, be absolutely sure about size, soil and sun requirements, Bell said. You don’t want to be stuck with a 60-foot tree where a 30-foot tree should have gone.

“The biggest problem people have,” he said, “is that a tree gets too large, and then they are forced to prune just to reduce the size of the tree, which can often look horrible. I see it all the time.”

Topping – or cutting off the tips of trees – is especially undesirable. It introduces the possibility of disease and gives pests more access. Topping also encourages weaker growth and alters the shape.

“It disfigures the tree,” Bell said. “That’s my main objection.”

Before buying, also find out if the tree needs sun or some shade and if it requires irrigation in summer. Most do, according to Bell. And most want sun, although vine maple, katsura, paperbark maple and ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ dogwood don’t mind some shade.

Fall is an ideal time for planting, Bell added. Soil is warmer than in spring, so roots get a good head start. The weather is cool so trees are under less stress. Rains will start soon and reduce the need for watering.

“All in all, fall is the perfect time to select and plant a tree,” he said. “Wait for the leaves to start changing color and go for it.”

Here are Bell’s recommendations for trees with excellent fall color:

  1. Red maple (Acer rubrum): A common tree, but for good reason. Not much beats the vibrant scarlet color this maple displays in autumn. Make sure you’ve got room for it though; red maples grow quickly and eventually reach 60 feet tall and 25 to 35 feet wide. At that size, it makes a great shade tree. In addition to western Oregon, it grows well in the central and eastern part of the state. Hardy to Zone 4.
  2. Big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum): An impressive tree all around, big-leaf maple stirs up attention when its 12-inch leaves transform into a rich yellow, sometimes tinged with orange. A large tree up to 50 feet at maturity, this West Coast native is not appropriate as a street tree or in small gardens. However, if you can find it, ‘Seattle Sentinel’ is a much smaller, narrower alternative, 15 feet tall and 5 feet wide, but only hardy to Zone 6. The species is hardy to Zone 2.
  3. Vine maple (Acer circinatum): Native to the Northwest, vine maple really comes into its own in fall when the foliage lights up in lively shades of red and orange. A useful small tree up to 15 feet that often grows with multiple trunks. Good for the east side of the Cascades. Not suitable for full sun. Hardy to Zone 6.
  4. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum): Unmistakable cinnamon-colored peeling bark and glowing orange-red fall color make this slow-growing, small tree (25 feet eventually) a much-loved specimen in any size garden. Prefers a partially shady exposure. Hardy to Zone 4.
  5. ‘Raywood’ ash (Fraxinus oxycarpa): Big and bold, this tree grows 60 to 70 feet tall and almost as wide, which is a consideration when deciding where and if to plant it. But if you’ve got the space, you’ll be happy with its striking claret-colored fall foliage and the equally appealing texture of the lance-shaped leaves. Drought tolerant and hardy to Zone 6.
  6. Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum): The unmistakable heart-shaped leaves emerge purple in the spring and seem to turn buttery yellow overnight in autumn. Falling leaves smell wonderfully like burnt sugar. The form is tall – up to 60 feet – and rounded. Hardy to Zone 4.
  7. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum): A little-known but deserving tree that has the unusual feature of sending out long streamers of fragrant, white flowers in fall just as the foliage turns to heady shades of red, orange and purple. At 25 to 30 feet tall, sourwood fits nicely into a small garden. Hardy to Zone 5.
  8. ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ dogwood (Cornus kousa): A spectacular cultivar of Korean dogwood that is blanketed in large, white star-shaped flowers in spring and strawberry red color in fall. Its 20-foot stature makes it ideal for small spaces. Other kousa dogwoods are outstanding as well, most turning a deep crimson-purple in autumn. Hardy to Zone 5.
  9. Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica): Another smaller tree (25 feet tall and 30 feet wide), ironwood is bathed in every color of the sunset in fall and has the bonus of gray and beige exfoliating bark. An easy tree to grow that grows in parking strips where the situation isn’t ideal. Hardy to Zone 4
  10. ‘Wild Fire’ black gum (Nyssa sylvatica): Although the straight species of black gum can be a bit weedy, newer cultivars such as ‘Wild Fire’ don’t go to seed. Glossy green leaves emerge a deep red in spring and end the season with a spectacular show of orange, yellow, scarlet and purple. It has a nice pyramidal shape and grows up to 20 feet. Hardy to Zone 6.

Read the full article online here: https://www.oregonlive.com/hg/2020/11/these-10-trees-bring-fiery-fall-foliage-in-oregon.html

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Celebrate Master Gardener Week!

Celebrate Master Gardener Week – OSU Extension Master Gardener Program News

In a year when we were needed more than ever, Oregon’s Master Gardeners rose to the multiple challenges of 2020 in simply amazing ways. You made it work and took it online. You stayed connected and identified insects, plants, and soil problems all in new ways. When Oregonians needed advice and education like never before, Master Gardeners were there for them. You’ve even mastered the Zoom goodbye wave and how to unmute. You grew more Oregon gardeners than ever before. It’s time to say thank you!

Celebrate Master Gardener Week
October 26-30, 2020

Recognition and celebration of Oregon’s Master Gardener Volunteers

Registration is now open!

Master Gardeners who’ve engaged in our COVID safety training will recognize the platform (Thinkific) we’re using for Master Gardener Week. It’s an easy-to-use online educational platform and all activities for the week will be accessed from here. When signing up you will be prompted for your county and extension program: please use your appropriate county and “Master Gardener” for extension program. Note: some films and discussion have capacity limits

Celebrate Master Gardener Week Schedule
Film Festival
During these dates registered participants will have special VIP access to view three films.
• October 20 – 27, 2020: The Love Bugs
Over the course of 60 years, entomologists Charlie and Lois O’Brien amassed a collection of more than 1 million insects from nearly 70 countries —the largest private collection in the world with a value of $10 million dollars. But as Charlie’s battle with Parkinson’s becomes increasingly pronounced, he and Lois, 90, make the difficult decision to give away their drawers full of iridescent weevils and planthoppers. This humorous and poignant film explores the love of Nature—and the Nature of Love—and what it means to devote oneself completely to both.
• October 21-28, 2020: Land Grab: The Movie
Land Grab is the story of an eccentric finance mogul’s dream to create the world’s largest urban farm in his hometown of Detroit and the political firestorm he unintentionally ignited by announcing that he would spend $30 million of his own fortune to build this farm in one of the most economically devastated neighborhoods of the bankrupt Motor City.
• October 22-29, 2020: Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf
After completing a feature documentary on New York’s High Line, award-winning filmmaker Thomas Piper met the inspirational designer and plantsman, Piet Oudolf, and the idea for a new project was born. The documentary, FIVE SEASONS: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf, immerses viewers in Oudolf’s work and takes us inside his creative process, from his beautifully abstract sketches, to theories on beauty, to the ecological implications of his ideas.


After viewing the films, join together via Zoom with the filmmakers and/or local experts for discussion.
• October 26, 2020 at 6pm Pacific. Facilitated discussion of The Love Bugs.
• October 27, 2020 at 6pm Pacific. Facilitated discussion of Land Grab: The Movie.
• October 28, 2020 at 6pm Pacific. Facilitated discussion of The Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.
Note: Pre-registration is required/Zoom webinars have a limit of 500 people.

State of the Statewide Master Gardener Program Address
• October 29, 2020 at 6pm Pacific. Join Gail Langellotto for a livestreamed update on the Master Gardener Program in Oregon. The presentation will review recent accomplishments and points of pride, current challenges and opportunities, and an overview of what is to come in 2021.
Note: Pre-registration is required/Zoom webinars have a limit of 500 people.

Beneficial Insect Trivia Game and Discussion
• October 30, 2020 at 6pm Pacific. Put your insect knowledge to the test with this fun and interactive trivia tournament hosted by OSU’s Klamath County horticulture faculty member Nicole Sanchez. The ultimate gardening edutainment experience!
Note: We’ll be using both Zoom and Slido. Pre-registration is required and is limited to 200 people.

Access to all events requires registration: Registration is now open!

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Ask An Expert Question Profile: “Are volunteer squash toxic?”

Question from August 2020, answered by Debra Lauer, OSU Extension – Benton County

Photo credit: Bob Rost

Read the online Ask an Expert Q & A on this question HERE

Q: I am growing a pumpkin plant that is a volunteer from my daughter, who grew delicious pumpkin-pie pumpkins last year. I have recently read that some volunteer plants in the squash family might produce poisonous fruit (pumpkins/squash) – “toxic squash syndrome?” Do I need to worry about eating these pumpkins?

A: You are right to be cautious with a fruit from a cucurbit type volunteer. Vine crops including cucumbers and zucchini produce chemicals called cucurbitacins, which give a bitter taste to the fruit. In cultivated cucumbers and zucchini these chemicals are normally in concentrations that we can’t taste them. Wild cucurbits contain much higher levels of cucurbitacins, making them inedible to mammals.

Mild bitterness in zucchinis or cucumbers is not uncommon and can be caused by environmental stress like high temperatures, drought, wide swings in temperatures, or uneven watering practices that tend to concentrate cucurbitacins in the fruit. This mild bitterness in garden squash or cucumbers may not be so severe as to prevent gardeners from using the fruit. With a mild bitterness due to environmental conditions you would expect all plants in the garden to show the same problem to some extent since they all faced the same environmental stresses. With improved growing conditions the problem should diminish.

Sometimes gardeners pick zucchini from their gardens that are extremely bitter. If this happens do NOT eat the zucchini. A couple of grams of this extremely bitter squash can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps that can last for up to three days.

Since flowers are insect pollinated it is possible in rare cases for a seed you receive in a seed packet to have been cross pollinated with wild cucurbits, resulting in high levels of cucurbitacins and a very bitter taste. When the cause of the bitterness is bred into the plant like this, the bitterness does not improve with better growing conditions.

Plants within the same species can cross pollinate. Cross pollination can be seen in the (Cucurbita pepo) squashes and pumpkins. Summer squash, pumpkins, gourds, and some types of winter squash belong to the same plant species Cucurbita pepo. All species members may cross with one another. Some cucumber species plants may have been pollinated by bees that have visited wild cucumber varieties which can result in a cross that contains high concentrations of the chemical that makes them very bitter. This type of cross will not show until the seed of that cross is sowed the following year or possibly in a volunteer coming up in the garden or compost pile.

The bottom line is if you have a different looking type of fruit in your garden than expected do not eat it if it is extremely bitter. Spit out the first bite.

The bottom line is if you have a different looking type of fruit in your garden than expected do not eat it if it is extremely bitter. Spit out the first bite. A study published in Clinical Toxicology in 2018 published a study from France that found 353 cases of reported adverse effects reported from eating bitter squashes. Diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain were the most common symptoms. No deaths were recorded.

If your volunteer pumpkin looks the same as those raised by your daughter last year and a taste test is not bitter your pumpkin is probably OK to eat.

Ask an Expert is a way for you to get answers from the Oregon State University Extension Service. We have experts in family and health, community development, food and agriculture, coastal issues, forestry, programs for young people, and gardening. Have a question of your own? Ask it HERE.

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October 22nd Chapter Meeting Online Event: Guest Presentation at 6:30pm by Dr. Celeste Searles Mazzacano

The Columbia County Master Gardener Association invites you to attend an online presentation by Dr. Celeste Searles Mazzacano on “Mutualism, Deception and Self-Defense: The Complex Dance of Co-Evolution in Insects and Plants” on Thursday, October 22nd at 6:30pm. This is a free hour-long event, and pre-registration is required: https://beav.es/ou7

During the course of evolution, plants have insects have evolved to affect each other in fascinating and intricate ways. These include many examples in how traits and behaviors are shaped. Celeste Mazzacano is an educator who strives to impart her almost excessive enthusiasm about insects to others. 

In this talk, Celeste will show us a world of insects and plants which includes defensive arms races, attraction to sweet rewards, trickery, death traps, sex and reproduction, and elaborate social organizations. Her goal: to engender a greater awareness and appreciation of insects and their functions.

Celeste has a B.S. in Genetics & Cell Biology and a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Minnesota. Her research and teaching has taken her from river bottoms to tree canopies as she investigates and preserves insect species, characterizes their impacts on habitats, and develops management plans that protect the overall ecosystem. Her work currently focuses on insects, freshwater mussels, and other invertebrates. Read more about her work here: http://www.casmenvironmental.com. Please join us for this exciting presentation!

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New Pest Alert: Spotted lanternfly

New Pest Alert: Spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula

A spotted lanternfly (SLF) was found in Oregon for the first time earlier this month in a shipment of planters and ceramic pots from Pennsylvania. SLF was first found in North America during 2014in Pennsylvania, believed to have arrived on shipments of stone from China. Since then, SLF has been detected in 11 eastern states and California has intercepted dead specimens in shipments.

A quarantine is in place for infested counties. Unfortunately, most counties where it has been detected are not quarantined, as SLF is not considered established. SLF has a great affinity for tree of heaven and grape vines, but it has a broad host range of more than 70 plant species that includes apples, cherry, chestnut, hops, maple, peaches, pear, pine, plum, poplar, oak, rose, and walnut.

Familiarize yourself with this new pest and read all about it here: https://www.oregon.gov/…/SpottedLanternflyPestAlert.pdf…

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Defoliation of Sweet Box due to Wildfire Smoke in Oregon

Jay W. Pscheidt, Extension Plant Pathology Specialist

Coincidental with the heavy smoke that pushed air quality off the charts, we have seen unusual defoliation in plants. Much of it was normal old leaf drop in response to stress conditions. After a droughty winter (half our normal rainfall) and even doughtier summer we had those hot dry Santa Anna-like winds that resulted in a million acres of burned forest. Old (first to form) leaves that are shaded, diseased and inefficient for the plant turned yellow and were shed. Even evergreen plants (which aren’t) were casting those older leaves or needles. This is a normal response by many different plants and is not a concern. Most of these plants will survive and return in the spring for a new season.

What is new and concerning was the rapid defoliation of Sarcoccoca spp. (sweet box) and some Ilex spp. (various holly) and potentially some Euonymus sp. The Sarcoccoca experienced green leaf drop over a few days after the smoke cleared out. Reports of this symptom have been confirmed on plants grown in Eugene (classic smoke accumulation area in the southern Willamette Valley), Corvallis, Rickreall, Damascus, Milwaukee, Mollalla and somewhere between Oregon City and Canby. Washington County is not confirmed. This rapid defoliation was not seen in Seattle, Tacoma, La Conner, Bainbridge Island or Gig Harbor, WA. Plants in gardens and open air structures were affected but not in a plastic hoop house. There is less species information but it appears S. confusa and S. ruscifolia were affected but the more common S. hookeriana var humilis were not.

A report of a garden grown blue holly (Ilex x meserveae) and nursery grown Ilex sp. with the same rapid defoliation of green leaves occurred at the same time. These reports have been confirmed in Springfield, Coburg, Lebanon and Mt. Angel. Unusual defoliation of a large holly bush in Eagle Creek and a sky pencil holly (I. crenata) in Tigard was also reported.

Also, Euonymus sp. were reported with unusual defoliation where older leaves were being shed. In one case the Euonymus had this condition but the Sarcoccoca was fine. Although this symptom is more like the normal reactions described above there have been reports of this condition from Eugene, Molalla and Tigard.

Although the smoke was hazardous for humans and animals it is not generally considered a problem for plants. There was ash fall and blocked out sun for several days all of which contributed to these defoliation issues. It is important to realize the difference been a normal plant response (dropping of old leaves) vs something that is not normal (rapid dropping of green leaves). We suspect that most of these plants will survive pending favorable conditions this winter.

Notes: Sarcoccoca sp. are susceptible to a new fungal disease called boxwood blight but the symptoms are very different. Boxwood blight symptoms include leaf spots, stem lesions as well as defoliation. Rapid defoliation of green leaves is not a character of this disease. 

Air Quality during this 2020 event was in the “unhealthy” range or higher (>150) for 7 to 10 days and in the “hazardous” range (>300) for a few days in much of the Willamette Valley. Average highest reading was 476 with a high in Salem of 563. Air quality during the 2017 Eagle Creek (Columbia River Gorge) fire by comparison was an average high of 158 with a high in Springfield of 332.

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Perennial Vegetables Are a Solution in the Fight Against Hunger and Climate Change

A new study shows the nutrition and environmental benefits of more than 600 perennial species—from artichokes to chaya—which address climate mitigation, biodiversity, and nutrition.

BY VIRGINIA GEWIN, Posted in Civil Eats on: August 19, 2020 

Perennial agriculture—including agroforestrysilvopasture, and the development of perennial row crops such as Kernza—has come to prominence in recent years as an important part of the fights against soil erosion and climate change. Not only do perennial plants develop longer, more stabilizing roots than annual crops, but they’ve also been shown to be key to sequestering carbon in the soil.

Although perennial vegetables may not become widely planted crops anytime soon, they could play a valuable role in making the food system more resilient. The goal is not to find a single “superfood” within the perennial vegetable list, says Leisner. Rather, she adds, “we should take a more holistic view focusing on highly nutritious crops that are resilient to shifting temperatures, those able to grow on marginal lands or as part of agroforestry.” Leisner adds that it puts a lot of emphasis on a small number of plant families, but that more research is needed into orphan crops—those species that receive little to no attention from researchers—to mitigate climate change and support our growing population.

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