Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture (OCCUH) is a learning laboratory for sustainable horticultural practices in both rural and peri-urban landscapes. The 6.5 acres on the SW corner of the campus house are used for formal and informal OSU research, riparian restoration, a student CSA program, as well as just plain fun.
Last summer, OCCUH invited the OSU Extension Master Gardener (MG) trainees to work on a pilot project renovating and planting beds on the grounds. Kathleen Dennis, the on-site project lead, guided the MG volunteers. Together, the group:
Weeded, mulched, and added native wildflowers to an upland prairie area
Renovated a high-profile woody hedgerow, and
Planted a small hummingbird garden.
The Southern Hedgerow is a long high profile bed near the parking area for the Bee Lab at OCCUH. The bed is anchored with native woody perennials such as California Lilac (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus) and Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium), as well as show-stopper ornamentals including columnar apples, cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) and coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis). As is often the case in the Willamette Valley’s verdant summers, when the MG work began in August, weeds had encroached in some areas, and plants had grown into one another. The purpose of the Master Gardener Pilot Project in this bed was to weed, thin, and prune the bed to highlight the existing plantings. Empty spaces were planted with ornamentals, many of which were selected to attract pollinating insects and hummingbirds.
Renovating the Hedgerow proved to be rewarding work. As the weeds were pulled away and spent stalks of Cardoon and Milkweed were removed, Master Gardener Trainee Sarah Bronstein revealed forgotten plants, and made space for new plantings. In some cases, the bed held both pleasant and unpleasant surprises. A rare Heptacodium miconoides was revealed among a thick stand of Douglas aster, that had shielded it from summer rays.
Bronstein had the benefit of utilizing OCCUH’s plant stock, including red and blue ornamental sages (Salvia elegans), variegated butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii), and an olive tree. A wildflower mix and wild strawberries were tucked in between other plants to help cover the ground and prevent future weed invasions.
In the coming year human, insect, and avian visitors to Oak Creek will be welcomed by the silvery hues of Cardoon, Coyote Bush, and Milkweed in the Southern Hedgerow, accented by the bright colors of purple Buddleia flowers and ornamental sage.
OCCUH’s mission is to utilize open expanses in a more coherent urban-based fashion. Urban Meadows, Green Roofs, pollinator space, and urban wildlife habitats are all on the drawing board. The Center is always looking for volunteers to help with projects.
By Sarah Bronstein, Casey Colley, Kathleen Dennis, and Xia Lu
Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture (OCCUH) is a learning laboratory for sustainable horticultural practices in both rural and peri-urban landscapes. Its 6.5 acres on the SW corner of campus house formal and informal OSU research, riparian restoration, a student CSA program, as well as just plain fun.
This past summer, OCCUH invited OSU Extension Master Gardener (MG) trainees to work on a pilot project renovating and planting beds on the grounds. Kathleen Dennis, the on-site project lead, guided the MG volunteers.
Together, the group:
Weeded, mulched, and added native wildflowers to an upland prairie area
Renovated a high-profile woody hedgerow
Planted a small hummingbird garden
There is an inviting walkway between the greenhouses and OCCUH’s rock and water feature known as the “vernal pool”. MG trainees Casey Colley and Xia Lu used a mix of veggie and flower starts to transform the space into a low-profile garden to accent this pool. Native clarkia, Oregon sunshine were still going strong midsummer. Colley and Lu chose plants that were great for attracting pollinators, including
Lagos spinach (Celosia argentea)
And several other herbs
They packed in so many colorful salvias that the garden became a hummingbird flyway.
When the collaboration began, the little flowerbed was an open slate.
Later, Colley direct-sowed buckwheat between plants as a nitrogen fixer. This amazing mid-season cover crop is lovely in its own right, and can reach maturity in 45 days! It lends itself to successive sowing from April to late September. When Lu and Colley thinned the mature buckwheat in September, the soil beneath each plant was the consistency of wet coffee grounds!
The season was a success! The hummingbird garden created a variety of textures, colors, and scents. It sustained lots of pollinating insects and kept Oak Creek’s resident hummingbirds happy.
OCCUH’s mission is to utilize open expanses in a more coherent urban-based fashion. Urban Meadows, Green Roofs, pollinator space and urban wildlife habitats are all on the drawing board. The Center is always looking for volunteers to help with projects.
We hope gardeners are inspired by these summer memories as they plan gardens for the new growing season.
Nutritional resources reviewed by Tina Dodge, OSU Extension
It’s time to plan your garden and even start a few early varieties. Perhaps, like most gardeners, you are taking stock of your garden successes and challenges and considering different paths for this year. Have you ever considered planting an “Eat the Rainbow Garden”? An Eat the Rainbow Garden is a garden that produces delicious fruit and vegetables in every color. Clearly, this type of garden would be vibrant, but did you know that creating this type of garden can also support your health?
Growing your own fruit and vegetables increases your access to healthy food, which in times of inflation is more important than ever. Gardening also increases the likelihood that you and your family will eat more fruit and vegetables than families who do not garden. And, when kids are involved in the planning, planting, growing, and harvesting of produce, they are much more likely to have a diet high in fruit and vegetables.
Growing a Rainbow Garden can certainly capture the imagination of kids, but they are just as important for adults. Rainbow Gardens support health exactly because they include all colors of the rainbow. Each color that we see in fruit and vegetables is created by phytochemicals (sometimes called phytonutrients), which are bioactive compounds found in plants that provide color, taste, and smell. Phytonutrients help out plants by protecting them from different diseases and too much sun. Phytonutrients may help people out by supporting our immune system and offering protection against different types of chronic diseases. Every phytonutrient color represents a different compound, each of which comes with different possible health benefits. See the table below for some delicious and colorful options!
Now that we know what an Eat the Rainbow Garden is, how do we build it? Here are some tips to get you started:
Location, location, location! It is important to understand your garden site. Get to know your site’s climate, soil, weather exposure, and sun. If you are just starting your garden, this is the opportunity to consider these topics when you select a garden site. Good garden site preparation sets the foundation for a successful gardening experience. For site preparation and selection tips check out: https://extension.unh.edu/resource/preparing-vegetable-garden-site
Choose your colors. The colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo (a darker purplish blue), and violet (purple). Blue, indigo, and violet phytochemicals are often grouped together, but you can separate them in your garden for a beautiful effect. You can also add to the rainbow by including white, like a cloud! It can be a lot of fun to pick produce based on color. You can choose many different varieties of plants to cover the colors, or you can pick just a few types of vegetables that come in many colors, such as carrots, peppers, tomatoes, or even potatoes! Some examples can be found here: https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/fruit-and-veggie-color-list/
Plan plant placement. Now that you know your garden site and what fruits and vegetables you would like to try, it is time to consider plant placement. It might be tempting to group plants by color in a rainbow garden, however, each plant has its own garden needs. For example, cabbage prefers cool, moist conditions, and cucumbers prefer warm, dry conditions. Even though they are both green, it could be difficult to care for these plants if they are planted next to each other. Check out a resource like https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec871.pdf for what plants do well in what kind of conditions.
Consider containers. If you garden on a patio or deck, or if your garden site is limited, consider container gardening. Containers can also be a great add on to an established garden, giving you the opportunity to add a plant that might not quite fit into your garden plan or rotation. Look for varieties that are specifically adapted for containers. Blueberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, potatoes, strawberries and many other plants have container options. OSU’s Growing Your Own – A Practical Guide to Gardening in Oregon (found here: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/em9027.pdf ) contains many basic tips to help you get your garden started including a section on varietals that grow well in containers in Oregon. Check out this link (https://milwaukee.extension.wisc.edu/2019/06/10/best-container-gardening-vegetable-varieties/ ) for more suggestions on specific vegetable varieties that do well in containers.
*Blue, indigo and violet phytonutrients are often grouped together.
Algert, S. et al. (4/1/2016) Community and home gardens increase vegetable intake and food security of residents in San Jose, California. California Agriculture. 70(2):77-82. https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.v070n02p77 Accessed on October 17, 2022.
Minich, DM. (2019) A review of the science of colorful, plant-based food and practical strategies for “Eating the Rainbow”. J Nutr Metab. 2019:2125070. doi: 10.1155/2019/2125070 Accessed on October 17, 2022.
What seeds can you plant directly outside, and when?
How you can save seeds from your plants to grow or share?
Here are three research-based resources for seed starting that Master Gardeners regularly share with gardeners in Linn and Benton Counties.
Growing Your Own – OSU Extension Catalog is the go-guide for a quick reference seed starting plan for vegetable gardens. Wherever you live in Oregon this publication has a useful start with dates for starting seeds. Inside or out, this guide has all the dates you need. Also available in Spanish, FREE.
Propagating Plants from Seed is an in-depth resource for gardeners and small-scale growers. It includes steps to start vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs from seed.
Saving vegetable seeds by the University of Minnesota Extension Service has the basics you’ll need to harvest, clean and preserve seeds for the future.
The Public Seed Library is a new collaborative project of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, with the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library serving as the host partner and the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program providing educational resources. The free, volunteer-run Public Seed Library is expected to open at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library downtown by March ’23.
“This is a natural opportunity to collaborate to benefit so many, so easily!” said Jill Farrow, who is a member of both organizations. “The Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s Food Action Team puts on the free Edible Garden Tour each year to increase local food consumption and support home gardening. The Benton County Master Gardeners provide many educational resources for gardening. The new Public Seed Library leverages the strengths of these two community volunteer organizations.”
This will be a seed-sharing library to share sustenance: Give what you can, and receive seeds and garden knowledge on how to plan a garden, grow vegetables, and companion herbs and flowers too for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
The Corvallis Sustainability Coalition is looking for volunteers to collect donated seeds, then help organize and inventory seed packets to stock the new Public Seed Library. If you’re an individual interested in volunteering, or a company interested in making a tax-deductible donation of commercial seed packets, reach out to connect with the Food Action Team now here.
As the educational partner, Benton County Master Gardeners will offer vegetable garden planning and growing lectures, as well as staff pop-up Plant Clinic help desks at the Corvallis Public Library next spring and summer. The Public Seed Library will be available to everyone who visits the Corvallis Public Library, for their personal use, regardless of whether they have a library card. It’s intended to support new and experienced home gardeners too.
These local organizations already partner with others to provide the free Corvallis Garden Resource Guide and gardening educational outreach through the Neighborhood Planters Kiosks project. Corvallis has an active gardening community and three family-owned retail nurseries that support local school gardens, community gardening, and natural area conservation groups. There’s a lot of programming support for people who are looking to start gardening or grow more of their own food. “The Public Seed Library will benefit all: current gardeners who will have free access to a broader variety of seeds, new gardeners, and the environment too,” Farrow says.
The Public Seed Library will be stocked exclusively with donated vegetable, herb, and flower commercial seed packets “Packed for 2022.” Please consider donating new or open and partially used seed packets if you’re a home gardener who has left over commercial seed packets “Packed for 2022”. Donations from the general public will be collected from mid-December through January ’23 at two drop-off donation sites:
Benton County Master Gardener’s OSU Extension Office at 4077 SW Research Way
Corvallis Public Library downtown at 645 NW Monroe Ave inside at the Librarian’s Desk
The internet is full of tips for houseplant care. But not all of them are based on science or proven to be safe and effective. So Master Gardener Trainees Leo and Carrie researched these suggestions just for you! Whether you are new to houseplants or are familiar with growing them, we hope this list of research-based resources will support your success.
Which houseplants are right for me?
How much light your dwelling gets, how much time you have, and the people and pets in your home, are things to consider when picking houseplants.
There is a growing interest amongst gardeners in the Willamette valley to add more native plants to their gardens and landscapes. What if I told you that some of them might just invite themselves into your garden? This has been my experience in my own garden. I wanted to share these four native flowers with you so that you might be able to recognize them if they pop up where you garden.
I first discovered pearly everlasting growing in a crack in my walkway. I was about to pluck it, thinking it was a weed. But its soft, silvery leaves gave me pause and I decided to leave it alone to see what might develop. After its sweet little white flowers bloomed, I was able to identify it as pearly everlasting. I learned that it is an incredibly drought-tolerant perennial that is native to most of the United States except for the southwest. It’s also very attractive to pollinators like mining bees, American Lady butterflies, Painted Lady butterflies, the Everlasting Tebenna moth, and sweat bees.
When the flowers dry out, they make attractive additions to floral arrangements.
Fun Fact: “Pearly Everlasting is one of the first plants to colonize recently burned forests. When the rain comes after a fire season, Pearly Everlasting sends out rhizomes that allow the plant to spread rapidly across nutrient-rich areas.”
Douglas Aster Scientific Name: Aster subspicatus or Symphyotrichum subspicatum
I first spied Douglas aster popping up in an area of my yard between a flowering quince and a lavender-bloomed rhododendron. I almost missed it amongst the Nootka rose, (which I will get to presently). It’s probably because the Nootka rose was so dense that I couldn’t really see the Douglas aster until the delicate light purple flowers began to open. I was smitten!
Much like Pearly everlasting, Douglas aster is quite hardy and will tolerate a variety of light and soil conditions. It is drought and is deer resistant. It’s native along the west coast from Alaska to California, also in Idaho and Montana.
Douglas aster provides nectar and pollen to its insect visitors, which include native bees, syrphid flies, and northern checkerspot and woodland skipper butterflies. It may also be a larval host to several different month species.
It can get tall and leggy and can be considered “weedy” by some. It can also be an aggressive spreader, which I personally welcome. It can also be grown in a container, if preferred.
Fun fact from the Garden Ecology Lab: “Douglas aster is a pollinator plant superstar. It is particularly valuable as a late-season pollinator plant, able to provide both nectar and pollen to its visitors when these resources may otherwise be scarce in the landscape.”
It’s easy to forgive Nootka rose for almost choking out my favorite lavender flowered rhododendron because the Nootka rose blooms are just so pretty and their red rose hips add a lovely pop of color in the fall and winter.
Nootka Rose is a Northwest native extending from northern California into Alaska and east into Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. It tolerates a variety of soil, light and drought conditions, and is not affected by pests.
Nootka rose blooms from May through July. The flowers are pink, about 2” across and have a delicate sweet fragrance.
“Nootka rose produces extensive rhizomes and grows rapidly, making it an ideal plant for revegetation projects. It is used to control soil erosion on hillsides, road cuts and streambanks. Nootka rose has successfully been used for rehabilitating disturbed sites at Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.
“Nootka rose is an important wildlife browse. Mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, caribou, bighorn sheep, bears, coyotes, and various rodents eat the fruits. Squirrels, mice, beavers, and porcupines eat the twigs and leaves. Nootka rose fruits are preferred by deer, elk, and squirrels.Nootka rose thickets are used for nesting and escape cover by birds and small mammals. Nootka rose provides good cover for waterfowl in Wyoming.”
When we first moved to this property eight years ago, I noticed a small patch of yarrow in our lawn. I was already familiar with this plant, so I was pretty happy to see it. I’ve allowed it to flourish and grow, and now it is quite an impressive patch.
Yarrow is native to most of North America and is a valuable plant for native landscapes and restoration projects because of its ability to quickly grow in disturbed areas, its wide range of soil tolerance (can grow in moist soils except for constantly saturated soils), its ability to compete with exotic weeds and invasive species, its long flowering time, and its value to numerous pollinators.
Fun Fact from the US Forest Service: “Numerous tribes in North America used yarrow for a variety of ailments. The crushed plant was applied to wounds and burns. The dried leaves were used as a tea to soothe colds, fever, and headache. Yarrow beer has been brewed in Europe since the middle ages. The Chinese considered yarrow plants to be good luck. Even Lewis and Clark were acquainted with yarrow. It was collected during the Lewis and Clark Expedition while they were camped near Kamiah, Idaho in May 1806.”
I hope this inspires you to look for natives that might be volunteering in your yard and maybe give something that, at first sight, might seem like a weed a little time to prove itself. You might be pleasantly surprised!
While flowering plants provide pollinators with food, insects also require shelter for nesting and overwintering. Most bees and wasps create nests in the soil or within dead plant stems or in cavities in wood. Many butterflies, wasps, moths, and lady beetles seek shelter in leaf litter and brush piles. Here are 3 things you can do to provide nesting & winter habitat.
Save the Stems
Rather than cutting dead stems to the ground, leave stalks for insects
Provide hollow and pithy stems from perennial flowers and shrubs
Provide variety of stem heights (8 to 24 inches) and diameters
Cut stems in spring and leave stems through summer, winter and at least first half of second summer.
Leave the Leaves
Insects, worms, beetles, spiders, and many other small creatures use leaves for winter shelter.
Leave a thin layer on lawns; a thin layer won’t damage it
Spread over flower and veggie beds
Pile around trees & shrubs as mulch
Rake or blow to move, don’t shred with mower, as that harms the critters
Build Rock Piles and Place Logs
Rock piles or rock walls (dry wall construction) provide protected crevices for critters
Keep it messy and loose, with access to bare ground
Logs with loose bark and beetle holes provide habitat for insects, frogs, lizards, and more
Plant pests can certainly be one of the most frustrating parts of growing your own food garden. Trap crops are part of an Integrated Pest Management plan. Here’s how they work.
A TRAP CROP can be defined as a sacrificial plant that draws away damaging insects from the desirable crop.
Essentially, a trap crop works as an alternative host that draws away invading insects, giving the main vegetable crop an added layer of protection. In some cases, insects have a preference for these alternative hosts, and when given the choice, will go to the trap crop first. After trap crops are infested with target insects, they can be controlled with timely insecticidal applications or mechanical removal. While trap cropping can be extremely beneficial, it is often not a complete solution. Trap crops will not control all insects and the use of integrated pest management (IPM) is necessary. IPM practices include rotating crops, attracting beneficial insects, and prudently using organic and synthetic chemicals.
Another great resource that details trap crops as well as intercropping and companion planting, that, when combined with trap crops, can make an even bigger impact when controlling pests.
Identification is key
You will definitely want to make sure you have correctly identified the pests causing damage to your plants. Different pests may prefer different trap crops and may require different integrative pest management (IPM) techniques. This resource is a helpful guide to identifying common pests as well as insects that are beneficial and helpful to gardeners.
Example: Flea beetles
Flea beetles (including Epitrix spp. and Phyllotreta cruciferae) are a well-known garden pest on crops like kale and broccoli.For flea beetle control, Chinese southern giant mustard (Brassica juncea var. crispifolia) is an example of a trap crop that has been used effectively in the United States to protect crucifer crops from flea beetle damage. In studies conducted at Washington State University (WSU), a diverse trap crop containing Pacific Gold mustard (B. juncea), Dwarf Essex rape (B. napus), and pac choi (B. campestris L. var. chinensis) successfully protected broccoli from the flea beetle. Diverse trap crop plantings combine plants that have different phenologies (life cycles which can be influenced by the environment, weather conditions, and nutrition), chemical profiles, and physical structures that make them more attractive to flea beetles.
It is important to note, however, that trap crops may not provide complete protection, especially during heavy pest infestations. You also have to manage the pests on the trap crop by removing them by hand and killing them, or using insecticide. Trap crops will be even more effective if several integrated pest management strategies are used together, like
Control weeds in and around planting sites to limit food sources for flea beetles.
Remove old crop debris so that beetles will not be able to get protection in the winter.
Plant crops as late as possible. Plants grow faster in warmer temperatures and are more stable to resist damage from flea beetles.
Use row covers or other screening to keep beetles out when the seedlings are growing.
Remove row covers before the flowers come up so pollinating insects can reach the plants.
These articles give excellent detail on managing flea beetles:
Pumpkins are a member of the Cucurbita, or gourd, family that includes other types of squash. “Pumpkins are considered to be drier, coarser, and strong-flavored compared to squash and are therefore used differently in cooking.” (see Reference #1)
In addition to the great taste of roasted pumpkin seeds, there are many health benefits to entice you to bring pumpkin seeds into your kitchen. “Pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of magnesium, a mineral that’s important for keeping blood pressure in check. They’re also a good source of several other minerals, unsaturated fats, and fiber.” (see Reference #2)
Along with being high in nutrients, they’re also rich in antioxidants which aid in reducing a lot of harmful diseases our body tries to defend against. . . .” (see Reference #3)
This is one of the ways to prepare raw pumpkin seeds
Clean and wash the seeds
Dry the seeds in the oven at 150 degrees F. for 1-2 hours, stirring frequently
Roast seeds by:
Mixing thoroughly 2 cups dry seeds, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1½ tablespoons melted butter, and 1 teaspoon salt
Place in a shallow baking pan and roast (1 hour at 250 degrees F.; 30 minutes at 275 degrees F.; or 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees F.
Stir the seeds frequently as they roast
Store cooled seeds in a plastic bag. Seeds can be kept in the refrigerator or freezer.
Seeds will become rancid if stored at room temperature for long periods of time. (see Reference #4)
There are many simple ways to add pumpkin seeds to your diet
Use them as toppings on dishes such as yogurt and granola;
Sprinkle them in a salad; or
Add them to your pumpkin bread recipe.
“You may also buy pumpkin seed extracts which can be especially helpful if you are someone who isn’t a fan of seeds or nuts (or if you are allergic).” (see Reference #3)
If you decide to collect squash and pumpkin seeds to plant in your garden in the spring, keep in mind that, “[s]eeds from hybrid varieties produce a mixture of plant types, most of which are inferior to the parent. Many varieties could be hybrids but may not be designated as such.” (see Reference #5)
Squash and pumpkin seeds can be inadvertently cross-pollinated in the garden, thereby creating plants with hybrid seeds. But, by taking the time to control pollination you can have confidence that the seeds you store will not be hybrid. “You can control pollination in your garden, but it requires careful attention. First, you need to distinguish between male and female flowers. Male blossoms are on a longer stalk and do not have a miniature fruit at the base as do female blossoms.
With careful observation, note the blossoms that will open the following day. They have a light yellow color and a distinctly pointed tip.
In the evening, select male and female flowers on the same plant. With a paper clip for small flowers or a rubber band for larger flowers, prevent the flower from opening. Flowers open only early in the day.
In the morning, pluck the male blossom and touch the cluster of pollen (called anthers) to the center of the female flower (called the stigma).
Close the female flower again so bees can’t get in.
Tag the blossom.
Grow the fruit to maturity for the desired seed.” (see Reference #5)
Since pumpkin and squash seeds can live up to 4-5 years, it can be worth the time to manage pollination and then carefully store the seeds from your garden. A recommended storage method is to, “[p]lace seed packets in a jar, seal the jar tightly and place it in a refrigerator or freezer. To help absorb moisture, place a small, cloth bag filled with dry, powdered milk beneath the seed packets in the bottom of the jar. Use about 1⁄2 cup of dry milk from a recently opened package. (see Reference #5)
Planting a new crop
Next spring you will need to test your stored seeds for germination before planting. This is one method:
“Moisten two or three layers of paper towels.
Place 25 to 50 seeds on the towels and roll the towels loosely. Place them in a plastic bag.
Keep the towels in a warm place such as on a kitchen counter or on top of a water heater. . . .
Observe the seeds at 2-day intervals to determine the degree of germination.” (see Reference #5)
For more information, you can read this publication, Propagating Plants from Seeds (see Reference #6).
Most of all, enjoy your fall seeds, savor their flavor, and the good memories of tending squash and pumpkin plants in your garden.