Welcome to my post! I’m Sandy N., and this is my fourth year as a Master Gardener. This is also my third year as a volunteer at the Benton County Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden (known affectionately as “the Demo Garden”), and that’s the topic I will tell you about today.
The Demo Garden is an instructional garden that illustrates best practices for sustainable home gardening in our area. The garden was started in 1995 at the Benton County Fairground in Corvallis and is located on the South side of Fairground, just inside the fence and to the West of the ticket booth entrance. The garden covers more than 115′ x 40′ — plenty of space to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables suitable for our climate and soil while allowing us to showcase a variety of plants and gardening techniques. Here you will find vegetables ranging from asparagus to zucchini (including a few exotic crops, like hops), as well as herbs, fruits, and berries that are all well-suited for growing in our area. We also display a variety of gardening techniques in the Demo Garden — espaliered fruit trees, several types of raised beds, several types of compost bins, a variety of row coverings, dry land gardening, drip irrigation, non-toxic pest control, winter cover crops and more!
During the summer we work in the garden once a week, tending our crops and weighing our harvest. We often sample our produce to evaluate flavor, texture and usefulness in cooking (e.g. are these tomatoes flavorful enough to make good tomato sauce?), but the majority of our harvest is donated to local food banks and to the Fairground employees who keep our water flowing and our animal pests under control.
In normal years visitors are welcome to walk through the garden whenever the Fairground is open. During the annual Benton County Fair we staff the Demo Garden with volunteers who can answer questions about gardening, as well as entertain young gardeners with garden-themed games. We also sponsor evening “Walk In the Garden” events, again with Master Gardeners available to answer questions.
But last year when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Fairground to close, the public could no longer visit, and only a small number of Demo Garden volunteers were allowed to work in the garden — while social distancing and wearing masks. Only about half of the garden was planted with crops, and as the pandemic worsened our volunteers decided that all of the produce that was harvested should be donated to food banks in Corvallis and Philomath to help families experiencing food shortages. By the end of the summer, over 750 pounds of fresh produce had been donated locally!
Sadly, the Fairground is still closed, so we can’t invite you to visit our garden quite yet. In mid-April Master Gardener volunteers were allowed to return to the garden to prepare the soil for planting, and this year the entire garden will be planted with produce that we will donate to local food banks to help families in need.
Even though the Fairground is closed, we would like to keep you informed about our activities in the garden, so one of my colleagues will post a short, weekly garden update to this blog, describing what we did in the garden and (once we start harvesting) how many pounds of produce we took to food banks that week. In addition, several of my colleagues and I will write posts that describe some of the techniques we use in the garden.
We are looking forward to the day when we can welcome you back to the Demo Garden, but until then we hope our posts will prove to be interesting and useful to you– just look for posts with the words “Demonstration Garden” in the title!
According to Texas A&M Extension, “Studies show that people who spend time cultivating plants have less stress in their lives. Plants soothe human beings and provide a positive way for people to channel their stress into nurturing.” Most of us are experiencing increased stress right now, so bring on the plants! Even if you live in a small space with zero garden, these easy house plants can provide the benefits of stress reduction and more, with no green thumb required.
Sansevieria trifasciata– Mother in Law’s Tongue
Sansevierias are one of the easiest houseplants you can get because of their willingness to be put in almost any situation. Sansevierias can handle high light or very low light, just make sure to adjust your watering depending on the light level. They don’t want their roots to stay wet so only water when the soil feels dry to the touch. They can tolerate a wide temperature range, anywhere from 55 to 85 °F, but don’t like to be around the low 50s for prolonged periods. They aren’t heavy feeders so you don’t need to worry about fertilizing them very often. A mild fertilizer can be used in the summer months while it’s putting on new growth. Sansevierias are known to flower when they become stressed but once you figure out whats wrong, it’ll bounce right back. They have non showy blooms that can be pruned at the base of the stalk. Sansevierias are also wonderful air purifiers. Studies have shown that they not only release a noticeable amount of oxygen through respiration, they also purify the air. They absorb four of the most common house air pollutants (formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and carbon monoxide.) A great plant to keep around the house or office!
Spathiphyllum are great ornamental plants with dark to medium green foliage and white blooms. They prefer bright indirect light but will tolerate lower light levels as long as they aren’t overwatered. However, they do like to stay on the moister side so don’t let them dry back completely between waterings, they can be quite dramatic and will let you know with wilted foliage if you’ve waited too long on watering. They also aren’t very heavy feeders and will be fine with only being fertilized once or twice a year. Since Peace Lilies are known for liking more water the majority of problems with them come from overwatering, make sure your plant is in well drained soil and you don’t let it sit in water. Spathiphyllum are tropical plants and like warmer weather, they will tolerate temperatures between 68 and 85 °F. They are poisonous so keep away from children and pets.
There are two main parts of Peace Lilies flowers; the spathe and spadix. The spadix is the flowering spike that actually contains the florets and pollen, while the spathe is a bract that surrounds the spathe. If flowers are left to mature on the plant the spadix will often shed pollen on the foliage leaving a white dusting that can easily be whipped off. Some people choose to cut the spadix out at the base and leave just the white spathe. Either way, their lovely white blooms are guaranteed to bring brightness to the darker corners of your home!
ZZ Plants are incredibly easy to care for, they tolerate low light and extended periods of drought. This is a perfect plant to ignore and only care for it when you remember. ZZ Plants will thrive in bright indirect light but like previously mentioned, they will tolerate all different types of light levels. These plants are already known as slow growing so with less light it will really be slow. Let the plants soil dry completely before watering but water thoroughly until water comes out of the bottom of the pot. Make sure to discard excess water so the plant is not sitting in it. Like Sansevierias, ZZ Plants like a mild fertilizer to be applied during the growing season.
Since the foliage is so glossy and shiny, if neglected dust shows on this plant fast. However, it is extremely easy to wipe off with a wet rag. ZZ Plants have almost no pests but problems can arise if over watered. ZZ Plants are toxic if ingested by humans and pets.
Pothos are amazing additions to your home or even your office as they can survive off of fluorescent lights or indirect light from outside. They don’t require bright light and will still grow in the darker areas of your home but they will also do well in a brighter area. There are several varieties of pothos and different variegation patterns. Keep in mind that with different variegations light requirements will change. Make sure to let soil dry between waterings and make sure they are not sitting in water. Pothos don’t like to be root bound in a pot so if you see roots starting to pop out of the bottom of the pot it might be time to upgrade. Pothos like to be fertilized about every three months but will still put on new growth without it.
To keep a tidy foliage crown prune back vines for a more uniform growth habit. If you let vines grow naturally over time foliage will start to thin, cut them back to the soil to promote new- fuller growth. Pothos don’t have a lot of pests but mealybugs can be an issue. If you notice mealybugs act fast and control the pests before they spread to other plants. All parts of this plant is poisonous to humans and pets.
These intriguing trees are a great way to add a different texture to your house plant collection. They have very large, glossy and almost leather like dark green foliage that will drip a white sap when damaged or removed. The sap can be irritating if it makes contact with skin. Ficus elastica like indirect light but will tolerate lower light levels. However, they will not tolerate cold drafts. They also don’t like to be moved and if they are moved too often it can result in leaf drop. Let the soil dry back between waterings but do not let them go dry for long periods. It is best to underwater this plant than overwater it. They like 55-85 degrees fahrenheit and will not tolerate any lower. Mealybugs, scale and spider mites can all be an issue on rubber trees. Pruning is not time consuming with these trees as it is common for the lower leaves to yellow and drop. However, given enough light they grow quickly and might need to be pruned to fit their original space as they can grow to be 6-10 feet indoors.
If the growth is sparse and leggy they can be staked up for support so stems do not lean. The leaves can be wiped off with a damp cloth, just be careful to not crack the leaves. Ficus elastica is very easy to propagate. If you take a stem cutting and let it sit in water, roots should start appearing after a week or two.
Dracaenas come in many different sizes, shapes and colors but overall have mostly the same needs. They like to dry back slightly between waterings so only water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. They love bright indirect light but will tolerate medium to low light levels. They like day time temperatures to be between 60-70°F and around 10 degrees cooler at night. They like a little more humidity than most houses have so they benefit from their foliage being misted occasionally. Some Dracaenas can grow to be up to ten feet tall, if you have this variety and it is outgrowing its space you can cut the stalk at the desired height and it will sprout new leaves lower down. Scale and spider mites are the most common pests along with root rot.
Dracaena marginata (Dragon Tree) is incredibly susceptible to spider mites but is an intriguing variety. It has strappy long foliage with narrow purple margins and is sometimes trained to have a bend in the stem. It tolerates low light and has the same water requirements.
‘Warneckii’ is often referred to as “the best variegated plant for low light.” It is shorter than other varieties growing to be only around 2-4 feet. It has a white stripes running down its foliage and is a great desk plant.
Master gardener trainee Allison Socha joined the Master Gardener Program of Linn & Benton County in 2020. Allison and her classmates adapted to the many challenges of 2020 by finding new ways to connect with gardeners and build community online.
Tell us about your hometown.
I grew up in the Bay Area in Union City, CA. As a child in the 80’s and 90’s Union City was known as the Gladiolus capital of the world. However, like many places in the Bay Area, vast swatches of farmland were soon replaced with houses, houses, and more houses. As I became an adult, I realized that life in the crowded suburbs was not for me, and was especially not somewhere I wanted to raise my children. About two years ago, my husband and I got the idea to “move to the woods” and in June 2019 we were able to make that dream come true when we bought our house in Philomath. My hope is that this house in the woods will provide the perfect green backdrop for my 4-year-old daughter’s imaginative play for years to come.
What’s a favorite garden memory?
When my daughter was about a year old we started our first vegetable garden in our Bay Area home. We lived in a very hot part of the Bay Area that tomatoes loved. That first summer our cherry tomato plants exploded with fruit in the middle of the summer. I gave my daughter one of the sungolds with no expectation that she would like it, being that she was only a year old. To my surprise she absolutely adored it. She begged for more and more, and almost every tomato on the plant ended up in her stomach. She still loves tomatoes to this day, we can’t keep them in our house long. I will always grow tomatoes just to watch her enjoy them so much. Over the years, her love of veggies has grown, and she will scarf down peas and zucchini too. But nothing compares to her first love of tomatoes.
Tell us about your current garden.
We moved to our two acre lot in Philomath just over a year ago. Most of our land is Douglas Firs on a steep hillside, but we have one flat spot perfect for a vegetable garden, although it doesn’t get quite as much sun as I would hope for. In January of this year we were able to get the spot cleared and built some raised beds surrounded by a 7 foot deer fence (because country deer jump higher than city deer). After the pandemic hit, I was so happy to have a space to grow our own little “victory garden”. I definitely still have a lot to learn about gardening in this Pacific Northwest. But I am happy with what we were able to produce this year. We had success with peas, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Describe a plant that reminds you of home.
Growing up in the Bay Area we spent many days hiking in the hills. My parents both love
California native plants and taught me to identify them as we meandered the trails. Of course, one of my favorite seasons was in Spring when the California Poppies would turn the hills a brilliant orange. When I was a little older, my parents ripped out their front lawn and filled in the space with native plants. It wasn’t long before the poppies took over, and every late March and early April their garden would explode with poppies. I saw a singular California Poppy come up in my garden here in Philomath this Summer, and it immediately transported me back to my parents’ garden, hiking the hills, and home.
Why did you become a Master Gardener volunteer?
I decided to become a Master Gardener because I was new to Oregon and the Corvallis area and I wanted to expand my personal community while also learning about gardening techniques in the Pacific Northwest. When my family and I moved to Oregon we didn’t have any connections in this area, so we were basically starting from scratch. I thought that the Master Gardener program would be the best way for me to dive deeper into one of my interests while at the same time meeting new people who had similar interests as me. As I learned more about the program, I also realized how fulfilling it would be to already build a foundation of giving back to the community so soon after moving to a new place. I hope to be an example to my daughter in the importance of volunteering.
What’s one thing people might be surprised to know about you and/or your garden?
People might be surprised to learn that I had very limited gardening experience and knowledge before I joined the Master Gardener program. You don’t actually need to have a lot of knowledge to start out with, just an interest and drive to learn more and give back to your community. I have learned so much this last year through my classes and hands-on activities but I know I have so much more to learn. Some of the most inspirational Master Gardeners I have met so far make it clear that they too are constantly learning and don’t have all the answers. One thing that surprised me the most about this program was that it is more important to know how to find the answers to gardening questions than to know the answers off the top of your head.
Learn more about citizen science in the garden and how garden researchers work in this post.
In March 2020 the Benton County Master Gardeners were facing the same shut down challenges as everyone else in the United States as the COVID-19 pandemic stretched itself toward Oregon and the waves of closures, cancelations, and eventually quarantine were announced day after day. In the Benton County Master Gardeners I am a member of the Community Gardening Education Team. Spring and Summer are our main programmatic seasons and we had many events, including several sessions of a hands-on basic gardening class called Seed to Supper in the Garden, that folded along with everything else. Honestly, as much as I care about gardening, these classes were not my main concern at the time. I had to let them go, along with so many other things, and see what this era would bring.
I was out in my vegetable garden one of those March days, doing my best to center myself when I heard my phone “bling” with a new email. With the frantic pace of change and announcements from all sectors of my life, I knew I needed to take a look, even as I was trying some escapism out in the dirt. This new email was from a member of the Community Gardening Education Team asking members to please consider joining a Zoom meeting that day to brainstorm the idea of moving our Seed to Supper classes online. I must admit that I had been ignoring this email chain because I was already overwhelmed with my paid work being moved to online and the thought of any more screen time made me queasy. Also, I am a strong advocate for hands-on learning, so the idea of teaching gardening online didn’t appeal to me. My mind was closed and thus I closed the email, without replying, and got back to my gardening. But, as I worked my mind started working. I started seeing that there could be a way to be “hands on” online. I thought, “we could make movies! Everyone in their backyard could make movies as they went about putting their gardens in and we could share that online!”. I took my phone back out of my pocket and shared my idea with the group and committed myself to the afternoon meeting.
The Community Gardening Education Team (CGET) team is made up of a bunch of wonderful women who have a desire to educate the community about growing their own food. There is a strong social justice bend to this group and I thoroughly appreciate them. During that afternoon meeting we had a powerful conversation about how we could be useful and relevant to the vegetable gardeners of Benton County, especially during the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elizabeth Records, the Educational Program Assistant for Master Gardeners for Linn and Benton Counties, shared with the Team the staggering number of people who had signed up for the online gardening class that the extension service had made available for free, as a response to the pandemic. People seemed to have a newfound enthusiasm for growing their own food as they were stuck at home during uncertain times. We talked about how we could reach these people, how we could get seeds and plants into the hands of people who needed them, and about how we could educate people and help them make gardens with what they had on hand in the homes that they were confined to.
Two exciting ideas came out of this meeting. One was to move forward with offering Seed to Supper online through Zoom and a subgroup from CGET moved forward with modifying the curriculum of that class to meet the challenges of the online environment, but also with the thought that they could add warmth through personal pictures, gardening stories, and maybe even some backyard movies! Another idea was to host Virtual Veggie Q&As to try to meet the needs of the new gardeners at home through answering their questions live and in real time during a Zoom call in session. I was among the group that decided to launch that effort. I am so glad that despite how shut down I was feeling in the garden that morning that I opened myself enough to join this meeting and be carried away with the creativity and meaningful work of CGET.
A couple of weeks later I found myself with Elizabeth and two other Master Gardeners, Sue and Jennifer, on Zoom getting ready for our first Veggie Q&A. I’m afraid as we were all still novices to Zoom we had a number of technical difficulties, but regardless of that, we made it work! We had a good number of participants and the four of us found our rhythm answering questions, posting resources, and sharing the new online space with our participants and each other. Since that first Q&A we have had a total of 6 Virtual Veggie Q&As and all of them have been well attended and enjoyed by facilitators and participants alike. The spontaneous nature of the call in format makes it a very lively and authentic exchange with people getting answers to questions they have right then about problems they are having in their vegetable gardens or advice they are seeking about plans they have for the future. We are not always able to answer all the questions, but in a way that adds to the authenticity and vulnerability of the experience! And we can always promise them to research their issue later and email them an answer. Recently we have pulled in other Master Gardeners to answer questions and I hear that our idea has even spread to other counties! We are getting better with our technology as well, and Elizabeth now has us streaming Live on Facebook as well as making podcasts of our sessions after we are done. We didn’t have any idea that our small attempt to reach people and be relevant during the pandemic would get so big.
Another little side story related to all of this is how Veggie Q&A opened the door to reaching out to a community in Oregon that previously had little contact with Master Gardeners. In my professional life I am a Sign Language interpreter and when we started hosting the Veggie Q&As I posted the advertisements for them on my Facebook page. One of my Deaf friends reached out to me to see if there would be a possibility of offering a similar opportunity in Sign Language. My friend and I worked with the Master Gardeners, who were very excited about this opportunity, to set this up and since then have had two Veggie Q&As in American Sign Language that have been open to all of those who use that language. Similarly, we currently have a person who will be joining our next English Veggie Q&A to see if it would be possible to offer a Spanish session. New ideas lead to more new ideas!
I believe many stories will be written about all the new things we learned how to do professionally, personally, and within our community groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is one of those stories. I don’t think telling these stories is a way to put a positive spin on the whole thing, but rather a reporting of our experiences during a time when we had to give up on doing things in person and physically together and figure out a different way of being. Not figuring it out meant giving up on meaning and purpose. I hope that next Spring we will be back to offering Seed to Supper actually in the garden, but I bet that we keep offering it online as well! I also imagine that we will keep up with our Virtual Veggie Q&As and use them as a way to reach more and more people. Opening up to the limitations of Spring and Summer 2020 brought forth our creativity as a path toward meaning and purpose. I am proud of how Benton County Master Gardeners and the Community Gardening Education Team moved into that space and brought gardening to more people during uncertain times.
To listen to our podcast of Veggie Gardening Q&As, CLICK HERE.
Did you know there is an alternative to controlling pests in your garden by using a pesticide? Attracting beneficial insects, like lady beetles, green lacewings, praying mantis and dragonflies can help control insects that feed on your plants. Beneficials don’t just help control pests. Some beneficials are also important pollinators!
How can you attract beneficials to your garden? One way is to purchase them at a local garden center and release them into your garden. You can also attract them to your garden by growing plants to provide an enticing habitat for them. If you are able to dedicate some space to growing these habitat plants, the rest of your garden can reap the rewards.
Following are some recommendations from the Penn State
Carrot Family (Apiaceae)
Plants in the carrot family are especially attractive to
small parasitic wasps and flies. Interplant them in your vegetable garden and
flower beds. Plants in this family include: caraway (Carum carvi);
coriander/cilantro (Coriandrum sativum); dill (Anethum graveolens);
fennel (Foeniculum vulgare); Bishop’s flower (Ammi majus); Queen
Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota); and toothpick ammi (Ammi visnaga).
Aster Family (Asteraceae)
Attractive to larger predators such as lady beetles and
soldier beetles. Incorporate into the vegetable garden and flower beds. Plants
in this family include: blanketflower (Gaillardia spp.); coneflower (Echinacea
spp.); coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.); cosmos (Cosmos spp.);
golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria); goldenrod (Solidago spp.);
signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia); sunflower (Helianthus spp.); tansy
(Tanacetum vulgare); and yarrow (Achillea spp.).
Generally grown as cover crops and attractive to many
beneficials. Plants in this family include: alfalfa (Medicago sativa);
fava bean (Vicia fava); hairy vetch (Vicia villosa); and sweet
clover (Melilotus spp.).
Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) Attractive to beneficials that are parasites
and predators of the insect pests of the mustard family (broccoli, Brussels
sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard greens). Be sure to plant
these away from the garden rather than in the garden since these plants attract
pests as well as beneficials. Some are common weeds, such as yellow rocket and
wild mustard. Plants in this family include: basket-of-gold alyssum (Aurinia
saxatilis); mustards (Brassica spp.); sweet alyssum (Lobularia
maritima); yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris); and wild mustard (Brassica
Verbena Family (Verbenaceae) Attractive to a variety of beneficial insects.
Many plants in this family are favorite garden flowers. They include: lantana (Lantana
camera); Buenos Aires verbena (Verbena bonariensis); hybrid verbena
(Verbena x hybrida); and lilac vervain (Verbena rigida).
Beneficial insects also need a source of water. Shallow containers such as ceramic pot saucers with pebbles for the beneficials to rest on are best.
water quality and water conservation, and why do they matter?
Water conservation is using water efficiently, so less needs
to be drawn from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and aquifers. Water quality is about keeping pollutants out
of all those major water sources, as well as smaller water bodies like backyard
creeks and ponds.
If we use water efficiently, your water bill is lower, there’s less need to build additional water supply infrastructure, and more water is left in lakes and rivers for the ecosystems that need it and for people to enjoy recreationally. And for groundwater, it reduces the likelihood of drawing down your well to the point that you and your neighbors run out of water. More broadly, lack of abundant clean water deeply affects not only fish, but also birds, mammals, forests, and beneficial insects – and of course people and pets. We all live downstream, and someone else’s pollution can wind up coming out of your kitchen faucet.
Gardeners interact with, and affect, the landscape and the
water cycle more than many folks do. Here
are some important general steps you can take:
Use water-wise plants and natural landscaping. Native plants are usually a good bet, because
they generally don’t require irrigation.
Many non-native plants work too, if you pick the right ones. Mulching and composting help by retaining
water and decreasing evaporation.
Landscape design is important too – rain gardens are one example that
helps water quality.
Water efficiently. Providing gardens with more water than they
need is wasteful and expensive, of course, but it also triggers erosion and
runoff of sediment and chemicals. It can
even wash fertilizer out of the root zone of your crops. Use drip irrigation or water plants directly instead
of sprinklers where possible, and optimize your sprinkler system so it evenly
distributes the right amount of water.
It usually gives you a better garden too!
Be judicious with your selection and use of
fertilizers, pesticides, and other natural and non-natural chemicals. Many of these things will wind up in natural water
bodies. Even overuse of organic
fertilizers can be a huge water quality problem, contributing to algal blooms in
lakes and oceans for example.
Be mindful of your non-gardening choices
too. Get rid of pharmaceuticals, paint,
and other household chemicals by disposing them at the appropriate recycling
and disposal center, for example, and use water-efficient fixtures and
really make a difference?
Yes! These may seem like small things, and individually they are – but when you add them up across the whole country and over the years, they really add up.
In fact, water quality and conservation is, overall, an
environmental success story. Some
estimates suggest that total national water use has remained at about 1970s
levels due to efficiency improvements.
And in many industrial areas, water quality is much better now than it was
a few decades ago. The days of rivers
literally catching fire – this actually happened to the Cuyahoga River in Ohio,
which was polluted with flammable chemicals – are thankfully over.
That said, there are major challenges looming, especially in
the West, where a combination of relatively dry climate and tremendous
population growth are severely pressuring our water resources, natural
ecosystems, and water supply infrastructure.
Even here in Benton County with our soggy winters, the natural summer drought
period requires careful water management, especially as the regional population
and economy grow, increasing water demand.
Plus, more people generally means more pollution. Each of us can do our part to mitigate those
impacts going forward.
the water cycle work?
But how does your garden plot fit into the big scheme of
things? How can your choices contribute
to – or contribute to solving – water conservation or quality problems? The answer lies with the water cycle.
The world’s water is all connected in a big loop. Water evaporates from crops, forests, lakes,
seas, and oceans; it’s transported hundreds or thousands of miles in the
atmosphere, through storm systems and the jet stream for example; it falls as
rain or snow, contributing in turn to glaciers, groundwater aquifers, lakes,
and ultimately rivers; and it then flows back to the ocean.
Your garden is a step in that journey, and the water passing
through kind of “remembers” what it saw there.
As rain falls on your vegetable patch, chemicals you’ve added will
dissolve and then be transported as runoff, or downward to aquifers, and either
way can wind up in a creek, which flows into a bigger stream, which joins with
a big river, and so forth.
Plus, withdrawals from rivers and reservoirs for water
supplies, like watering your vegetable garden, collectively add up to a huge
modification of that natural cycle. The
change is often destructive. For
example, dams on the Columbia River for water supplies, flood control, and
hydropower generation have destroyed salmon migration patterns and habitat
availability. In extreme cases, like the
Colorado River, so much water is taken out for human use that the river no
longer makes it to the sea.
information resources for gardeners
Here are some great places to look for information about
specific things you can do to improve water quality and conservation in your own
Are you curious about the Master Gardener volunteer program but not sure what to expect? Read on for Master Gardener mythbusting!
This story originally appeared in Growing.
Myth: to be a Master Gardener volunteer you need to have a huge, perfect garden.
Fact: Master Gardener volunteers grow everything from balcony tomato plants to formal gardens to urban farmlets to tiny bonsai trees. They grow in community plots, containers on windowsills and home gardens.
Myth: to be an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer you need to know all the answers.
Fact: Master Gardener volunteers learn how to research plant problems and where to seek well-researched solutions. Knowing what to look for and where to look is the key skill.
Myth: to be an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer you need to have endless free time or be retired.
Fact: Working people, including parents and caregivers, are Master Gardener volunteers. The 2020 in-person course offers increased flexibility. And the Master Gardeners online course offers a highly flexible program that connects you with your local community for volunteer service.
Myth: to be an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer you need to spend a lot of money.
Fact: OSU Extension and our non-profit Master Gardener association partners offer a limited number of partial scholarships. For information please contact Elizabeth Records.
You can help grow knowledge, gardens and communities. Applications for 2020 Volunteer Program open October 1st. Learn more and join us.
By Elizabeth Records, Master Gardener Program Assistant
Previously published in Growing.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
(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.
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!
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 soilin the yearbefore 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.