What is BEEvent? A volunteer’s history

Osmia lignaria (blue orchard mason bee): Scott Bauer, USDA, Osmia lignaria, Cropped by OSU Extension, CC0 1.0

By Ranee Webb, Master Gardener Volunteer

One of the primary fundraisers and education outlets for Linn Master Gardeners is the BEEvent Pollinator Conference.  The following is a history of that project and how it has grown and changed.    

Our Mission:  The primary purpose of the Linn County Master Gardeners Association Pollinator Project is to provide information to the general public about the plight of pollinators, both native and non- natives.   We provide knowledge and materials to ordinary citizens to help them make their spaces friendly to pollinators, and so that they can become informed advocates. A secondary, but very important, purpose is to raise funds to support the outreach programs of the Linn County Master Gardeners Association to educate the public in healthy and productive gardening practices. 

History:  
In 2014, Barbara Fick, then a Linn County Extension agent, was talking to retired entomologist and Master Gardener Volunteer Rich Little about how we could increase the public’s awareness of pollinators. In 2015 the BEEvent Pollinator Conference was established to help home gardeners and small farmers better understand how they could help bees.  That first conference had 54 participants.  In recent years about 200 participants have registered to hear nationally known speakers and local experts talk about pollinator health. The BEEvent is now the largest pollinator conference in the PNW. Between 60-80% of attendees are new each year, so that means we are reaching a lot of people.  Due to the COVID pandemic, the 2021 BEEvent went virtual. That was a new challenge and learning experience for all!  

Keynote speakers over the years have included Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist of the Xerces Society, Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, Olivia Messinger Carril from New Mexico, co-author of “Bees in Your Backyard,” and James Cane, research entomologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Logan, Utah. Cane has been studying bees for 30 years and is known for having applied his long-term interest in bees to help measure, understand and mitigate human factors that can shift nesting and foraging opportunities for bee communities.  

Rich Little has given many presentations about native bees throughout Oregon for Master Gardeners and the public.  Each fall Linn Master Gardener instructors meet with small groups to teach how to properly harvest and clean cocoons.  Harvesting the cocoons helps ensure a healthier outcome and you learn more about what is inside the nesting sites. During these classes our participants develop an understanding and learn to follow the “Best Management Practices” for Mason Bees. This helps gardeners and small farmers become more successful in helping our native bees. 

In 2016 we started an e-mail publication called “Bee Notes”.  The purpose of Bee Notes is to share information and reminders to those who have mason bees. We also share articles about pollinators that will help the home gardener be a better steward in helping pollinators.  Currently there about 800 subscribers.  Rich Little, who has a degree in entomology, writes most of the more technical information.  Ranee Webb writes some of the Bee Notes.  Our webmaster, Nancy Ragghianti, does the final touches and publishes the Bee Notes.  Together we make a team. We are amazed at the success of Bee Notes!  

Linn County Master Gardeners were early in starting the use of our own website.  You can now find a lot of information including Bee Notes on the website- www.LinnMasterGardeners.com

Award: 

The Oregon Master Gardener Association awarded Linn County Master Gardeners the Marje Luce Search for Excellence Award in 2020.   

Proud of Our Successes and Yours:  

Our Master Gardener volunteers sell bee supplies and houses as well as mason bee cocoons.  In normal years about 50 master gardeners are involved in our pollinator project.  

We believe our Master Gardener volunteer’s campaign to promote pollinator health is having a positive effect.    

Linn Master Gardeners have worked with the OSU Bee Project, the Benton Soil Water and Conservation District and Shonnard’s Nursery in developing our Pollinator Project and supporting their outreach programs as well.  We have had contacts from people out-of-state asking to find out more about how we do the conference in hopes of putting on conferences similar to ours. Awareness of native bees has increased and we like to think we have helped you and many others learn more.    

All of these projects happen because at least 50 Linn Master Gardeners and a few Benton Master Gardeners got involved!   

Welcome a Rhododendron Into Your Garden This Spring

By Brenda Bye, Master Gardener Volunteer

Unknown Rhododendron Species. Photo by Brenda Bye. 

One of the reasons that I love spring in the Willamette Valley is the masses of colorful rhododendrons. It’s hardly surprising that this flowering shrub is so popular, because it comes in a wide range of sizes and colors. Many species are evergreen which is an additional bonus to add structure to your garden in grey winter months. Spring is a great time to plant rhododendrons and it’s not too late. 

There are about thirty species of rhododendron native to North America. They are found naturally in temperate deciduous forests and enjoy the acidic soil found in these wooded hills and mountains. If you are looking to plant a Northwest native, consider Rhododendron Macrophyllum, the Pacific Rhododendron. Its flowers can range from pale pinks to deep purples. It will grow to be 8 to 10 feet in the garden but can grow much bigger in the wild. 

Another interesting native is Rhododendron Occidentale, the Western Azalea. Its flowers range in color from white to pink, but all have a yellow spot on the upper petals that adds interest and beauty. Their flowers are known to be quite fragrant. Unlike the Pacific Rhododendron, the Western Azalea is deciduous and can have very pretty autumn foliage. 

Regardless of which rhododendron you choose, they require similar growing conditions: 

  • Acidic soil with a pH usually between 4.5 and 6
  • Soil that drains well and is rich in organic matter
  • A consistent level of moisture
  • Dappled shade, although it will tolerate a variety of sun exposures
Smaller rhododendron species, possibly Rhododendron Japonica, the Japanese Azalea. Photos by Brenda Bye. 

Having the right soil conditions is very important before you plant your rhododendron. Many of us in Western Oregon already have acidic soils but if you have questions about getting your soil tested or how to interpret a soil test, I would recommend reaching out to your local OSU Extension Office. You can also reach them online at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert.

Rhododendrons can be prone to root rot. That is one reason to mix in a good amount of organic matter into your planting site. Some sources recommend a mix of 50% organic matter. In addition to building healthy soil this organic matter will make sure the roots are getting oxygen and not becoming soggy. Organic matter also helps to feed your plant to keep it healthy. 

Smaller rhododendron species, possibly Rhododendron Japonica, the Japanese Azalea. Photos by Brenda Bye. 

Before you place your new rhododendron in the ground make sure to water it well. When you place the root ball in the ground it should be planted at the same level as it was in the pot. Then mulch it with a thick layer of pine bark mulch, which is good for those acid loving plants. Make sure there is a nice ring of space between your trunk and your mulch to prevent fungal diseases. As the mulch breaks down it will also provide more nutrients to your rhododendron. 

Although rhododendrons have specific soil requirements, they are very easy to care for once planted. The mulch and organic soil you used will help the soil have consistent moisture, but they may need additional watering in the heat of summer. They generally don’t need to be trimmed but do benefit from deadheading spent flowers. Rhododendrons appreciate a yearly fertilizer in the fall and a refresh of their mulch. 

Rhododendrons look great as foundation plantings around your home. Their range of colors will fit into any planting scheme and they will bloom for years to come. If you don’t have one yet, consider planting a rhododendron. 

If you are looking for more information about this flowering shrub, check out the resources of the American Rhododendron Society, www.rhododendron.org. And here is a very in depth article from the Pacific Horticultural Society about the Western Azalea https://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/western-azalea-beauty-and-fragrance/

Less water, successful veggies

By Diane Hyde, OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

Credit: Markus Spiske. Indeterminate (vine) tomatoes, especially earlier-producing small cherry varieties, produce flavorful fruit in a dry garden.

Summers are getting hotter and drier while water is getting more expensive. Some vegetables can produce acceptable yields successfully with no supplemental irrigation with some careful planning. Not all vegtables are suitable for dry gardening, and not all locations will support gardens without water. Dry farming has been done for millennia, and knowledge of the practice has been passed on in a few farming families and cultures.

Oregon State University Extension Dry Farming Project has focused on management strategies to grow with little or no irrigation. Yields may be 25% to 50% less than irrigated crops because plants are spaced out farther apart. Each plant can still have good yield, so a family dry garden might take more space to provide as much produce. Produce grown without irrigation has often been judged to be more better in color, texture and sweetness in taste comparisons. 

Successful dry gardening requires soil that will retain spring rain water. Clay soils and organic humus will hold seasonal moisture, but if the underlying ground has rock that drains well then water will not be available for the summer. Four feet of moisture-retentive soil is recommended. Shallow, rocky or sandy soils may not hold enough water for decent crop yields. The climate should have a wet period, like ours, that provides lots of moisture prior to the dry period. The dry garden area should have no competing trees, shrubs or turf sucking up the water before the vegetables can get it.

Sloped land holds less water than flat land. South-facing gardens lose more water to evaporation than north-facing gardens. A windy garden site will lose water from plant leaf evapotranspiration. A site that grows good weeds or healthy blackberries with no irrigation may be a good place to transform into a dry garden. 

To dry garden in summer, plant as early in Spring as possible to take advantage of seasonal rain. Soil in our area can often be prepared as early as February to April, but frost dates and soil temperatures limit which veg will grow that early. Seeds need to be planted in wet soil, deeper that the seed packet recommends if the surface has dried. Pre-soaking seeds 24 hours before planting helps them germinate and establish more quickly. Transplants may need to have all but the top leaves removed and the stems buried as deep as possible. Mudding in the plants at planting, filling the hole with water, will get the roots started well so they can deal with no more irrigation. 

Roots will reach deeper and wider in a dry garden, so more space per plant will be required, probably at least twice the space recommended on the seed packet. Because there is less water applied to dissolve ground minerals, lime applied to the soil before planting helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes, squashes, peppers and other veg that require more calcium. Mulches applied deeply after the plants are established will retain more moisture and keep the soil cooler. 

Indeterminate (vine) tomatoes, especially earlier-producing small cherry varieties, produce flavorful fruit in a dry garden if they are started well. Peppers, potatoes, winter squash, zucchini, melons, dry beans and corn are commonly dry-farmed. Beets, carrots, chard, kale, leeks, rutabagas will grow without irrigation, but will do better with occasional water. Fall-planted garlic, fava beans, root crops and leafy greens establish in the rainy season and mature without irrigation in early summer. Fall-planted broccoli, kale and other cool-season crops can grow through winter but bolt and flower quickly when warmer weather arrives. Spring-planted onions, celery, radishes and greens require irrigation to be productive. Choosing varieties with shorter growing periods listed on the seed packets means they might complete their growing cycle before the water dries up. 

For more information about dry vegetable gardening and a list of resources visit http://center for small farms.oregonstate.edu/dry farm.

Extension publication “Intro to Dry Farming Organic Vegetables” is available for free download at catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/EM9229. 

From the Demonstration Garden: an Introduction

By Sandy N, Master Gardener Volunteer

Credit: Sigmund

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.

hops on the vine
Credit: Markus Spiske

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.

person's hand holding freshly dug carrots with dirt on them
Credit: Markus Spiske

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.

Hands holding blueberry fruit
Credit: Markus Spiske

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! 

Starting from scratch and constantly learning

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.

Photo courtesy of Allison Socha

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. 

Orange California poppies in a beautifully overgrown garden.
Eschscholzia californica, or California poppy. Photo by Madeleine Maguire on Unsplash

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.

Get The Valley Gardener Newsletter to stay connected with our upcoming learning opportunities for gardeners.

Start your garden with these five resources you can access from home

Birdseye view of person and dog at outdoor table in a garden, working on a laptop.
  1. Start with a research-based introduction to growing food at home. Our favorite is Growing Your Own from OSU Extension. Learn when to plant, how to prepare your growing space, stopping pests and more: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9027
  2. Where can you get garden supplies? Plant Something Oregon has a list of suppliers that offer a range of options for safer shopping. Find them here: https://plantsomethingoregon.com/coronavirus/
  3. Where to get your soil tested? Master Gardener volunteers are not currently able to test soil pH, so gardeners will need to send samples to soil testing labs found in Analytical Laboratories Serving Oregon: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em8677

These labs can provide a variety of services. Most home gardeners who are growing plants in the ground will want to check soil pH as well as levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Many labs offer the option to request recommendations for amending soil when ordering their tests. Learn how to take a good soil sample to achieve the most accurate results with A Guide to Collecting Soil Samples for Farms and Gardens: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ec628

4. Use research-based resources to find garden solutions. OSU Extension offers straightforward tested resources to build resiliency for by growing gardens in this amazing virtual collection: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening

5. Connect with real gardeners to get help! Though our offices may be closed, OSU Extension Master Gardeners are still available to answer your gardening questions by phone or email. Please leave us a detailed voicemail and a callback number. We’re also checking email! Share your photos of plant or insect problems with us. Master Gardeners will research your question and give you a call back or send an email. In Benton County: (541) 713-5000 or email: bentonmg@oregonstate.edu In Linn County: (541) 967-3871 or email: linn.mg@oregonstate.edu

Before Reaching for Pesticides, Get to Know Beneficials – The Good Guys!

By Judi Di Bord, Master Gardener Volunteer

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! 

Ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) on an Common Yarrow's umbel (Achillea millefolium)
Ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) on an Common Yarrow’s umbel (Achillea millefolium). By Hélène Rival on Wikimedia Commons.

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 Extension Service:

  • 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.).
  • Legumes (Fabaceae)  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 kaber).
  • 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.

Suggested OSU Extension publications:

PNW550: Encouraging Beneficials in Your Garden

For kids:

EC1601: The Wildlife Garden: Dragonfly

EC1604: The Wildlife Garden: Lady Beetle

EC1605: The Wildlife Garden: Praying Mantis

Suggested websites:

National Pesticide Information Center, Beneficial Insects.

Penn State Extension, Attracting Beneficial Insects

“Talking less and doing more” empowers new gardeners

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

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

A parsonage garden

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

Rescuing bargain flowers

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

A new family garden

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

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

Seed to Supper : hands-on

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

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

Gardening 101 & 102

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

P.S.

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

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

By Elizabeth Records, Master Gardener Program Assistant

Previously published in Growing.
 

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

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

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

Plant Identification

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

Insect issues

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

Gardening guidance

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

Diagnosis and recommendations          

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

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

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

Benton County

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

Linn County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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