Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers are another of our favorite warm season edibles for the home garden. A cucumber harvested at the peak of freshness from the summer garden is hands down better than any cucumber you will ever get from the grocery store. Especially those tasteless green tubes masquerading as cucumbers you find at the grocery store during the winter. Eating seasonally is awesome-not only does it just taste better it is also more sustainable.

Growing cucumbers in Portland is relatively easy if you plant them at the right time. Cucumbers need ground temperature of 60-65 degrees and night air temperature of at least 55 degrees. Typically in Portland this is mid May to late June. If the weather is not warm and dry, cucumber plants will grow slowly and fall prey to disease.

Cucumbers cucumis sativus are a member of the cucurbits family along with zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins and melons. Cucumbers require a full sun location with at least 6 hours of sun per day. Cucumbers are rambling vine plants that need to be spaced 3-4 feet apart in all directions. We have successfully grown cucumbers up a trellis in our raised beds. These days there are also patio varieties that don't get as large and are excellent for growing in small spaces including containers. Check out patio snacker!

Cucumbers require very rich well drained soil. They will rot out in the thick clay of native Portland soil. Prepare your planting bed by adding fresh compost and organic matter like coco coir or earthworm castings. Better yet grow cucumbers in a raised bed filled with fresh planting mix.

In Portland you can plant cucumbers by seed or by transplant. Cucumbers are heavy feeders and benefit from an organic granular vegetable fertilizer in the planting hole. Additional applications of organic granular fertilizer are every 4 weeks during the growing season. Once plants have grown to a decent size and are beginning to set flowers and fruit I begin applying an organic liquid bloom fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.

Cucumbers are more than 90% water and are stressed by insufficient watering. Cucumbers want average to moist watering while growing, about 2 inches a week. If it is not raining you will need to provide supplemental water. The frequency and amount will depend on your location and soil. Water stress can be the cause of bitter tasting fruit and odd shaped fruit that is smaller in one end.

Cucumbers and other members of the cucurbits family have separate male and female flowers on the same plant that require pollination for fruit set. If your plants develop flowers and then the subsequent tiny fruits fall off, lack of pollination is the cause. Be sure to plant plenty of flowers in your biodiverse garden to encourage pollinators and keep them safe by growing organically and avoiding the use of sprays.

In Portland it is inevitable for cucumbers to fall prey to the dreaded powdery mildew. The leaves will develop a white residue and then shrivel up with crispy brown edges. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that flourishes in the summer in Portland. To prevent powdery mildew practice crop rotation, clean up all plant debris in the fall. During the growing season you can prevent powdery mildew by spacing your plants appropriately to provide good air circulation. Water the soil, not the plant, by use of a watering wand, drip irrigation or soaker house. If you use overhead watering the fungal disease easily spreads by splashing from leaf to leaf and soil to leaf.

Some cucumber varieties are for slicing and others are for pickling. In general you can harvest any immature cucumber variety for pickling. Our favorite all purpose variety is 'Muncher.'

Other varieties we have enjoyed growing are:
Homemade Pickles

Visit Territorial Seeds for an excellent selection of cucumber varieties tested for the PNW gardener. Portland Nursery also makes some suggestions for the Portland gardener.

Visit Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for an incredible selection of heirloom and rare varieties.

More tips on growing cucumbers from our friends at Rodale can be found here.

We've still got a few weeks until its time to plant cucumbers in Portland. I can hardly wait! We love to make sun pickles. I can just taste them.

Happy gardening, Jolie

Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy May Day!

Happy May Day Gardening Friends!

I love all the seasons and all the weather we are blessed with in Portland. However, I am super grateful for the warm spring we are having this year. I am celebrating Mother Nature's abundance on today's May Day/Beltaine. May Day is an ancient spring celebration and most are familiar with the tradition of dancing around a may pole. Beltaine is an ancient fertility festival with Celtic roots held on May 1st, in between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Wear green on May Day to celebrate nature.

As I walk through my garden I am delighted by elegant velvety bearded iris, orange and red azaleas, red rhododendron, fat purple spanish lavender blossoms, lady and sword ferns unfurling their new fronds, a carpet of fragrant wisteria blossoms littering the path. Native dicentra formosa has sprouted up tiny pink blossoms in every untended patch of the garden. Our beautiful magenta clematis just opened her very first blossom of the year. As the white and pink bleeding heart blossoms fade and drop they are replaced by the fat peony buds so close to bursting open. Our flowering dogwood tree is covered in creamy flowers. Dahlia sprouts spring from the warm soil pushing up their hopeful heads to the sun. Seeds for carrots, radishes, scallions, mesclun mix, runner beans, morning glory, sunflower and amaranth have sprouted. Everywhere I look in the garden it is a sea of green, so full of spring's lush leafy promise.

Butterflies dance, bees buzz and birds flutter in and out, splashing in the bird bath. I am celebrating spring. What better place to celebrate May Day than your own abundant garden? I honor Mother Nature in all of her aspects, and today in her fertile spring self. Enjoy the season friends!

Happy Gardening, Jolie

Thursday, April 30, 2015

For the Love of Dahlias

Oh dahlias, how I love you. For a professional and hobby plant nerd, picking a favorite plant is near impossible. I just could never do it. However, for certain dahlias are in my top 10 favorite flowers. They are just so beautiful in the summer garden. Their blooms are a favorite of brides everywhere.

Several years ago I started with just one dahlia variety, hollyhill black widow. She’s a beautiful dark deep burgundy red. I wore her in my hair and in my bridal bouquet when I was married. She is very special to me and was my entry into the world of dahlias. The year I got married I asked my 3 best friends to grow dahlias in their gardens to use in our centerpieces. I am confident that also hooked them on growing dahlias.

In my small yard with limited sunny space I’ve managed to squeeze in these other varieties: fire magic, John Kaizer and little scotti. I loved fire magic so much I accidentally planted it twice in my small flower bed! When there was no more room for dahlias in the ground I found a sunny spot for 2 containers. This year I’m experimenting growing dahlias in pots. I choose varieties Margaret Duross and Elijah Mason. I'm not sure if they will thrive in a pot. I was concerned the tall plants would become top heavy, so I have wedged the pots together to support each other and I plan on giving them some cage support as they grow. I'll let you know how it works.

I buy all my dahlias tubers from Old House Dahlias here in Portland. Mark is super knowledgeable and his selection is mind blowing.

Watch his video here to learn about planting dahlias.

Here are some tips for planting dahlias in Portland:

-Dahlias need soil temperatures consistently at 60 degrees. In Portland this is typically April-May.
-Plant in full or part sun. My dahlias are thriving in an area that gets dappled morning sun followed by hot afternoon sun.
-Dahlias need well-drained soil so they don't rot out in the wet clay Portland native soil. Amend your ground soil with compost, sand or aged manure.
-Dahlias are large plants that need to be spaced at least 2 feet apart from other plants.
-Plant tubers on their side 4-6 inches deep.
-Do not water tubers until they sprout.
-Dahlias like a low nitrogen fertilizer. I use fox farm big bloom liquid fertilizer.

For more information on planting, growing, and dividing dahlias see the Old House Dahlia website.

It is perfect weather to start planting your dahlias in Portland. So pick some new varieties and get growing.
Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Planting Tomatoes

Good morning gardening friends!

It is not yet time to plant tomatoes in Portland, it is still too cool. However, since everyone is so excited, and with good reason, about growing tomatoes I thought I would offer up some planting tips. In the upcoming May edition of the Concordia News I report on growing tomatoes. Did you know tomatoes are the number one home grown gardening plant in the united states? I would say we have a tomato obsession on our hands.

Spring has sprung full force in Portland. In May we are itching to fill up the edible garden for our summer harvest. Tomatoes are a favorite of gardeners everywhere. One of my all time favorite garden quotes comes from public radio show host Mike McGrath "Everybody wants to grow tomatoes. Tomatoes are the gateway drug to all of gardening."

Lest we get too eager to start planting tomatoes, here are some tips for successful growing in Portland.

• Tomatoes like warm weather. They need consistent minimal night temperatures of 55 degrees. In Portland this is typically between May 15-June 1. Planting your tomatoes too early will result in stunted or dead plants. Right now our night temperatures are averaging in the mid 40s.
• Tomatoes like warm soil. They need consistent soil temperatures of 60 degrees.
• Plant your tomatoes into the garden by transplants/starts. Portland does not have a long enough or hot enough summer to facilitate direct seeding tomatoes. If you want to start tomatoes by seed start seeds indoors in mid-February.
• Tomatoes need a full sun location, ideally south facing, where they receive 8-10 hours a day of sun. They will not set fruit in shady areas.
• Tomatoes are "heavy feeders” and appreciate being planted with an organic granular fertilizer, which will slow release to your plants through out the season.
• Tomatoes are prone to blossom end rot. To prevent the disease blossom end rot, add a calcium source into the planting hole, such as a spoonful each of rock phosphate and lime.
• Tomatoes have very long root systems (3-4 feet) and they need plenty of room to grow. Make sure your planting bed is deep enough for the tomato's roots.
• Tomatoes are big plants and need proper spacing to thrive. Give the plants plenty of space between each other, at least 4 feet wide per plant.
• Tomatoes need support. Tomatoes have dense branches laden with heavy fruit. Install a tomato cage or other support system at planting time to prevent later damage to your plant.
• Tomatoes don't need a lot of water. Be consistent with a deep watering once a week throughout the growing season. Inconsistent watering contributes to fruit splitting and blossom end rot.
• Tomato plants take several months to produce in Portland. Expect your harvest to begin in late August and end in October when cold temperatures set in.
• Rotate your crops. Do not grow your tomatoes in the same place every year. This will create disease and pest problems. Use a 4-year rotation for all edible crops!

Do you know what tomato varieties you will grow this year? High on our list of favorites are lemon boy, ananas noire and sungold. I can almost taste them now…

Happy gardening! Jolie

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Companion Planting in the Edible Garden

For several years I have taught gardening classes about companion planting. Companion planting is one of my absolute favorite subjects. Companion planting with annual flowers, perennials, herbs and natives is an awesome way to increase biodiversity in your garden and increase the health & productivity of your edible garden. Plus biodiverse gardens full of companion planted veggies, fruit, herbs and flowers are just beautiful!

Companion planting is a technique based on a long history of observations of the interaction between plants in the garden. Certain combinations of plants can add to, or detract, from the abundance and health of edibles in your garden by altering the soil, attracting or repelling insects or creating helpful microclimate. Companion planting has been used by gardeners for centuries. Some plant relationships have been scientifically proven, while others have been developed by trial and error over hundreds of years.

Some benefits of companion planting:

Fragrance: some plants have a strong fragrance that confuses or detracts pest insects from the crop they are looking for. Some strongly scented plants are: basil, marigolds, thyme, garlic, onions and chives.

Efficient use of resources: group vegetables together that have similar needs for fertilization, water, sun, and soil pH.

Providing physical support and space: Plant climbing plants with tall plants for support. For example: tall plants like sunflowers and corn can support climbing plants like pole beans and peas. The traditional “3 Sisters” method beautifully incorporates this kind of companion planting: tall corn for support, beans and peas climb the corn, and squash or pumpkins sprawl on the ground space below. Another example is planting leafy greens at the base of taller plants which will provide shade during the hot summer months. In my garden I rotate rows of greens with rows of roots to utilize above and below ground space.

Culinary use: In my garden I like to group things together that I cook together. For example: cucumbers with dill for pickling, beans with summer savory, tomatoes with basil, oregano & garlic for marinara sauce, and lettuce with edible flowers for salads.

Increasing biodiversity: planting a wide variety of plants together is more consistent with the way environments would naturally grow. Mono-cropping invites pests and diseases and causes a reliance on chemical herbicides and fungicides. With a biodiverse garden you will attract more beneficial bugs and pests will have a harder time locating the crop they are looking for.

Attract and maintain beneficial bug populations: We want bugs in our garden, lots of them are gardener’s helpers. Some beneficial bugs are pollinators, predators and composters. We need pollinators in our gardens for growing plants with separate male and female flowers such as: winter squash, pumpkins, zucchini, and summer squash. Some pollinators are: butterflies, bees, wasps, flies & beetles. We need predators in our gardens to control pest populations. Some predators are: ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantis, assassin bugs, ambush bugs, soldier bugs, tiger beetles, dragonflies and spiders. We need composters in our gardens to assist in breaking down organic matter and provide us with nutritious compost. Some composters are worms and pill bugs.

These are just some of the ways I incorporate companion planting into my garden.

• I grow annual flowers and herbs right in the raised beds with veggies. I place taller annual flowers & herbs like sunflowers, cosmos and dill at the back/northside of the beds so they don’t shade out smaller plants. I use midsized mounding annual flowers & herbs like calendula, alyssum, marigolds and german chamomile throughout around and in between veggies. Trailing annual flowers like nasturtium and petunia fit great at the edge of raised beds where they can hang over the sides.
• I keep a small bed of perennial flowers right next to my raised bed edible garden. I fill this bed with perennial flowers for attracting beneficial bugs as well as providing me with cut flowers for designing arrangements. Each spring I sow seeds for annual flowers to fill in around the perennials. Many of these flowers often self-sow. Some of my favorite cutting flowers from this perennial flower bed are dahlias, lilies, black eyed susan and annual sunflowers & amaranth.
• I can never have too many containers in my garden. Once the raised beds and in-ground beds are packed full I pot up dozens of pots and place them all around the garden.

Jolie’s favorite plants for attracting beneficial bugs to the vegetable garden

Annuals: alyssum, calendula, cleome, cosmos, nasturtiums, petunias, sunflower, and zinnia.

Herbs: borage, catnip, cilantro, german chamomile, dill, fennel, lavender, parsley, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage.
A word of caution about borage & mints: Mint and lemon balm spread rapidly with underground runners and is best contained in a pot. Borage drops its seeds and is a vigorous spreader around your yard. It took over my raised beds & lawn in one season. But, the bees love it.

Perennials: asclepias, aster, achillea, agastache, coreopsis, echinacea, gaillardia, leucanthemum, monarda, nepeta, rudebekia, scabiosa, and salvia.

If you are interested in learning more, I am teaching a gardening workshop: Companion Planting for Bees, Butterflies & Beneficials on Sunday 17th at 11:30am at Springwater Studio in Gresham. To register for this and other gardening workshops please visit the Springwater Studio website.

Happy planting!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gardening Services I Offer

Garden Design, Garden Consultation, Garden Coaching, Gardening Workshops

Dear gardening friends,

This may be the first time you are reading my blog or you may be acquainted with me. Here is an introduction to the professional gardening services that I provide. My name is Jolie Donohue and I have 20 years gardening experience. I am an expert in edible gardening-veggie, fruit, herbs as well as ornamental gardens-perennials for sun & shade, natives, shrubs. If you are looking for an experienced creative professional gardener, not a mow & blow service, look no further! I spent 7 years in the retail nursery, garden and floral industry. My horticulture education includes master gardener certificate, modern organic farming, landscape design and floral design. I truly love helping people create their dream gardens and become more successful gardeners.

DESIGN: Small and large projects welcome! Need a plan for your parking strip, foundation bed, or entire yard? I will come for an initial consultation to observe your space and discuss your needs. I will survey your yard and take measurements. I then create a concept and finally a scaled drawing and plant list. I strive to create unique designs that capture your personality, interests and needs. My designs utilize proven plant picks for the Portland area that provide beautiful year-round interest. I can help with plant shopping and plant placement as a part of your design. You will love your new garden!

CONSULTATION: Do you have questions about your edible and/or ornamental garden? I can come to your garden for an in-person visit. We will walk through your garden, identify plants, assess the health & placement of your plants, answer all your questions and get you the tools and resources you need to succeed.

COACHING: Is there a project you need help completing? I can work side-by-side with you to assist in completing your gardening project. We can address planting, pruning, and other garden maintenance.

PERSONALIZED PLANT SHOPPING: I spent 7 years working in the nursery/garden center industry and I am a skilled in plant selection. I can accompany you on a nursery shopping trip, answer all your questions and help you make great choices for your garden. I am also available to shop for you and deliver plants.

GARDENING WORKSHOPS/GROUPS: I teach gardening workshops around the Portland area, please consult my facebook page or blog for information on upcoming events. Do you have a group of gardeners that would benefit from a workshop tailored to your interests? I can custom design a workshop and bring it to your home garden, school or business. Some workshops I teach are Veggie Gardening 101, Companion Planting for Beneficials, Edible Flowers, Culinary Herbs, Small Space Edible Gardening, and Troubleshooting the Edible Garden.

Please contact me for rates and availability. I look forward to hearing from you.
Happy gardening,
Follow me on Facebook: Jolie Ann Donohue, The Gardening Goddess

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mid April Gardening Tips

Good morning gardening friends!

What a week of warm sunny weather Portland has had. Wow! The sunshine is good for us, our plants and our soil. However, please remember to keep your seed beds and new transplants watered in very well. New plantings don't yet have the established root structure to thrive in warm temperatures. You can assist them in reducing stress by making sure they are watered frequently until established. Also, if you've planted seeds for things like carrots, lettuce, etc. please keep your seed bed evenly moist to assist with germination. Tiny seeds find it difficult to germinate and sprout up through crusty dry soil. The seed bed doesn't need to be soaked, just evenly moist every day. Right now I'm watering my carrot seed bed once in the morning and once in the late afternoon/early evening.

In Portland our average last frost date is April 15th. This is important for gardeners because many seed packets and planting guides say things like "plant 3-4 weeks before last frost date or plant once all risk of frost is over." Could we still have a frost in Portland after April 15th? Absolutely! Is it likely this year given the nature of the warm winter and early spring? I don't think so!

Our nurseries and garden centers are filling up with sun loving summer veggies and herbs like tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. Just because retailers are selling these plants does not mean its time to plant them. Please keep also this in mind, just because our average last frost has passed does not mean the night temperatures are warm enough to plant your heat loving summer veggies and herbs. My general rule of thumb is, if you are wearing a sweater, using a blanket or your heater it is too cold outside still for summer veg. A more scientific rule is tomatoes need night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees. We have yet to reach night temperatures above 55 degrees, in fact they are averaging in the low-mid 40s. In Portland those ideal night temperatures typically arrive in mid-late May. This has been an unseasonably warm winter & spring, so perhaps they will arrive earlier.

Early planting of heat-loving summer veggies does not give you a jump start. If night temperatures are too cool it results in stunted or dead plants. Many years when there has been a warm snap in April I've planted my basil and a week later found blackened leaves and wilted plants when the weather turned cool again.

If you are interested in planting your heat-lovers with protection such a frost blanket, cloche, cold frame, greenhouse or wall of water/cozy coat, by all means go for it and have fun! I haven't invested much in season extenders, but that does not mean they aren't valuable tools in the Portland garden. Many gardeners have great success with pushing the limits on planting times with the aid of season extenders.

Friends, you know how much I love dahlias. I'm sorry to report it is also still too cool to plant your dahlia tubers. Dahlia tubers want soil that is consistently 60 degrees, often that is not until May in Portland. Take it from dahlia expert Mark Harvey of Old House Dahlias in Portland. This guy knows his dahlias!

Now that it is mid April it is a great time to plant seeds for sunflowers, runner beans, annual flowers. Sunflowers do great direct seeded into the warm mid-April soil. They are beautiful, make our bees so happy and in the fall provide a food source for our bird population. Here's some great information on growing sunflowers from our friends at Renee's Garden Seeds.

Both pole and bush beans are warm summer season veggies that we direct seed into the garden in May when temperatures are higher. However, the delightful heirloom runner bean is the earliest bean to plant in the garden. It can be direct seeded in mid April! If you haven't grown runner beans before you should, because they are awesome. They are a quick growing vine that produces edible pods and beautiful ornamental flowers typically in bright red. They can grow in sun or part shade, unlike other beans that require full sun. Hummingbirds love their flowers. This year I am growing 'sunset' variety that has pale peach flowers that I purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

Mid April is a great time to direct seed for annual flowers. This week I planted seeds for nasturtium and 4 varieties of annual poppies. Lauren's Grape annual poppy seed is sure to wow you! Make sure to keep your seed beds evenly moist.

For the remainder of April I would continue to plant your cool-season veggie crops. Here's the link to the handy veggie planting calendar from our friends at Portland Nursery.

Brussels sprouts-for fall harvest
Collard greens
Mustard greens
Parsnips-for fall harvest
Peas-sugar snap, snow & shelling
Runner beans
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache, mesclun mix & radicchio
Swiss Chard

Herbs: Most herbs would do great now-cilantro, chamomile, chives, dill, mints, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme.

WAIT until the warmer temperatures of May to plant your warm-season veggie crops:

Beans-pole & bush
Ground Cherries
Melons & watermelon
Summer Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Winter Squash

Tender herbs need warmer temperatures: BASIL, lemongrass, shiso. Also, tarragon can be a little fickle in the cool wet spring.

Have fun and please let me know if you have any questions. I hope to see you soon in a gardening workshop or neighborhood gardening group.

Happy gardening,