Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Last week of March-First Week of Spring

Good morning gardening friends!

I somehow completely missed the spring equinox and first day of spring because I was housebound so sick with an upper respiratory infection I am calling the super virus from hell. It has been over 2 weeks and I am still plagued by this nagging cough. It has been such a mild warm dry winter in Portland I feel that spring started pretty early. Even so, I am still sad to have missed the official beginning of spring.

Spring is bursting everywhere in the garden. The ranunculus, primrose, cyclamen and tulips are all still a riot of color. The daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, hellebores and daphne have all begun to fade. Making way for the new blooms of tiarella, brunnera, mock orange and bleeding heart. The early foliage of clematis, peonies, hostas and lilies have burst from the warm soil and are reaching for the sky. Fern-lady, sword, autumn-fiddleheads are beginning to unfurl. Our four maple trees are leafing out in succession. I can see the wisteria blossoms beginning. The seeds I planted 3 weeks ago-peas, radish, orach and chervil have all germinated into tiny hopeful sprouts.

Today I spent a blissful 4 hours in the sunny garden. Glorious is the yellow-orange foliage of 'gold flame' spirea! Tedious is another spring of yanking out the loathsome bluebells we inherited with this yard. My muscles ache after 3 weeks of rest. It feels great to stretch, soak up the sun and sink my hands in the soil.

At one point I heard the familiar buzz of the hummingbird that hangs out year round in our garden. She buzzed right by me staying only for a few moments to happily feed on the pink blossoms of the native bleeding heart dicentra formosa. I try to plant year round nectar sources for our favorite little hummingbird.

In my perennial flower garden I grow 3 varieties of peonies, 5 varieties of dahlias, 3 varieties of lilies, bee balm, rudbeckia, echinacea, coreopsis, asclepias and clematis. I like to underplant these perennials with annuals every spring. Next month I will tuck in starts of alyssum and marigolds. Today I planted seed for dill and 4 varieties annual poppies. I am so excited for lilac pom pom, black swan, purple & blue bread seed types. Poppy seeds require light to germinate so I scattered them on the soil surface, lightly raked over and then lightly watered. The seed bed needs to stay evenly moist, not soaked, to germinate. I also planted seed for sunflowers and amaranth. Usually I plant these in April when the soil is warmer, but it's been so warm and mild I judged it safe to get started early.

By mid summer this bed will be a riot of color and provide endless cut flowers for our home. Not only is the flower garden beautiful for us to enjoy, many of these flowers provide food and habitat for bees, beneficial bugs, butterflies and hummingbirds. I don't use any chemicals, herbicide, pesticide, fungicide in our garden. That includes no organic chemicals or home remedies either because even they can harm bees. I aim for biodiversity, crop rotation and companion planting to attract beneficial bugs. By adding organic matter, organic fertilizer, cover cropping and no-till methods I nurture the health of my soil. Healthy soil=healthy plants. Following the concept of right plant right place my plants are less stressed out and therefore less susceptible to disease and pests.

Here are some tips on what cool season crops to get started planting now:

Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Kale
Kohlrabi
Leeks
Lettuce
Mustard greens
Peas-sugar snap, snow & shelling
Radishes
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache, mesclun mix & radicchio
Scallions
Spinach
Swiss Chard
Turnips

Herbs-chervil, cilantro, parsley, chives, lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme, mints. I think most perennial and cool season annual herbs would succeed now. I'd just hold off on until May on your heat lovers like basil.

Perennial veggies-
Artichokes
Asparagus
Rhubarb

I'd also go for it with your potato tubers! I feel confident it's warm enough and dry enough. If you didn't plant your garlic, onion & shallot sets in the fall you could do that now. And it's a great time to begin your onion bunches-this is the way we grow our favorite sweet onions "walla wallas" every spring for summer summer harvest.

Don't forget about your fruit. Late winter and early spring are the very best time to plant your fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and kiwi.

Happy planting!
Jolie

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gardening in Small Spaces

Gardening friends,
Several years ago I designed a curriculum and started teaching a gardening class about how to successfully garden in small spaces. This class was born out of my experience as an avid gardener for 20 years gardening in the full spectrum of living situations. Container gardening on the front stoop of my apartments, participating in 2 urban community gardens, farming every inch of an uncultivated backyard at a rental house, and my current situation. For 4 years I have joyfully lived and lovingly tended a bountiful garden at our secret garden cottage. Our yard is mostly shaded by 4 mature maple trees. We squeeze out veggies and herbs from every available spot of sunshine. As a gardening teacher, over the years, more and more students of my veggie gardening 101 class kept asking about how to garden in containers, how to garden indoors, how to garden in one raised bed. All of these experiences culminated in my popular small space gardening class.

If you think you don't have room to garden I challenge you to reexamine your space. In our current yard the only sunny garden space was along the pathway on the side of the house that had 2 existing raised beds and was storage for a composter and numerous trash and recycling bins sitting on a brick pad. This was the hottest brightest spot in the yard and it was not being utilized to it's fullest gardening potential.


In small spaces you have to really prioritize your needs & wants. It takes a good amount of organization and planning to not end up with a jumbled overcrowded mess of plants competing with each other. Every year I have tweaked and replanted this evolving garden to meet our needs. And it took some creative thinking to re-imagine the existing space into potential new gardening space.

I had dreams of an ornamental flower garden to nourish bees, butterflies and hummingbirds as well as provide me with cut flowers for my design work. I envisioned a bed overflowing with my favorite flowers: sunflowers, dahlias, lilies, poppies and peonies. So where a very old rangy 4 foot rosemary consumed all the space, it was removed 3 years ago, the gardening bed extended a few feet into unused space and lined with a river rock border. Viola! I had a new 4 foot by 6 foot flower bed.

In a very sunny spot of the side yard is a huge red flowering rhododendron. It is pretty for its few weeks of bloom in May and after that it's just evergreen leaves taking up prime sunny space. Rather than remove it, this year I pruned it from the bottom and within to open it up. This has scored me an additional 3.5 foot by 5 foot of growing space. Due to the rhododendron's mature root system I won't plant directly into the ground. Instead I am working on a series of containers to utilize this very sunny space.


We moved the composter to an unused part of the yard and this opened up space to build our 3rd raised bed for vegetables that can tolerate bright indirect light & light shade. We moved the trash & recycling bins to a new part of the yard this opened up a a very warm sunny space for our potato tubs and our 4th raised bed.

There were 3 stunted unproductive old blueberry plants surrounded by overgrown roses, ferns, ground cover and weeds. This area only receives bright indirect sunlight. Last year we removed the old blueberry plants and cleaned out everything else. After adding new compost and a brick lined border, the result was a 3 foot by 3 foot patch for our favorite 'Hood' strawberries. We had great success with Hoods at our last community garden and are excited to see how they will produce for us in this not full sun site. Right next door to this project is a 3 foot by 5 foot bed of mature raspberries that produce like crazy twice a year in the part sun/shade location.

Every one of our raised beds has a trellis along the backside for vines like peas, beans, and flowers. Utilizing vertical gardening will maximize your limited space.

3 of our raised beds are reserved for vegetables with companion plant herbs & annual flowers. One raised bed is reserved for my perennial herbs with annual herbs added each spring.

Our raised beds total 92 square feet of growing space. An additional 20 square feet is reserved for containers and 24 square feet of ground space for berries. This gives us a total of 136 square feet of growing space for edibles.

In this little amount of space, only 136 square feet we are able to grow:

Vegetables:
Beans-pole & runner
Carrots
Cucumbers
Garlic
Kale
Leeks
Mesclun Mix
Onions
Orach
Peas
Potatoes-5 varieties
Radishes
Raspberries
Strawberries
Shallots
Spinach
Summer Squash
Swiss Chard
Tomatoes-5 varieties

Herbs:
Basil
Chamomile
Chervil
Chives
Cilantro
Dill
Fennel
Lavender
Lemon balm
Lemon verbena
Lovage
Mints-peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint
Oregano
Parsley
Rosemary
Sage-bergarten, pineapple, tangerine
Savory
Scented geraniums
Tarragon
Thyme-english & lemon

That's a lot of variety and a lot of food!


My best tip for keeping our raised beds performing at their peak is to take care of your soil. Healthy soil=healthy plants. We utilize organic and no-till gardening methods for optimal soil health. We grow spring, summer and fall and let our beds rest during the winter season. With the exception of the perennial herbs and overwintering veggies-like garlic & shallots. Every spring we had a fresh load of organic compost to top dress our raised beds.

Every 2-3 months during the growing season I apply an organic granular fertilizer that I mix myself from alfalfa meal, bat guano, rock phosphate, kelp meal, greensand and lime. Depending on where the plants are in their growth stages I also apply a liquid organic fertilizer made from earthworm castings and manures. I like to use compost tea throughout the season as well.

I don't use chemicals of any kind-fertlizer, pesticide, herbicide or fungicide. Even organic products can kill beneficial bugs, bees and butterflies. I plant lots of companion flowers and herbs to attract beneficial bugs. I nurture my soil and don't disrupt soil life by tilling or turning over the soil.

In the late fall after crops have been harvested we plant cover crops, my favorite is crimson clover. We also attempt to rotate our crops each year, even in this limited small space.

Let me know if you have any questions or need advice on small space gardening. Your small space garden is only limited by the size of your garden dreams! Now get out there and get gardening!

Have fun,
Jolie

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gardening Design and Consultation

Good morning gardening friends!

I am available for gardening design and consultation here in the Portland metro area. I would love to hear from you and I appreciate your referrals.

Spring has sprung! And is time to start thinking about planning your new garden or cleaning up your existing garden.
Dreaming of a bountiful edible garden bursting with veggies, herbs and fruit?
Need help planning an organic garden to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds?
Want to do it yourself if you had answers to your questions and a little guidance?
Need the health of your plants assessed? Tips on pruning, grooming and care?

My name is Jolie and I am an organic gardening consultant and designer. I am not a "mow and blow" landscaping service. I am an experienced, passionate and creative organic gardening expert with over 10 years experience helping folks become more successful gardeners. I have certificates in home horticulture and organic farming. I specialize in all types of organic gardens: edible gardens-vegetables, herbs and fruit, small space gardens, perennials, annuals and native plants, container gardens, shade gardens, gardens for beneficial bugs, butterflies, bees and birds. I offer:

CONSULTATION: I come to your home and answer all your questions. It's like having your own personal gardening class. We can do a one time session or ongoing consultations. I will help you create a plan for a more successful garden.

DESIGN: I love listening to the needs of my clients and co-creating a beautiful garden that meets the unique needs of you and your space. Design includes a consultation, measurements of your yard, and scaled garden design and plant list.

INSTALLATION/MAINTENANCE: I can shop for your plants, plant your garden and maintain it.

Please contact me today for pricing and scheduling information. I look forward to hearing from you! Jolie

jolieann.donohue@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cool Season Planting & Spring Clean-Up

Hi gardening friends!

I hope you are taking advantage of this warm weather to start planting your edible
garden. Today's overcast skies and warm temperatures actually make perfect planting weather. This weekend we got our edible garden started by planting some cool season crops. Although, I should say that my husband planted our garden this weekend, while I supervised. Unfortunately I sprained my neck, so wearing a neck brace and sitting in a garden chair with our dog in my lap I relaxed and supervised my husband do all the planting.

In October we planted crimson clover cover crop in all of our raised beds. This overwintering cover crop helps boost the nitrogen absorption in the soil, prevents erosion and blocks weeds. It's both a soil booster while growing and as a green manure once it's been hoed. This weekend we lightly hoed it down, not to disturb the root mass too much but enough to kill the plants. We added some balanced organic fertilizer-bat guano, alfalfa meal, rock phosphate, kelp meal and greensand. We covered it all up with a fresh batch of beautiful black steamy compost and watered it in well. Our raised beds looked beautiful and ready to go!

We planted from seeds and starts:
Sugar snap peas
Lacinato kale
Spinach
Orach
Leeks
Radishes
Walla walla onions

The garlic and shallots we planted last October are beautiful green spikes of leaves reaching for the sky. We were going to plant our potato tubers also, however, it took hours to plant what seemed like hundreds of leeks and onions. So we saved potato planting for next weekend. I was super tempted to seed start some things I do in April like carrots, sunflowers and scarlet runner beans due to the consistently warm weather. However, remembering our low night temperatures and frost last week I stopped myself. In the heat of spring planting fever it is sometimes really hard to exercise common sense and impulse control! I also reminded myself it's not even spring equinox yet.

The herb bed was cleaned up as well. Sweet little chives poking out of the cool soil announce the arrival of spring. I can't wait for their cheery lavender flowers that I use in spring salads and omelets. Rosemary and sage are coming back to life. No sign yet of my oregano, which may have died during the winter. I pruned up all the dead growth off the thyme. I planted new cilantro, parsley and chervil. I just love fresh snips of tiny fragrant chervil during the spring. If you haven't tried it in your herb garden it doesn't take up much space and is super delicious. The seeds need light to germinate, so when planting don't cover them up but do keep them well watered-moist, not drowning.

I grow several perennial herbs in pots and some of them were becoming quite overgrown and tangled in their own roots. I divided and transplanted lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint and apple mint. I just love these fresh mints for summer iced tea and dessert garnishes. The entire mint family is best grown in pots where it's rampant aggressively spreading runners can be contained. That being said when dividing the plants in half for transplant, either give them to friends for planting or dispose of them in your trash can. Sent to your compost bin you could unintentionally end up with a garden full of mint plants!

That's all for now gardening friends. I'll keep monitoring our weather and update you on planting timing. Enjoy the dry weather and happy gardening!

Warmly,
Jolie

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Free Gardening Classes I'm Teaching Spring 2015

Hi gardening friends,
Please join me this spring for free gardening classes I am teaching at Portland Nursery. Please mark your calendars and register early as my classes always fill up fast. Follow this link for more information and to register.


Vegetable Gardening 101: Basics for Beginners
with Gardening Goddess, Jolie Donohue
9000 SE DIVISION • Sunday • March 22 • 1:00-2:30pm
If you are excited to grow your own food but have little to no experience, this is the class for you! Jolie will discuss the basics of site preparation, crop selection based on site elements, planting and care techniques. With her years of experience, Jolie will demystify growing your own food and share her tips and techniques for beginner success!


Vegetable Gardening 102: Crop Rotation & Companion Planting
with Gardening Goddess, Jolie Donohue
9000 SE DIVISION • Sunday • April 26 • 11:00 – 12:30pm
Take your vegetable garden to the next level. This is a great class for gardeners with a few years under their belt now wanting to dig deeper! Join Gardening Goddess, Jolie Donohue and learn the benefits of practicing crop rotation and companion planting for the healthiest, happiest plants possible. Drawing from a decade of gardening experience, Jolie will discuss tips and techniques for crop rotation, great crop combinations and methods for interplanting, and strategize about how to rotate crops in urban garden plots.

Container Gardening Design: Make & Take
June 7th
More information to follow soon!

Spring Fever!

Good morning gardening friends!

While the official first day of spring is not until March 21, spring has sprung early in Portland. My apologies to my gardening friends Crystal in Vermont and Mary in New Mexico who are still under many feet of snow. It has been a mild, warm and dry winter here in Oregon. The farmer's almanac points to an early and mild spring. I feel confident it's going to be a great gardening year, especially for tomatoes in Portland. So let the games begin!

Spring is bursting out every where in my garden. Blooming daffodils, crocus, cyclamen, hyacinth, primroses, checkered lily, grape hyacinth, ranunculus, anemones, hellebores, forsythia and daphne are prolific in color and fragrance! My hydrangeas, spirea and maples are leafing out. Perennials, ornamental grasses & ground covers are peaking out of the ground-oriental lilies, bearded iris, corydalis, brunnera, astilbe, japanese forest grass, sedums, creeping jenny, columbine, lady's mantle, lungwort, bleeding heart and even peonies! Herbs are coming back to life-chives, mint, lemon balm, lovage and scented geraniums. It is an exciting walk through the garden every day to see what is new. Several of my borderline hardy herbs like pineapple sage not only made it through the winter, they are still leafed out and were flowering through December.

Sun, rather than showers, are raining down upon Portland and day temperatures are peaking in the 60s. This is the most mild winter and early spring I've ever experienced during 15 years in Portland! This week we've had a couple of nights in the low 30s that brought frost. Traditionally our average last frost in Portland is April 15th and I've remembered years we had frost in May. Our average first frost is October 15th. The last couple of years our last frost has been in March and our first frost hasn't been until November or December so I think it's time to have our average frost dates updated. I'm itching to get our vegetable garden started, like I know many of you are! Though it is on the early side of "spring" I feel safe with starting cool season crops outside now. Please just monitor night temperatures for a hard frost and be prepared to cover your crops overnight with a frost blanket.

Cool season crops to start now:

Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Kale
Kohlrabi
Leeks
Mustard greens
Peas-sugar snap, snow & shelling
Radishes
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache, mesclun mix & radicchio
Scallions
Spinach
Swiss Chard
Turnips

I think carrot seeds need warmer soil to germinate, and this also goes for beets to some extent. So I'd definitely wait on carrot seeds until April.

If you want to plant lettuce just continue to monitor temperatures because overnight temperatures in the 30s and a light frost could take out the tender plants.

Herbs-cilantro, parsley, chives, sage, rosemary, thyme, mints. I think most herbs would succeed with early planting if our warm temperatures hold steady throughout March. I'd just hold off on until May on your heat lovers like basil.

Perennial veggies-
Artichokes
Asparagus
Rhubarb

I'd also go for it with your potato tubers! It's a little earlier than usual, but I feel confident it's warm enough and dry enough. If you didn't plant your garlic, onion & shallot sets in the fall you could do that now. And it's a great time to begin your onion bunches-this is the way we grow our favorite sweet onions "walla wallas" every spring for summer summer harvest.

Don't forget about your fruit. Late winter and early spring are the very best time to plant your fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and kiwi.

I just can't wait to get started in our raised beds this weekend. If you are new to gardening please join me on March 22nd for Veggie Gardening 101

Happy early spring my friends! Enjoy all that beautiful Portland sunshine.
Warmly,
Jolie

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Garden Dreams

Happy new year gardening friends!

It was a super busy end to 2014. We opened a new New Seasons Market in the middle of the holiday season. It's been an exciting, fun, and all-consuming adventure. Please stop by and visit my beautiful floral department!

A funny drawing by Joseph Tychonievich of green sparrow gardens is floating around the internet. He says "the short dark winter days cause me to suffer from S.A.D. Seed Acquisition Disorder. My gardening friends and I can all relate to this! During November and December I am busy with the holiday season and happy to have a rest from my garden. At the beginning of every year the new seed catalogs arrive in my mailbox. I spend hours pouring over each catalog, wrapped in a blanket drinking pots of my favorite tea. I devour, absorb, every detail of the new and old favorite varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers. I find myself in pajamas and bogs boots clipboard in hand patrolling my mostly dormant garden. I ponder what worked and didn't work last year. I make list after list of garden plans for the new year. I mark up my seed catalogs and make online wish lists. I dream and fantasize about peonies, dahlias, sunflowers and lilies. Each night I fall asleep seeing all the vibrant colors of the annual poppies I am currently obsessed. I eat, drink, breath all the potential my garden holds in the new year. It is an exciting, fun time of year that has endless promise.

When buying seeds I encourage you to purchase non-GMO seeds from a reputable vendor committed to heirlooms and organics and that has signed the safe seed pledge. You can find a seed vendors that have signed the safe seed pledge by following this link. Some of my favorite seed sources are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Territorial Seed Company , Seed Savers Exchange, Botanical Interests, Renee's Garden, The Thyme Garden Herb Company. And the very best place for dahlia tubers is Old House Dahlias.

If you are wondering where to start with your garden planning I suggest checking out some excellent free resources. Portland Nursery has detailed information for pacific northwest gardens such as a veggie planting calendar, companion planting, succession planting, crop rotation, and individual crop culture guidelines. Check out their free gardening classes.

Garden Fever nursery here in Portland has an awesome monthly gardening calendar They've got some great gardening events coming up.

Enjoy the season filled with garden planning and garden dreams!

In Health,
Miss Jolie