Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What to Plant in September

Good morning gardening friends,

Two days left of August and today's cooler cloudy weather may be a signal Autumn is on it's way. Indeed Autumn Equinox is September 21st, however often we have delicious warm weather through September. Late summer in Portland means a garden bursting with fresh delicious produce. Summer's bounty includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, melon, corn, beans, and basil! Stone fruit is amazing this year and local apples and pears are beginning to ripen.

Four short days ago we had 99 degree weather in Portland. During those sweltering temperatures it is hard to imagine now is the time to begin thinking about a fall and winter garden. But believe it or not July and August are the months to begin planting your garden for a fall and winter harvest. Unfortunately the bad news is you may have missed your planting window for some winter crops. The good news is there is still plenty you can plant in early September.

Portland’s warm fall and mild winter temperatures make an ideal climate for food growing into winter.
According to the farmer’s almanac our average first frost date has now shifted to November 15th. When thinking about planting fall and winter edibles, in general you want them to be at harvestable maturity by this average first frost date. So if you are interested in planting broccoli and the variety you select says 90 days to maturity you need to count back 90 days from November 15th and plant on August 15th. Other factors that effect plant growth to consider are the shorter day lengths and farther position of the sun during fall and winter.

Some crops that do well in the cooler weather of fall and winter are:
brussels sprouts
chinese cabbage
collard greens
endive & escarole
herbs-chervil, cilantro, and parsley
mache/corn salad/vit
mesclun mix
mustard greens
salad greens
swiss chard

You can also plant seed potatoes in the summer for a late fall harvest.

Many crops are intended to overwinter. You plant them in the fall and they mature for harvest the following spring or summer. Fava beans, garlic, onions and shallots are all overwintering crops. There are also many overwintering varieties of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and leeks.

A great resource for timing your fall/winter garden planting is the Territorial Seed Company. Check out their very informative fall and winter growing guide.

Some of the longer maturing crops are brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga and parsnip. It may be too late too plant those in September for a crop in time for winter. If you want to give it a try definitely use a transplant vs direct seeding and be prepared for season extension with a frost blanket or cold frame.

What I will be planting in my garden the first week of September:
From seed: arugula, endive, chervil, mache, mesclun mix, radish
From transplants/starts: beets, carrots, fennel, cilantro, kale, lettuce, parsley, peas-snow & snap, radicchio, scallions, spinach, swiss chard

In October I will plant bulbs for garlic and shallots to overwinter, as well as cover crops to help enrich the resting soil over the winter. And don't forget September and October are the perfect time for fall-planted spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and buttercups! Stay tuned for more details on these autumn garden tasks.

While you are enjoying the end of summer and reaping the abundant harvest of your garden, remember to grab a glass of iced tea and kick back with your fall and winter seed catalogs and planting calendar. When the winter weather sets in you will be grateful you planned and planted ahead for a cool-season harvest.

Happy Gardening,

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Healing Power of Nature

The Healing Power of Nature
Living with Chronic Illness

One week before my 14th birthday my mother died at age 42 after a three-year battle with breast cancer. I was staying with my father and stepfamily and I will always remember the pain of the phone call from hospice ringing in the middle of the night. The finality of that phone call tore into my tender 13-year-old heart. The next morning I went into the garage and found old seed packets for radishes, carrots and tomatoes. Armed with a shovel, seed packets and absolutely no instruction, I found a small patch of dirt between the house foundation and backyard lawn and I began digging. Repeatedly I slammed the shovel into the soil as an emotional release. I turned and turned the hard pack dry dusty soil. Without reading the seed packets, I planted them into the earth with my bare hands and watered them with the green hose.

What happened to my little first garden, I have no memory. What I do remember is the internal drive and instinct to seek out the soil and gardening as a means to cope with my intense grief. I imagine that experience was when the tiny seed of gardening was planted in my heart and where it lay dormant for the next ten years until I was again ready to put my hands into the soil.

The healing power of gardening was a powerful and patient seed, and at 25-years-old it awoke and gardening became my constant companion and teacher. Over the last 20 years of urban gardening I have gardened by any means possible; container gardening on apartments front stoops and patios, large scale backyard gardening, raised beds, community gardens, and everything in between.

My passionate love affair with plants has given meaning and direction to my often-confusing life. I believe in the inherent healing power of plants and nature and that is what led me in 2007 to my midlife career change to horticulture. In April 2015 I was blessed with the opportunity to start my own small business. As sole proprietor of The Gardening Goddess I happily devote myself full-time to garden design, garden consultation, garden writing, and teaching gardening workshops.

I was called to share my passion for the healing power of nature with others. In August 2015 I began a rigorous and prestigious horticultural therapy internship at Legacy Health with the goal of professional registration with the American Horticultural Therapy Association as a Horticultural Therapist. My internship was demanding and exciting providing with the opportunity for me to work in pediatrics, memory care, long-term care, intermediate care, skilled nursing, assisted living, and the Rehabilitative Institute of Oregon. I developed a therapeutic gardening program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This magical new professional life was a dream come true for me.

As the year progressed and my professional life became more demanding I struggled with several health problems. Ultimately in May 2016 a colonoscopy revealed ulcers in my small intestine and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease with no cure. Crohn's Disease is an auto immune disease that affects the entire gastro-intestinal system and is not completely understood.

How I personally experience Crohn’s Disease is a range of chronic GI symptoms including: mouth ulcers, acid reflux, heartburn, chest pain, asthma, abdominal pain & cramping, abdominal distention, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, anal fissures, chronic blood loss, anemia, and nutrient malabsorption. My entire body aches in a state of chronic pain, insomnia gives me little restful sleep, and I am constantly fatigued and feeling like I’m running on empty.

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness and managing the acute phase is profoundly life altering and the cause of deep emotional, mental, and physical stress. As an extremely driven and solution-oriented person I approached my illness with all the determination of an army tank. Within two weeks of diagnosis I was armed with my gastroenterologist, and also a new primary care MD, a new naturopathic doctor, and a new psychotherapist. I threw at my illness immunomodulation medication, multiple antibiotics, steroids, a multitude of naturopathic supplements, and a drastic change to a very restricted diet. I started a weekly routine of somatic psychotherapy, yoga, and meditation to dive into the emotional side of my illness. I was going to lick this Crohn’s Disease!

My body had other plans for me. The side effects from my medication caused me to be so nauseated I couldn’t see or smell food, let alone eat, without vomiting. I lost 20 pounds very quickly. I experienced cognitive impairment, normally a very organized person I could not remember details or words, I became easily confused while driving. Dizziness, vertigo, and headaches joined my plethora of symptoms. My right hip joint and muscles became so stiff and tight I could not cross my leg without excruciating pain. Muscle spasms and cramping became so uncomfortable my leg buckled when I tried to bear weight and walk. I was in and out of urgent care for painful urinary tract infections. All aspects of work and internship were becoming near impossible for me.

Within a month of diagnosis I had a complete physical and mental collapse. I was treated for dehydration and exhaustion. My “army tank” approach was not working. In the following months I was also diagnosed with gastro-esphogial reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, a multitude of food allergies, high cholesterol and interstitial cystitis. It was time to take a step back and listen to what my body and my mental health needed of me to begin my healing process.

Once again nature drew me into her supportive embrace and I discovered my healing process in my garden. My garden is the consistent throughout my life and especially during my illness. Most of the time I sit in my garden and do nothing. I find sitting very still and just observing nature to be so worthwhile. Nature encourages me to slow down.

My garden is my sanctuary. The trauma of being poked and prodded with weekly blood draws, injections, and being subjected to invasive medical procedures sends me running into my garden for refuge. When I feel defeated, hopeless, powerless, out of control, sick, in pain, fatigued, anxious, stressed, scared, depressed, confused, frustrated, or angry I come to my garden for release and comfort. My garden hears and holds all of my feelings.

In my garden my whole body relaxes. Here I breathe deeply and my muscles release tension. My heart rate calms and I let go of my worries. My pain and discomfort soften. Anxiety dissipates and stress melts away. Within a few minutes of being in my garden, my life makes sense and all is right in the world. Surrounded in nature, I am grounded, centered, and restored to balance.

My garden teaches me important lessons I relate to my own life. All plants have a birth, life, and death. Their life cycle includes both active growth and dormancy. Many plants experience disease, and often it is because they are weakened by stressors. I can throw lots of “things” at my garden like fertilizer, compost, weeding, pruning, staking, and ultimately I have no control over which plants thrive.

During the worst time of my illness, most days I could just muster enough energy to water and harvest my garden. The most minimal tending needed to keep it going. On good days I can spend an hour getting gentle exercise as I weed and prune. Every day I enjoy just sitting in my garden, listening to the breeze in the leaves, feel the warm sun on my skin, and watch the multitude of bugs and birds. The days I was too tired to get up, too fatigued to even read, I would lay on the couch and gaze out the window at my garden or look at the pictures in garden catalogs. Even a passive view of nature out the window or in print has healing powers.

There is always something new and delightful to notice in the garden. The abundant palette of colors, textures, shapes, sizes, fragrance, and tastes of my garden is endlessly exciting and surprising. Sitting in my garden inspires calmness and wonder.

As summer progresses I observe brilliant orange tiger lilies bloom next to dinner plate dahlias in a rainbow of colors. Beneficial bugs buzz everywhere I look. Damselflies, ladybugs, and a host of bees are regular visitors. Our resident hummingbird happily buzzes from splashing in the sprinkler to sipping nectar from purple agastache and brilliant red monarda blossoms. The tiniest “gray hairstreak” butterfly rests on a chamomile blossom and rubs her new wings together warming up for flight. Crow, blue jay, robin, swallow, finch, warbler, junco and chickadee alike take turns bathing and drinking from our birdbath.

Surrounded by nature’s wonder I will continue to seek refuge in my garden. No matter what my physical, emotional, and mental state my garden consistently provides an opportunity to restore my balance, find meaning in my life, and heal myself. During an adolescent time of great grief and trauma the tiny seed of gardening was planted in my young heart. The healing power of nature was a powerful and patient seed that has sustained me and grown strong giving my life meaning and joy. Nature is abundant in her healing power, she is always here waiting during every adversity, and here is where you will find me loving my life in my garden.

Warm Wishes for Your Vibrant Health,

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hello from the July garden!

Hello gardening friends!

I hope your spring and early summer in the garden has been fantastic and fruitful! I have been recovering from the acute phase of a new chronic illness diagnosis and on medical leave from most aspects of my garden business, including writing. I am spending a lot of time sitting and resting in my garden. My garden has become a place of sanctuary and restoration for me. Thank you so much to my husband for taking all of these lovely photos of our garden for me to share with you.

We just harvested our first batch of small cucumbers for pickling. My husband harvested our first batch of 'kennebec' and 'all red' potatoes. Last month we had an abundant harvest of beets and carrots that were succession planted to make room for the sunburst patty pan summer squash. We've eaten 2 of those this week. Our beans are sky high and the scarlet runner types are blooming red. Our salad garden did great this spring and we continue to harvest fresh sweet lettuce from a succession planting. The early spring planted kale ultimately succumbed to aphids and we pulled it all out. The tomato plants are 4 feet and loaded with blossoms. The fall-planted garlic and shallots have been harvested to make room for basil.

Our flowers are lovely this year. Companion planted alyssum, calendula, celosia, lobelia, nasturtium, petunia, snapdragon, statice, sunflower, and zinnia are a riot of color and beneficial bug activity inside and surrounding the raised beds. All 5 dahlia varieties are blooming in profusion. The orange tiger lilies began this week. Monarda, echinacea, and agastache are brightly blooming. Coreopsis, rudbeckia, and star-gazer lilies are budded and ready to bloom any moment.

Believe it or not it is almost time to start planting your garden for a fall and winter harvest! Please stay tuned for more details about that. My gardening workshops at Portland Nursery and monthly garden report in the Concordia News will resume in September.

Happy Gardening and Resting in the Garden,

Sunday, May 8, 2016

What to Plant in the May Edible Garden

Good morning Portland gardeners!

Happy May Day and the beginning of the Beltane season! Gardens are bursting with spring color and everywhere you look there is new growth springing up. In the edible garden we have been planting cool season veggies, small fruit, and fruit trees since March. Hopefully you headed my earlier warnings about planting heat loving summer veggies too early in your garden. The entire group of summer veggies requires night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees and soil temperature to have warmed to 90 degrees. April was too early for planting tomatoes. Planting too early results in stressed, stunted, and dying plants. I know, I know, you've heard me say it a hundred times this spring!

Here is the good news. I think you are safe to plant the heat-loving summer veggies and herbs now. The forecast looks good for night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees. However, my disclaimer is tonight and tomorrow night look to be a little cooler down to 49 degrees. So either wait to plant until Tuesday or plant today and provide some nighttime protection like a frost blanket for these two cooler nights.

Great news, right? I know you have been dying to get those tomatoes and basil planted!!

I would continue to plant most of the cool season veggies through mid May and then lay off until late summer planting for a winter harvest. Spring planted peas like cooler weather and wither in the warm summer temperatures, so I wouldn't plant them anymore. Likewise cool-season crops like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and lettuce tend to bolt in the hot summer weather so make sure you are planting summer varieties that are more heat resistant. The window for planting asparagus and garlic is over.

Here's what to plant in May:

Beans-runner, bush, pole
Brussels sprouts-for a winter harvest
Celeriac/Celery Root
Ground Cherries
Summer Squash
Winter Squash

All types of annual and perennial herbs can be planted in May. You can also continue planting strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, and fruit trees in May.

It is helpful to plant veggie starts on cloudy and cooler days than on sunny hot days. Keep your veggie starts well watered until they are established. If planting seeds remember to keep the seed bed evenly moist for best germination. This can sometimes mean a daily light watering.

Prepare your planting bed with a good dose of organic granular fertilizer and some fresh compost. Apply organic slug bait "sluggo" to your new veggie garden to prevent slug attack of all your new seedlings.

Happy May and happy gardening!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Portland

Hello gardening friends!

My garden report in the May edition of Concordia News came out this week. In case you don't live in the neighborhood, it was all about tips for successful organic tomato growing in Portland. Tomatoes are so beautiful and delicious. Did you know they are the number one gardening plant in the united states? They are!

I know tomato plants are available at nurseries and garden centers, please let me reinforce for the hundredth time, it is still TOO EARLY to plant tomatoes in Portland. They need night temperatures CONSISTENTLY above 55 degrees. That has not happened yet. In fact last week we had night temperatures in the low 40s. Typically night temperatures are 55 and above any time between May 15-June 1st.

Planting your tomatoes too early will result in stressed, stunted, and dead plants.

This is also the same for other heat loving vegetables: basil, beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes, tomatillos, summer squash, winter squash, zucchini. It is too early to plant these yet in your gardens without some kind of protection such as a frost blanket, cloche, cold frame, tunnel, or greenhouse.

Tomatoes are not difficult to grow if you keep in mind a few simple principles.

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.

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 like sun! 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 or bone meal 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. They 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 a few times per 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 have 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.

I'm looking forward to planting 5 tomato plants this year and can't wait until it has warmed up even more in just a few short weeks. Have you selected your tomato varieties? I look forward to hearing what you are going to plant this year!

Happy Gardening,

Friday, April 15, 2016

Too Early for Tomatoes

Good morning gardeners,

Brrr a chill is in the air today and yesterday morning. Despite the 80 degree temperatures a few days in April, it is still too early to plant your tomatoes. We love tomatoes, so eager for tomatoes! Tomatoes are the number one favorite garden plant in the United States. That is a fact. Tomatoes are the gateway drug to all kinds of other gardening, that is also mostly a fact.

Here in Portland we plant tomatoes when night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees. That is typically anywhere between May 15 and June 1st depending on the year. We have yet to see any night temperatures even reach 55 degrees. Please remember this as the temperatures begin to rise again on Sunday and nurseries begin filling up with tomato plants. Just say no!

The past 2 mornings I've used the heat at home and in my car, I'm wearing a scarf & light coat to work, and craving hot cocoa after being out in the chilly storm weather. These are all indicators it is not tomato planting weather. Stick to planting your cool season crops and you are guaranteed success. Venture into tomato planting too soon you will risk stressed, stunted, and dead plants.

Now I'm going to curl back up on my sofa under the blanket with a steaming cup of tea and a good gardening magazine.

Happy Gardening,

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spring Fever and Balance

Good morning gardeners,

The past few days in Portland have been lovely warm and sunny with unseasonal highs in the 80s. Early spring is an exciting and frantic time for gardens in the pacific northwest. There is always more to plant, always more to maintain, and endless projects in the garden as temperatures warm.

The seasonal nature of my business makes spring a very busy time for me. My husband and I haven't shared a day-off together since January. On his days off work he sometimes accompanies to the garden classes I teach just to spend time with me. Such is the ebb & flow of spring. After 6 weeks of 6 day work weeks this week I finally enjoyed an actual 2 day weekend. Just in the nick of time for my sanity and also to catch some amazing weather in my own garden.

My secret garden is my sanctuary and a place of deep restoration for me. However, as an urban gardener living right off of NE Alberta street my time in my own beloved garden is often punctuated by the sounds and smells of city life; lawn mowers, leaf blowers, delivery trucks, buses, and construction. Combined with a myriad of music, talking, dogs barking, and cigarette smoke from my many neighbors my secret garden is not always the peaceful place I intend it to be.

Yesterday I spent a blissful four hours working in my secret garden. Our wisteria out front is blooming and the air was scented with it's delicious vanilla fragrance. As the gentle breeze blew, delicate white petals rained down from the cherry tree behind our house. Birds sang, chirped, and happily splashed in my bird bath. The tiny hummingbird that calls my garden her home, sang loudly to let me know she was there and waiting for my red flowers to begin blooming again.

Blooming wisteria, lilac, dogwood tree, cherry tree, mexican orange, rosemary, bleeding heart, native bleeding heart, lungwort, iris, buttercups, tulips, primrose, and violets abound in my garden. The very first bright red rhododendron flower opened. Tightly budded herbaceous peonies and oriental poppies tease me, they are some of my favorite flowers and I can hardly wait. My clematis curls it's delicate tendrils towards the sky, beginning to develop pointy buds. Oriental, tiger, and maragon lily leafy stems all stand at least a foot tall.

The raspberry canes naked all winter have leafed out in a frenzy of green. Both delicate and chubby fiddleheads are unfurling on my many varieties of ferns. Our four japanese maple trees have leafed out once again enveloping our secret garden and little cottage into a shady summer retreat. Creeping jenny ground cover has sprung back to life creeping across the ground in a bright golden carpet. Hellebores and winter daphne begin to fade, making room for the much anticipated show of hydrangea and azalea.

Looking closely at the flower garden soil I notice 3 of my dahlia varieties have courageously poked their green heads out of the warm soil. Indeed the soil is warm. When digging holes for sunflower seeds and a new dahlia variety 'giggles' the soil in my bare hand is warm and moist on my skin. Perfect conditions for seed germination and dahlia tubers.

In the vegetable garden I planted seeds for three varieties of beets and two of carrots. The radish seeds I planted last week have germinated. Around the vegetable garden raised beds and containers I tuck in transplants of companion flowers-alyssum, calendula, lobelia, and marigolds. The herb garden adds dill and mexican oregano. With afternoon temperatures in the 80s I watered everything in deeply and know I will need to keep the soil consistently moist for ideal seed germination. The warm sun on my skin felt so good. Such a blissful ideal planting day in my garden.

Best of all, it was silent.

No neighbor noise, no big trucks, no construction, no leaf blowers. It was was only hours later when I realized how relaxed, grounded, restored, and happy I was that I reflected on how meaningful is quiet.

During my work weeks I spend time with a lot of students in my workshops and a lot of horticultural therapy clients in my clinical work. Sometimes I am teaching 2-3 gardening workshops a week and meeting up to 100 students. My horticultural therapy clients are a wide range of ages and abilities including developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental illness, seniors with dementia, people recovering from stroke, traumatic brain injury, heart attack, and injuries, inpatient & outpatient pediatrics. During my work maintaining hospital healing gardens I come into contact with a diverse group of patients, families, and staff.

On average I commute anywhere between 500-800 miles/month driving between my work sites all over the Portland metro area. At least twice a week I cross the bridge to Washington. This is a satisfying, abundant, and busy work life with my own business and as a horticultural therapy intern.

I crave quiet and nature for restoration. Contemplative time, time in my garden, and quiet all help bring my life back into balance. Did you know that being in nature and even passive views of nature from a window both help lower blood pressure & heart rate, slow breathing, and reduce muscle tension? Nature is medicine. We spend too much time inside in front of electronics.

Our spring equinox was on March 20th and that day marks the even balance of day and night hours. The spring season is about blossoming and rapid growth, but it is also about staying in balance. What do you want to blossom and grow in your life? How do you nurture that? What do you do to restore and keep balance in your life? The Gardening Goddess is here to remind you of wellness through nature. Enjoy!

Happy Spring,