Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

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,

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What to Plant in the April Veggie Garden

Good morning gardeners!

April heralds a bright beginning to the gardening season in Portland. In the past two months I have taught a dozen gardening workshops around the Portland area and met close over 100 enthusiastic gardening students. If you have joined me in a gardening workshop, thank you!

Spring fever is upon us and perhaps you have planted some crops already and perhaps you are itching to get started. In April we are still planting cool season crops. In spite of the 60-70 day time temperatures, it is still too cold to plant your warm season summer crops!! Please no tomatoes or basil yet. Today's 85 degree temperatures were a one-day spring rarity.

Here's what to plant now:

Asian greens
Beets-great time to plant seeds in April
Brussels sprouts (plant in spring for a fall harvest)
Carrots-great time to plant seeds in April
Mustard Greens
Parsnips (plant now for a fall harvest)
Peas-don't like heat so get them in by the end of april
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, ecarole, mache
Swiss Chard

Continue planting artichokes, rhubarb, potatoes, leeks, onions, shallots, garlic in April.

Runner beans are the only type of bean that can be planted early. Plant some seeds now in April, like scarlet or sunset runner. They make beautiful ornamental plants grown up a trellis as a vine hummingbirds will love. Harvest the pods while very young and small for fresh green beans. Or wait until pods are large and dry out for shelling/dry beans.

Herbs-plant cool season annual herbs like cilantro and chervil. Plant all perennial herbs now. Plant hardier annual herbs like dill and german chamomile. Wait on tender warm-season annual herbs like basil and shiso until May.

Fruit-keep planting strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and fruit trees through April.

WAIT until mid to late May when night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees to plant warm season crops like: beans, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, winter squash, and zucchini. Seriously, just wait until later in May. Planting now risks stunting or outright killing these plants.

In April annual bedding plants become available at nurseries. Don't forget to interplant your veggie garden with annual flowers and herbs as companion plants for beneficial bugs. Some of my favorites: alyssum, calendula, cosmos,m marigolds, nasturtium, and sunflowers.

Thank you for reading my blog and I am happy to receive your gardening questions here in a comment. Please contact me at if you are interested in scheduling an in-person or email edible gardening consultation. Happy gardening and happy April!

Warmly, Jolie

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Herb Gardening

Good morning gardeners!

Herbs gardening is one of my most beloved pursuits. Growing herbs for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses is fun and satisfying. I love studying the lore and history of herbs through time in different cultures. Herbs are multi-use plants that are mostly forgiving to neglect from the gardener.

April is an excellent time in Portland to plant perennial herbs and cool tolerant annual herbs such as cilantro, chervil, dill, and german chamomile. Please wait until the warmer weather of late May to plant hot-season annual herbs like basil. The night temperatures are too cold in April for basil.

In this post I've included an introduction to culinary herb gardening that is adapted from my garden report in the April edition of the Concordia News. Please also consider joining one of my culinary herb gardening workshops.

Enjoy and happy gardening! Jolie

Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal and spiritual. Generally herbs are defined as any plant used for flavoring, food, medicine or perfume.

Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices based on the part of the plant that is used. An herb refers to plants used for their green leafy parts-either fresh or dried. A spice is a culinary product from another part of the plant such as seeds, berries, bark, roots and fruits. Some plants are used both as herbs and spices, such as dill weed and dill seed or cilantro leaves and coriander seeds.

Many herbs are beautiful as ornamental plants in the garden. In addition to their fragrance, herbs have a wide variety of colors, textures and shapes to delight all the senses.

Growth habits of some common culinary herbs are:
➢ Evergreen woody perennials: bay laurel, lavender, rosemary, and lemon verbena
➢ Evergreen perennials: thyme
➢ Herbaceous perennials: bee balm, chives, fennel, lovage, mints, oregano, roman chamomile, sage, tarragon.
➢ Biennials: angelica and parsley
➢ Annuals: basil, chervil, cilantro, dill, and german chamomile

Most herbs prefer well-drained soil and need full sun, 6-8 hours/day. Direct sunlight is needed to achieve maximum flavor and fragrance. Herbs grown in the shade become leggy and lack intense flavor. Some herbs that can be grown in partial shade are mints, lemon balm, chervil and wintergreen. Some herbs that can be grown in full shade are angelica, sweet woodruff and yerba buena.

Notorious for thriving in poor soil, most herbs do not need much fertilizer. Watering depends on the season, the location, and the type of herb. In the warm dry weather of summer, herbs grown in containers dry out quicker than herbs grown in the ground. Once established, most herbs are quite drought tolerant.

Pinching back new growth as it emerges will develop a bushier growth habit and a fuller appearance for basil, and most other herbs. Herbs that develop into a woody shrub, like rosemary or lavender, can be pruned after flowering. Herbaceous perennials like mints, bee balm, and sage can be cut back to a few inches above the soil during the winter.

Harvest fresh herbs as needed for cooking. Morning is the best time to harvest herbs, as that’s when they have the most flavors. Leaves have the highest levels of oils when the blooms just begin to appear.
To dry herbs, hang small bunches from the ceiling in a dry, dark location with good ventilation for one to two weeks. Store dried herbs in a clean sealed glass jar in a cool dark place. Consider making herbal pesto and freezing in an ice cube tray. These make great winter additions to soups, stews, sauces, and salad dressing.

Some flavorful and fragrant herbs to include in a tea garden are bee balm, german chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, mints, thyme, and yerba buena. Herbal teas can be made from dried or fresh herbs. The general proportions are 1 teaspoon dried herbs to 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon fresh herbs to 1 cup of water. When making iced teas, double the amount of herbs, to preserve flavor from ice dilution. To make tea, steep herbs for 3-5 minutes in boiling water, strain and serve. Steeping herbs too long causes tea to get bitter tasting.

Enjoy your exploration into the wonderful world of growing culinary herbs!