Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Monday, April 16, 2018

Small Space Edible Gardening

Spring greetings gardening friends!

I hope you are well, surviving the dreary dark rainy Portland weather, and holding out hope that soon sunny weather is on its way. When the weather is uncooperative for gardening I can return my attention to writing.

This morning I am reflecting on this spring’s Small Space Organic Vegetable Gardening class I taught at Portland Nursery. About eight years I ago I wrote this curriculum and starting teaching about small space gardening techniques. This class was born out of my 20 years experience as an avid gardener gardening in the full spectrum of living situations.

From container gardening on apartment front stoops, participating in the founding of two urban community gardens, to “homesteading” every inch of an uncultivated backyard rental house, as an urban gardener in Portland I have experienced it all!

During the last ten years of teaching gardening in Portland I have observed gardeners are increasingly gardening in smaller spaces. Raised beds and containers appear to be the preferred methods of edible gardening. I have adapted all of my gardening classes to reflect this trend.

As many of you know, for the past seven years Jay and I have joyfully lived and lovingly tended the bountiful garden at our secret garden cottage in the vibrant Alberta Arts neighborhood. Four mature maple trees shade the majority of our yard. We creatively squeeze vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers into every available spot of sunshine.

If you are interested in gardening and think you don’t have enough room, I challenge you to reexamine your space. In our own current yard, we observed the only full sun site was along the pathway on the side of the front house we share our property with. It had 2 existing older raised beds, neglected by previous tenants, full of weeds, and was attractive to neighborhood cats as a litter box. We've spent a lot of money, time, and energy nurturing those old raised beds to their current healthy glory.

This area was also storage space for a composter and numerous trash and recycling bins sitting on a brick pad. This was truly the hottest and brightest spot in the yard and it was not being utilized to its fullest gardening potential. Creative thinking was vital to reimagining this neglected space as a potential new gardening space.

In small space gardening you really have to prioritize your needs and wants. Successful use of your space takes some organization and planning to prevent ending up with a jumbled overcrowded mess of plants competing with each other. Every year I evaluate, adapt, and replant our evolving small space garden.

My initial dreams included an ornamental flower garden to nourish bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that would also supply me with cut flowers for my design work. I envisioned an abundant flower bed overflowing with my perennial favorites: dahlias, lilies, peonies, oriental poppies, bee balm, purple coneflower, and brown-eyed susan.

A very old rangy four-foot rosemary shrub consumed all the prime full sun in-ground space and it had to go! It took my then boyfriend, not even husband yet, Jay a half a day to tackle that project. Falling in love with a fellow plant nerd entails designing and building gardens together in the first few months of dating. Once removed, the garden bed extended several feet into unused space, and was lined with a cobblestone border repurposed for other parts of the yard. Viola! I had my new four foot by 6 foot flower bed.

On the other side of the raised beds lives a huge red flowering rhododendron. Absolutely it is very pretty in its few weeks of blooming glory in May. After that its just evergreen leaves taking up prime full-sun space. Rather try and remove it, I pruned it from the bottom and within to open it up. This strategic pruning scored me an additional 3.5 feet by 5 feet of growing space. Due to the rhododendron’s mature root system, I mostly plant annual cutting flowers here. In this new flower bed honeywort, strawflower, statice, cosmos, zinnia, sunflower and cleome have all flourished. I’m experimenting with the addition of perennial liatris, gladiola, and dahlias this year.

When the composter was moved to a shady unused part of the yard, this opened up space to build our third raised bed for vegetables that can tolerate bright indirect sunlight and some light shade. Moving the trash and recycling bins to a new part of the yard opened up a very warm and full sun space for both our fourth raised bed and multiple potato tubs.

In a part-sun space next to our abundant mature raspberry patch were three stunted unproductive old blueberry plants surrounded by overgrown roses, ferns, groundcover, and weeds. Removing the blueberry bushes and other unwanted plants cleared a 3 foot by 3 foot space that was lined with a repurposed brick border. This has been the ideal space for my 6 containers of mint plants.

Three of our raised beds are reserved for vegetables with companion annual flowers and herbs. One raised bed is reserved for perennial herbs. Herbs are essential to me so they were prioritized in the small space planning and design. Every one of our raised beds has a trellis along the backside for vines like peas, beans, and flowers. Utilizing vertical gardening techniques helps maximize your limited space.

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

To give you an idea of what is possible in your small space garden, here’s what we are able to grow in our 136 square feet:

Vegetables:
Beans-pole & runner
Broccoli
Carrots
Chard
Collards
Cucumber
Garlic
Kale
Kohlrabi
Leeks
Lettuce-butterhead & romaine
Mesclun Mix
Parsnips
Peas
Potatoes-5 varieties
Radishes
Rutabaga
Salad greens-arugula, cress, mache, orach & purslane
Scallions
Shallots
Summer squash
Tomatoes-5 varieties
Zucchini

Fruit:
Blueberries
Raspberries
Strawberries

Herbs:
Basil
Bergamot
Chamomile
Chervil
Chives
Cilantro
Dill
Fennel
Hyssop
Lavender
Lemon balm
Lemon verbena
Lovage
Mints-5 varieties
Oregano-2 varieties
Parsley
Rosemary
Sage-6 varieties
Salad Burnett
Savory
Scented geraniums
Tarragon
Thyme-4 varieties

That is a lot of variety of food in such a small space! Are you surprised?

In addition to planning, my best advice for success in your small space garden is remembering healthy soil=healthy plants. Utilizing organic and no-till gardening methods promote optimum soil health and keep my raised beds performing at their peak. I annually top-dress with compost we make and a purchased compost with manure & earthworm castings, fertilize monthly throughout the growing season, utilize compost tea and sheet mulching, plant companion plants, practice crop rotation, fall plant cover crops, and give the raised beds a rest during the winter season. I avoid the use of all chemicals, even organic pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide.

Small space edible gardening is fun, abundant, and extremely rewarding. It just takes a little creativity, planning, and care. Through personalized edible gardening consultation I have helped many urban gardeners enjoy more success from their small space gardens. I have consultation appointments available in April and May just for you! Shoot me an email jolieann.donohue@gmail for more information and to schedule.

Happy Gardening,
Jolie


Monday, April 2, 2018

What to Plant in the April Edible Garden

Good morning gardeners!

April heralds a bright beginning to the gardening season in Portland. As I write the sunshine has poked out behind the clouds and I think we may see a nice spring day unfold. If you did not plant any vegetables or herbs in March, you did not miss out and you are not too late. I, myself, held off on planting any vegetables or herbs until April. March weather is super unpredictable and still a chance of frost. When soil and air temperatures are cold, seeds are slow to germinate and small plants are slow to grow.

Our average last frost date in Portland is around March 15-March 31. Historically, our average last frost date was April 15 and I think we will be close to that this year. I see in the forecast that we are expecting frost tonight and tomorrow morning April 3. This cooler weather means we are still planting cool season vegetable crops throughout the entire month of April.

Here's what to plant now and the preferred planting method-seeds vs. starts:

Asian greens-seeds or starts
Beets-great time to plant seeds in April
Broccoli/Broccolini/Raab-starts
Brussels sprouts (plant in spring for a fall harvest)-I recommend starts
Cauliflower-starts
Carrots-great time to plant seeds in April
Cabbage-starts
Celeriac-seeds
Collards-seeds or starts
Florence Fennel-seeds or starts
Kale-seeds or starts
Kohlrabi-seeds
Lettuce-seeds or starts
Mesclun Mix-seeds
Mustard Greens-seeds or starts
Parsnips (plant now for a fall harvest)-seeds
Peas-don't like heat so get them in by the end of April-seeds or starts
Radicchio-seeds or starts
Radishes-seeds
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache, purslane-seeds
Scallions-seeds or starts
Spinach-seeds or starts
Swiss Chard-seeds or starts
Turnip-seed

April is the perfect month for planting potatoes from certified seed potatoes.

Continue planting artichoke and rhubarb plants, horseradish from roots, and sunchokes from tubers. February and March are the ideal time for planting asparagus crowns, though you could still try planting in April.

Allium family-plant leeks from seeds or starts, onions from sets or bunches, garlic from cloves or starts.

Runner beans are the only type of bean that can be planted early and will tolerate light or dappled shade. 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, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, winter squash, and zucchini. Seriously, just wait until later in May. Planting now does not give you a "jump-start" it actually only 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, cleome, cosmos, marigolds, nasturtium, and zinnia.

Mid-April is a great time to plant sunflower seeds directly into the garden. April is time to plant lily, gladiola, and liatris bulbs in the flower garden. Wait until May to plant dahlia tubers. April is when you will find the most excellent selection of perennial plants.

Remember to apply Sluggo organic slug bait all around your edible and ornamental garden. Reapply at 2 week intervals to keep slugs under control.

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

Warmly, Jolie

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

First Day of Spring

Hello gardening friends,

Happy spring equinox and welcome the first official day of spring! Have you got that spring fever gardening itch? Have you started planting or are you waiting until we are past the average last frost date?

I get a lot of questions about frost dates and I think there is a lot of varied information on the internet, gardening books, and at nurseries. According to this source from the Multnomah County Master Gardeners the average last frost date at the Portland Airport is March 28. In prior years our average last frost date was April 15th. However, due to climate change, most sources will now report an earlier last frost date anywhere from March 15-March 31. So, what is a gardener to do?

Considering the last five years of weather and gardening I do think we are mostly safe from a hard frost at the end of March. The current forecast predicts day temps between 40-60 degrees and night temps in the upper 30s-40s. Thats a big range and pretty typical for early spring.

And if you were wondering, I have not planted any vegetable seeds or starts in my raised beds yet this year. What I have done in my raised beds is top dress with organic granular fertilizer and bumper crop compost. Then covered them back up with a frost blanket to prevent marauding squirrels and cats. This way they are prepped, warm, and dry all ready for planting later this month.

Let me emphasize, you have not missed out if you have not planted vegetables or herbs during March. April is a fine and lovely month for planting all of your cool season vegetable and herb crops. To read the full story on March edible gardening please visit this blog post.

The cool season crops I recommend planting at the end of March:

Asparagus-from crowns
Garlic-from cloves
Horseradish-from roots
Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes-from tubers
Potatoes-from seed potato tubers
Onions-from bulbs or bunches
Shallots-from cloves

Plant from seed directly in the garden or transplants:

Arugula-direct seed is best
Asian Greens
Beets-direct seed is best
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Cress-direct seed is best
Escarole & Endive-direct seed is best
Florence Fennel
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Leeks-transplants are best
Mache-direct seed is best
Mesclun Mix
Mustard Greens
Peas
Purslane-direct seed is best
Radicchio
Radish-direct seed is best
Scallions
Spinach
Swiss Chard
Turnips-direct seed is best

I would hold off to plant carrots by seed until April. I typically plant seeds for carrots, scarlet runner beans, and sunflowers at the same time around April 15.

Don't forget about your herbs! Cool season annual herbs like chervil and cilantro can be planted in March, as well as all perennial herbs. You can even begin annual herbs like dill and chamomile from seeds or starts at the end of March. Just hold off on planting your hot season herbs like basil and shiso until May.

Remember I have only 2 more gardening classes this month. Both are fully registered, but you can still attend by emailing me at jolieann.donohue@gmail.com During April and May I am focusing on my garden consultation and design work. I would love to come visit your home garden for an edible gardening consultation. I am now scheduling appointments for April so contact me ASAP to ensure you are on my schedule! I will resume gardening workshops again in June.

Wishing you the happiest of spring growth and renewal!

Happy Gardening,
Jolie

Monday, March 5, 2018

What to Plant in the March Edible Garden

Good morning gardeners!

Our average last frost in Portland is March 15th and that is just 10 short days away! It is a good date to keep in mind when garden planning and planting. Light frost occurs at 36 degrees, frost occurs at 32 degrees and most annual vegetables and herbs are not able to survive temperatures that low. Please keep in mind the March 15th date is an AVERAGE based on previous years. We could still get an overnight frost. Also remember it is not officially spring until March 21st and March weather is wildly unpredictable with rain, hail, wind, and fluctuating temperatures averaging highs in the 50/60s and lows in the 40s/30s.

For optimal planting conditions not only do day temperatures need to rise, the soil needs to warm, and dry out some. In wet cold soil potato tubers will rot, seeds won’t germinate and transplants will struggle to grow. As March proceeds into April we generally have more ideal planting conditions.

In March think cool season crops. It is way to early for summer heat lovers like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, basil, etc--you will plant these crops after May 15th.

Working in wet gardens causes soil compaction that impacts plant health. I’ve had my raised beds "lasagna mulched," planted with crimson clover, and covered with a frost blanket that is keeping the soil warm and drier through the rainy season. Sometime soon I will prepare my raised beds by removing the frost blanket, hoeing the fall-planted crimson clover cover crop, leaving greens on soil, sprinkling on an organic granular fertilizer, adding a fresh layer of compost, and then replacing the frost blankets. By mid-end of March when I assess the weather the raised beds will be prepped and ready for planting.



Cool Season Crops to Plant in March:

Asparagus-from crowns
Garlic-from cloves
Horseradish-from roots
Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes-from tubers
Potatoes-from seed potato tubers
Onions-from bulbs or bunches
Shallots-from cloves

Direct seed in the garden with protection of a frost blanket, cloche, cold frame or plant transplants directly into the garden

Arugula
Asian Greens
Escarole & Endive
Florence Fennel
Kale
Lettuce
Leeks-transplants are best
Mache
Mesclun Mix
Mustard Greens
Peas
Radicchio
Radish-direct seed is best
Scallions
Spinach
Swiss Chard
Turnips-direct seed is best

I would wait a little later in March to see how the weather goes for planting: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower. Or if you want to plant these now from transplants into the garden be sure to keep a warming frost blanket handy or use some other kind of protection from a cloche, cold frame or low tunnel. I would also hold off until late March into April for direct-seeding beets and carrots. Make sure the soil has warmed up or their seeds won't germinate!

March is a great time to get started with your herb garden. Cool-loving annual herbs like chervil and cilantro should be planted now from seed or transplants. Biennial parsley can be planted now. Additionally perennial herbs like chives, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme can all be planted from transplants in March. This month is an ideal time to divide and transplant perennial herbs grown in containers like chives, lemon balm, lovage, and mint.

Late winter into early spring is the ideal time to plant small fruit and fruit trees in your garden. This time of year you will also get the best selection at nurseries. Consider planting a dwarf or columnar fruit tree such as apple, Asian pear, pear, cherry, or plum which all grow excellent in Portland. Fruiting shrubs, canes, and vines include:

Blackberries
Blueberries
Currants
Grapes
Hops
Kiwi
Raspberries

And don’t forget the strawberries!

Spring is right around the corner. Please email me to schedule and in-person or email edible gardening consultation. Happy Planting!

Jolie

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What to do in the February Garden

Good morning gardening friends,

Snow delicately falls outside as I write to you about spring gardening. From a writer's perspective this is an unexpected perfect winter day. Warmly snug inside, furnace roaring away, steaming mug of fragrant tea, and the blank page. In Oregon for 18 years, I still am definitively a fair-weather driver. I opted out of driving over the windy Glen Jackson bridge to work in Vancouver on this snowy morning.

Winter thus far has been very mild in Portland. We had our first frost temperatures around mid-December that brought a few days of snow and ice and the rare delightful white Christmas. Followed up by no other frost during the entire month of January. Temperatures were unseasonably warm with a notable lack of infamous Portland rain. This rare mild winter meant I continued to garden and hike throughout December and January. In fact the beginning of February I was pulling blooming weeds and battling slugs systematically munching through my kale that are both historically killed off by cold winter temperatures. Thinking winter was over before it even began, I pined for some good snow days that provided the excuse to snuggle indoors and work on organization and writing projects.

Interesting that winter has finally arrived in the middle of February bringing temperatures in the 20s, frost, ice, and snow. I hope you were not bit by the spring fever bug in the euphoria of early February's mild weather and planted anything in your veggie garden. Both February and March bring wildly unpredictable weather-sun, rain, hail, sleet, snow, wind, and frost. Temperatures can fluctuate from balmy 50s to frosty 20s. The first day of spring is March 20th when the spring equinox arrives. Our edible garden growing season is roughly March through October.

Historically in Portland our average last frost date was April 15. Climate change has influenced our frost dates, and now our average last frost date is March 15. A light frost happens at 36 degrees, frost is 32 degrees, and a hard freeze occurs at 24 degrees. Most vegetable plants will not tolerate a light frost at the beginning of their growing season. Though, some cool season vegetables like brussels sprouts, kale, and parsnips taste better when fall harvested after a frost.

Cool season veggies are those planted in the early spring and thrive in the cooler temperatures before summer arrives. Some of the vegetables & herbs we will consider planting later in March are:

Asian greens
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Chervil
Cilantro
Kale
Lettuce
Mustard greens
Peas
Radishes
Salad greens
Spinach
Swiss chard
Turnips

In March asparagus crowns, potato tubers, garlic bulbs, onion sets and bunches show up at nurseries. Joining them are perennial horseradish, sunchockes/jerusalem artichokes, and rhubarb. We can begin planting these in March when the weather is favorable.


As for February, it is a great time to assess your tools and supplies for the season. Twine, bamboo stakes, tomato cages, and fertilizer should be inventoried and purchased. Give your tools a good cleaning and take them in for sharpening. Make a garden plan and purchase seeds for the season. Remember to support seed companies who have signed the safe seed pledge. Always purchase organic and non-GMO seeds. Consider the diversity of heirlooms and the successfulness of regionally specific varieties. I purchase seeds from: territorial seed company, renee's garden, botanical interest, and seed saver's exchange. Purchase lily bulbs and dahlia tubers. I am a big fan of ordering from PNW nurseries: B&D lilies, Old House Dahlias, and Swan Island Dahlias.

Once the snow clears up head out to the nursery to purchase cheerful potted daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth. Colorful cool season annual primrose, pansy, viola, and cyclamen brighten up front porch containers. Perennial hellebores are blooming in full glory at nurseries in February. At the florist pick up a pussy willow wreath and blooming branches. I adore my annual late winter/early spring ritual of weekly rotating forsythia, pussy willow, magnolia, cherry, and quince branches.

February is excellent timing for purchasing and planting fruit canes, bushes, vines, and trees. My insider tip is you will get the best selection at local nurseries at this time of year and the cool weather is perfect for planting fruit.

Trees: apple, pear, plum, peach, cherry
Bushes: blueberry, currant, huckleberry, gooseberry
Canes: raspberries, blackberries, marionberries
Vines: kiwi, grape

Don't forget the strawberries!!

To learn more about successful organic edible gardening I hope you will join me at one of my upcoming classes! Please also consider an edible gardening consultation at your home. If you head over to my website you can subscribe to my monthly gardening newsletter. For more frequent gardening updates follow me on Facebook: The Gardening Goddess, Jolie Ann Donohue.

I look forward to hearing from you soon and sharing the magic of spring gardening that is right around the corner.

Happy gardening,
Jolie

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Season of Garden Dreams

Good afternoon gardening friends,

Today is the last day of 2017 and like most years it was filled with both the good and the bad. Thank you for sharing the gardening year with me by attending my classes, reading my blog, subscribing to my newsletter, and hiring me for your garden design and consultations. I am grateful for the many ways you all have supported my small business and the work I am truly passionate about. Thank you for sharing the gardening life with me!

For me January marks the beginning of "garden dreaming." During the cold, wet, and sometimes frozen winter months of January and February I am pouring over seed catalogs and itching to get outside into the garden. Funny that today, December 31st it is sunny and nearly 50 degrees. One week ago temperatures were in the 20s with snow, freezing rain, sleet, and ice. We went from a white Christmas to a Los Angeles winter in one week. I find the sudden alarmingly early spring-like weather distressing. I am confused because it does not seem like winter or the kick off of seed catalog and garden dreaming season.

Usually at this time of year I begin writing about seasonal affective disorder and what we gardeners humorously like to call seed acquisition disorder. A few years ago, a funny drawing by Joseph Tychonievich of Green Sparrow Gardens was floating around the Internet. He says, "The short dark winter days cause me to suffer from S.A.D.--Seed Acquisition Disorder.”

Portland gardening friends, I’m sure you can all relate to this! Maybe not so much today when the weather is sunny and warm. I think back especially to the winter of 2015-2016 when it rained so much enormous trees toppled over because their roots were no longer stable in the constantly saturated soil. And the winter of 2016-2017 when we had four snow/ice events by the second week of January.

After the autumn leaf raking frenzy and during the intensity of the holiday season we are happy to have a rest from our gardens. At the beginning of every year the new seed catalogs arrive in my mailbox. I spend hours excitedly pouring over each catalog, wrapped in a blanket, drinking pots of my favorite tea and devouring every detail of the new and old favorite varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Most years I find myself in pajamas and boots, clipboard in hand patrolling my puddle-filled, mostly dormant garden I gaze at the lush fall-sown cover crops and I ponder what worked and didn't work last year. I make list after list of garden plans. Dreaming and fantasizing about peonies, dahlias, sunflowers, and lilies I mark up my seed catalogs and make online wish lists. I eat, drink, breath all the endless potential and promise my garden holds in the coming year. My unchecked gardening enthusiasm for heirlooms can also promise the emptying of my bank account if I do not practice some restraint.

Heirloom seeds offer a diversity of old-fashioned quality, and are rich in taste, color and history. Heirlooms are commonly defined as open-pollinated varieties that have resulted from natural selection rather than a controlled hybridization process and were grown prior to 1950. Some of my favorite sources for heirloom seeds for the Portland area gardener are Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom, Botanical Interest and Renee’s Garden.

When purchasing seeds you will see many terms like heirloom, cultivar, GE, GMO, open pollinated, hybrid, organic and treated. All of these can be confusing and are often misinterpreted by the gardener consumer. I found a handy online resource from Renee’s Garden called Seed Buying 101: A Seed Gardener’s Glossary.

If you are concerned about GMOs, signers of the safe seed pledge do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds. A list of companies that have signed the pledge is maintained by the Council for Responsible Genetics, a non-profit with a stated mission of educating the public about and advocating for socially responsible use of new genetic technologies.

With so many seed choices, where does a gardener begin? First, make a list of all the things you are interested in growing, their growth habits and size at maturity. Take measurements of your garden and draw out where you might place things. You are invited to join me for organic gardening classes in February and March. Or schedule an in-person or email gardening consultation appointment.

Winter is the perfect season to explore gardening books like: The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, and The Timber Press Guide to Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy every moment of the garden dreaming season before the hard work of spring begins!


Happy New Year!
Jolie

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Autumn Care of the Herb Garden

Good day gardening friends!

The autumn weather has sure been mild and beautiful. Last weekend we had some blustery rainy storms, but this week has been magnificent. The sunshine super inspired me to do a little seasonal tidying of my herb garden.

As you know one of my four raised beds is solely dedicated to herbs. In addition I grow more herbs in about 20 containers. I love harvesting, pruning, and handling all of my herb plants because they release delicious aroma that sticks to my skin and my clothes. Herb gardening is soothing and relaxing.



At this time of year I am harvesting the last of my summer annual herbs like basil. Basil suffers with night temperatures below 55 degrees and we are currently averaging in the 40s. Time for basil plants to go! Harvest all the leaves and enjoy a fresh batch of pesto or chop and freeze basil leaves in an ice cube tray for winter use. An Italian inspired meatloaf with lots of fresh basil leaves is a comforting autumn dinner.

By now my dill is long past production so I pull out the brown stalks. Marjoram is considered a tender perennial typically grown like an annual, unlike her hardier cousin, oregano. I am harvesting a lot of marjoram these days before colder temperatures soon will be her ending. Marjoram freshly chopped added to mashed potatoes is divine. And goes well with the basil meatloaf I mentioned.

Remember some annual herbs prefer the cooler weather of autumn and are harvestable into the winter. Now is an excellent time for planting parsley, cilantro, and chervil.



My winter savory, thyme, and hyssop were all looking raggedy so I gave them a clean up by pruning them back by about 1/3-1/2 including all brown unproductive stems. Remember to utilize your herb clippings by drying, freezing, or using them fresh in recipes, tea, and infused water.

Chives are an herbaceous perennial herb, one of the first to sprout in the earliest of spring. My chives were looking pretty ratty so I sheared both the garden chives and garlic chives to the ground. I look forward to their return around April. If your chives are several years old and very big clumps, you can divide and transplant them now in the autumn.



Oregano is also an herbaceous perennial herb. Have you noticed that oregano's stems flop over and then root into the soil? Oregano is not as aggressive as mint, but it can be a bad neighbor in raised beds. To keep oregano in check, this week I pulled up any of those rooting stems, cut them, and brought inside for cooking. Periodically utilizing this technique will keep your oregano plants a more polite size if your garden space is small.

Autumn is the perfect time for pruning your lavender. Lavender is a woody evergreen shrub that benefits from an annual pruning in autumn. Prune back about 1/3 of the entire plant. Any wonky leafless brown stems can be pruned completely off down to the center of the plant.



Due to my small urban garden space I grow several varieties of lavender in pots. Container grown lavender really benefits from this annual pruning to keep in good looking shape and abundant flower production.

Rosemary is a hardy woody evergreen shrub that grows in both upright and trailing varieties. My 'Arp" rosemary just started blooming in October and last year this courageous plant bloomed the entire winter! Hungry hummingbirds that live year round in Portland will even come sip nectar from the tiny pale blue flowers during the cold winter months. I typically do not prune my rosemary in the fall. I don't want to interrupt the winter blooming and the plant is harvestable all winter for fresh culinary use.



Mint and related lemon balm are herbaceous perennials and soon will be dying down for the winter. Due to their aggressive spreading via underground runners I always recommend growing mint ONLY in pots. I grow 7 varieties of mint in pots. This week I trimmed back all the leaves and stems to dry for tea. Mint is very hardy, but since it is growing in pots I like to move these clustered into a sheltered location on my deck for the winter. Even in pots, mint plants will send roots out of the drainage holes and runners tumbling out the sides of pots. That is why I like to remove mint pots from their spot in the garden, pull up any roots, and interrupt their spreading. I store them on a solid surface like my deck or potting bench for the winter.

Much in my herb bed has been harvested or faded away. I gather up all my herb containers and place them directly into empty spots inside my herb raised bed. The exception is my mint pots. Any bare soil I am careful to cover with decorative rocks to prevent marauding squirrels from burying their winter nut storage! In November when the temperatures dip to frost and the rainy season is really upon us, I cover the herb raised bed with a layer of fallen autumn leaves (I have maple and gingko trees). This provides an insulating mulch over winter that I remove and compost come spring. By December I usually cover the entire herb raised bed with a frost blanket to help protect all those containers.



Herbs that are too tender for our winter frosts, like scented geranium and lemon verbena, I grow in pots. Come autumn I take them to the greenhouse where I work to overwinter. I can keep the heated greenhouse temperature at least 45 degrees even on the coldest winter days.

It just wouldn't be autumn in the herb garden without mentioning pineapple sage Salvia elegans. Pineapple sage is an herbaceous perennial herb that is borderline hardy in Portland. Being so tender most winters it dies in my garden. It is a quick grower and I always replant it early the next spring. As its name indicates, the fuzzy leaves are saturated with succulent pineapple fragrance. The bright red tubular flowers bloom in mid-autumn and in my experience continue all winter until a killing frost. Hummingbirds adore this nectar plant!!



Happy autumn gardening my friends. Take time to smell the herbs and savor the season. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Warmly,
Jolie