Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Gardening for a Long, Healthy & Happy Life



I believe that gardens are the key to living a long, healthy, and happy life. Yesterday I turned 47 years old and am feeling reflective. This morning I was in such gratitude to have the energy, strength, and stamina for one hour of gardening with the help of my husband. Every day I experience new wonder, joy, hope, and inspiration in my garden.

There was a time, in fact many years of my life, when I could spend whole 8-hour days and entire weekends, working in my garden. Memory of these extended physical days spent tending my garden followed by a long hot shower and happily exhausted falling into bed for the best night’s sleep is bittersweet. I grieve for a healthy strong body with seemingly boundless energy.

Autoimmune disease and a number of chronic conditions have claimed my body. Crohn’s Disease has uninvited set up her permanent home in my bowels, and stubbornly refuses to leave. Every month it seems there is a new diagnosis, a new condition, a new part of my body affected. From my eyes, mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, thyroid, liver, gall bladder, brain, blood, skin, muscle, to my joints there is a constant ongoing battle in my body.

On a daily basis I never know how I am going to feel or what I will be able to accomplish. My energy, fatigue, and symptoms are mostly unpredictable. Most days it feels I am losing, as if “my body” is something separate from me, my personhood.

My body is not my adversary or my enemy.

My illness is my greatest teacher.

For much of the last year and a half I was so angry I refused to embrace illness as yet another opportunity for growth. I raged against that idea. Crohn’s disease and my other co-occurring conditions were unexpected and I was not going to surrender without a fight, let alone accept them.

For the last 18 months I have been on a dizzying array of medications, protocol diets, supplements, and treatments. I’ve consulted with numerous specialists and completely altered my lifestyle. Crohn’s Disease has no cure and I will have it the rest of my life. Since diagnosis my goal has always been to achieve remission, which my understanding is complete absence of symptoms.

Despair, desperation, hopelessness, failure, shame, guilt, and fear have dogged me at every step of the journey.

Here I am over a year later and I still experience symptoms on a daily basis. I have some improvements, which I am so grateful for. I am also incredibly grateful I do not experience a terminal or degenerative illness. Due to my health, I can still only work up to 15 hours/week and I only have about enough energy for about 4-6 hours a day of activity. That has been a huge adjustment for this go-getter workaholic used to 50-60 workweeks balancing multiple jobs and commitments. Recent diagnostic testing shows my Crohn’s inflammation has not improved and my GERD esophageal ulcers are worse.

Crohn’s remission has remained illusive.

Quality of life and preventing the worsening of my illnesses is my new health goal.

Every day I try to be as mindful as possible to what my body has to teach me. As new insights unfold about my childhood, past traumas, my relationships, and my creative process my illness is really proving to be my best teacher. I can have good quality of life and a healing positive attitude no matter what physical symptoms I experience. Each moment, each day is a new chance to be fully present in acceptance.

Acceptance does not equal approval.

I can dislike and not approve of my illnesses all I want. I do have to accept them, because that is reality. I have accepted Crohn’s Disease, my other conditions, my fatigue, my symptoms, and this entire process. Acceptance is the beginning of my physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

My garden is an integral part of my healing process. Sitting in my garden as a place of sanctuary and restoration, I more able to stay fully present in my body in the moment through painful emotions and physical symptoms. Fully experiencing my garden gives me hope for the future and helps me look forward to all the seasons of my life. When I am fatigued, defeated, stressed, angry, and sad I come to my garden. I observe the plants, the flowers, the bugs, the birds, the animals, and the weather. A deep breath of nature is always healing.

The healing power of nature helps me even when I am not actually in my garden. When I have uncomfortable, intrusive, and painful medical procedures I visualize and meditate on my garden.

During my professional and academic training as a horticultural therapist I learned the evidence-based research behind the healing powers of nature. Views of nature lower blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. These are all tangible measures of stress reduction. When hospital patients have a view of nature they need less pain medication. When prison inmates have a view of nature they have less sick calls to the infirmary. Nature can stimulate long-term memories in people with dementia. Nature is so healing it changes people’s lives.

My garden is changing my life.

Tending my garden for short periods provides gentle exercise, keeps me limber, and reduces my muscle and joint pain. I sleep better on days that I garden. The chatter in my brain quiets when I garden. Due to my hypothyroidism and low iron I have poor circulation and feel cold most of the time, so gardening in the warm summer sunshine feels amazingly healing for my body. Gardening gives me an excellent opportunity to honor my energy level and not overdo it. Believe me, I want to overdo it and garden for hours, this has been a challenge for me to embrace “easy does it” and just slow down.

My garden puts my life in perspective. I tend my health and healing like my full-time job and I can easily become overwhelmed and completely self-centered. Taking restorative time in my garden brings me back to the present moment, acceptance, and gratitude. How could I not feel gratitude surrounded by all this beauty?

Turning 47 and dealing with serious health problems has helped me embrace what is really important in my life: my husband, my friendships, my creativity, my spiritual path, and my recovery. I want to live 50 more years, fully experiencing love, joy, and beauty. Tending my garden and restoring in nature are going to keep me physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy for the second half of my long life!

Happy Gardening,
Jolie

Monday, June 5, 2017

What to Plant in the June Edible Garden

Good morning Portland gardeners!

June has arrived and the garden is full of colorful blooms and lush shades of green. Wildlife is everywhere from bees, to butterflies, hummingbirds, and all kinds of other happy critters. My peonies, poppies, clematis, columbine, foxglove, Spanish lavender, and catmint are exploding in a riot of pinks and purples.

Every day I am harvesting from the edible garden several varieties of lettuce and kale, sugar snap peas, snow peas, scallions, garlic scapes, green garlic, and edible flowers like calendula, viola and 'tangerine gem' marigolds. Herbs are abundant and I am enjoying the flavors of fresh dill, basil, lovage, sage, rosemary, oregano, chives, thyme, savory, tarragon, mint, lemon balm, and lemon verbena. A handful of freshly snipped garden herbs adds a welcome layer of taste to my cooking.

Summer fruit season is highly anticipated. My pale pink strawberries are beginning to ripen, blueberries have set their green fruit, and the raspberries are covered in white flowers announcing what is to come later this summer.

You might wonder if it is too late to plant vegetables and herbs in your garden. It is not! Through the rest of June you can continue to plant all of the following crops:

Basil
Beans
Beets
Carrots
Celery
Corn
Collards
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Gourds
Kale
Lettuce
Melons & Watermelons
Peppers
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Radishes
Scallions/Green onions
Summer Squash
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Tomatillos and ground cherries
Winter Squash
Zucchini

June is still a good time to plant all annual and perennial herbs with the exception of cilantro and chervil that prefer the cooler weather of spring and fall.

Continue planting summer blooming annuals as companion plants to attract beneficial bugs and pollinators as well as provide colorful beauty!

This month as we are turning from spring to summer I think it is too late to plant fruit, as you probably won't get much of a harvest this year. It is too late to start any onions other than scallions/green onions.

As the weather is warming up it is also time to take a break from planting crops that like cooler weather: arugula, asian greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cilantro, cress, endive/escarole, fennel, kohlrabi, mustard greens, peas, radicchio, spinach, and turnip.

Its hard to believe but in July and August we will be turning our attention to planting vegetables for a fall and winter harvest!

Enjoy the sunshine and remember to keep the garden watered, unless we've received an ample rain.

Happy gardening!
Jolie

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mid-May Planting Warm Season Crops

Hi Portland gardening friends!

What a delightful two days of warmer sunny weather we are having! Given the 7-day forecast I am finally giving the green light for the planting of tomatoes and other warm-season crops. Remember these plants like night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees. Cooler wet weather will cause them to be stressed, stunted, and likely die.



Here are the warm season crops to start planting now:

Basil
Beans
Celery
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Gourds
Melons & Watermelon
Peppers
Pumpkins
Summer Squash
Tarragon
Tomatoes
Tomatillos & Ground Cherries
Winter Squash
Zucchini

Continue planting these crops we started planting in the cooler months:

Artichoke
Beets
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts (for winter harvest)
Cabbage (pick summer varieties)
Carrots
Collards
Fennel
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Parsnips (for winter harvest)
Potatoes
Scallions
Radishes
Rutabaga (for winter harvest)
Swiss Chard

Stop planting these cool season crops that do not like the warm weather of summer:
Arugula
Asian Greens
Cauliflower
Cress
Endive/Escarole
Mustard Greens
Peas
Radicchio
Spinach
Turnip

I also think it is getting a little too late to plant leeks, onions, and shallots with the exception of quick growing scallions/green onions.

Keep planting all your perennial and annual herbs, as well as any fruit like strawberries, blueberries, etc.

Enjoy the sunshine and remember to keep all those new transplants and seed beds well watered in as we approach that extreme temperature spike into the 90s on Monday & Tuesday.

Happy Gardening,
Jolie

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Growing Organic Cucumbers

May greetings Portland gardeners!


As the weather warms I am interested in once again eating fresh salads, after a winter of soups. And for me salad means cucumbers! Cucumbers are a favorite warm season edible for the home gardener. A cucumber harvested at the peak of freshness from the summer garden is hands down better than any cucumber you will ever get from the grocery store.

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

Cucumis sativus, cucumbers, are member of the cucurbits family along with zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins and melons. Cucumbers require a full sun location with at least 6 hours of sun per day. They are rambling vine plants that need to be spaced 3-4 feet apart in all directions. I have successfully grown cucumbers up a trellis in my raised beds. These days there are also patio varieties that don't get as large and are excellent for growing in small spaces including containers and raised beds. ‘Patio Snacker’ produced an excellent yield in my 2015 garden.

Cucumbers require very rich well draining soil. They will rot out in the thick clay of native Portland soil. Prepare your planting bed by adding fresh compost. Better yet grow cucumbers in a raised bed filled with fresh planting mix.

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

More than 90% water, cucumbers are stressed by insufficient watering. Cucumbers want average to moist watering while growing, about 2 inches a week. Water stress can be the cause of bitter tasting fruit and odd shaped fruit that is smaller in one end. How often you water will depend on your soil and location.

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

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

Compost has long been recognized by organic gardeners for promoting overall garden health. Beyond stimulating plant growth, compost and compost tea can actually fight off diseases by inoculating plants with beneficial organisms like bacteria, yeasts and fungi. These tiny organisms are beneficial if they form a physical barrier against pathogens, or if they effectively compete with or attack the plant pathogens.

To prevent powdery mildew on cucumber plants, apply compost tea to your garden soil and as a foliar spray on cucumber leaves at 2-3 week intervals beginning at planting time. The great news for NE Portland urban gardeners is that our neighborhood nursery Garden Fever Nursery at 3433 NE 24th Avenue carries freshly brewed compost tea for sale by the gallon.

Be sure to plant your cucumber plants with dill plants for pickling later in the summer. Garden on Portland!

Warmly,
Jolie


Monday, May 1, 2017

What to Plant in the May Edible Garden

Greetings Portland Gardeners,

Happy May Day! The first day of May has traditionally been celebrated as the beginning of the growing season, a time of cleansing from the winter, and purification of livestock. Children gave baskets of flowers to family, neighbors, and friends. All danced around the may pole. This seasonal holiday still has relevance to us in modern times. It is an excellent opportunity to take some time strolling in nature, get off the concrete and onto dirt or grass. Observe the spring unfolding all around us. Bring some fragrant lilacs, tulips, or iris into your home or office. This morning I cut and brought fresh lilacs inside, and now my home smells so delicious. Clean out your pantry and donate to the local food bank. Light a candle and thank Mother Nature for her brightness and bounty.



In my edible garden I am harvesting 2 varieties of kale, beautiful red leaf lettuce, and so many herbs! The snow and sugar snap peas are tall and luscious. They just set their first flowers, pods will soon be on the way in the next couple of weeks. Radish seeds have germinated, but the carrot seeds have been slow to sprout. I keep the seed bed covered with a frost blanket, so that marauding squirrels and cats can't destroy the exposed soil.




Lovage, chives, thyme, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, sage, chervil, marjoram, and sweet bay are all hopping into my culinary creations. Raspberry canes have leafed out and blueberry bushes are covered in flowers.



Last Friday was a lovely sunny 60 degree day and I did lots of gardening. The past few days have been overcast, cool, windy, and wet. The forecast this Wednesday and Thursday is for sunny and 80 degrees! Wow, that is something else. In case you are tempted to plant your tomatoes this week, please understand it is TOO EARLY TO PLANT TOMATOES! Tomatoes need night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees, and we are still averaging night temps in the 40s. Please wait a few more weeks for your tomato plants. Planting them too early only causes plants to be stressed, stunted, or die. You don't get any "jump start" by planting heat loving vegetable when the weather is too cool. For full information on organic tomato gardening please read this post.

There is still a lot you can plant in the edible garden including most herbs, fruit, and lots of "cool season" vegetables. With warming soil temperatures, May is the perfect time to direct seed your root vegetables. If you want peas get them planted now! Peas wither in the hot heat of summer, so they are ideally planted March-April, and as late as early May.

Here's what to plant now:
Artichokes
Asian Greens
Beets
Broccoli & Broccoli Raab
Brussels Sprouts
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Carrots
Celery
Collards
Florence Fennel
Kale
Kohlrabi
Leeks
Lettuce
Mustard Greens
Parsnips
Peas
Radishes
Rutabaga
Scallions
Salad Greens: arugula, cress, endive, radicchio
Spinach
Swiss Chard
Turnip



These are WARM SEASON crops that need night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees. Typically planted mid May to early June depending on the year. Please wait and do not plant these crops yet: basil, beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, gourd, ground cherries, melons, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, winter squash, and zucchini.


Even though it is still too early to plant tomatoes, I mark their space in the garden with tomato cages. That way I don't get too overzealous planting cool season crops and don't save any space for warm season crops with later planting dates. I keep all of my unplanted raised bed soil covered with a frost blanket too keep out the critters. Check out that fall-planted garlic!

Be sure to tuck in several annual flowers in your edible garden. They help attract beneficial bugs. Some of my favorites: alyssum, calendula, cleome, cosmos, marigold, nasturtium, petunia, snapdragons, sunflower, zinnia. May is the ideal month for finding the best selection of annual bedding flowers.



Happy May and Happy Gardening,
Jolie


Organic Tomato Gardening

Greetings May Gardeners!

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

It is especially tempting to plant tomatoes this week when the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday is 80 degrees!! However, I assure you it is still TOO EARLY TO PLANT TOMATOES.

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

Tomatoes like warm weather. They need consistent minimal night temperatures of 55 degrees. In Portland this is typically between May 15-June 1. Planting your tomatoes too early will result in stunted or dead plants.

Tomatoes like warm soil. They need consistent soil temperatures of 60 degrees.

Plant your tomatoes into the garden by transplants/starts. Portland does not have a long enough or hot enough summer to facilitate direct seeding tomatoes. If you want to start tomatoes by seed start seeds indoors in mid-February.

Tomatoes need a full sun location, ideally south facing, where they receive 8-10 hours a day of sun. They will not set fruit in shady areas.

Tomatoes are "heavy feeders” and appreciate being planted with an organic granular fertilizer, which will slow release to your plants through out the season.

Tomatoes are prone to blossom end rot. To prevent the disease blossom end rot, add a calcium source into the planting hole, such as a spoonful each of rock phosphate 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.

Established 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. Remember, new transplants are not yet established and need more frequent water, especially if it is hot and sunny.

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.

This year we are planting 3 tried and true family favorites in our garden: lemon boy, sungold, and yellow pear. What tomatoes are you excited about growing?

Happy gardening,
Jolie

Friday, April 7, 2017

What to Plant in the April Edible Garden

Good morning gardeners!

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

In my garden I am continuing to enjoy the long-blooming winter daphne and hellebores. Spring bulbs, hyacinth, daffodil, tulip, and grape hyacinth have sprung up all around the garden. Lungwort and brunnera sport bright tiny blue and purple flowers. Fiddleheads are unfurling on evergreen ferns. Clematis, lily, peony, and bee balm have all bravely poked up from the warming soil. And this week my bleeding heart set it's first gorgeous bright pink flowers.

It is still a little too early to assess but I think I have lost lemon verbena and 3 varieties of sage. This was some winter with multiple snow and ice storms December through March. Gratefully that is all behind us now. On March 21st we happily celebrated the first day of spring.

Our average last frost date in Portland was April 15th for as long as I could remember. The last 2 years I have found online sources citing March 15th as our new average last frost date, which made sense considering how early and warm our springs have become. So I have been teaching March 15th in my classes and writing. This year has been cool and wet with most early plants a month or so behind-cherry trees, daffodils, etc. When I did an online search today I found a confusing array of average last frost dates for Portland anywhere from March 11-April 26. I'm going with this source which cites March 11-March 31 has the average last frost period.

So regardless of the accurate average last frost date, 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 a few warm sunny days in the 70s, it is still too cold to plant your warm season summer crops!! Please no tomatoes or basil yet.

In my garden I have already planted from starts-snow peas, sugar snap peas, kale, lettuce, chives, thyme, parsley, cilantro, and marjoram. I've planted from seed mache and chervil. Later this month when the soil warms up and dries out a bit I will plant seeds for carrots, radish, beets, turnip, rutabaga, parsnip, celeriac, and scallions.

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)
Cauliflower
Carrots-great time to plant seeds in April
Cabbage
Collards
Fennel
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Mustard Greens
Parsnips (plant now for a fall harvest)
Peas-don't like heat so get them in by the end of April
Radicchio
Radishes
Turnip
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache
Spinach
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, 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. Wait until May to plant dahlia tubers.

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 email edible gardening consultation. Happy gardening and happy April!

Warmly, Jolie