Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

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,