Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Thursday, April 30, 2015

For the Love of Dahlias

Oh dahlias, how I love you. For a professional and hobby plant nerd, picking a favorite plant is near impossible. I just could never do it. However, for certain dahlias are in my top 10 favorite flowers. They are just so beautiful in the summer garden. Their blooms are a favorite of brides everywhere.

Several years ago I started with just one dahlia variety, hollyhill black widow. She’s a beautiful dark deep burgundy red. I wore her in my hair and in my bridal bouquet when I was married. She is very special to me and was my entry into the world of dahlias. The year I got married I asked my 3 best friends to grow dahlias in their gardens to use in our centerpieces. I am confident that also hooked them on growing dahlias.

In my small yard with limited sunny space I’ve managed to squeeze in these other varieties: fire magic, John Kaizer and little scotti. I loved fire magic so much I accidentally planted it twice in my small flower bed! When there was no more room for dahlias in the ground I found a sunny spot for 2 containers. This year I’m experimenting growing dahlias in pots. I choose varieties Margaret Duross and Elijah Mason. I'm not sure if they will thrive in a pot. I was concerned the tall plants would become top heavy, so I have wedged the pots together to support each other and I plan on giving them some cage support as they grow. I'll let you know how it works.

I buy all my dahlias tubers from Old House Dahlias here in Portland. Mark is super knowledgeable and his selection is mind blowing.

Watch his video here to learn about planting dahlias.

Here are some tips for planting dahlias in Portland:

-Dahlias need soil temperatures consistently at 60 degrees. In Portland this is typically April-May.
-Plant in full or part sun. My dahlias are thriving in an area that gets dappled morning sun followed by hot afternoon sun.
-Dahlias need well-drained soil so they don't rot out in the wet clay Portland native soil. Amend your ground soil with compost, sand or aged manure.
-Dahlias are large plants that need to be spaced at least 2 feet apart from other plants.
-Plant tubers on their side 4-6 inches deep.
-Do not water tubers until they sprout.
-Dahlias like a low nitrogen fertilizer. I use fox farm big bloom liquid fertilizer.

For more information on planting, growing, and dividing dahlias see the Old House Dahlia website.

It is perfect weather to start planting your dahlias in Portland. So pick some new varieties and get growing.
Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Planting Tomatoes

Good morning gardening friends!

It is not yet time to plant tomatoes in Portland, it is still too cool. However, since everyone is so excited, and with good reason, about growing tomatoes I thought I would offer up some planting tips. In the upcoming May edition of the Concordia News I report on growing tomatoes. Did you know tomatoes are the number one home grown gardening plant in the united states? I would say we have a tomato obsession on our hands.

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."

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. Right now our night temperatures are averaging in the mid 40s.
• 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 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. Tomatoes 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 once a 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 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!

Do you know what tomato varieties you will grow this year? High on our list of favorites are lemon boy, ananas noire and sungold. I can almost taste them now…

Happy gardening! Jolie

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Companion Planting in the Edible Garden

For several years I have taught gardening classes about companion planting. Companion planting is one of my absolute favorite subjects. Companion planting with annual flowers, perennials, herbs and natives is an awesome way to increase biodiversity in your garden and increase the health & productivity of your edible garden. Plus biodiverse gardens full of companion planted veggies, fruit, herbs and flowers are just beautiful!

Companion planting is a technique based on a long history of observations of the interaction between plants in the garden. Certain combinations of plants can add to, or detract, from the abundance and health of edibles in your garden by altering the soil, attracting or repelling insects or creating helpful microclimate. Companion planting has been used by gardeners for centuries. Some plant relationships have been scientifically proven, while others have been developed by trial and error over hundreds of years.

Some benefits of companion planting:

Fragrance: some plants have a strong fragrance that confuses or detracts pest insects from the crop they are looking for. Some strongly scented plants are: basil, marigolds, thyme, garlic, onions and chives.

Efficient use of resources: group vegetables together that have similar needs for fertilization, water, sun, and soil pH.

Providing physical support and space: Plant climbing plants with tall plants for support. For example: tall plants like sunflowers and corn can support climbing plants like pole beans and peas. The traditional “3 Sisters” method beautifully incorporates this kind of companion planting: tall corn for support, beans and peas climb the corn, and squash or pumpkins sprawl on the ground space below. Another example is planting leafy greens at the base of taller plants which will provide shade during the hot summer months. In my garden I rotate rows of greens with rows of roots to utilize above and below ground space.

Culinary use: In my garden I like to group things together that I cook together. For example: cucumbers with dill for pickling, beans with summer savory, tomatoes with basil, oregano & garlic for marinara sauce, and lettuce with edible flowers for salads.

Increasing biodiversity: planting a wide variety of plants together is more consistent with the way environments would naturally grow. Mono-cropping invites pests and diseases and causes a reliance on chemical herbicides and fungicides. With a biodiverse garden you will attract more beneficial bugs and pests will have a harder time locating the crop they are looking for.

Attract and maintain beneficial bug populations: We want bugs in our garden, lots of them are gardener’s helpers. Some beneficial bugs are pollinators, predators and composters. We need pollinators in our gardens for growing plants with separate male and female flowers such as: winter squash, pumpkins, zucchini, and summer squash. Some pollinators are: butterflies, bees, wasps, flies & beetles. We need predators in our gardens to control pest populations. Some predators are: ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantis, assassin bugs, ambush bugs, soldier bugs, tiger beetles, dragonflies and spiders. We need composters in our gardens to assist in breaking down organic matter and provide us with nutritious compost. Some composters are worms and pill bugs.

These are just some of the ways I incorporate companion planting into my garden.

• I grow annual flowers and herbs right in the raised beds with veggies. I place taller annual flowers & herbs like sunflowers, cosmos and dill at the back/northside of the beds so they don’t shade out smaller plants. I use midsized mounding annual flowers & herbs like calendula, alyssum, marigolds and german chamomile throughout around and in between veggies. Trailing annual flowers like nasturtium and petunia fit great at the edge of raised beds where they can hang over the sides.
• I keep a small bed of perennial flowers right next to my raised bed edible garden. I fill this bed with perennial flowers for attracting beneficial bugs as well as providing me with cut flowers for designing arrangements. Each spring I sow seeds for annual flowers to fill in around the perennials. Many of these flowers often self-sow. Some of my favorite cutting flowers from this perennial flower bed are dahlias, lilies, black eyed susan and annual sunflowers & amaranth.
• I can never have too many containers in my garden. Once the raised beds and in-ground beds are packed full I pot up dozens of pots and place them all around the garden.

Jolie’s favorite plants for attracting beneficial bugs to the vegetable garden

Annuals: alyssum, calendula, cleome, cosmos, nasturtiums, petunias, sunflower, and zinnia.

Herbs: borage, catnip, cilantro, german chamomile, dill, fennel, lavender, parsley, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage.
A word of caution about borage & mints: Mint and lemon balm spread rapidly with underground runners and is best contained in a pot. Borage drops its seeds and is a vigorous spreader around your yard. It took over my raised beds & lawn in one season. But, the bees love it.

Perennials: asclepias, aster, achillea, agastache, coreopsis, echinacea, gaillardia, leucanthemum, monarda, nepeta, rudebekia, scabiosa, and salvia.

If you are interested in learning more, I am teaching a gardening workshop: Companion Planting for Bees, Butterflies & Beneficials on Sunday 17th at 11:30am at Springwater Studio in Gresham. To register for this and other gardening workshops please visit the Springwater Studio website.

Happy planting!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gardening Services I Offer

Garden Design, Garden Consultation, Garden Coaching, Gardening Workshops

Dear gardening friends,

This may be the first time you are reading my blog or you may be acquainted with me. Here is an introduction to the professional gardening services that I provide. My name is Jolie Donohue and I have 20 years gardening experience. I am an expert in edible gardening-veggie, fruit, herbs as well as ornamental gardens-perennials for sun & shade, natives, shrubs. If you are looking for an experienced creative professional gardener, not a mow & blow service, look no further! I spent 7 years in the retail nursery, garden and floral industry. My horticulture education includes master gardener certificate, modern organic farming, landscape design and floral design. I truly love helping people create their dream gardens and become more successful gardeners.

DESIGN: Small and large projects welcome! Need a plan for your parking strip, foundation bed, or entire yard? I will come for an initial consultation to observe your space and discuss your needs. I will survey your yard and take measurements. I then create a concept and finally a scaled drawing and plant list. I strive to create unique designs that capture your personality, interests and needs. My designs utilize proven plant picks for the Portland area that provide beautiful year-round interest. I can help with plant shopping and plant placement as a part of your design. You will love your new garden!

CONSULTATION: Do you have questions about your edible and/or ornamental garden? I can come to your garden for an in-person visit. We will walk through your garden, identify plants, assess the health & placement of your plants, answer all your questions and get you the tools and resources you need to succeed.

COACHING: Is there a project you need help completing? I can work side-by-side with you to assist in completing your gardening project. We can address planting, pruning, and other garden maintenance.

PERSONALIZED PLANT SHOPPING: I spent 7 years working in the nursery/garden center industry and I am a skilled in plant selection. I can accompany you on a nursery shopping trip, answer all your questions and help you make great choices for your garden. I am also available to shop for you and deliver plants.

GARDENING WORKSHOPS/GROUPS: I teach gardening workshops around the Portland area, please consult my facebook page or blog for information on upcoming events. Do you have a group of gardeners that would benefit from a workshop tailored to your interests? I can custom design a workshop and bring it to your home garden, school or business. Some workshops I teach are Veggie Gardening 101, Companion Planting for Beneficials, Edible Flowers, Culinary Herbs, Small Space Edible Gardening, and Troubleshooting the Edible Garden.

Please contact me for rates and availability. I look forward to hearing from you.
Happy gardening,
Follow me on Facebook: Jolie Ann Donohue, The Gardening Goddess

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mid April Gardening Tips

Good morning gardening friends!

What a week of warm sunny weather Portland has had. Wow! The sunshine is good for us, our plants and our soil. However, please remember to keep your seed beds and new transplants watered in very well. New plantings don't yet have the established root structure to thrive in warm temperatures. You can assist them in reducing stress by making sure they are watered frequently until established. Also, if you've planted seeds for things like carrots, lettuce, etc. please keep your seed bed evenly moist to assist with germination. Tiny seeds find it difficult to germinate and sprout up through crusty dry soil. The seed bed doesn't need to be soaked, just evenly moist every day. Right now I'm watering my carrot seed bed once in the morning and once in the late afternoon/early evening.

In Portland our average last frost date is April 15th. This is important for gardeners because many seed packets and planting guides say things like "plant 3-4 weeks before last frost date or plant once all risk of frost is over." Could we still have a frost in Portland after April 15th? Absolutely! Is it likely this year given the nature of the warm winter and early spring? I don't think so!

Our nurseries and garden centers are filling up with sun loving summer veggies and herbs like tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. Just because retailers are selling these plants does not mean its time to plant them. Please keep also this in mind, just because our average last frost has passed does not mean the night temperatures are warm enough to plant your heat loving summer veggies and herbs. My general rule of thumb is, if you are wearing a sweater, using a blanket or your heater it is too cold outside still for summer veg. A more scientific rule is tomatoes need night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees. We have yet to reach night temperatures above 55 degrees, in fact they are averaging in the low-mid 40s. In Portland those ideal night temperatures typically arrive in mid-late May. This has been an unseasonably warm winter & spring, so perhaps they will arrive earlier.

Early planting of heat-loving summer veggies does not give you a jump start. If night temperatures are too cool it results in stunted or dead plants. Many years when there has been a warm snap in April I've planted my basil and a week later found blackened leaves and wilted plants when the weather turned cool again.

If you are interested in planting your heat-lovers with protection such a frost blanket, cloche, cold frame, greenhouse or wall of water/cozy coat, by all means go for it and have fun! I haven't invested much in season extenders, but that does not mean they aren't valuable tools in the Portland garden. Many gardeners have great success with pushing the limits on planting times with the aid of season extenders.

Friends, you know how much I love dahlias. I'm sorry to report it is also still too cool to plant your dahlia tubers. Dahlia tubers want soil that is consistently 60 degrees, often that is not until May in Portland. Take it from dahlia expert Mark Harvey of Old House Dahlias in Portland. This guy knows his dahlias!

Now that it is mid April it is a great time to plant seeds for sunflowers, runner beans, annual flowers. Sunflowers do great direct seeded into the warm mid-April soil. They are beautiful, make our bees so happy and in the fall provide a food source for our bird population. Here's some great information on growing sunflowers from our friends at Renee's Garden Seeds.

Both pole and bush beans are warm summer season veggies that we direct seed into the garden in May when temperatures are higher. However, the delightful heirloom runner bean is the earliest bean to plant in the garden. It can be direct seeded in mid April! If you haven't grown runner beans before you should, because they are awesome. They are a quick growing vine that produces edible pods and beautiful ornamental flowers typically in bright red. They can grow in sun or part shade, unlike other beans that require full sun. Hummingbirds love their flowers. This year I am growing 'sunset' variety that has pale peach flowers that I purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

Mid April is a great time to direct seed for annual flowers. This week I planted seeds for nasturtium and 4 varieties of annual poppies. Lauren's Grape annual poppy seed is sure to wow you! Make sure to keep your seed beds evenly moist.

For the remainder of April I would continue to plant your cool-season veggie crops. Here's the link to the handy veggie planting calendar from our friends at Portland Nursery.

Brussels sprouts-for fall harvest
Collard greens
Mustard greens
Parsnips-for fall harvest
Peas-sugar snap, snow & shelling
Runner beans
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache, mesclun mix & radicchio
Swiss Chard

Herbs: Most herbs would do great now-cilantro, chamomile, chives, dill, mints, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme.

WAIT until the warmer temperatures of May to plant your warm-season veggie crops:

Beans-pole & bush
Ground Cherries
Melons & watermelon
Summer Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Winter Squash

Tender herbs need warmer temperatures: BASIL, lemongrass, shiso. Also, tarragon can be a little fickle in the cool wet spring.

Have fun and please let me know if you have any questions. I hope to see you soon in a gardening workshop or neighborhood gardening group.

Happy gardening,

Upcoming Gardening Classes

Good morning gardeners!

Please join me this Sunday April 26th at 11am for free gardening class Veggie Gardening 102: Crop Rotation & Companion Planting at Portland Nursery on Division. It will be a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing you there!

Vegetable Gardening 102: Crop Rotation & Companion Planting
with Gardening Goddess, Jolie Donohue
Take your vegetable garden to the next level. This is a great class for gardeners with a few years under their belt now wanting to dig deeper! Join Gardening Goddess, Jolie Donohue and learn the benefits of practicing crop rotation and companion planting for the healthiest, happiest plants possible. Drawing from a decade of gardening experience, Jolie will discuss tips and techniques for crop rotation, great crop combinations and methods for interplanting, and strategize about how to rotate crops in urban garden plots.

9000 SE DIVISION • Sunday • April 26 • 11:00 – 12:30pm
To register for this class please visit the Portland Nursery website

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Planting Potatoes

Good morning gardening friends!
The annual planting of potatoes in our garden is by far my husband's favorite gardening activity. Selecting the varieties, planting them, nurturing them, watching their growth, then finally counting the harvest! This year we selected 5 varieties to grow in 5 containers: german butterball, all blue, cherry red, rose finn apple fingerling and russian banana fingerling. In the past we have grown potatoes in the ground and decided containers were a better use of our small urban growing space. We use 4 potato tubs, purchased at Portland Nursery, and one large storage tub we had laying around.

Growing your own potatoes is a very thrifty thing to do. They are easy to grow, don't need a lot of care and aren't picky about the soil they are in. They are also super cheap to buy. My seed potatoes cost between .10 and .39 cents each for one seed potato. That one seed potato will then yield about 10 more potatoes. The Territorial Seed Catalog says standard potatoes will yield about 10 times the amount originally planted and fingerlings will yield from 15 to 20 times the amount originally planted. So I just spent $1.22 total for my seed potatoes which at harvest will yield about 60 delicious homegrown organic potatoes. Yes, that is correct. Quite a bargain, eh? Grow potatoes! They store well, they are nutritious & filling, and very versatile in lots of recipes.

Here are some tips for potato growing. Potatoes like loose, well-drained soil. But, really, why do I even say that because that is what MOST plants want. Here in Portland plant potatoes in the late winter and early spring, up until the average last frost date. Which for Portland is April 15th. Right now is a perfect time for planting potatoes. When planting potatoes in containers, they do well starting out in just a few inches of straight compost, just enough to cover them. At planting I water them in with liquid seaweed. As your potatoes begin to grow and sprout more leaves on taller stalks you can add another layer of compost covering a few inches of the stalk base. This layering of compost as the plant grows encourages more new root "arms" with more layers of potatoes growing underground.

To plant potatoes used certified seed potato from a reputable nursery or seed catalog. If your seed potato is small you can plant it whole. If it's large you can cut it into smaller pieces, but make sure each piece has three "eyes" sprouting. After cutting your seed potatoes dust them with powdered sulfur which will prevent fungal disease and let them air dry for a few days prior to planting. I eliminate this entire process by purchasing very small seed potatoes.

Potatoes want full sun and a weed-free growing area. Potatoes like a fertilizer high in Phosphorus (that's the "P" in your N-P-K ratio) and low in Nitrogen. I use Rock Phosphate which is a great natural source of Phosphorus. Naomi Montacre of Naomi's Organic Farm Supply in Portland describes Rock Phosphate as "soft colloidal phosphates mineralized from ancient sea fossils and shells, this is a good slow release source of phosphorous, calcium and trace minerals." You can also be thrifty and save money by purchasing your Rock Phosphate in bulk at your local nursery.

All right friends, the one other thing I know about potatoes is it's super fun to dig them up and harvest! Please let me know if you have any questions. Happy Spring! Jolie

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Organic Gardening Workshop Series at Springwater Studio

Gardening Friends,
I am happy to announce an exciting collaboration with Springwater Studio in Gresham. I will be teaching an organic gardening workshop series beginning this Sunday April 19th.

Sunday 4/19 11:30-1:30 Veggie Gardening 101: Basics for Beginners
If you are excited to grow your own food but have little to no experience, this is the class for you! Jolie will discuss the basics of organic gardening including site preparation, crop selection based on site elements, planting and care techniques. With her decades of gardening experience, Jolie will demystify growing your own food and share her tips and techniques for beginner success!

Sunday 5/3 11:30-1:30 Small Space Veggie Gardening
No space is too small to grow some of your own food! Jolie helps you determine which crops are right for you and discusses planning, planting and maintaining bountiful edible gardens in the smallest spaces. Gardening in containers, raised beds and vertical gardening will be explored.

Sunday 5/17 11:30-1:30 Companion Planting and Gardens for Bees, Butterflies and Beneficials
Join Jolie to learn the benefits of companion planting for the healthiest, happiest plants possible. She will discuss tips and techniques for great crop combinations and methods of interplanting veggies with flowers and herbs. Learn strategies to make your urban garden a year-round haven for our favorite beneficial winged creatures.

Sunday 5/31 11:30-1:30 Culinary Herb Gardening
Fragrant, delicious herbs awaken the senses and enliven culinary creations. Jolie introduces a diverse palette of culinary herbs and how to grow them successfully in your garden.

Sunday 6/14 11:30-1:30 Edible Flower Gardening
An avid kitchen-gardener cook, Jolie is passionate about beautiful delectable edible flowers! Join Jolie as she shares tips on types of edible flowers, their culture and care in the garden, harvesting and recipes.

Sunday 6/28 11:30-1:30 Trouble Shooting the Edible Garden
You have planted your veggie garden and it is not thriving or producing. What now? Jolie will help you identify the most common seasonal pest and disease issues in the Portland veggie garden as well as organic methods for happier, healthier more productive plants.

All workshops are interactive lecture style and approximately 2 hours long. Take the entire series or individual workshops. Workshops are a suggested donation of $10 each. To ensure your space please register in advance by contacting or at For detailed workshop information or further information, visit their website or Springwater Studio is a community art center located in Gresham (120 SW Towle Ave). We are dedicated to education, healing and transformation through the creative process.