Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Monday, March 28, 2016

Last Week of March-Sunshine on the Way!

Good morning Portland gardeners,

Like me I'm sure you have seen this week's forecast and are excitedly in anticipation of some excellent gardening weather. Today is cloudy, no rain. Tuesday-Sunday the forecast is SUNSHINE with daytime highs of 65-70 degrees and nighttime lows in the 40s. Our average last frost passed March 15th. As we move from the spring equinox to the summer solstice our day lengths continue to increase. This is all fantastic news for gardeners.

After heavy winter and spring rains this week our garden soils will begin to dry out and warm up. This week we should have excellent conditions to do garden clean-up, fertilize, apply compost & mulch, and plant all kinds of things! With warmer soil temperatures it is the perfect time finally for planting seeds for optimal germination-like beets & carrots!

In the edible garden enjoy planting fruit trees, small fruit, perennial herbs, and cool season veggie crops. It is still too early to plant basil, tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, eggplant, squash, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers. These hot season crops need night temperatures consistently above 55 degrees to grow and thrive. In Portland that is typically between May 15-June 1st. If you plant hot season crops now if they even survive they become stressed and stunted. Just wait.

Cool Season crops to plant this week:

Broccoli Raab
Brussels Sprouts (for a fall harvest)
Endive & Escarole
Meslcun Mix
Mustard Greens
Swiss Chard

Annual herbs like: chamomile, chervil, cilantro and dill
Perennial & biennial herbs like: angelica, bay, lavender, lemon balm, lovage, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, rue, sage, savory, and thyme

Companion flowers: It is still a little early and cool for most summer annuals I like to interplant in the edible garden. Cool season companion flowers available now are violas & pansies. Wait until April to purchase and plant other companion flower plants. Though, this week you could plant seeds for: alyssum, bachelor buttons, calendula, cleome, cosmos, marigolds, nasturtium, and zinnia. In Portland we typically wait to plant sunflower seeds in mid April.

Great garden tasks for this week are pulling weeds, hoeing fall-planted cover crops, applying an organic granular fertilizer, top dressing with compost, and if not planting then covering your beds back up with cardboard, frost blanket, coffee sacks, or a tarp to keep them warm and prevent weeds.

Yesterday I taught a class at Portland Nursery and picked up lots of stuff to plant this week in my own garden: beets, broccoli raab, carrots, radishes, scallions, chives, parsley, and more seed potatoes! Have a super fun week in the sunshine and in your garden. Shoot me any questions, I would love to hear from you.

Happy Gardening,

Monday, March 14, 2016

Average Last Frost Date Approaches!

Good morning gardening friends,

As March trudges on with wild winds and epic downpours eager Portland gardeners comfort themselves with the prospect of our average last frost date on March 15th. For those of you who have been gardening a few years you probably remember our average last frost date as April 15th. Well our climate has changed so much that our frost dates have shifted an entire month. In theory an average last frost date signals the beginning of our growing seasons. And it is in the same few weeks as the Spring Equinox which signifies moving towards the longest days of the year with the brightest closest sunlight on the Summer Solstice.

Lack of frosty temperatures aren't all that the spring planting requires. The spring garden also needs to have warmed up soil temperatures and a decrease in the pounding rain for seeds to germinate and starts/transplants to grow and thrive.

After the wettest December on record, 2016 has followed up with equally wet, windy, and cold weather. There has been the occasional sun break and even that incredible first weekend of February with sunny and 60 degree weather! Mostly soil is still too wet to work in and the veggie starts I purchased a few weeks ago are still sitting on my deck waiting for a dry day to plant.

Gardeners don't despair! I am writing today to let you know the forecast for later this week is no rain and even some sun on Wednesday-Saturday. Yahoo! So let's get ready for some planting during that brief window of dryness.

First, right now, even in the rain would be an excellent time to remove fall planted cover crops, apply organic granular fertilizer, and a fresh bag/load of compost onto every one of your veggie raised or in ground beds. Once that work is done, cover your beds with a frost blanket, cardboard, burlap sacks, or tarp to give them a break from most of the rain and start to dry out for later in the week planting.

What to plant later this week:

Asian greens
Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes
Mesclun Mix
Mustard Greens
Salad Greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache, orach, radicchio
Swiss Chard

If you want to direct seed carrots and beets this week I would cover the seed bed with a frost blanket to provide some warmth for germination and also protect small seeds from the pounding rain. Better yet, just wait until April to plant beets and carrots when the soil is more warmed up.

Don't forget your small fruit: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries
Fruit vines: grapes, kiwi, hops
Fruit Trees

Herbs-perfect time for cool season annual herbs like cilantro & chervil. Good time to get started your perennial herbs like chives, lavender, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Cool wet weather and freshly planted veggies are the perfect all-you-can-eat venue for slugs! When planting the veggie garden later this week and through April be sure to apply an organic slug bait like Sluggo, or sprinkle on the soil some crushed eggshells or diatomaceous earth. It is heartbreaking to return to the garden and overnight slugs have munched through everything.

So far this February and March I've taught 6 gardening workshops and met over 100 gardeners! That is a blast for me. Please reach out if you have gardening questions, would like to schedule a garden consultation. I hope to see you soon in a March, April or May gardening workshop. Please leave a comment here with your gardening questions, email me at for consultation or visit my website to sign up for my monthly gardening email newsletter. March already went out at the beginning of the month so please stay tuned for the April addition.

I hope we indeed see that sunshine later this week. My raised beds are prepped and covered. I have my seeds, seed potatoes, veggie starts, and blueberry plants. Countdown to sunshine ready…set…go…

Happy Gardening, Jolie

Saturday, March 5, 2016

First Week of March Garden Projects

Good morning gardeners!

This week brought March 1st and with it typical early spring weather. Just during the one day of March 1st Portland saw pounding rain, whipping winds, hail, warm sun breaks, and a beautiful rainbow. That one day about sums up March in Portland.

Yesterday morning I took advantage of the break in rain to complete a couple of gardening projects. It was welcome time in my own garden after a winter of caring for the Legacy hospital healing gardens.

In my small flower bed I grow several varieties of peony, dahlia, lilies, echinacea, rudbekia, coreopis, monarda, agastache, and clematis. During the winter this flower bed of herbaceous perennials dies down to nothing. I cover it with a thick layer of autumn leaves and let it rest. Yesterday I raked away the leaves, applied an organic granular fertilizer to the top and covered it in a top dressing of compost. I replaced plant markers, put peony supports in place, and dreamed of the spectacular spring through fall show of flowers. The compost I prefer as a great top dressing for my ornamental beds is EB Stone brand planting compost.

My raised bed herb garden is full of perennial herbs, many are evergreen and provide me with herbs throughout the winter. This raised bed I also covered with autumn leaves in October to provide a warm winter mulch and discourage squirrels from burying their nuts. The autumn leaves were such a warm winter mulch that my oregano continued to produce a low blanket of stems under the autumn leaves all winter long! Yesterday I applied an organic granular fertilizer and top dressed the entire raised bed with compost. The fall planted garlic and shallots are looking great!

This month I will plant one of my three raised vegetable beds. To prepare it for planting in the next few weeks, I removed the frost blanket, gently pulled up the autumn-planted cover crop crimson clover, left it's greens on top of the soil, pulled any weeds, applied an organic granular fertilizer, and top dressed the entire raised bed with compost. The compost I prefer for my raised beds and containers of vegetables, fruit, and herbs is nurseryman brand bumper crop. Bumper crop is awesome! After applying compost to the top of the bed I replace the frost blanket. The frost blanket will discourage squirrels and cats from my raised bed, it will continue to keep the soil warm, and keep the soil mostly dry so that it is ready to plant when I am!

As spring begins and soil is warming it is an excellent time to fertilize and add compost to your garden. I mix my own organic granular fertilizer from bulk elements at Garden Fever nursery in NE Portland. They have excellent ingredients and bulk is .99/pound. I use equal parts of:

Alfalfa Meal
Flaxseed Meal
Rock Phosphate
Kelp Meal
Glacial Rock Dust

It is super nutritious packed with N-P-K and a host of trace minerals, it is vegan with no by-products of the slaughter house industry, and it's super economical. For just a few dollars you get a bag of beautiful organic fertilizer enough to apply to 4 raised beds!

For more information:
What to Plant in March
To subscribe to my email newsletter with monthly gardening tips
To attend one of my gardening workshops
To learn more about my gardening consultation and design services

Have a great day and happy gardening,