Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

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

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