Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Friday, April 15, 2016

Too Early for Tomatoes

Good morning gardeners,

Brrr a chill is in the air today and yesterday morning. Despite the 80 degree temperatures a few days in April, it is still too early to plant your tomatoes. We love tomatoes, so eager for tomatoes! Tomatoes are the number one favorite garden plant in the United States. That is a fact. Tomatoes are the gateway drug to all kinds of other gardening, that is also mostly a fact.

Here in Portland we plant tomatoes when night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees. That is typically anywhere between May 15 and June 1st depending on the year. We have yet to see any night temperatures even reach 55 degrees. Please remember this as the temperatures begin to rise again on Sunday and nurseries begin filling up with tomato plants. Just say no!

The past 2 mornings I've used the heat at home and in my car, I'm wearing a scarf & light coat to work, and craving hot cocoa after being out in the chilly storm weather. These are all indicators it is not tomato planting weather. Stick to planting your cool season crops and you are guaranteed success. Venture into tomato planting too soon you will risk stressed, stunted, and dead plants.

Now I'm going to curl back up on my sofa under the blanket with a steaming cup of tea and a good gardening magazine.

Happy Gardening,

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spring Fever and Balance

Good morning gardeners,

The past few days in Portland have been lovely warm and sunny with unseasonal highs in the 80s. Early spring is an exciting and frantic time for gardens in the pacific northwest. There is always more to plant, always more to maintain, and endless projects in the garden as temperatures warm.

The seasonal nature of my business makes spring a very busy time for me. My husband and I haven't shared a day-off together since January. On his days off work he sometimes accompanies to the garden classes I teach just to spend time with me. Such is the ebb & flow of spring. After 6 weeks of 6 day work weeks this week I finally enjoyed an actual 2 day weekend. Just in the nick of time for my sanity and also to catch some amazing weather in my own garden.

My secret garden is my sanctuary and a place of deep restoration for me. However, as an urban gardener living right off of NE Alberta street my time in my own beloved garden is often punctuated by the sounds and smells of city life; lawn mowers, leaf blowers, delivery trucks, buses, and construction. Combined with a myriad of music, talking, dogs barking, and cigarette smoke from my many neighbors my secret garden is not always the peaceful place I intend it to be.

Yesterday I spent a blissful four hours working in my secret garden. Our wisteria out front is blooming and the air was scented with it's delicious vanilla fragrance. As the gentle breeze blew, delicate white petals rained down from the cherry tree behind our house. Birds sang, chirped, and happily splashed in my bird bath. The tiny hummingbird that calls my garden her home, sang loudly to let me know she was there and waiting for my red flowers to begin blooming again.

Blooming wisteria, lilac, dogwood tree, cherry tree, mexican orange, rosemary, bleeding heart, native bleeding heart, lungwort, iris, buttercups, tulips, primrose, and violets abound in my garden. The very first bright red rhododendron flower opened. Tightly budded herbaceous peonies and oriental poppies tease me, they are some of my favorite flowers and I can hardly wait. My clematis curls it's delicate tendrils towards the sky, beginning to develop pointy buds. Oriental, tiger, and maragon lily leafy stems all stand at least a foot tall.

The raspberry canes naked all winter have leafed out in a frenzy of green. Both delicate and chubby fiddleheads are unfurling on my many varieties of ferns. Our four japanese maple trees have leafed out once again enveloping our secret garden and little cottage into a shady summer retreat. Creeping jenny ground cover has sprung back to life creeping across the ground in a bright golden carpet. Hellebores and winter daphne begin to fade, making room for the much anticipated show of hydrangea and azalea.

Looking closely at the flower garden soil I notice 3 of my dahlia varieties have courageously poked their green heads out of the warm soil. Indeed the soil is warm. When digging holes for sunflower seeds and a new dahlia variety 'giggles' the soil in my bare hand is warm and moist on my skin. Perfect conditions for seed germination and dahlia tubers.

In the vegetable garden I planted seeds for three varieties of beets and two of carrots. The radish seeds I planted last week have germinated. Around the vegetable garden raised beds and containers I tuck in transplants of companion flowers-alyssum, calendula, lobelia, and marigolds. The herb garden adds dill and mexican oregano. With afternoon temperatures in the 80s I watered everything in deeply and know I will need to keep the soil consistently moist for ideal seed germination. The warm sun on my skin felt so good. Such a blissful ideal planting day in my garden.

Best of all, it was silent.

No neighbor noise, no big trucks, no construction, no leaf blowers. It was was only hours later when I realized how relaxed, grounded, restored, and happy I was that I reflected on how meaningful is quiet.

During my work weeks I spend time with a lot of students in my workshops and a lot of horticultural therapy clients in my clinical work. Sometimes I am teaching 2-3 gardening workshops a week and meeting up to 100 students. My horticultural therapy clients are a wide range of ages and abilities including developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental illness, seniors with dementia, people recovering from stroke, traumatic brain injury, heart attack, and injuries, inpatient & outpatient pediatrics. During my work maintaining hospital healing gardens I come into contact with a diverse group of patients, families, and staff.

On average I commute anywhere between 500-800 miles/month driving between my work sites all over the Portland metro area. At least twice a week I cross the bridge to Washington. This is a satisfying, abundant, and busy work life with my own business and as a horticultural therapy intern.

I crave quiet and nature for restoration. Contemplative time, time in my garden, and quiet all help bring my life back into balance. Did you know that being in nature and even passive views of nature from a window both help lower blood pressure & heart rate, slow breathing, and reduce muscle tension? Nature is medicine. We spend too much time inside in front of electronics.

Our spring equinox was on March 20th and that day marks the even balance of day and night hours. The spring season is about blossoming and rapid growth, but it is also about staying in balance. What do you want to blossom and grow in your life? How do you nurture that? What do you do to restore and keep balance in your life? The Gardening Goddess is here to remind you of wellness through nature. Enjoy!

Happy Spring,

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What to Plant in the April Veggie Garden

Good morning gardeners!

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

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 the 60-70 day time temperatures, it is still too cold to plant your warm season summer crops!! Please no tomatoes or basil yet. Today's 85 degree temperatures were a one-day spring rarity.

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)
Carrots-great time to plant seeds in April
Mustard Greens
Parsnips (plant now for a fall harvest)
Peas-don't like heat so get them in by the end of april
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, ecarole, mache
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,m marigolds, nasturtium, and sunflowers.

Thank you for reading my blog and I am happy to receive your gardening questions here in a comment. Please contact me at if you are interested in scheduling an in-person or email edible gardening consultation. Happy gardening and happy April!

Warmly, Jolie

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Herb Gardening

Good morning gardeners!

Herbs gardening is one of my most beloved pursuits. Growing herbs for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses is fun and satisfying. I love studying the lore and history of herbs through time in different cultures. Herbs are multi-use plants that are mostly forgiving to neglect from the gardener.

April is an excellent time in Portland to plant perennial herbs and cool tolerant annual herbs such as cilantro, chervil, dill, and german chamomile. Please wait until the warmer weather of late May to plant hot-season annual herbs like basil. The night temperatures are too cold in April for basil.

In this post I've included an introduction to culinary herb gardening that is adapted from my garden report in the April 2016 edition of the Concordia News. Please also consider joining one of my culinary herb gardening workshops.

Enjoy and happy gardening! Jolie

Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal and spiritual. Generally herbs are defined as any plant used for flavoring, food, medicine or perfume.

Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices based on the part of the plant that is used. An herb refers to plants used for their green leafy parts-either fresh or dried. A spice is a culinary product from another part of the plant such as seeds, berries, bark, roots and fruits. Some plants are used both as herbs and spices, such as dill weed and dill seed or cilantro leaves and coriander seeds.

Many herbs are beautiful as ornamental plants in the garden. In addition to their fragrance, herbs have a wide variety of colors, textures and shapes to delight all the senses.

Growth habits of some common culinary herbs are:
➢ Evergreen woody perennials: bay laurel, lavender, rosemary, and lemon verbena
➢ Evergreen perennials: thyme
➢ Herbaceous perennials: bee balm, chives, fennel, lovage, mints, oregano, roman chamomile, sage, tarragon.
➢ Biennials: angelica and parsley
➢ Annuals: basil, chervil, cilantro, dill, and german chamomile

Most herbs prefer well-drained soil and need full sun, 6-8 hours/day. Direct sunlight is needed to achieve maximum flavor and fragrance. Herbs grown in the shade become leggy and lack intense flavor. Some herbs that can be grown in partial shade are mints, lemon balm, chervil and wintergreen. Some herbs that can be grown in full shade are angelica, sweet woodruff and yerba buena.

Notorious for thriving in poor soil, most herbs do not need much fertilizer. Watering depends on the season, the location, and the type of herb. In the warm dry weather of summer, herbs grown in containers dry out quicker than herbs grown in the ground. Once established, most herbs are quite drought tolerant.

Pinching back new growth as it emerges will develop a bushier growth habit and a fuller appearance for basil, and most other herbs. Herbs that develop into a woody shrub, like rosemary or lavender, can be pruned after flowering. Herbaceous perennials like mints, bee balm, and sage can be cut back to a few inches above the soil during the winter.

Harvest fresh herbs as needed for cooking. Morning is the best time to harvest herbs, as that’s when they have the most flavors. Leaves have the highest levels of oils when the blooms just begin to appear.
To dry herbs, hang small bunches from the ceiling in a dry, dark location with good ventilation for one to two weeks. Store dried herbs in a clean sealed glass jar in a cool dark place. Consider making herbal pesto and freezing in an ice cube tray. These make great winter additions to soups, stews, sauces, and salad dressing.

Some flavorful and fragrant herbs to include in a tea garden are bee balm, german chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, mints, thyme, and yerba buena. Herbal teas can be made from dried or fresh herbs. The general proportions are 1 teaspoon dried herbs to 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon fresh herbs to 1 cup of water. When making iced teas, double the amount of herbs, to preserve flavor from ice dilution. To make tea, steep herbs for 3-5 minutes in boiling water, strain and serve. Steeping herbs too long causes tea to get bitter tasting.

Enjoy your exploration into the wonderful world of growing culinary herbs!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sunshine and Spring Fever!

Good morning gardeners,

April burst into Portland with abundant sunshine and summer-like warm temperatures. Spring fever is in full swing! I had a chance to squeeze in some of my own gardening in two small chunks this last week.

The herb garden got these new additions:
garlic chives
bay leaf
orange mint (in a pot!)

The veggie garden got these new additions:
broccoli raab

I tucked in some marigolds and annual poppies into the flower bed. Pots of several varieties of fresh zonal and scented geraniums joined my extensive container garden. And we dug some 'Hood' strawberries from our yard to plant a strawberry hanging basket.

If you are curious about what edibles you can plant right now check out this blog post. And, please remember it is still WAY too early to plant tomatoes and other warm season veggies. Even if you see them at nurseries it is not time to plant until mid-late May. Keep on planting your cool season veggies through April.

Happy gardening! Jolie