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Beet 2021 03 March

Hello Master Gardeners!

By Beet 2021 03 March


I hope you are all doing well. I’m writing to share some news that my last day with OSU Extension will be May 31, 2022.  My partner got a new job with the US Forest Service in Colorado, so we are moving back there (I lived there prior to moving to Oregon, and we are very excited for this opportunity to move back). We are actually moving in about 2 weeks, and I will work remotely from mid-March to the end of May. I will still be available by email and phone. Heidi Gehman, our administrative office manager whose office is across the hall from the Plant Clinic, will be an in-person contact for any logistical things related to the MG Program. Her contact information is

I have enjoyed getting to know and working closely with many of you over the last few years. While I’ll still be ‘here’ for a couple of more months, I wanted to let everyone know of this transition. I wish you all the best and talk to you soon!



By Beet 2021 03 March 37 Comments

Greetings, Master Gardeners! And happy spring!

As we wait impatiently for reopening, your Jackson County Master Gardener Association is hard at work doing the daily business of the association. Our Community Outreach Working Group has been especially busy these last few months and can always use help from members who are looking to assist in educating our community. Jim Buck, the working group chair, is the person to contact if you would like to become involved. The working group has several committees that function under its umbrella: School Garden Grants, Scholarships, Speakers Bureau, Community Gardens, and Native Plants Gardens Tour.

The School Garden Grants and Scholarships committees are led by Barbara Davidson and are responsible for monies that are donated to school garden projects and students. School garden grants are donations awarded to local teachers for gardening projects in the Rogue Valley. Among other things, these donations have helped establish butterfly gardens and vegetable gardens at many of our local elementary and middle schools. Scholarships are awarded to OSU university students who must be at the junior or senior level in good standing and enrolled in a horticulture-related major. 

Our Speakers Bureau, now led by Colet Allen, has a cadre of Master Gardener speakers who are available to present educational lessons on a variety of topics. Local organizations such as the library, garden clubs, churches, and schools contact the committee chair to arrange for a speaker on the topic of their choice. Find a list of topics and speakers on the JCMGA webpage.

There are also two new programs which started in the last year: There’s a Wednesday radio show on JPR’s Jefferson Exchange at 8:35 a.m. where I talk with Geoffrey Riley and answer listener questions about gardening. Click here for streaming radio, or tune in locally. Ronnie Budge and John Kobal will begin teaching an OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) class starting this month, using our Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley as the text.

Our Community Gardens committee, chaired by Master Gardener Mary Foster, is responsible for helping community members start gardens for citizens and groups that do not have access to land for personal gardens. There are community gardens in almost every town in our valley. For a list of these, see our website. 

Currently, this committee is spending their $1,500 budget to help rebuild the Blue Heron Community Garden, in Phoenix, which was completely destroyed last summer in the Almeda Fire.

And finally, Sherri Morgan leads our Native Plants Gardens Tour effort. Scheduled for May, this will be a virtual tour and potentially in-person. She needs additional support to make this happen. 

As a member of Jackson County Master Gardeners, you have so much to be proud of. Please consider becoming more involved with our programs. If something you read here inspires you, please contact the Working Group or committee chair with whom you would like to work. Emails work great and you can find that information in your JCMGA Member directory. In the meantime, be well, and GARDEN FOR LIFE!

Update on the 2021 Elevated Skills Training

By Beet 2021 03 March 38 Comments

Dear Gardeners,

Happy March!  I would like to start by sharing an update about the 2021 Elevated Skills Training from Gail Langellotto, statewide MG Program Coordinator and Professor of Horticulture at OSU:

“If you are an Oregon Master Gardener volunteer, and haven’t already checked out the 2021 Elevated Skills Trainings for Master Gardener volunteers, now is the time to do so. Altogether, the 14 classes that are being offered have over 3,000 combined enrollments! Seven classes have already opened, and the other seven will open over the coming weeks.

Although the courses, themselves, will remain open for self-paced learning that you can complete at your own pace, and when it is most convenient to you ~ the discussion boards will only be monitored, and instructors will only be available to comment on your assignment submission, through the end of April.

Early reviews for the courses include this note about the Woody Plant ID course: “Plant ID has been my nemesis for my 12 years as a Master Gardener. I pushed through. When we got to the plant ID tool I felt like a whole new and wonderful world opened up for me. I honestly am excited about identifying plants with this tool as a guide. This has me stoked and I have never been ‘stoked’ in my life.”

Please Note: We have changed the original guidance on CEUs for the Elevated Skills Training. Instead of one hour per course taken, you can count and report your actual time in each class, as your number of CEUs. In other words, if a class took you two hours, you can count two CEUs. If a class took you three hours, you can count three CEUs.

I am also working with MG coordinators to see if any part of course participation (such as time spent on the hands-on assignments and practical application of knowledge) can count towards required volunteer service hours. Stay tuned.”

I will support application of knowledge gained from the training towards volunteer service hours in Jackson County.  As Gail said, stay tuned for more information!  And, you can find her full post and other news posts for the OSU Master Gardener Program here.

– Erika

Free well testing offered to wildfire victims

By Beet 2021 03 March 38 Comments

The Oregon Health Authority will provide free well water testing vouchers to private or domestic well users impacted by the 2020 Oregon wildfires. Applications will be open until May 15, 2021.

Vouchers cover the cost of testing for bacteria, nitrates, arsenic, and lead. Depending on well damage, some may also qualify to test for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene as well. Sample collection costs are not covered by OHA.

To be eligible for the vouchers, all of the following criteria must be met: the property was impacted by the wildfires; the well water is used for things like drinking, bathing cooking and washing dishes; the well has three or fewer connections and is not part of a regulated water system.

Because domestic wells are unregulated, water quality testing is not always accessible to these households. After a fire, testing the well for contaminants is an important step to assuring homes have access to safe water. If a test results indicates high levels of contaminants, OHA will provide safety information and recommendations to the well user. OHA does not regulate private wells. 

Blue Heron Park Community Garden restoration

By Beet 2021 03 March 39 Comments

By Mary Foster 

Master Gardener 2007

and Lynn Kunstman

Master Gardener 2012

The Jackson County Master Gardeners Association is helping restore gardens and landscapes around the valley that were damaged or destroyed in the Almeda Fire. Two of these projects were native plants donated to the Friends of Wagner Creek Watershed and Valleys of the Rogue Watershed Council. 

We are also donating funds to rebuild Blue Heron Park Community Garden in Phoenix, which was completely destroyed in the fire. Here’s a bit of history about that community garden.

Community gardens that JCMGA support provide access to fresh produce and plants as well as an opportunity for satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment. They are publicly functioning in terms of ownership, access and management, as well as typically owned in trust by local governments or nonprofits. Community gardens bring communities closer and are as diverse as their gardeners. While some grow only flowers, others communally share their bounty. Many have individual plots for personal use. Others are equipped with raised beds for disabled gardeners. They promote urban food security, allowing citizens to grow their own food, and provide fresh produce donations to food banks. In creating a social community, these gardens break down social isolation and reduce local crime and vandalism. 


Mary Foster was the Educational Service District teacher for the teens living in the Jackson County Shelter Home when she began the Blue Heron Park Garden project. Those students, along with special education students from Phoenix High School, planned, mapped the area, and interviewed people living in trailers and apartments surrounding the proposed site at the Blue Heron Park in Phoenix. Nothing but a driveway into the park was there at the time. The City of Phoenix accepted the proposal and plan for the community garden in 2004, and a grant from the Carpenter Foundation for $5,000 got the process rolling. 

Unfortunately, the river bed on which the garden would be built was not soft, silty loam, but rocky, sandy, garden-unfriendly soil. In order to form the 20 planned plots, soil was purchased and trucked in to the tune of $4,700! The kids installed all of the irrigation and built the deer-proof fence using only hand tools and lumber they had harvested through a thinning project with Christoph Buchler, a wonderful artist. 

In about three months, the garden was growing food for 20 families from diverse backgrounds. People were sharing tools and recipes. There were monthly work parties and potlucks, poetry readings, full moon ceremonies, music festivals and gatherings to just visit and enjoy the feeling of being in a lush growing space.  

Some of the original members of that garden are still maintaining a plot there,17 years later. Last September’s Almeda Fire ran through the garden, destroying fencing and the garden shed. Compost bins and wheelbarrows and all tools were lost, as were the two handicapped-accessible beds at the entrance. All of the well-tended perennial borders which attracted beneficials burned. 

The garden has received several grants from Jackson County Master Gardener Association in the past and this year, it will be the sole recipient of the 2021 Community Gardening Grant. 


The Jackson County Master Gardener Association supports the Community Gardening Network, which is a group of gardeners and garden managers from community gardens throughout the Rogue Valley. This group meets quarterly to share information regarding plots available in their gardens, ideas for improving community gardens, and even consulting on the development of new gardens. Participants include representatives from Southern Oregon University, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, ACCESS Food Share and the Housing Authority.

Better know a gardener!

By Beet 2021 03 March 39 Comments

By Lynn Kunstman

Master Gardener 2012

Mary Foster has been a Master Gardener since 2007 and is the chair of the Community Gardens Committee

Mary Foster with Scott Lewis from KDRV Channel 12.

for JCMGA. While Mary has long been a presenter of community classes and Winter Dreams, Summer Garden seminars, her first love is the Community Gardens project to which she has been dedicated for many years. The Rogue Valley has many of these gardens established in various towns, thanks to Mary’s dedication.

Mary became interested in community gardens in 2001, upon attending a conference in Denver on Horticultural Therapy. She saw a slide show on community gardens, was hooked, and knew she had to get one started in our area.

Mary’s husband, Abdiaziz, had a question: When Mary gets an idea, why do I always end up with a shovel in my hand? 

So, before he took up that shovel, they took a road trip in 2003 to see as many Northwest community gardens as possible. They saw nursing mamas sitting under a tree in a Eugene garden near the University of Oregon campus, comparing child rearing advice and tips on how to grow a bigger tomato. In Portland, where there were many established gardens, they learned that the city’s Parks and Recreation Department coordinated the gardens. 

In Seattle, community gardens are called P-Patches. They visited the oldest garden in the city, The Danny Woo Community Garden, which covers an acre of steep hillside. Many gardeners are Asian-American and grow unusual plants they know from their heritage.

Abdiaziz Guled, at left, at work on the Blue Heron Park Community Garden in Phoenix.

Some of those P-Patches had artistic gardens with beautiful mosaics installed by the gardeners. Some kept bees. In Pullman, Wash., Mary and Abdiaziz found Koppel Farm, a community garden created by students of Washington State University. This one included a children’s garden for the kids to play in while parents tended their plots. And just across the border in Idaho, a wonderful community garden can be found in Moscow – a green paradise in the landscape of the Palouse. 

Mary has worked tirelessly, with Abdi of course, for many years to bring community gardens to life in our valley. For those who do not know Mary, I fervently hope you now appreciate one of our many behind-the-scenes Master Gardener treasures.

She really does “Garden for Life”.

March: Start your engines

By Beet 2021 03 March 38 Comments

If January is the month to get ready, set, and plan, then March is the month to start your engines to put that grand plan into action. March is one of the busiest months in the gardening calendar if you grow a vegetable garden or have cane fruit. There are many indoor jobs (starting many garden vegetables) as well as outdoor jobs (transplanting, pruning, fertilizing and spraying for disease).

March is also a month with dicey weather. It can be warm(er) and/or there can be lingering, icy blasts and plenty of rainy days. This year, we seem to be making up for our severe drought conditions all at once, with a very rainy winter.  So, assemble your warm gear, pull on your waterproof boots and let’s head to the garden.

The traditional saying is “Plant peas by Presidents’ Day”, but March is when I prefer to sow peas because I find they come up better than if planted earlier. This may be because I am at 2000 feet and almost everything in my garden and landscape is two weeks behind the valley. My sister Gretchen’s tip is to soak peas before planting and wait until a scant ¼” of the root is showing before planting to shorten the time before they poke their tips above the ground. There are many other green vegetables you can direct sow in March too, including cress, kale, lettuce, mustard and turnip greens, spinach, swiss chard, and cilantro. Carrots, scallions, radishes, chives and parsley will also do well if planted in a sunny spot. You’ll be eating fresh garden salads in no time from your March plantings.

Onions and leeks can also be planted in March for harvesting in July. I find that adding a large helping of compost and decomposed manure to the onion-leek bed in the fall is easier than in the spring when the ground is almost certain to be wet and difficult to work when I plant onions. The same goes for the potato bed, which tradition has it should be planted by St. Patrick’s Day.

March is also the beginning of the season for transplanting, although many vegetables require warmer soil and stronger sun to thrive than March provides. Asparagus and rhubarb roots, often available at local nurseries or by mail order this time of year, may be planted in a well-prepared bed with deep soil, good drainage, aeration and medium-high fertility. Incorporate aged manure, compost or leaf mold to the top 6”-8” soil in the bed. If you started broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage earlier, March through April is the time to set them out in the garden. March is also the time to get your strawberry patch planted to ensure that you have plenty of that sweet June treat.

Fertilizing and pruning many cane fruit varieties is a March job. (For blackberries, wait until they flower). Check out the OSU publications on caring for blackberries, raspberries and blueberries in your home garden as well as many other gardening topics. 

Get a head start on pest control in March by spraying plants that are susceptible to fungus like black spot, such as roses and cane berries. Lime sulfur or fixed copper sprays are often recommended, but I have achieved great results with a nontoxic spray of horticultural oil. Spray again in a couple of weeks and in the fall.


March garden guide

Sow for transplanting later: artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage,

eggplant, leeks, oriental greens, peppers, tomatoes.

Direct sow: carrots, chervil, chives, cilantro, collards, corn salad, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard and turnip greens, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, scallions, spinach, swiss chard, turnips.

 Transplant: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, onion, strawberries.

 Fertilize and prune: established asparagus bed, raspberries, everbearing strawberries, grapes, currents, blueberries, and gooseberries.

Spray for fungus diseases: horticultural oil twice.

For more, check out: 

Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley 

What is a Master Gardener?

By Beet 2021 03 March 37 Comments

By Ronnie Budge

Master Gardner 2011

The mission of the Master Gardener Program in Oregon is: Cultivating resilient and healthy communities through sustainable horticulture education and gardening projects that are rooted in science and that are supported by Oregon State University Extension volunteers.

To become a certified Master Gardener in Oregon (as of 2021), one must complete a prescribed course of study, pass an exam, and perform 40 hours of volunteer service, 20 hours of which must be in direct or indirect education. 

Once a Master Gardener, always a Master Gardener; however, if one wishes to continue educating the public on behalf of the Master Gardener Program, one must be recertified annually. Currently in Oregon, 30 hours of volunteer time are required for recertification each year, of which at least 10 hours must be used for educating others (either directly, e.g., teaching a workshop, or indirectly, e.g., helping to plan an education event); at least 10 more hours providing any approved volunteer service (e.g., helping with a fundraising event); and at least 10 hours for one’s own continuing education (e.g., attending a webinar/talk).

To be a member of the Jackson County Master Gardener Association, one must be a certified Master Gardener. But it is not necessary to be recertified annually to belong to JCMGA, nor is it necessary to be recertified to perform volunteer work which does not involve educating the public. “Support” tasks, e.g., helping to maintain a demonstration garden, fundraising, or being an officer in JCMGA, do not require recertification.

All volunteer work, whether providing direct or indirect education or giving other support to the Master Gardener Program, should be reported, preferably using the online Volunteer Reporting System. The Master Gardener Coordinator Erika Szonntag uses this information to recertify volunteers and help justify annual budgets. Email Erika or call her at 541-776-7371 with any questions related to the VRS or volunteer hours.

More information on volunteer service, including necessary forms and a link to the reporting tool, are here.

Pie in the plant

By Beet 2021 03 March 95 Comments

Who would have thought one could produce a premium pie from an edible plant stalk? Apparently, no one. But be forewarned – the leaves are toxic and should not be eaten. 

Botanically a vegetable but often referred to as a fruit, Rheum rhabarbarum – otherwise known as rhubarb – has had a very long life on this good earth.

Although ancient in its origins, this hardy perennial is in the Polygonaceae, or smartweed-buckwheat, family. 

Despite its apparent “smartweed” genes, rhubarb has long been prized for its medicinal qualities. Native to central Asia, it was used 5,000 years ago as a physic in China, as well by the ancient Arabs, Greeks and Romans. In 1271, Marco Polo found it in the mountains of Sukchu.

Although it was the root, not the “fruit” of rhubarb that was first sought after, it was so expensive that European pharmacists encouraged propagating it locally.

When roots and seeds were finally brought to Western Europe in the 17th century for pharmaceutical cultivation, France discovered the stalks produced a tasty, edible sauce. Leave it to those French chefs and their epicurean exploration.

British cooks were far behind liking this new food, (except mistakenly cooking the toxic leaves that poisoned those ingesting them). However, after accepting this vegetable, British scientists soon competed with Russians to produce a variety with stalks much more acceptable in taste and cooking quality.

As Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837, a startling new variety of rhubarb, Victoria, was introduced. It was easy to grow and reliably robust as well consistently tender and sweet.

A Victorian era favorite, the stalks were treated like fruit and were featured in pies (hence the name “pie plant”), custards, fools, jellies and jams. Its migration to the US resulted in many-acre rhubarb farms during the 19th century.

Although it fell out of favor after the World War II, rhubarb is today making a comeback as a popular plant.

Treated as a perennial in our zone, it grows to 2-3’ tall with a 3-4’ spread and produces flowers on towering 5’ stalks. Severing flower stalks during their nascent stage – which resembles rose-tinged cauliflower – produces more edible stalks. Alternatively, they can be left to unfurl into clouds of edible white blossoms.

For your spring garden plantings, either purchase crowns or get some from a fellow gardener willing to gift you with a division.

A heavy feeder, the “pie plant” prefers its soil well-drained (planting on a mound is most beneficial) and richly fertile with deeply dug organic matter. Consider propagating rhubarb in half whiskey barrel planters.

Well-rotted steer manure is favored for both mulching and fertilizing.

Rhubarb prefers full sun, but tolerates some afternoon shade and regular irrigation. Be patient – it is best to wait to harvest stalks until the second or third year of growth. Harvest by twisting or cutting off at the base.

Along with its stalks, you can also gift others with divisions of their own. So why not make rhubarb the apple of your next pie and plant?


Crown sources

If you’ve decided to plant rhubarb, order early since gardening has taken off during this past year of confinement and nurseries are running out of stock fast.

One Green World

Victoria and Crimson Cherry 

Park Seed

Victoria Red

Wayside Gardens

Victoria Red


Victoria Red


Recipe: Victoria’s no fool … this is great

Rhubarb Fool 

(Similar to a mousse)


2 cups of rhubarb stalks, washed and chopped in pieces

½ to 2/3 cup of organic sugar (to taste)

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold milk 

1 pint of whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

pinch of sea salt

16 oz vanilla Greek yogurt

Chopped toasted almonds


Place rhubarb and sugar in a medium-sized heavy pot. Stir over medium heat until juices start to flow, then cover and simmer on low until tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover pot, then turn up heat to medium and allow some of juice to evaporate, about 15 minutes longer. Put cooked rhubarb into a bowl and set in the fridge to cool, about an hour. You can make and chill it overnight to complete the following day if desired. 

Put milk in a measuring cup, then sprinkle gelatin on top and let it plump up, about 10 minutes. Dissolve gelatin mixture in microwave on medium power for about 30 seconds.  Stir until smooth and let cool on counter for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whip cream with vanilla and almond extracts and salt until soft peaks form. Drizzle in the gelatin mixture while whipping cream on low, then continue whipping on medium until stiff peaks form, about 1-2 more minutes. Gradually fold in the yogurt.  

Pour over the cooled cooked rhubarb and swirl in so that streaks remain. Pour mixture into a clear glass (clear dishes show off the swirled fool), serving bowl or individual clear glass serving dishes and sprinkle the chopped toasted nuts on top.

Serves about 8.

Award nominations due April 15

By Beet 2021 03 March 40 Comments

By Lynn Kunstman

Master Gardener 2012

Have you noticed that one or two of your fellow Master Gardeners have been doing exemplary work “above and beyond” what might be expected? Isn’t it time for them to be recognized by everyone for their contributions? If so, then nominate them for a Master Gardener of the Year Award or for a Behind the Scenes Award.

The annual Master Gardener of the Year Award recognizes outstanding dedication and service in support of sustainable gardening to benefit all of Jackson County and/or the entire Oregon Master Gardener program. Describe your nominees’ contributions in education and outreach, such as work in the Plant Clinic, teaching classes, serving as a mentor, planning and organizing a major project, or other activities. Include any leadership roles they have held. If their work has had an impact beyond the borders of Jackson County, e.g. if other county Master Gardener programs have adopted projects that started in Jackson County, be sure to mention that!

The annual Behind the Scenes Award can also be for service just in Jackson County or statewide. It recognizes individuals who work quietly and unselfishly in ways that may not be noticed by everyone, e.g. by preparing and serving refreshments, keeping accurate records, maintaining and repairing the physical plant, or seeing projects through to completion.

In 200 words or less, describe your nominees’ activities as fully as you can with specific examples, and e-mail your nominations to Lynn Kunstman. Deadline is April 15 (easy to remember, same date as taxes are due, but this is more fun!)