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Beet 2021 05 May

Hurray for May! Spring has fully arrived 
in the Rogue Valley!

By | Beet 2021 05 May | No Comments

This time of year always brings to my mind a line from Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll: “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy.” I have been chortling in the sunshine – as have the weeds in my yard.

Part of that joy is the thought of summer vegetables. It is time to start hardening off those summer sprouts for transplant into the garden. Be sure to give them limited sun for a few days if they have been under shelter, or in a greenhouse.

Our association and Master Gardener members are still working hard, despite the shutdown.
Our Master Gardener Extraordinaire, Sherri Morgan, has spearheaded a committee to put together an amazing Native Plants Garden Tour. The tour features 13 native gardens, and will be online as of May 15. Go to the Jackson County Master Gardeners Association website to register.

Our Gardens Working Group has been instrumental in working with Rich Roseburg to find a place to locate the six storage containers that are being placed near the parking lot to store all the extension programs’ materials that are currently in the “creepy old house.” Since the five-year plan calls for expanding the parking lot and we no longer have a GEM for the kitchen garden, it was decided that placement would be there. The containers will flank the wooden raised beds in that garden – three on each side. The beds will be planted with annual flowers, once we can return to campus on a regular basis and the seating area will be expanded. We will have a cozy meeting place, once all the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

While we will all miss having a Spring Garden Fair this year, there is a lot of nursery stock in both the Propagation Garden and the Native Plants nurseries. Because we were planting native seeds last fall that needed to stratify over winter, when the shutdown occurred again on campus, those seeds were sitting out under protective screens. The problem of course became that they sprouted and were beginning to outgrow their germination trays. I was given special permission to go on campus to water in the nursery, so I have been bringing the seedlings home with soil mix and repotting. The upshot is that we have in excess of 80 trays of plants that will be ready for sale in summer or fall. We are anxiously awaiting the time when we can return to having our in-person pop-up sales.

There is never enough space here to thank everyone who is working so hard for our association. I personally cannot wait until we can meet again, in person, and I can give everyone giant hugs. Having been fully vaccinated, I have to tell you that it is a great joy to be able to hug family and friends again.

In the meantime, enjoy this lovely spring weather, have a “frabjous” day, and GARDEN FOR LIFE!

Master Gardener activity updates 
and fun dates for your calendar

By | Beet 2021 05 May | No Comments

Dear Gardeners,

As many folks are probably feeling, this is such a beautiful time of year. The fresh pops of green on the trees and bright wildflowers really invigorate the soul. I am a huge fan of

Adelinia grandis

Adelinia grandis (previously known as Cynoglossum grande) and love to see them awakening across the landscape.

Demonstration gardens: Fortunately, the demonstration gardens have opened back up to maintenance work, though still on a limited basis. For all GEMs, 2020 students, and other JCMGA members who are interested in helping out, contact me for more information before coming out. Everyone needs to have a Conditions of Volunteer Service form on file for 2021 (which was sent electronically via DocuSign this year) and have taken the COVID online safety training (if you volunteered in the demo gardens in 2021, you do not have to do this training again this year). We are also limited in the number of people who can come out each day, so those who are helping are required to sign-up ahead of time.

Vaccine status: Many people are wondering if their vaccination status influences what types of Master Gardener activities they can engage in. OSU Extension administration states that regardless of an individual’s vaccine status, we are continuing to use the status at-a-glance information for activity planning, and all activities must continue to be approved by OSU beforehand.

Fun Dates to Remember: 
Visit the links for more information on these fun upcoming events!

May 22: Master Gardener Spring BioBlitz.
July 24: Master Gardener Summer BioBlitz.
Sept. 12-17: International Master Gardener Conference
Sept. 25: Master Gardener Fall BioBlitz. (Link will be accessible at a later date.)

Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have comments or questions please reach out to me.

– Erika

May in the garden: A race to the beginning

By | Beet 2021 05 May | No Comments

May is the busiest month in the garden. You can run yourself ragged watering and fertilizing everything you’ve already planted, direct sowing new crops as the soil warms up, weeding, mulching and transplanting all those starts that you’ve been babying along under lights or on the window sill. I think of May as a race to the beginning – getting everything in the ground so it can begin to grow and, hopefully produce a bountiful harvest. Phew! As much as I love gardening, I’m always glad when May is over so I can kick back a little and watch everything develop.

I just heard some worrisome news for those who are, like me, on TID water (Talent Irrigation District). The irrigation ditches will not start operating until June 1 and it is likely that we will get water only every other week until mid-August when water will likely run out. This is the result of a 20% decline in precipitation so far this water year which runs from October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.

So, I’ve been brushing up on how to collect and use “gray water” safely in the garden. Gray water is the water left over from use in dishwashing, showers, washing machines, cooking and other household uses. It is different from toilet water (black water) in that it has a lower level of pathogens and can be used for watering landscape plants and vegetable gardens, as long as you don’t let the gray water splash on the edible parts of the plants. Never use “black water” from toilets on the garden as it contains too high a level of pathogens.

I recall in the 1970s we had a 4-year drought in California. I was only 4 years old at the time…Alright, that’s a little white lie, but am I really SO OLD that I can remember a drought in the 1970s? Anyway, we collected graywater because there was a severe water rationing program in effect for a couple of years. Everyone’s lawns went brown, trees and landscapes died, and I was barely able to keep my vegetable garden and avocado trees alive. We can always hope it won’t be that bad here, but you never know.

I am going to have to buy some water storage containers and get used to carrying bath/shower water to the garden. I also have young fruit trees to keep alive. I’m tired and aching just thinking about it, but I do like garden produce, and that’s the price of a good tomato this year.

We have our last frost sometime between late April and mid-May, with the official date around May 5. Last year, those who got a jump on the season by planting tomatoes in a sunny, protected location in mid-April were rewarded with early tomatoes. Some nighttime cover is necessary if you plant tomatoes outdoors before the frost free date, but don’t bother with peppers and eggplant. I tried it last year and they just sat and did nothing until mid-May. Any time after that, the soil will be warm enough to transplant eggplants, peppers, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, oriental greens, pak choi, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and melons. Don’t forget to mulch everything very well to reduce your need for water and to keep the soil cool.

May is a good time to direct sow many herbs: basil, chervil, cilantro, parsley, dill, and summer savory, if you didn’t start them indoors already. If you will have a better water supply than I will this summer, May is the time to direct sow many veggies, including amaranth, bush and pole beans, beets, carrots, cantaloupe, cucumbers, edamame, leeks, lettuce, spinach, okra, parsnips, pumpkins, scallions, squash, sunflowers, Swiss chard, and watermelon. Our Garden Guide also recommends planting corn and melons in May, but since I’m at 2000 feet elevation, I like to wait until early June when the soil is warmer. That makes the Golden Jubilee corn that does so well for me ripen in mid-August, the perfect time for a corn roast.

I had planned to grow a selection of gourds this year, including goose neck (dipper), beetlejuice, pump-ke-mon and autumn wings, as well as pie pumpkins and larger jack-o-lantern pumpkins. May is the right time to get those in the ground; however, I may have to rethink the number of types of squash, gourds and pumpkins given the water situation. It’s hard to think of giving up Hubbard squash with its sweet, mild flavor or butternut squash that is perfect for a salad recipe I have, or baked acorn squash with a bit of brown sugar and butter. This is going to be a difficult choice.

Last year, I had a bumper crop of goose neck gourds, but unfortunately, I did not know how to dry them properly and every one grew mold. More heat and a drier environment than my root cellar has are required, I think.

It’s May – time to get to work, but take time out for a Happy Mother’s Day!

***

May garden guide

Here a a few of the many things to do in May:

Direct seed: Cucumbers, dill, endgame soybeans, leeks, lettuce, spinach, okra, parsley. parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, scallions, squash, summer savory, sunflowers, Swiss chard, watermelon

Transplant: Artichokes, basil, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage cantaloupe, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, Oriental greens, pak choi, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes.
For more, check out the Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley

Book review: The $64 Tomato

By | Beet 2021 05 May | No Comments

The $64 Tomato

by William Alexander

Book reviewed by Maxine Cass, Master Gardener 2015

What if you’ve always wanted a garden, craved fresh produce produced organically, and were prepared to obsess over every detail?

Everyone’s been through the wringer with sulky contractors, garden disasters, and off-the-wall obsession. William Alexander, who must be truly competent in his “real life” technology job, makes himself out to be wildly enthusiastic but not very good at thinking through the garden projects on his rural New York acreage. He’s already restored the huge, unlivable and locally infamous Big Brown House in the “Town That Time Forgot” when he and his wife get around to planning the garden.

Long-suffering spouse Anne, a surgeon who tends their flower and herb garden to relax, jokingly offers to take on new patients to pay for pricey fix-its and handles every one of her husband’s garden brainstorms with saintly calm. Their two constantly embarrassed and exasperated school-age kids lob one liners to keep dad in line.

Alexander’s mastered telling stories on himself. The cute – to him – landscape designer with the irresistible crinkly green eyes intrigues Anne only with her flawless teeth. Deer, squirrels and other garden eaters are the enemy, though Superchuck, the world’s smartest groundhog, nearly triumphs. In a hurry to turn into a garden center, he causes a multi-car pile-up. The kids are given their own garden beds to plant and barely tend the strawberries they choose as the only thing worth planting. And, no one wants to go out in a February blizzard when William asks someone to pick Anne’s thyme for his potato-apple-thyme gratin.

After years of it, his back calls a pause. He tallies up how much he’s spent in his quest for the perfect Brandywine tomato. Yes, he tells Anne, those few beauties cost $64. Each.

The $64 Tomato is a very funny book and is perfect to read out loud, chapter-by-chapter. Or, take a break from looking at seed and garden catalogues on a cold night and let Alexander’s adventures in the garden and orchard leave you ready to try where he has gone before.

To the Moon and Stars with watermelon

By | Beet 2021 05 May | No Comments

To the moon and stars and back, you’ll love planting this again and again, and again.

Who doesn’t love a slice or wedge? If you’re thinking cake, Italian pie or dessert pie, sorry, but that’s another story. Citrullus lanatus is the classic heirloom watermelon. My mouth waters particularly for the Moon and Stars variety.

It’s about slurping down those succulent, rosy juices that, according to Mark Twain, “Its tasting is to know what the angels eat.”

Anyone trying to consume the original fruits, however, would have gagged on the bitter and hard, pale green flesh. Although melons have been cultivated some 4,000-5,000 years, this particular melon has a much shorter history.

Many cultivars have come from Citrullus lanatus over the years, such as Cherokee Moon and Stars, Pink Flesh Amish Moon, Long Milky Way Moon, Yellow Flesh Moon and Stars, and Van Doren’s Moon and Stars. The last was introduced in Mother Earth News in the 1980s.

Originally christened “Sun, Moon and Stars” when first introduced in 1926 by Peter Henderson Seed Co., it disappeared for decades. Thought extinct, it was miraculously reintroduced when Merle Van Doren (of Macon, MO) gave seeds to Kent Wheatly (cofounder of Seed Savers Exchange). Hence, SSE reintroduced “Amish Moon & Stars” as well as a yellow-fleshed variety in 1987.

Although seedless watermelons are preferred by many–especially those pocket-sized novelties–the prized Moon and Stars heirloom has been making a strong comeback – huge seeds and all.

There really isn’t another like this miraculous melon. It ranges from 10-50 pounds with its genetically-influenced rind of deep emerald green speckled with small golden spots (stars) and one or two larger golden orbs (the moon).

Picture sitting on the back stoop while slurping down sweet watermelon, then spitting the seeds out into the yard.

Whether round, oblong or pear-shaped and with crimson, pink or yellow flesh, Moon and Stars is exceptionally sweet and juicy.

East Asian countries grow the seeds for their nutritional value.

Watermelons are very high in water content and contain vitamins A, C, and B-complex group, iron, fiber, lycopene, Arginine, and high levels of potassium.
If you’ve managed to procure some seeds, sow them (8-10 per hill) directly, about ½” deep on a well-draining mound enriched with lots of well-rotted compost in your hottest spot with full sun exposure. They can also be sown indoors 6 weeks prior to the last frost.

With weekly deep irrigation, generous fertilization and a thick blanket of compost, harvesting could commence in 95 days. When to harvest? Well, there are no cues such as slipping from stems, or smelling or touching them. Instead, thump or scratch (beware, watermelons are easily scratched), notice the brown tendril closest to the stem, or perhaps spot a yellowed underside – all may or may not mean it’s a ripe fruit.

Maybe, it’s best to just pluck the biggest one, then cross your fingers that it’s not only the ripest but the best-tasting Moon and Stars melon that you’ll love going back for.

***

A must-have melon lover’s book

Melons for the Passionate Grower, by Amy Goldman (Artisan, 2002),
Filled with history, growing tips and descriptions of heirloom melons and mouthwatering photos by Victor Schrager.

***

Seed sources

Note: Since Moon and Stars melons are open pollinated, it’s best to buy seed to get what you want. To save your own seed, you’ll need to hand pollinate, then protect flowers from further pollination.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Red flesh Moon and Stars

Sustainable Seed
Yellow flesh Moon and Stars

Seed Savers Exchange
Yellow flesh, Cherokee red and Van Doren Moon and Stars

***

Recipe: Watermelon sorbet or gelato


This is a quick mix recipe that you can whip up in minutes in your food processor. It’s not only delicious but nutritious.

Ingredients

About 3 cups watermelon cut in large cubes (this is about 3 lbs of flesh from a ¼ or ½ of a medium sized melon). Freeze cubes on plastic covered sheet pan. (This is a great way to preserve extra melon for future use – stored in zip-type bags.)

Organic lime juice (1/2 cup)

Optional additions:

1 tablespoon very finely minced fresh mint leaves or fresh ginger

2 tablespoons crème de menthe, raspberry or amaretto liquor

Optional sweeteners

While the basic recipe is sweet, some may like it sweeter.

1/3 cup undiluted frozen juice concentrate, thawed (apple raspberry, apple cherry or strawberry), honey, maple syrup, agave or non-caloric equivalent like stevia to taste.

For gelato: Use about 2/3 cup of vanilla flavored coconut, soy, or almond milk or regular half and half or cream instead of lime juice.

Preparation

Place melon cubes in food processor with choice of additions and start pulsing while dribbling in liquid of your choice (as well as liquor and sweetener if using) through feed tube until you get the consistency of sorbet/gelato you like. The liquid is to get things processing as well as to add flavor. You may need more or less depending on the density and exact amount of the melon cubes.

That’s it! You can loosely pack the mixture in containers and serve later.

Let it stand at room temperature about 30 minutes to soften if necessary.

Makes about 3 cups.