The Oregon Master Gardener Association’s (OMGA) 2021 Mini-College is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, July 16-17. It will be all- virtual and the cost of registration is $49. JCMGA has set aside funds to provide scholarships for six JCMGA members.
On Friday, Keynote Speaker Robert Michael Pyle, a writer and Yale-trained ecologist, Guggenheim Fellow, and founder of the Xerces Society, will discuss “People, Plants and Pollinators in the PNW.” Following his talk, there will be concurrent sessions including wide-ranging topics such as the Oregon Bee Atlas, mason bees, native garden plant considerations for pollinators, insect pests, microbes, and workshops on hydroponics and the OSU plant identification program. Since the Mini-College is virtual, all sessions and workshops will be recorded and posted online so that registered participants may watch any of the classes or workshops at a personally-convenient time!
On Saturday, the Keynote Speaker will be Dr. Gail Langellotto, the Oregon Master Gardener State Coordinator, who will discuss the “Oregon Master Gardener Program – Successes, Challenges and Opportunities.” The concurrent sessions will include talks on agricultural adaptations for the urban environment, organic vegetable gardening, the Japanese beetle, biochar, and year-round pollinator plants. Workshops include designing a pollinator garden with native plants and using I-Naturalist for insect identification.
Additional information and registration for Mini-College is here.
The six JCMGA scholarships will be offered on a first come, first served basis. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please send an email to Patrice Kaska using the subject heading “Mini-College Scholarship” indicating your interest.
Summer is almost upon us. May was quite the scorcher, and it looks like that will be the default setting for this month as well. Like me, you are probably worried about keeping your summer gardens watered during the current drought conditions we are experiencing. Hopefully you have installed drip irrigation in your vegetable gardens, and mulched everything you can to preserve the soil moisture. Master Gardener Doug Kirby has been repairing and turning on the watering systems in the Demonstration Gardens at the Extension campus so they can survive until we are able to get back to normal operations there.
As Jackson County COVID-19 numbers come down, and we can move into MODERATE, or LOW risk status, the closure on campus should ease. Erika will keep us all informed about when we can return to work in the gardens. Watch for her emails.
Meanwhile, there are steps you can take to keep your yard and gardens “waterwise.” Landscaping with native plants can help you reduce water consumption. Western native plants are adapted to our dry summer conditions. If you have not seen the fantastic, virtual NATIVE PLANTS GARDEN TOURS, put together by our awesome Master Gardener Sherri Morgan and her group of superhero volunteers, I encourage you all to follow this link to view them. Please be sure to hit the donation button when you visit the site.
The Community Garden Club has native plants for sale at 3939 Tami Lane in Central Point. Hours are from 9 am–5 pm daily. Sales are self-serve, with instructions for leaving payment in the barn. And of course, when we can return to campus, JCMGA will be selling native plants from our Native Plant Nursery weekly and at pop-up sales.
For those of you who would like to know more about what is going on with JCMGA, I encourage you to attend our monthly board meetings. Members are always welcome at our meetings, which happen on the second Friday of each month from 9:30 – 11:30 am. If you would like to attend, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so I can send you the link to our next Zoom meeting.
Happy June! This month, I’d like to highlight incredible work done by some members of the 2020 class, plus include some other program updates.
Community Veggie Start Donations: Over the past few months, Ann Hackett, Carolyn Gale, Debbie Connolly, and Barbara Low (all class of 2020) have been raising vegetable starts to donate locally to their local neighborhoods and communities, utilizing greenhouses and other propagation space they had available at home, and either using their own seeds, or using seeds from the Grow This! Challenge.
Debbie and Barbara are still nurturing their herb and flower starts (as of mid-May). Carolyn and Ann both had very successful donation events from their homes (which were pre-approved by OSU and followed COVID safety guidelines). Carolyn raised several hundred starts and donated about 200 over the course of a weekend from her home to her neighborhood and local community. Ann donated 808 starts to friends, neighbors, and to Almeda fire victims at the ‘New Roots Almeda Plant Gifting’ event at the Habitat for Humanity in south Medford on May 15th. Both Ann and Carolyn developed a handout for how to care for starts, with a lot of help from Ronnie Budge and Lynn Kunstman, who helped with content. Ann provided details of what she raised, which included 12 varieties of tomatoes, 17 varieties of peppers, four varieties of eggplant, and four varieties of tomatillos. She also gave away flower seeds which she had saved from previous years.
Together, Ann and Carolyn donated over 1,000 vegetable starts to their communities, plus provided folks with high-quality information on how to care for those starts. Thank you for your amazing contributions to the community and thank you to those who helped Ann, Carolyn, Debbie, and Barbara along the way.
Program Updates: If you have not yet been tuning into the ‘Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level-Up Series’, it’s not too late! Our next talk with be on June 8, titled ‘Unique Winter Vegetables to Grow’. Registration information is here.
Currently, OSU has not yet provided additional guidance on how being vaccinated affects volunteerism, but I will keep you all posted as I hear new information.
From the Statewide Office – Your Questions Answered: Please see the latest blog post from the statewide Master Gardener Program office, where you’ll find answers to your questions about 2021 recertification and 2022 Master Gardener Program Training.
Remember last month I wrote that I think of May as a “race to the beginning” when I try to get everything in the ground to start growing as soon as possible? Well…I never quite make it–there are always a few things I don’t get planted–so early June is when I plant the May “leftover” starts. Waiting for my winter Bloomsdale Savoy spinach to go to seed to make room, I held up planting the peppers for a few weeks. I also debated about how many eggplants and tomatoes to plant until I learned that the irrigation situation is worse than I thought. I have given away many of my starts. Hopefully, those who adopted them will have more water than I will.
This year, due to the lack of irrigation water, I have planted a much-reduced garden. I have two vegetable garden areas – 6 raised beds and a huge in-ground garden suitable for plants that require a lot of space like squash, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, and gourds. Sadly, I will not have the water for any of these this year (except 4 tomato plants). I’m piling mulch (straw and leaves) on the “upper garden” to keep the weeds at bay until, hopefully, next year or maybe this fall when I may be able to use that area again.
I will not be making tomato soup, sauce or paste. Fortunately, I have a few jars left from previous years. No corn roast for this year and I will have to wait to try a new method of curing gourds. There is nothing so disappointing for a gardener as having to reduce the size of the garden while not growing any new varieties. Boohoo!
Two of my apple trees failed to bloom for the first time ever, so I won’t be getting any Braeburns or Golden Delicious. I asked around and a couple of friends reported no blooms on their trees, but not everyone has this problem. Hmm…Mine are mature trees which have always produced well and they appear very healthy, so I researched reasons for this failure. There seem to be two possible reasons: either they are taking the year off or we did not get enough sub-freezing days this winter for them to bloom. My other apple tree didn’t get the memo, fortunately. It bloomed well and should have lots of apples.
In June, we can still direct sow a long list of vegetables: bush or pole beans, carrots, corn, beets, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, edamame, okra, scallions, lettuce, Malabar and New Zealand spinach and parsnips. There are also many herbs than can be planted outdoors this month: dill, chervil, basil, summer savory and amaranth.
Be sure to get after the weeds while they are still small and have small root systems. With the warmer weather, weeds grow at an astonishing rate and can rob your garden plants of nutrition and water they need. Landscape cloth and a thick layer of mulch are your best defense.
In order to get a good crop of potatoes, hill the plants when they are about 8” high by raking soil, straw, leaves, grass clippings or compost to cover the stems, leaving about 4” showing. Repeat this every 2–3 weeks to protect the developing potatoes from direct sunlight and to provide more space for the tubers to develop.
One last note, be sure to label your veggies in the garden. If you are like me, you have 3-4 different varieties of some types of veggies like beans, lettuce, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, etc. If one variety does particularly well or you love one type, but don’t want to repeat another, you want to be able to tell them apart. I have found that the little white plastic stakes or seed packets on sticks don’t last all summer. The ink fades and they often get lost. I have taken to using wooden stakes with permanent marker for many things like corn, squash, pumpkins, gourds and row crops. Duct tape labeled with permanent marker doubled over the wire cages of tomato, pepper or eggplant cages also works well.
June garden guide
Here a a few of the many things to do in June:
Direct seed: There are almost two dozen things to direct seed this month, from amaranth to summer savory.
Transplant: From cantaloupe to watermelon, there’s plenty to do.
Sow for transplanting: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower
North America has lost close to 3 billion birds since the 1970s, almost a third of the entire bird population. It is not just rare or endangered birds that we are losing, our familiar backyard songbird populations are disappearing too. The die-off is primarily attributed to loss of habitat and the use of pesticides.
Our yards are filled with exotic plants and empty of insects. Our birds have fewer and fewer bugs and berries to eat, no cavities for nesting, and no thickets for protection from predators.
If we could plant even half of our 40 million acres of lawn in 2/3 native plants, and keep them pesticide free, we could turn the bird losses into gains.
Also, if you can, please keep your cats inside. If they pester you to go outside, just do what I did for many years — I walked them. It’s a great way to bond with your cat, clear your head, and watch the birds.
Or, in the case of our Harlan, watching the turkeys.
The Jackson County Master Gardener Association Member Services Working Group (MSWG) announces its second annual photo contest.
Although the actual contest will not take place until August 2021, we would like to share this year’s information and guidelines now to give you a chance to consider what photo(s) you might like to enter:
The 2021 JCMGA Photo Contest is open to all current Jackson County Master Gardener Association members.
Photos may be submitted from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31, 2021. We are able to accept two (2) photos from each member, although there will be only one winning photo per person.
Photographs are limited to those taken in gardens of the Rogue Valley and the focus must be on a plant or planting—no people (for privacy concerns).
Please submit your photograph in portrait format, rather than landscape format.
All photographs must be at least 1500 x 1575 pixels (5”x 5-1/2” at 300 dpi) and all submitted photos become the property of JCMGA.
Like all human endeavors, we hope that those of us involved with the photo contest will improve as we gain experience and practice. For example, it was recently pointed out to us that the winning 2021 cover photo could be considered ineligible since it included fauna – which was forbidden in the rules. Although MSWG members felt strongly that we did not want to include photos of people’s pets, backyard chicken coops, and visiting wild turkeys, we didn’t consider that insects are also fauna. Therefore, we apologize to entrants who were careful to include only flora in their photographs as we had requested.
In addition, since the photograph on the cover of the directory is longer from top-to-bottom than from side-to-side, photos taken in portrait format rather than landscape format work best.
The winning photograph will appear on the cover of the 2022 JCMGA Chapter Directory and four runners-up will have their photographs featured in the Garden Beet. Winners will be announced in the October Garden Beet.
Have you ever wondered what might have happened if Peter Rabbit’s pilfering Mr. McGregor’s garden had presented him not with an orange, but a purple carrot? He surely would have been quite surprised.
Although our own expectations may be similar to Peter’s experience, there’s way more to the story about today’s carrot, Daucus carota, subsp. sativus.
Some 5,000 years before the cultivation of today’s common garden carrot, Daucus carota, the wild carrot, grew abundantly in areas of the Middle East, Asia, Europe, as well as Afghanistan.
First propagated by the Egyptians, Greeks and ancient Romans, they were used for medicinal properties carried within their seeds. Although many of those first (not so tasty) roots were white, yellow, and red, those of deepest amethyst were probably the main variety in Iran and Afghanistan.
While most varieties carried some variation of orange coloration, the true orange carrot was crafted from a mutant strain of purple carrots. Although the Dutch might take credit for many of today’s orange varieties, new evidence shows that there were orange varieties before the 17th century.
Most people envision carrots being orange, and darker varieties appear dull in color when overcooked. Perhaps that is why the “root of purple” almost disappeared.
Fortunately for us, the heirloom violet-purple and darker “black” varieties are making a comeback not only in specialty seed catalogs, but in today’s garden plots. If you’re not impressed with the purple roots you’ll be astounded by deep pink flowering stems.
Why plant purple? Not only are these amethyst roots beautiful to behold, their vitamin and mineral benefits are bountiful. Along with beta carotene, purple carrots are high in terpenoids and low in sugar. They also contain an abundance of anthocyanins, as well as anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties in the blackest varieties.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, some purple carrots seeds were saved. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange reintroduced them in 1991.
With new methods to lightly cook vegetables, a multitude of purple carrot varieties show up not only on the menus of well-known chefs, but dazzle on our own dinner plates. They also make quite a statement when shredded raw in salads.
While you might find such carrots in markets carrying heirloom produce, why not plant your own pinnacles of purple?
Like their orange counterparts, they require at least a foot of loose, well-composted soil to keep their 8–9” tapered roots straight.
They can be direct sown (seedlings don’t transplant well) anytime from late spring through late summer. Thinning young seedlings to 2–3” apart will encourage larger and straighter root growth and avoid “love-knot” bundles from those clustered too close together. Lots of mulch and light fertilizing with low-nitrogen fertilizer along with regular irrigation is all you need.
From tops (yes, they’re edible too) to bottoms, put some punch in your garden palette and plant some seed for that “Root of all Purple.”
Landscaping with native plants has many benefits. Here are seven steps you can take to help the environment and increase our declining bird populations.
1. Remove at least half your lawn: There are 45 million acres of lawn in the US, using 2 billion gallons of gasoline, creating 41 billion pounds of CO2 and 13 billion pounds of toxic and carcinogenic air pollutants emitted from leaf blowers and mowers. We spread over 100 million pounds of pernicious lawn chemicals and fertilizers. American lawns use 9 billion gallons of water A DAY! REPEAT ALL OF THE ABOVE FOR ANNUALLY!
2. Remove invasive and non-native plants from your yard: Non-native plants are carried to wild areas by animals and wind, where they often break bud and flower earlier. They provide less, or no nutrition to our native wildlife, and crowd out or outcompete our native vegetation, thereby impoverishing our ecosystems.
3. PLANT NATIVE PLANTS! Native plants build and stabilize soil, filter water, sequester carbon, provide critical habitat and food for our declining native birds, pollinators, beneficial insects and other wildlife. They support local food webs and biodiversity.
4. Avoid or minimize the use of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. All of these compounds have detrimental effects on soil health, on insect populations that support our birds, and on local water systems that support our fish.
5. Build a pollinator garden. Pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. They are in decline, and need our protection.
6. Leave the leaves! Hundreds of butterfly and moth species overwinter in leaf litter. They, along with other insects hiding there, provide critical winter food for birds. Gently rake your leaves up under your shrubs. Don’t send next summer’s butterflies to the landfill.
7. Turn off outdoor lights. Lights at night confuse and exhaust our nighttime pollinators, and cause our migrating birds to strike windows and die. Install motion sensor lights, or YELLOW LED lights outside.
By choosing to grow native plants and decreasing the size of your lawn, you make a commitment to help the environment and save our struggling birds and pollinators. If you are already growing native plants in your yard, then consider getting on the Homegrown National Park registry.
ZZ plant?? What is a ZZ plant?? What an odd name!?!! What’s its real name?
Well … I’m glad you asked. 😉
ZZ (short for Zamioculcas zamiifolia) – I’d love to hear you pronounce those two words – has been thriving for centuries in Africa where drought is the name of the game. Even being such a tender-looking plant, it actually loves the great outdoors.
During the mid-1990s Dutch nurseries saw that ZZ plants had easy propagating potential and thus, world-wide distribution brought ZZ plants to us all. Soon, it was realized they thrived indoors.
ZZ is in style at your office
This plant has wide, dark, glossy leaves and is low maintenance. It fits easily into your office or home décor and seems to cheerfully say “Hi” to each passerby.
Air purifier made easy
NASA research showed the ZZ is able to remove abundant amounts of toxins (including Xylene, Toluene, and Benzene).
Beware of toxicity
Keep pets and children from snacking on the ZZ – this beautiful plant is poisonous. To avoid skin irritation after handling it, it’s a good rule to wash your hands.
Ease of care
An easy – easy – easy plant for beginners, busy office staff, or black and brown thumbs.
The ZZ plant reaches 2–3 feet in width and height. However, it will NOT quickly outgrow its container, so enjoy the beautiful planter you potted it in. You can prune off branches that tend to grab you as you walk by.
Plant in well-draining potting soil and feed once a month with a balanced (e.g., 20-20-20) liquid fertilizer.
Water and light don’t concern the ZZ – it keeps growing with a minimum of each.
Remember it flourishes in low light and only water it fully when dry. (This plant pictured lived for decades in a local library.) Your ZZ can wait between watering because it has thick rhizomes that resemble potatoes – they store water – a ZZ will stay alive even when you forget to water.
ZZ may produce tiny white blooms in late summer, but it’s regarded as a foliage plant.
You can separate the rhizomes (potato-like roots) and replant them – I hear they grow faster when planted in groups. Or, what I did was to take three leaves with a bit of stem attached from my friend’s plant and put them in about ½–1 inch of water in a jar. It normally takes months for the leaves to sprout roots but it did happen.
It was fun to check every week or so for roots and finally some appeared.
Try it yourself. ZZ is up to the challenge … are you?