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Beet December 2020

Git yer learnin’ on! Master Gardener training ahead

By Beet December 2020 34 Comments

One of the most frustrating aspects of the current COVID-19 pandemic is our inability to attend master gardener and community education classes. If you are like me, you are missing the camaraderie of seeing friends in person and having access to ongoing education. Our Jackson County Master Gardeners Association has been working hard to learn new ways to do our educational outreach to our current students and the community at large. I must admit, it has been a steep learning curve for me. But hope is in sight!

Oregon State University and the Oregon Master Gardeners program have been working diligently to provide information of all kinds on-line and in a virtual environment. At the recent “State of the Statewide Master Gardeners Program,” our coordinator, Gail Langellotto, shared some exciting news about programs that will be rolling out in January, 2021. I highly recommend you view her presentation. Grab a cup of coffee, and spend some time learning what a remarkable program we run in this state. To see Gail’s talk, you can follow this link, but in the meantime, I am delighted to give a brief overview.

All of the following programs are available on-line and free of charge.

What other Master Gardener Programs are doing around the state during COVID-19:

Clackamas County MGA: Has a YouTube Channel with Mini Gardening Lessons on a variety of topics, called 10-Minute University.

Clatsop County MGA: Has a Seed to Supper Blog that disseminates that curriculum. Scroll down the right margin to the 2020 blog archive to see their Food Security Posts, taken directly from the Seed to Supper Curriculum.

Benton County MGA: Seed to Supper at Home program, done as four Zoom modules.

OSU extension Spotify Podcast Gardening Q & A

Upcoming from OSU: Elevated Master Gardener training, focused on skills building. These are due to roll out in 2021 and Erika will keep us apprised of dates.
Basic Zoom: How to join a meeting and work on-line
Advanced Zoom: For moderators, facilitators and speakers – for running Zoom lessons, conferences and presentations.

OSU DATABASE and Plant ID trainings: How to use for plant ID
iNaturalist training: How to ID insects (any living organism).

Virtual Plant Clinic training: How to work in this on-line environment.

On-line Shareable Database of Plant Clinic Q&A: Available statewide
Youth Gardening: Training from Josephine County.

Superpower Your Demo Garden: Put education first in the demo garden.

Community Science and MG Program: Plug in to programs from around the state.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion presentations: From other programs around the state.

I hope every member of our association will take at least one of these fantastic trainings. Our mission is to help educate the public and OSU and our fellow organizations around the state have produced an abundance of information that we can help push to our local community.

Once again, grab that cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and “git yer learnin’ on”.

New board to take the reins

By Beet December 2020 39 Comments

Voting is completed and results are in. Returning to your JCMGA Board of Directors in their elected positions are: President Lynn Kunstman; Past-President Ronnie Budge; Recording Secretary Jane Moyer; Membership Secretary Patrice Kaska; Treasurer Annette Carter; Assistant Treasurer Roberta Heinz; OMGA Representative Barbara Davidson; Archivist Pam Hillers; and Member-at-Large Kathy Apple. Newly elected Members-at-Large are Colet Allen, Regula Pepi, Margaret Saydah, and Devyn Schneck. Seán Cawley will continue to represent the class of 2020.

Representing the various working groups will be: Communications Kate Hassen; Community Outreach Jim Buck; Fundraising Sandy Hansen; Gardens Marcie Katz; Member Services Keltie Nelson; Spring Garden Fair Sandy Hammond; Winter Dreams Summer Gardens Sue Koury; and Program Support (and MG program coordinator) Erika Szonntag.

We will miss those who will no longer be on the Board (but whom we know will continue to contribute in many other important ways): Susan Koenig, Bill Gabriel, Janine Salvatti, Jack Ivers, and Rebecca Jurta. Many thanks for your fine work.

And thanks also to those of you who voted in the JCMGA election. Even when positions are unopposed, the candidates appreciate your vote of confidence!

2020 was not what 
I expected when 
I started my term

By Beet December 2020 39 Comments

When I volunteered to run for the office of JCMGA vice-president/president-elect in August 2018, it was because I’d been a little bored. I figured a couple of extra meetings a month would give me something new and interesting to do. Wise decision. I haven’t been the least bit bored since. Sometimes a little busier than I might like, but never bored.

As I contemplated my presidential year, I envisioned myself walking around the Extension grounds every Wednesday morning, finding out what was going on and reporting to you via the Garden Beet. As we all know, 2020 turned out to be very different. Many of us recall a specific date when we first realized the impact COVID-19 would have on our lives. For me that date is March 13, when the doors to the Extension auditorium were closed and we held the last in-person meeting of JCMGA Board members “off campus.”

We needed to decide whether to go ahead with the Spring Garden Fair or cancel. Looking back, it is hard to believe we thought it even possible that such an event might still be held. But I am proud that JCMGA was among the first to recognize our responsibility to do what we could to limit the spread of the virus by not hosting an activity that would bring crowds together.

Although more activities had to be cancelled later, we still accomplished a lot. The Demonstration Gardens are in glorious shape thanks to the efforts of the volunteers who showed up faithfully every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning when the campus reopened in late June. Lynn Kunstman answered questions from listeners near and far on her regular Wednesday morning gig on Jefferson Public Radio. Practicum mentors led several on-line sessions for 2020 students who wanted to continue lessons after the classroom closed. We all learned to use Zoom and continued monthly Board meetings and even retreats without a hitch.

The Garden Beet likewise continued monthly publication and is a livelier read than ever. And have you checked out the Beet on our website? Each month’s articles are now highlighted complete with photos. I always print out my copy to read over coffee, but someone who reads it online commented recently about how much easier it is to upload to her device.

We did our first ever virtual Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens event. For this initial “toe in the water” experiment, viewers could tour my vegetable garden via photographs with live narration and Lynn’s native plant and vegetable garden in the same format. These have been recorded and we’ll let you know soon how you can view them if you missed the first showing.

To support our community, we donated native plants raised by the Practicum to help restore landscapes destroyed by fire, garden tools to Habitat for Humanity to help with cleanup, and houseplants for Asante Women’s Imaging to give to those who have mammograms that show abnormalities.

We celebrated our award winners, Barbara Davidson, Dee Copley, Steve Hassen, Doug Kirby, Bill Elliot, and John Kobal, with an afternoon Zoom gathering filled with speeches, lots of thanks, and good cheer.

It looks as though JCMGA will finish this year in the black, despite the cancellation of our major fundraiser. We’ve kept expenses to a bare minimum. Meanwhile our Garden Guides sold better than ever; we received donations from community garden group plant sales; and bottle returns and credits from the Grange Co-op and elsewhere added a bit to the bottom line.

JCMGA remains a vital organization. Just reading the comments from those who ran for office convinces me that: “The opportunity to be working with people who give so much of themselves for our community is a great honor.” “Master Gardeners is an amazing place to learn about gardening and a great resource for community.” “I am grateful for all JCMGA does to practice and teach the art and science of gardening.”

We will have a fabulous Board of Directors in 2021. So many wished to serve that every position (except president-elect, still searching!) will be filled and no one will need to wear more than one hat. I am proud and happy to pass the baton on to Lynn Kunstman, who will do an amazing job as your 2021 president.

The indoor gardener’s winter playbook

By Beet December 2020 37 Comments

This morning (Nov. 20) when I got up at 7 a.m. it was 27 degrees and promising to be a beautiful day…except, did I mention it was 27 degrees?

I have finally come to terms with being a Goldilocks gardener. I freely admit I like to garden when it’s not too hot and not too cold. Houseplants fit the bill perfectly. It’s wonderful being able to garden in my pajamas any time of day or night when the mood strikes me.

But this year as COVID-19 deepens its hold on our country and the world, I am grateful for indoor gardening. The vibrancy houseplants bring to any space affirms life. I enjoy tending them. They are uplifting, therapeutic. And when they bloom, it feels like a precious reward.

Our outdoor gardening knowledge translates nicely to houseplants. The one big difference is that houseplants are wholly dependent on their human caretakers for ALL life support and health, water, light, environmental conditions.

Water: Most houseplants are killed by overwatering. This can be watering too frequently but might be more a case of a plant standing in water accumulating in saucers or decorative pots intended to protect household furnishing from water damage.

Professional plant services commonly keep plants in the plastic pot they come in and place those in decorative containers for indoor use to protect against water damage. They routinely check for standing water and remove it with a turkey baster. This is genius! By the way, roots respond better to room temperature water over cold water. And some plants don’t particularly like chlorinated water.
They will also often elevate the plastic pot inside the decorative container with packing peanuts or other plastic pots as an added safeguard. This also serves to bring the top of the plant level to the top of the decorative pot. This is then dressed with moss, a very nice finishing touch.

If you are repotting, don’t follow the old school recommendation to use gravel or clay pot shards in the bottom of the pot. That substrate stops water flowing out of the pot.

Light: Same old mantra. Right plant, right place. If you cannot provide enough natural light, plant lights are an easy fix. We gardeners know shop lights work, but these probably won’t do much for indoor aesthetics. LEDs work just fine.

Indoor environment: Humidity is likely low due to heating systems and fireplaces. Check a reliable source on-line, usually ending in .org, for humidity requirements for your particular plant. Some might need to sit on top of a gravel-filled tray topped with water to increase humidity. Some might like to be misted or placed in bathrooms where showers provide more humidity. Some are happy without either.

Houseplants generally do not like drafts, including being homed under/over AC or heating ducts. Significant changes in temperature or extended direct exposure to hot or cold will damage plants.

Soil: Refresh by adding new planting mix or replace potting soil once every year or so. Each plant has specific soil preferences. Fortunately, there are soil mixes for every need. Soil compaction also threatens plant health by not having enough open pockets to store oxygen.

Fertilization: After a few months, the potting soil nutrients are exhausted. While on-line, check the needs for each plant. Avoid damaging plant roots with fertilizing sticks since they often are too close to the roots in confined pots.

Pests and Diseases: Minimize these by bringing home healthy, pest-free plants from commercial sources. If our houseplants are stressed, they look mighty inviting to pests and diseases. Check out OSU’s tips.

Pet safety: Many plants are toxic to cats and dogs. If your pet ignores your houseplants, great. But if they want to chew them, it could spell real trouble. December is the season for poinsettias and these are highly toxic to our pets.

Not long ago I read an article about making a “plant bowl” with cat grass (wheat grass) and herbs we humans commonly eat, all safe for pets, cats in particular. Low profile bowls can be of any size, fanciful or utilitarian. They’re healthy for our pets and can serve to distract them from other less desirable plants.

Resource for pet-safe plants: The ASPCA lists safe and toxic plants for pets. Note these same plants may also be toxic to children!

If you have any unusual houseplants you’d like to share with your fellow indoor gardeners, please email me. I might be able to use your photo in an upcoming issue of the Garden Beet.


Podcast: On the Ledge by Jane Perrone
OSU Extension: Information on houseplants, pests, and diseases

JCMGA membership renewals due

By Beet December 2020 39 Comments

JCMGA membership renewal for 2021 is just about to begin. You will soon receive a Mailchimp letting you know how and when to renew. If you want to be included in the 2021 Chapter Directory, please be sure your renewal is received by Jan. 31.

Three methods of renewal are available this year:

1) Complete the renewal form and pay online.

The online form is available on the member side of our website. Go to and press Member Login at the top of the homepage. Enter your username and password to access the Green House (the members-only portion of the website). On the Green House home page, scroll down through the Member Links on the right and click on Membership Renewal. There you can complete the form, make your dues payment of $25, and even make a donation to JCMGA if you would like.

2) Print out the one-page form and send it and your $25 check for dues to: JCMGA Member Renewal, PO Box 401, Ashland, OR, 97520.

There is a link to a printable renewal form on the Mailchimps that will be sent out periodically throughout the renewal period. Click on the link, read the direction page, and print the one-page form.  Complete the form and mail it and your $25 dues to JCMGA Member Renewal, PO Box 401, Ashland, OR, 97520. Please do not send renewals to the Extension Center which is periodically closed during the pandemic.

3) Request that a paper copy of the renewal form be mailed to you.
There is also a link you can use to request that a paper renewal form be mailed to you on the renewal Mailchimps.

Potential JCMGA members who do not have email addresses listed with JCMGA have been sent a paper renewal form by mail to complete and return to the address above.

If you have questions about the renewal process, please contact Patrice Kaska, JCMGA Membership Secretary.

This year Erika Szonntag, the Jackson County OSU Master Gardener program coordinator, will contact JCMGA members about the online completion of the two required OSU volunteer forms (Conditions of Volunteer Service and Code of Conduct). This process will begin in early 2021.

Lots of training in store for Master Gardeners

By Beet December 2020 34 Comments

Dear Gardeners,

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. It probably looked a little different this year than in past years, but I hope you all had the chance to connect with family and friends all the same.

Lynn wrote a great column about the recent statewide address from Gail Langellotto, current programs around the state, and courses that Master Gardeners can look forward to during the 2021 Elevated Master Gardener Training. Stay tuned to updates from OSU regarding registration and more class details. Again, this training is free and optional for current Master Gardeners, including 2021 students, and will take the place of traditional Master Gardener Volunteer training. We hope to resume training for new volunteers in 2022.

In case you missed the “Thank You” video to all Master Gardener Volunteers from Master Gardener Celebration week, click here to watch.

I also want to give a quick reminder to please submit your hours in the VRS, or mail your hours to me/bring them to the Extension office by Friday, Dec. 4. I want to make sure your hours are included in annual reporting. We use these numbers to show the university what we’re doing, in addition to showing the County Commissioners the value that Master Gardeners bring to the local community. It helps us maintain funding to keep the Extension open and otherwise fund the MG Program (such as funding the coordinator’s position).

To help you categorize your hours, here is the document which describes the different volunteer categories (click here for the overall Volunteer Resources page on the OSU MG Program page on the SOREC website). For students, half of your 40 hours (due in October 2021) must be direct or indirect education hours. For recertifying volunteers, a minimum of 10 out of your 20 volunteer service hours must also be direct or indirect education hours (this means educating the public. Personal education for oneself is covered by continuing education credits). Again, hours for recertifying volunteers were waived in 2020, but if you have them, please report them!

In case you are looking for more reading, check out these two recent articles from OSU Extension and the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture:
What’s the Real Story? Garden Myths Debunked
National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture: Plant a Tree, Improve Your Life

Happy holidays and “see you” in 2021!

– Erika

Your goose is cooked

By Beet December 2020 37 Comments

Gardening Gourmet

Sydney Jordan Brown

Master Gardener 2000

In case you’re wondering, this is not a story about that golden-grilled-gander that graces many holiday feasts, nor those supplying feathers for your down-filled comforters.
This is about another goose that’s long been proudly perched upon its pedestaled-plateau at the other end of many a festive meal or sustainable food gathering.
Despite the U.S. ban in the early 1900s on importing hybrid gooseberry plants carrying a disease that decimated white pines in various Eastern states, the Northwestern native black gooseberry, Ribes divaricatum, was growing wild on the west coast.
Unlike R. hirtellum, native of the Northeastern/North central U.S., R. divaricatum is endemic, found almost exclusively west of the Cascades. This plant’s natural home ranges from open woodlands and coastal shrubbery to prairies and moist hillsides.
It’s also known as spreading gooseberry, straggle bush, wild and straggly gooseberry, American Worcesterberry, coastal black and common gooseberry.
The name comes from Old Norman/Middle English groses or grosier, the old French word for grosielle, meaning red currant. All of these come from the Frankish root krûsil, meaning “crisp berry,” not from serving it with goose.
Whatever you call it, this deciduous, spiny, multi-stemmed shrub offers much more than its feathered namesake. The fruits are perhaps the best-tasting wild gooseberries when they’ve ripened to a rich ebony-black.
These highly ornamental shrubs with miniature maple-like leaves grow delicate purple and white fuchsia-like flowers dangling like delicate lanterns from arching stems. They lend themselves well to the “wild” garden aesthetic.
Today, this plant is still highly valued by Northwest Native American tribes (for food, medicine and family) who continue to steward and restore wild populations while sustaining and strengthening the integrity of the ecology, their cultural heritage and wisdom.
Despite their thorny nature, this plant is a very low-maintenance, easy-to-grow perennial that’s great for sustainable landscaping. Note that it may well be wise to wear rose-pruning gloves to pluck the soft, ripened to ebony color, fruits. Despite their pricks, popping just one of these little gems in your mouth will make you glad you planted them.
You’ll also be pleased by their very high vitamin C content and their pectin that naturally thickens any jam or jelly. You can also cook them into chutneys and sauces for seafood or poultry, or bake them in tasty pies, tarts and cobblers. Yum!
Preferring full-sun to part shade and well-drained soils with adequate irrigation, self-fertile gooseberries will fruit in mid-summer in the third year. Topping out at 3 to 8 feet, they’ll blend well with natural surroundings.
The black gooseberry isn’t only a terrific native shrub, but will win raves for its natural beauty. It will also attract avian visitors; yet, astoundingly, deer avoid it.
So, the only goose cooked here is that of the native Western gooseberry.


Recipe: Wild gooseberry galette

1/2 cup each unbleached flour and white whole wheat flour (or gluten free equivalent)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon organic sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2” cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
2/3 cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon flour
zest of one organic lemon
3 1/2 cups fresh black gooseberries, washed with stems and tails removed (cuticle or needle-bladed herb scissors work best)
2 tablespoons each organic sugar and milk
Mix flour, salt, and sugar in food processor. Then add butter and pulse about 30 seconds until resembling coarse cornmeal. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water-lemon juice mix and pulse just until dough holds together. Gather dough into a ball and chill 30 minutes.
For filling, mix 2/3 cup sugar and ground spices, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400°. Roll dough out on a floured surface (silicone mats work best) to about a 14” round. This doesn’t need to be perfect since this is a rustic style of tart. Using mat, transfer dough to a baking sheet covered with heavy foil topped with parchment paper. Sprinkle surface with 2 tablespoons spiced sugar.
Toss berries and lemon zest with remaining spiced sugar and 1 tablespoon flour then dump in the middle of crust. Gently pull edges of crust up and pleat leaving about an 8” opening in the center. With a pastry brush, use milk to paint exterior of crust then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake about 40-50 minutes until berries are bubbly and crust is golden brown. Serves about 6-8. Great with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


Plant sources

Native Foods Nursery (Dexter, OR)

6” to gallon-size plants
Friends of Sausal Creek Native Plant Nursery (Oakland, CA)


A year (of change) in the gardens

By Beet December 2020 39 Comments

By Marcie Katz
Master Gardener 2019
2020 – A year most of us will never forget. It was a year of historic change. Our everyday life became stay-at-home with no restaurants or movie theaters. Large events, parties and gatherings, were cancelled. For Master Gardeners, it meant the end of the 2020 Practicum and a whole Master Gardener class put on hold, with GEMS and students kept out of the Demonstration Gardens so we all could stay safe in the time of COVID-19.
Our hard-working members had just finished pest-proofing greenhouses 1 and 2 and we were on our way with the first seeds started in the Prop house for SGF. I had just applied to be the GEM of the Bird, Bee and Butterfly Garden (BBB) when it was determined that it was planted too close to the west wall of GH 1, and posed a “pest potential”. The Gardens Working Group decided it needed to be moved and plans and paperwork went in to be approved. The Practicum could use this as an opportunity to teach the students about how to “dig and divide” perennials and March was the perfect time!
Then COVID-19 came! Three months later, we returned to our beloved gardens that were full grown, full of weeds and operating under maintenance-only guidelines. Three days a week for three hours a day, the GEMs and helpers took back control and things started happening. A new native nursery garden grew; others shrank or lay dormant. More changes.
It was well into June, and the BBB Garden was in its full glory, so full of blooming plants that nary a weed could invade. It bloomed all summer and into the fall. It was so huge, some plants like “Queen of the Prairie” and “Joe Pye Weed” were over 6 feet tall! Russian Sage was popping out everywhere. In October, in preparation for the move, Margaret Saydah and I decided to cut it back. It took two garden days! A group work day was scheduled on Nov. 4 and with my seven wonderful helpers and three hours of non-stop digging and heavy lifting, we moved all of the plants. It was a monumental job. We were all exhausted but jubilant at our progress! At this time, the future home of the BBB is unknown, but the plants are saved, heeled-in temporarily in the Children’s Garden raised beds waiting out the winter.
All in all, even with the quarantine, limited time, and what we were allowed to do, and though many of our Master Gardeners are considered as high risk and were unable to come out and work in the gardens as they would have liked, much was accomplished this year and changes were made for the better.
I would like to thank all of the volunteers who made all things possible: all the GEMs, student helpers, Garden Enhancement Committee, and those who came out just because. Thank you. Thanks for sharing your time, your hard work, your knowledge and most of all your comradery in all things garden. And let us not forget about all the behind-the-scenes MGs that are working from home to keep our wonderful association afloat and make important decisions via ZOOM meetings in these challenging times. Change is something most of us don’t like but have had to deal with a lot in the last year. Change is in the way we do things so that we survive and prosper and guide us into the future, whatever it may be. Good bye old BBB Garden, goodbye 2020, let’s see what the new year brings. More change.