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Beet November 2020

Gardening as a mental health benefit

By Beet November 2020 39 Comments

When your Board of Directors met via Zoom a couple of weeks ago, we remarked at how well everyone was looking. We seemed like a pretty cheerful bunch too, despite the constant stream of bad news over the past weeks and months. Wonder why? Maybe it’s because we are all gardeners!

This notion was reinforced by an article I read in The New Yorker of Aug. 24. In it, Rebecca Mead reviews a new book by a British psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Sue Stuart-Smith, called The Well-Gardened Mind. Although Stuart-Smith “had long viewed gardening as outdoor housework,” her interest in the benefits of gardening to mental health grew after marrying Tom Stuart-Smith, one of Britain’s best-known garden designers.

A new understanding of the connection between mental health and gardening has led primary care doctors in Britain to recommend volunteer work in local community gardens to their patients, as sometimes being as beneficial as talk therapy or antidepressants. Some hospitals incorporate gardens because their patients recover more quickly from injuries if they have access to outdoor spaces with plants. And believe it or not, laboratory rats whose cages contain soil and logs are said to be more energetic and sociable than those caged with a wheel, a ladder, and a tunnel.

A garden, according to Sue Stuart-Smith, can be a space where the inner and outer worlds coexist, a meeting place for “our innermost, dream-infused selves and the real physical world.” Gardening, because of its meditative and repetitive aspects, may be a form of play for grownups who have otherwise stopped playing and may be especially helpful for those suffering from PTSD. Working the soil in a garden allows a person to be alone and enter his own world, which can help heal a mind wounded by grief.

And for those of us who spend more time than we should seeking year-round perfection in our gardens, the Stuart-Smiths say that can be at odds with the satisfactions that gardening can promote. “A garden is fundamentally a process – there is change and sometimes it is dying and sometimes it is hibernating.” We should aim for “good-enough…it’s much more to do with how you feel about your garden than how it looks. It could be that your garden is the most fantastic mess, but if you love it, because there’s a fox living in one corner, and a lot of snails whom you know personally by name [well, I don’t know about that!], and you have a sort of in-depth relationship with it, then it’s a good-enough garden.”

In Britain as in the U.S., there’s been a big increase in the amount of time people have spent gardening during the COVID-19 crisis. (Although there already was a huge interest in gardening in that country. Eight out of ten people in Britain live in a home with a private garden and half of all adults already did some sort of gardening.)

This may not reflect just a desire to grow one’s own food in the face of uncertain supplies, or a way to use our time productively when we can’t socialize. With the loss of our ordinary way of life, Sue Stuart-Smith suggests, “Gardening has been a solace to so many…because it invokes the prospect of some kind of future, however uncertain and unpredictable it may be.”

So, stay healthy, everyone – by gardening!

Art in the garden

By Beet November 2020 39 Comments

By Janine Salvatti

Master Gardener 2019

Art in the landscape runs the gamut from simple to the sublime.  Rustic, whimsical, modern, English, or French garden style? Mine is decidedly eclectic, maybe it could described as “modern random”. This is code for whatever makes me smile.

Please share your garden art. Email a good quality closeup photo to me:

Here are some photos of local garden art that might inspire us to add or create art for our own gardens.

Alison Stevens treated this exterior wall with art she created herself.

Our own Kari Gies has been making some marvelous mosaic stepping stones. Her grandkids gave her a hand. This is a great DIY project that can be done on small rocks, pre-made stepping stones like Kari used, birdhouses, your imagination is the limit.

Jacksonville gardener Cynthia Griffin found this wonderful “spirit house” on a roadside with a sign “free” attached to it. It was a little the worse for wear but she rehabbed it and has it in her bird feeding area with other unique objects.

Jacksonville gardener Alison Stevens has this unique object in her eclectic garden.

Garden art can be structures such as arbors.

November Garden Checklist

By Beet November 2020 35 Comments

Goodnight, sweet garden…

Except for cool weather veggies, November heralds the end of the gardening season for most folks. The dazzling leaves of orange, yellow, and red that caused us to swoon are now blanketing our yards and looking tatty. Have we had our fill of gardening, ready to kick back with some hot chocolate and a good book? What is left to do to close out the gardening season?

If you still have unplanted bulbs, it is not too late. They are so forgiving!  Do you have a planting auger? This is one of the gardener’s best friends! What a wonderful labor-saving tool.  Attach this to your power drill and it drills a hole just right for bulbs.  Drill multiple holes close together for larger plants. It works in most soils, including clay. One caveat though.  Go gently. Use intermittent pressure but do not force. The auger can “grab” and twist the whole drill and with it your wrist.

Clean up fruit and vegetable debris in any garden beds to avoid overwintering pesky diseases. Avoid adding diseased trimmings to the compost pile.

Check the urge to prune or cut back plants as part of a tidy-up until you have confirmed the best time of year to do this for the SPECIFIC plant. Pruning now will encourage new growth which will not have time to harden off prior to frosts, causing more harm than good. You can prune out dead and diseased wood anytime.

If you fertilize, autumn is prime time to fertilize your lawn using one with a lower nitrogen and higher potassium content than would be used during the summer. This will strengthen roots and the lawn will be ready to start good growth in spring.

Drip irrigation, faucets, and hoses need to be drained and protected against frost. Don’t wait until you have broken spigots or worse.

As you attend to winter prep for irrigation, remember that our critter friends still need water. Leave frost-protected easy hose access near your bird baths and fountains. Cover birdbaths and fountains you don’t plan to use to avoid standing/freezing water.  Freezing water expands and can crack the concrete.

Breakout birdfeeders if they have been in summer storage and restock seed. If you feed hummingbirds, you might think about purchasing a warmer for your feeders. Old-fashioned Christmas lights can work wrapped around the columnar type feeders. Wild Birds Unlimited carries a very nice warmer for the donut-shaped feeders. These work like a charm. It was so nice not to have to bring the feeders in at night or microwave them in the morning!

Mulch – we talked about types of mulch in last month’s Beet. Now it’s time to mention a few cautions for application.  Hydrate the soil before you mulch. Moisten the mulch as well to encourage unobstructed filtration of water into the soil.  A layer of mulch 3–4” is desirable. Do not mound up mulch against trees or shrubs because this can smother the plant and is conducive to rot and diseases. Keep a clear ring around tree flares of between 12” to 18”. Most shrubs need a clear ring of about 8” to 12” at the base of the plant. The exception to mounding mulch might be frost-sensitive bulbs. Do cover them with a generous mound of mulch or straw and remove in the spring as the shoots break ground.

By now our houseplants are safely back inside. I recently discovered an interesting podcast, On the Ledge, that is exclusively about houseplants of all varieties and culture needs. It’s timely since our gardening energy needs someplace to go! You might also reach out to Brooke Edmunds for the OSU Master Gardener Houseplant project to see if there is still time to enroll for this course. It looks really interesting!

If you are reading the Garden Beet, please give us some love via your emails. It’s hard to know if we are simply writing for our own entertainment.  What topics would you find relevant to your gardening experience?

Sending you autumn wishes for a safe Thanksgiving. It will be different this year. Is anyone doing a Zoom dinner?


References & resources

Check out OSU’s November Garden Calendar

Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley

BBC television Gardener’s World (Monty Don, presenter)

On the Ledge A podcast on houseplants with Jane Perrone

The Pruner’s Bible: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pruning Every Plant in Your Garden by Steve Bradley is an excellent book!

A tale of five chicks

By Beet November 2020 42 Comments

As President Ronnie Budge reported in the September Garden Beet, I’m keeping busy and entertained these past months by a small flock of chickens.

Last March when COVID-19 hit, I knew I wouldn’t be getting together with all my grandkids and little great-grandkids and I also knew I wanted something alive to care for. (Although plants are my love, they don’t bark, meow or entertain me with their antics.) So, I took advantage of the five free baby chicks offered by the Grange plus the last two Araucanas they had still available. A lot of other Rogue Valley residents must have had similar thoughts about raising chickens, judging from the numerous customers that day.

One tale I heard was about a lady who got some chicks, a coop, feeding and watering containers, a heat lamp, starter feed, shavings … the whole needed enchilada! Then she heard it was going to be four months down the road before getting those first eggs, and she loudly exclaimed, “What?! I’m not waiting that long!” and cancelled the entire order.

Must say, I had a lot of fun selecting and naming my chicks. The two cute little blondes are Goldie Hahn … whoops, I mean “Goldie Hen”… and Dolly P, because Dolly P had a habit of roosting on top of the feed container and depositing debris over the side.

The white chick is “Flipper” because she can flip the shavings clear across their coop. Now, she’s a bit of a bully, flipping off the other hens as she runs through them or on top of them; whatever it takes to get where she wants to go.

The two black chicks are Hickity & Pickity. You know, from the old English nursery rhyme’s “Hickity, Pickity my black hens; they lay eggs for gentlemen; gentlemen come every day to see what my black hens doth lay.”

The two Araucanas are Elvira and Eggberta and they are giving me those pretty blue eggs.

It seems to me you often get a surprise rooster among your new chicks and I had a name picked out, just in case: Noah, meaning there would be no-ah eggs from this one. That name is still in reserve. Maybe next time.

My granddaughter likes ducks. She ordered six, reporting that all are “boys!” When that became apparent, she ordered more, and is guaranteed “girls” this time.

Raising birds and/or animals requires a sense of humor, right? Something similar to raising a dwarf plant that reaches skyward! Hopefully, we’ll get back to plants, next year.

Have you voted for JCMGA?

By Beet November 2020 39 Comments

If you have not yet voted in the JCMGA election for 2021 Board members, today is the perfect day to do so!  At least it is if you are reading this before Nov. 7, since the election ends at midnight Nov 6.
Simply go to the Jackson County Master Gardener Association website (, click on “Member Login” in the green band at the top of the home page, enter your username and password, and once you’re in the Green House – where JCMGA members reside – scroll down to the “Vote – 2021 Board of Directors” section on the right of the page.  If you have forgotten your username or password, email Marcia Harris at  and she can assist you. Board members work diligently for the JCMGA organization and would appreciate your vote of confidence!

Happy New Year! (for Master Gardeners)

By Beet November 2020 39 Comments

Nov. 1 is the first day of the Master Gardener year and November signals the beginning of our membership renewal season.

This year, in an attempt to make renewing as comfortable as possible for all potential JCMGA members, we are planning to offer three different ways to renew. You can choose whichever works best for you. You will also notice that this year we will only request one JCMGA contact information/interest/expertise form with your dues payment. Since Erika Szonntag, our Master Gardener Coordinator, already has access to the necessary computer program DocuSign, Erika will contact you about signing the two required OSU forms: the Conditions of Volunteer Service and the Code of Conduct.

For those who delight in using their computer for purchases, this year we will have an entirely online renewal option. You will be able to complete the JCMGA form online and pay the $25 membership dues through PayPal. The only downside to this is that PayPal charges us about $0.75 for each transaction. However, the Board has recently approved our participation in the PayPal donation program, in which the complete amount of any donation comes directly to JCMGA; this may help offset the PayPal loss.

A second option will be to print out the JCMGA form and mail or bring it and a check to the Extension Office as we have done in the past. (Cash is also accepted if you bring, rather than mail, the form.  If you choose to do this, you only need to copy the single renewal page that you fill out. You do not need to print and return the direction page.)

Finally, paper renewal forms will be sent to potential JCMGA-ers who do not have access to email. In addition, others who need to have a paper copy sent to them will be able to request one on the informational membership renewal Mailchimp they will receive towards the middle of the month.

The 2021 dues are $25. Life Members who have contributed so much to JCMGA and 2020 students, many of whom will be completing their MG training and volunteering in 2021, do not have to pay membership dues. However, if a Life Member or 2020 student is planning to volunteer in 2021, it would be helpful to complete and submit the JCMGA contact information/interest/expertise form so we know your areas of interest/expertise. This form also helps the Membership Secretary verify that the contact information she has is correct, so please be sure to complete and the return the form, especially if your contact information has changed or you plan to volunteer.

So, open the champagne and let’s celebrate a new Master Gardener year!

Around the globe

By Beet November 2020 37 Comments

Although some claim it may well take 80 days to take a world-wide trip, for this particular globe, one need only proceed to their nearest garden plot.

The globe artichoke, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus (also known as green or French artichoke) has a most incredible, well, global, history. It was first noted by the Greek philosopher and naturalist, Theophrastus, 371-287 B.C. How amazing is that?

Its story continues. Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 A.D.), a Greek physician, noted artichokes about the time of Christ. Ancient Greeks and Romans considered them delicacies and aphrodisiacs, and they were said to secure the birth of boys. They were also cultivated around 800 A.D. by North African Moors.

The artichoke, a thistle member of the aster family (Asteraceae), also has its own legend that might be the source for its scientific name.

As told long, long, ago, when the Greek god Zeus saw a beautiful young mortal called Cynara, he transformed her into a goddess. However, when Zeus discovered that a homesick Cynara had snuck away to her mortal world, he was so angry that he turned her into an artichoke. Hence, Cynara cardunculus, var. scolymus.

It’s also thought the Saracens introduced artichokes to Italy. This may explain how “al-qarshuf”, Arabic for thistle, became “articiocco”, and “articoclos”, (meaning pine cone), in Italian. Eventually it became “artichoke” in English.

They were cultivated in France in the mid-1500s and later appeared in print in Martha Washington’s 18th-century Booke of Cookery in the recipe “To Make Hartichoak Pie.” However, their roots didn’t touch U.S. soil until the 1800s when they arrived courtesy of Italian immigrants who, for a short period, cultivated them commercially in Louisiana.

In the early 1900’s, Andrew Molera leased his land in Salinas, California, where he encouraged sugar beet-growing Italian farmers to propagate, you guessed it, artichokes. Although that area of California is ideal, artichokes will grow in most home gardens.

This incredible perennial plant puts out a plentiful offering, whether in the landscape or vegetable garden. Even if you don’t indulge in eating its buds, its 5–6” diameter dusky-sage deeply-cut leaves gracefully arching like huge wings will illuminate your landscape.

As spring progresses, ridged stalks will shoot up nearly 4’ high to present pinecone-shaped buds (those edible “vegetables” we consume). But that’s not all. When left to develop further, buds explode into the most extraordinary brilliant violet-blue flowers. They’re truly a crowning glory to behold.

Purchase plants (getting desirable plants from seed is very unpredictable) to put out in early spring so you may dine and be dazzled by summer.

With nutrient-rich, well-drained soil in an area with afternoon shade, generous irrigation and supplemental fertilizing, your artichokes should survive and thrive, thrilling you for many years to come.


Did You Know?

  • Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to humans.
  • There are more than 140 varieties of artichokes today.
  • Most are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain.
  • California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. commercial crop.
  • 90% of those come from Castroville, CA which proclaims itself the “The Artichoke Capital of the World.”
  • Only men could consume artichokes in the 16th century, since it was considered an aphrodisiac thought to enhance male sexual power and was denied to females.
  • Marilyn Monroe was the first official California Artichoke Queen in 1949.


Recipe: Savory stuffed artichokes


4 artichokes, washed, leaf tips trimmed and stems removed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 oz mushrooms, chopped coarse

½ red onion, diced

1 sweet red pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic pressed

2/3 cups petite green peas (fresh or if frozen, thawed)

½ cup sliced Kalamata olives, sliced

1 ½ cups cooked brown rice, quinoa, faro, or freeka (find at Food 4 Less or Natural Grocers)

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

14 oz fresh cooked or canned red salmon (or pink)

8 oz shredded Italian blend cheese (Trader Joe’s Quatro Formaggio)

Juice and zest from one lime

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Fresh basil leaves or minced parsley

½ cup sliced toasted almonds

½ cup fresh homemade or purchased pesto


Steam artichokes in strainer of large cooking pot over low heat for 50 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle.  Press down with palm of hand to loosen leaves enough to part and remove furry choke from middle.

Heat oil in sauté pan and cook mushrooms, onion, red pepper, garlic and rosemary until limp, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and gently mix with chosen cooked grain and yogurt in large bowl. Add lime juice, sea salt and pepper to taste, cheese and salmon.

Fill cavities of artichokes with mixture and microwave them one at a time, (cover with plastic wrap or silicone cover) 2 minutes on high.  Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves or parsley and sliced almonds.  Serve with pesto for dipping leaves.

Makes 4 servings (may easily be halved for 2)


Seed sources

Grange Co-op

The Garden Shoppe
2327 Charles Ln., Medford

One Green World Nursery

They have Green Globe, Imperial Star, and Purple Italian Globe plants

Virtual Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens planned

By Beet November 2020 39 Comments

The annual Winter Dreams Summer Gardens (WDSG) fall symposium cannot be held at our typical Rogue Community College venue. But, we don’t want to completely nix this popular fall event. Instead, Ronnie Budge and Lynn Kunstman have agreed to share their gardens with us…virtually. On Saturday, November 7th, we will present: “A Visit to Ronnie’s Garden” and “Lynn’s Garden Tour.”

This is being offered without charge as a “thank you” to all of you who have supported and participated for so many years. Viewing details will be sent out to the general JCMGA membership and past WDSG participants via Mailchimp.

Hope you can join us.