Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fall in France – A Villa in Provence

Recently we had the opportunity to visit some friends in Provence between Nice and Marseille. They live in a small village called Carces and are retired to a nice little villa there. We had heard quite a bit about this wonderful region of France and were looking forward to seeing what types of plants they grew there. We spent a day just getting over the jet lag from the flight, and then we started to explore the grounds. Our friends have a nice sized piece of land surrounding the villa. They rent out their villa to visitors over the summer. When we arrived at the end of September the weather was still incredibly pleasant. We were able to enjoy their gardens during sunny days and brisk nights.

They have a broad open patio and the first thing we noticed was the huge pots of begonias and oleanders. The heat during the summer is incredible in Provence and these plants love the heat!

We also noticed that they had planted Virginia Creeper on the sides of the villa and it had grown to over 3 stories high.

Also located on the property was a pond fed by a canal from a nearby reservoir.

We also enjoyed treats from the trees!

They had a fig tree that supplied fresh fruit for breakfast every morning and a persimmon tree that was ripening well. Their olive tree in the front drive looked like it had a nice crop as well, though we found out that the olives are not harvested until November. The one concern that our friends had was that the roses were not performing as well as they had seen here in the Pacific Northwest. Still we thought the gardens looked stunning. We would start most days outside for breakfast and end each day on the patio with a glass of the local rose wine.

There was one ‘pest’ problem that they had that we don’t have, wild boars! These guys would come in during the night and dig everywhere for grubs and roots to eat. The next morning the ground would be torn apart. I guess I’ll take my mole problems any day instead of these ‘little pigs’.

Next we will travel into the village of Carces and other areas in the south of France.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Please excuse our tardiness!

Ok, it has been awhile since we have posted anything on the blog…. I guess we have been focused on the Garden Time Magazine. As most of you know, we are just a small crew of people (7 people produce the Garden Time and Fusion shows). We are now busy each month writing articles for the magazine and we have been neglecting the blog. I hope to make up for that in the next few weeks. We have just finished our 6th season of Garden Time and our 3rd season of Fusion. We are very happy with the success of both shows. This past year both shows were on 8 times each week around the state of Oregon and SW Washington. We had 4 stations as partners (KOIN-Portland, KEVU-Eugene, KWVT-Salem, and CGN-Hood River) who were great supporters of the shows. The magazine continues to grow and we are proud that the Gardenpalooza event has become a annual event for everyone in the Portland metro area. We will return in March of 2012 with both shows and we will try to keep in touch through the magazine, websites, Facebook, and the blog!

Garden Time Producer/Owner

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dormant spray

A few days ago we had such lovely weather that I took some time to prune my rose garden and home orchard. Although I did not see much in the form of growth in the orchard I did see allot of activity with the roses. Because of the growth in the rose garden, I decided to do my dormant oil spraying after everything was completely pruned. I was never a huge fan of dormant spraying as it seemed an extra step in an already over burdened schedule. However, after several years of growth, my orchard was not producing the way I had envisioned it, especially with the stone fruit varieties and the apples and pears. Two years ago (2008) I had made the decision to dormant spray in the fall and spring. Having been in this industry for almost 3 decades, I was a little sad that I felt I finally folded and started this annual procedure, but as I said, the fruit trees were just not preforming well. There was plenty of aphids and shot whole virus each year and I really am loath to use synthetics on my fruit and vegetable plants.
Now when I do something, I try to see the big picture. To tell people, "This does not work" without some form of empirical evidence seems foolish to me. As you might have already suspected from that last sentence, I saw absolutely no improvements. The disease and insects still seemed to be as prolific as before and fruit production was certainly no better overall. As we humans often do, I quickly decided is was a waste of my time. But then I took a step back to look at our last two years of gardening in this area. I don't think there is one person I have spoken with that has seen these last two years as great for edible production. From the home gardener to the farmers, everyone seems to be held hostage by changing weather patterns. It is not the fault of the gardener or the product when nature changes her ways, the best we can do is calmly roll with the punches. And as there are countless studies of the efficacy of dormant oil spray I had to rethink what may have occurred.
I also thought, what might have happened if I had not sprayed? The host of concerns in my orchard may have been twice (or more) as bad. I consistently try to take the higher positive road on things so I decided to do this with dormant spraying as well. My thoughts are that as long as this trend in weird weather continues, I really can't make a completely logical assertion on dormant spraying. And as any Northwest gardener knows, roses always seem to attract black-spot but the colder wet weather we have had in the last two springs must be taken into consideration when formulating an opinion on the value of spraying dormant oil.
So I am back to step one it seems. I did spray again and we will see what this season provides with the weather and if the fruits that do set will be better than previous years. The window for dormant oil spray is always fluid as there are specific times and temperature requirements to consider. 40-70 degrees is optimal for performance with at least 3-4 days without a freeze after application. And the buds on the fruit trees must be at the infantile stage of development to right before they pop. You do not want to spray when the buds have opened. So take a look at your garden and see what stage they are in and if you choose to spray dormant oil...let me know what happens this Spring in your gardens, because I can always learn something new about nature and she always has something new to teach us.
Happy Gardening,

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Winter of our discontent…

I feel like every winter is.
What more can we do in the Northwest but wait. We wait for spring. We wait to see what has survived and what may have been done in. We wait for warmth. We wait for our new seed purchases to get here. We wait to see of ponds and fountains are ok. We wait for a thaw. Winter really feels like a time for waiting…
It seems like nature waits too but this is actually not the case at all. Only in the most cold of temperatures do plants go completely dormant, and even in that state they are still living. Just because we cannot see the growth does not mean they are not alive and thriving. Often, with many, many plants, they are doing some of their best work in the winter. Deep in the soil they are growing stronger roots. Bulbs are utilizing their nutrition they stored up from the previous year to create their vibrant colorful blooms for the coming spring. And life, although at times slowly and most often unseen by us, is working its way thru their tiny roots to get ready for when, in an arena that can only be described as miraculous, the time is right for them to burst forth. For us mere mortals it is tortuous. If you are anything like me, you are constantly glancing outside, looking around for any visible sign of growth…anything that will herald the renewal of life.
Ask any woman that has given birth. It may take many weeks for anything to appear different on the outside, but inside it’s like a factory. DNA is hard at work. Cells are replicating, fingers and toes are being formed, and the very essence of life as we understanding is going thru some of the most magical changes it will ever accomplish…all without most of us even being aware of it!
Winter is a garden at it’s industrial best. Talk about behind the scenes labor. The foundational building blocks for the future of the plant are being created. Where we see a time of dormancy, of rest, there is actually countless things occurring to ensure the success and fruitfulness of another year.
I have had to reinvent how I look at winter, if not because of scientific reasons…for my own sanity. Not only for my gardens but for myself. Yes, life does seem to slow down in winter, and we do seem to have to wait for life to it forth again. But the reality is that this is only our perception because the garden is, at a basic building block level, working very hard to set it’s self up for the coming changes. A time when everything works together to bring to life the glory of this ’down’ time…what we perceive as dormancy, nature only sees a time of hidden agendas, working just as hard as the rest of the year to ensure healthy life is ready for the time it is needed.
So take hope my friends. Nature is not dead nor does she truly sleep. Perhaps the appearance of this is more for us. Perhaps it is we that need the rest. Perhaps we should learn this simple lesson from nature. That for us to be at our best as the sun begins to warm the soil, we must have a time when we do not need to mow, or hedge, or harvest…and if…if we have done what nature does each year, we will have stored our energies up and will take this season for what it was intended to be. A time when the most basic tools for our success are being restored. Invigorated by nature herself so that when those first days of spring arrive, we are prepared to meet them head on…
Happy (restful) Gardening,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My love hate relationship with Liquidambars & Maples…

I do adore trees. I have countless varieties in my gardens. But the Sweet Gums were there when I arrived….Eight of them in all.
Now granted, I do indeed love their festive fall foliage. The gold, yellow, red and orange make masterpieces’ every fall. And their dense dark green foliage from spring till fall casts much needed shade. I also think the leaf shape is beautiful and the bark on the trees as they get older is quite delightful…but that is where my love for them ends. And rather abruptly!
They tend to be, in this region, rather weak trees. Snow, ice, even wind will snap the limbs easily. I solved this concern by cutting them back into a type of hedge, much like you see in France or Mexico.
But they still drop copious amounts of round seed balls covered in prickly, thorny spins. And yes…step on one barefoot and they hurt!
And then they are so late in dropping their leaves. All the deciduous trees in my gardens finished their leaf drop weeks ago…not these grand dames. Only a smattering of leaves have fallen thus far. It will take another two-three weeks for them to complete their yearly defoliation…and by that time it is always cold, wet, windy and rainy…or worse yet…snowy!
I did not choose these trees myself, but they are beautiful and so large now, I just can’t justify taking them down. But boy are they work, and at times painful if you enjoy going without shoes in the summer, which I most certainly do.
Just like my maple trees which were also here when I bought the property. There are seven of these 40 year old beauties. And they are beautiful… but so much work. First they drop their ‘blooms’ in the spring. Then just when I think all that mess is cleaned up, out come the dropping of their ‘helicopter’ seeds. Not only are these trees prolific producers of seed but the little buggers are very difficult to blow or sweep up! Their small stems get caught on the tiniest part of the concrete and blacktop and send me into a fury of frustration. Then the real fun begins in fall. For 5-6 weeks I am continually cleaning up their leaves.
All of this complaining was actually to relate something. Before you buy any tree you must really find out the seasonal changes to that specific plant. We often sell trees because of shape, size, leaf color or bloom. We need to also be sure about the seed pods and/or fruit of the tree. When does leaf drop usually happen? Is it a long drawn out affair or does it happen quickly? Is the tree a strong hard wood tree or a more tropical soft wooded tree.
In our efforts to streamline our lives, the hours spent having to do multiple clean ups in a year can become a negative to the best examples of trees.
So be aware as you shop, that like us humans, many changes occur each year in our gardens. Make sure to collect as much information as you can before you go to a Garden Center to purchase a tree. If you are informed about what that tree does throughout the year it will take away any surprise you might run into before it’s to late to do something about it. None of us really want to cut down big trees from our gardens just because they perform in ways we were unaware of.
Happy Gardening.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's that smell???

Fall brings us many wonderful also brings stink bugs. These shield-shaped bugs are notorious for having a foul order. They use it for protection in the wild, and although you may find them spring thru early winter in our area, their most prolific seasons are spring and fall.
While they are a pest in the garden, they can also become one in your home. Being attracted to light, they tend to maneuver toward it and as the weather cools will find cracks and crannies to enter your abode. Just make sure you have the cracks around your windows and doors sealed, and keep screens in good repair. A few can be picked up and thrown away. Use a paper towel or gloves though as they may emit their 'not to pleasant odor' on you. Closing your shades at night may lesson the attraction to your inner sanctum as well. I keep a lot of lights on outside at night as a theft preventative measure. If you do the same you may want to occasionally check these areas for infestation.
In the garden, they attack crops mostly...broccoli, cauliflower, soy beans and others. They do so by piercing the fruit, leaf or stem with their sharp 'snout' and sucking out the juices. Although I have killed many of these this year and have never gotten bitten, I am told that they can pierce human skin. It feels rather like a pin prick so again gloves may be in order. If you do use a vaccumn, which you can, just be aware that if they are crushed thy can still stink!
There are some sprays that can work on them. They are a sizable bug and you would have to go with something harsh. Maintenance seems to be the best way to control them. I recently found a big infestation in one of my greenhouses. And yes...they were on a crop plant, my edible portulaca (Purslane oleracea 'Golden mammoth') so I just got a plastic garbage bag and cut off the tops of the plants with the bugs on them and threw them in the trash (after doing my famous bug dance on top of them). Remember that the potential to emit their fragrance grows stronger with crushing and handling so a trash bag is a good idea. Then I looked for any eggs...Their eggs can be various colors, white, reddish, green, and are found clustered under leaves usually. Squishing them can end an entire generation...sans the that is a good way to control them too.
Like almost all pests in the garden or home, vigilance in observation is the primary way to control both disease, insects and bugs.
For more information, go to your independent Garden Centers, they will have both the knowledge and the products to assist you.
Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Powdery mildew

You would think, after the vegetable gardening season we have had, that some kind of mercy would be given us…this seems to not be the case.
As I wandered through my garden this morning I was mortified to see the strongly entrenched white spots of powdery mildew already covering some of my plants.
The squash and cucumbers had some spots but the poor peas were covered!
How could this happen so darn quickly? Wasn’t it just two days ago when there was nothing but lush green foliage?
The reason I even noticed it was because on my way to film Garden Time I was driving through a densely forested area in Lake Oswego and saw tons of powdery mildew already covering many of the Maple trees. I had also noticed a bit of it on my Monarda in the gardens, which I just snipped the offending branches off.
The problem with powdery mildew is that it really will not do damage to the plants or vegetables…the produce has set and will ripen…but it is the appearance! I work so hard for a beautiful vegetable garden and it seems overnight this pesky problem invades.
Because I want the garden to look lovely I will spray with Neem oil, which will control the exploding spores from jumping to other leaves (the peas I am going to just pull out, they lost the battle far to quickly) and I will cut off the leaves that I see it on with the squash and cukes.
I must confess though, after a couple more weeks…I won’t even try anymore.
It is and always will be the nature of Northwest vegetable gardens to have powdery mildew. Perhaps a small price to pay for the bounty we can grow here.
But you all should know that this is not the end of your gardens. The produce will be fine and we will all live to garden another day.
So just pull off the offending leaves and spray with something (hopefully organic, like Neem oil, as it is stuff you are going to ingest) and everything will be ok…
Happy Gardening!