Spring is the busiest time of the year for anyone in the Horticulture or Landscape Community.
We received a phone call in May from someone who wanted a cleanup because their yard was overgrown and full of weeds. It had been many years since any work had been done.
They said emphatically that they did not want work that was expensive. That was a difficult statement for this landscape company owner to swallow because of course the opposite of expensive is…cheap. Did they want a “cheap job” done to their yard in the prime time of the year?
We at Winterbloom had an overwhelming amount of work, it being springtime, and would not be able to get to the project until July. They wanted someone who could do the work pronto. I suggested they call one of the many local landscape trucks in their area. They had done that, but all of the landscapers were busy. At that moment, they exclaimed, “Why doesn’t anyone want to help me with my job?!” and hung up!
That caused me to ponder about using the aid of psychology to be supportive in one’s search for help in one’s landscape.
1. If one must call in the Spring for help, say something like, “I will pay EXTRA to get the work done now!”
2. If one really wants a financial deal, wait and call for the work to be accomplished during December through February. That’s when Landscapers are hungry for business, and may be more inclined to charge less.
Summer starts around the 21st of this month, which means that the sunshine is most effective. Sunshine is the food of photosynthesizing plants! On the 21st the sun is close to vertical in the sky during the day, giving the most food possible to the plants. After the 21st it slowly drops from vertical every day. Always remember that no matter what the TV advertisers say, fertilizer is not, and has never been, food for plants.
This is the best month to plant the warm season annuals—flowers or vegetables: Petunias, Impatiens, Eggplants, Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn, Basil, Cucumbers, etc.
Mow regularly: set your lawn mower at the highest setting for the rest of the summer until October. The longer grass helps to shade the roots and keeps the grass greener and healthier.
Keep on top of the weeds. The rainy season is over, and it will soon be less work. You can toss the weeds out in the sunny part of the bed (but only those not going to seed!) and they will dry up by the end of the day and not reroot, like they might in the rainy season.
Water as needed: one inch per week at least on the lawn, and about half an inch on the shrubs, is a standard rule of thumb.
Slug bait is still important. Try to use pet-safe bait.
If it is needed, prune flowering shrubs or perennials after they bloom.
Check the Rhodies and Azaleas to see if you need to do any weevil control such as nematodes or insect tape. Also, check to see if you have lace bug damage on the leaves. It usually shows up later in the summer. They suck the Chlorophyll out of the leaf cells and make the leaves look hideous. They can be somewhat controlled by a predator called Green or Brown Lace Wings, which may be purchased locally.
If you want to make your Rhodies bloom more and look neater, it is time to dead head them.
Check for Aphids and cabbage worms and act, if needed, on veggies or roses.
May is the month that has inspired so many poets and song writers over hundreds of years, mostly because here in the Northern Hemisphere it is when many of the deciduous plants put out their foliage and many of the evergreens like Rhododendrons and Camellias put out their blooms. There are many perennials such as Peonies, Campanulas and Dianthus which begin blooming this month. Most of the bulbs of March and April are now finished and the warmer days have returned.
Those who are not so aware of the seasons might think that now is the best time to plant everything. But that is not true. It is the time to plant the vegetable garden, the lettuces, cucumbers and so on. However, the tomatoes and peppers should wait ’till June to really do well, that is when the real, regular warmer weather shows up.
The time to plant shrubs and trees is best done in the latter half of October through March when it is cooler and the rainy season descends. For now, if one plants shrubs and trees, they will need to be babied through this first summer or they will die because we are going into the dry season of our year. As a business we plant all year long because we have jobs all year long, but we have found that planting is the most successful if done in October through March.
The time to plant lawns by seed is April/May and September/October, but these seeds also need to be babied to get rooted and grow. July/August is often very hot and difficult (if not impossible), to get lawns to grow from seed, and the months of November through March are often too cold and wet and the seeds just rot. Often the best alternative is the more expensive but quicker method, laying down sod. Sod can be placed almost anytime of the year in our climate.
There is a cycle to the seasons and a best time for each gardening activity. May is the month for incredible growth of both weeds, (unwanted plants) and wanted plants! Therefore, it is the month to be diligent, but do not allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Simply make sure that the weeds which are preparing to set seed now, are the first to be pulled, and those who are still just thinking about it can be left for next week. Those plants which are going to seed should be put in the debris container. Never throw them on the ground! They will simply place your weed seeds there. The other weeds, which are just green growth and not going to seed, may be placed back in the bed behind some of your plants which you want, as long as the air is dry and they can shrivel. They will then just turn into mulch! If you allow yourself the luxury of NOT pulling the weeds going to seed and play a video game instead, you will be preparing for an even BIGGER onslaught of weeds next year.
Here is the list of Phil’s garden tasks for May…
Buy tender annuals and plant outside in your pots or flower beds if you are going to have blooming flowers such as Petunias and Impatiens. When a plant just lives through the growing season it is called an annual.
Begin moderate watering of lawns and beds. They begin drying out much more quickly this time of the year. Soak once every two weeks, more often if dry.
Fertilize lawn with a natural fertilizer (non-petrochemical).
Mow regularly. Set your lawn mower one more setting higher.
Thatch and renovate lawn only if you actually need it. If you use totally natural fertilizer, and not petroleum derivatives, you probably will never need to do this step as the earthworms will take care of your thatch and keep your ground, free-draining.
If you have notches in your Rhodie and Azalea leaves you can Begin root weevil control. Safe alternatives are the use nematodes, DE (diatomaceous earth) or sticky traps on trunks of plants.
This is the time of the year to fertilize rhododendrons, azaleas and all shrubs that actually need it. If they look good and green and you mulch them they may not need any additional fertilizer. If you are into the neat and tidy look then it is the time to remove spent blossoms on shrubs like Rhodies, which have finished blooming.
Prune plants that need it after they flower this month, such as a Rhododendron, if it actually needs it.
Plant chrysanthemums now for perennial fall color.
Control aphids by washing foliage with soap suds, removing by hand, by pesticides, or by promoting natural predators, such as Ladybugs.
Tiny holes in foliage and the appearance of shiny, black beetles on cabbage, and potatoes indicate flea beetle attack or possibly cabbage butterflies. Treat the ground around the stems with DE, spray with BT (bacillus Thuringensis), soapy water; pick them off if you can find them, or all of the above.
Control slugs with bait, salt, or by smashing.
Begin liquid fertilizing of your new annuals. annuals. Natural organic fertilizer is best. Every two weeks is optimal right after you water.
Later in the month, plant these warm season vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, snap and lima beans, Brussels sprouts, slicing and pickling cucumbers, dill, kale, pumpkins, summer and winter squash, onions, potatoes.
Spray fruit, nut, and shade trees for tent caterpillars, if present.
Be fearless, oh real estate/property owner! Tackle your land and bring it under control. Doing so can easily take the place of paying a gym to work out and it is right there at your finger-tips!
It is not uncommon for people to ask me about violets which seem to be taking over their yard.
Violets come up in planting beds and lawns in the early spring, with purplish-blue flowers and purple leaves in the sun but darker-green leaves in the shade. They can grow here in Western OR, even in gravely, dry soil where not much else will grow. They are not fragrant.
This is the European Dog Violet or technically, Viola riviniana ‘Purpurea Group’. Sometimes V. riviniana plants are sold as Viola labradorica purpurea and sometimes even Viola hederacea, but I am told that those plants are not generally sold or even found growing in the NW. Buyer beware!
V. riviniana can spread from its running fleshy roots which can plunge rather deeply, making this plant quite drought tolerant.
These plants can out compete smaller plants such as Mentha requenni and can mar the look of a stand of slightly taller plants such as Ophiopogon p. ‘nigrescens’. However bigger plants can comingle with no problems. For instance, the currently invasive common exotic ivy, Hedera helix, can easily quash this violet but then who wants a groundcover of ivy?
V. riviniana can spread easily by seed as they shoot their seeds explosively, up to 8’ away when they are brown and ripe. Therefore, once established, they can become very numerous. On top of that fact, the seeds may stay viable for up to 5 years in the ground.
Some suggested methods of removal are:
Covering a densely growing area, where they are to be removed, with cardboard and 2” of bark mulch. Anything that dares to come up from far flung seeds, immediately remove with your handy Hori-Hori! This may take more than one year.
I personally have removed all of my V. riviniana with only a hoe over the past 15 years. If I see one riding piggy back in the potting soil around a plant from a nursery, I immediately dispose of that violet in the garbage, not the compost pile! I wait to plant it in the ground, watching the potted plant and digging out any other unwanted Violets over the course of a year. I have seen several come up around a piggy-backed plant from a nursery!
There was a location in my garden, after the 10th year, where violets repeatedly came up from seed or old roots around the base of my largest old Azalea. Ultimately, I crawled on my hands and knees and surgically removed them with my Hori-Hori. They have not returned since.
Plants from the Genus Viola that you may want to cultivate in Western Oregon.
We have some lovely native violets here in the Pacific NW, but many are robust growing as well. Try them where they will not cover smaller plants and you will be fine. You may find different species on-line. I have grown (and particularly like) a yellow one that is local and evergreen, Viola sempervirens. It is cheery in the spring. It spreads by stolons as well as seeds.
There are plenty of other lovely exotic violets that are not invasive. These Violas include the plants which we commonly call Violas and Pansies in the nurseries. They have been bred to have large blooms and are available in many colors.
From what I have read, the most fragrant form of this plant is Viola odorata ‘Rosea’, which is a bright pink form.
Clearing a property of Viola riviniana is not a task for the faint of heart. It requires persistence and boldness and a ready willingness to dig in the rainy season, because that is when it is easiest to pull/dig out of the ground. In the dry season of summer, it can be almost impossible to extract this Viola from the concrete-like dry ground. Your Hori-Hori is your best friend if you would like to rid yourself of these invasive plants.
Spring has officially arrived. Really. Despite the rains and clouds, the crocuses and daffodils are popping up and new green leaves are emerging. As I write this the sun is pushing the clouds away and the temps are reaching for the 50s. The birds are at the feeding stations and have you heard the frogs? It’s like a symphony in the neighborhood. The spring awakening is such a special time.
Some things to consider for beautifying your landscape in late March and early April:
Now is the best time to purchase perennial plants at the nursery.
Continue weeding to prevent seed maturation. If you weed seriously now, summer weeding will be a breeze! And if you are going to use a pre-emergent weed control, now is a good time.
Continue baiting for slugs.
This is the last good month for transplanting. If a plant is starting to sprout, it might be best to just leave it and wait for next fall to move it.
Prune spring-flowering shrubs after the blossoms fade.
Trim or shear winter-blooming heathers when the bloom periodis finished.
Fertilize rhododendrons, camellias, and azaleas with compost or, only if necessary, an acid-type fertilizer. (An indicator is that the leaves are yellow)
Spread mulch over garden and landscape areas that didn’t get mulched last month.
Lawn-mowing begins; set blade ¾ to 1” for bent grass lawns; set blade 1 1/2” to 2 ½” for fine fescue and ryegrasses. In other words, set it as low as you can without damaging the lawn. It will look really shorn. It might take three tries to get it to the level that you want. The grass will be wet and green.
First application of lawn fertilizer this year after the first mowing. Our preference is an organic fertilizer (non-petrochemical). (Or, something like 16-5-5).
Fertilize cane berries with manure/compost (or, 10-10-10).
Prune out dead wood on blueberries and gooseberries and keep them from getting too big, then spread wood shavings and as needed manure/compost.
I planted our winter-blooming Algerian Iris by our driveway in a gravelly spot in full sun. Bonus: It has a great ability to flower right out there, when few other plants dare do anything. The narrow green strappy leaves, are evergreen and only 18 inches tall, and make a dense deer-resistant clump to about the same distance across. It does not like shade at all and must have very good drainage.
Starting in November (weather permitting), the clumps begin to flower with two-inch, fragrant, light lavender-purple flowers. It is a vigorous plant that slowly spreads by rhizomes (also known as rootstalk, or rootstock – the horizontal stem of a plant from which a variety of individual plants can grow – great for filling in spaces, such as alongside my driveway!). The blooms make good cut flowers arrangements, but if you do not slug bait, all of them will have some chew spots
They can continue to bloom through April (temporarily ceasing when the temperature drops below 15 degrees F). The Royal Horticultural Society named Iris unguicularis as one of the top 200 plants of the last 200 years!
This plant is great for rock gardens, raised beds, banks, slopes and containers. It can even handle coastal gardens. It is one tough plant. It seems to handle our zone 8 climate with no problem. I have only seen a little leaf burn when the temps got down to 12 F.
I cut the foliage down to about two inches in the late fall once it is obvious to me that it is starting to bloom. This shows off the flowers better.
It does not like being dug up and disturbed, but sections can be dug up off the sides to give to your friends and family. Be forewarned, thought, it takes more than a year to make it happy again. The center of my clump tends to give out, but I put compost and fertilizer in the middle and it grows back.
I am told that it can cause indigestion if eaten. Do not eat it.
With these few exceptions, I just leave it alone most of the year:
Trim back the foliage just before it breaks into bloom.
Bait for slugs at the same time.
Add a circle around it of compost and manure in March.
It’s almost spring! Well, it’s what we call “landscapers’ spring.” February 15th is the official milestone that marks spring for us in the landscaping business. From this point on, odds are we won’t have any heavy snow or hard frosts.
This is a wonderful month for gardening! We still have some rain of course, but it’s a warmer rain, right? The following list is a good guide to remind you what to do while you’re out there:
It is time to begin baiting for slugs, near things that you know they will love in the spring.
Weed! Now is the time when they are little, weak, and helpless things! Take one section of the yard per weekend and work all the way around the yard in a month.
It is even an excellent time to transplant if you need to move something.
Plant fruit trees and deciduous shrubs, bare root (less expensive) or container.
Plant perennials and perennial herbs outdoors, such as chives, lovage, mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme (Remember that mint and oregano are invasive, so plant accordingly).
Prune fruit trees as needed.
Prune and train grapes.
Prune your roses. This is also a great time to plant new roses. Bare-root roses are available; however, we believe that Heirloom Roses in St. Paul is the best place to purchase self-root roses.
Continue to prune and gather branches of quince, forsythia, and/or flowering cherries, so you can bring them inside to force early blooms.
Prune summer-flowering plants, such as butterfly bush, cotoneaster, clematis, and hydrangea. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs now such as azaleas! You will cut off the bloom buds.
Prune back Fuchsias and other perennials that have not been pruned back to about four inches. This year has been cold enough so you may wonder whether the Fuchsias have really died to the ground. So, unless you just can’t handle the bare sticks, wait till you see how far up the little green buds are coming out and trim them down to that mark. This Spring it will probably be from the ground and not from the stems at all.
Control moles with traps.
Spread mulch two inches thick. Do this every two years. Compost mulch is best, but bark mulch is fine. It is easiest to do in winter after things are trimmed and cleaned up. It makes everything look great! It smothers weed seeds and of course helps to hold the moisture in the ground in the dry season and in the rainy season it prevents erosion.
For adventuresome gardeners:
Make cold frame or hotbed to start early vegetables or flowers.
Prepare soil for growing pots and flats of seedlings.
Plant seed flats for crops in the cole family, such as cabbage (as in cole slaw), broccoli, and Brussel sprouts for future planting outdoors
Apply first of four dormant sprays of copper/sulfur sprays mixed with dormant oil spray on apple trees to prevent apple scab and kill pest larvae.
Time for the exact same mix of dormant sprays for other fruit and deciduous trees and shrubs, especially for certain roses that normally are attacked by disease and insects.
If you’re looking for a plant that will give your garden color and texture all year long; require almost no maintenance, or any augmented watering after its first growing season, perhaps you should consider the Euphorbia rigida.
This shrub is an evergreen perennial in our northwest climate. It originated in what we used to call Yugoslavia (now the 7 independent nations of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia).
Here’s more of what you should know about this plant:
It will brighten the late winter months with chartreuse blooms that will last for well over a month.
It must be watered the first summer, but it is drought tolerant after that.
Its foliage shows gray-blue color in the summer sun and a green-gray color in the winter.
It is well mannered: This means it is not prone to seeding around like some of its cousins.
Individual plants are about two feet tall and one and a half inch wide in general.
Maintenance is simple. After the blooms have been spent, cut that stem all the way down to the ground. The shoots that didn’t bloom this time around will next year.
Euphorbia rigida looks great next to rocks and likes well-drained soil It doesn’t like to get its feet wet, so avoid planting it where it will end up sitting in irrigation water in the summer, or in a place where water pools in the winter rains.
We have all walked into a fresh new year. Much is hoped for amid the rain, wind and chill. Be brave fellow gardener, the weather can be your friend!
Here are some good suggestions to help you get something accomplished in your garden in January:
Good time for transplanting (now that this year’s first big freeze has eased).
Plant sweet peas or eating peas for that matter if you have a place open in the garden and if your yard isn’t frozen or covered with snow. If you wait for warm weather the insect and fungus enemies of peas will be ready for you. If you plant now, the enemies are asleep and you can get a jump on them. Plant peas where the soil is well drained and workable.
It is still too early to start seeds for spring vegetable transplant.
Water landscape plants underneath wide eaves and in other spots protected from rain; monitor during the winter.
Moss appearing in your lawn means too much shade, low fertility, soil compaction, or a thin stand of grass. Now is the time of the year to decide what to do. Your options are to get rid of the lawn or kill the moss and encourage the lawn. If your trees are getting too big and shady, then the first option to remove considerable amount of lawn might be the best solution.
Gather branches of budding quince, forsythia and flowering cherries and bring inside. The warmth of the house will force early blooming for a lovely bouquet.
Monitor houseplants for correct watering and feeding; guard against insect infestations, clean dust from leaves. Use a low-level fertilizer like Oxygen Plus.
Winter pruning is now upon us. See our last year’s blog on this subject: “Winter Pruning, It’s All About the Timing,” to read up on the particulars.
Check online for ideas and follow up with your local garden or nursery stores for seed and seed catalogs to begin planning this year’s veggie garden.
For our country friends, watch for field mouse damage on the lower trunks of trees and shrubs. Control measures include approved baits, weed control and traps.
Last week, a client who had contracted for a considerable amount of landscape work, made this comment to us.
“It is the rainy season and it is so cold and wet, I am not sure about having the landscape work done now. Maybe, it would be better to wait till it’s warmer and dryer, possibly in April or May? On second thought, I think that we should go ahead and do the hardscape work, but let’s wait until the spring for the planting work.”
There are three reasons why it would be a good idea to install a new landscape during the rainy season (Fall/Winter):
If you have drainage issues, the rains will show you where they are.
The ground is soft and malleable now. It’s not difficult to dig for paths, pavers and so on. In the summer months, the ground is like concrete and becomes very difficult to dig.
Landscapers need to have work for their employees all year around. We only stop work when the ground is frozen or when there is a blanket of snow.
Here are three reasons why it is better to plant most plants during the rainy season:
In the rainy season, new plants are dormant, so they will not grow leaves, but instead will modestly grow new roots. This process allows new plants to begin rooting out into the surrounding soil when there is abundant moisture.
Because it is cool and moist weather, leaf transpiration (process of moving water from roots to leaves, where it is evaporated into the air) for evergreen plants is at a minimum. For the deciduous or herbaceous plants, there will be no transpiration at all.
It is the best time of the year to transplant existing plants because:
they will have minimal new top growth which, would force the damaged/cut roots to supply more moisture to the leaves, which they could not physically do.
they will have the opportunity to grow new roots out into the surrounding soil before the onset of the dry season
One reason we get the idea all planting and landscaping needs to take place in the spring is that annuals, veggies and flowering plants are confused with shrubs, trees and perennials, as to when is the best time to plant them.
This is probably because in all but the very esoteric cases, all annuals especially seeds, which most people want to plant, must be planted in the spring to be successful in the western Oregon.
I hope this clears a few things up for you. Here’s another reason to start your landscaping project now – you’ll jump to the top of our list!