What is going on? First it was sun, then rain, then snow and now back to sun and rain. We have a bunch of confused plants in the garden this week. Don’t worry about your early season plants. They are used to this type of weather. If your plants got buried by the snow they will generally bounce right back. Some trees and top-heavy plants may have suffered a broken limb or two but once pruned they should be fine. Let’s just hope this is the last of the snow for awhile… like nine months! Now that the last of the snow is gone, it is time to think about the garden and spring. We are happy to have Blooming Nursery joining us as our co-sponsor of the Plant Pick of the Week with Skagit Gardens. Both of these growers have a great selection of plants for your garden and we will be showing them to you in the next year.
Spring also means that the garden centers are getting busy. Kick off your spring with the Ladies Night festivities at French Prairie Garden this coming Thursday. Check out the details below… And don’t forget GardenPalooza is just a few weeks away. We have a full slate of garden vendors for you to shop and during this 10th anniversary event we will be giving away violas while they last. We will see you on the 14th!
This week we featured...
Spring Bird Care
With the coming of spring it also signals the return of birds to the garden. You can make it easier for our feathered friends by equipping your garden with all the right materials they need. We paid a visit to Backyard Bird Shop (503-635-2044) and met with Scott Lukens to see what he recommends for bird lovers. The basics that they recommend addressing are food and shelter. Food needs change depending on the type of bird you want to attract. For example, you wouldn’t use a hummingbird feeder to attract a chickadee. So know your bird and use a correct feed. Most seed feeding birds like black oil sunflower seed. Also, when choosing a feed, pick a quality one. Backyard Bird Shop gets fresh deliveries of seed a couple times a week. Shelter could be a bird house, or even planting the right plants in your garden that can protect them from the weather and predators. Scott showed us a bird house that had a smaller hole for the birds to enter with no perch. This is important. A larger hole with a perch will attract non-native types of birds. An inch and quarter is just the right size. You will also want a way to clean it out after the nesting season is over. This will prevent diseases and contamination for the next brood. You can also leave out nesting material and it will help them build a nice soft nest. Finally, the hummingbirds are returning and you can welcome them back with a nice meal. Set up your hummingbird feeders with some fresh nectar. You can make it yourself with the recipe on the Backyard Bird Shop website.
Pruning Japanese Maples
Japanese maples are a very popular plant for the home gardener. Most of these varieties are pretty small and they are pretty care free when it comes to maintenance. The one thing that scares most people is the pruning of these wonderful little trees. To get some tips we stopped by the home of Terrill Collier from Collier’s Arbor Care (503-72ARBOR). Terrill has a couple of Japanese maples in his yard and he brought in a crew to show us how easy it is to trim these trees back. Terrill told us that there are 2 main tips for pruning your maple. #1, always trim out the dead and diseased wood from the tree. #2, remove overlapping branches and create space while doing that. Doing those 2 things will go a long way in getting you started. Once those 2 main items are taken care of you can go to work doing some light thinning. Try to create an ‘open’ look by thinning throughout the tree. Think of a 3 dimensional puzzle and make even cuts all around the plant that creates a layered appearance. This will help to make your tree appear less ‘chopped’ and more stylish. It will also keep your tree from looking like Cousin It. If you make a mistake don’t worry. These trees are very forgiving and will grow back to cover your mistakes. If you feel like you are still in over your head, give the pros at Collier Arbor Care a call and they will prune it for you. They can also assess all your trees to make sure they are healthy.
When you approach your grapes in the spring you may not know where to start. There are so many vines that it is hard to know where to make the cut. To learn some tricks of the trade we travelled to Dundee and stopped at Argyle Winery. There we met up with Allen Holstein who is the Vineyard Manager. His job is to take care of the vines and make sure they stay healthy so they can grow the perfect grapes for their delicious wines. Allen has thousands of grapes to cut during the late winter and early spring and he told us now is the perfect time to prune your grapes. To figure out how much to cut you also have to know how much you want to produce. In the vineyard they take the cuttings and weigh them. For every pound of cuttings you are to leave from 2 to 10 buds. This depends on how many grapes you want and how sweet you want them. For the home gardener it could be as simple as leaving 2 vines with 4-5 buds on them. These buds will grow new canes and those canes will grow your grapes. The key is to not be afraid of cutting. Cutting (pruning) is the key to success. If your vines start to bleed while you are cutting them, don’t worry, that’s normal. It is caused by the warming of the vines and they will seal up not long after you finish cutting. Also, Allen recommended that you put your vines in an area where you can control the water. Grapes will survive very nicely (once they are established) without a lot of supplemental watering. In fact the vines are not watered at all during the late summer unless there is a drought. This helps to create the sugars that make them so sweet. They also hold off on fertilizing the vines. The fertilizer would only create more foliage on the plant and that will limit the sunlight that can reach the fruit. Just follow these simple rules and you should have a great crop of grapes on your table this late summer and fall.
French Prairie Gardens Ladies Night
Kick off your spring at the 2nd annual Ladies Only Night at French Prairie Gardens (503-633-8445) near St. Paul. They have a whole bunch of fun planned for March 29th from 3:30 to 7:30. The evening starts off with strawberries and champagne. Then you will learn about some new plants coming to the market with Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nursery, taste local wines, create your own hanging basket, and sample small plates and appetizers. William and Judy will be there to help judge the Garden Idol Plant Fashion Show. They will also have a raffle that includes tickets to the St. Paul Rodeo and tickets to the Oregon Garden! It should be a great evening. The event is free and if you want to save some money you can go to their Facebook page (or call them) and RSVP to get an additional 20% off your purchases. Sorry guys, this is ladies only!