Welcome to spring!...almost. We are in the last weekend of winter and judging by last weekend it seems that spring has already arrived. Hold your horses! We have all been here before. We get these very warm days in late winter and early spring only to be frozen out in the weekends that follow. Granted, we may not get snow, but the spring can be a fickle time for the gardener. Get out and start those spring chores, but also keep an eye to the sky and protect those tender plants until the temps stay above freezing consistently.
Also, a reminder. We are three weeks away from GardenPalooza! Over 40 garden vendors, free parking and admission, who could ask for more? Check out www.gardenpalooza.com for more details!
This week we featured...
Fruit Tree Grafting
As a kid I always thought that I could plant an apple seed and get a tree full of apples in my backyard! I learned later that was impossible. The seeds from an apple are a mish-mash of different genes and you can never be sure of what you will get. The only way to get a fruit tree that is a true variety is to graft one. Grafting is the art of using one type of tree for healthy roots and another type of tree for good fruit production. To learn more we stopped by the Home Orchard Society Arboretum at Clackamas Community College. We met with Tonia Lordy, who is the manager, to get a tour and lesson in grafting. She had a demonstration table set up where she showed us how to graft an apple tree. She started with a piece of root stock that was a dwarf variety that would help keep the plant short, and made a sharp cut down the center. Then she took a piece of scion wood and made a sharp cut in a ‘V’ shape. The scion wood is actually a piece of first year ‘new wood’ from a parent plant (a type of apple you want to have in your garden to eat). She then pushed the V into the cut on the root stock. The surface areas of the 2 cuts have to match up pretty well for the graft to work. The cambium layers of the two pieces must be touching! Then you wrap them with a piece of rubber band and some grafting seal to keep it from drying out or keeping bugs and diseases from entering. If the graft works you should be able to start harvesting apples in 3-4 years.
If you would like to make your own tree the opportunity is coming up this weekend at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby during the Home Orchard Society’s Fruit Propagation Fair. They will have hundreds of different varieties of apples and pears to choose from so you can pick the fruit you want to enjoy for years to come and graft it yourself! The event is Sunday March 18th from 10am to 4pm. Stop by and learn more about this fascinating process!
FPG – Ladies Night Preview
Kick off your spring at the annual Ladies Only Night at French Prairie Gardens (503-633-8445) near St. Paul. They have a whole bunch of fun planned for March 22nd from 3:00 to 7:00. The evening starts off with a basket building time, where you can get William and Judy to help you with your hanging baskets for the coming season. Next is the ‘show and tell’ of the evening. Cody from Youngblood’s Nursery will talk about the newest plants coming out this year. They will also show you some of the great hanging basket combinations they have available this spring. You can also taste five different microbrews and three different ciders on tap, and sample small plates and appetizers. They will also have a raffle and scavenger hunt that includes lots of cool gifts! 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, their webpage, or call them and RSVP to get an additional 20% off your purchases. Sorry guys, this is ladies only!
Jan’s March Tips
Early spring is a time when people are itching to get out into the garden again. But you shouldn’t be too anxious for any big chores! We stopped by to visit with Jan McNeilan to see what she would recommend for the home gardener at this point in time. First of all she took us to a very large nandina in her backyard. Taking down a large shrub is one thing you can do right now. For some deciduous shrubs now is a great time since you can see the branching and can make selective cuts to limit growth and size. You can also clean up a lot of your garden beds. Be careful though. If you have a tender perennial that you have covered you could possibly wait a little while longer, but for most of your garden, uncovering those perennials will allow the soil to warm up to aid their growth. Jan also showed us how to cut back your ferns. Right now you can cut off all of the old fronds from your large sword ferns. Just be careful to not cut off the new emerging ‘fiddle heads’ (new fronds). You should also be aware of the soil temps right now. The soil is still around 40 degrees and for most plants that is too cold. You should hold off seed starting and new ‘warm weather’ plantings. Wait until the soil gets above 50 to 55 degrees for those plants.
The final stop was by a container that had an Improved Meyer’s Lemon that a friend had given to Jan. It was covered in scale and she was given permission to let it die outside over the winter. Well, it survived, and not only that, it thrived! So we will see if it starts to send out blooms and possibly fruit in the future!
Spring is the time for planting and that is especially true for your fruiting plants. Earlier we talked about blueberries at Portland Nursery on Stark Street (503-231-5050), this time we talked with Ken about cane berries and grapes. Planting a cane berry or grape is great for the garden and if you take care of it, you can see fruit for many years to come. Most of the cane berries are on a two year cycle. The first year they grow canes and the second year they fruit. Ken started with raspberries. These are one of the easiest berries to grow. They don’t need much training. Generally just a couple wires to keep them from falling on the ground. They grow and fruit, and then you remove those ‘spent’ canes and allow the next set of canes to grow and fruit. For a blackberry you also have a two year cycle. The fruiting canes should be trained on a wire, usually horizontally. The new canes for the season you let grow along the ground (training them under your wire so they don’t trip you). Once the season is over and the fruit has been harvested from the canes on the wire, you can cut those down and compost them. Then you take the canes on the ground and train them up on the wire. Those canes will become your fruiting canes for the next year. Then you just repeat the cycle year after year.
For grapes it takes a little more work up-front. The first couple of years you are establishing the plant for future fruit. The first year plant needs to be trimmed to allow for one main leader (main vine). Let this grow. The winter of the first year you will cut that back to the top two or three, main branches. Then you let those grow for the second year. For year three you should have a plant that is now established and ready for more detailed pruning. This might require a few more tips than we can share here. You can get those pruning tips from our friends at Portland Nursery! Once you get past year three you will have everything you need to get a lot of great fruit from your grapes.
It may seem weird that we are putting out traps for wasps and yellow jackets in the spring, but next to the late summer this is the best time to use them. Our friends at Rescue (they make those cool yellow Wasp, Hornet, and Yellow Jacket traps) told us why it is a good time to put them out now. In the early spring the queens emerge from their winter hibernation and look for places to make their nests for the new season. If you get them now they won’t be around to create a nest of nasty pests to ruin your summer fun. Take down your old traps, clean and refresh them with the pheromone attractant packets available at most of your local garden centers. To make your hunting more effective, place a couple of traps around the perimeter of your yard and garden.