News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Taking small steps toward a productive spring

Linn County Master Gardener

By Diane Hyde

OSU Linn County Master Gardener

We’re in a lull between winter storms. Snow and wind have already pruned tall trees, but have left some “widow-makers” hanging, ready to drop. Maybe the next storm will take them down. 

Fir cones keep falling with every hard rain and litter the ground, prompting complaints from the neighbor who cut his trees down for firewood. Fir needles blanket the pathways and driveway, begging to be raked up and piled around the berry plants for mulch. Raking wind debris from pathways will make walking safer, tripping less likely.

Ambitious gardeners can dress warmly, wait for a sunny afternoon and prune fruit and ornamental trees. Or wait until it warms up a bit. 

Grape vines would appreciate being whacked down to four healthy buds now, best done before the buds break in a month or so. 

It’s too early to prune berries and roses. The Farmer’s Almanac says mowing and pruning the last week of this month will be less likely to stimulate growth – must be a moon thing.

Lilies, sedums and some other dormant flowers are starting to show some budding foliage where dried stems were cut back. They are responding to the sun that comes out occasionally in the afternoons. It’s not too late to plant the forgotten bag of bulbs. There are signs of an early spring in the Canyon if we don’t get a devastating ice storm nipping the buds. 

The winter vegetable garden is growing slowly. An occasional basket of lettuces, beet greens, cilantro, leeks and green onions can be picked in the garden area planted last September. Arugula, kale and mustard greens are overexuberant in cold weather. 

Broccoli sprouts are trying to bloom when the sun shines, and brussels sprouts are finally forming on the stems planted last spring. Turnips and beets are showing some size. 

Acorn, Hubbard and spaghetti squash are still edible, in a box of straw kept in the cold, dark garage.

We’re still months away from spring harvest. It is 10 weeks out from predicted last frost, so it is time to plant early potatoes with straw mulch protection, possibly in large pots or bags that have good drainage. 

Planting seeds of celery, storage onions, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli will reward with an early harvest. They can tolerate frosty nights if they are at least 3 inches tall when planted and mulched. 

Setting 3-inch seedlings out during cool days for a week will allow them to acclimate before braving the night. Pansies and peas are also cold-tolerant.

Garden catalogs are arriving in the mailbox. The catalogs with good descriptions, lots of pictures, and planting information are most interesting and helpful. Those from other parts of the country with brief descriptions and amazing pictures are fun to look at, but we need to wonder if those plants will survive in our climate. They are usually under 6 inches when they arrive and take years to look like the picture. 

Pull out the flower and vegetable seeds left over from last year or the year before. Seeds stay viable longer if they are kept cool, dry and dark. Bigger and harder seeds, like squash, seem to sprout when past their “plant by” date more reliably than small and thin seeds like lettuce or carrots. 

Want to swap seeds or get free seeds? Santiam Community Garden is planning a “distanced” seed swap this spring, now through May. Call 503-859-2517 or email [email protected] with your list of what you want and what you have. Arrangements will be made to pick up and drop off the seeds at the Garden in Lyons or by mail, individually without getting in line (masked or not). Seedlings will be offered as available March through May. First come, first to grow.

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