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

Catalogs are a great source for gardners

Linn County Master Gardener

The spring garden catalogs are landing in mailboxes everywhere. Before we write the check or click on “Checkout,” it is wise to take inventory of seeds left over from last year, note where new plants are needed, and make a list of what we want to grow or plant this year. 

Saved seeds might still be good if they were stored where they were not subjected to temperature fluctuations. Seeds retain more vigor at a constant temperature, whatever it is. Low vigor means weak plants that may not be productive. 

When saving seed use an airtight container and protect them from heat, light, moisture and pests. Better yet, purchase only enough for the season and share with others who will use the leftover seeds. Watch for announcement of seed swap at Santiam Community Gardens in Lyons 10:30 a.m. Feb. 19.

Catalogs are great sources of information – often more than the seed packets. Reading catalogs of growers located nearest our climate will give us the most useful facts. 

Plan for substitutions if ordering seeds from a catalog. There will be some seed shortages because so many COVID victory gardens were planted last year. 

GMO seeds are not available noncommercially. Organic seeds are about 65 percent more expensive and less plentiful than non-organic. Organic growers often start with mass-produced non-organic seed anyway, then hold off on chemical use while growing the crop from which they collect their seeds to sell. 

Seeds sold in national chain stores are selected to sell in a wide range of growing climates, usually from a few commercial producers located in a faraway state. Seeds from Northwest sources and from local garden stores are best for local conditions. 

Catalogs from similar latitudes and climates have the best choices for success. If the plant descriptions have growing advice, even better.

Sometimes mail-order or online shopping can save money. Bare root plants are cheaper than leafed out bloomers at the garden centers, but you have to get them early and help them grow out. 

If a larger quantity is in the plan, and mature plants are not necessary,  you get more for your money with mail order. 

For the cost of a single nursery plant you can get enough seeds for dozens of plants. You can also often find more varieties or colors through mail-order sources than most garden stores. 

Making a plan saves money but sometimes something catches your eye and the plans change. 

Advice: Before ordering seeds and plants from catalogs or websites, think carefully about which plants you really need and how you’ll use them in the garden. Also, when will you plant them? Will they languish and die before they even get into the soil? Read the fine print of the description to know the size of plant that will be shipped, it’s hardiness and growing requirements. 

Remember that perennials don’t usually bloom until their first year and that 12-inch stick requires patience. If you buy a pre-planned garden combination make sure the size of the plan matches your space so you get the right number of plants. It might not be such a bargain if a double order is needed to fill the plan.

While we’re thinking of gardens and the mail, think about planting a mailbox garden or driveway entrance garden if you have a PO Box only. Use a mini-garden to announce “A gardener lives here!” 

No-fail, drought tolerant plants can bloom through the summer far away from the water spigot, like daylilies, sedums, daisies or ornamental grasses. If they look droopy, carry a bucket of water to them when you check the mail. 

If you live on a busy road look for plants that are tolerant of road salt (think coastal plants). 

Plants that grow up and around the mailbox post, like irises or vines should not be allowed to make it difficult for the mail carrier to get up to the box. 

Planting multiple vine varieties around the box will provide color for a longer period. Docile, well-behaved vines like sweet peas or clematis will not require the mail carrier to access the box with a machete. 

Plants can be packed into an interesting container (or plain bucket) and changed out with the seasons. Avoid bee magnets and thorny things to protect the mail person (or gardener).

Need some ideas to make a new garden plan? Garden planning classes will be offered at the Santiam Senior Center (membership required) at 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays starting Feb. 8. The same classes, along with in-the-garden experiences will be offered in Lyons at Santiam Community Garden, 846 Fifth St., on Saturday mornings starting Feb. 12. 

To register and be guaranteed copies of handouts, call 503-859-2517 or email [email protected]. Classes will continue weekly through May, and perhaps beyond.

Garden Planning Classes

10:30 a.m. Tuesdays beginning Feb. 8 at Santiam Senior Center, 41418 Kingston-Jordan Road, Stayton. Membership required.

Saturday Mornings beginning Feb. 12 at Santiam Community Garden, 846 Fifth St., Lyons. All welcome.

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