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

Get ready for Spring gardening

Linn County Master Gardener

Grocery prices are increasing as much as gas prices. Let’s all plant “victory” gardens to fight inflation. 

For the price of vegetables at one meal we can buy seeds to provide vegetables all summer. One fruit tree or bush planted now will give it’s bounty for years to come. 

New seed and fruit selections are in the stores but snow is predicted next week. Last frost for the Canyon is predicted to occur the first week in April, and possible snow in March. 

We can’t plant summer gardens quite yet, except cold-hardy, hardened-off transplants. A selection of cool-season vegetable starts and dormant fruit bushes are now available to plant early. The spring rains will keep them hydrated while they get ready for a burst of growth in April. In late April we can plant warm-season plants for summer harvests.

What can we do to scratch the gardening itch? Plan the garden with a sketch of what will be grown where. Leave room for mature plants’ “footprints”. Remember to keep the taller plants to the north unless they will intentionally be used to shade other crops that cannot tolerate full sun. 

Rotating crops so they do not grow in the same spot as last year will reduce the opportunity for plant-specific pests and diseases that are lurking in the soil. 

Read seed catalogs and packets to select the best varieties for the family needs. Avoid spending time or money on food crops that won’t get eaten, unless a new unusual variety is for fun and entertainment. 

Also, some vegetables are still more economically purchased than grown if they take a lot of space for little produce (like pumpkins, watermelon, winter squash, sweet corn and bulb onions).

Start killing the weeds that have popped up in the garden area. Smother them with cardboard, light-blocking tarps or other mulch that blocks the light until they die. If we remove or kill them now the plot will be ready for easier planting in April. 

A small area can be prepared now for peas, onions, carrots, beets, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and broccoli for early harvest. Rhubarb, strawberries and asparagus are ready to plant now.

Don’t start all the seeds yet. Save some for succession plantings every three weeks or so to spread the harvest through the summer and fall. 

If starting your own seeds, remember to keep them moist and provide as much light as possible for up to 12 hours per day. Start most seeds warm, about 70 degrees. When they get their second set of leaves move them to a protected place to adapt to cooler temperatures and start more seeds in the warm place. 

Root crops like carrots, radishes and beets are best started directly in soil above 40 degrees. If you don’t have a soil thermometer, use night-time air temperatures as a guide. We are not quite to 40 degrees yet.

If you are a beginning gardener or an experience gardener who needs some reminders there are some good publications available at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog. Specifically, Growing Your Own EM9027, Vegetable Gardening in Oregon EC871 are two excellent general growing guides. Use the search box to find more information about gardening at the Extension website.

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