Propagation Preparation

DALLAS — Nick Yerbick stuck a soil thermometer in one of the raised beds in his Dallas vegetable garden Friday.   A Master Gardener, he didn't need the reading to know that it's still too early to start planting vegetables — but this will soon become more a part of his routine as winter begins to melt into spring.   After looking in on the hardy leftovers Photo by Jolene Guzman Fruit and vegetable seeds are already arriving at garden centers and feed stores, like this Territorial Seed Co. display at Old Mill Feed & Garden in Dallas.of his once abundant garden, Yerbick checked the temperature. Just as suspected, about 45 degrees, much too cold for most seeds and plants.   An avid gardener for 40 years, Yerbick sees the winter months as a garden vacation.   "It's just nice to have not too much to do for a while," he said.   Yes, the calendar says January, but spring is on the way (no, really, it is), so now is the time to begin — if you haven't already — to plan and prepare your garden for the upcoming growing season. Photo by Jolene Guzman Nick Yerbick’s garden is still growing a small amount of greens, survivors of sub-freezing temperatures this winter.   The winter checklist isn't glamorous, but it will pay off in the spring and summer when the fruits — and the vegies — of your cold season toil sprout.   It's a tad late to plant a cover crop to help amend the soil, Yerbick said, but it is a good time to start thinking about soil nutrients.    Old Mill Feed & Garden owner Jon Hendersen noted that covering your garden with compost now will allow some garden "helpers" to go to work for you as you await warmer temperatures to plant.    "It’s a great time to spread compost, that way the earthworms come up and bring it back down into the soil," he said.    Yerbick times turning the soil and adding compost in February, about the same time he prunes his fruit trees.    Neil Bell, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, also recommended a soil test, especially for newly established plots. Soil tests are fairly inexpensive and they provide a surprising amount of information about soil nutrients, pH, and moisture content. Results will tell growers just what adjustments need to be made for optimum growing conditions.   Hendersen added the rainy season is a great time to assess garden drainage and fix any issues.    For those looking to plant their first garden, Yerbick said choosing the right location is key to success during the growing season. His advice: choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. Photo by Jolene Guzman Nick Yerbick checks the reading on a soil thermometer, a needed tool for planting.   "If you are just starting out, site location is important because you want as much sunlight as possible," he said. "Plants need a minimum of six hours of sunlight. That's the minimum."   Those chores ought to be more than enough to keep you busy during the cold season, when you have to dodge raindrops to get anything done outside.   When it is time to plant, starting in February and March, Yerbick said a soil thermometer is essential. He said all seed packages and catalogues will offer an optimum planting temperature for each plant. With so many factors dependent on ever-unpredictable weather conditions, he said instead of relying on recommended planting dates, go by soil temperatures. Photo by Jolene Guzman Looking to get a head start? Old Mill Feed & Garden has supplies needed for starting seeds indoors this winter.   Old Man Winter isn't ready to give way yet, but soon it will be time to plant hardy spring vegetables, such as peas, onions and some varieties of lettuce.   "Spring is not as far off as you think," Bell said.   DALLAS — Nick Yerbick stuck a soil thermometer in one of the raised beds in his Dallas vegetable garden Friday.   A Master Gardener, he didn't need the reading to know that it's still too early to start planting vegetables — but this will soon become more a part of his routine as winter begins to melt into spring.   After looking in on the hardy leftovers of his once abundant garden, Yerbick checked the temperature. Just as suspected, about 45 degrees, much too cold for most seeds and plants.   An avid gardener for 40 years, Yerbick sees the winter months as a garden vacation. Photo by Kurt Holland Seed catalogs can provide plenty of inspiration while you dream about your 2014 vegetable garden.   "It's just nice to have not too much to do for a while," he said.   Yes, the calendar says January, but spring is on the way (no, really, it is), so now is the time to begin — if you haven't already — to plan and prepare your garden for the upcoming growing season.    The winter checklist isn't glamorous, but it will pay off in the spring and summer when the fruits — and the vegies — of your cold season toil sprout.   It's a tad late to plant a cover crop to help amend the soil, Yerbick said, but it is a good time to start thinking about soil nutrients.    Old Mill Feed & Garden owner Jon Hendersen noted that covering your garden with compost now will allow some garden "helpers" to go to work for you as you await warmer temperatures to plant.    "It’s a great time to spread compost, that way the earthworms come up and bring it back down into the soil," he said.    Yerbick times turning the soil and adding compost in February, about the same time he prunes his fruit trees.    Neil Bell, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, also recommended a soil test, especially for newly established plots. Soil tests are fairly inexpensive and they provide a surprising amount of information about soil nutrients, pH, and moisture content. Results will tell growers just what adjustments need to be made for optimum growing conditions.   Hendersen added the rainy season is a great time to assess garden drainage and fix any issues.    For those looking to plant their first garden, Yerbick said choosing the right location is key to success during the growing season. His advice: choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight.    "If you are just starting out, site location is important because you want as much sunlight as possible," he said. "Plants need a minimum of six hours of sunlight. That's the minimum."   Those chores ought to be more than enough to keep you busy during the cold season, when you have to dodge raindrops to get anything done outside.   When it is time to plant, starting in February and March, Yerbick said a soil thermometer is essential. He said all seed packages and catalogues will offer an optimum planting temperature for each plant. With so many factors dependent on ever-unpredictable weather conditions, he said instead of relying on recommended planting dates, go by soil temperatures.    Old Man Winter isn't ready to give way yet, but soon it will be time to plant hardy spring vegetables, such as peas, onions and some varieties of lettuce.   "Spring is not as far off as you think," Bell said.   Gardening Tips from the EXperts:   • If just starting a garden, pick a site with plenty of sun. Plants need an absolute minimum of six hours of sunlight each day, more would be even better.   • Test your soil before planting, especially if establishing a new plot, or if plants are not thriving in an existing garden.   • Use a soil thermometer when deciding when to plant each variety.   • Read seed packages for instructions on when and how to plant each variety.   • Keep a garden journal, recording what varieties were planted and when, and how well they did throughout the season.   • If you encounter problems, call Polk County OSU Extension Office at 503-623-8395 or browse Extension's many gardening publications or articles online at www.extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening.   Gardening Tips from the Experts:   • If just starting a garden, pick a site with plenty of sun. Plants need an absolute minimum of six hours of sunlight each day, more would be even better.   • Test your soil before planting, especially if establishing a new plot, or if plants are not thriving in an existing garden.   • Use a soil thermometer when deciding when to plant each variety.   • Read seed packages for instructions on when and how to plant each variety.   • Keep a garden journal, recording what varieties were planted and when, and how well they did throughout the season.   • If you encounter problems, call Polk County OSU Extension Office at 503-623-8395 or browse Extension's many gardening publications or articles online at www.extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening.   Winter color possible for your garden   Looking for something to offset these dreary, foggy, gray days in your yard or garden? There are several winter blooming plants that can add a splash of color and fragrance to the typical barren winter landscape. Neil Bell/for the Itemizer-Observer Winter blooming silktassel, above, is just one plant that can add color and fragrance to a winter garden.   Neil Bell, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, recommends a variety of winter flowering plants and shrubs. Fuchsia flowered gooseberry, manzanita, heath, daphne, witchhazel, white forsythia, wintersweet, winter honeysuckle, rosemary, silktassel, spider flower, and mahonia are shrubs that add fragrance and color in winter. Perennials hellebores, kaffir lily, Algerian iris and red hot pokers, and bulbs, winter aconite and sternbergia lutea also can liven up the winter garden.    Bell said more than just gardeners will enjoy these plants in the dark day of winter.    "The cool thing about these plants is that they provide forage for bees out and about on a warm winter day, as well as for humming birds," he said. "It's a nice thing to do beyond (building) a humming bird feeder."   —Jolene Guzman

Log in to comment

News from the Itemizer-Observer and our community partners