To Be a Master Gardener

I became interesting in becoming a Master Gardener when we first moved up here. I knew I wanted to learn more about gardening in this area, which is so different from S. Calif., and to make new friends.

What I didn’t know was how it would affect me. With each new day of involvement I find myself just listening and observing. Just recently we had our biggest fund raiser of the year. The Plant Sale Extravaganza.

Friday, the first day, many of us gathered in the early morning to begin set up. Expectations are high and there is a lot of work to be done. Sleeves are rolled up, aprons are donned and the work begins. Tables have to be set up, vendor areas measured and marked off, raffle area and items labeled and displayed, registers, holding areas, signs, kitchen, dividers and then all the plants arrive. By truck, car, trailer and vans they come one after the other for several hours. There were several times throughout the day I would stop and watch. While we were all sweating and tired, everyone smiled, joked with each and quickly came to over to help each other. After 9 hours, sore feet, tired backs and limping off, there was a sense of pride at a hard days work completed.

Saturday morning arrives all too early. Everyone moves a bit slowly till the muscles get worked out. It’s 7:30am, food is arriving for the potluck. At 8am everyone is briefed and it’s time for finishing touch ups, trimming. 8:30 am it’s time to man our stations. I am on herbs. Allow me to elaborate – We have Basil – Genovese, Mammoth Sweet, Cinnamon, Lemon, Lime, Siam, Sweet, Purple Ruffles, Spicy Globe and Crimson King. Regular chives and garlic chives. Parsley, Dill, Marjoram, Fennel, Thyme, Sage, Cilantro and Rosemary. Let’s just say I had the best smelling station. The doors will open at 9am and I am ready, at least I thought I was. Below is the picture I took just as the doors opened. Keep in mind behind that blue curtain is a whole area full of vendors, 70 of them. But did they stop there first…no! As you can see from the image on the right they swarmed us.

Before Chaos

Before Chaos

During Chaos

During Chaos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a mad house from 9am till 4pm. And I loved every minute of it!

But there is another side of being part of this organization. We have a large Discovery Garden which features numerous types of gardens. Herb, Easy Access, Xeriscape, Rock, Japanese, Rose, Butterfly, Hummingbird and Orchard gardens and more. And each of these is lovingly tended to by a team of MG’s who dedicate their time to going out every week and pruning, cleaning, replanting, mulching and all things necessary to keeping them looking beautiful.

Yesterday I was out in the easy access garden. This is designed with raised beds, wider walking paths and made for those who have a difficult time bending or walking. A group was over in the butterfly garden putting in new mulch, and a few folks down building the new rock garden. Others were putting finishing touches on the humming bird garden. It was quite outside, birds were singing and the sun was shining.  I work quietly removing weeds, removing soil from old containers, planting onions and beans. Suddenly I hear laughter from the other garden, and even though I am not over there to share in the humor, I am a part of it and smile. This is a community, my community. We are all connected through the things we grow, our gardens, our little patches of soil.

I leave you with some beautiful shots from our Discover Garden. Special thanks to Anita Yager for taking many of these pictures and sharing them with me.

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Herbs and Orchards Batman!

This has been a very busy couple of weeks! After graduating as a Master Gardener I am now working on my volunteer hours so have been putting in lots of time at the plant clinic fielding calls, people bringing in “what’s this thing growing in my yard” samples and others who have some weird bug. Not too fond of the bug questions, but at least I don’t scream and jump on the desk anymore.

A couple of days ago I attended an extended education course on grafting fruit trees. The work was done on apple trees. Using good root stock, which is  just a small stump, and which already has an established, healthy root system, onto which a cutting (scion wood which is one year old) or a bud from another plant is grafted.

Once cut they will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. So it’s very important your root stock diameter and scion wood diameter are close in size.

'V' cut grafting tool

‘V’ cut grafting tool

So now I have my mini orchard started. Five small apple grafted trees are sitting out in my garden in their tubs where they shall remain for 2 years before finding their new place out in the yard. I have 2 Spitzenberg, 1 Black Arkansas, 1 Honey Crisp and 1 Golden Delicious.

Mini Apple Orchard

Mini Apple Orchard

Not sure if you can see the green ‘goop’ midway up the trunks but that is where the graft was done. The blue tape is just the names of the trees which, now that I think of it, I should probably put something a bit more permanent in there. Two of these trees will be pretty big, 15′ or more and the other 3 are on root stock that should keep them around 8-9′.

This brings my total of garden items to 12 tomato plants, 6 cherry tomato plants, 9 broccoli, 8 heads of lettuce (more to be started next week to keep my lettuce supply going) 8 jalapeño plants, 8 Anaheim chili plants, 4 eggplants, 20 leeks, herbs – cilantro, basil, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley and marjoram, one small catnip plant for Ranch Kitty. Next month will see my squash and cucumbers started as well as bush beans.

I think this year is my most exciting year yet!

It’s Official – I’m now a Master Gardener

I am so happy that I’ve graduated as a Master Gardener! But there is still a lot to learn.

Master Gardener Badge

Master Gardener Badge

Now I think back to last year’s garden. How I had to plant it three times, well I planted once and then replanted two times due to frost and other conditions. I sure wish I had known then what I know now. And yet, after all my classes I still feel inept. They say some people have green thumbs. My Mom is one such person. You should see her yard, front and back, it’s just beautiful. She has such wonderful plants, trees and shrubs.

I have learn to stand back and look at how things grow differently. Case in point, I willingly looked into a plant because a specific spider was present and I wanted to see what he was eating. (Of course when said spider decided he had had enough and quickly came running out I promptly jumped back assuming I was his next meal.)

What I need is a dose gamma rays to ignite my green DNA. So here’s to lush tomatoes, crisp green lettuces, juicy black berries, fresh green beans and fragrant herbs. Let the growing season commence!

 

Trees and Seeds

Taking the Master Gardener’s course has really opened my eyes to so many different things. I am amazed at what I have learned, and saddened by what I know I have forgotten. (But thank goodness I have the text book(s). )

Today was all about trees and seed harvesting. I am so encouraged now, that I know this fall there will be new trees on the Ranch. And knowing about how to harvest my own seeds, well now I can grow what I want, from the stock I want and be guaranteed good production. Not to mention saving money in using my own seeds.

If my crop comes in good, I think I will try and put together a seed library and donate them to the schools, community centers and senior homes. This is such an exciting time.

I encourage all of you to get out in your yards, balconies, porches, ranches and farms and grow! It’s time for rich tomatoes, spicy peppers, buttery squashes, sweet carrots and fresh green beans.

Tip of Day…for this Fall –

Don’t forget your cover crops this winter to help feed nitrogen back into your soil. Check your local extension office for what cover crops are best for you. This can save you a lot of work prepping the soil come spring for your new plants!

Master Gardening – Always an Education

So I am now one month into my training towards becoming a Master Gardener. This is such an intense course of classes, labs and getting your hands dirty.

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to help pay back some of my volunteer hours by helping to clean up after a rather large Douglas fir tree was cut down. I wish I had a picture of my pants and shirt after this. Folks trees are beautiful, they even smell lovely, but they are filthy!! From picking up branches and hauling them to the chipper I was covered in dirt.

Here I am with a couple of classmates Kish Doyle and Rachelle (do not remember her last name). Yeah that’s a sledge hammer I’m wielding…but no I did not use it. I really don’t know why I’m holding it. Or why it looks like Rachelle is kicking me in the crotch. But a lot was going on that day…

Garden Gals

Garden Gals

Here’s a few pictures of the event –

Then on Monday I started my volunteer payback in earnest. It began with me working in the greenhouses transplanting various plants for 3 hours. You’d think it’d be tedious, but it was fun. I enjoyed listening to the veteran MG’s talk about the big plant sale in May, they have jokes they share and a camaraderie that comes from years of serving the community together. After getting my hands dirty I then headed over to the main office where I worked for 4.5 hours in the plant clinic. Here we field calls of all types. Today I took calls on a man who’s peach trees are suffering from Peach Curl and how to combat it. A woman with lots of Yellow Star Thistle in her yard, another man came into the office needing a soil sample done. More calls, voice mails and emails had to be addressed and BAM 4.5 hours was gone in the blink of an eye! I shudder to think of what it’s like to work the clinic when things really get hopping. But I cannot wait.

I can see that I will have great pride working with these individuals and for this organization. There is just something meaningful when you give back to the community that serves you.

Becoming a Master Gardener

Coming in January I will be starting my classes for my Master Gardener certification. I am very excited to start this new adventure! I can only hope I have a fraction of the green thumb my mother does.

Went to our orientation and got our book, which weighs about 20 pounds I do believe so I guess I’ll get a workout walking to and from class. After reading the first chapter, as instructed, my brain is already fried. I am having to learn what appears to be greek, medical or just a totally different language. Words like totipotent (because some plants carry their entire DNA structure in it’s cells it can reproduce a totally new plant – remember spider plants?), meristems (a formative plant tissue usually made up of small cells capable of dividing indefinitely and giving rise to similar cells or to cells that differentiate to produce the definitive tissues and organs), tunicate (having, arranged in, or made up of concentric layers like an onion) and formulas like 6CO2 + 6H2O > C6H12O6 + 6O2. Look I stopped helping my own daughter with math when she was in third grade!

I really wish our book also came in digital format so I could use my online dictionary.

Stay Tuned!

Master Gardener Logo

Master Gardener Logo

The Greenhouse Project

Well I must say I was in for quite a shock moving from Southern California to Oregon. I made this silly assumption that after we moved up here, growing a garden would be a cake walk. I was leaving behind a state that got into the triple digits for most of the summer. I was gaining a more mild climate, along with rain. How wrong I was. There were so many factors I never anticipated. For starters the weather. I now live in an area where there are 4 defined seasons. Oh sure there were 4 seasons in S. CA, but down there I called it, Spring, Hell, Wind, and something moderately cool.

That being said, I now have to understand that, you just do not plant anything in the ground before Mother’s Day. Seriously! I thought oh pish, it’s 80 degrees outside the frost is over. It was, for 5 days at which point the temperature was dropping to 24 degrees at night. Lost everything I planted due to frost. So now I listen when I hear folks talking in the garden centers. Heed the wisdom! Which is what prompted me to get a greenhouse. I need to be able to control the weather, on a small scale. I researched this project for almost a year. The choice was made, a Solexx Greenhouse that was 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet high was purchased.  Below are photos of our assembly and comments.

I must give a lot of thanks to the folks over at the Greenhouse Catalog. Between numerous emails, going to visit them at their location in Salem Oregon and several phone calls I knew I made the right decision. Michael and Bryen answered all my questions and even provided information I had not considered.  I do not agree with some of their installation instructions, but this does not mean I had any regrets in our purchase. And I think they owe me a bottle of wine 🙂

On to the installation. I will be honest the assembly instructions say it will take a couple of days to assemble. I would say this is not quite accurate. It took us a week+ and we’re retired. Part of this is due to the fact you must prepare your area for where the greenhouse will be. We opted for laying down a gravel base. Get ready for your upper body work out folks. We sprayed the area first with vegetation killer, then put down weed guard.

And then it was time to shovel it all in place. I won’t bore you with those tedious shots. I’m just very grateful for Aleve!

Just a few 1,000 lbs of rock.

Just a few 1,000 lbs of rock.

Here we go...

Here we go…

You look at these boxes and you think, “Ok I can do this. Just one step at a time”. So a show of hands, how many of you have had to assemble a swing set, or a bicycle on Christmas Eve? Uh huh…take that and multiple it times 10. As I said prepping is key to success. You need to know where to place it on your property for maximum sun, you may need a permit depending on where you live. Will you need to run electrical to it, water? How will you get electrical/water to it? You know what they say ‘Love is in the details.’

You begin with the base frame and ribs. This goes pretty smoothly. Here is a collage of the various stages.

Framing

Framing

At one point it started to look like a giant whale bone carcass. Do keep in mind, wherever you build it, if it’s not on the site, you will have to carry it later. (Good thing I joined a gym a month before we started).

It is from this stage on that things got a bit…um…challenging. We carried the assembled frame over to the grassy area near the gravel site. Ribs were attached at the top to form the hut.

Ribs connected over top

Ribs connected over top

Front View

Front View

Panels

Panels

We put the panels out in the sun as they come curled up in the box.  And this is where assembly began to fall apart and we had to adapt and improvise.

You are directed to install the panels horizontally and slide them up and over the top. So panel one will become panel 6, and 2 will be 5 etc. Something like this –

Sliding - not so good.

Sliding – not so good.

You are told to use duct tape to help hold them together while you lift the bottom, add the next panel and slide up. Folks we had some duct tape that was so sticky I still have no finger prints and the weight of the panels (while not a lot) was enough to pull the entire thing apart.  That, compiled with a breeze we have out here all the time would lift the panels like a sail. After the 4th attempt we said “forget it let’s go another route!” First we took 4 cinder blocks and made anchors. We then secured one end and tossed the rope over the top and anchored on the side. Each panel was then slipped under the ropes and secured with a couple of screws.

Anchor 1

Anchor 1

Anchor 2

Anchor 2

Notice no duct tape.

What would have been better was to get the solexx siding the way they show it on the site. In long sheets rather than panels. Note the difference. He’s just sliding his from one side to the other thru the connector. Ah well…

This would have been easier

This would have been easier

Once you get all the sides on and secure you can put in your vents and shelves. Mine has 6 base vents, a front louver and rear exhaust.

One of the instructions on the exhaust fan says “Rough cut an opening 16 X 16”. What they should have said was measure and trace exhaust frame and cut neatly. Because if you don’t the back will look like hell. We had to build a frame out of trimmed solexx panels to seal it.

Assembled

Assembled

Front Louver & Shelves installed

Front Louver & Shelves installed

The flooring I got was a tarp that will also help with weed retardant. You can see the exhaust fan in the back, cords will be dressed up a bit more later. The exhaust fan is on it’s own control. You can set it to come on at a specific temperature. This will pull the hot air out of the greenhouse by pulling cooler air from the floor via the floor vents. But the real cool thing is the solar opener.

Solar Opener

Solar Opener

This little device is set to automatically open the front louver when it reaches 65-70 degrees. Trust me you want it to. Some might think but that’s far too soon the greenhouse will cool too fast. It won’t. This is power free by the way. It’s operated via wax in the tube. Wax gets warm, expands and vent is opened. As it cools the wax contracts and closes the vent. Really neat!

Below the electrical is going in. We hired a certified electrician for this because we needed it to code and pass inspection. Some things you cannot cut corners on.

Wall Switches going in

Wall Switches going in

Overhead Outlets

Overhead Outlets

Ready for Plants

Ready for Plants

So here is the inside all done. I also have 4 light panels of T5 lighting. I do not have a heater yet as I don’t want to try and grow in Dec and Jan when the highs are in the 30’s and lows in the 20’s. It would be just too costly. My herbs were moved in and it’s starting to look like a real greenhouse. Next spring I will update with more pictures of what I’m growing. In January I will be taking the Master Gardener classes and get my certification. I am sure that the knowledge I get there will help me immensely with greenhouse gardening success!

Did I mention at night it becomes a beacon for alien space craft?

Alien Beacon?

Alien Beacon?