Taking Root #53

Taking Root

May 10, 2017

Is it spring yet?

By Gini Bramlett

For the Calapooia Food Alliance

Well, this spring is one for the book. Temperatures fluctuated last week alone from near 80 degrees one day to night time temperatures of near freezing the next. Layering is a must when leaving the house since the weather can change at the drop of a hat.

Gardeners in the Northwest are facing a very late planting season this year, so don’t get too worried about not getting your seedlings planted at the “normal” time. We’re all in the same proverbial boat. A warm 70-something day compells gardeners to get out there to plant beans, tomatoes and peppers. My advice is to check the nighttime forecasts before doing so. Granted, our last frost date has well past, but anything can happen with the unpredictable weather this spring.

Warm season plants will do very little unless ground temperatures stay above 45 degrees. The roots can even rot if the constant rain doesn’t let up. It’s best to be patient and wait until we can be assured the temperatures will remain on the warmer side, and the cold and constant rain lets up.

Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t crops to plant now, in spite of the unseasonable weather. Potatoes, spinach, beets and carrots, as well as lettuce, kale and vegetables in the cabbage family are a pretty safe bet. I’ve had lettuce growing for at least a month, and it’s doing quite well. Spinach is also peeking through the ground, and I got beets in last week.

All in all, we’re about a month later getting vegetable gardens planted. In spite of that, things will catch up sooner or later with the warm summer forecasted.

One way to make certain you get ripe tomatoes with our cool spring and before the fall temperature start dropping is to choose shorter season varieties. Ripening time varies considerably, so ask your grower or check the net and make a list of shorter season varieties that do well here before making your purchases. Nothing is as disappointing as nurturing a beautiful long-season beefsteak type tomato just to harvest green orbs with no red in sight before the temperstures fall to near freezing.

One of my tricks with tomatoes is to cover them in the spring evenings to protect them from the cooler nights, then remove the covering each morning. It’s a bit of work if you have a number of plants, but it’s usually only for a couple of weeks, and is well worth the effort to give them protection and a good boost.

I use “Wall o Waters” which are available in many garden centers. These are good for those who grow a small number of plants since they are not inexpensive, but last for years. They are a heavy duty plastic cylinder with an open top that sits over the small delicate plants, and consists of channels all around that are filled with water that heats up during the day and protects plants at night. When temperatures remain comfortable, simply remove the cylinders, clean and store for next year

Another method I have used is to cover each plant with a plastic garbage bag at night, and remove it in the morning. It’s a more cost efficient method, and bags come in all sizes. It works best to install your tomato cages first, if using, then covering the entire cage with the plastic bag. Either way extends your season by giving your plants a little head start. Years ago I used this method with 30 plants and had one of the best tomato harvests that I can remember.

The 2017 Brownsville Thursday Market is in full swing starting at 3pm at the corner of Main and Park streets.Vendors will offer vegetable and flower starts, perennials, berry plants, ornamentals, handmade soaps and bath truffles, fresh baked cakes, pastries and breads, as well as jams, jarred items, fresh salsa, hot coffee and more.

OSU will also have Master Gardeners most market days to answer gardening questions and help troubleshoot your garden problems.

For more information about the Calapooia Food Alliance’s new “NO FEE” vendor guidelines, email Gini at rongini98@gmail.com or visit the CFA website at www.gocfa.org and click on “market.” A vendor application and vendor rules can be printed from the site. Vendors will need to have a completed 2017 application before setting up. Applications and vendor rules will also be available on market day.

Comments are closed