Upcoming programs:

Food Preservation classes: Contact the Extension office (503 397-3462) for details. To register online go to : .

This class is $20: The Science and Art of Canning Salsa (August 28) will be held at the Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District Office, 35285 Millard Rd, St Helens, OR 97051

Hunt to Home: Game Processing

Saturday, September 21, 2019, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Columbia Soil & Water Conservation District office at Mil-lard Road in St. Helens. $40

Are you a novice or seasoned hunter looking to improve your butchering and processing skills? Class includes hands-on butchery instruction, freezer wrapping, and a pressure canning demonstration. Preregister.

Got food preservation questions? Give us a call at 503-397-3462. You can also get your pressure gauge tested for free at the Extension office. Food Preservation recipes and fact sheets can be accessed online at:

Tomato late blight

We have had a very nice tomato season to date. As we move through August into September, the chance of rain increases. With it comes the risk of tomato late blight. The late blight fungus thrives in warm, moist conditions and can quickly ruin your tomato crop.

The weather pattern that favors late blight is three or four days of continuously moist weather. It doesn’t have to rain hard. About 15 years ago, we had four days of a “coastal fog” that refused to budge. By the end of it, most of the tomato plants looked like they had been hit with a blowtorch. Leaves turn blotchy brown, stems blacken and the now inedible fruit turns a glassy olive color. There is little genetic resistance to late blight in current varieties with a few modest exceptions (“Legend” and “Peron”).

But you can help to reduce the spread by doing the following:

• Never overhead (sprinkler) water at night. It can accelerate the disease even in dry weather.

• Prune out leaves that don’t look right and destroy them.

• Use a copper fungicide (generally considered to be organic) as a preventative now and again if you see a wet weather ahead.

• Clean out weeds and do some moderate pruning to improve air circulation around your plants.

None of these steps by themselves can stop the disease if conditions really favor it but, by slowing it a bit, can give you a week or two of extra harvest.

Pokeweed flourishing.

Get rid of it

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is often found in isolation, a plant here, a plant there. Not this year, it seems to be everywhere in the St. Helens and Warren area. It is rather gangly herbaceous perennial with one to several stout red/purple stems and large alternately arranged leaves. But it can grow tall, up to 10 feet in full sun. From late June through the rest of the summer, pokeweed produces spectacular elongated clusters of deep-purple berries from small green/white flowers. This really gets your attention. The plant is striking and quite attractive. But be warned, those berries and the rest of the plant are poisonous! Birds eat the berries to seed new pokeweeds. For more information, see my November 2018 newsletter:

Seed saving basics

Given the interest in heirloom varieties, many gardeners have begun saving seeds from their own garden. It is important to know some terms that can help you decide if the seed is worth saving:

Self-pollinating: If the plant self-pollinates, then the seed could be saved and be reasonably true as long as it is not a hybrid seed variety (see below). Some examples of self-pollinating plants are tomatoes, peppers, green beans, peas, lettuce, chard, and beets. Some seeds that are very hard to save are squash. They are not self-pollinating since bees move pollen between plants. To save squash seed, pollination has to be controlled by very complicated techniques (call for details if interested).

Hybrid seed: Plant breeders have been crossing two distinct breeding lines to create hybrid varieties for at least 80 years. With the cross, the breeder is looking to in-corporate some specific characteristic like disease resistance or other culinary characteristics into the line. Hybrid varieties will not come true from saved seed even if the plant is self-pollinating. Hybrid plants produce seeds that show one of the parents’ characteristics or a jumbled mix of both parents. This is not the controlled cross that produced the hybrid in the first place. Hybrids are generally labeled as F1 or F2 on the seed packages. Hybrids can be excellent seed for you to grow but you cannot recreate them so don’t bother to save their seed.

To save tomato seed, pick out a fruit that is “true to type” and well-matured. Scoop out seeds from the jelly-like pulp. At this point, some seed savers ferment the seed/pulp mixture in juice from the tomato for several days. Then they wash the seeds and dry them on a paper towel. I have scooped seeds and spread them directly onto paper towels to dry. It seems to work just fine. I label the paper towel and when the seeds are dry, scrape the seeds into a container. I have even been known to place the entire towel into a labeled envelope for storage.

Seeds need to be dry going into storage. Generally, seeds are best stored in the freezer in envelopes or bottles in freezer bags. Seeds can be stored in the refrigerator but care must be taken to make sure they stay very dry.

Some gardeners are interested in native plants. There are good books on seed propagation of natives. Most seeds need to go through a cool, moist period (called stratification) of a certain length before they are ready to germinate. Call for more information on this topic if you are interested. Don’t ever take seeds from rare plants unless you are engaged in an effort to recover the populations.

There are several good books on the subject of seed saving. One is Seeds to Seed: Seed Saving Techniques for the Vegetable Gardener by Suzanne Ashworth. OSU has a nice fact sheet on the subject that can be found at

Chip Bubl: OSU Extension/Columbia County 503 397-3462. 505 N. Columbia River Highway, St. Helens, OR 97051

Free newsletter

The Oregon State University Extension office in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and farming topics (called County Living) written/edited by yours truly. All you need to do is ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call 503 397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at

Many Extension

publications available online

Are you putting up salsa, saving seeds, or thinking about planting grapes? OSU has a large number of its publications available for free download. Just go to . Click on publications and start exploring.

The Extension Service offers its programs and materials equally to all people.

Contact information for

the Extension office

Oregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County. 505 N. Columbia River Highway St. Helens, OR 97051. 503 397-3462. Email:


Online Poll

Are you taking the current City of St. Helens survey?

You voted:

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

1. Be Civil. No bullying, name calling, or insults.
2. Keep it Clean and Be Nice. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
3. Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
4. Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
5. Be Proactive. Let us know of abusive posts. Multiple reports will take a comment offline.
6. Stay On Topic. Any comment that is not related to the original post will be deleted.
7. Abuse of these rules will result in the thread being disabled, comments denied, and/or user blocked.