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Master Gardener™ class signups being taken for 2020 class in St. Helens

The OSU Extension office in Columbia County will be offering the Master Gardener™ training again this spring. This year, we are trying a new schedule that allows people that work to attend. The classes will be held on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. and on alternate Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. for about 10 weeks starting on February 5, 2020 at the Extension office in St. Helens. Cost of the program is $100.00 which includes a large re-source book. Some scholarships are available. Master Gardeners are responsible for providing volunteer gardening education to the community as partial payback for the training. If interested in the program, call the Extension office at 503 397-3462 for an in-formation packet. Online registration is now available at We can also send you an application and/or you can come into our office to sign up.

Columbia County Oregon Beekeepers meet Thursday, November 7, 6 p.m. Co-lumbia River PUD, 64001 Hwy 30. Steve Gomes will introduce the Walt Wright nectar management system. Free, open to all.

Two local mushroom events in November

There is a free mycological presentation at the Scappoose Library on Wednesday, November 6 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. by Jordan Weiss.

The first annual St. Helen’s Mushroom Fair will be held on Saturday, November 9 from 9-5 p.m., admission $5. The location is the old Columbia Electric Feed and Seed building at 14th/Columbia in St. Helens. More details and posters coming soon. Watch for them.

Plan your garden

This month is an ideal time to make notes, resolutions, and plans for next year’s garden. The mistakes of the past year (for me, too

many tomatoes, some early direct seed failures with green beans, and not enough winter greens, etc.) should be countered with a plan that both corrects the errors of the past and allows room for new experiments. The notes, resolutions, and plans don’t have to be extensive. A garden notebook is very useful as a permanent record of your intentions, varieties planted (with dates), observations, and results.

Finally, many gardeners don’t realize the potential for raising “small fruits” in the garden. Gooseberries, currants, blueberries, lingonberries and the trailing blackberries like Marion and Logan berries produce lots of fruit in modest space. There are two great retail nurseries in the northwest that specialize in tree fruits, small fruits and all manner of exotic fruit. You should visit their web sites to see their catalogs: One Green World and Raintree Nursery

Time to transplant

Gardeners often discover that the place they planted a tree, shrub, or herbaceous perennial isn’t the perfect location. Roses that are mildly prone to black spot might improve greatly if given more sun. Anyway, most of our plants that lose their leaves have already done so and are dormant. Evergreens like rhododendrons or needled evergreens are also dormant. The ground isn’t sopping wet yet, either. So this is the perfect time to move them if you have been thinking about it. Shallow-rooted plants like rhodies and blueberries are relatively easy to pry up. Other woody plants take more digging and root cutting to get a “root ball” that can be lifted. Those root balls get heavy and some trees are simply not possible to move without proper equipment. Have a hole pre-dug ready, cover the roots with soil, place several inches of mulch around the area and water deeply. You are done.

Using manure in the garden

Cow, sheep, goat, llama, alpaca, or horse manure is a great addition to any garden. It improves soil structure and supplies valuable minerals. However, there is a concern is possible transmission of disease organisms, especially the human pathogenic O57 strain of the bacteria E. coli. This strain is mostly in cow manure. Research shows that manure worked into a field in the fall and planted the following spring would not be at risk for disease. One approach is to work manure into the garden (along with some lime if you haven’t limed lately) in the fall before the rains start (get busy) and either plant a cover crop or cover with a non-manure mulch like leaves or black plastic to preserve surface soil tilth. If you cover the bed with plastic, make sure the manure stays moist enough over the winter to compost. Periodically remove and replace the cover for some rain. Manure can still be applied to the garden surface if the ground isn’t too soft and can be left uncovered.

I still am very concerned about the use of manure tea during the growing season or fresh manure applied directly to crops due to the human pathogen risks. Well-composted manure should be fine at any time.

Bare ground for bees

In general, I’m a firm believer in fall mulches, especially with compost. Mulches improve soil tilth, reduce the germination of winter annual weeds, and slow soil compaction caused by pounding winter rains.

However, many of the best pollinators are ground-nesting solitary bee species. They are solitary in the sense that each female bee excavates her own tunnel for her brood, but they bees tend to congregate together in the same patches of ground. I saw an area in Warren that must have had over 5,000 active holes in a 15’x20’ area. Homeowners are often concerned about these bees (since it is easy to associate them with ground-nesting yellow jackets) but these bees rarely if ever sting. They just go about their work patiently and with no malice. Most of the time, they are only active for 2-3 months. Generally, in my experience, landowners let them live once their concerns are answered.

So how does this relate to mulch? If there is more than about an inch of mulch on the ground, the female bee won’t work through it and will look elsewhere to nest. Since these bees are not only important for pollination but also kind of neat to watch, it may be worth keeping an out-of-the-way bare piece of ground for them to find.

Take extra produce to the Food Bank this year.

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 (across from the Legacy clinic) St. Helens, OR 97051. 503 397-3462. Email:


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