Gardening Column

Garden topics

This looks to be a good year for fruit pollination. Flowering is progressing nicely, mason and honey bees are active, and the forecast is for more of the same.

If it stays drier, there should be a lot less disease on dogwoods, apples, cherries, and other trees that are afflicted in wetter springs.

Despite the cool February through early April, we are still short of moisture for the “water year” which is measured from October 1 through May 31. Portland data is about 30 inches as of April 7. It is unlikely that we will get enough rain in remainder of April and all of May to reach our norm of about 37 inches. This represents a continuation of below normal water years going back to at least 2014. Foresters believe this is the probable cause of so many western red cedars dying (no evidence of a disease or other cause has been found to date). It also has implications for gardeners that planted trees and shrubs last year. Keep them watered as their roots aren’t yet ready to really forage widely for moisture.

It is still a little cool for planting the warm season crops like corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and green beans. But all can be started from seed in a warmer space and transplanted. One organic farmer I worked with transplanted all her first corn planting to get a head start on the season and ensure good plant row spacing. You will be also told that you can’t transplant green beans but that isn’t true.

Cilantro is consumed both as a leafy green herb that looks a lot like parsley and as a seed called coriander. It is widely used in cooking throughout the Mideast, Asia, and in all locations in the western hemisphere from Mexico, south. The fresh herb is deeply disliked by some and loved by many others. It may be an acquired taste or something genetically driven. Some people are allergic to it. I was unfamiliar with cilantro as a kid growing up in the Willamette valley. But in my early 20s, I ended up in Columbia (the country, not the county) where cilantro was part of every meal. I love it. Anyway, if you want to grow your own cilantro, start seeds now. It grows best in the spring through early summer and early fall until frosts.

Planted in the mid-summer, it bolts to seed quickly so that isn’t a generally preferred planting time. Plant 10 or so seeds per foot of row and thin to a spacing of about 6-8 inches apart. Cover the seed with potting mix like you would for carrots get good germination in “crusty” soil conditions. Plant successive small rows to ensure fresh material until mid-summer. Cilantro can’t be dried since it loses all its flavor. If it flowers, you can leave the flowers for the many pollinators that love the plant and then save seed (coriander) for replanting or cooking. I wish you many tasty salsas. Picture from Wikipedia. If you use it, consider contributing to its important work.

Crab grass isn’t quack grass or bluegrass

We are often asked how to control crabgrass in lawns. The problem is that crabgrass is seldom found in our lawns. It is in the garden beds and along the roadside. In fact, it is fairly common wherever the ground is bare or disturbed in the spring. That is because crabgrass is an annual grass. It germinates in the spring and summer, sets seed and dies. It cannot compete with our turf grasses that grow all year long.

The only annual grass that competes well is annual bluegrass that grows in the winter and is going to seed now.

The weedy grasses in most lawns are quack grass, rough-stemmed bluegrass, velvet grass, and the above-mentioned annual bluegrass. There are some products that control bluegrass. These are applied in the fall/winter. Sadly, we have no options to control quack grass or velvet grass without damaging our desired turf varieties.

Many homeowners will treat the “bad” grass patches with Roundup™ and then overseed with lawn seed when the treated grasses die.

Have questions?

If you have questions on any of these topics or other home garden and/or farm questions, please contact Chip Bubl, Oregon State University Extension office in St. Helens at 503 397-3462 or at

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 and click on newsletters.

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


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