Gardening Column

Soils are really dry

During our water year from October 1 through September 30th, we normally get 43 inches of water. At the end of May according to the National Weather Service, we stand at 28 inches for the water year in Scappoose. In a normal year, June would add about 1.5 inches, with July at .6 inches, August with 1.1 inches, and September with 1.8 more inches.

In a normal year, this would add 5 inches to our current May total of 28 inches giving us 33 inches total for the 20-21 water year. This is about 10 inches short of normal or about 75% of normal rainfall for the water year.

The forecasts aren’t optimistic for reaching even those numbers. It is dry and this follows several dry springs in a row. Those of you on wells may find them run short or worse. Pay attention to keeping your most important plants watered and use mulches for water management. And start thinking about what your landscape should look like in the future if this continues.

Weed your vegetables early and often

Vegetables are rather tender crops. They have been cultivated and coddled for so long that they really aren’t very competitive. Weeds, on the other hand, make their living by being the first out of the ground. As they develop leaves, weeds capture sunlight shading the poor vegetable seedlings and stunting their growth. The most important time in your vegetable garden is the four weeks you spend weeding after you plant the garden.

Trans-plants reduce the weed competition problem but don’t eliminate the need for vigilance. The following table shows the yield of paired plots of various vegetables that were weeded and not weeded at all after the vegetables were planted:

Weeding a perennial flower bed

Perennial flowers add form, color and grace to many gardens. Often, these plants are grouped in beds. These beds are not immune to weed pressure. Annual and perennial weeds find their way into the mix and can pose quite a challenge to the gardener.

Here are some steps that will help you manage those weeds:

If you have the opportunity, get your planting beds started right. Lay the beds out and cover the ground and grass 3-6 months prior to planting with several thicknesses of newspaper or one sheet of cardboard. Pile compost and soil mix on top to a depth of at least 6 inches.

Let everything sit until late spring/early summer and then plant into the beds. The pile will kill most of the perennial grasses and bury some of the weed seed burden that was surely in the soil to start with. Additionally, this preparation will help to provide a good soil mix for the plants.

Grow vigorous plants. Know what they need in terms of fertilizer, sun and water. Group plants of similar requirements for sun and water.

Be consistent about weeding the first several growing years. Some perennials take off quickly while others can be slow starters. Once they are established, many perennials are fairly resistant to weeds because they are so vigorous themselves. Hostas and daylilies are good examples of fairly space-controlling plants. During this early phase, you can hand weed and continue to mulch with weed-seed free material.

Control established perennial weeds like quackgrass, horsetail, morning glory or Canada thistle by hand pulling…. and pulling….and pulling. Persistence is a great virtue. So, it not taking vacations. This process is called carbohydrate starvation and it depends on removing leaves and stems as fast as possible to prevent the rejuvenation of roots and crowns.

Watch your beds and remove plants that are struggling. They probably aren’t planted in the right place and their lack of vigor will give weeds more room to grow. Replace them with something more suitable.

Mulch in the fall with two inches of compost or bark material. This won’t stop all those pesky winter annuals but will reduce their numbers and offer you some hope. Again, continue to hand-weed.

There is light at the end of the weed tunnel. As the perennials get a few years on them, they begin to act like they own the space. Your weed problems should be much reduced.

Hazardous Waste Collection Day

8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday June 12 at the Columbia County Transfer Station, 1601 Railroad Ave., St. Helens. For more details, call 503-397-9811.

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 chip.bubl@oregonstate.edu.

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 extension.oregonstate.edu/columbia 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 catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ . 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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