Seeds of dreams
With local experts’ tips, take winter downtime to plot this year’s garden
Seed catalogs, online apps, journals aid gardeners in plotting this year’s garden. Locally, resources include Territorial Seed Company and Oregon State University’s Extension Service-Lane County.
By Vanessa Salvia
For The Register-Guard
Jan. 23, 2016
The weather outside may be wet and dreary, but seed catalogs are popping up like mushrooms this time of year. While you’re deciding what to grow, keep in mind that some plants like to be together while some are happiest apart and knowing these pairings can make your garden a more pleasurable place. Mid-winter is the best time to plan your garden, and local experts have tips to make that process both more fun and more productive.
My turf, your turf
Kevin Prier, who teaches gardening and food preserving skills through his Suburban Homecraft in Eugene, points out that some plants secrete chemicals through their roots that other plants like to avoid. “They say, ‘Don’t grow here, this is my turf,’ ” he says. “Other plants grow well in that environment and some don’t.”
Prier says beans grow really well with a lot of root vegetables such as beets and carrots. He notes that Native Americans figured out companion planting long ago and used it to grow bumper crops of “the three sisters,” corn, beans and squash. “They plant the dry corn and then they plant a hill of squash around that, and the beans would grow up the corn,” he explains. “The squash would fill up the ground and they grow great together until the end of the season.”
Beans and onions on the other hand, do not play well together. “Onions don’t size up very well around beans and beans don’t grow as robustly around the onions,” Prier says.
Cynthia Waters, an OSU Extension Service-Lane County Master Gardener, recommends planting marigolds around vegetable beds as a form of pest control. The flowers can be golden yellow, red or orange and require little care once planted, although they are not cold tolerant. Marigolds’ strong smell seems to discourage flying pests such as whiteflies, which attack tomatoes and peppers, and carrot flies.
“Some plants offer protection and marigolds are excellent for that,” she says.
Waters notes that tomatoes can be planted with garlic, onion, carrots and asparagus, but the gardener should avoid planting them with pole beans, corn, broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. Prier adds, “Any of the brassicas — cabbages, kohlrabis, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts — grow quite well with beets, celery and dill, but they don’t grow so well around tomatoes.”
Waters recommends rotating tomato beds every year and not reusing the same planting spot for four years, to avoid spreading diseases.
For Waters, good gardening begins with soil preparation. “Soil is the most important determination of success in your garden,” she says. “Winter is the time to mulch your entire garden. Soil should not be left bare at any time since the nutrients and healthy microorganisms will leach out due to our abundant rain.”
Territorial Seed Co., located in Cottage Grove, distributed a 164-page seed catalog at the end of December. “It’s filled with vegetable, flower, herb and fruit varieties and everything we have in our catalog we trial in our trial grounds here in the Pacific Northwest in Cottage Grove,” says marketing coordinator Tim Russell. “We know that everything in our catalog grows well in this region and very specifically in the Willamette Valley climate.”
Russell helps to pack the catalog and Territorial’s website with growing information for every item offered.
“We include brief but dense growing information like seed depth, spacing, soil temperature, days to germinate, pest issues, disease issues, when to plant and that kind of thing,” he says. “It has all the info you need to get started growing.”
In addition, Territorial offers an online garden planner that is free to use for seven days; an annual subscription is $29. Users can draw up their garden layout and select the plants they want in it. “It has a calendar based on the varieties you selected,” Russell says. “People really like it.”
Becoming familiar with planting and harvesting schedules will aid in success, because planting at the right soil and air temperature makes a big difference. When Waters gives garden talks, she gets much of her information from the Extension Service’s online calendar, which lists monthly tasks that are specific to our bioregion. “We also have a catalog so if people wanted to search for articles on a particular subject they can do so,” Waters adds.
Waters urges budding or seasoned gardeners to maintain a garden book and to write down what you planted and when, or when you started seeds and how long it took. “If your crop wasn’t that great this year maybe you need to adjust when you put them out or put some protection around the plants for a month or so to make sure they stay warm,” she says. “With the garden book you can look back and remember what you’ve done and when.”
Oregon State University’s Extension Service-Lane County: Offers extensive resources for planting information about many crops along with monthly garden to-dos and a planting calendar. Local office is at 996 Jefferson St. Or online, visit extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/gardens.
Suburban Homecraft: Garden planning classes include seed starting tips and local planting calendar, co-planting, crop rotation, mulching and composting and organic pest control. Cost is $18 in-district at each location. Campbell Community Center, 155 High St., from 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Feb. 15; from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 17. Willamalane Adult Activity Center, 215 W. C St., from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 18. Amazon Community Center, 2700 Hilyard St., from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 20; suburbanhomecraft.com.
Territorial Seed Company: Open since 1979, this local treasure is ripe with everything you need to know about what grows well in our region. Covering vegetable seeds and plants, flowers and herbs, fruits and vines, garlic and potatoes, organics and heirlooms, Territorial knows what grows. Visit the store, 20 Palmer Ave. in Cottage Grove, open Monday through Saturday with winter hours through February from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; to order the latest seed catalog, or to check out seeds available to order online, along with growing guides and planning tools visit territorialseed.com. Call 541-942-0510.