Thursday, March 26, 2009

Central Oregon Gardener's Almanac

Many of you who live in Central Oregon may have always wanted a garden, but weren't sure where to start. Those of you who don't live around here may be curious about how we plan and perfect our gardens in the high desert. Since gardening is a "budding" passion of mine (excuse the pun), I'm here to show you how it's done! Simply follow the guidelines for a beautiful garden year after year.

January- Now is the time to start thinking about your garden! Pore over old seed catalogues, start a gardening journal to keep track of your plans. Drink a lot of tea and daydream as much as possible. Go out and tromp around in the snow, thinking of how great your garden will look in a few short months. Word of wisdom: don't kill your houseplants because you forgot to water in the midst of your springtime daydream.

February- Remember that you forgot to plant bulbs back in November and wonder if it's too late ("they" say it's not). Start poring over Spring seed catalogues. Make huge lists of things to do (in later months, of course). Start throwing your vegetable scraps in a "compost" pile that resembles a large pile of snow and ice. Watch your husband faithfully dig a snowbank off of your garden plot.

March- Watch with wonder as bulbs you never planted start coming up, while the ones you did plant fail to show. Order seeds. Feel very proud of yourself. Decide that you are now a real gardener. Seeds arrive, feel overwhelmed by the expectation of actually doing something with them. Throw them in a closet for the remainder of the month. Water houseplants as you resign yourself to a life of genetically modified food.

April- Face a renewal of your gardening energy as the sun thaws more snow in your yard. Pull seeds out of the closet and plant them in the dirt, in egg-crate cartons, in anything you can put soil into. Forget houseplants. Draw up plans for the greenhouse you'll build next year. Is that rhubarb coming up already?

May- Find your moldy pile of "compost" and try to layer it with hay and chicken manure to see what happens. Transplant egg cartons and indoor plants to garden. Plant hardier varieties directly into the dirt. Water everything that looks like dirt, just in case something was planted there. Word of wisdom: don't forget to label your rows. Watch the snow as it peacefully blankets your newly planted tomatoes.

June- Weeds! Shouldn't have watered everything, afterall. Beneath a field of cheat-grass, find some beans and peas trying to fight their way through. Find pile of plant identifying tags that you made in February but never filled out and try to remember where you planted what. Call all your friends to see if anyone wants some rhubarb.

July- Have hubby put in drip-line on a timer so you don't have to spend so much darn time out in the garden watering. Enjoy some lettuce that survived the predators. Stuff your child's pockets with snap peas and spinach leaves. Spend an hour or so looking for your garden journal to see what you were supposed to do this month while nibbling on asparagus and ignoring the weeds. Decide it's too hot to worry about the garden and go to the farmer's market, instead.

August- Remember the "compost" pile and find a pleasant surprise: it's almost compost-y! Stir it up, water, and cover with more hay. Teach toddler how to "weed" and find she's pulled up all the sunflowers that were shading the lettuce that's already looking a little wilted. Look up recipes online for anything with rhubarb.

September- Pinch yourself, summer's over! The first frost comes and surprises your prized tomato (only one so far). So much for that. Good thing the lone pumpkin survived!

October- As you cover the garden with mulch for the winter, wonder why you didn't spend more time out here in this fabulous place. Vow to do better next year.

November- Tell everyone how you were just "practicing" last year and that next year you plan to have a "real" garden. Don't forget to mention all your plans, including greenhouse outbuildings and raised beds.

December- Start a new compost pile. Start daydreaming about spring. Maybe next year we'll have a flower-garden, too. Couldn't be that hard, right? Wake up in the middle of the night in a dead sweat remembering that you forgot to do the fall pruning back in September.

And there you have it, folks. That's the way to a beautiful garden in Central Oregon. Now- I need to go find those seeds...
A few actual tips:

-wall-o-waters or cold frames can help your plants get a strong start through our cold nights

-choose quick-growing varietals for success against our short growing season. Most local nurseries carry successful varieties.

-add lime and manure to your soil to counteract our poor growing conditions

-always read the directions on the seed pack, and don't be afraid to ask the nice folks at your local nursery for some free advice.
-Here's a great resource for gardeners in our area: