Winter: Time to bolster gardening knowledge

December 21, 2010 06:59 pm
When you read this, we will have passed the halfway mark around our sun and have begun our journey back to the light of warmer days and spring. Yet for now, we can be assured the blanket of snow we are under is keeping our plants safe from drying winds and soil heaving from too warm of temperatures.

Spring seems ever so far away as I look out the window and watch the juncos and finches dining on our daily offering of seeds, hopping on the snow. It would be quite lonely in the winter if it weren’t for the hardy little ones that enjoy the cold.

So what is a gardener to do in the depths of winter’s dark?

Education and learning new skills or investigating and doing research on the Internet or through books are always good choices. When I think of our little friends at the bird feeder, I often reflect back to the seed mixes that include thistle seeds. Several types of thistles.

A quick trip to the Oregon Department of Agriculture website that lists noxious weeds in Oregon is a good heads-up for gardeners that can help prevent the spread of unwanted and noxious species. Their website has also expanded its database of information and photo content to assist in making wise decisions easier, and in  increasing one’s knowledge in an organized manner.

Included in the ODA website is new information regarding the Adopt-A-Highway Program. It now includes removal of noxious weeds by the volunteers that staff this program. While volunteers are asked to provide litter clean-up four times a year, noxious weed removal only needs to be done twice per calendar year. For a link to this program visit and click on the link for the Adopt-A-Highway program.

I continue to be amazed at the availability of seed species that are noxious not just in Oregon but many other places, as well. Yet seed companies continue encouraging the purchase of identified troublesome plants with their slick catalogs and web listings.

For instance, if I were inclined to disregard the devastating affects of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) I could still purchase the seed. Once it escapes cultivation, as it quite readily does, it goes on a spreading rampage through anything that even closely resembles water.

Thousands of acres in this state alone have been rendered useless by the escaping, but beautiful, purple loosestrife. This is where taking the time to educate ourselves is so beneficial. For a complete list of restricted and noxious weeds included in the state-wide quarantine, visit and click on the link to noxious weeds.

For those without access to the Internet at home, a visit to your local library can provide welcome relief from the dark of winter.

As always, there is an almost endless supply of books available for learning about and enjoying plants. Many gardening books you can find online may be ordered or purchased locally at our fine area bookstores. Shipping is quite inexpensive.

So until next time, enjoy perusing your catalogs, books and quality websites as we work toward having a fine gardening season in the coming months ahead.

Jennie Lu Hagen is a La Grande gardener.