Mulch garden as needed, plan ahead for spring

December 20, 2011 08:15 pm
Our serious lack of snow cover has forced me to try an unusual method of protecting my smaller perennials.

I’ve been bringing bags of soil into the house to thaw — they are normally in the shop — and then I am spreading another inch or two of the dirt around the base of these plants that were placed in the ground this past growing season.

Frost heave had almost sent one little plant completely out of the soil, or at least far enough out that its top layer of roots were exposed. Several plants look desiccated instead of just dormant, another result of no snow cover and exposure to our drying winds. Only spring will tell if it’s too late for their survival.

So since we have no snow, now is a good time to walk around your garden and see if your winter maintenance survey shows a need for more soil. Mine certainly showed a severe lack of protection, especially for the younger plants.

Winter is an excellent time to expand our gardening knowledge and apply what we’ve learned next season. Sometimes looking at seed catalogs can be frustrating when terminology used isn’t very well explained, or is completely lacking.

A few common terms are included in this issue of the Garden Guide. These terms are from the definitions found in the 2012 issue of the “Seed Savers Exchange” catalog. “Seed Savers Exchange” offers only heirloom and open-pollinated seed and plants.

Heirloom varieties included in their catalog are described as open-pollinated selections with a long history of cultivation (most commonly at least 50 years) and are saved within a family or group.

Open-pollinated varieties are those that breed true from seed. The seed saved from the parent plant will grow offspring that has the same characteristics. Hybrid varieties do not breed true from seed; they are a cross between two parents of the same species.

This does not mean that hybrid seed cannot produce offspring, as some have wondered. It simply means that any offspring produced from hybrid varieties will not give you the same plant that you collected the seed from as its genetic makeup has been altered. Most seed catalogs will state whether the seed is a hybrid variety or not.

A new Master Gardener program will be starting in January at the Oregon State University Extension office on North McAlister Road in Island City. Classes will be held each Tuesday beginning Jan. 10 and will continue through April 17.

These are excellent courses and an individual may take the entire course for certification as a Master Gardener or take selected courses for a small fee of $15 per class. For the class schedule or registration information, call the OSU Extension office at 541-963-1010. I refer to my “Master Gardener Handbook” many times throughout the season and for reference materials when writing this column. Re-certifying Master Gardeners pay a reduced fee.

With increased demands on our economic limits, growing our own food and expanding our gardens just makes sense. I have been disappointed at the lack of seed catalogs arriving in my mailbox. It’s a favorite winter pastime for many of us, to sit and peruse the catalogs while planning our next season endeavors.

Hopefully more will arrive soon. I am not one who wants to sit on the computer to look at seeds and plants online.

And that is what many readers are telling me as well, so for now, before we hopefully get the snow we need, go inspect your garden, mulch as needed and plan ahead for spring. Our next Garden Guide will include seed-starting tips as some varieties that will be transplanted out later can be started in mid- to late January.

Until next time, happy planning.

Jennie can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it