By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Gardeners will need patience this spring because of the cold winter and low temperatures in early spring nights, gardening experts advise.
“I think everything is going to be later this year,” said Hester Garbellano, a garden designer and Master Gardener with the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Wait until the soil is near 60 degrees Fahrenheit before transferring tomatoes and other vegetables from starter pots to the garden plot, advised Lori Vollmer, co-owner of Garden Fever nursery, and Tom Barreto, who owns Eyes on Broadway but plants his garden on two acres on the Westside.
Planting too early, in cold soil, may stunt plant growth, Vollmer said. And if you’re worried about a sickly plant, she said, exercise patience again.
“Don’t pull up anything until it has had a chance to warm up,” Vollmer advised.
Barreto, who grew up in a gardening family, also advised patience before trying to work soil. If it is wet, the local clay can turn to cement, he said.
“Grab a handful of soil,” he said. “If it falls apart, it’s dry enough. If you make a mud ball, it’s too wet. You have to work soil when it’s moderately dry.”
Barreto, a member of the Metropolitan Garden Club of Portland, which meets monthly at the Subud Center, 3185 N.E. Regents Dr., also recommends creating compost from plant materials and kitchen scraps for good, natural soil amendment.
Garbellano and Marina Wynton, a landscape designer who also helps homeowners develop backyard habitat, both recommend organic fertilizer. Plants are healthier and more disease-resistant with organics, they say. Garbellano also recommends against bark dust, which robs the soil of nitrogen.
Also check to see which fertilizer a plant needs and how often, Vollmer said. For instance, roses need their own mix, which shouldn’t be used on blueberries, which like a more acid recipe. Roses may need more feeding in spring than evergreen shrubs, she said.
Besides plants, homeowners may be considering shade or fruit trees. The winter’s high winds and cold temperatures may have damaged existing trees.
Chad Honl, owner of Honl Tree Service, recommends calling a certified arborist to trim trees above a dozen feet to avoid an accident and a big hospital bill.
Honl also recommends consulting a nursery’s tree specialist or Friends of Trees to select the correct tree for the yard.
A common problem, he said, is a tree that has grown too big for a small space. Honl, manager of the Friends of Trees neighborhood program from 2000-2005, recommended the program for the price.
“You can get a tree from them for $75, but for me to provide and plant it would be $360 because I’m paying more for the tree,” he said. “All theirs are subsidized.”
Honl and other arborists warn homeowners against topping a tree.
“If you’re topping a maple, you can open up an area of decay,” he said. “You’ll get four, five or six suckers. You took off one leader and you get five leaders and destroy the shape of the tree. Also, you’re creating more maintenance for yourself.”
“Power companies top trees to keep us safe,” he acknowledged. “That’s what happens when you plant a tree that grows to 60 feet under a 30-foot wire.”
They are disease- and drought-resistant after a few years, she said, but they need watering and care until they are established.
The native plant list is long but includes Oregon grape, salal, red flowering currant, mock orange, huckleberry, columbine, yarrow, Pacific wax myrtle and aster.
If everything in the garden didn’t survive the winter, Vollmer said, “Don’t be sad. There are more plants to try.”
Master Gardeners, a program of the Oregon State University Extension Service, answer gardening questions on a hot line 10 a.m.
to 2 p.m. weekdays: (503) 445-4608. Questioners may leave a name, telephone number and when to return a call.
Local nurseries offer many gardening classes, often on weekends.
Incredible Edible Sale of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
May 3 at Westminster Presbyterian Church parking lot, Northeast Hancock Street
between 16th and 17th avenues.