Tillamook County Master Gardener Association

The Extra Chair

~~By Neal Lemery

One year at Thanksgiving, Mom told me to set an extra place setting.  We’d counted up all the relatives who would be coming, and I was curious as to who she was adding. By my count, we hadn’t forgotten anyone and the place settings matched the numbers of who was coming.

“Oh, it’s nice to have an extra setting, just in case,” she said. “You never know who might come.”

I was very curious, but she wouldn’t answer my persistent questions.

Thanksgiving morning came and we were all put to work on preparations for the meal.  My dad had to go into work for an hour, and not long after he left, the phone rang. It was my dad.

“That’s fine,” she said.  “Of course.  No problem. The table’s already set and there’s an extra chair.”

She turned to us after she hung up the phone.

“We’ll be having another guest for dinner,” she said. She smiled then, and started humming a tune, as she turned back to the stove.

Sure enough, my dad arrived home with our mystery guest.  She was a co-worker, and had no other place to go for Thanksgiving. Her smile said it all, how grateful she was to be included.

Every year after that, we always set an extra place for Thanksgiving.  One year there was a flood and some neighbors couldn’t make it to their family dinner, so we set up another table and had another half dozen dinner guests.

One year, it was one of my friends in high school, needing a refuge from a tough time on the home front.

As always, my folks asked no questions, and passed no judgement. The unexpected guest was welcomed with open arms and the first serving of turkey.

My wife and I continued the tradition, welcoming friends, making sure there was a place at the table.

The first Thanksgiving we had our foster son, we made sure he felt welcome, as family gathered to enjoy the holiday.

And, as if on cue, the phone rang, and I heard myself saying, “Sure, of course there’s room.  We’d love to have him.”

I made a special trip while the turkey was cooking, and brought his brother home for the weekend. We made sure to make him feel welcome, a part of the family. He responded with a tear running down his cheek, as he sat down in the extra chair.

Years later, after my folks had passed away, and our kids were starting their own families and had moved away, it was just my wife and I who would be home for dinner.

“Let’s set another place,” my wife said.  “You never know.”

A few days before, she called first one and then another friend, friends who were single, and who, it turned out, would be alone for Thanksgiving.

“Of course, you’re invited.  We’ll expect you at 1,” I heard her say.

We set two extra plates that year, and the Thanksgiving celebration became even more special, as two lonely people found a warm home and bountiful table to share, and our friendship grew. Thanksgiving took on a new, richer meaning that year.

One of our traditions, just as we sit down for the meal, is for everyone to share their gratitudes with the rest of us. There is so much to be grateful in our lives, and we so often tend to skip over giving thanks on Thanksgiving. Instead, we slide into talk about a lot of other subjects, forgetting what the day is really about.

Thanksgiving truly is a day to celebrate our gratitudes and to give thanks. And, often what I am most grateful for is that extra chair, that extra place setting.  I’m grateful for the company of someone who would otherwise be alone on the day we gather and give thanks for all that we have.  And that list begins with being thankful for each other.

Note: This writing is a chapter in my latest book, so I am very happy to share it with the MGs.  The sentiments are certainly an aspect of what we as gardeners are all about. And, a good reminder of the “reason for the season”.  This year, I think we all need to do a little more “community caretaking”.  – Neal Lemery

In the Zone

~ Carla Albright, Gardening Matters

For the last twenty years, I have been gardening on the basis that I live in a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone of 8. This is important because it affects the type of plants that will survive winter temperatures. The most recent of the USDA maps was put out in 2012 and since Oregon State University was a part of the research team, I felt pretty confident in being in a Zone 8. That was also the year they broke the zones down into “a” and “b” so they could be more specific about the temperatures and I moved up to a Zone 8b.

To go back a bit, the USDA Plant Hardiness Map is used to divide the United States into zones according to “average annual extreme minimum temperatures at a given location at a particular time period” or, basically, what the lowest typical temperatures are in an area. The map doesn’t reflect the lowest temperatures ever recorded, just the annual averages. I came from a Zone 5 in Western Pennsylvania, which meant our winter temperatures could (and often did) dip to -20 to -10 degrees. Believe me, there were winters it got colder than that… but I digress.

I was thrilled to move to coastal Oregon in 2001 where my zone jumped to an 8, meaning the winter temps would range from +10 to +20 degrees. That dramatically expanded the types of plants I could put in the garden and not have to worry about over-wintering. I could grow everything I grew in Pennsylvania like roses and rhododendron, but oh, so much more: hardy fuchsia, heather, escallonia, lupines…the list goes on and on.

Jump ahead to 2021 when I found an online nursery for some unusual succulents that I wanted to try. And when I put my zip code into their search engine, imagine my surprise to see I was now in a Zone 9. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “That doesn’t seem right. Especially since the USDA hasn’t recently updated those maps.” So more research was in order.

I tried other online nurseries but with pretty much the same result. The majority of the reputable ones showed my zip to be in a Zone 9a. This means instead of low winter temps of 10 to 20, I could now grow plants that can tolerate low temps of 20 to 30.

But not so fast! I tried plugging in zip codes for other cities in Tillamook County and found a wide range of Zones. Tillamook city, Cloverdale, Wheeler, Oceanside, Netarts and Garibaldi were all Zone 8. But Rockaway Beach, Manzanita and Nehalem were in Zone 9. Okay, I can see areas closer to the ocean’s warming effect would be in Zone 9, but that doesn’t explain Oceanside and Netarts in Zone 8. More exploration was needed.

I went onto the United States Department of Agriculture website to find out as much as I could as to how the maps were researched and created. And this is where it got really interesting, at least to me.

The partnership with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State’s Prism Climate Group resulted in a very comprehensive result. The previous USDA maps had been published in 1990, so the 2012 map was able to take advantage of much more sophisticated technology to divide the zones. Each of the 2012 zones is a 10-degree Fahrenheit band, with the “a” and “b” reflecting a 5-degree F band. The new map utilizes a Geographical Information System (GIS) that allows the user to plug in their zip code for an updated zone. This was what I was able to easily use to find the zones for all of Tillamook County.

The USDA’s ARS and OSU asked horticultural experts across the country to review their geographical zones and give input for the draft maps. A longer and more recent time period – 30 years instead of 13 years of the 1990 map – of weather data was also used. And, of course, the improved technology in recording and reporting the weather stations was available. This included using algorithms for tracking data between the weather stations. Algorithms were also used to account for nearness to large water bodies, elevation, and positions in the terrain such as valleys or ridge tops. There were also more weather stations around the country to gather data.

The bottom line to all this is that we need to know the USDA zones for our neighborhoods to be able to choose plants that will thrive. I expect the dramatic changes in climate we have experienced over the last ten years will result in an even more modern and updated USDA map in the near future. In the meantime, check your personal zone by going to https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov and using their interactive GIS-based maps.

~~Note: Readers might be interested in the OSU TM Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level-up Series presentation ‘Adapting Your Garden for Climate Change‘. This Level-up Series is available to the public and free of charge. Recordings of previous presentations and upcoming live presentations can be found on the Tillamook Master Gardeners website’s Classes page.

Volunteer Service Hours & the 2022 OSU Master Gardener Training

Registration for the 2022 OSU Master Gardener Training TM is now open.  Instruction will be an online self-paced format with curriculum provided by experts in the particular area.  In addition to completing the online courses, class registrants will be required to fulfill 45 hours of volunteer service to earn their certification. 

S-o-o-o… how do I accomplish that?? 

Not – A – Problem! 

Development and coordination of volunteer activities is largely accomplished through the Tillamook County Master Gardeners Association (TCMGA).  Apprentices (new class registrants) are automatically TCMGA members upon registration for the first year where TCMGA pays annual dues to OMGA (Oregon Master Gardener Association – the statewide organization) on behalf of each apprentice.  TCMGA consists of an Executive Board and various committees to conduct business.

Opportunities to work towards fulfilling service hour requirements encompass a broad spectrum of activities such as:

  • Attending TCMGA meetings.  With Covid-19 guidance in place, these are being held via ZOOM
  • Volunteering in the Plant Clinic with a certified Master Gardener (Hardie Perennial).  Client questions about plants, insects, weeds, soil, etc. come into the Extension Office or via our email at TillamookaskaMasterGardener@gmail.com and distributed to Master Gardener volunteer to research and resolve.  This is an excellent opportunity to put what you are learning into practice.
  • Meeting the public at county-wide Farmers Markets.  We have a presence in Manzanita, Tillamook, Pacific City and Neskowin Markets throughout the season.
  • Building on your course understanding with hands on experience in the Learning Garden located at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds.  The Learning Garden boasts a green house and demonstration plots for natives, pollinators, shade loving plants, berries (including Hops) and composting site.  It is especially rewarding talking to visitors during the County Fair.
  • Participating in approved community projects, i.e., consultation with local schools developing gardens, plant recommendations, how to compost, soil testing, insect and weed control strategies.
  • Participating in TCMGA events such as the annual Plant Sale or bi-annual Garden Tour
  • TCMGA has a viable website, Blog (you are reading it now!!) and Facebook page.  Opportunities to enhance our presence on these platforms are always appreciated.    
  • TCMGA also partners with Food Roots to enhance educational outreach to for the community through the Seed to Supper Program a free adult beginning gardening program.

TCMGA’s membership is comprised of people who love gardening, extending their knowledge and expertise to the local community through practical hands on and instructional methods.  The OSU Master Gardener Training curriculum teaches research-based answers to home horticulture questions.  Whether you’re an avid experienced gardener, needing to start from ‘the dirt up’, or using this training in your work, I strongly recommend registering.  I’ve remarked many times the primary lesson I learned from taking this course is ‘how much I didn’t know!’. 

Register today!

Note: Recertification registration module for current Master Gardeners – Hardie Perennials – will be online soon.

Growing Wildflowers isn’t Difficult. And its Urgent!

In a shifting climate, with environmental diversity at risk, it’s never been more important to propagate native plants. Here’s how.

~ From the New York Times, Margaret Roach, September 8, 2021

The nonprofit Wild Seed Project wants to encourage people to learn the simple skills required to propagate native plants, and to use those skills to repopulate the landscape with homegrown natives like butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and its cousin swamp milkweed (A. incarnata).Credit…Heather McCargo

The native perennial species of our meadows — milkweeds, asters, Joe Pye weed and others — will make one more offering in fall, as if they haven’t given enough already. They will offer up their seed.

Gardeners can nurture the next generation by collecting some of it, and propagating more of their favorite wildflowers. But there’s a little wrinkle.

“Everything about sowing native seeds is counterintuitive to what people have been taught in horticulture,” said Heather McCargo, who founded the nonprofit Wild Seed Project in Maine in 2014.

Sowing wildflower seeds requires a shift in the how-to mind-set centered around the late-winter-into-spring ritual of sowing vegetables and annual flowers, she said.

That’s because wildflowers are sown at a different time: from late November to early January. They’re sown outdoors, not inside under lights. And they’re not sown one lonely seed or two per cell in six-packs, like lettuce or kale. Instead, they are sown thickly, into pots or open flats.

As Ms. McCargo put it: “Native seeds are like teenagers. They love to be together.”

She would like to see more of us learn the simple skills required to propagate native plants — and use them to repopulate the landscape with homegrown natives. That is the mission of Wild Seed Project, one that the organization sees as increasingly urgent in the face of a fast-shifting climate, with so much diversity at risk.

Native Penstemon plants have small, pod-like seed capsules that get brown and woody as the seed matures. To gauge ripeness, look to see if a little hole on top of each one has opened a bit, revealing tiny seeds inside. Credit…Lisa Looke

“Sowing seeds is like becoming a plant midwife,” said Ms. McCargo, who has been at it for more than 35 years, as native plant populations have shrunk alarmingly. Her hands-on experience includes five years as the head propagator at Garden in the Woods, in Massachusetts, the headquarters of Native Plant Trust.

“Everybody wants to just toss seeds into the landscape, but the life of a wild seed is fraught with risk,” she said. “Most land where it’s too wet or dry, or where a bird or mouse eats it.” The majority of seeds dispersed that way never become full-grown plants.

But if you collect seeds in a timely manner and sow them in a protected way — using basic tactics like rodent-proofing the nursery bed with mesh sheeting — “you can have a plant from each seed,” she said. A small pinch of seed can yield 50 or more plants for your garden, or for a community planting at a school or park.

The remainder of the article and how to make a wildflower nursery can be found at this link. Take a few minutes and review the OSU catalog library on growing wildflowers here.

This is What We Do

Learning Garden – Post-Fair Observations

Master Gardeners were present in the Learning Garden during the Tillamook County Fair Aug. 11-14.  Hours were generally 9:30am to at least 6:15pm.  The total number of visitors to the garden was 889.  This number is significantly fewer from other years.  However, it still indicates strong interest given the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Master Gardeners had set up several educational demonstrations in the hoop house.  They included information on pollinators, good bugs and bad bugs, season extenders, propagation and vegetable families and crop rotation.  Free seeds were available in the hoop house.

The new paver area in the shade of the tree was a popular attraction.  It was a quiet oasis in the busy Fair atmosphere and a perfect place to enjoy a Tillamook ice cream cone.  Pam’s Tiny Library in that area also attracted children who were able to borrow a book or to enjoy listening to a story as someone read it to them.  Many who visited enjoyed picking juicy blueberries and raspberries.  Admirers also commented about the colorful dahlias as well as other dedicated areas. 

Given the late start due to the pandemic, the garden was transformed from an overgrown jungle into an attractive, colorful, lush, fragrant display.   Many thanks to the Master Gardeners who participated in making this happen and the 889 folks that stopped by!

Notes from the Garden Hosts below reflect how much visitors enjoyed the garden and the variety of observations and questions received.  Most gardening questions were answered at the time or were written up and passed on for additional research and response to the client.  This is what we do!

The One-Man Band
  • Happy Friday (the 13th).  Semi-smoky, hazy, foggy, sunshine day.  First question:  Why aren’t my zinnias blooming? 
  • Nice couple from Forest Grove said the garden is beautiful!!  They admired the work (after COVID halt) to get it into the shape it is now!  Loved the Albion strawberries, took photos of many dahlias.
  • White moths are out! I use a fly swatter at home on them.
  • The One-Man Band walked by and made it so festive – we waved & he said “Make that garden grow” over the loud speaker – so fun!
  • Nurse from Springfield stopped to sit in the shade and feed his baby a bottle.  Nice visit & talk of fires, etc.
  • Hoop house was extra warm so turned on the other 2 fans.
  • Host speaking to a mother daughter about strawberries, mother’s plants aging out and then about acidic soil.
  • One gentleman came by and asked about currants and then asked to see the ‘gooseberries’, I said we have blueberries & raspberries but no gooseberries.  He said “what’s the matter with you all!” LOL
  • LOTS of people are taking photos especially of the dahlias
  • Gentleman visited from Yakima Master Gardeners.  Similar concerns about COVID and interaction with the public (missed them!)  Commiserated about the Plant Sales.  They have a separate ‘Production Garden’ dedicated to the local food bank.  Focus on strengthening their Heirloom seeds.
  • Something landed in the Shasta Daisies.  Pruned them back and made a water can daisy arrangement for the picnic table.
  • Questions:  What are the small green things growing from the leaves of the potato plants (seed pods!)  Is purple Toadflax invasive?  (VERY!)

It was our pleasure to visit with everyone who wandered through the Learning Garden. We’ll see you again next year.

~ Linda Stephenson, Camile Hickman