Sunday, October 26, 2014

First Snow winter 2014-15

Saturday I winterized a few irrigation systems.  Normally by now we have had or an Arctic high blast by now or one is in the forecast.  The NWS is predicting a winter warmer and drier than average.  This morning I thought I felt some snow on top of the hot tub when I opened the lid at 5 am.  When it was light enough to see this is what I saw. 

View to the north from Bearwallow road, just what I call powder sugar snow.
top of log steps to my patio lite covering snow

My bear had snow on his fore head,
I will get all irrigation systems winerized this week, and fall clean ups will start the following week.  Enjoy winter.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Winterize irrigation systems

October first is the traditional beginning of the season when irrigation systems are winterized.  It is an important profit center for many landscape contractors.  Several contractors have told me they make $1,000/ day winterizing irrigation systems.  I do it as a service to my customers and a few others.  I limit my list to 100 customers.  I can do all of these in a long week or a couple of easy weeks.  I own my compressor with gives me the flexibility to work with customers and the weather.    I monitor soil temperature each week and use this along with monitoring long term low temperatures forecasts.   Although grass tops stop growing about the 2nd or 3rd week in October, roots continue to grow until soil temperatures drop to below 40 degrees F.  If irrigation systems are turned off before the roots naturally stop growing it puts the plants into water stress.   Plants that go into winter under stress do not come out of dormancy in the spring with as much vigor as those who go dormant in a hydrated condition. 

soil temperatures so far this season are as follows:

October  2nd  55 degree
October  9th   55 degree

Enjoy the winter, I will


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fall the best time of the year in Central Oregon

September, it is still summer but nights begin to cool and days are warm and clean.  Oh, I love this time of the year.  Last week I begin to notice vine maples and red maples are beginning to show some fall color.

Acer rubum
In Skyliner Summit
One thing I enjoy about my work is seeing the changes each week in the landscapes.  Color changes week to week and then it is full winter soon.  :) 

A sugar maple I planted for a customer several years ago.  What it the colors change quickly. 

 I keep getting more catalogs for spring bulbs.  Time to make those last minute orders.   For me living up Skyliners spring is a long time away but nothing says winter is nearly over than spring bulbs.  I have several thousand bulbs at my home. Snow drops, crocus, daffodils, and so many more.  By selecting multiple varieties and species I am able to extend the blooming season over a much longer time. 

Remember, enjoy every day and plan for the fun days ahead.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Grooming Perennials, & dead heading

The beauty of a garden can be enhanced greatly by spending a little time dead heading and grooming perennials during the growing season.  It only takes a few minutes per plant with a little experience. 
 Rhododendron at peak bloom, looks so good.
 Same rhododendron a week later, not so attractive. 
After a few minutes of dead heading spent flowers and doing a little pruning to reshape plant.  Much more attractive  for the rest of the summer season.  We often buy plants in bloom and forget that the bloom only lasts a few weeks at most.  What about the rest of the year?

Many plants benifit from dead heading, here is a few photos of plants before and after dead heading.



 Lavender can become weedy if not dead headed soon after flowers peak, the benifit is a bouquet of lavender in the house that will last all winter.  :)


Sometimes context suggest dead heading, in this case the Japanese spirea is past prime but others are in full bloom.  By dead heading the spirea it goes to the background and the flowering shrub comes to the foreground. 


afterwords, much nicer?

FYI, none of the pruning / dead heading was done with hedge shears, all with hand pruners.  They do a much better job. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pruning Mugo pines

Mugo pines are easy to prune but most contractor's use hedge shears, Not the way to do a good job.  Hedge shears can be used on the growing candles when they are still growing but should NEVER be used on stems that are hardened off.  I do not understand other contractors if they do not know any better or just do not care. 
Before pruning

5 minutes later after pruning

Central Oregon Shade gardens

Native, Clintonia uniflora

native, Smilacina stellata

foreground, Pulminaria, background, dead nettle (not kidding) 

Lily of the valley, nice fragrant cut flower

weed or not a weed?  Bishops weed

native strawberry  yum, get before deer get them
One of  the greatest challenges is to grow a shade garden in Central Oregon.  We have so many grand pines that shade our gardens year around.  No or little sun light summer or winter.  FYI, full sun is defined as 8 hours of direct sun each day.  partial shade is 4 to 8 hours direct sun each day, full shade is less than 4 hours direct sun each day.  here are a few plants I have at my home, "Snowshoe Inn" .  I live west of Bend in the Cascades,  it is a great place to challenge plants.  :)

Natives are great when you can find them.  Most of mine were collected from my own lot and replanted in shade garden.  Add a little irrigation and they do very well.

Horticultural plants are tougher to choose, read label if it says full sun not a good choice but sometimes worth trying one plant to see if it works in your conditions before buying many plants.  Be sure to buy fresh plants, I often wait for the newest delivery,  shop around.

Some of the plants common to the West Side of the Cascades will survive, but they generally do not look as nice in our Central Oregon envermnet.  We often have 50 degrees F,daily temperature swings.  that is hard on many plants.
Native, Shooting star, great in water feature

Native, Collumbine

Rododendron, does well but not as good as on Westside

Native, bleeding hearts,  good to July

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

So called Professional Landscape Contractors

Each spring I fire up irrigation systems for my customers and few systems for friends of customers.   Occasionally leaks appear in spring, generally it is a street ell at the base of a spray head that fails, or occasionally a pipe has a tree root that grows near and pushes the pipe against a stone.  I have never seen an irrigation installation except my own that screens the back fill around pipes.  Having been self taught I find my standards are far beyond anything I see in the field.  Last week I fired up an irrigation system of a new customer in Broken top and saw water coming up next to an aspen tree.  OK a root and rock, just dig it up, and put in a quick fix and move on.  I wish it was so.  It appears that the irrigation crew and the planting crew did not talk.  A very nice aspen was planted directly on top of the irrigation line.  OK any one can make a mistake right!  Upon further investigation I found that a tee with a funny ell was also under the tree.  It appears that the irrigation crew plumbed in for a spray head and changed there mind and just cut the funny pipe and then folded the funny pipe in half and slid a two inch section of PVC pipe over the fold to stop the water flow.  Any contractors working on Tam MacArthur Loop in 2000 like to justify this high quality work? 

note tee and funny pipe
slightly closer view
After removing

repair, better than removing tree

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Water Conservation

Your automated irrigation system can be your single largest source of wasting water or the best source of conserving water.  The key to irrigation systems it proper design, maintenance, and operation.   Each spring when I fire up you irrigation systems I adjust the heads to make sure they are functioning correctly.  Unlike most contractors I start your system so it puts a solid 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water for each cycle.  This puts water 6 to 12 inches into the soil.  By putting water to that depth the roots will strive to reach deeper into the soil.  With deeper roots the plants are more drought tolerant.  That means when we get those few very hot days in August or September the landscape plants will be under less stress.  Also unlike others I do not irrigate the landscape on the every other day schedule.  I start the season only irrigating one day / week deeply and let the landscape dry out between irrigation.  As the weather warms and the landscapes need for additional water increases I add a day to the cycle.  By using this technique I reduce the wasted water often put in landscape each spring. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pruning Ponderosa Pines

On the left you will see Dan from Oliver Arbor Care‎ after he climbed a small pine with a rope before pruning the dead limbs and those infected with dwarf mistletoe. On the right you can see him in the same tree after pruning it.  Green limbs should only be pruned between end of November to end of February.  This is to reduce infestations of Sequoia Pitch Moth.  The moth generally does not cause severe damage to healthy pines but severe infestations can result in significant pitch bleeding from the tree.  This can make quite a mess in landscape.  See my facebook page for more information on the Sequoia Pitch Moth. 


Some pruning on Ponderosa Pines can be done during the summer months.  I occationally remove limbs that died during the spring and summer as they appear with out damage to the tree or risk of attack by Sequoia Pitch Moth.

No green in this pile

Sunday, February 16, 2014

California Drought, Not good for US

The drought in California and the Southwest will have a very significant impact on the quality of life here in Bend, Oregon.  A large portion of the fresh, frozen, and canned produce we enjoy come from California and the Southwest.  I doubt other regions will be able to make up the difference over the short term.  The net result will be increased costs to the consumers IE us.  Central Oregon is a great place to work, live and play.  It is not a great place to grow produce.  I have fought deer, frost, and poor soils for years at my home at Snowshoe Inn, to grow produce.  I have learned to add large quanties of good compost, manage water, and use row covers to reduce the risk of frost.  In addition I have learned how to create a hydroponic grow room in my basement.  I have been very successful in growing lettuce, beet greens, spinach and micro greens all winter. 

Food for thought, think about adding a raised bed in your garden.  According to Elliot Coleman a 4 X 8 foot bed can produce enough produce to feed one person for the season.  He advocates a very aggressive organic growing techniques.   My 2 X 4 foot hydroponic system produces nearly all of our greens when it is production.

If you think an addition of a produce section for your landscape is in order feel free to contact me for assistance.

Gardening is not only my business it is my passion


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Gardener (Winters)

 The winter is my off season.  This year Bobbe and I holidayed in Australia for 21 days.  We lucked out and had mild weather.  No extreme hot weather.  In December I spent a day in Portland attending the Oregon Landscape Contractor's training program.  In January I am attending a 5 day training in Organic Land Care program sponsored by Oregon Tilth.  In February I will attend a two day High Desert Green Conference in Redmond.  It is good to meet with other professionals and learn how to do things better for my customers.