Garden Discovery Day offers latest science
Newly expanded topics at the annual free Garden Discovery Day in Milwaukie include pruning and native plant classes, as well as demonstrating gardening techniques for edibles, containers or drought conditions.
Sherry Sheng, a Clackamas County-registered Master Gardener, said participants at the March 2 event will learn all they need to jump-start the gardening season.
Although many gardeners find pruning to be an intimidating task, Sheng said local Master Gardeners will begin with scientific principles of plant physiology to demystify where and how to make pruning cuts.
"Numerous visual examples help clarify pruning choices and consequences in ornamental trees, fruit trees and shrubs," she said.
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Sheng said enthusiasts of edible gardening will benefit from classes on growing blueberries, tomatoes and early-season vegetables. Each class will cover variety selection, soil preparation and planting techniques, in addition to proper watering, fertilizing and disease and pest management.
Recent hot and dry summers have raised concern for water conservation among gardeners.
"So it is fortuitous that OSU Small Farms Program has been investigating 'dry farming' techniques for commercial vegetables grown without supplemental summer water," said Sheng, who is looking forward to a class called "Successful Vegetable Gardening in Times of Drought" to suggest techniques to reduce water use while producing quality vegetables.
Those who are interested in ornamental plants can expect to find inspiration from the "Design a 3-Season Container" class. Master Gardeners will provide steps toward making a container that stays beautiful spring through fall. "Spring Ornamental Gardening" will share timely tips for garden cleanup, planting techniques, lawn care and such proven strategies as use of garden mulch to improve plant health and reduce required maintenance.
A wide range of topics will be covered through 10-minute classes, demonstrations, educational displays and a free soil pH-testing service. Throughout the morning, a clinic staffed by veteran Master Gardeners will offer one-on-one advice on any and all gardening questions.
"Bring plant specimens and/or photos that best illustrate the problem and put our ace diagnosticians to work," Sheng said.
Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by Oregon State University's Clackamas County Extension Service. After learning the science of gardening, Sheng said Master Gardeners serve home gardeners in their communities through the award-winning 10-Minute University program, offering a shortcut to gardening know-how that is proven and practical. Participants take home a handout capturing key points of each subject.
Winter rain tends to wash out soil minerals and turns it acidic. Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients to plants and is especially important to success in growing blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas and vegetables, Sheng said. Gardeners can test their soil pH and get advice on amendments from Master Gardeners in Milwaukie.
"We encourage separate samples for lawn, vegetable garden, rose garden and perennial bed," Sheng said. "Each client may submit up to four soil samples."
Join OSU Master Gardeners from 8:30 a.m.-noon Saturday, March 2, at the Milwaukie Center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive. For event schedule, visit cmastergardeners.org, where there are step-by-step instructions on testing soil pH under the "10-Minute University" tab.