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New column helps you make the most of your Central Oregon gardening opportunities

MADRAS PIONEER - PMG Photo Graphic - Garden Column Marilyn Cook

Who would start a gardening column in February? Perhaps someone who loves to garden. My goal is to share my passion for gardening with you, and help you make the most of the gardening opportunities here in Central Oregon. When I moved here for the spectacular views and sunny weather, I had no clue we landed in one of the best gardening climates in all of Central Oregon. The Warm Springs, Madras and Prineville areas have the longest growing season when compared to the surrounding communities.

This monthly column will include seasonal gardening activities, information on native plants, water-wise and fire-wise gardening and educational resources available from the OSU Extension offices and the Central Oregon Master Gardeners Association.

Now is the time for planning and preparation. The OSU Deschutes Extension website contains a monthly gardening calendar. This information is available to the public at This calendar is very extensive, so here are some of the excerpts for February tasks:

Begin planning this year's vegetable garden. Check out the seed packets at local stores or online. Notice the information on the seed packets for length of time to maturity. Select seeds with short season maturity, of 75 days or less, then add 14 days to compensate for our cooler nights.

Prevent your landscape plants, (flowers, shrubs and trees) from drying out. Some winters here are pretty dry, so take advantage of periods of warmer temperatures (above freezing), by watering deeply every 6 to 8 weeks when snow and rain is minimal.

Reapply or redistribute mulch which may have blown or washed away in storms.

Repair winter damage to trees and shrubs. Remove split and damaged limbs.

Prune fruit trees, prune and train grapes and raspberries.

Use delayed-dormant sprays of lime sulfur for fruit and deciduous trees and shrubs.

Remove cankered limbs from fruit and nut trees to control diseases. Sterilize tools before each new cut.

If the soil thaws, it's a good time to plant fruit trees. Remember to water them well and remove the burlap if it had been wrapped.

Take inventory of your garden tools; clean, sharpen and treat with rubbing alcohol.

If you have a space, you can start some seeds indoors in planting trays to get a head start on the season. Check the seed packets for number of days for germination. Keep in mind that our average last frost date in Madras and Warm Springs is May 25, while Prineville is May 31. So avoid putting out young and tender plants without protection before then.

Obtain a soil thermometer and check the temperature to determine when you can begin planting out cool season crops out into the garden. Wait until the soil temperature is consistently at or above 40 degrees.

For me, this is also the time of year I plan the gardening events I wish to attend. Assuming no further pandemic cancellations, there are a number of annual plant sales, seasonal wildflower guided tours, gardening seminars and local garden tours.

The Central Oregon Master Gardeners are already planning vegetable gardening classes in the community. One is planned for March 5 in Madras and March 19 in Prineville. Watch for future updates on more gardening events in and around Central Oregon.

You can also check out the Central Oregon Master Gardeners Association website for more information at:

Marilyn Clark is an Oregon State University Master Gardener Volunteer, having completed the program in 2017. A member of the Madras Garden Club since 2009, she has been gardening in Culver since 2004.

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