Oh ye who garden, don't despair. The winter was hard, but the worst is (probably) over. Plus, help is on the way in the form of the Clatsop County Master Gardeners Association's 2008 spring garden show, aptly titled "Spring into Gardening: Gardening from 'A'(phids) to 'Z'(ucchini)."
Keynote speaker Glen Andresen's approach to gardening is intriguing, to say the least. His session at the garden show is called "Nature Abhors a Garden and Other Garden Realities." Certainly, the storm in December 2007 seemed a lot like nature's wrath unleashed. Among other things, it felled trees, wreaked havoc with carefully tended yards and gardens and delivered harsh blows to nurseries and others who rely on nature's benevolence to stay in business.
Yet Andresen's reaction is a decidedly phlegmatic one when it comes to the need for renovating one's garden for whatever reason. It's something that happens "all the time," he maintains. There are freezes, floods, droughts and, of course, high winds. Downed trees? Andresen recommends seeing the space left when the trees are cut up and hauled away as an opportunity to experiment - to explore other possibilities. Try growing roses or other plants that are zonally compatible, he suggests.
Uppermost in Andresen's storehouse of gardening tips is the notion that it's easier to garden if one stays in step with nature and intrudes on it as little as possible. If a natural system is altered in some way (like by putting in a garden), it has to be maintained. At home, Andresen has a 60-by-100-foot lot, rife with fruit trees, assorted berries, flowers and shrubs and 10 colonies of honeybees. Like Ralph, the "pretty good grocer" in the Prairie Home Companion radio shows, Andresen sees himself as a "pretty good gardener." If a perfect garden merits a rating of 100, he says, he'll settle for a 90. He's adamant that the savings he then realizes in terms of his time and energy keep gardening fun.
At the upcoming garden show, Andresen will share eight to 10 "gardening realities" that he's grappled with in more than 30 years of growing things. Ignore them at your peril, he cautions. For example, it's important to understand predator/prey relationships. He welcomes aphids in his yard. Accepting nature for what it is, Andresen finds nothing "unworthy or unbeautiful" in the small amount of damage aphids do. Allowing natural predators to come in can actually be a good thing, he argues. He even goes so far as to look at what can be planted to attract them in some instances.
Tippit's yard, pictured here in May 2007, sported a mix of trees and flowering shrubs. Submitted photo.According to Andresen, Roger Swain (of the long-lived public television show "Victory Garden") often told his viewers that the more legs a garden critter has, the less likely it is to be a pest. Consider the lowly slug, the bane of gardeners everywhere. Then, there's the two-legged pest (pilfering is usually the problem there). Then, there are four-legged pests like squirrels and cats. Think about it; a lobster has 10 legs; you don't see them messing with your garden, do you?
Other participating gardeners at the "Spring into Gardening" event include Master Gardener Teresa Retzlaff, a California transplant who has lived at the North Coast for about seven years. She says she likes the area's "dynamic climate and distinct seasons." Retzlaff operates Ostman Farms in Seaside, which raises edible plant starts, herbs and some flowers. The farm sustained quite a bit of damage during the December storm, losing one of its two greenhouses. However, in true spunky gardener fashion, Retzlaff is determined to learn from what happened and look on it as a chance to make some changes - doing Andresen proud.
Gardening educator and radio host Glen Andresen delivers the keynote address at the Spring Garden Seminar. Submitted photo.The recent weather - with rain, hail and snow - has made cleanup difficult, and Retzlaff admits to having experienced some "moments of despair" over the last few months. However, she looks forward to the upcoming "Spring into Gardening" show. Mid-April usually has such "squirrelly weather," she chuckles. At a minimum, the event will give folks a chance to gather and vent. She'll be demonstrating "original and tasty ways to use the bounty from your garden" in a session titled, "Garden to Table: Making the Most of Your Edible Crops."
Other presenters at the "Spring into Gardening" show include Rose Marie Nichols-McGee of Nichols Garden Nursery, Scott Vergara, executive director and director of horticulture for The Berry Botanic Garden, Jolly Butler, who writes a "Gardening 101" column in Garden Showcase magazine, and Gail Langellotto, OSU Extension Service's Master Gardener coordinator.
Celia Tippit is an area resident who's also an avid gardener. She lives on West Grand Street, overlooking the bridge, and the back slope of her property (and that of her neighbors) is wooded, almost an urban forest. Several of her trees were lost in the storm. But she's decided to wait a year before taking action, to see what comes back first. She wants to know where the sun's going to come from now, she confides, adding that "gardening tries to teach us patience and that is sometimes a hard pill."