Seeking advice for my first spring garden


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Greetings!

This year will be my first solo grown spring garden. Though I am getting a lot of technical help from my mother. I did a late fall garden last year. Many of the kind of folks on here offered me excellent advice. I hope to draw upon that wisdom again this year. I suppose this thread will serve as a sort of blog, for which I apologize.

My garden:

It consists of a mix of raised beds and the native soil. The raised beds are filled with imported top soil. The soil in the beds is quite nice. I think it's a sandy loam. Regardless, it has a nice structure and freely drains. It doesn't hold water as well as the native soil but that's fine with me.

The native soil is awful, heavy, red clay. I believe it is technically known as jory soil. Apparently wine growers like it but I kind of hate it. It's slow to drain, slow to warm up, roots can't penetrate it, and it's never grown good vegetables. Still, it's what I got so I have to work with it.

At some point I'll take measurements of the square footage of the beds and the native soil.

My location is Oregon City, Oregon. As part of the Willamette Valley we get rain about nine months out of the year. The weather doesn't really warm up until June and doesn't really dry out until July. The rain starts again in September. It's been an even wetter winter and cooler spring than normal.

I officially started the spring garden. Today I put in some softneck garlic and sowed kale, spinach, cabbage and lettuce. Once things warm up some more I intend to follow on with carrots, more lettuce and spinach, peas, arugula, and maybe some endive/escarole.

Sometime in mid April the plan is to sow and transplant more stuff. I got a pretty diverse selection of seed this year. My weird experiments are going to be celery and ground cherries.

Also, I'm trying cover cropping for the first time. I realize cover cropping is something that is mostly done in the fall. I didn't know that at the time so I am attempting to make up for lost ground by sowing some oats and buckwheat. Right now it's mostly oats. My hope is that the oats, if they grow, will generate give me some organic matter to till back into the soil. In addition, I hope they will loosen up the soil a bit.

My enemies are legion. Last year I had serious problems with slugs, birds, whiteflies, and cabbage worms. I expect to have at least those pests to deal with this year. The only thing I was really able to get under control were the cabbage worms, using BT.

I got one pound of oat seed. I've probably used half of it so far. Germination in the current cold and rainy weather is iffy. Though I think I already ran into other problems.

I was looking over the oat seed I had raked into the soil yesterday and noticed many of the hulls were already open and apparently empty.

Now I don't know if that means the seeds already opened and rotted instead of germinating. It may also mean that the birds found the seeds and are eating them.

I know the birds are problem because for years we have had them pluck out seeds and seedlings. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that the birds would eat the oats.

I have two options for dealing with the birds. Both of which have been of limited utility in the past. I have metal chicken wire fencing and plastic bird netting.

I threw some of this on the beds this evening but it doesn't want to stay put. And my mother previously observed the birds going under the netting to get at the seeds and plants.

If I'm right and the birds are eating the seeds it's probably already too late. Most of the oat seeds I could see were damaged. Nothing has germinated yet but I figured it was asking a bit much for germination in just one day.

It could also simply be that it's too early for these poor oats to germinate. Once May rolls around I can use the buckwheat more. I don't know if it will germinate and grow in these temperatures which is why I mostly used the oats.

The other worry is the slugs. They tend to get onto and destroy everything. I've been putting out Sluggo regularly for months but it doesn't seem to lessen their population. I suspect the rain washes away much of the Sluggo. Last year the slugs at the tops off of my new seedlings and destroyed them. Then the birds had a crack at the next batch.

I know our soil has cutworms. I found one the other day when yanking out spent cabbage plants. And the reason my parents and I built the raised beds years ago was because cutworms killed all of the seedlings we put out. I have some hope that my spraying of BT over the fall and winter might have lessened their populations. But who knows. I have a small supply of Sluggo Plus that I hope does some good but again, who knows.

So... how I deter the birds? Flash tape doesn't work anymore, if it ever did. The netting and wire fencing are difficult to keep held in place but I am trying. I also don't have enough to cover everything.

And does it sound like the oat seed just popped open and rotted or that the birds have been at it?

Later on I'll add a list of all the seeds I have. They will be planted slowly throughout the year.

Thank you very much in advance.
 
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alp

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You could sow the seeds indoors until they are of a strong size or sow them under cloche.

Found this

https://www.green-talk.com/hulless-oats/

Might be interesting. Not an oat grower, but like to be nosy :eek::LOL:.. You should know me by now! ;)
 
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That is interesting. Thank you. I think the oat seeds I have are standard oats. The oats I've sown in the garden are there as a cover crop. But there is a crappy little dirt mound in the back that I put oats in as well. My intention there is to let the oats grow all season. I want to see if they produce useable straw and can generate more oat seed for later cover cropping. Also, I want to see what effect they have on crummy soil.

This assumes I get germination on any of the oats. Between the birds and the rain it seems iffy. I may have to resow in a few weeks.
 
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Purrfluff, gardening is not for the the easily discouraged nor for the weak of heart! First, the birds--would you like to have a cat? We have three outside cats, and in one year a bird has died of old age, but the cats do scare them away from the gardens. Lacking a cat, you can purchase those little whirligigs at a $$ store, the multi-colored little windmills, and stick them around in the garden. For some reason the colors and movement seem to discourage birds. They work better than the flash tape.
Cutworms--they do seem to attack seedlings. I put cardboard rounds (a toilet paper roll makes three nice rounds, and I save the rolls all year) around the seedlings' stems. If you don't use that much TP, you can put two wooden toothpicks on each side of a seedling. Don't ask why it works, but it does (perhaps it confuses the little cutting devils?).
Slugs hate salt. Get a box of canning or Kosher salt, and make a thin line of it around your attacked plants. The salt isn't enough nor strong enough to damage your soil, but the salt dissolves slugs (just don't look at the partial carcasses unless you have a strong stomach.)
Oats, I have no idea. Farmers around here plant oats for a cash crop, not a cover crop.
Jory soil--it will take two or three growing seasons, but adding organic matter (compost, grass clippings, rotted hay) will loosen it up.
You will have a great garden, but it may take a season or two. Let us know how your garden grows!
 
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We do have a couple of those whirlgig/pinwheels. I don't think they do much to deter the birds but I use them anyway. I think what happens is that the birds get used to certain things and cease being afraid. It can't hurt to get more of them though. I admit I stepped on and broke a couple of them.

The salt is an interesting idea but my concern is that, like diatomaceous earth, it will dissolve in the rain. The almost never ending rain is why we have such trouble with slugs. And despite what the manufacturers claim, nothing much that kills slugs survives all that rain.

As for cutworms.... I know they will fall prey to BT but first you've got to get them to eat something with BT on it. I was thinking of spraying BT all over the soil before it gets tilled next. There's got to be some way to nail them with BT.

I have a long term sort of soil improvement plan. It consists of soil amendments (lime, gypsum, bone meal), compost, and cover crops. I don't know if it will make a difference but it can't hurt to try.
 
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Horse manure and rock powders will break up clay and make all around cheap/effective amendments.
 
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Horse manure and rock powders will break up clay and make all around cheap/effective amendments.

I've already started doing rock powders. I spread about 100 pounds of agricultural lime. The soil hadn't been limed in a long time and I read that adding lime can (over a long period of time) loosen clay soils. Plus it will add calcium and hopefully bring the soil pH to a veggie friendly alkalinity.

I also got fifty pounds of gypsum which I was going to add soon. However, I put the remaining lime and the gypsum into identical buckets. I had marked which was which with a sharpie marker. Then the rain came and washed it away. I can't tell one from the other. I'll probably just add both of them in the fall. I'm concerned about dumping too much lime into the soil.
 

alp

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I was told that if you have dodgy soil, the first ideal crop should be potatoes.
 
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Gypsum and lime are almost the same thing except gypsum is neutral. There are other rock powders that are beneficial too like azomite and phosphate. Pretty much any organic or natural based amendments will help. Things like kelp meal, greensand, and bat guano. I usually wait for 25 or 50 pound bags to go on sale at my local co-op.
 
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I'll probably just hold the stuff until fall. I'm sure it's possible to over lime and I don't want to do that. The winter rains will wash it in. Besides, it's supposed to take a year or so for this stuff to activate in the soil.
 
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As promised, this is the list of seed I have so far. I kind of screwed up and didn't get quite enough seed. But here's what I have so far:

Homemade Pickles cukes

Avon Tyee spinach

Marigolds

Sweet Slice cukes

Bee feed flowers mix

Nasturtiums

Nectar carrots

Palla Ross Special Radicchio

Carnations

Mongolian Giant sunflowers

Zinnias

Sun King hybrid broccoli

Ed Hume mesculun mix

Italienischer lettuce

Peppermint

Nickel bush beans

Fernleaf dill

Lacinato kale

Savoy Perfection cabbage

Little Gem lettuce

Territorial Seed beneficial bug mix

Candid Charm cauliflower

Wildflower mix

Mideast Peace cukes

Sylvetta wild arugula

Cruiser cilantro

Mammoth sweet basil

Summer Island scallions/green onions

Sugar daddy peas

Delta summer squash

Aunt Molly's ground cherry

Long island mammoth dill

Valmaine lettuce

Regiment Spinach

Megaton leeks

Seance chicory

Gladiator parsnip

Red Sails lettuce

Hestia brussels sprouts

Garnet oakleaf lettuce

Emerald Delight Zucchini

Silver Queen sweet corn

Soleil bush beans

Utah 52-70 Improved celery

Bush Delicata winter squash

Oregon Sugar Pod II peas

Belstar broccoli

Bouquet Dill

Flashy butter oak lettuce

Dahlias

Nira chives

Easypick gold zucchini

Green Beauty Snow Peas

Buttercrunch lettuce

Salad Bowl lettuce

Bloomsdale Savoy spinach

Dwarf green curled kale

Black seeded simpson lettuce

Aspabroc broccoli (aka Broccolini)

Apollo broccoli

Peppermint

Fiesta broccoli

Guardsman scallions/green onions

Gypsy hybrid broccoli

This sounds like a crapload of seed and in variety, it is. But I got the smallest amounts (usually 1/8 of a gram), which wasn't wise. So I will have to supplement with stuff off the seed rack as the season goes on.

The mint seed is so small I don't know if I can actually sow it. I didn't think seed got much smaller celery seed but geez, this is teensy.

I've started some of the seeds in jiffy pellets as insurance.

Tomorrow will be a major planting day. I'll be putting out whatever I think can handle the current temperatures.
 
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Today was my first big planting day. I primarily used the raised beds as they warm up faster than the native clay soil. Though I did chance some in ground plantings.

Now the question is... will the seeds germinate? The night time temperatures are still getting into the 40s here and it may just be too cold. I hope not, but we will see.

I tried to pick stuff that I figured could germinate in the cold. I was a little more parsimonious with my seeding than last year. Primarily because last year I just dumped an entire packet into one row, which was wasteful.

I put in:

Nectar carrots. I have both pelleted and regular seed. I tried both. I'll be curious to see if one germinates better than the other.

Regiment spinach

Ed Hume mesclun mix

Ed Hume pollinator flower mix

Green beauty snow peas

Sugar daddy snap peas

Oregon Sugar Pod II snap peas

Generic softneck garlic cloves

Several varieties of lettuce including buttercrunch, salad bowl, valmaine, and garnet oakleaf

Sun King broccoli

Marigolds

Shasta daisy

And probably a couple of other things I can't recall.

Germination will be iffy. I may very well have wasted some seed. But the planting bug got to me.

I've got a few other things started indoors in jiffy pellets. The indoor sown broccoli mostly germinated already. Other stuff is taking its sweet time.

I tried to toss some mint seeds into jiffy pellets. I have never seen seed that small.

I am still working my crummy compost into the native soil. It can't make it much worse. Though I did notice that in the "finished" compost there are still clumps of shredded leaves I put in last fall. I guess it didn't break down as quickly as I had hoped. When I find such clumps I am trying to get then out and toss them into the new compost pile.

I'd like to try planting some leek and green onion seed but I suspect that's asking for trouble.

Not a single one of the oats cover crop seeds I planted have germinated. The hulls have popped open but nothing happened. I still think the birds got to some of it but I now suspect it's just too damn cold for the oats to germinate.

Which means I have a fallow soil which I know is kind of a no no. But not a lot is going to germinate in these temperatures.

I was thinking of using mustard greens as a cover crop. Mustard greens might germinate. I could get a few cheap packets and scatter them about. Might they germinate?

Mustard as a cover crop is done in commercial agriculture but I think it is done with brown mustard. And I don't know how easy it will be to till it back into the soil. Decomposing mustard may have pest repellent properties.
 

alp

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Try to read the instructions to find out the optimum and minimum temperatures or you will be wasting your time and expectation. Mint must be contained or they will take over.

If you really want to be parsimonious with your seeds, try to half a bit to test the water. Never sow a whole packet of lettuce or anything like that unless you can chomp through them like slugs! :LOL:
 
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Update on 3/31/2018:

It's supposed to rain tomorrow so I got in as much seed sowing as I could. Put in some carrots, chard, lettuce, green onions, garlic, broccoli, and celery. I had to do some emergency sowings because I accidentally soaked some seed packets. That will probably lead to premature germination so I had to dump some of the stuff in rows. My whole packet of flashy butter oak lettuce went in the ground.

There may be light snow on Monday. This is extremely unusual for this time of year in this area. I'm hoping that doesn't totally blow germination. I've stuck my milk jug cloches on a couple of spots to see if that makes a difference.

The oats still haven't germinated. I think I pretty badly screwed the pooch on this one. But most of what I've read says that you can successfully sow oats at this time of year. It seems to be the lowest germination temperature of the grain cover crops.

I hate leaving the beds fallow though so I am trying one last ditch effort. I got a couple of packets of corn salad/mache and a couple of packets of mustard greens. I scattered them onto the beds and raked them in and gave them water.

My thinking is that these seeds can germinate at fairly low temperatures. If the mustard grows I can till it in and possibly get an insecticidal effect as it rots. Hopefully that same effect doesn't screw up germination of future seeds. However, by using mustard greens I have broken the crop rotation rule. Several of the beds that I put it in had brassicas in them just a month ago.

Corn salad germinates in fairly low temperature. It doesn't grow fast but the flip side of that is that breaks down fast once tilled back in. And it's better than nothing. The downside is that corn salad seed has low germination rates and I don't think it outcompetes weeds very well.

I'm going to watch the beds and see what happen. I will try another oats sowing in May, primarily to see if it works. And then in mid May or June I will try the buckwheat. I'll probably put the buckwheat into someplace that I intend to put fall crops in. I hope that in summer the breakdown of the residues is faster.
 

alp

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Interesting and lots of things to look forward to.
 
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As of April 3rd there is no still no germination on anything I planted outside. I just hope I didn't flush expensive seed down the toilet. I can wait a while for germination, as long as it happens. It's April and we have cold and wet again.

I think I got spoiled by planting things last August. Germination was rapid then. Almost instantaneous for a few things. The brassicas germinated rapidly.

Not so now. It's remarkable how much soil temps affect germination rate and speed. I'm starting to see why my mother always said we have a short growing season here.

The soil temps don't really go up until June. And at that point it's a race until the rain and cold returns in September. Though I suspect if I just had a week of dryish, warm weather I'd see germination all over the place even at this date.

If I can just get the brassicas started that would be something. I really want to harvest a lot of broccoli this year. Actually, the only non germination that's really pissing me off is the oats. Everything I've read says they should be germinating like crazy. So far, nothing. How the hell do people get a cover crop going in early spring?

On the brighter side I am getting pretty good germination in the peat pellets indoors. Even a few of the ground cherry seeds germinated. The arugula seed, which was too small to see, is germinating happily in the peat pots. It's hard to believe that any of these teeny seedlings could ever possibly grow into large plants. But if I'm lucky that is exactly what will happen.

The only serious problem I've run into so far is that the seedlings that have germinated are getting very leggy. Long stems but very few leaves. And they are reaching for the sun. I hope this doesn't bode poorly for the future. I've been rotating the direction they face in the hopes of them not listing too hard to one side.

How large should the seedlings be before I stick them outside? Or should I first transfer them to larger pots and then transplant them into the final location? The peat pellets are small and won't allow for much root growth. Though I'm sure they can go at least a couple of more weeks in them.

When to transplant the ground cherries will be the really tricky part. I think they are supposed to go outside in June. I'd simply direct seed them in June but I don't think that will give them enough time. I'll try it anyway with excess seed when the time comes.

The celery and mint seed continue to refuse to germinate. I've heard that it's hard to get these going so I'm not really surprised.
 
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Try to read the instructions to find out the optimum and minimum temperatures or you will be wasting your time and expectation.

(y) Good advice, there! Here is a link for the temperatures necessary for germination and the rate at which you can expect seedlings. I again recommend investing in a cheap temperature probe. ;)

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/deschutes/sites/default/files/Horticulture/documents/soiltemps.pdf


Next year, before you plant seeds, maybe you could try pre-heating the soil? Look up your local free things. Try - "Craigslist > Free stuff > Glass." You should be able to find some old windows, or even glass shower doors. If you propped the glass on bricks or buckets above the garden, the magnifying effect would warm the soil.


Since it sounds like you have a good bit of soil to amend, I'll suggest going to your local Starbuck's and asking for used coffee grounds. They advertise that they save them for gardeners, just walk in and ask. (You may want to call ahead of time - I tried the one closest to me, and they don't save them, :( because no gardeners ask for them. So I'll be calling ahead!!)

Coffee grounds are organic, free, and worms love them!!




Here is another reason to use coffee grounds! :D




I read through the comments on that video. I read this, and thought you might be interested.

I had a Cut Worm problems in the past,but not any more since using coffee grounds,FREE from Starbucks,donut shops or who ever serves alot of coffee,just ask




I don't think they do much to deter the birds but I use them anyway. I think what happens is that the birds get used to certain things and cease being afraid.

Might not help much, but once they get used to them, try moving them to different parts of the garden. At least it will look new. (I agree with @marlingardener, a cat or two is probably your best bet. Although, I admit, I'm biased. :LOL:.)


Mint must be contained or they will take over.

This is no joke.

Mint. :cautious: Mint. :rage: :mad: Mint, mint, MINT!!! :devil:

I never realized how invasive it is! Terrible stuff. I yanked out every plant I saw. I dug down deep and took out roots. I tilled the garden and pulled out every leaf, stem, and root I saw. I repeated that process two weeks later. And still there was mint. I did that every spring for three years. I still had mint.



Mint. :cry:
 
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I'll look at that document, thank you. I'm getting a soil thermometer soon so I can check the soil temps myself.

Part of my problem is psychological in that I cannot stand to not plant something. Spring is here and the days are ticking away. Just leaving the soil bare until May gives me an itch. I really should be able to get some lettuce and brassicas going, shouldn't I?

Assuming I can get the mint to germinate it will be in a pot. If I can't get seeds to germinate I'll probably get some starts somewhere.

I have moved the pinwheels around from bed to bed in hopes of deterring birds. And I've put up what's left of the flash tape. I think the birds have just gotten too smart. Maybe some kind of new object will give them the willies for a while.

When summer comes on I think the birds will leave my seeds alone. They did last year. I had no problems with birds pulling seeds or attacking seedlings until around mid September. Then they went to town. I keep putting out Sluggo in the hopes of keeping the slug populations down.

To my surprise it would appear some birds attacked the leaves of my tulips as well. There are big, square looking cuts on the leaves. Hopefully they still bloom.
 

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Spring is here and the days are ticking away. Just leaving the soil bare until May gives me an itch. I really should be able to get some lettuce and brassicas going, shouldn't I?

I found this link for you, which has a list of things you can plant now. I've done a good bit of snipping, so I recommend reading it for yourself, but I hope this is helpful. :)

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/gardening-calendar
April Garden Calendar
Produced by OSU Extension, each month provides reminders of key garden chores, such as fertilizing, pest control, planting, and maintenance.

Planting/Propagation
  • It's a great time to start a vegetable garden. Among the vegetables you can plant, consider:
    • Western Valleys, Portland, Roseburg, Medford: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, chives, endive, leeks, lettuce, peas, radishes, rhubarb, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.
 
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Update on 4/6/2018:

I went out to look at one of the beds where I can put in grain cover crop seed. And the birds have been pulling out the seedlings and leaving them (dead) on the surface of the soil. I'm pretty sure they are also just eating the seed before it even germinates. This is probably a significant reason why none of my cover crop is coming along.

I've put up pinwheels and some flash tape and it's made no difference. I've put down bird netting but it's just sitting on the soil.

I didn't realize what a huge problem the birds would be. They are systematically destroying everything I plant. They are destroying my ability to get a cover crop in. And I'm pretty sure they will start wrecking other seedlings when they germinate.

I'm actually quite angry about this. It seems like everything in nature is conspiring to wreck my garden. The birds, the slugs, the rabbits, the cutworms, and the moles. The damned birds even started eating the leaves of my tulips. Go knows what they will do to my sunflower and corn seed when the time comes for that.

It's not practical to use transplants for everything. Direct seeding is a necessity.

My current plan of attack is to build some crappy frames out of wood that will stick about a foot above the soil. I'll drape the bird netting over it and and use staples to try and create a sort of tent.

The birds have been known to go under the netting before. I'm not sure I can completely secure it against that but I will try. My mother will freak out if a bird gets caught and dies in the netting but I'm not going to shed any tears.

Unfortunately there is too large an area to put netting on all of it. I can do this with some of the raised beds but not the native soil.

I read something about stringing fishing line over rows to deter birds. Does this work?

I continue to put out sluggo in the hopes of keeping down the slug population.

The high winds keep blowing away the milk jug cloches.

I used to kind of life birds. Not anymore.
 

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