There is a rumor that a garden can not be grown in Central Oregon.
You only need look around to know that is not true. Beautiful gardens
are grown all around the Central Oregon area, but carefully chosen
plants are the key. The growing season is very short and frost can
come on any day of the year.
We are in an ecotone, an area where two different ecologies meet.
The west is the direction of the mountains; it has more rainfall,
pines leading to fir and a more acidic soil. To the east is the
Sagebrush Steppe, an arid, sandy-soiled, cold desert. In between
is where the pines and sagebrush mix at the lower elevations of
the mountains. Your location in Central Oregon, with its own particular
mini-climate, will determine what you are able to grow.
There is a great deal of variability in what Central Oregonians
are able to grow. The northern end of the area including Madras
and Culver have the best growing climate. The conditions become
more severe as you travel east, south and west-toward the desert
and the mountains. Areas south of Bend have the most drastic conditions;
in general La Pine and Fall River have an even shorter growing season
than Bend. The altitude strongly affects this pattern, the higher
you go the harsher the conditions. Madras is the low end of the
area at 2200 feet above sea level; Bend heads upward to 3600. As
you go south it continues to climb and LaPine is around 4000 feet.
Zone classifications used to determine which plants grow in an
area are not reliable for Central Oregon. They are based primarily
on winter temperatures, and our winter temperatures are generally
not terribly low, but we have late frosts that can freeze the plants
after they leaf out. Often a plant coded zone 3 or 4 will grow here,
but the only reliable plant zone for sure is zone 1. Depending on
your location, protection of some kind will be needed for frost
Another climatic drawback in Central Oregon are chilly evenings.
This is appealing in the summer, as you can usually depend of the
evenings to cool off so you can get a good night's sleep. But this
extreme of temperature, as much as 50 degrees between night and
day, is tough on plants. This is one reason many people have greenhouses
or night covers for their tender plants. Some folks put their tender
plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, in pots that can be moved
in at night when cold threatens.
The approach to gardening in this book is from an organic perspective,
which is gardening without chemicals or pesticides. You must build
the soil with humus in the form of organic matter; manures, compost
and cover crops. The purpose being to feed the soil, which is an
immense community of organisms; insects, worms, fungi and bacteria.
The soil then feed the plants. All of this turns your garden into
a living entity, able to support the growth of your plants.
The county extension service is the best source of help available.
They are knowledgeable, helpful, and offer many free publications.
Call and ask for their Central Oregon gardening packet. They can
also answer any specific questions you may have about herbicides,
pesticides and fertilizers.
The local Master Gardeners organization is connected with the extension
service, and they are well-trained to answer your gardening questions.
Another good source of information is usually from someone who has
gardened here for years and has a feel for the climate and soil.
Friends and neighbors are invaluable, as are gardening clubs.
The library has a good selection of gardening books and magazines.
Gardening classes are usually offered in the spring from the extension
service, Master Gardeners and Central Oregon Community College Continuing
- Easy times, stay by the fire and study the garden catalogs.
Pruning of trees and shrubs can be done this month.
- More easy times. You can start growing some bedding plants:
petunias, peppers, onions, leeks, celery and perennial herbs and
flowers. A greenhouse or artificial lighting is a big help for
starting seeds this time of year. You may begin hauling manure
to gardens. Plant dormant trees if the ground is not frozen. Days
begin to get longer, so you can start planting your early greenhouse
- Plant more bedding plants to be planted out in six to eight
weeks: tomatoes, marigolds, many annuals flowers and herbs. Depending
on the weather, you may be able to do structural work, clear land,
and remove weeds. Resist the temptation to remove winter mulches
too early, the weather can still get very cold. Haul manure and
compost and dig it into the soil. Dormant trees can still be planted.
Cut out all of last years plant stalks left for the birds. Plant
your early greenhouse salad greens if you have not already. If
the weather cooperates you can start eating salads from your kale
and perennial salad plants.
- Plant peas, spinach, onions, garlic (if not planted in fall)
and fava beans. Can begin moving and dividing perennials that
have wintered over and are acclimated. Start your cabbage, broccoli
and other cole crops and head lettuce inside. Topdress your perennials,
herb beds, trees, lawns and other permanent plantings with well
rotted manure or compost.
- This is the busiest month because everything seems to need to
be done at once. It is time to plant root crops, lettuce and most
other vegetable crops. Plant pansies early in the month and other
annual flowers later in month. You can still move your perennials
around and plant potted nursery stock. About three to four weeks
before it is time to plant them outside, you can start squash,
cucumbers, corn and beans inside in peat pots. You will need to
start and aggressive program for the elimination of weeds and
this is a good time to spread mulch. Your tomatoes and peppers
should be in the greenhouse by now. Salad greens in your greenhouse
should be going full bore.
- Continue planting tender crops and succession crops. Weeds are
making their fastest headway, pay particular attention to the
germinating seed beds as they can quickly be overcome. Keep spreading
- Keep on top of the weeds and use them to make compost this month.
- Plant your fall crops and start your fall bedding plants for
the greenhouse. Keep your annuals deadheaded, which is the removal
of the spent blossom before it can make seed. Since making seeds
is the plants purpose, this will prolong the blooming time of
the plant. Dig your onions and garlic when the tops fall over,
and lay them out to dry.
- Especially be on guard for frosts. Dig flowers and herbs to
pot up for winter growing. Divide perennials and strawberries;
plant garlic and cover crops. Harvest, harvest, harvest.
- You will still be harvesting with any luck. Cut dead stalks
in the garden, but leave plenty of seed heads for the birds. Plant
spring blooming bulbs.
- Spread leaves if you have them. Days are getting short and greenhouse
growth becomes nonexistent.
- Easy times. You can spread a winter mulch over your perennials
and strawberries when the ground is frozen.