The Practical Gardener – February 2017


Robert Corn SMThe topic for February’s meeting is: Raising Chickens in the Garden.

Robert Litt from the Urban Farm Store will be speaking.

Robert Litt is a recovering professional landscape designer, founder of Portland’s Urban Farm Store and, with his wife Hannah, author of A Chicken In Every Yard (10-Speed Press, 2011).

The duo is at this moment writing and illustrating a new book for chicken keepers for Timber Press that’s due out in January of 2018.

“It started as a ‘problem-solver’ book for perplexed chicken keepers, but quickly morphed into something else. It’s really about how our hectic lives and the arrival of young kids slowly cooled our enthusiasm for urban chicken keeping, and how putting the flock back to work in our garden rekindled it.

We hope that our fellow garden-obsessed readers will enjoy our designs for easy to build day pens that fit veggie beds, designs and plant profiles of herbs to grow for their scientifically verified healthful properties, and a “Ruth Stout meets the chicken tractor” hybrid approach to lazy, mulch intensive veggie gardening.

This talk is going to be our first time-sharing the book ideas so we welcome the feedback of this knowledgeable group.

I’m always happy to answer questions and I’m also available for private consultations.”

The Urban Farm Store is located at: 1108 SE 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97214



President’s Message

Amidst the ice and snow you might not be thinking of harvesting tomatoes, but it is time for the preparation of many other plants.  Traditionally the Willamette Valley’s last “winter storms” end by mid-February (lets hope for 2017). One of the first garden pleasures of February is the amount of daylight available outside after 5:00 P.M.

Things to be doing in the coming month:

Build a cold frame for early vegetables and plants.  Parsley, sage and asparagus are among the plants which can be started early in direct sunlight.

Test the soils.

Prune shrubs, trees, fruit trees and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  By the end of February the stock of new fruit plants arrive at nurseries.

Other seeds can be started in windowsills … carrots, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and others.

It has been joked that Portlanders are required to have at least one rose on their property.  If you meet this “requirement” then cut back the rose plants to about 18 inches.

You won’t have to start weeds in your windows.  Weeds start early and on their own.  Instead, weeding in February will reduce weeds later.

Bulbs are cheaper this month than full-fledged plants a couple months from now.

Containers can be ready earlier than general soil if kept on covered porches to controlling water logging that garden beds have now.

Even indoor plants may be perking up because though the temperature has been steady, the houseplants are gaining hours of daylight through the windows.

And, of course, a February must-the Metropolitan Garden Club’s monthly meeting on the 28th with a topic not mentioned above:  Raising Chickens in the Garden with Robert Litt of the Urban Farm Store.

Happy Gardening,


tips-from-tomTips from Tom

Put a coffee filter in the bottom of your pot to cover the drainage hole before you put in the soil. It’ll keep the soil in your pot but still let the water drain through.

You can start seedlings indoors in an eggshell and once they’re big enough to transplant outside, you can leave them in the shell when you place them in the ground.

You can propagate roses using a potato! Trim the stalk of a rose right below a leaf bud; dab the end of the stalk in some rooting hormone; and, then place it into a premade hole in a potato. Plant the potato and stalk in the ground, water well and it should take!

plastic bottlePlant any plant that might have invasive roots in a plastic pot with a small hole cut out of the bottom. This way, you can enjoy it in your garden but it won’t spread too far away from it’s intended home and won’t interfere with other plants in the area.

Take an empty plastic container and put holes in the sides. Bury the plastic container in the ground with the top above the soil line. Plant seeds like squash around the empty plastic container. The squash roots grow deeper and larger as they grow. Under normal circumstances, it can become difficult to get water down to these roots. Fill the buried plastic container with water allowing the water to reach the roots.

This way, you’re filling up the plastic container with water and dispersing it directly to the deep squash roots.


Camellia 'Night Rider'Plant of the Month

Camellia japonica ‘Night Rider’

This gorgeous dark burgundy, almost black camellia has semi-double flowers that appear in late winter or early spring.

New growth on the evergreen leaves also has red overtones to compliment this wonderful “must-have” for every garden.

The shrub is frost hardy in USDA zone 7 and is upright and compact to 4-5’ tall and wide.

It is best in part shade, morning sun and protected from afternoon sunshine.
It needs regular watering in the summer.

Plant combinations would be daffodils, tulips, fritillaria and snowdrops at the shrub’s base.


Past Speaker


Photo from Bonnnie Plants .com

Club member Sonie Selzer took a few moments at the January meeting to share her expertise on growing tomatoes.

We are so lucky to have a tomato expert among us.

Sonie, Thank You!





Metropolitan Garden Club of Portland’s 2017 $1000 Scholarship Recipient

MandieAt the January meeting, members were introduced to this year’s scholarship recipient, Mandie Driskill.

Here’s some information about Mandie in her own words.

“I grew up the first half of my childhood in Cottage Grove, Oregon. The second half I lived in Springfield, Oregon where I currently live.

I studied business management at the University of Oregon at the Charles Lundquist College of Business. I then transferred to Oregon State University where I am majoring in Horticulture with the option plant breeding and genetics with interests in small fruits and berries. I am also minoring in business entrepreneurship at OSU’s college of business. I graduate in 2018.

I have received 4 awards for academic excellence from OSU since fall 2015. I am a member of pi alpha xi, the national horticulture Honor society.

I am also a member of the plant breeding and genetics student association. I do business documentation.

I am also a member of the green house committee in the plant breeding and genetics student association. We are breeding several Dorsera species for trait crosses and genetic studies such as chromosome number, ploidy level, and hybridization compatibility.

In my free time, I propagate ornamental and houseplants. I also spend time with my boys in boy scouts. In the summer I am an avid hiker and traveler. I also sew, make cold process soap, and garden.

This summer I will be doing research for OSU and/or the USDA. After, I graduate in 2018, I plan on getting my PhD in plant breeding. In my future career, I am wanting to breed berry crops for one of Oregon’s berry nurseries. I am open to helping anyone, sharing my knowledge, and I want to help everyone by breed better food for the world.

Thank you MGCP for the wonderful scholarship it is very appreciated.



osu2Did you know…?

Plant Something

Check out this website

Plants make life better! Research has proven that plants benefit all of us in many ways – some obvious, and some not so obvious. Plant Something Oregon encourages you to garden in a fun and healthy way.

Plant Something



In the Garden with Mike Darcy radio show cancelled

By Curt Kipp — Posted December 20, 2016

“Longtime radio show host Mike Darcy is looking for a new home for his In the Garden radio show. Its longtime broadcast home, Portland-based KXL 101 FM, has discontinued the weekly Saturday morning broadcast after 35 years on the air.

The final show aired on December 31, 2016. Station officials told Darcy they will replace his show with an additional hour of news programming.

“I was very disappointed because to be there 35 years and have it all end,” he said. “We have had tremendous support from the gardening community to keep the show going.”

Darcy’s bimonthly column in Digger magazine will continue uninterrupted.

For now, you can listen to prior broadcasts at

Curt Kipp is the director of publications and communications at the Oregon Association of Nurseries, and the editor of Digger magazine



Upcoming Events and Club Business

20 members attended the January potluck and club meeting.

Sonie Selzer and Gregg Macy were recognized for their roles on the board and their many years of service to the club. Thanks Sonie and Gregg for a job well done.

Members paying their dues at the meeting were entered into a drawing for a free membership for 2017. Nancy Carr won the prize!

Fundraising events were discussed and it was decided to put our efforts into the annual Plant Sale on April 29th. The Potlatch event usually held in October will not be held this year.

Save the dates!

Next Month’s Meeting
March 28 Club Meeting
Speaker: Kris LaMar
Master Gardener
Topic: Summer Bulbs and Corms

Board Positions

Please take the time to consider being on the board. Send an email if you are interested and/or have questions about the positions.


Out and About

Club member Marta Lansing shared some photos.

OregonGarden pond

During December, the Oregon Gardens presented Christmas in the Gardens. While there Marta took a photo of the pond.

BeautyBerry in snow

Beauty Berry in the snow at Marta’s.

Front Garden in Snow

Front Garden in the Snow

Should I Go Out

Should I go out?

Cold Drinks(1)

Cold drinks anyone?

Marta also shared ” My daffodils are about 3 inches tall!  And the hellebores are coming up with buds — wow! Amazing!

Thanks Marta!

Please send photos of your garden, plants, and interesting garden related items etc. when you are out and about to: