Gardening season is drawing to a close, but you might still have questions. For answers, see Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from the Oregon State University Extension Service. OSU extension teachers and master gardeners answer questions within two working days, usually less. To ask a question, just go to the OSU extension website, enter it, and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What is your?
Q: Everything in the garden this year has been a problem – the corn, the green beans, the tomatoes, even believe it or not, the zucchini. Even in the hot weather of early summer, shady, well-watered plants failed to thrive.
I have two theories and would love to hear from you, as well as any other information you could provide. My first thought is demonstrated by the failure of the corn. Has there been a significant reduction in pollinators? In much of the corn, a significant number of kernels have not matured.
As for other plants that have failed to thrive, I think with the disruption of the supply chain due to the virus, old seed stocks are flooding the market with reduced vitality and the production.
All overview of these two theories, as well as other information. It would be appreciated to get into the vegetable garden planting next year. – Wasco County
A: Market gardeners are going through a difficult time and poor or imperfect yields can be attributed to various problems.
Here are some possibilities:
- the soil is poor in nutrients
- fewer pollinators
- extreme variations in heat and humidity
- and invisible pathogens, especially in soil
Some of them are beyond our control; others can be improved if they are identified. Corn is wind pollinated, but benefits from nearby plants so the pollen is concentrated. I suggest you read the following post on OSU extension.
You can get a soil test now so the recommended amendments can be applied in the fall, so they are available in the spring. Testing resources are available here. You can improve your soil with the recommendations found here.
You can save the location where you planted this year’s crops, so that you can alternate with other species there next year. Find more information here.
If none of these are effective (unlikely) and you see symptoms of diseases or insects, I suggest taking pictures and attaching them to a follow-up question. We can help you with the diagnostics, but we need the visuals. – Kris LaMar, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Q: I planted milkweed seeds to attract western monarch butterflies. I have a beautiful patch of healthy milkweed plants, but they never produced the gorgeous blooms shown on the seed packet. I wonder why they haven’t bloomed. Another question, will plants attract butterflies without flowering? – Washington County
A: Failure to bloom would not necessarily reduce the attractiveness of milkweed plants to monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed plants because their caterpillars need to feed on milkweed leaves in order to develop properly. Adult butterflies, however, use a wide variety of plants to obtain nectar, so they are not dependent on milkweed flowers.
I haven’t grown milkweed myself, but here is some information that says milkweeds are perennial and often don’t flower in their first year of growth. I suspect this is what was happening with your plants. There are all kinds of good reasons to plant native milkweed. It’s good to increase native plant populations just to conserve them. In addition, many insects use milkweed plants for food. One of the most common species here that feeds on milkweed is the little milkweed bug, Lygaeus kalmii. Additionally, milkweed flowers are excellent sources of pollen and nectar or many insects. Here is a collection of insects photographed on milkweeds in Oregon and Washington to fully understand.
Sadly, the western population of monarch butterflies has declined so much over the past two or three years that we are unlikely to see any monarchs in Oregon for some time and may never see them here again. . Here’s a Xerces Society blog post and research presentation that goes into more detail on recent declines. Fortunately, it is not too late for monarchs elsewhere in the country. Hopefully they can reverse recent dramatic but less precipitous declines. I am also in favor of the return of the monarchs to our region, but the prospects for this do not look too bright. Sorry to be the bearer of this bad news, but I hope the information is useful nonetheless.
Q: This tree started growing on its own a few years ago. I’m not really sure what it is, but what little information I can find indicates it’s a tree of heaven. – Washington County
A: Looks like it could be a tree from the sky (Ailanthus altissima). Here is a City of Portland resource on how to identify the tree of the sky. This tie has the characteristics of black walnut, Oregon ash, western sumac, and locust, all of which have leaves similar to the tree of the sky. I can’t say for sure from the photo, but judging by the smooth bark on your tree, I think it’s probably a tree from the sky. Take a look at the other links, however, just to be sure. Unfortunately, the Tree of Heaven is an invasive weed that is rather difficult to eradicate once you have a specimen of this size. Here is a link to a site with specific instructions on how to get rid of it.
Even if you determine that you have one of the similar trees, you may want to remove it because it is so close to your house. If you need help, you can contact a licensed arborist to take it apart for you and extract as many roots as possible. – Larina Hoffbeck, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Q: I want to make a self-supporting chicken coop with a green roof. I plan to harvest the water and use it to feed the hens, so I guess I have 3 criteria for the plants: I don’t want to water it in the summer (or at least can’t be toxic to them. chickens and hopefully would filter the water a bit Obviously any additional benefits like pollinator attraction or the like would be icing on the cake Any recommendations? – Clackamas County
A: I couldn’t find any extension material specific to green roof chicken coops. However, here’s what one resource says about plants for green roofs, in general: “In order for plants to survive the elements of the thin, nutrient-poor growing medium of an extensive green roof, they must be perennial or self-seeded, low growing, drought tolerant, fire resistant, densely planted and resistant to heat, cold and wind. Succulents, especially sedum (stonecrop) generally perform well on green roofs due to their drought-tolerant abilities, ability to absorb large amounts of water, and low maintenance. Other common plants for green roofs include the ice plant (Delospermum sp.), hens and chicks (Sempervivum sp.), creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum), chives and ornamental onions (Allium sp.), phlox (Phlox sp.), toe (Anntenaria sp.), thrift (Armeria sp.) and false watercress (Aubretia sp.).
On intensive green roofs a much wider range of plants is possible. The depth and quality of the soil, the specific climatic conditions and the desired level of maintenance are the main limiting factors. Here is an article for more information.
While I cannot find any list of plants that are toxic to chickens, the following is a complete list of plants that are toxic to animals, in general. – Kris LaMar, OSU Extension Master Gardener