• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 3.6.08

 

The Spring Planting Guide 2008

Pest Control

Happy quackers at home in Oregon yards and gardens

BY RACHEL FOSTER

People who keep ducks are absolutely passionate about them. Just say the word duck and stand back: You'll release an avalanche of words. "Ducks seem to be much happier critters than about anything," Corvallis resident Carol Deppe told me. "It's almost impossible to stay down or depressed if you just sit for a while with a bunch of foraging ducks." In addition to their sunny personality, ducks lay eggs — and foraging ducks are superb at pest control.

Muscovy ducks are great foragers
Male Runner ducks

Ducks eat slugs, snails and their eggs. They also eat sowbugs and insects (ducks can snatch bugs out of the air) and insect larvae and pupae, including those of mosquitoes. Much of this is true of chickens, too, but their fans say ducks are more enthusiastic foragers than chickens, and chickens are harder on the garden. Ducks graze on tender grass, just like geese, and probe in wet soil and mud with their sensitive bills, but they don't scratch in the soil the way chickens do. Ducks are better adapted to wet weather (they love it!) and show better disease resistance.

Deppe keeps a flock of about 35 ducks, mostly Anconas and Golden Cascades. She is a great source of duck wisdom. "I had to figure out for myself how to manage ducks and vegetable gardens," she says. Ducks will eat just about anything green and will poop on everything lower than one foot. But while many gardeners simply let ducks in the garden in fall and winter to clean up before planting time, Deppe says "ducks in a pen have a protective effect on a nearby garden, because slugs like to eat duck poop even better than plants" and will crawl into the duck pen to get it, with predictable results.

Deppe has learned that a two-foot fence — a height the gardener can step over — is adequate to pen ducks in a particular area in the daytime or to protect vulnerable greens. (Protecting ducks from their many predators is quite another matter.) And if you let ducks into a part of the garden where they don't normally go (to combat a plague of cabbage worm, perhaps), "They'll go for the protein first. Then they'll go for the salad." So keep an eye on them, and take them out after 15-20 minutes. For a treat, ducks LOVE tomatoes. "Grow extra for them – regular size, cut up, not cherry types."

Hen ducks of most varieties are noisier than chickens; it's the hens that quack. "If neighbors are 50 yards away, they are unlikely to even know you have ducks unless they're visible," Deppe says. If you have neighbors a few yards away, she suggests some of the quieter breeds. "Khaki Campbells, Welsh Harlequins, and Anconas are all pretty quiet," she says. Female Call ducks, a bantam breed so-called because they were bred to be live decoys, are noisiest. Drakes of any breed don't quack. They can get by without females and are adequate for pest control.

Muscovy ducks come closest to being mute. Unlike most domestic breeds, they are not descended from mallards, and neither sex quacks. Eugene duck fan Jenya Lemeshow says they just chirp and hiss. She adds that these rugged ducks are great foragers.

Deppe's Anconas, classified as a mediumweight breed, are perhaps the best foragers in their weight class. Bantam breeds (including Call ducks and East Indies) and lightweight breeds (including Runners and Campbells) are all excellent foragers. Two or three Bantam class or lightweight ducks should provide good pest control in a small city lot, though small-billed Calls can't eat the larger slugs and snails. Unlike most domestic ducks, which only attempt flight when desperate, bantams can really fly, so clip their wings yearly if their daytime quarters are open to the sky.

Khaki Campbells and Anconas are the best layers. If eggs are important, make sure you get your ducks from a reputable grower with a good egg-laying strain. And be prepared to feed high-protein food and provide some artificial light in fall and winter if you want eggs year-round. Deppe finds the dim lights in their night quarters are enough to keep her ducks laying. But with natural daylight only, natural forage and some grain, Campbells still beat out other breeds at egg production.

What do ducks need? Food, water and shelter. And other ducks. "Ducks are flock animals. Keeping just one is cruel," Deppe says. Two is minimal; three or more is best, and hen ducks should outnumber the drakes. Deppe also considers it cruel to keep ducks without water to swim and bathe in. They obviously enjoy it, and they can't keep themselves clean without it. A plastic 'kiddie pool' is adequate for a few ducks. For a larger flock, multiple kiddie pools are a good solution. Water attracts predators, so keep night quarters away from ponds and pools if possible.

Although ducks might prefer to be outside day and night, they need to be housed at night in a shed or securely covered pen than will keep them safe from predators. In addition to hawks and foxes, raccoons are bad news. They can climb fences and open simple latches. Ducks need some solid cover in daytime, too, for shade and protection from hawks, but that can be as simple as a propped-up sheet of plywood. Very little equipment is needed for adult ducks. Deppe uses sturdy two-gallon buckets both for feed (corn or wheat grain, oyster shell and broiler crumbles) and for clean water. Buckets must be deep enough for ducks to submerge their heads and clean their eyes and nostrils.

Light woodland and orchards make ideal duck runs. What about ducks in flower gardens? My sister and niece in Devon, England, both keep Calls in fairly small gardens. Both say that with enough space, small ducks don't do any real harm. The muddier it gets, the more they enjoy the slug hunt, though. "When they are confined in wet weather, they do wreck the grass by dabbling in it," says my niece. "When they have access to the whole lawn, the damage is hardly noticeable and the grass survives." Mature plants don't seem to be bothered, but "baby plants may need protection from beaks moving the soil around too roughly and not allowing roots to develop."

A friend of my niece's keeps Runners. Along with the usual testimonial to the antidepressant qualities of ducks (and Runners in particular are incredibly entertaining), she also tells me that her grass survives. "After persistent rain, you can have whole rivers of mud. I have always found, though, that the grass grows back after just a few dry days. Of course they eat everything in and around pond edges! I've just made a barrier to stop them raiding our frog pond, to give the spawn, tadpoles and plants a chance."

Most raisers don't sell sexed ducklings, so be prepared to dispose of excess males — perhaps to a friend who wants a quiet flock. Adult ducks are sometimes offered in newspaper ads and Internet lists. Don't expect anyone to give away adult ducks, though: Deppe points out that raising one can cost $20 in feed alone. And check your local land use regulations about keeping fowl in town.

Carol Deppe leads workshops entitled the Tao of Ducks. The next one is March 9th. For details, contact Cheri Clark and Harry MacCormack, Institute of BioWisdom, Sunbow Farm, Corvallis, (541) 929-5782 or www.sunbowfarm.orgAnother indispensable resource: Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks by Dave Holderread, Storey Communications, Inc., 2001, available from Amazon (and local libraries). For great pictures of different breeds, visit www.holderreadfarm.com   

 

 

The Spring Planting Guide 2008

Asparagus

Cultivation: Plant 1- or 2-year-old crowns during March, spacing them 12 inches apart in trenches 8 inches deep. Hold off on harvesting spears during the first year for stronger plants the following year.

Soil/Sun: Loose, rich, well-drained soil with a high pH. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Mary Washington, Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight.

 

Beans

Cultivation: Sow seeds May-July, 1 inch deep, 3-4 inches apart, at the north end of the garden if possible. Space rows 12-24 inches. Thin pole beans to 8 inches; thin bush beans to 4-6 inches. Build trellis or pole support for pole beans before planting to avoid injuring roots. Do not soak or pre-sprout seeds. Treating seeds with a non-chemical legume inoculant will help plants add more nitrogen to the soil.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained soil, pH 6.0-6.8, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: BUSH — Oregon Blue Lake, Tendercrop, Venture. POLE — Cascade Giant, Kentucky Wonder, Romano, Blue Lake Pole. Shelling: Jackson Wonder Lima, Montezuma Red, Cannellini.

 

Beets

Cultivation: Sow seeds March-July 3/4 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Gradually thin to 5 inches by harvesting baby beets. Maintain consistent watering during dry weather.

Soil/Sun: Loose, well-drained soil, pH 6.5-7. Beets don't like acidic soil but will tolerate low fertility. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Globe: Early Wonder, Detroit Dark Red. Cylindrical: Cyndor. Greens: Lutz Green Leaf,

 

Broccoli

Cultivation: Plant transplants March-July, spaced 12-20 inches apart. Don't overuse nitrogen fertilizer. Needs plentiful, consistent watering.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Small Miracle, Shogun, Umpqua Dark Green.

 

Brussels Sprouts

Cultivation: Sow seeds for transplants 1/4 inch deep in 4-inch pots April 15 and plant out May 15, 18-24 inches apart. Needs plentiful, consistent watering.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Prince Marvel, Rubine, Vancouver.

 

Cabbage

Cultivation: Sow seeds for transplants 1/4 inch deep in 4-inch pots before April 15 and plant out May 15, 18-24 inches apart.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Derby Day, Ruby Ball, Early Jersey Wakefield.

 

Chinese Cabbage

Cultivation: Plant transplants after May 15, 12-18 inches. Closer spacings produce smaller, more flavorful heads.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun to partial shade (shade may slow down bolting in summer crops).

Suggested Varieties:?China Express.

 

Carrots

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, 1/4 inch apart, March-July 15. Thin to 2 inches. Do not use fresh manure or nitrogen fertilizer or you will get hairy roots. Keep soil moist during germination.

Soil/Sun: Carrots require rich, loose, deeply-worked soil that is free of stones, pH 6.0-6.8 (slightly acidic soil is okay). Full sun to light shade.

Suggested Varieties:?Royal Chantenay (esp. for heavier soils), Scarlet Nantes, Nantes Bolero.

 

Cauliflower

Cultivation: Plant 6-week-old transplants 24 inches apart after April 15. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties:? Early Dawn, Snowball, Fremont.

 

Celery

Cultivation: Plant transplants 6-12 inches apart, April 15-June. Requires plenty of water.

Soil/Sun: Rich soil, pH 6.0-7.0. Prefers full sun; will tolerate poorly-drained soil.

Suggested Varieties:?Ventura, Golden Self-Blanching.

 

Corn

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1 inch deep, 4-6 inches apart, April-June. Thin to 8-12 inches. Plant at least 4 rows of the same variety in a block to ensure adequate pollination.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-6.8, with full sun.

Suggested Varieties:?Early Sunglo, Seneca Horizon, Jubilee.

 

Cucumbers

Cultivation: Sow seeds in June. Space seeds 2 inches apart in a row and thin to 12 inches, or plant 5-6 seeds in mounds spaced 3-5 feet apart and thin to 2 plants per mound. Grow on a trellis to save space. Provide consistent, plentiful moisture to prevent bitteness.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil with plenty of nitrogen, neutral pH, full sun.

Suggested Varieties:?Pickling: SMR 58. Slicing: Marketmore.

 

Eggplant

Cultivation: Plant transplants 18-24 inches apart in raised beds in June after nighttime temps remain above 45F (eggplants require warm days). Use a black plastic mulch to warm the soil.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile, slightly acidic soil, full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties:?Dusky, Bambino.

 

Endive, Chicory, Escarole

Cultivation: Sow the seeds of these cool-season European greens 1/4 inch deep, 2 inches apart, April-August. Thin to 8-12 inches. Keep well-watered and shaded during warm weather to avoid bolting.

Soil/Sun: Well-worked seedbed. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties:?Arugula, Radicchio.

 

Garlic

Cultivation: Best planted in fall or February. Place cloves 2 inches deep, point up, 4-6 inches apart. Keep well-weeded. Don't use supermarket cloves. Big cloves produce big bulbs, so don't plant the skinny, small cloves — save them for cooking.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil (raised bed ideal) with full sun. Tolerates wide range of soil but prefers pH 6.2-6.8.

Suggested Varieties: Oregon Blue, Spanish Roja, Purple Italian, Elephant.

 

Kale

Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants May-July. Seeds should be 1/4-1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 12-18 inches. Drought-tolerant, but flavor suffers without plenty of watering. Flavor improves after a frost.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5. Full sun to light shade.

Suggested Varieties: Tuscan, Redbor, Dwarf Siberian, Winterbor, Winter Red.

 

Kohlrabi

Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants during April and early May. (Late May plantings will mature in hot weather, producing dry, woody bulbs.) Seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep, 1/4 inch apart. Final spacing should be 6-10 inches. Needs plenty of water; consistent moisture greatly improves germination.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.0-7.5, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Superschmelz, Kongo, Grand Duke.

 

Leeks

Cultivation: Sow seeds in March or plant transplants in April. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 4-6 inches. Plant leeks in trenches 8 inches deep and fill in soil as they grow to "blanch" the stems. Leeks require consistent watering for good yields.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Giant Musselburg, King Richard.

 

Lettuce

Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants April-August. Sow seeds 1/8 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 12 inches for head lettuce, 6 inches for leaf lettuce.

Soil/Sun: Prefers loose, well-drained, cool soil, but will tolerate a wide range. Sensitive to acidity; prefers pH 6.2-6.8. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Butterhead: Buttercrunch, Continuity, Optima. Leaf: Red Sails, Fire Mountain, Revolution. Crisphead, Summertime. Romaine: Cimarron, Valmaine.

 

Okra

Cultivation: Sow seeds or plant transplants mid-May to mid-June. Soak seeds in warm water for 6-12 hours to improve germination, then sow 1/4-1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart. Final spacing should be 12 inches.

Soil/Sun: Rich, well-drained soil. Full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Cajun Delight, Burgundy, Annie Oakley.

 

Onions

Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants April-June. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, 1/2 inch apart. Final spacing should be 4 inches for larger bulbs, 2 inches for smaller bulbs (and higher yields). Onions require consistent, even watering for good yields.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained, fertile soil, pH 6.2-6.8. Full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Sweet Spanish, Walla Walla Sweet, Yellow Ebenezer, Red Burgermaster, Redwing.

 

Parsley

Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants March-June. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 2-3 seeds per inch. Final spacing should be 8-10 inches.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained soil, full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Giant Italian, Curled Dwarf.

 

Parsnips

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart, April-July. Thin to 3-4 inches. Using fresh manure or high-nitrogen fertilizer will produce hairy roots. Hardy parsnips develop their best flavor after overwintering through many frosts.

Soil/Sun: Loose, well-drained, fertile soil free of stones. Heavy clay soil can cause crooked or cracked roots. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Gladiator, All American.

 

Peas

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1 inch deep, 1 inch apart in a 3-inch-wide band; space these rows 18 inches apart. Support with a trellis. Don't use high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Soil/Sun: Well-drained soil, pH 6.0-7.0. Full sun to light shade.

Suggested Varieties: Snow Peas: Oregon Sugar Pod, Oregon Giant. Sugar Snap Peas: Cascadia, Sugar Snap.

 

Peppers

Cultivation: Plant transplants May-June, 12-18 inches apart. Black plastic mulch will speed early growth and help warm the soil.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Sweet Bell: California Wonder, Gypsy. Hot: Anaheim, Jalapeno, Ancho.

 

Potatoes

Cultivation: Plant spuds starting on St. Patrick's Day through June. Space 10-12 inches in rows 2 feet apart. Hill up soil over the growing foliage or mulch with straw to increase yields.

Soil/Sun: Potatoes prefer loose, well-drained, acidic soil (pH 4.8-5.5) and full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Yukon Gold, White Rose, Yellow Finn, Purple Peruvian, Red Pontiac.

 

Pumpkins

Cultivation: Plant transplants late May-early June in hills 4 feet apart. Water generously. Black plastic mulch can speed growth.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 5.8-6.8, with full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Frosty, Small Sugar, Spirit, Cinderella.

 

Radish

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1/2 inch apart, March-August. Thin to 1-1 1/2 inches. Radishes require plentiful, consistent watering.

Soil/Sun: Fertile, well-drained soil free of stones, pH 5.8-6.8. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Cherry Belle, Altaglobe, French Breakfast.

 

Rutabaga

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 2 inches apart, June-July 15. Thin to 6 inches. Flavor improves after frost.

Soil/Sun: Loose, well-drained soil, pH above 6.0. Tolerates low fertility. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Marian, Laurentian.

Spinach

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart, March-August. Thin to 6-12 inches by harvesting baby greens. Water generously; dry soil and heat encourage bolting.

Soil/Sun: Rich, well-drained soil. Sensitive to acidic soils; pH 6.5-7.5. Full to partial sun.

Suggested Varieties: Olympia, Bloomsdale, Tyee, Skookum.

 

Summer Squash, Zucchini

Cultivation: Plant seeds or transplants May 15-June 15. Sow seeds 1/2-1 inch deep in hills, 4-5 seeds per hill. Space hills 3-4 feet; thin seedlings to 2 per hill. Requires consistent watering for good fruit set. Black plastic mulch speeds growth. Seeds will rot in cold, wet ground.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 5.8-6.8, full sun.

Suggested Varieties:?Squash: Yellow Crookneck, Sunburst, Butterstick. Zucchini: Gold Rush, Spacemiser.

 

Winter Squash

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2-1 inch deep in hills, 4-5 seeds per hill, May 15-June 15. Space hills 4-6 feet; thin seedlings to 2 per hill.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 5.8-6.8, full sun.

Suggested Varieties: Gold Nugget, Acorn, Zenith Butternut, Waltham Butternut, Spaghetti.

 

Swiss Chard

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/2-1 inch deep, 2-6 inches apart, April-July. Thin to 6-12 inches. Harvest leaves throughout the season to encourage new growth.

Soil/Sun: Loose, fertile, well-drained soil, pH 6.0-7.0. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Rhubarb, Fordhook Giant, Bright Lights.

 

Tomatoes

Cultivation: Plant transplants May-June. Space determinate varieties 18-24 inches; space indeterminate varieties 20-30 inches. Place transplants with the lower leaf set just above soil level. Tomatoes should be staked or supported by a trellis.

Soil/Sun: Fertile, well-drained soil with full sun. Clays and loams produce higher yields, but loose soil warms faster and provides an earlier harvest. Prefers pH 6.0-6.8 but will tolerate acidic soils.

Suggested Varieties: Early: Oregon Spring, Willamette VF, Medford, Big Beef, Early Cascade. Sauce: Oregon Star, Principe Borghese. Cherry: Gold Nugget, Sun Gold, Isis Candy.

 

Turnips

Cultivation: Sow seeds 1/4-1/2 inch deep, 1 inch apart, April-September. Thin to 4-6 inches. Flavor best if harvested during cool weather.

Soil/Sun: Fertile, loose, well-drained soil, pH 6.0-7.5. Full sun to partial shade.

Suggested Varieties: Purple Top White Globe, Scarlet Ball, Shogoin (greens).

 

 

ORNAMENTAL GARDENING GUIDE

 

March

Plant trees and shrubs.

Prepare new areas for planting.

Divide and plant perennials.

Pull weeds before they flower and set seed.

Fertilize just about everything unless you did it in February.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs as blossoms fade.

Protect new growth of bulbs and perennials from slugs.

 

April

Start new lawns.

Watch for local plant sales.

Plant perennials, gladiolus and hardy annuals.

Feed bulbs while they are green and growing.

Continue pruning spring-flowering shrubs.

Shear ivy and heather. Cut old leaves off sword ferns.

Trim lavender and sage after new growth begins.

Check irrigation systems.

 

May

Plant dahlias and other tender bulbs.

Plant perennials, annuals and container plants.

Remove dead flowers from young rhodies.

Water rhododendrons and bulbs liberally.

Start aphid control—flush with water, spray insecticidal soap.

Control slugs.

Weed and mulch between plants.

 

June

Begin regular feeding of container plants.

Prune rhododendrons and azaleas.

Control aphids with water and insecticidal soap.

Watch for cutworms and hand-pick!

Stake summer-blooming perennials.

Cut back those that have bloomed.

Continue mulching.

 

July

Watering lawns is not essential but it helps discourage weeds.

Prune broad-leafed evergreens.

Watch for cutworms. Hand-pick or use BT.

Shorten new growth on espaliered apples and pears.

Deadhead early perennials.

Stake tall perennials before they flop.

Replenish mulches to hold moisture.

 

August

Water annuals liberally, in flower beds or pots.

Dead-head perennials, roses.

Remove diseased leaves from roses, rose beds.

Groom and feed container plants regularly.

Replant tired containers.

Order spring-flowering bulbs.

Remember to moisten compost piles.

 

 

VEGETABLE PLANTING GUIDE

May

After May 15 (frost free date for our area) you can sow squash and beans and plant out seedlings of tomato and pepper (protect from 40 degree nights! Cool temps can stunt plants).

Hold off on planting basil till June 1!

There's still time to plant onion and shallot sets.

You can still sow peas and parsley through May.

Water garden if rainfall drops below an inch a week.

 

June

Continue sowing squash and beans.

Plant carrots (seed) and celery (transplants).

Plant basil and other annual herb starts.

Apply organic mulches while ground is moist.

 

July

Net blueberries if you want fruit!

Prepare soil freed up by early vegetable crops;

you can still sow lettuce, carrots, beans and chard.

Plant broccoli and Brussels sprouts for fall harvest.

 

August

Sow lettuce, mustard greens, turnips and spinach.

 

 

 

UPCOMING PLANT SALES

FOOD for Lane County Plant Sale:

10 am to 5 pm Saturday, April 5 at Grassroots Garden, 1465 Coburg Road, Eugene. Vegetable starts from FFLC greenhouses and a wide range of donated plants.

Master Gardeners Plant Sale:

9 am to 2 pm Saturday, April 26 at the Extension Service, 950 W. 13th Ave., Eugene. Vegetable starts, herbs, annuals, all sorts of edible and ornamental plants.