Garden Plots: Spring Garden Topics | News

Oregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County

505 Columbia River Highway N.

St. Helens, OR 97051


He got wet. This is the first time in a number of years that we have exceeded our ‘wet year’ average. Gardeners are discovering seeps and springs where they have never been seen before.

The new wetlands could be a natural process since water mysteriously moves underground. But you should also consider if anything has been done to affect the drainage patterns. Are the gutters carrying water to an appropriate drain? A drainage ditch no longer works as well as it once did? Is there a septic tank and/or field problem? Has a new house been built above you and has it changed drainage patterns on a larger scale?

Drainage issues can be complicated to assess and resolve, but now is a good time to take notes and start considering solutions if they are needed. There are plants that thrive in low areas. Some native “seep-tolerant” plants include all lesser willows, red osier dogwood, and western redcedar. Many of these plants are for sale at the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council Native Plant Sale listed below.

Migratory hummingbirds are back. There are a few plants in bloom for them, but we’re behind normal bloom times this year, so a little hummingbird nectar would help them through any cold spells. The formula for a liter of nectar is three cups of water and ¾ cup of white sugar. I microwave the water just below boiling, then I add the sugar and stir to dissolve. It should be cooled before use and refrigerated between uses. Also, clean feeders often.

Consider painting the trunks of newly planted trees white. When buying a tree, we consider where it is best suited based on its ultimate size, shade tolerance and the soils it prefers. Next, we strive to develop a good planting hole (much wider than it is deep) to encourage rapid root development. But one thing that’s easy to forget is that young trees are very susceptible to sunburn (winter) or sunburn (summer). Their bark at this stage is thin and vulnerable.

In summer, direct sun on the southwest side of the tree in the late afternoon of a very hot day can “bake” the cambial tissue under the bark. We will see the results of last year’s late June heat bomb this year as young trees crack along the exposed side in the afternoon. A similar event can occur in winter on very cold, clear days when there is snow and the sun reflects off the snow and bark in the late afternoon. The heat brings tissues out of their dormancy, which are then damaged when temperatures drop rapidly at sunset. The classic symptom of scald and sunburn is split bark on the south/southwest side.

The best way to avoid this problem is to coat the trunk with white latex paint. It will redirect both winter sun reflected from snow and direct summer sun. The paint will last for several years or more and can be reapplied.

On Saturday, April 2, The Bee Group will host a full day of bee classes from 9 a.m. to noon inside the St. Helens Extension Office and in the afternoon with bee hives. The cost is $50, which will also get you a one-year membership in the group. Sign up at

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, there will be a free zoom event with Paul Stromberg, President of Portland Metro Beekeepers. He will talk about rearing queens for backyard beekeepers and as secondary commercial beekeepers. To get the Zoom link, email

Scappoose Bay Watershed Council Native Plant Sale April 9

Join the Watershed Council for their Spring Native Plant Sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 9 at the SBWC Nursery, located behind Scappoose High School. Look for signs – go east on SE High School Way and turn into the parking lot between the high school and the school ball diamond. This is their semi-annual event to get you ready for spring and summer planting. They have lots of new plants at great prices – all native to our area. Staff and volunteers are available to help choose plants, suggest gardening ideas, and provide information on establishing and maintaining native vegetation. For more information, see

Columbia County Home and Garden Show

The Columbia County Home and Garden Show presented by The Chronicle and sponsored by InRoads Credit Union returns April 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Columbia County Fairgrounds, 58892 Saulser Road in St. Helens. There will be guest speakers, vendors and plenty of displays. To learn more, visit

Columbia County Master Gardeners Spring Fair

This event will also return after two years. It will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. There will be 3,000 tomato plants, peppers, and garden-related items from other sellers. It will be at the Columbia County Fairgrounds as St. Helens High School is undergoing major renovations.

Many extension publications available online

Making salsa, saving seeds or planning to plant kiwis? OSU has many of its publications available for free download. Just go to Click on publications and start exploring.

• The OSU Extension Office is fully open.

• Donate products and/or money to food banks, senior centers or community meal programs. It’s very appreciated.

• The extension service offers its programs and materials equally to all.

If you have any questions about any of these topics or other garden and/or farm questions, please contact Chip Bubl, Oregon State University St. Helens Extension Office at 503-397- 3462 or The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Oregon State University Extension Office in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and agricultural subjects (called County Living) written/edited by yours truly. Just ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Dial 503-397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at and click on newsletters.

Oregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County

505 Columbia River Highway N.