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Never too late to plant

Willamette Valley residents are spared from the harsher seasons of our northern neighbors, but even so, fall and winter are not normally associated with new plantings in Hillsboro or the surrounding Portland metro area.

The sowing of new plants, flowers and crops is generally associated with spring and summer, when the days lengthen and grow warmer. However, Pukhraj Deol, an urban and community horticulture instructor for the Oregon State University Extension in Washington County, said there are a number of hardy flora that are perfect for planting this time of year, and may even brighten up your garden through the gloomy winter months.

The sight of plump high-bush blueberries ripening on the stalk is irrevocably linked with summer in the minds of many Oregonians, so they might be surprised to learn October is one of the best times to plant them, according to Deol. Healthy 2-year-old bushes may also be planted from March to April, but it’s a good project to do earlier for locals who are experiencing the gardening itch this fall.

It’s recommended that plants be purchased from a reputable local nursery or garden store. If planting more than one blueberry bush, it’s better to group them in beds or rows rather than scattering them around your garden. Space individual plants 4 to 5 feet apart, and place the rows 8 to 10 feet apart.

Deol also advised that blueberries require acidic soil with relatively high organic matter content and good drainage. A soil pH between 4.5 and 5.5 is considered ideal for high-bush blueberries (do-it-yourself test kits at reasonable prices can be found online or at most any garden store).

“October and November is also a good time to plant garlic, which will be ready for harvest by next summer,” Deol said.

For those more interested in color and aroma than sweet or savory nibbles, Deol said fall is a good time to plant attractive trees and shrubs that can help ward off the seasonal gloom. The lingering warmth in the soil from long summer days, and the onset of seasonal rain, make for an ideal mix of conditions for newly sown woody plants.

Dogwood and Mahonia shrubs are colorful, hardy plants to consider. Dogwoods boast a wide variety (there are between 30-60 species), a number of which can add blazes of color to yards or garden spots even in the fall or depths of winter, with their fall foliage and striking red or yellow stems.

The evergreen Mahonia shrubs, which include Oregon’s state flower, the Oregon grape, thrive in western Oregon and its flowering varieties bloom in March or early April.

Several plant genera native to Asia may also be worthy of considering. Camellias — a sturdy, broad-leafed evergreen shrub — has hundreds of varieties, some of which bloom fall through winter. Gingkos, a tough plant that is considered a “living fossil” by botanists due to its long history on Earth, can add a unique touch, and bird-lovers may enjoy the Himalayan honeysuckle or pheasantberry, which grows dark berries in October and November that are sure to attract avian visitors to your neck of the woods.

Finally, for green-thumbed residents who already miss the sight of flowers swaying outside their window, fall is the perfect time to plant bulbs in the hope of an early spring. Daffodils are known for being among the earliest-blooming flowers; their delicate and colorful blossoms appear as early as February.

For more information and project ideas, visit: extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening.



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