2014 National Pesticide Forum April 11-12

2014 National Pesticide Forum Coming to Portland
Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators & Practices

The 32nd National Pesticide Forum, will be held April 11-12, 2014 at the University Place Hotel and Conference Center at Portland State University.

Register now for this incredible conference! Sustainable Overlook will be giving a neighborhood tour on Friday April 11 and Pesticide Free Overlook coordinator Mulysa Melco will be speaking at the Organic Land Management workshop on April 12.
Keynote presentations, workshops, and plenary panels will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficials; strengthening organic agriculture; improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice; and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. By working with a range environmental, health, consumer, and farm organizations, we expect to bring together a diverse crowd in order to share our efforts to build local, state and national strategies for strength, growth and health—in line with our conference theme, Advancing Sustainable Communities.For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.In addition to the program, people, science, sharing and strategizing, you won’t want to miss the food! Organic food and beverages will be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, and we will have organic hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine for receptions on Friday and Saturday night.Click here for the speaker lineup

Register online today or call 202-543-5450 to register by phone.

We encourage you to register in advance to ensure your space and food, but walk-ins are welcome as long as space is available.

This Forum is being convened by NCAP and

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Tomatoes 2014

The snow days were a nice time for spring garden planning and I’ve got my list of tomatoes ready! These varieties will be available in limited quantities by advance order – email me or leave a comment by April 15th to reserve yours for pick-up 0r delivery in the Portland area. Sturdy starts in 4″ pots are  lovingly and organically grown in my homemade compost. $2.75 each.

‘Sun Gold’ – 65 days – Hybrid – Sweet gold cherry type – the best! Grow in the ground or in a large pot. Productive. Great for snacking right off the vine.

Amana Orange’ – 70-90 days – Amish Heirloom. A meaty, orange, beefsteak-type. One plant produced about a dozen enormous, dense-fleshed, dark-yellow fruits last year.

Japanese Black Trifele’ – 80 days – Large, pear-shaped black fruits with green shoulders. Potato leaf plant. Actually from Russia apparently. Very pretty and great flavor.

‘Glacier’ – 50 days – Considered an extra-early variety with small (2 1/2″) red-orange fruit with a slightly pointed end. It’s supposed to be sweet and have great flavor for an early variety. Determinate habit but said to produce for a long time. Good in containers. I wasn’t impressed by the productivity of this one last year but I am giving it another try.

‘Italian Red Cherry’ – about 60 days — Heirloom. A very productive, early cherry-type on a small determinate vine. This is an unusual cherry tomato because it’s open-pollinated and compact. I think of it as a mini-paste tomato: rich flavor, dense texture, great for drying.

‘Chocolate Cherry’ – 70 days – Large, dark cherry type with great flavor. Very productive. Mix these with red and orange cherry tomatoes for a rainbow salad!

‘Green Zebra’ – 75 days – I just love these tangy, pretty fruits. Medium size with green and yellow stripes. You’ll know they are ripe when the background color turns warm gold, the flesh gives slightly when squeezed and they come off the vine easily.

‘Isis Candy’ – 75 days – A sweet cherry tomato, red with orange blotches. My friend Hannah introduced it to me in Minnesota and it always reminds me of the year her mom grew hundreds of tomatoes in colorful plastic cups for our farmer’s market stand.

*‘Cherokee Purple’ – 80 days – Heirloom. Large, beefsteak-type. Dark burgundy fruit with green shoulders and amazing, rich flavor.

‘Oregon Slicer’ – 52-85 days – An early red slicing tomato that does fine in cool springs and wet weather. Prolific, with classic tomato flavor. Uniform size for canning.

‘Principe Borghese’ – 80 days (or less)– Heirloom. Small, dense fruits (2″) are excellent for drying and store well. Very productive with long trusses of fruits. Determinate. From Tuscany.

*‘Pineapple’ – 90 days –Heirloom. Large, yellow with red streaks. Fruits up to 1 pound each.

‘Sweet 100’ – 70 days – Hybrid. Classic red cherry with great flavor. Very productive.

Note that seed from the ‘heirloom’ and ‘open pollinated’ varieties can be saved for future crops. The hybrid types, on the other hand, won’t come true from seed.

*New to me this year so the description is based on catalogs and word-of-mouth. The others I can vouch for!





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Build Habitat in Your Own Backyard

Here’s an article I wrote for the spring issue of Overlook Views, my neighborhood newsletter. Nikkie West of the Audubon Society of Portland contributed.

Every yard matters. What is yours doing for urban wildlife? With spring planting season just around the corner, now is a great time to think about incorporating native species into your landscape and to learn about supporting birds, butterflies and bees as a way to make your home more sustainable.

There are great organizations in Portland working to protect natural areas and set aside green space. Residential areas, however, constitute an average of 40% of urban land. Therefore, the efforts of individual homeowners and renters to help connect these fragments of habitat are incredibly valuable. Our region has historically been immensely biodiverse. We live at the confluence of two rivers and on the Pacific Flyway – a major bird migration route. Our many native bird, pollinator and wildlife species depend on locally native plants to survive.

One program that helps people restore habitat on their own property is the Backyard Habitat Certification Program, a partnership between the Audubon Society of Portland and Columbia Land Trust. The certification process begins with a home visit from a Habitat Technician to help identify invasive weed species and select native plants and other habitat enhancements that will compliment your yard and neighborhood. As a program participant, you’ll get this one-hour site assessment, a follow-up site report, discounted native plants as well as educational resources, coupons, encouragement, and recognition.

BHCP program co-manager Nikkie West, a resident of Overlook neighborhood, notes that a yard doesn’t need to have 100% native plants to be certified.  “Most people start with few to no native plants – and we work from there. For certification, only 5% of your yard needs to be naturescaped with natives. That leaves 95% for your dahlias, veggies, and other ornamental favorites.”

This past summer I signed up for the program myself. As a gardener, I wanted to incorporate more native plants, and as a sustainable landscape designer, I wanted to better help my clients who are asking for landscape that fit the BHCP criteria. I’ve gathered a lot of new information about creating urban habitat and the small steps I’ve taken in my yard have already been worthwhile.

Just adding a few dozen more natives, putting up some bird feeders and keeping our birdbath full of fresh water has brought new species to our small lot. My toddler watches the birds every morning and we’ve been delighted to spot flocks of adorable bushtits, bright Townsend’s warblers, and overwintering Anna’s hummingbirds.

Research by Audubon and PSU is showing that community-based restoration efforts are indeed having a positive effect on the native food-web: “yards having native plant habitat, especially those which are close to naturally maintained greenspaces, have higher species richness of flying insects, moths and birds compared to yards without native plant habitats.”

It’s exciting stuff and you can be part of it. Habitat can be a component of any style of landscape, from rather wild to well-groomed. If you’ve already gone pesticide-free in your yard, or are on your way, creating habitat by incorporating native plants is a great next step to making a sustainable home.

Join the momentum! There are currently over 1,900 Backyard Habitat Sites within the City of Portland and Lake Oswego. Help connect Backyard Habitats across the city.  Learn more and sign-up for the Backyard Habitat Certification Program today. 


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Ice is slowly melting..



The ice storm left a heavy coating on the seed heads of this Morning Light maiden grass and every other thing. It dripped off during the afternoon but more freezing rain is expected. I hope our urban canopy isn’t badly damaged. In my own yard the eucalyptus, bamboo and many shrubs are bowed low.

The birds were frantic as the storm started on Thursday and we’ve been bringing out seed a few times a day. The hummingbirds are hanging in there and we even spotted a new visitor today – a showy Varied Thrush. That brings our species count for the week up to 18.

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Building backyard, and front yard, habitats!

This winter I’ve been part of a wonderful series of workshops and meetings as part of the Audubon Society of Portland and the Columbia Land Trust’s Backyard Habitat Certification Program and am proud to be listed in their directory of landscape designers and installers. My next few posts will be about some habitat projects that I’ve worked on recently and the work underway in my own yard to improve its habitat value.

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Greece sounds wonderful right now..

Did you know Portland-based landscape artist Jeffery Bale is in Greece this winter, making things, making friends and seeing beauty wherever he goes? Read his inspiring posts on his blog.


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One of my gardening goals has been to provide more of our own protein and iron, so this year I tried growing lentils. I haven’t heard of anyone in Portland growing them but they like cool, wet weather so I wanted to give them a try. Plus they improve the soil by fixing nitrogen and providing good compost material.

I ordered the seeds from Bountiful Gardens and planted them in three locations with varying amounts of sun and irrigation. The 3 foot row that did best was watered the most often, 2-3 times per week during warm weather, and produced about a cup of lentils. They were a little fussy to thresh but perhaps there is an easier method than picking the lentils off the dried vines.

I saved seed to plant next year and the rest will be part of our Solstice feast in a few weeks.

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After the Garden Tour

Thanks to everyone who came on the tour and everyone who helped make it happen. It was a great success – beautiful weather, 150 tour goers and lots of great conversations.

After weeks of organizing and finishing landscaping projects, today we just relaxed in the garden and harvested a lot of veggies. (You don’t want to pick everything before people come over for a garden tour!).

The seasons are changing and today it rained a little bit. I love this time of the last summer that feels like a second spring. I’m excitedly planning for fall planting time and loving the cooler evenings. This fall we’ll be planting the beds around the house that have undergone lead remediation. They are heavily mulched and just waiting for plants. Time to plan some field trips to nurseries!

A page from the Tour Guide that describes our garden.

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Overlook Garden Tour 2013



Saturday, August 24

North Overlook 10 am – noon
South Overlook noon – 2 pm
The 2nd annual neighborhood garden tour will feature 8 gardens in a wide variety of styles. The theme of ‘Healthy Gardens’ is expressed in edible gardens, eco-lawns, outdoor living spaces, bee-friendly gardens and more. All the gardens featured are pesticide-free so it’s a great chance to explore some organic yards and learn natural gardening tips and be inspired. For details and the tour map visit www.sustainableoverlook.org closer to the day of the tour.



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Let Me Tell You About Emily’s Garden

I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon in my sister Emily’s garden with our mom and my little boy. Over the past 8 years Emily has transformed a bare double lot in Northern Wisconsin town into a productive edible garden and butterfly haven. Today we toured her rain gardens, debated rats vs. deer as worst garden pest (it was a draw, like comparing apples and oranges), watched monarch and white admiral butterflies flit around her bodacious milkweed patch and shared treats in the shade of apple trees and a clematis bower.

Emily gardens on very dense clay near Lake Superior. In fact her new pond is not lined – the soil just naturally holds the water. One of her biggest challenges has been working with this soil and the drainage issues it brings. Lots of compost and lightly mounded beds (in the shape of a labyrinth!) help her veggies thrive and a long rain garden helps rain water seep into the ground (and channels it away from the foundation of her house.)

Many of the plantings Emily has chosen are Midwest natives that can handle her zone 3 winters and provide habitat for local wildlife. I was really happy to see the compass plant I brought her for her wedding shower last year had doubled in size. Other prairie natives include wild bergamot, asters, purple coneflower, cup plant, black-eyed susan, yarrow and four species of milkweed.

Even with as much habitat as her garden provides, it feels people-friendly and relaxing. She has built a fire pit with local stone and there are vintage metal and wooden chairs on the eco-lawn. My toddler’s favorite place was the secret garden tucked between a wild plum and two cedars that held a black wrought iron bench, violets and a garden gnome. He also loved the narrow paths through the rain garden and the plank bridge, making multiple circuits until he fell in (he recovered quickly).

The season is very late here this year so the peas are just starting, the garlic is still in the ground and the tomatoes are just flowering. It’s easy to see though how abundant the harvest will be: loads of green grapes forming, bushels of herbs, apples that will soon need thinning, onions pushing out of the soil.

Next time I open a jar of grape jelly, pickled peppers or tomato jam made by Emily and her husband Bob I’ll think of this gorgeous afternoon in their haven.

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