Challenges face gardeners on the High Desert

Expert offers tips and tricks for beginners

Tips and Tricks to Garden in Central Oregon

BEND, Ore. - With warmer temperatures hitting the High Desert, many of you are tending to your garden. Local greenhouses and garden stores have been filled with people hoping to plant the perfect garden.

"We garden with a different set of rules in Central Oregon," said Doug Stott, owner of the Redmond Greenhouse.

Stott has been digging in the dirt and making things grow for decades. He says he says he loves gardening -- and loves people.

"So many young people are bringing their children in, introducing them to gardening, and so it's really a lot of fun," Stott said recently.

A few tips he suggests: Start with really good soil, don't over-water your plants, and don't get in a hurry when planting.

"Don't plant the whole thing all at one time," Stott said. "Just because you have a package of seed doesn't mean you have to sow the whole package."

Stott suggests planting part of the package now, then wait a week and plant the rest.

Elevation also plays a role and slows our already short growing season.

"Even if the seed packet says 60 days to maturity, you need to add a couple weeks onto that date," said Amy Jo Detweiler, associate professor of agriculture at OSU. "It's really going to take 70 to 80 days in Central Oregon."

One of the biggest challenges for gardeners in Central Oregon: growing tomatoes. Experts say not to worry, because it can be done.

"On a summer day, you go out there with a salt shaker -- a little on an heirloom tomato, you can just imagine," Stott said. "I just painted the picture, it's just amazing -- mission accomplished."

But growing that perfect tomato can be challenging. The High Desert sees its fair share of below-freezing nights.

Detweiler says there are several products out there to help. She suggests row cover or plastic pillars that fill with water and surround the plant and use the sun to help plants grow.

"Once it's up in place, the water's going to absorb heat in the day and then emit it back to the plant, keeping it protected from the frost," Detweiler said. "It's kind of like a miniature greenhouse."

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