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Green thumb itching? Oregon nurseries confirm a slow season start

Trees and shrubs are displayed in a nursery

Nurseries in the Willamette Valley say planting season is delayed this year because of the chilly start to spring.

Esther McEvoy owns Willamette Gardens in Corvallis, and specializes in native plants. She told KLCC it’s been a slow start to this year’s season. “So when I go to purchase and help fill in gaps in my inventory," she said, "in the last two weeks, I went and got items from two different nurseries: They are both saying, as I’m feeling, we’re about two to three weeks behind in growth, because of it not being warm enough.”

McEvoy said she’s had to tell customers not to come by, because the potted plants she carries haven’t greened up yet. She said while it should be fine to plant species that go dormant in the winter, like trees, other plants like perennials should wait until there’s no threat of frost.

She said native plants are usually okay, because they're adapted for cold winters, but she likes to make sure individual plants are thriving before putting them up for sale.

Erica Chernoh, Horticulture Faculty with OSU Extension in Lane County, agreed the season is a couple of weeks late, but said that can change quickly if the weather heats up.

She said the best way to judge whether to start planting a vegetable garden is to measure the soil temperature. Cool season crops need average temps to be over 50 degrees, and warmer crops need soil to be 65 to 70°.

Chernoh said to take measurements when the soil is at the coolest point of the day, around 9 am.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.