For additional information on the 2019 crops go to https://ngb.org

The National Garden Bureau, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit organization developed during the World War I era to encourage backyard food growing. During the World War II era, it continued to encourage and support backyard food production with the promotion of Victory Gardens. Each year the bureau selects one annual, one perennial, one bulb and one edible as its “Year of the” selections.

“The plants are chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse and versatile,” according to the garden bureau.

Reading through the selections might give you some ideas for selecting plants you haven’t tried previously. Here are the picks for 2019:

Snapdragon

The snapdragon was chosen for its multiple uses in the garden. The plants are aromatic, plus they attract pollinators.

According to the bureau fact sheet, the genus name antirrhinum comes from the Greek words anti, meaning against, and rhin, meaning nose or snout, which describes the shape of the flowers. There are also varieties that have unique double and open flowers. Although treated as an annual because they aren’t considered hardy, they have overwintered in my rockery absorbing the warmth and protection. I have decided with the planting this year I am going to utilize an area that is more open and exposed to the weather to make a comparison.

The pollinators that are attracted to the flower include hummingbirds, bumble bees and other larger bees. The flower is not the best honey bee attractor because the flowers are a little heavy for the bees to access.

With fingers crossed for the coming season, I can report that in the past the deer have not been interested in munching. That is supported by the NGB’s fact sheet, which also states that rabbits aren’t interested in the plantings.

Snapdragons can be purchased as plants from your favorite garden center or you could start the seeds indoors. Start the seeds using a seed starting mix 6 to 8 weeks prior to planting outside, which is usually the first week of June (weather permitting). The seeds require light to germinate. Do not cover the seeds with the seeding mix. Germination time is usually 10 to 15 days.

Salvia nemorosa

Salvias are a perennial in the mint family Lamiacea and are cousins to Nepeta (catmint) and Monarda (beebalm). Although there are more than 1,000 species found from topical forests to high desert, only a few hundred are hardy. The hardier salvias originated from plants found in the wooded elevations of Eurasia. Hardy Salvia nemorosa are considered to be care-free. They are a favorite of bees and hummingbirds. Being a member of the mint family, its foliage is not preferred on the dining table of deer and rabbits.

Salvia flowers grow best when planted where they will receive a half day of direct sun. Salvia prefers soils rich in organic matter so you might think about adding some compost as you plant. Salvia plants are fertilized when they emerge from dormancy in the spring and again in early summer.

Dahlia

I have always held dahlia growers in the highest esteem. It goes back to my childhood and one of the assumptions I had, which was that only the rich ladies grew dahlias. These ladies won the blue ribbons at the annual flower show. They did not weed the garden, plant the corn or shuck the peas.

In reading the fact sheet, I couldn’t help but chuckle with an added “if you (ladies) only knew” thought. Ironically, in Spain and parts of Europe, initial breeders of dahlias were more interested in the dahlia as a food source as the blooms weren’t considered that noteworthy.

The native dahlia was found in the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala and was referred to as the tree dahlia. The hollow stems of these plants, some growing to over 20 feet, were often used for hauling water or as an actual source of water to traveling hunters. The dahlia is the national flower of Mexico. It is also the official flower of Seattle and San Francisco. Swan Island Dahlias in Canby is the largest and leading dahlia grower in the U.S. Late in August, Swan Island hosts a dahlia festival. Details can be found on its website.

The dahlia tuber resembles a sweet potato. It is planted with the eye up about the same time as you would plant tomato plants. Most dahlias need to be staked. The best practice is placing the stake prior to planting to avoid damage to roots or the tuber. A class on dahlia culture will be offered at the Oregon State University’s spring seminar on April 1.

Pumpkin

Central Oregon gardeners, do not raise your eyebrows. Yes, it is possible to grow pumpkins. Pumpkins originated in Central America where Native Americans would both roast and consume strips of pumpkin flesh, or dry the skins and weave them into mats. That is one weaving technique I haven’t tried. Europeans arriving to the colonies prepared a dish believed to be a precursor of the pumpkin pie. They cut the top off the pumpkin, removed the seeds and filled the inside with milk, spices and honey before baking it over hot ashes.

Pumpkins are easy to grow and can be either direct seeded or started indoors 4 to 6 weeks before planting out. Germination time is usually seven to 10 days. Seeds are planted at a depth of 1-inch, and the best germination soil temperature is 70 degrees.

In 2018, 42 pounds of pepitas hybrid pumpkin were grown in the OSU Extension Demonstration Garden and donated to a local food pantry. Pepitas received an All-America Selection award for its culinary and decorative uses. Small sugar, also called New England pie, is known as being the best pie pumpkins. It has also been productive in Central Oregon.

— Reporter: douville@bendbroadband.com

22346535