Fall into Winter Tree and Shrub Care

Article first appeared in the Spokesman Review Voice, Spetember 30, 2010

I was in Deer Park and Sandpoint last weekend to give some talks. Getting the chance to visit with folks about community gardens and beneficial insects was a lot of fun, but seeing the beginnings of fall color was an added treat. In a few short weeks Northeast Washington will be a blaze of golds.

The trees in our own gardens can provide just the same blaze of color and now is a great time to add that color to the garden.

First though, take good car of your existing trees by making sure they go into winter in good shape. Before you shut down your sprinklers give everything in the garden a deep soaking. This will get water deep into the soil horizon and help the tree roots prepare for winter.

Hold any pruning until late winter and early spring when the trees are dormant. In the fall the trees go through a process that pulls food stores from the branches and leaves down to the roots. Pruning now would interrupt that process. Pruning now also open to freeze damage. Last October’s cold snap damaged a lot of trees. Loose, floppy shrubs with long upright branches that can bend under a snow load should be spiral wrapped with a biodegradable twine to help hold them together. Remove it in the spring. Don’t fertilize shrubs and trees now as they can’t use it effectively. Wait until late winter.

Need more color? There is still time to plant container-grown and balled and burlapped trees and shrubs. Some of the nurseries may still have plants available at good prices.

Taking the time to properly plant a tree will add years to the life of the plant. Dig a saucer-shaped hole three times the width of the root ball and deep enough to set the root flare be at the soil line. The root flare is the point where the trunk flares out to form the roots. Gently remove pots from containerized plants and place them in the hole. Rough up the root ball a bit and untangle any roots winding around the container. Place balled and burlapped trees in the hole and then remove all the twine and as much of the burlap as you can. Try not to break up the root ball as this will break fine roots. If the root flare isn’t visible, dig into the top of the root ball to find it.

Back fill the hole with native soil and level it at the root flare point. Have the hose running in the hole as you fill it. Gently tamp the soil around the roots. Create a two foot basin around the tree to catch water. Fill this up a couple of times with water and let it drain. Mulch the root area to within six inches of the trunk with three inches of compost, bark or shredded leaves and needles to help retain moisture. Unless you live in an area that gets hammered with winds, trees do not need to be staked.

Saving Vegetable Seeds

Welcome! Thanks for reading this week’s column in the Spokesman Review Voice.

The only vegetable seeds worth saving are heirloom or open pollinated varieities that will pass their traits to the next generation. Hybrid seed, which most garden seed is these days, can’t do that. Most seed packets don’t tell you what is a hybrid or not. Research is the only way to tell you.

Let the tomatoes ripen fullly. Scoop the insides into a jar and fill it with water and stir. Set the jar in a cool but convient spot for two to three days and stir the contents twice a day. The stuff will frement and dissolve the gelatonous coat on the seeds. The heavy and viable seeds will sink to the bottom. Pour off the junk and dry the seeds for a week or so on paper towels. package in paper envelopes and store in a cool dark place for the winter.

Let the cucumber ripen to a nice yellow and the seeds are hard. Scoop them out, wash and then dry on a papper towel for a week or so. package in paper envelopes.

Squash and pumpkins:
Warning, squash and pumkins are rather promiscuous so they will cross pollinate with squash and pumkins nearby. Let the squash or pumpkin fully ripen. Scoop the seeds out, wash, then dry on paper towels for a week or two. They are large seeds and will take longer. Package in paper envelopes.

Let the beans dry on the vine. Pick the pods and gently rub them to release the beans. Pack them in paper envelopes.

Let the heads droop after the flower fades. Cut the enitre head and store in a dry place away from birds and mice for several weeks. Gently rub the head to remove the seeds. Store in paper envelopes. Or you can just let the birds scatter them all over the garden for you. I haven’t planted sunflowers for about ten years.

Renovating a Lawn

First published in the Spokesman-Review, Aug 26, 2010

Early September is the perfect time to renovate a tired and worn lawn in our area. The soil is still warm from summer but the temperatures are cooling and fall rains aren’t far off.

The first step is to determine why the lawn went into decline. Was it caused by poor watering practices, landscaping that has grown to shade once sunny areas or heavy use that compacted the soil? Renovating it won’t help if you don’t fix the underlying problems first.

If you lawn is still covered with a reasonable (more than 50 percent) stand of grass, renovating is better than replacing. Start by pulling any weeds by hand to get them out of the way. Using herbicides now may harm new grass seed later. Aerate the entire lawn with a core aerator that can cut three-inch deep plugs. Crisscross the lawn at right angles so that the holes end up about two inches apart. Aerators can be rented or hired just be sure to clean the machine’s tubes well before using it to minimize the transmission of weeds and diseases from the last lawn it was used on. Avoid thatching your lawn as that can damage already stressed turf.

Once aeration is completed, rake the surface lightly to break up the plugs but don’t remove them. Level any rough areas and add a one-inch layer of good compost over the area. The compost will fill in the aerator holes and work into the soil. Apply a lawn starter fertilizer if needed and water the new seed bed well.

Now for the lawn seed. Traditionally, Kentucky bluegrass in a blend has been the lawn of choice for our area. However it needs full sun and a lot of water to stay looking good all season. A good alternative to bluegrass is a blend with a high percentage of fescue grasses such as red, hard, Chewings and fine fescue. Fescue grasses are more shade and drought tolerant than bluegrass and tend to grow more slowly. The fescues roots can grow a foot down which allows them to access deep moisture in the soil. Seed mixes containing fescues are often labeled as shade mixes at the garden store.

Apply the seed with a handheld or drop spreader set at the proper settings. Make two passes at right angels to each other using half the seed on each pass to get even coverage. Rake the seed lightly to bring it in contact with the soil. Apply palletized straw mulch to the seed bed to help keep moisture in. Finally roll the entire seed bed with a lawn roller to press the seed into the ground.

Water the area lightly twice a day into October or until good, steady rains come. Pull any weeds that come up but don’t use any herbicides. Don’t mow as the longer grass blades will help protect the lawn from winter damage. Try to keep the kids and pets off the lawn.

It was a Wacky Garden Year

The local casinos have nothing on Inland Northwest gardeners this year. Mother Nature starts the gardening year with the deck and she deals what she wants. We can only hope to draw a good hand with our experience and effort. Like gamblers though we are always looking for ways to get inside information on how to beat the system. So here are some observations about this year’s gardening season to file away for the next year. 

Last winter’s early cold snap just before the Big Dump took a toll on a lot of plants. Many of them hadn’t gone completely into dormancy and got nailed. Grafted roses were particularly hard hit. Those that survived took forever to bud out in the spring and seemed to grow more slowly through the summer.  

We were lucky the Christmas snows were for the most part very dry and didn’t weigh down tall trees and shrubs enough to break them. Unfortunately the snow was so deep we couldn’t get out to clear it off smaller shrubs and weeping trees. As the snow compacted into ice it tore branches off these small trees. Weeping Japanese maples were particularly hard hit and local arborists were busy much of the spring repairing damage to the trees that could be saved.  

In the vegetable garden, the spring started slowly because the ground was cold and the weather cooler than usual. In early July the nights were consistently below 55 degrees preventing many vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and squash from setting fruit. By the time the nights warmed up, we were into the two weeks of 90 plus degree days and it was actually too hot for them to set fruit. As a result, the plants dropped flowers or set on tiny fruits that just shriveled up. I saw a lot of zucchinis with shriveled yellow tips as proof of this. The pollinating insects were also less active when it is really hot.  

Another side affect of the heat was that it was difficult to keep vegetable plants evenly watered. As a result tomatoes suffered from blossom end rot and splitting and summer squash, zucchinis and cucumbers were misshapen because their growth was slowed during the dry spells. 

The heat was good for the corn crop though and many folks have said it’s been the best year in recent memory. 

Once the hot weather ended though and we cycled into cooler weather, powdery mildew started showing up. While it usually doesn’t kill plants, it covered the leaves of many plants like squash, perennials and maples with an unsightly white, spidery haze. Unfortunately, when it gets to this stage, it isn’t going away even with treatment.   

Now we are waiting for the first frosts. Some of the colder areas of the region got hit lightly over Labor Day. The rest of us aren’t far behind. While we are still picking tomatoes, squash and late corn, the day will come. So keep those green tomatoes recipes handy and remember the immortal words of Willie Nelson: “Know when to fold ‘em.”     

Donate Your Extra Produce to Local Food Banks

It was already hot at 10 in the morning. Outside the Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank a couple of dozen people were already lined up in the blazing sun waiting for the opening time. Barbara Bennet, the food bank’s director was handing out numbers and sending folks to the shade of the auditorium. “We had people fainting in the heat last week. Even still they don’t want to lose their place in line.”  

The good news is that while the line forms outside the Spokane Valley Food Bank, inside volunteers are busy unpacking the morning’s donations of fresh garden produce brought in by backyard gardeners. There’s zucchini, summer squash, dill, beans, the first tomatoes and cucumbers. Still, by the end of the day these donations and more will be gone and some folks may not get in on the bounty.  

The story is the same at all the food banks in

Spokane and the region right now. “We are seeing a ten to 30 percent increase in demand over last year,” says Melissa Cloninger, community relations manager for Second Harvest Inland Northwest.  

So here’s the deal. Our vegetable gardens are busting with ripe stuff, probably more than we can eat. We have neighbors who, through no fault of their own, are hungry and willing to stand in lines in the sun to get some food. So, take that extra produce to your nearest food bank. Get your neighbors, church and social groups to join you. Every pound donated is four servings of fresh food packed with vitamins and minerals.  

Donating is easy. Locate your closest food bank by going to the Second Harvest Inland Northwest’s website www.2-harvest.org and clicking on the Get Help tab. Check out what hours they are open and taking donations as most food banks are open only certain days of the week.  

Any type of vegetable or fruit in any amount is welcome but sturdy vegetables and fruits that are commonly available in the grocery store are the most popular. Fragile greens and herbs need to be delivered the day the neighborhood food bank is serving clients. Ask for a Plant a Row for the Hungry donation receipt that allows you to take a $1.50 a pound as a federal tax donation.  It’s that simple. You will be amazed at the smiles on peoples’ faces when you drop off the produce. As we get into the fall, don’t forget the squash, apples, pears and fall vegetables. Hunger doesn’t have a season. 

Help us add to the over 300,000 pounds local gardeners have donated in the last 9 years. That’s 1.2 million servings of fresh food that would have gone to the compost pile or worst, just left to rot.   

Plant a Row for the Hungry is sponsored locally by The Inland Empire Gardeners and nationally by the Garden Writers Association.



Aphids are on the Prowl

imgp9030.JPGOur cool spring has been perfect for the aphids this year. As a result they are showing up on all kinds of perennials, shrubs and trees. There are literally dozens of different kinds of aphids, many of which prey on particular plants.  They are generally about a sixteenth to an eighth-inch long in colors of green to brown, purple, red and black. Some are shiny while others have a waxy, cottony covering. All of them will have long thin legs, sucking mouth parts, long antenna, a pear-shaped body and a pair of tiny tubes that project from the bug’s posterior. They are most often found on the underside of the leaves where they tap directly into a plant vein to suck sap.  Aphids produce several generations a year. They overwinter as eggs on the trunks, branches and/or roots of host plants. The overwintering eggs hatch as females that can produce live young in less than 10 days. As the colony grows, winged aphids are produced and these fly to a new plant where they begin a new cycle.  Aphid damage rarely kills plants but they extensively distort foliage and create a sticky mess of honeydew that then drips onto anything under the tree. The honeydew draws ants that often tend the aphids to harvest the sweet solution. The honeydew also spawns a sooty, black mold that just adds to the mess. 

Controlling aphids is an exercise in persistence and patience. Plant varieties of plants that are resistant to aphids. This may take some experimentation and research. Use a hard stream of water to blast the bugs off plants you can easily reach. This interrupts their living patterns enough to slow them down.  Encourage predator insects that will seek out aphids for dinner. The aphid population will build to a certain level and then the lady beetles, lacewing larvae and hover fly larvae will move in and lay eggs or eat the aphids on the infested plants. Learn to recognize these bugs and watch for them on your plants. Insecticidal soaps applied as a spray attack the soft exposed tissues of the aphids killing by contact. Be sure to get the spray to the underside of the leaves where the aphids are hiding. A caution however; insecticidal soaps will also kill the predatory insects.    Systemic insecticides applied to the plant are picked up by the plant’s vascular system and transferred to the aphids when they suck the sap. The advantage of systemics is that they will protect the plant for a period of time.  Controlling aphids in large trees you can’t easily reach may be a job for a professional with the right equipment, systemic chemicals not available to the homeowner and timing. Because it takes about four months for a large tree to move the chemical to the top of the canopy, controls must be done in August or September and or very early in the spring. In other words, if the aphids are already in the trees, it’s probably too late to treat effectively.  

Dealing with Apple Maggots and Codling Moths

Its spring and the fruit trees are about to bloom. It’s time to start planning how to reduce the chance that you will have to share your apples with codling moths and apple maggots. As it finally warms up, apple trees will soon be blooming. With the blooms will come the battle with the apple maggot and coding moths to see who gets the fruit on the tree. A little planning and preparation will help you get more than they do.

Apple Maggots

Apple maggots are a fairly new but serious pest of apples in the Northwest. They were first detected in Portland in 1979 and have since spread to all the counties in Western Washington and Spokane, Kittitas, Klickitat and Yakima counties on the east side. Their presence in commercial orchards can have serious impact on an important element of the state’s economy. Because of this, homegrown fruit technically can’t be moved out of the area.

The maggots are a creamy white worm about a quarter of an inch long that tunnels through the flesh of the fruit. They are the larvae of the apple maggot fruit fly; a housefly-sized insect with a black body, large dark red eyes, a black and creamy-white abdomen with a distinctive white spot. The transparent wings are banded with black.

The adults emerge from the ground in late June and are active until October. They lay single eggs under the skin of the fruit and will lay about 300 eggs in a 30-day period. The eggs hatch in three to seven days and begin tunneling through the fruit. The fruit subsequently rots and falls from the tree. The larvae then burrow into the soil to pupate over the winter. Each fly has only one generation a year. The apple maggot is only open to control at the adult stage. Once the eggs are laid in the fruit, they and the larvae are out of reach of any control method.

The flies are detected by using yellow or red sticky traps baited with an attractant. The yellow traps are flat and resemble apple leaves while the red traps are round to mimic apples. They are hung at head height amongst the foliage and fruit so the flies can see them. Traps should be hung by early June using one for small trees and up to three for large trees. Once they are detected, a control program needs to be started immediately.

There are no biological or organic controls readily available to the home grower. Traps can be used to catch adults but they aren’t going to get them all. All fallen apples must to be picked up immediately to keep larvae from crawling from the apple into the soil. Damaged apples should be thrown in the trash and not composted. Seemingly undamaged fruit needs to be monitored as eggs continue to hatch. The best way to control the fly may be to just remove the tree completely if you aren’t using the fruit. For conventional home growers, Malathion needs to be applied at about 10-day intervals through the rest of the apple season.

A specially processed non-toxic kaolin clay (Surround at Home) can sprayed on the fruit and trees. The clay covers the tree with a white powder that camouflages them to the fly. It is easily washed off but does leave the tree looking a bit ghostly. It may be hard to find locally.

For more information and pictures of apple maggot contact the WSU Spokane County Master Gardeners at  509 477-2181 or go to: http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/eb1928/EB1928.pdf.

Codling Moths

Adult coding moths are about half to three quarters of an inch long with mottled gray wings tipped with coppery brown. They start appearing two to three weeks after the tree reaches full bloom. Each moth lays about 50 to 60 eggs on leaves, branches and fruit. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the tree for a short period before burrowing to the core of young fruit. The larvae are pinkish white with brown heads and leave a frass-filled hole on the outside of the fruit. The larvae feed for three weeks and then leave the fruit to pupate for two weeks. We can get several generations a year making control necessary throughout the fruit season. The larvae over winter in cocoons under loose bark or in debris on the ground.

Good control starts with cleanliness. Rake up all old fruit and leaves in the fall to remove hiding places and over wintering cocoons. Gently remove bark scales from trees to further reduce over wintering places.

Because the moths and larvae are only exposed to the open air for very short periods of time, any controls have to be timed to be on the tree before they enter the fruit or pupate. Pheromone traps hung in the trees are the most accurate way to tell if adult moths are present. The traps are sticky pieces of cardboard baited with the scent of the female moth. The male moths, thinking they have found their true love, get stuck on the trap. Once they start showing up, its time to get the rest of the control program underway. Traps are readily available at garden centers and should be hung fairly high in the tree near fruit areas.

Check the traps every couple of days for the presence of moths. Once they are present, begin a regular spray program every ten days. If no moths show up in the traps, you probably can skip spraying until they do. Malathion is the conventional spray for codling moth. A relatively new one is Spinosad, a new type of pesticide that is OMRI listed for use on organic production. It has to be ingested by the insect to be effective which makes it less likely to harm non-target predatory insects. A last method is the use of highly processed kaolin clay called Surround WP. This food grade clay is mixed with water and sprayed on the tree and fruit leaving a white, non-toxic coating. The tiny particles don’t kill the larvae but camouflage the fruit so it looks less like a meal and irritate the insects’ skin so they don’t hang around. This treatment may be hard to find locally. Always use and store pesticides according to the label directions.

Inviting Beneficial Insects into your Garden

This piece first appeared in the Winter 2009 Issue of Master Gardener Magazine; www.mastergardeneronline.com

Did the bugs do a number on your garden plants this past growing season? Did they chomp up the leaves of a special plant or suck the life out of your roses? Regardless they took some of the joy out of your garden.

In the days before environmentally friendly gardening became the norm, this would have meant getting out the chemicals and spraying the heck out of everything in the garden. The bad bugs usually died off but unfortunately so did all the rest of the good bugs.

We have grown wiser in the last couple of decades and have begun to recognize that the beneficial predator insects are allies in the effort to keep detrimental bugs in check. A garden full of predator insects means you have an unbeatable crew of garden clean-up artists who, for little more than food and shelter, are on the job 24/7 during the growing season.

All you have to do is learn what they need and adapt your gardening methods to help them thrive.

Who are Some of the Good Guys

Just what are beneficial predator insects? They are insects and their larvae who find that bugs like aphids, thrips, mealy bugs, spider mites, scale, and soil organisms including slugs make tasty snacks or are a good place to lay eggs. Often their activity is on such a small scale that you don’t know they are out there working. The lack of aphids or thrips in the garden doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It may mean that the predator insects got to them before they did major damage to your plants.

Lady beetles or bugs are small red-orange insects with black markings. The larvae are black with yellow markings and are found crawling on plants. The adults will fly short distances between plants. Both the adult and larvae stage will eat aphids, scale insects, spider mites and mealy bugs.

Lacewings are brown or green with lacey clear wings. They are found flying around plants. They and their larvae, known as aphid lions, prey on scale insects, mealy bugs, whiteflies, caterpillars, leafhoppers and thrips. Beetles such as solider, tiger, ground and rove inhabit leaves, flowers and seeds or spend their time on the ground foraging for soil organisms. Some fly while others run very quickly over the plants and ground. They generally eat slugs, snails, cutworms, root maggots and Colorado Potato beetles.

True bugs from the Hemiptera family including assassin, ambush, big-eyed, minute pirate, damsel and predacious stink bug are often found at various levels of vegetation and feed on a general list of other insects they encounter. Pirate bugs in particular go after thrips, mites, scale, aphids, and whiteflies.

Predacious hoverflies and parasitoid tachinid flies are both members of the Diptera family. Hoverfly adults mimic bees and wasps in appearance and manner but are smaller, fly more quickly and will hover around flowers. The larvae look like small maggots that prey on aphids and scale insects. The adults feed on insects they find feeding on flowers. Hoverflies are active early in the season before many other predators are out.

Tachinid flies can resemble house and blow flies and are found near flowers looking for hosts for their eggs. They lay eggs on worms, beetles, sawflies and other bugs. The larvae enter the host to feed before pupating outside the host, killing it in the process.

Wasps are an important group of predator insects and the group most likely to run into a conflict with humans. Thread-waist wasps, yellowjackets and hornets are all meat eaters that will eat a variety of insects they find in the garden. Adults will bring masticated insects back the young in their hives. Being opportunists, they often don’t see much difference between the bugs and the burgers or fish on the picnic table.

Parasitic wasps are tiny in comparison with larger wasps. They are found around flowers where they seek out cutworms, corn earworm, horn worms, gypsy moths, leafrollers, cockroach eggs and beetles to lay their eggs in.

Attracting Them to Your Garden

Encouraging predatory beneficial insects to take up residence in your garden involves creating a balance between the beneficial insects and the detrimental bugs and providing the right food, shelter and breeding environments.

One of the first things many gardeners have to do is change their mind set. Many of us see bugs on our plants or find damage and immediately think we have to get rid of the offenders. In the bad old days that meant grabbing the spray and nuking everything in sight. In this new environmentally friendly era, this means learning to live with a few detrimental insects to keep the beneficial insects around the garden. In agriculture this is often referred to as the economic threshold and represents the point at which the populations of detrimental bugs begin to make more of an impact on the crop than the farmer is willing to accept.

For the home gardener, this means determining what level of damage he or she is willing to tolerate before their enjoyment of the garden is reduced to an unacceptable level. This enjoyment threshold will be very different for every gardener. If the environment is favorable, the populations of beneficial predators and detrimental insects will ebb and flow. The detrimental insect populations will grow and a few weeks later the predator populations will expand to take advantage of the abundant food source. The detrimental insect population then shrinks and the cycle begins again.

Creating an Insectary for Beneficial Insects

Beneficial insects are no different than other wildlife in the garden. To survive they need a relatively undisturbed place in the garden with adequate food sources, access to water, shelter from the elements and their predators and places to lay eggs. While they eat other bugs, many predator insects also need pollen for protein and nectar for the carbohydrates provided by flowering plants. A group of such plants is called an insectary.

Insectaries are usually groupings of preferred plants such as blooming annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees where the insects can live undisturbed and venture to other parts of the garden to feed and mate. Research has shown that the most effective way to create the proper environment is to plant preferred plants in either blocks around the garden or in hedgerows along a property line or a lightly used part of the yard. These groupings or hedgerows then need to be maintained with the insects in mind.

Living with a few weeds may also help draw beneficial insects because some of them are a highly favored source of pollen and nectar. Dandelions are a good source of food early in the spring before some detrimental insects fully emerge. Plants in the insectary need to be of varying heights and densities to give insects a flexible habitat. Some insects live near the top of plants while others like ground beetles live near the soil and need the protection of dense cover. Others like lacewings lay their eggs in shady, protected areas in dense foliage.

The best flowers to plant for beneficial insects are those with small flowers in large clusters. Because many of the beneficial insects are small, a small flower is easy to get into to get pollen and nectar. The small insects can actually drown trying to get into large flowers. Flower clusters that are flat or composed of single petals also make good landing places and places to search out a mate.

There needs to be something blooming in the insectary from early spring to late in the fall. Because the beneficial insects are out as long as the detrimental insects are active, they need access to food sources throughout the season. Research has also shown that providing a variety of flowering plants not only sustains adult beneficial insects but also allows longer survival periods and higher breeding rates

While there are dozens of plants that the beneficial insects like, three families of plants in particular are very popular with the beneficial insects. In any case, it is important not to plant noxious weeds or other invasive species. Be sure to check your state’s noxious weed lists first.

The Apiaceae or carrot family (formerly the Umbelliferae) is comprised of more than 3,000 species of plants many of which are very familiar to us. The family includes common culinary favorites such as carrots, parsley, coriander, dill, fennel (invasive in western Washington), parsnips, cumin and garden plants such as sea holly, lovage, angelica and wild carrot. The Apiaceae is characterized by flat topped flowers held up on hollow stems. The flowers are a mass of smaller individual florets that the beneficial insects find very easy to get nectar and pollen from and are an easy place to land.

The Brassicaceae or mustard family (also known as the Cruciferae) is another large group of plants beneficial insects find attractive because of their small but abundant flowers. Culinary members of the family include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, turnip, rapeseed (canola), horseradish, Chinese cabbage and others. Herbaceous members of the family include bittercress, alyssums, tumble mustards and arabis. Vegetable gardeners wanting to encourage beneficial insects should let a few broccoli plants flower to attract them.

The third family is the Asteraceae which includes asters, sunflowers and daisies. Gardeners prize members of this family for their color and bloom periods that starts in mid summer and goes well into the fall; perfect for keeping beneficial insects around late in the season. The flowers are a composite flower made up of rays of ray-shaped petals around a center of tiny disk flowers.

If all your plantings work, you should be able to attract native populations of beneficial insects to your garden. Sometimes however, there aren’t enough around or you need a large quantity to go after a particular pest. Beneficial insects can be purchased from garden centers or online from several sources. Local garden centers are likely to have the most popular varieties while the online sources will have a broader selection. Remember the insects are alive and will need to be deposited in the garden immediately after delivery or purchase. Read the instructions carefully so that you put them in the right place in the garden.

The bugs will disperse around the garden on their own and a few will venture away from it. There is no way to keep them in one place especially if there isn’t enough food or if they are wanderers by nature. Lady bugs are notorious for this but they will set up shop somewhere close and be back when conditions are right.

Beneficial predator insects are a great ally in the garden especially when they are on the job 24/7. Adapting our gardens and our perspective is a small change to make to encourage them to establish themselves.

Flowers used by beneficial insects
Source: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.
All plants on this list will grow state-wide.

Early Season Blooming

  • Basket of gold (Aurinia saxatilis)
  • Rocky Mountain penstemon (Penstemon strictus
  • Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox)
  • Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia x hybrida) – look for native species Aquilegia formosa
  • Carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Midseason Blooming

  • Common yarrow (Achillea filipendulina ‘Coronation Gold’)
  • Dwarf alpine aster (Aster alpinus)
  • Spike speedwell (Veronica spicata)
  • Wine cups or poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)
  • Cilantro or coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Edging lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
  • Stonecrop (Sedum species)

Late blooming

  • Lavender globe lily (Allium tanguticum)
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens)
  • Dyers chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria)
  • Sea lavender (Limonium gerberi)
  • Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)


Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/04-26/beneficial-insect-natural-pest-control-article.htm

Plants for Pollinators in Oregon

A Pocket Guide to Common Pests of Crops and Gardens in the Pacific Northwest

Washington State Noxious Weed List – 2008

USDA Plants Database – Good source of natives of some of the plants listed in Plants List.

Sources of Beneficial Insects

P.O. Box 8910
Tucson, AZ 85738-0910

P.O. Box 87
Mathis, TX 78368

Gardens Alive!
5100 Schenley Place
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025

M & R Durango
P.O. Box 886
Bayfield, CO 81122

Natural Controls
8864 Little Creek Dr
Orangevale, CA 95662

Nature’s Control
P.O. Box 35
Medford, OR 97501

Rincon-Vitova Insectaries
P.O. Box 1555
Ventura, CA 93002

Spring? What Spring.

Geez, Today is April 1 but Mother Nature is still playing winter tricks on us. Monday Spokane broke the all time record for snow set back in the winter of 1949-50 by a tenth of an inch – 93.6 inches. All but 12 of those came in the December and early January dump. And we aren’t done yet. The forecast is for 1 to 3 inches tonight.

Most of the piles of snow are gone save for those where we plowed out the driveway. The new snowblower we bought didn’t arrive until after the Big Dump so it is still unused. I’ve started cleaning out beds and getting piles ready for the shredder.

I have decided to take a different approach to spring clean-up. Instead of pulling all the dead stuff off the beds and moving it to a compost pile I am going to basically break up the piles of leaves, dead plant stalks and then throw them back onto the beds. The pine needles in the backyard will be shredded with the lawn mower and then used as fill in mulch in nearby beds.

What this does besides saving me a lot of work is leave a nice mulch on the beds for nutrients and water conservation in the summer. It takes me about a  fourth the time to do clean-up.

I am going to spend time creating a good vegetable garden. Even there I’ll practice some labor saving by covering the entire garden with 2-3 inches of mulch bnefore I plant. I will then clear space for rows and plant. The only open ground will be the area right around the seed rows or plants so the weeds never get a chance to start and those that do are easy to pull.   I am going to use a piece of cattle panel in a row to run all the climbs crops up starting with peas and ending with tomatoes.  I have to move the red currant bush to a new spot to make room for some raised beds and My Spokane lilac is now big enough to go in the garden. Hope it blooms this year.

I’ve started peppers in the basement and will start tomatoes, celery and a few other things this weekend. I’ve never tried celery so this will be an experiment.

A friend helped prune the fruit trees a couple of weeks ago so they are ready to go. We pruned the gravenstein apple very hard but this is its off year for blooming so there wasn’t going to be any fruit anyway.

I won’t have to fertilize the backyard at all, just rearrange the deer poop an little and its done. I found some piles of moose poop around and may shovel them into the beds. One of our neighbor’s woke up this winter to the moose looking in her window.

That is when it really thaws out



Some Really Good Seed Catalogs

January 27, 2009

Here is a collection of some of my favorite garden seed catalogs. Some from local Northwest sources and a few from around the country that understand short season growing or offer unusual selections.

Northwest based companies

Ed Hume Seeds
Organic and conventional seed company located in Puyallup, WA that specializes in seeds for cool and short season areas. Ed Hume is the most widely respected gardening authority in the Northwest. Order seeds online or look for them at local garden centers. Fred Meyer carries them.

Territorial Seed Company
Located near Cottage Grove, OR, Territorial Seed has seeds, plants, garlic and other growing supplies. They provide conventional and organic seed that they produce themselves. This means there are lots of hard to find varieties in their catalog. They were charter signers of the Safe Seed Pledge that states they do not knowingly grow or purchase genetically modified seed.
PO Box 156
Cottage Grove, OR 97424

Nichols Garden Nursery
Located in Albany, OR, this family run nursery has been in business for 60 years. They specialize in herbs, vegetables, cover crops, cheese making supplies, essential oils and herb teas.
1190 Old Salem Rd NE
Albany, OR 97321-4580

Raintree Nursery
Located in Morton, WA between Vancouver and Centralia. Want to grow fruit in your garden? How about unusual berries and tree fruit? This is the place to go. They specialize in fruit from around the world that will do well in the Northwest. Have rootstock for some tree fruits and will do custom grafting if you take you scion wood to the nursery.
391 Butts Rd
Morton, WA 98356
360-496-6400 Fax 888-770-8358

Other Really Good Seed Catalogs

Seeds of Change
The premier certified organic seed company in the US. Specializes in vegetable, herb and flower seed and tools for low impact, sustainable gardening.

Pinetree Garden Seed
This catalog is a sleeper. It’s full of uncommon varieties of well known vegetables plus a great range of Italian, Middle Eastern and Asian vegetables; vegetables for containers, flowers and some fruits. It has a great section on gardening, cook and garden craft books and ends with a selection on gardening supplies and tools. Many of the items in this section I have not seen in other catalogs.
PO Box 300
Gloucester, ME 04260
Fax 888-52 seeds

Bear Creek Heirloom Seed
If you want heirloom, open pollinated seed, this is a great source. They offer only non-hybrid, non-GMO, untreated and non-patented seed. As a result there are many unusual and uncommon seed varieties. They also are a great link into the old time farming practices and lifestyle and host websites on seed history, a gardening forum and a magazine.
2278 Baker Creek Road
Mansfield, MO 65704

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
This is one of the best catalogs for market gardeners. It not only has a great selection of conventional and organic vegetable and flower varieties but lots of really good information on crop yields, detailed growing information and other information that takes the guesswork out of growing a garden or a commercial crop.
955 Benton Ave., Winslow ME 04901

Veseys Seeds
Another good solid seed source for gardeners in northern climates. Has good range of varieties and some interesting collections that have several varieties of vegetables in them.
PO Box 9000
Calais, ME 04619

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seed
If you love to cook what you grow, check this catalog out. It carries a small but very unique selection of uncommon vegetable, herb and flower varieties from around the world including Italian and Asian varieties.
23 Tulip Drive
Bantam, CT 06750

For you organic gardeners there is a really good list of organic supplies at Chrys Ostrander’s website  www.thefutureisorganic.net. Chrys is the leading organic grower in the Inland Northwest and a fountain of information.