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THE YEAR OF THE PULSES (DRY BEANS)

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written January 31, 2016

I bet most of you do not know that the United Nations General Assembly has declared this year as the International Year of Pulses. What are pulses? Pulses are grain legumes and include dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils.

Legumes are important crops around the world because they are part of a nutritious human diet, providing protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Also, 25% of the pulses grown in the world are used for feeding livestock. The UN is recognizing pulses in 2016 not only for the nutrition they provide humans and livestock, but also because they are very sustainable crops. It only takes 43 gallons of water to grow one pound of pulses and they fix nitrogen, enriching the soils in which they are grown.

One way to observe the Year of the Pulses is to add more dry beans, chickpeas and lentils to your diet. It is certainly a healthy way to celebrate considering that dry beans can help lower cholesterol and aid in the prevention of diabetes and heart disease when they are regular part of your diet.

Another way take part in this special year of recognition is by growing some dry beans in your garden. Dry beans are an easy crop to grow. The most difficult part may be deciding what varieties to plant. There are hundreds available with a rich diversity of different types including the better known black, kidney, pink, red kidney, small white navy, and pinto beans to the lesser known cranberry, soldier, yellow eye, Jacob’s cattle markings, purplish, flageolet, and more.

Check out seed catalogs from companies that offer a wide selection of dry bean seed, including heirloom varieties that are a continuing trend in food gardening. It is a treat just to see the pretty pictures of the dry beans. One catalog you should peruse comes from the Vermont Bean Seed Company at www.vermontbean.com. As their name implies, they specialize in beans and in their catalog they offer information on what type of cooking is best for each type of bean. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com) and Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org) also offer a selection of dry bean varieties.

If you are wondering how difficult it is do grow dry beans, do not worry. If you can grow green beans, you can grow dry beans. Like green beans, there are bush type dry beans that stay more compact and pole types that will need some kind of support such as poles or a trellis. Also like green beans, they are a warm season crop. Wait to plant dry beans until after the danger of frost is past, the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees F, and the average air temperature is above 50 F degrees.

One big difference in growing dry beans is the need to innoculate the seed with a soil bacterium that works with the bean plants’ roots to capture nitrogen from the air and “fix” it so it can be used for plant growth. Because you can not tell if your soil already has this natural bacterium present, experts recommend mixing your dry bean seed with Rhizobium leguminosarum, the specific innoculate needed for beans. You can obtain this innoculate from Vermont Bean Seed Company, other seed companies, or your local farm store or specialty nursery. Just make sure it contains the specific innoculate needed for beans.
Want to learn more about growing dry beans? Check out the WSU Extension Fact Sheet 135E “Growing Dry Beans in Home Gardens” available at http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS135E/FS135E.pdf. Enjoy the Year of the Pulses!

Sidebar: Our own state already does its part in celebrating pulses by growing 115,000 acres of pulse crops, ranking seventh in the nation in pulse production. Plus, 43% of the lentils grown in the US are grown in Washington, making our state number one in US lentil production!

FINDING UNUSUAL FRUIT

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written January 17, 2016

Fruit trees are a lot of work because of the pruning and spraying needed to keep the trees healthy and productive. The only reason to grow fruit trees in your backyard is because you want the tasty fruit of a variety you can not get in the grocery store or at your local farmers market.

If you are willing to take on the large responsibility of growing a fruit tree, check out mail-order nurseries that offer you something different than you can find at big box stores. One of these nurseries is Raintree Nursery, located three hours away from us in Morton, Washington. You can view their offerings at raintreenursery.com or ask them to send you a catalog. Even if you are not interested in growing fruit trees, check them out to see the interesting variety of garden edibles they offer, from ordinary tree fruit and berries to unusual and exotic fruit bearing plants.

In a recent e-mail from Raintree a pear, Abbe Fetel, caught my eye. It is one of the many pear varieties that Raintree offers. They say that Abbe Fetel is a pear cultivar developed in 1866 by the French Abbot for which it is named. These elongated pears are the most popular variety in Italy and are savored for their very sweet white, juicy flesh. Abbe Fetel is said to “pair well with a low salt Italian cheese.”

Raintree offers both popular pear cultivars along with a number of other less familiar ones, including heirloom, popular European, keeper, and perry varieties. “Perry” pears are varieties that are grown specifically for making pear cider. If you are more comfortable with apple cider, Raintree also offers a number of apple varieties for cider making.

For a fruit tree requiring much less attention than apples, pears, or cherries, consider planting a plum. In addition to well known varieties, Raintree offers varieties, like Moldavian, a freestone desert plum with small red to purple fruit and yellow flesh or Golden Nectar, a self-pollinating large yellow oblong freestone desert plum with golden flesh. They also sell a pluot (a plum-apricot cross) and a pecotum (a peach, apricot and plum cross).

In addition to fruit, Raintree offers another “edible” that Washington gardeners have had trouble buying. A quarantine on hops plants being shipped into Washington have made it difficult to obtain one or two hops plants for home gardens. Raintree offers Golden Hops, a desirable ornamental vine with yellow leaves and aromatic flowers, as well as three other hops varieties used in brewing.

Along with familiar fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries persimmons, quince, gooseberries, hardy kiwi, elderberries, and currants, Raintree also offers an eclectic mix of uncommon fruit, like edible dogwoods, paw paws, jujube, medlar, goji berry, goumi, cinnamon vine and even gingko.

Did you know that the fruit of gingko trees is unbelievably smelly, resembling the odor of dog manure? One of Raintree’s offerings is Salem Lady, a fruit-producing female gingko that requires a male gingko in the vicinity for the production of fruit. So why would anyone want a tree with these terribly odiferous fruit? It is because the nuts, about the size of a small almond, in the center of the stinky fruit are a delicacy in Asian cultures. (If you do not want your gingko producing smelly fruit, only plant an all male tree.)

The Raintree catalog is a very interesting catalog worth of perusing while you are wait for winter to turn into spring. While you are at it, check out One Green World at onegreenworld.com. They also offer a diverse selection of fruit and nut bearing plants, including native Pacific Northwest berries.

Correction from last week: You can find Green Heron Tools at www.greenherontools.com.

TOOLS THAT MAKE GARDENING EASIER FOR OLDER AND YOUNGER GARDENERS

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written January 10, 2016

Gray days, frigid temperatures, rain, and snow have me longing for spring. I am anxious for the end of this nasty weather so I can get outside and get my yard and garden ready for growing. Pruning, cutting, and digging tools are essential to my anticipated clean-up chores.

Oh to be young again! My older back, hands, and arms lack the strength of younger years, so I tend to favor tools that make gardening easier for me. When it comes to pruning I depend on ratchet pruners. My trusty hand pruners are a pair of Florian 701 ratchet pruners. Florian touts that their ratchet mechanism multiplies your hand strength up to 700%.

I use my pair for cutting out the dead stems of flowering perennials left in the garden, pruning back flowering shrubs, and trimming flowers. Keep in mind that these light-weight pruners are not meant to tackle the bigger, woodier stems of trees and shrubs. They will only cut wood stems up to 3/4 inch in diameter. The blades have a non-stick coating and the handles are made of fiberglass reinforced plastic.

I keep thinking about getting another pair, but these are still going strong after ten years. Plus, their bright yellow handles have made them easy to find wherever I lay them down in the garden. Order them at at floriantools.net.

Of course, I occasionally need to cut stems and branches that are larger than the 3/4 inch in diameter. When you have small branches that are too big for hand pruners, loppers are the next step up. I have a pair of heavy-duty bypass loppers, but they have become harder and harder for me to use effectively. That is why I bought a pair of Ironwood Tools ratchet loppers two years ago at a trade show. This past fall when I had to cut up some tree branches, I could not believe how easy these ratchet loppers made the job for me.

The Ironwood Tools ratchet loppers have a gear action that allows you to cut through wood up to 1.5 inches in diameter. With handles that are made of strong aluminum, they weigh only two pounds. The blade is made of tempered steel and all the parts are replaceable and have a lifetime replacement guarantee.

Ironwood also offers a telescoping ratchet lopper with extendable handles that go from 19 to 32 inches in length. These heavy duty loppers can handle branches up to 2.5 inches and have the same guarantee. Ironwood Tools are available at ironwoodtools.com.

I have to admit that when it comes to digging in the garden, I have never been very effective at the task. I always thought it was me, but now I am wondering if it was the shovels I was using. I am considering buying a HERShovel from Green Heron Tools.

The HERShovel is actually a hybrid between a shovel and a spade that has been designed based on women’s bodies and their digging styles. (Who knew women dig differently than men?) Green Heron notes that this shovel is designed specifically for women from the “shape and diameter of the handle, to the three shaft lengths (based on the individual woman’s height), to the angle and enlarged step” on the blade. It is designed for “maximum comfort and ease of use.” I think I would need the shortest one designed for women like me that are 5’2″ tall or shorter. Green Heron also offers a HERSpadingfork. They are both available on-line at greenheron.com.

Old or young, it makes sense to buy tools that make gardening easier on our body.

MASTER GARDENERS HAVE SUCCESS

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written January 3, 2016

Supposedly Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again, but expecting a different result. I wonder if there is a word for doing something over and over again and expecting the same result? For me, the word are repeated success. This January will be my 37th year of providing training to volunteers who want to become Washington State University Extension Master Gardeners.

This enormously successful program was started by WSU Extension in 1972 as a way to help handle the large number of home gardening and landscape care questions being received in local extension offices. When I came here in 1980, the program had already been started in the Tri-Cities. Back then there were about 20 new and returning or “veteran” volunteers who annually received training and volunteered their time mostly by answering home gardening questions in local plant clinics.

Like any well nurtured seed, the Master Gardener program has grown and blossomed since it was planted. Now there are about 150 new and veteran volunteers every year who receive training and volunteer their service to teach others how to garden. Their volunteer service includes not only staffing plant clinics as before, but also maintaining a 3-acre Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick; teaching gardening to adults and children; and helping establish and mentor local community gardens.

This past spring the Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners decided to build an outdoor classroom within their Demonstration Garden. This classroom, with seating for 50, will be used for teaching classes and community events. A crew of very dedicated and hardworking Master Gardeners built this impressive Waterfall Classroom, lifting 50 tons of landscape blocks during hottest summer on record with their own hands, hard work, and sweat.

The Waterfall Classroom and the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, built and maintained by the Master Gardeners, is a public garden worthy of a visit anytime, but it is at its best during the spring, summer, and fall months when plants are green, growing, and blooming. It is a beautiful place for learning about plants and nature, walking, and taking photographs. You can find it behind the Mid-Columbia Library and adjacent to Highlands Grange Park at 1620 S. Union in Kennewick.

This year the Master Gardener Education Team taught almost 5000 children and adults about gardening. The Master Gardener Food Garden Team helped establish 15 new community gardens and mentored 33 food gardens. New gardeners learned to grow their own veggies for feeding their families. This team is currently working on raising funds to build even more beds next year.

I am immensely proud of the success of the Benton-Franklin WSU Extension Master Gardener program and the many wonderful volunteers over the years who have made that success possible. We will be starting a new training program in late January and are looking for new volunteers interested in becoming Master Gardeners and giving volunteer service to our community as WSU Extension Master Gardeners.

Training sessions are held locally every Tuesday afternoon, starting the last week of January. New participants are required to attend these sessions and also to take an on-line basic horticulture course from WSU. The cost of the training is $115, plus participants are expected to return 50 hours of return volunteer service to the program.

I am excited about this year’s face-to-face training that will include WSU faculty and local experts talking about GMOs, forensic entomology, climate and weather forecasting, irrigation management, water movement in soils, vegetable gardening, weed management, and much more.
Would you like to become a WSU Master Gardener? Contact the local extension office for an application by calling 735-3551. The deadline for applications is January 20th.

A GOOD OFFENSE THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST TREE BORERS

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written December 27, 2015

Now that we have almost closed the book on 2015, let us reflect a bit on the extraordinary weather of this past year and years past. It is no surprise that the summer of 2015 was the hottest on record in the region with a total annual precipitation of 3.72 inches. That is not much considering that 9.16 inches of moisture were lost through evapotranspiration (ET) during the month of August. Plus, some areas experienced limited irrigation water.

This extraordinary year was compounded by the fact that until 2015, 2014 was the hottest on record with 3.44 inches of precipitation, a total ET of 9.02 inches in August, and an unusually mild December. Also consider that 2013 was the 2nd hottest summer on record until 2015 with a total annual precipitation of 2.79 inches. Plus, the summer of 2013 was the 6th year of summer weather with near or above average temperatures.

That is a great deal of summer heat. Heat stresses plants, especially ones not well adapted to our hot summer climate. Heat stress is compounded by drought stress that results from limited irrigation water or improper watering practices. Drought stress may also be inflicted on a tree due to a lack of an adequate root system, physical injury to the trunk, restricted or girdling roots, compacted soil, or other factors that affect the tree’s ability to absorb or transport water to the top of the tree.

Stress on trees makes them more vulnerable to attack by certain insects, especially boring insects. As a result of the several years of summer heat stress that local trees have endured, we are seeing an increasing number of wood borers attacking local ornamental trees.

Even if a tree looks fairly healthy to you and me, it may become fodder for borers because it is stressed. Stressed trees are more vulnerable to attack by borers because stress causes them to produce volatile chemicals, such as terpenes, that attract boring insects.

In addition, some borers (such as bark beetles) will emit an aggregation pheromone (a chemical compound that elicits insect behavior) once it locates a stressed tree. This insect pheromone lets other bark beetles in the area know of a stressed tree’s presence. One bark beetle might not significantly harm a tree, but a bunch of them feeding spells trouble.

Once the volatile chemicals emitted by the tree and the aggregation pheromone gets a gang of bark beetles to the tree, they still have to get under the bark. As they start to eat their way into the tree, the sap pressure in a healthy tree will often drown or push them back out. However, in a stressed tree the sap flow is lower and they can successfully eat their way in.

The quote of “the best defense is a good offense” may or may not be true in sports, but it is very true when it comes to protecting your trees from boring insects. Keeping a tree healthy is not just its best defense against borers, in many cases it is the only defense.

We no longer have the long-term residual insecticides that were once used to protect trees from borers. Insecticide applications as a spray to the trunk are generally not a good “offense” and even the systemic insecticides applied to the soil or injected into the trunk are only effective against a few types of borers.

Hopefully in 2016 we will not experience another summer of extraordinary heat and limited irrigation water. If we do, make every effort to keep your trees healthy and “unstressed” to protect them from attack by borers.

MODERN HOLIDAY TRADITIONS COME FROM ANCIENT WINTER CELEBRATIONS

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written December 20, 2015

Many different Christmas holiday traditions have been adapted from ancient winter celebrations. Not long ago I was watching a reality television baking competition. The contestants were tasked with baking yule log cakes. It started me thinking about yule logs.

What is a yule log? For that matter, what is yule? Why is it associated with the winter holidays? Yule or “Jul” is an ancient northern European and Scandinavian celebration of the winter solstice, the shortest day (or longest night) of the year. It is the official beginning of winter for us today.

Jul or Yule celebrated the rebirth of the sun and the return of nature. Part of this winter holiday included a ceremony that involved bringing a whole tree indoors, placing its trunk in the hearth, and then lighting the base on fire. As it burned over a 12-day period, the trunk continued to be fed into the hearth.

The Yule log tradition eventually became part of European Christmas traditions, but instead of an entire tree, it was a large log burned for the twelve days of Christmas that start on December 25 (Christmas) and end on January 6th which is Feast of Epiphany for western Christians.

Today, many households do not have large open hearths where they can burn an entire tree or even a large log. Maybe that is why the baking of a “yule log” cake has become a Christmas tradition in parts of Europe. It is made of rolled chocolate sponge cake layered with cream filling and decorated to look like a log. Yum!

As a “tree person,” I have always been intrigued with the tradition of the Christmas tree. Its origins can be traced back to the pagan winter festival of Saturnalia, honoring Saturnus, the god of agriculture. Trees were decorated as part of the festival.

In the middle ages, evergreen trees were decorated with apples as part of the December 24th Adam and Eve Feast. In the early 1500s, undecorated evergreen trees were set up in homes in some areas of Germany to celebrate Christmas. That may be why Christmas lore credits Martin Luther as being the first to decorate a Christmas tree with candles in an attempt to recreate the shining of stars in the winter sky.

Historians dispute that Luther began the practice of decorating Christmas trees with lights and ornaments, citing that the first evidence of a decorated tree dates back to 1546, long after Luther’s death. These first decorations consisted of paper flowers, apples, nuts, and candies. The Christmas tree tradition did not come to the U.S. until the early 1800s when Germans migrated here and brought the tradition with them.

Whoever we want to credit with the origins of the decorated Christmas tree, it is amazing that this tradition still persists today. Last year 26.3 million real Christmas trees were purchased in the U.S. along with 13.9 million artificial ones. Real or fake, trees lit with twinkling lights and decorated with pretty ornaments are certainly a great way to celebrate Christmas and the passing of the winter solstice. Hurray, the days will be getting longer again! Next year’s gardening season is on its way.

TERRARIUMS A RECYCLED GARDEN TREND

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written December 13, 2015

Trends, including gardening trends, have a way of recycling themselves. Creating terrariums, an old trend from the 70s, is popping up again.

Terrariums were first a utilitarian item created by Dr. Nathanial Ward, an English physician and botany enthusiast, for germinating ferns from spores. He created a closed glass case, named the Wardian case, that was pretty much a miniature greenhouse. The case proved very useful to plant collectors wanting to bring plants back to England from far away places and also became popular in home decorating.

The large glass terrarium in my garage is proof that I enthusiastically participated in the terrarium trend of the 70s. Terrarium purists will tell you that a terrarium is planted in a transparent closed container. Not long ago I talked about miniature dish and fairy gardens. A terrarium is similar, but the “garden” is placed inside a clear container, such as a large glass jar, big bottle, fish tank, or giant goblet. Clear plastic containers may also be used.

I recommend a container that is large enough to accommodate the plants you choose to grow and one that has a large enough opening to facilitate planting the terrarium. If the opening or neck of a container is narrow, planting within them is like trying to build a ship in a bottle, possible but difficult.

Start by cleaning the inside of your container and when dry, add “soil” to the container. Use an artificial potting mix, preferably one containing primarily peat moss, perlite, and sand. There is no need to add gravel or other coarse material for drainage as recommended in the 70s, as these materials actually hinder drainage.

Moisten the mix first because it is difficult to moisten once it is in the container. How much mix is needed? There should be enough mix to accommodate plant roots, but generally it does not need to be any deeper than three inches even in large containers.

Finding and selecting suitable plants for your terrarium may be a challenge. Seek out dwarf and miniature plants that will stay small or slow growing ones that will not outgrow the container quickly. Select ones that are similar in their growing requirements, such as humidity, light, and soil moisture. Plants of varying heights, texture, and leaf color will provide the most interest in your design.

When you are ready, remove the plants from their pots and loosen the roots. Plant the largest and tallest plants first and then arrange the smaller plants around them to provide a pleasing “landscape” design. The plants will grow, so take care not to use too many or place them too closely together. Moss or prostrate trailing plants can make attractive ground covers. If desired, add some decorative accents such as small rocks or figurines.

After finishing your planting, rinse any potting mix off the container sides and plant leaves using a spray bottle, taking care not to add too much water. Place the lid on the container or use clear plastic wrap to close it up. Situate the terrarium where it will get lots of light but no direct sunlight.

Your terrarium may exhibit considerable condensation. However, if the condensation is excessive or continues past a week or two, vent the container a little each day until it stops. After that you may need to water occasionally and prune plants when they start to grow too large, but you should be able to enjoy your terrarium without constant attention.

My favorite plants for a terrarium? They are miniature African violets and their relatives, miniature Gernerias.

NUISANCE FLIES INSIDE THE HOUSE

GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written December 6, 2015

There are two types of insects found in homes that I hate, flies and ants. Flies are my nemesis in the fall, entering the house when the door is open and then bothering me. While these flies look like houseflies, they are probably face flies, a pest of livestock. Adult face flies feed on the moisture around the eyes, noses, and mouth of livestock and reproduce in their manure. Yuck!

A couple of face flies inside the home are a nuisance, not a serious problem. Once cold weather prevails, their chance entrance into the house ceases. However, they can continue to be an annoyance if there is a significant outdoor population that overwinters within outside house walls or in attic voids. This more often happens in rural areas where there is livestock raised nearby.

If the flies do overwinter within the walls, some face flies may continue to appear indoors through the winter months when sunshine warms the house walls. The best management for a face fly problem is excluding them from the home with screening and by caulking any openings to the outdoors.

There are some other types of flies that may become a nuisance in homes. Fruit flies are one of the most common. Fruit flies are brownish in color with bright red eyes. These little flies are usually found flying around overripe or decaying fruit or veggies being stored inside the home and they are also attracted to wine, beer, and sugary drinks.

Fruit flies are easy to control by simply getting rid of overripe produce and storing ripe fruit in the refrigerator when possible. Also, rinse out any empty food and beverage containers being stored indoors for recycling. The liquids in these containers ferment and provide a great place for fruit flies to breed.

Moth flies, also known as drain flies, are often mistaken for fruit flies. A close reveals that they are tiny (1/5 inch long) hairy flies resembling moths. They can breed in the decaying organic matter and slime found in the drains of sinks and tubs, garbage disposals, and dishwasher food traps.

One step in control is to keep organic materials from getting into drains by using drain baskets or filters. Chemical drain cleaners may or may not remove the slime in a drain. If not, you will need to manually remove it using a brush or use a biological drain cleaner that contains enzymes that digest slime and organic debris. Also, clean your garbage disposals and dishwashers as recommended by the manufacturer.

Finally, fungus gnats are another nuisance fly found inside homes. These are minute (1/8 inch long) blackish flies. They breed in decaying plant matter and often arise from houseplant potting mixes that are kept overly moist. Potting mixes that contain undecayed organic materials from compost provide an excellent breeding ground for fungus gnats.

At this time of year holiday plants, such as poinsettias, may be a source of fungus gnats, especially if adequate drainage is not provided. The best bet for controlling the problem is to keep the potting mix of house plants slightly moist, not wet. Also, make sure your plants have good drainage and pots are not “sitting” in excess water.

All these flies can be a nuisance. Aerosol pesticide sprays labeled for indoor use will kill the ones flying about when you spray, but they can pose a health risk to you and your family. The real key to control is determining the type of fly and then using the right control measures to get rid of them.

AVOIDING HAZARDOUS TREES

GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written November 29, 2015

You probably have heard about the many trees that came down around our state in the windstorm last week, but you may not have heard about one tree in Spokane that snapped off and speared the house below. It entered the roof, went through the crib of a six-week old baby, and stopped only when it reached the basement floor. Thankfully, the baby was with his mother who was in the kitchen fixing dinner and the rest of the family was safe too. This hazardous tree story literally hit home for me because that little baby is my grandson.

I have talked often about not topping trees, but this story stresses why it is important to prune trees properly and to periodically assess large trees for the potential hazard that they may pose.
What qualifies a tree as “hazardous?” A tree is considered “hazardous” when all or part of the tree could “fail” and damage a “target,” such as a building, a vehicle, or people. Common failures are the breaking off of a tree limb, a tree splitting apart, or a tree uprooting and falling over.

There are a variety of reasons for failures including wood decay from past topping, other bad pruning cuts, or injuries to the bark and trunk; a lopsided crown; competing central leaders or main branches that are weakly attached at a less than 45 degree angle; the severing within the drip line of more than 50 per cent of a tree’s root system; and the development of significant girdling roots at the base of a tree.

The failure of a small tree is usually not significant, but the failure of a large tree can be catastrophic. When I first moved to this area in 1980 we didn’t have many large mature trees in our home landscapes, now there are many more. This is good, but it has also increased our potential for hazardous trees.

If you have a larger older tree, I urge you to check for any signs of potential failure in your shade trees and then consult an ISA certified arborist if you think there might be a problem. A certified ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) arborist can give you reliable advice regarding your tree and its health.

Signs of potential tree failure include:
– trees that have been topped in the past
– a tree that is leaning
– a tree with multiple trunks or with competing leaders
– trees with lopsided crowns
– trees with dead or broken branches
– trees with dead areas of trunk or signs of wood rot

If you have smaller tree that will grow into a big one, also consider having an arborist check it for any corrective pruning that is needed to avoid future problems. It is better and less expensive to take care of these problems when the tree is young.

It is possible that a consultation with an arborist prior to last week’s extraordinary wind event might have avoided the damage to my family’s home, the deaths of several people, and the property of many others, but there is no way to know for sure. Hindsight is always better than foresight.

Hiring an certified to take corrective action before a tree becomes a hazard is not inexpensive, but it is much less costly than having a tree come through the roof your house and potentially harming your family. A search of the yellow pages in the phone book or on-line will help you find a qualified ISA certified arborist. Please do this now before the next big windstorm.

HOSTAS GREAT PLANT FOR SHADE

GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written November 22, 2015

Over the last 30 years, area local gardeners have wisely planted trees for shade. This has yielded cooling shade around our homes, but has also resulted in areas of the yard and garden becoming shaded. Since most perennial flowers perform best with full sun, a shaded garden becomes a challenge.

Shade-challenged gardeners should consider planting hostas. Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are perennial plants prized for their tolerance to shade. These plants are native to Japan, China, and Korea and were first introduced to US gardeners in the mid 1800s.

Today’s gardeners treasures hostas for their diversity of foliage colors from pretty dark greens, to bright greens, grayish blue-greens, and even golds, as well as their different shapes, sizes, textures, and variegation. With over 2,500 cultivated varieties, there is a hosta that will fit into almost any shady garden.

Just because they are prized for their foliage does not mean hostas lack pretty flowers. Hostas produce stalks of lavender, violet, pink or white lily-like flowers in summer, some cultivars with very showy flowers and some that are fragrant.

Most plants develop a mounded round form, but their size varies. Hosta growers classify hosta into categories based on mature plant height from the tiny minis (shorter than 8 inches tall) up to the big giants (taller than 30 inches).

Along with their beauty, hostas are prized by gardeners because they are easy to grow. Like so many plants, hostas grow best in a well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. If preparing a bed, it is advisable to incorporate some organic matter in the form of compost, coconut coir fiber, or peat moss. Because the plants spread horizontally, be sure to dig a generously wide hole when planting individual hostas.

Hostas grow from rhizomes that are planted in the spring, either from rhizomes or potted plants. The soil should be kept consistently moist, but not wet. As “light feeders,” they only require light fertilization.

Hostas are also very winter hardy and most can survive in zones as cold as USDA Hardiness Zones 3 or 4. The other great thing about hostas is that they have few pests, except for snails and slugs that love to gnosh on their leaves. Also, black vine weevils have a predilection for notching hosta leaf edges.

While often touted as “shade-loving” perennials, hostas actually grow best when they receive morning sun or only dappled shade. While some cultivars will tolerate full shade, they do not thrive in it. If hostas receive too much heat or too little water, the leaf edges will develop crispy brown edges. If subjected to the mid-Columbia’s intense summer sun, leaves will develop “sunburn” or the entire plant may turn brown and dry.

In a six-year hosta variety trial at the Texas A & M University, the cultivars rated the best overall were Royal Standard, Blue Cadet, So Sweet, Albo-Marginata, Sugar & Cream, and Blue Angel. You can find hostas for sale at local nurseries, but if you want to try some unusual specialty cultivars, check out on-line sources, like Sebright Gardens (www.sebrightgardens.com) or Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. (www.plantdelights.com.)

If you had told me thirty years ago that I would write a column about growing hostas in our area, I probably would have laughed because there was so little shade here then.

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