Washington State University Extension

Garden Tips

Archive for October 2011


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

A couple of weeks ago I ran into someone who had been in our local Master Gardener program thirty years ago… long before the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick was started. Her recent visit to the Demonstration Garden was her first. She was astounded at what the dedication and time of many Master Gardener volunteers had accomplished over the last 11 years.

This weekend while our fall weather is so glorious, treat yourself to a visit to the Demonstration Garden. It’s simply spectacular. It covers almost three acres, so plan enough time to see the entire garden. Bring your camera to take pictures and bring a notepad too. It’s a great place to pick up ideas for your own yard and garden.

There are 22 individual theme gardens within the Demonstration Garden. Here are just a few highlights you won’t want to miss on your visit.

It won’t be long before frost will finish the Entryway Garden as you enter the Garden near the library. These planters are filled with ornamental sweet potato vines, purple fountain grass, and both pink and yellow petunias, all donated by Proven Winners. I adore the combination of dark purple sweet potato vines with yellow trailing petunias and lime green sweet potato vines with pink petunias.

A little ways along the path, not too far from the Water Garden, is the Vegetable Garden. Even with a tomato crop failure due to a wilt disease, the Master Gardeners have been able to harvest and donate over 1000 pounds of produce to local food banks. As this garden winds down, note the different ways the Master Gardeners have demonstrated caging tomatoes and supporting vining crops. Check out the intensive ‘square foot’ garden too.

Over the past 11 years, the trees in the Shade Gardens and the Small Tree Arboretum have had time to grow. These three gardens and the rest of the Demonstration Garden let you see what a variety of small and large trees look like and how they perform in our region. While checking out the trees, take note of the groundcovers that help crowd out weeds. I especially like the ornamental strawberries with their pretty pink flowers.

About midway along the garden path is the Japanese Garden. Fall and spring are when this garden is at it’s best. In the fall, beautiful mounds of chrysanthemums are in bloom. These are the same type of chrysanthemums that you buy for planters during the fall, but they have been carefully ‘pinched back’ to encourage a multitude of yellow, orange, pink, and purple flowers.

On the other side of the ‘tea house’ in the Japanese Garden is the Four Season Gardens. It resembles a cottage garden and is full of a variety of perennial flowers. There are four areas within this garden each dedicated to being at it’s best during one of the seasons of the year.

Not to be missed are the roses in the Rose Garden. Oh the roses! There are more than 400 rose bushes in this garden. While the season may be quickly fading, the colors of the blooms are at their most intense during these cooler days.

The Garden is open to the public every day of the year and is located behind Mid-Columbia Library at 1620 South Union in Kennewick. To keep you informed about the Demonstration Garden and WSU Master Gardener program events, the Master Gardeners are available on the Web, Facebook and Twitter. Here is where you can find them:
Published: 10/21/2011 4:13 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

The signs are all here… rain, blustery days, cool temperatures, and colorful tree leaves. I suppose that means frost isn’t far away. Sadly, it’s time to say good-bye to our fresh, home grown tomatoes. Here are a few end-of-season tomato tips.

Harvesting the Last Fruits
With the cool weather tomato plants have stopped growing and no more fruit will ripen on the vine. However, if the there are fruit that have matured (showing some color or turning from a glossy darker green to a whitish green) they can be picked and ripened indoors. Left on the vine outdoors, they’ll suffer chilling injury from temperatures of 50 degrees F or lower because the enzymes that are part of the ripening process break down when exposed to these low temperatures. That’s why there is no benefit in covering tomato plants when frost threatens to kill the vines.

Before chilling injury occurs, harvest any mature tomatoes on your vines and bring them indoors to ripen at temperatures of 55 to 70 degrees F. Once inside some gardeners like to wrap them individually in newsprint, but this makes checking them for ripeness very tedious if you have a lot of tomatoes. If you have a zillion tomatoes, place them in open shallow cardboard boxes in single layers and cover them with newspaper. This way you can easily check for any ripe or rotten tomatoes periodically. Remove rotten tomatoes as soon as they’re detected. Mature green tomatoes will take about two weeks to ripen if held at 70 degrees F.

Keep Records & Rotate Your Crops
Its’ a good idea to keep a garden journal or even just a simple file tracking your vegetable garden’s history. It’s handy to note what crops and what varieties you grew, which ones did well, which ones didn’t do so well, and what varieties you want to plant again.

It’s also important to note where you plant different crops from year to year so you can rotate them. If you plant the same crops in the same location year after year, certain soil-borne diseases are likely to build up. If you plant tomatoes in the same spot, verticillium or fusarium wilt fungi are likely to build up in the soil to levels that will make it difficult to grow tomatoes or their close relatives. Once at these levels, they will remain in the soil for a number of years and prevent you from growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes in that area.

Admittedly, crop rotation is difficult for today’s home gardeners who tend to grow veggies more intensively on smaller patches of ground. However, it’s still a good idea to rotate your crops if possible. Divide your garden into quadrants and it can work. Follow the tomatoes (and relatives) with beans and peas; followed by squash, cukes, and melons; and then followed by cabbage, broccoli, and greens. Every fifth year tomatoes and relatives will be in the same quadrant.

There are cultivars (varieties) of tomato that are rated as resistant to verticillium or fusarium wilt disease. If you can’t rotate as often as advisable, you should definitely be planting cultivars that are noted as ‘VF resistant’ indicating that they’re verticillium and fusarium wilt resistant. However, while these plants are resistant, they’re not immune and can succumb if planted in soils where the amount of disease is high. Check plant tags and seed catalogs to determine if the varieties you’re planting are ‘VF’ resistant.
Published: 10/14/2011 2:15 PM



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