Washington State University Extension

Garden Tips

Archive for January 2014


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 1/17/14

It is time to check the current and predicted gardening trends for this year. The Garden Media Group (GMG) has the crystal ball when it comes to predicting and perhaps even creating these trends. GMG is a public relations firm that specializes in Ahome, garden, horticulture, outdoor living, lawn, and garden industries.@ Knowing about both global trends and lawn and garden trends are important in marketing these industries= products.

In their annual trends report, GMG notes that a role reversal is occurring in our country, with more men staying at home as AMr. Moms.@ The number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past ten years. An increasing number (40 per cent) of women are the sole breadwinners of the family, either by lifestyle choice or because their partner is out of work.

With more dads taking on the role of the primary care-giver for preschoolers, it is not surprising that parenting styles are shifting. With dads in charge, schedules are more spontaneous and there are more Aoutdoorsy, playful, and risk taking activities.@ One of those Aoutdoorsy@ activities is likely to be gardening, since more young men, ages 18 to 34 years old, are interested in gardening.

Young male gardeners spend about $100 more than the average gardener on lawn and garden activities. Because men are comfortable shopping at hardware stores, 21 per cent of them do their garden shopping at hardware stores instead of at garden centers.

It is also not very surprising that male gardeners have somewhat different interests than many female gardeners. According to GMG, men are particularly interested in hot peppers, Athe hotter the better.@ Plus, many men are interested in growing their own hops and grapes because of their increasing interest in making their own wine and beer.

Home wine making, beer crafting, and green smoothies are a trend that GMG calls Adrinking your yard.@ Gardeners are embracing the juicer movement and creating AGroothies7@ or green smoothies using homegrown leafy greens and fruit. There are new books that combine the gardening and juicing trends, such as ADrink Your Own Garden,@ and AGrow & Juice.@

Another trend that GMG points to is the continued increase in food gardening. Surveys indicate that the number of people participating in food gardening has increased every year for the past six years with gardeners now spending more on food gardening than on flower gardening. That=s why the number of vegetable transplants offered by big box stores and mass marketers has increased over the past several years. Vegetable transplants had practically disappeared in these stores before that.

It is no shock that billions of dollars are spent on Christmas, weight loss activities, pets, weddings, casinos, flowers, and more every year. GMG indicates that gardening is also big business with lawn and gardening spending ranking third after Christmas and weight loss spending. It would rank second, if the $7 billion spent on garden gnomes and other garden accessories was included. Whew! That is a lot of money… and a lot of gnomes. Keep in mind that the money you spend on gardening is an investment in your well being, whether it is a more nutritious diet, a healthier lifestyle, a greener world, a prettier yard, or better mental health.

Published: 1/17/2014 10:01 AM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 1/10/14

Last monty our local WSU Master Gardeners celebrated the 2013 Master Gardener program and recognized the volunteers for their valuable work. It=s remarkable that WSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers in Benton and Franklin counties gave over 9,500 hours of service to our local communities this past year.

These hours were spent helping residents in our communities learn to garden successfully. Some assisted with getting the City of Kennewick=s first community garden started, others served as mentors for community gardens, and still others taught gardening classes at our local libraries to children and adults. Also, a large number of Master Gardeners worked to maintain the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. Have you ever visited the garden? It=s a beautiful place to visit and learn about plants that you can grow in your yards and gardens. Master Gardeners also staffed plant clinics where they provided free advice on solving garden and landscape problems.

The original purpose of the Master Gardener program was to help WSU faculty answer the deluge of gardening questions that the WSU Extension offices around the state were receiving. The program started in King and Pierce counties in 1972 and quickly spread throughout the state and then the nation. The local Benton-Franklin program started in 1974.

When I arrived here in 1980, about 10 to 15 volunteers were being trained every year in the Benton-Franklin Counties Master Gardener program. Today there are usually over 50 new volunteers along with 75 to 100 experienced or Aveteran@ Master Gardeners each year. Since 1980, the program has experienced many changes, but one person has been a constant. Betty Daughtry has helped out as a program assistant for over 20 years, as well as serving as a Master Gardener since 1978. Last month she was recognized for her 35 years of service to the program.

When asked why she has returned for 35 years, Daughtry indicated it is because of the great people that she has the opportunity to work with in the program. In addition, an avid gardener herself, she delights in always learning something new from other gardeners and from the training program. She is an extraordinary volunteer and her milestone of 35 years is awe inspiring.

There are many other remarkable local Master Gardeners. The 2014 Master Gardener of the Year was Bill Dixon. Dixon was recognized for his tremendous number of hours of service and for the leadership he has provided to the Community Garden/Plant-a-Row Team. Bill worked with the City of Kennewick to start the community garden in Jay Perry Park, solicited seed and transplant donations for giving to gardeners who were willing to plant an extra row to donate to local food banks, and organized Master Gardeners who were willing to serve as mentors to local community gardens.

Laurie Barger was recognized as the 2014 Master Gardener Intern of the Year for her willingness to help in a variety of different areas. She helped by teaching gardening classes to children, assisted in constructing an educational exhibit for the county fair, staffed the plant clinic, and helped support the program in numerous other ways.

It is because of the dedication of Daughtry, Dixon, and Barger and many other volunteers that the local WSU Extension Master Gardener program has been able to grow beyond what anyone would have predicted.

Published: 1/10/2014 9:54 AM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 1/3/14

Many people make lofty resolutions for the new year typically aimed at improving their health or well being, such as losing weight or exercising more. Resolutions for gardeners are often similarly idealistic and directed at becoming a better gardener, such as starting a garden journal or composting yard waste. Resolutions have a tendency to be broken, but here are a few easy-to-attain pragmatic resolutions for gardeners.

Plant More Food: Seed catalogs have already started arriving in the mail. It=s always exciting to see the newest veggies and flowers the seed companies have to offer. Don=t you wish you could plant all of them? If you have the space, consider planting extra vegetables to take to the local food bank next summer.

Expand Your Vegetable Gardening Skills: Try growing a vegetable that you like, but have never grown before. How about potatoes? While potatoes can be purchased locally at very reasonable prices, you would be surprised how good fresh garden potatoes taste, plus you can order special varieties not available in most markets. I=m partial to the red skinned varieties.

Potatoes are planted from Aseed@ that are either small potatoes or larger ones cut up into pieces containing at least one or more buds or Aeyes.@ You can buy seed potatoes locally or mail-order them from a number of seed companies. Two that I like are Potato Garden (formerly Ronniger Potato Farm) at and Irish Eyes at Both are located in the West and offer certified-disease-free and certified-organic potato seed. Order your seed potatoes soon because some of the best varieties sell out quickly.

Plant Some Herbs: Last season I planted annual herbs in a wine barrel container garden. It was nice to be able to go out and get some fresh sweet basil, oregano, or chives for that night=s dinner. Plus, I have some perennial herbs (sage, rosemary, and lavender) planted in my perennial flower bed both for their fragrant foliage as well as their ornamental value.

Not only do herbs provide wonderful flavor to a variety of culinary dishes, but researchers are finding that many add antioxidants and essential nutrients to our diet. Fresh herbs from the garden are the tastiest and highest in their healthful benefits. Most herbs are easy to grow, so try planting some this year.

Grow Your Own Tomato Transplants: If you have a warm sunny window where you can start some seeds, consider growing your own tomato transplants. The choice of the varieties available from local garden stores tends to be somewhat limited. When you grow your own tomato transplants you can plant specific special varieties, such as heat and cold tolerant varieties or heirloom tomatoes with uniquely colored or great tasting fruit.

Heat tolerant varieties (such as like Bella Rosa, Solar Fire, Arkansas Traveler, Phoenix Hybrid, Sioux, and Momostaro) will set fruit even during hot summer weather and the cold tolerant ones (like Glacier, Polar Baby, Polar Star, and Stupice) will set fruit during extended cool spring weather. Last year many gardeners were bereft when their tomatoes didn=t set much fruit due to a long cool spring followed by very hot summer weather. Devoted to tomatoes, Tomato Growers Supply Company at is where you can find many of these varieties.

Read a Gardening Book: Take advantage of this cold and dreary weather to read that gardening book that you never seem time to read during the gardening season. Waiting for me is AHoneybee Democracy@ by Thomas D. Seeley about honeybee behavior and the bees= collective decision making process. Do you have a book waiting for you?

Published: 1/3/2014 9:45 AM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 12/6/13

Did you know that in 2002 Congress designated December 12th, as National Poinsettia Day? While it is not a national holiday, its purpose is to encourage everyone to enjoy the beauty of this national treasure.

This recognition as “thee” standard holiday plant is due to the impressive marketing efforts of Paul Ecke Jr. Ecke introduced the poinsettia to the national stage with brilliant product placement strategies. Night owls who stayed up late in the 1960

s may remember the hundreds of poinsettias decorating the set of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Ecke also encouraged magazines like Women’s Day and Sunset Magazine to use poinsettias on their holiday covers and in their holiday home decorating photos.

Today, when someone wants a pretty flowering plant for a holiday centerpiece, a red poinsettia is usually the plant of choice. Making up about 75 per cent of the poinsettias sold each year in this country, red poinsettias are unlikely to lose their number one spot any time soon. White and pink poinsettias come in a distant second and third. There are also other color options available including salmon, apricot, plum, burgundy, dark red, creamy white, and speckled, marbled, or variegated novelty varieties (cultivars).

Interestingly, when consumers were asked to rank the newest poinsettia cultivars in variety trials run by North Carolina State University (NCSU), their top pick was ‘Ice Punch.’ Ice Punch is a novelty cultivar with red edged petals (actually bracts) with white centers. The consumers’ top five choices surprisingly did not include any of the plain red poinsettias in the trials.

I wonder if the main reason that three quarters of us buy red poinsettias is because that is the only color available in many retail outlets or maybe it is just tradition. NCSU researchers also found that when they asked consumers to rank different red cultivars, they selected bright red ones over the darker ones that have been the mainstay of the poinsettia market for well over 20 years. I bet that’s some information that a marketing genius like Paul Ecke Jr. could capitalize upon.

If you are decorating your home with red or different colored poinsettias, here are some information tidbits that might come in helpful:

The true poinsettia flower is at the center of the colorful bracts. The freshest poinsettias will have green or red-tipped flowers. Those with flowers that are shedding their pollen will not last as long. Avoid any plants with yellow leaves or those that are dropping leaves.

The poinsettia is a sub-tropical plant native to Mexico and does not tolerate freezing temperatures. If the temperature is below freezing when you take a poinsettia from the store to its new home, wrap it with paper and transport it in a warm vehicle. At home, keep your plant out of both cold and warm drafts. It will last the longest when kept at 60 to 70 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night.

The potting mix should be kept slightly moist. Water your plant when the mix feels dry and immediately discard any excess water that drains off when you water. To keep your plant as long as possible, do not let the mix dry out or let the pot sit in water.

While poinsettias are not considered highly toxic, they can cause vomiting and diarrheas if eaten. Plus, their milky white sap can be irritating to the skin and mouth. Keep leaves, stems, and flowers away from children and pets.

Published: 12/6/2013 3:49 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 12/13/13

Brrr… it has been so cold. Gardeners are wondering if the recent frigid weather damaged any of their landscape and garden plants. The answer is “maybe yes and maybe no.” Here are some of the factors involved in cold weather damage to plants.

Hardiness and Acclimation: In autumn, as the days begin to shorten and the temperatures become cooler and cooler, a plant’s potential ability to withstand the cold temperatures of winter increases. Plant tissues become increasingly hardy as the temperatures drop and the plants reach their maximum potential hardiness in mid-winter. This process is called acclimation and involves complex physiological changes within the plant. When frigid winter temperatures are experienced, the time of winter and the temperatures in the weeks preceding the extremely cold weather, as well as the severity and duration of the cold spell, are factors in whether a plant will experience damage.

Maximum Hardiness and Zones: As noted, plants gain their maximum genetically determined potential winter hardiness in mid-winter. This is genetically determined, but is also influenced by weather conditions, plant exposure, and plant health. To see if a particular plant is hardy enough to withstand the extreme cold temperatures typically experienced in their area, gardeners can consult the newest USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map published last year.

Using weather data from a span of 30 years (1976-2005), the map is based on the average extreme annual minimum temperatures across the country. Each of the 13 zones on the USDA Hardiness Zone map represents a difference of 10 degrees and the divisions of a and b in a zone indicate a 5 degree difference. The Tri-Cities is rated as “Zone 7a” with the average extreme minimum temperature being 0 to 5 degrees and the coldest parts of Benton and Franklin counties are in “Zone 6b” with the average extreme minimum temperature being 5 to -5 degrees.

Trees, shrubs, and perennial plants are rated as hardy in a particular zone based on the coldest temperatures they can survive. For example a Zone 7 plant should be able to survive the average coldest weather experienced in the Tri-Cities… if it has achieved its maximum hardiness through the acclimation process.

Is wind chill a factor?: Humans and animals are subject to wind chill because it is an index created to reflect the heat loss that occurs to warm blooded animals from wind when it is cold outdoors. The wind chill index is not a concern when it comes to plants, but winds can have a drying affect on plants, especially on evergreen plants like pines and rhododendrons. That is why it is important to not let plants go into winter drought stressed and to water trees and shrubs during mild fall and winter weather when the soil isn’t frozen.

Will plants in local landscapes have escaped damage from our recent cold weather? : Winter is far from over so it is hard to predict, but I suspect we may see some damage on certain plants. The plants most likely to have been damaged are Zone 7 (or above) plants, plants that were planted in late fall, and plants that were unhealthy or drought stressed before the frigid weather arrived. One factor that probably limited the damage and aided in the acclimation process was the fairly cold weather we were experiencing before the very low temperatures arrived. For now, all we can do is wait for spring and hope that any damage has been minimal.

Published: 12/13/2013 3:41 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 12/20/13

While the poinsettia is the top selling flowering indoor plant in this country, the Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is one of the top selling potted plants in Europe. While not nearly as popular here, Kalanchoes have been slowly gaining in popularity. Almost any time of year you can find pretty ones for sale at the grocery store. During the holidays you may run across ones with red or white flowers, but there are also pink, fuchsia, orange, or yellow flowered types.

You may struggle with pronouncing its name (kal‑lan‑KOE‑ee), but you don=t have to say its name correctly to appreciate it. Native to a semi-area of Madagascar that receives less than 15 inches of rain per year, the Kalanchoe is a drought tolerant succulent with thick, waxy, scalloped-edged leaves.

The first cultivars of Kalanchoe marketed to consumers in the 1950

s had orange or red flowers. Plant breeders= efforts have led to more diverse, more attractive flower color selections. The long lasting flower clusters are produced above the leaves. Individual flowers in the clusters have four petals, but there are double-flowered types that have many more petals, making each flower look like a tiny rose.

The early cultivars were generally propagated from seed and took as much as ten months before flowering. Newer cultivars are more compact, more uniform, propagated by cuttings and bloom much sooner.

Kalanchoes are easy-care plants. If you bring home a Kalanchoe, it will not need much attention. They do best with lots of bright light and the soil should be allowed to dry out slightly before watering. Kalanchoe like daytime temperatures of 50 to 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures of 45 to 65 degrees. (The flowers will last longer at the cooler temperatures.)

Once it is done flowering, cut off the flower stalks and then repot the plant into a slightly larger pot. Be sure to use a well drained potting mix, such as one specifically for cacti and succulents. Grow the plant on a sunny windowsill.

Kalanchoe is a short-day/long-night plant. This means that it flowers in response to long nights (12.5 hours or more of darkness each night) that happens naturally as the days become shorter in the fall. However when growing as an indoor plant, a Kalanchoe may be subjected to indoor lighting at night and this will delay flowering. If you truly want to re-bloom your plant, you need to give it uninterrupted darkness for at least 12.5 hours each night. Put it in a dark closet or box at night, but still give it bright light during the day. Anytime it doesn=t get the long-night treatment, flowering will be delayed.

After about six weeks of consistent uninterrupted long nights, the flower buds will start to form and the plant will no longer need the long-night treatment for flowering to proceed. If this sounds like too much work, you may simply want to throw the plant out and buy a new one. They can certainly brighten up a dreary winter day or cheer you any time of year.

Published: 12/20/2013 3:41 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 12/27/13

Many of you know I=m a sucker for new garden gadgets, but I am also attracted to new garden tools that can make gardening easier. I recently came across three tools that piqued my interest.

ORIGINAL GARDEN BROOM: I don=t necessarily think about brooms as garden tools, but they do come in handy cleaning up leaves on the patio or other sweeping tasks related to the landscape and garden. One problem I have is finding a broom that will do this outdoor garden work effectively. The marketers of the AOriginal Garden Broom@ say it Afunctions in‑between a corn broom and a rake.@ What makes it different from a traditional corn or plastic broom? They indicate that it stays firm and strong even when wet and does not fall apart with heavy use. It is also dense enough to sweep up fine debris and will work on any surface including concrete, decks, lawns, garden beds, gravel pathways, and doormats.

Green gardeners will especially appreciate that the Original Garden Broom is made in Sri Lanka out of materials recycled from coconut trees. The bristles are made from both fallen and harvested coconut fronds. The twine used to bind the bristles together is made from the fiber (coir) of coconut husks and the bound bristles are capped with polished coconut shell. The handle is made of wood from the rubber tree.

On their web site ( the company notes that the Original Garden Broom is Asturdier than a broom and handier than a rake.@ They can be ordered on-line from or I wonder how well it does sweeping snow?

SPEAR HEAD SPADE: One of our WSU Master Gardeners told me about the ASpear Head Spade@ that she recently purchased. It=s name describes this garden spade quite well. Shaped somewhat like a spearhead, the blade is designed to reduce your Adigging effort by up to 80 per cent.@ The company notes that the thick, very sturdy spearheaded blade profile gives it the ability Ato auto‑seek the path of least resistance and then gradually ease, wedge, and cut through@ spading or digging challenges, such as digging up an ornamental grass. Made from high carbon manganese steel, the blade is harder than a normal shovel blade plus it is designed with a good sized foot rest to make digging more comfortable.

The Spear Head Spade is fairly light because the handle is made with reinforced fiberglass. There are two lengths available, the shorter (41 inches) one has a cushioned D-grip handle. You can order the Spear Head Spade at or directly from the company at We will have to see how this WSU Master Gardener likes her new spade.

THE COBRAHEAD: The CobraHead7 Weeder and Cultivator was developed by a gardener as a multi‑purpose garden hand tool and yes, the narrow curved steel blade does look somewhat like the head of a cobra. The company calls the blade a Asteel fingernail7.@ Not only does this tool help with weeding, cultivating, and digging in the garden, it also Ascalps (weeds), edges, furrows, plants, transplants, de‑thatches, and harvests.@

The CobraHead is made in Wisconsin by the family company founded by the gardener who designed it. They also offer the ACobraHead Long Handle Weeder and Cultivator@ with a similar blade modified so it works well with a long handle for gardeners who can=t bend well or kneel in the garden. These can be ordered through a variety of outlets or directly from the company at

Published: 12/27/2013 3:34 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 11/29/13

My father did not enjoy doing garden work, but he did believe in caring for his tools. He taught me to put garden tools away when I was done and not leave them out in the garden. Dad also impressed on me the importance of giving quality tools quality care. Before you put your tools away for the winter, here are some care tips.

Shovels, spades, trowels: Wash soil from the blades using soapy water and then dry them off with rags. Once dry, use a wire brush or steel wool to remove any rust. Next sharpen the blade with a sharpening stone, hand file (10″ mill) or a belt sander. You want the blade to have about a 15 to 20 degree angle after sharpening. Sharp, narrow edges will not last long, so avoid making the blade any sharper. Once you finish the top edge, check the bottom edge and smooth off any burrs that may have formed.

Next give your attention to the handle. Check wooden handles for cracks especially close to the shank. If any are noted, replace it before you have an accident. If the handle is rough and splintery, smooth it with sandpaper and then wipe it down with linseed or tung oil.

When finished, give the shovel blade a light coat of a petroleum oil, such as WD-40 or clean lightweight motor oil. Then store your shovel away properly, hanging it up so the blade isn=t damaged. Now you have a shovel or spade that will be ready next spring.

Pruners, loppers, hedge shears: In October, I recommended that gardeners invest in quality pruners. Once you make that investment, you should protect it by caring for your pruners.

The first step in cleaning pruners is to remove dried plant sap and dirt from the blades and other metal parts. If you invested in pruners that can be taken apart, do that to clean the blades, hinges, nuts, and bolts. Sometimes a simple household cleaner will do the job, but it may take turpentine to remove conifer pitch from pruners. If you have neglected your pruners for a while, you may also need 400-600 grit emery cloth or steel wool to remove stubborn, long-dried residue.

The next step is to sharpen the blades. While many of our grandfathers and fathers knew the art of sharpening knifes and garden tools, many gardeners today have not acquired that skill. If you do not know how to sharpen the blades, take them to a professional who can sharpen them properly for you. After cleaning and sharpening (and reassembling if needed), treat the metal parts of the pruners with an aerosol lubricant, like WD-40. Make sure the blades are adjusted properly and don=t wobble. Well adjusted pruners cut better.

Wheelbarrows, garden carts: Wheelbarrows and garden carts are a considerable investment and also deserve some attention at this time of year. Clean them up to remove dirt and rust. Spray paint bare metal areas to discourage rust. Oil and tighten nuts and screws. Lubricate squeaky wheels. Sand and treat wooden handles. If your wheelbarrow or cart doesn=t fit in your garage or garden shed, store it upside down and under cover to limit exposure to rain and snow.

Care for your garden tools and they will last much longer. They may even last long enough to pass onto younger generations like my father did to me.

Published: 11/29/2013 3:25 PM



Garden Tips, WSU Extension, Benton County, 5600-E West Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336-1387, 509-735-3551, Contact Us

WSU Extension, Franklin County, 1016 North 4th Ave, Pasco, WA 99301-3706, 509-545-3511, Contact Us
© 2018 Washington State University | Accessibility | Policies | Copyright | Log in