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Garden Tips

Archive for March 2014

GROWING PERENNIAL FLOWERS IN CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/21/14

Plant marketers are trying to start a new trend in gardening… planting perennials in containers. Advertisements showing both annuals and perennials planted together in pots have been evident in a variety of gardening media. However, I am not sure this is a trend that gardeners in our area will want to try.

Locally, we are usually not concerned about hardy garden perennials surviving the winter, even after the cold temperatures we experienced this past winter. When planted in the garden, the soil provides insulation, keeping their roots at temperatures above the ambient air temperature. When planted in a containers, the perennials roots are subjected to colder temperatures close to the air temperature.

There are several options for overwintering perennials in container gardens. One way to protect their roots from the cold is to dig holes and sink the pots in the ground. That may be okay for a few small pots, but it would be a monumental task for me because I have numerous very large pots.

A less troublesome way to protect potted perennials is by grouping them together and placing them in a protected spot on the ground, such as in an alcove or corner on the east side of your house and mulching them with compost or straw.

Perhaps the best option is to move the potted perennials into an unheated structure where the temperature will stay cool but above freezing all winter. An unheated garage is the most likely place to meet these criteria. (With the number of sizable containers I have, this would this would mean that my car would have to be parked outside all winter.)

Before storing them away in the garage, ground, or a protected spot, you must prepare containerized perennials for winter. This is done by not fertilizing or heavily watering the plants in late summer and fall. You want growth to slow down and stop so the plants can prepare themselves for winter=s cold temperatures. However, you should still water regularly enough to keep the plants from becoming drought stressed.

Before placing the plants and pots in storage, insure the plants are fully dormant by waiting for the temperature to drop below 30 degrees on several successive nights. While stored away in the garage, periodically check the potting mix. If it becomes dry, water the plants sparingly to keep the mixture slightly moist.

If you decide to follow this new trend of planting perennial in containers, select only hardy perennials. Proven Winners, a company who develops and markets annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs, suggests when planting flowering perennials or shrubs in containers, chose ones that are hardy in our USDA Hardiness Zone or one zone colder if you will be overwintering them in an unheated garage or burying the pots in the ground. Since we live in USDA Hardiness Zones 6a to7b, this would mean selecting perennials hardy in Zones 6a to 7b or Zones 5a to 6b. If you must leave the pots more exposed, they recommend selecting plants that are at least one to two zones colder (Zones 4a to 5b) than your region.

I am sticking with annual flowers in my container gardens. I want to park my car in the garage and I=m not digging big pits in the yard. I also like the option oftrying out different flower and color combinations every year. That=s what makes container gardening fun for me.

Published: 3/21/2014 1:14 PM

GROWING PERENNIAL FLOWERS IN CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/21/14

Plant marketers are trying to start a new trend in gardening… planting perennials in containers. Advertisements showing both annuals and perennials planted together in pots have been evident in a variety of gardening media. However, I am not sure this is a trend that gardeners in our area will want to try.

Locally, we are usually not concerned about hardy garden perennials surviving the winter, even after the cold temperatures we experienced this past winter. When planted in the garden, the soil provides insulation, keeping their roots at temperatures above the ambient air temperature. When planted in a containers, the perennials roots are subjected to colder temperatures close to the air temperature.

There are several options for overwintering perennials in container gardens. One way to protect their roots from the cold is to dig holes and sink the pots in the ground. That may be okay for a few small pots, but it would be a monumental task for me because I have numerous very large pots.

A less troublesome way to protect potted perennials is by grouping them together and placing them in a protected spot on the ground, such as in an alcove or corner on the east side of your house and mulching them with compost or straw.

Perhaps the best option is to move the potted perennials into an unheated structure where the temperature will stay cool but above freezing all winter. An unheated garage is the most likely place to meet these criteria. (With the number of sizable containers I have, this would this would mean that my car would have to be parked outside all winter.)

Before storing them away in the garage, ground, or a protected spot, you must prepare containerized perennials for winter. This is done by not fertilizing or heavily watering the plants in late summer and fall. You want growth to slow down and stop so the plants can prepare themselves for winter=s cold temperatures. However, you should still water regularly enough to keep the plants from becoming drought stressed.

Before placing the plants and pots in storage, insure the plants are fully dormant by waiting for the temperature to drop below 30 degrees on several successive nights. While stored away in the garage, periodically check the potting mix. If it becomes dry, water the plants sparingly to keep the mixture slightly moist.

If you decide to follow this new trend of planting perennial in containers, select only hardy perennials. Proven Winners, a company who develops and markets annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs, suggests when planting flowering perennials or shrubs in containers, chose ones that are hardy in our USDA Hardiness Zone or one zone colder if you will be overwintering them in an unheated garage or burying the pots in the ground. Since we live in USDA Hardiness Zones 6a to7b, this would mean selecting perennials hardy in Zones 6a to 7b or Zones 5a to 6b. If you must leave the pots more exposed, they recommend selecting plants that are at least one to two zones colder (Zones 4a to 5b) than your region.

I am sticking with annual flowers in my container gardens. I want to park my car in the garage and I=m not digging big pits in the yard. I also like the of option trying out different flower and color combinations every year. That=s what makes container gardening fun for me.

Published: 3/21/2014 1:14 PM

GROWING BLUEBERRIES IN POTS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/28/14

Spring is here! I was worried that the winter cold may have killed the two raspberry plants I planted in wine barrels last spring, but throughout the containers new little sprouts are starting to break the soil surface. Yea!

They are both >Raspberry ShortcakeJ= plants, the first thornless dwarf raspberry marketed to gardeners for growing in containers. They come from Fall Creek Farm & Nursery who is right in step with two new gardening trends, growing berries and growing food in container gardens.

Fall Creek=s mission is to develop Anew berry varieties specifically for home gardeners.@ Their breeders are looking for berries that are easy to grow, have exceptional ornamental value, and produce lots of good tasting fruit. They want to transform berry gardening and have registered the name of BrazelBerries7 for their line of home garden berries.

This year I want to add blueberries to my berry garden. Fall Creek offers three different blueberry cultivars for gardeners. I usually don=t recommend growing blueberries in local gardens because most home garden soils are very alkaline (with a pH of 8 or above) and low in organic matter. Blueberries only do well when grown in acid (with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5) soil that is fairly high in organic matter. This is not a problem if you grow them in pots with a potting mix.

While Fall Creek offers three different blueberry cultivars, my choice is >Jelly BeanJ.= Jelly Bean is the most cold hardy (USDA Zones 4 to 8) of the three and has the largest berries. It is a little Apuffball of a plant@ growing to a height and width of only 1 to 2 feet, perfect for a barrel planting.

Despite being a compact dwarf bush, Jelly Bean reportedly yields plenty of large, tasty sweet berries in the middle of summer. But it is not just about the berries, the spherical mounded plant can be very ornamental with bright green leaves in spring that turn darker green in summer and then red in late summer and fall. How pretty!

I will be placing my blueberry plant in a barrel planter with a number of large holes in the bottom for good drainage. Fall Creek recommends growing their blueberries in sizable pots of 16 inches or more in diameter. When planting berries or veggies in containers I advise using a quality potting mix that drains well. A mix that is predominantly peat moss or coconut coir mixed with compost, pumice, and perlite works well.

Once planted, Fall Creek recommends that your blueberry plants be located in full sun. However, our summer heat and sun is so extreme, a site where they will get some shade late in the day would probably be a good idea. Keep the soil consistently moist because blueberries are not tolerant of drought or excess moisture. Fertilize the plants once a year in early spring with a fertilizer recommended for acid loving plants.

The plants should be pruned in late winter or early spring while still dormant, removing the canes that fruited the year before. That=s because Jelly Bean and the other two blueberries (Peach Sorbet and Blueberry Glaze) produce new canes each year, but will only produce fruit on the canes that grew the previous year.

Iam excited to add to my berry collection and hope to be eating raspberries and blueberries from my patio plants by the middle of summer. It will be berry fun!

Published: 3/28/2014 1:08 PM

TRY SOME NEW VEGGIE VARIETIES

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

Advertisers often use the words “new, improved, or better” to tempt consumers. Plant marketers are no different. They want us to buy new varieties developed by plant breeders and seed companies. It is a good approach since most of the gardeners that I know like to try something different in their gardens every year. It is part of what makes gardening so much fun. Here are some new veggie and herb varieties you might want to know about.

Burpee (burpee.com) has an exclusive new basil introduction,

Bam

that has me excited. Basil is my favorite herb but by the middle of the season it starts to flower. I then work endlessly to keep the flowers pinched off.

Bam

is touted as a basil that reaches a height of 18 to 20 inches and is very productive, flavorful, fragrant. The great thing about

Bam

is that it never flowers and it keeps producing in hot weather.

Mascotte (www.parkseed) is a new bush bean variety that is so good it has been honored with the All America Selection award for 2014, the first bean since 1991 to receive that honor. What makes this bush bean so great? First, it is a compact variety that makes it ideal for the trend towards gardening with less space in raised beds and containers. The plants produce plenty of long slender pods above the leaves, making harvesting easy. The beans are crunchy with a great taste.

Fans of beets (I

m not.) will want to know that there are two new beets to pique their interest. One is a red

Baby Beat

from Johnny

s Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com). The National Garden Bureau says that

Baby Beat

is a true baby or mini beet that

s nicely rounded with smooth skin. The beet tops are small and attractive which could make them a nice addition to an edible landscape or a container garden. The other new beet is

Boldor

(www.territorialseed.com) with sweet, mild, 2-inch round fruit. The flesh is a bright yellow and the skin is a dark golden color. The young tops are tender and sweet.

I do not eat a lot of eggplant, but after eating some spicy baba ghanoush (sort of like humus made from grilled eggplant) last year, I

ll probably eat more this year. A new All American Selection is

Eggplant Patio Baby F1

(www.jungseed.com). As its name implies, it is a compact eggplant that will work well in containers. The plants are highly productive and yields 2 to 3-inch, deep purple, egg-shaped fruit. Plus, it is a “friendly” eggplant that does not have thorns on its leaves or at the top of the fruit.

I grow most of my veggies in containers, so I am always watching for space-saving bush varieties of squash, melons, and cukes. While not brand new, here are a few varieties that space conscious gardeners may want to know about. From Renee

s Garden Seeds (reneesgarden.com) comes

Bush Slicer

, a dwarf bush cucumber with 6 to 8 inch fruit,

Astia

a compact zucchini, and two bush winter squash.

Pic-N-Pic

a bush yellow crookneck squash comes from Burpee.

You may find some of the varieties that I have mentioned on seed racks at your locak garden stores along with other interesting varieties that may entice you or you can order them on-line from the companies noted. the weather is warming so get your seed as soon as possible and don

t forget to try something new.

Published: 3/14/2014 10:39 AM

IS THE SOIIL WARM ENOUGH FOR PLANTING SEEDS?

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/7/14

It=s March, we are setting the clocks ahead this weekend, and the daytime temperatures have reached 50 degrees and above, but winter may still have a few last gasps before we can say spring has arrived and planting can start.

St. Patrick=s Day is a traditional day for some to plant potatoes and peas, but smart gardeners wisely check the soil temperature before planting their veggie seed out in the garden. If the soil is too cold, the seeds will just sit there and may rot before getting a chance to sprout and grow.

To check the soil temperature, invest in a soil thermometer. You should be able purchase one for about $10 to $15 at a local garden store or from an on-line garden supply company. Take the soil temperature in mid-morning by inserting the thermometer=s probe two inches into the soil for small seeded crops (eg. lettuce) and four inches into the soil for large seeded crops (eg. squash, beans). The probe of some of the soil thermometers have markings that indicate inches to make this easier.

Seeds of early spring cool-season crops can be planted when the soil temperature is 40 degrees or above. This includes lettuce, peas, kale, radishes, arugula, and spinach. When the soil reaches 50 degrees, plant seeds of leeks, onions, Swiss chard, and turnips. Wait until it reaches 60 degrees for planting beans, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower and 70 degrees for cucumbers, squash, melons, and corn. The soil temperature should be consistent for several days before deciding these optimum temperatures have been reached.

Seed potatoes are best planted when the soil temperature is 45 degrees or above and daytime temperatures are consistently in the 65 degree range and nighttime temperatures in the 55 to 65 degree range.

If you are anxious to plant your garden, you can warm the soil up a little faster by covering the garden with a sheet of clear plastic. To keep the wind from wreaking havoc with the plastic, lay it out smoothly and then pull it taut, firmly burying all the edges in trenches.

If you choose to keep the plastic in place, you can plant seeds and transplants by making holes in the plastic, but weeds will grow profusely under the plastic. In addition, the clear plastic will heat the soil to plant damaging or stressful levels during the very sunny, hot part of summer unless your garden plants are big enough to shade the plastic by then.

Clear plastic works better than black plastic for warming the soil because it allows sunlight in during day and then traps the heat that builds up, much like a greenhouse. I recommend warming the soil up with clear plastic, but removing it before planting. Gardeners also find that the soil in raised beds warms up faster and situating your garden so it receives full sun and faces south will also help.

The last average date of frost for our area is May 1. In your hurry to get your garden planted, keep in mind that tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, cukes, squash, and melons will need protection if frost is in the forecast. Row cover fabrics can provide several degrees of protection.

If you haven=t done so already, plan out your garden now and purchase your seed and a soil thermometer. Spring is on its way! (I hope.)

Published: 3/7/2014 10:16 AM

NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO CONSIDER LANDSCAPE CHANGES

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 2/28/14

I was so excited when dwarf re-blooming lilacs were first introduced. I planted several in my yard. They grew well and bloomed, but their display was never remarkable and the shrubs were unattractive. Last year I took out all but one and plan to remove the remaining one this spring. This leaves me still yearning for a pretty, fragrant lilac that doesn=t get too big.

Maybe I should try one of the hybrid lilacs in the >Fairytale= series. Unlike the standard lilacs that grow to a height of 10 to 15 feet tall, Bailey Nurseries has introduced several dwarf hybrid lilacs. The one in the series that has piqued my interest is >Sugar Plum Fairy=. The most compact in the Fairytale series, it grows to a height and width of only 4 to 5 feet and produces fragrant rosy-lilac flowers. Other Afairies@ in the series includes Thumbelina, Tinkerbelle, and Prince Charming. All are very hardy and require full sun for good bloom.

I have always wanted to give mockorange (also known as Philadelphus) a try because when it blooms it is covered with pretty white flowers that give off a wonderful sweet orange fragrance. However, the large size (10 to 12 feet tall) of the traditional mockorange shrubs has held me back. The First Editions Program introduced >Snowwhite Fantasy= in 2011. It is a smaller mockorange, growing to a height of 5 to 6 feet and blooming both in spring and again in summer, producing pretty blowsy 2-inch double flowers.

While smaller than the traditional mockoranges, >Snowwhite Fantasy= is still too big for my landscape. A better fit would be >Miniature Snowflake

, a dwarf mockorange that only grows to a height and width of 2.5 to 3 feet with a compact, mounded habit. The double white flowers are produced in early summer.

There are other small shrubs to consider. I am drawn to the smallest dwarf shrubs being introduced by Spring Meadow Nursery. They are great for tucking into smaller landscapes or even perennial flower beds. >Tiny Wine= is one of these. This is a new dwarf ninebark (Physocarpus) that reaches a height of only 3 to 4 feet. It is the smallest ninebark available and is a compact bushy shrub with dark bronze-maroon leaves and dainty white flowers. Also in the Atiny@ category is a mountain hydrangea called Tiny Tuff Stuff . It grows to a truly tiny 1.5 to 2 feet tall and wide. The lace-cap flowers range in color from a soft lavender blue, to pink, to white.

Also in the diminutive category is Spring Meadow=s Lo & Behold >Pink Micro Chip= a new butterfly bush (Buddleia) that grows to a height of only 18 to 24 inches and gives forth an abundance of flower spikes full of tiny pink blooms. This compact little bush is non-invasive, drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and long blooming. The flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

With spring right around the corner, now is a great time to consider changes to your landscape plantings. What doesn=t work for you? What would you like to try? It may be hard to decide a plant must go, but why stick with an eyesore or a maintenance headache? Removal gives you the chance to try something new that will hopefully add to the beauty of your landscape.

REMINDER: Gardeners with spring fever should consider attending the WSU Extension=s Spring Garden Day workshop on March 8th. The day-long program starts with keynote presentations about butterflies and bees. These will be followed by a variety of gardening classes presented by WSU Master Gardeners and other local gardening experts. The cost of the program is $20. If you are interested in attending, call 509-735-3551.

Published: 2/28/2014 10:08 AM

TO CAGE OR NOT TO CAGE TOMATOES

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 2/7/14

For the past several years I have been trying different types of tomato cages for supporting my tomatoes, but these efforts have usually ended in failure. Last year windy weather resulted in all my cages and plants blowing over. What a disaster! Since I am obviously not an expert on staking tomatoes, I have been researching where I went wrong.

Tomato plants are a vine. When not provided with some type of structure for support, they will grow along the ground. If left to sprawl like this, an indeterminate tomato variety can take up as much as 16 square feet of garden area. That=s a lot of space for just one tomato plant. Plus, many of the fruit that develop touch the ground, increasing the potential of fruit rot.

Gardeners can maximize garden space and minimize fruit rot by providing tomato vines with support and growing them upright. Before we discuss caging, staking, and trellising, let=s talk about the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

Determinate tomatoes are varieties with bushier, more restrained growth. Vines are shorter, growing from 3 to 4 feet in length. The main vines develop numerous branches which stop growing when the plants begin to flower. With all the flowers and fruit developing at the same time, commercial tomato growers favor determinant tomatoes for processing. The varieties, Celebrity, Oregon Spring, Bush Early Girl, and Rutgers are popular determinate garden tomato varieties. Many early season tomatoes are determinate varieties.

Indeterminate tomatoes are varieties with vines that keep growing and growing until frost kills them in the fall. Their vines can grow from 6 to 12 feet in length or longer. They flower and fruit over a period of two months or more. While indeterminate varieties typically develop mature fruit later in the season, they tend to produce more tomatoes over the entire season. Many of the heirloom varieties popular with gardeners today have an indeterminate growth habit.

So where did I go wrong? I used tomato cages, the 3-4

types, commonly sold to gardeners. These cages will work fairly well for caging determinant tomatoes. As noted earlier, determinate tomatoes are more compact and most only reach a height of three or four feet.

The indeterminate tomato varieties that I have been growing are much too big for these short cages. They require taller, more substantial support in the form of a tall wire cage, sturdy trellis, or strong stake, especially when you live in a region like ours that sometimes experiences strong summer winds.

Indeterminate tomatoes can be Acaged@ by constructing a 2

diameter cylinder type cage with 5

hog wire (the type used for reinforcing concrete) or using a heavy gauge wire cattle fencing panel to make a square cage with 18″ wide sides. The cage must be anchored to the ground in some way, especially in windy areas, such placing a length of rebar inside the cage and pounding it a foot or more into the ground. Place cages three to four feet apart in the garden.

You may want to consider making your own cages like these for growing indeterminate tomatoes. Caged tomatoes are unpruned (less work) and tend to yield more fruit per vine than staked tomatoes, but the fruit is smaller. Next week I will finish up this ATomatoes@ series with information on staking and trellising tomatoes.

Published: 2/7/2014 1:56 PM

GIVING TOMATOES THE SUPPORT THEY NEED

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 2/14/14

When warm weather arrives in early summer, our garden tomatoes will start to grow very fast. Once a plant is a foot or so tall, it will start to branch. As rapid growth continues, the plant flops over and grows along the ground unless it is provided with support. Left to grow horizontally, the vine will develop more and more branches, eventually becoming a tangled mess.

As noted last week, sturdy tomato cages are usually adequate support for shorter determinate tomatoes, but the taller indeterminate types need more support. This can be provided by staking each plant individually or building a trellis.

Staking individual plants involves pounding a sturdy 6-8 foot stake firmly into the ground three to four inches away from the plant. To avoid injuring the roots, do this within two weeks of planting in the garden and before branching begins.

When the vine is a foot tall, tie it to the stake using a soft tying material that won=t cut into the stem, such as strips of nylon pantyhose, or use one of the commercial tying materials available at garden stores.

After this, pinch out any side shoots or Asuckers.@ These side shoots develop between the base of a leaf and the main stem. A tomato plant staked and Apruned@ in this way produces fewer tomatoes per vine, but the fruit that does develop will be larger. However, it makes the fruit more prone to blossom end rot and sunburn. You can try to avoid these problems by also leaving the first sucker that starts to grow above the first flower cluster that develops. Any other suckers or shoots are removed, leaving two main shoots.

If you are a gardener who grows more than a few tomato plants, consider building a trellis for support. The ABasket Weave@ or AFlorida Weave@ is commonly used to trellis commercially grown tomatoes. Using this system space, your plants 18 to 24 inches apart and then place 6 to 7 foot stakes between every plant or every three plants. Use strong posts, such as a metal T or a 4×4 inch wooden fence post, at the ends of the row.

When plants are a foot tall, it=s time to start Astringing@ the trellis using non-stretching twine, such as baler=s twine, or wire. Secure the twine or wire to the end post and then run it on one side of the tomatoes and fix it to the next stake. (Hint: Twine can be fixed by wrapping it around the stake.) Keeping the Astring@ taught, continue running it to the second stake on the opposite side of the tomatoes and fixing it to the next stake. Continue weaving the Astring@ in this manner until you get to the end post, fasten it to the post, then return the Astring@ to the beginning post by weaving it back on the opposite sides of the tomatoes, and finally fastening it to the post. Repeat the process every time the plants grow eight to ten inches.

So that you don=t have dense, overcrowded vines, prune your trellised tomatoes. Leave two shoots per plant if they are spaced two feet apart and three shoots if spaced three feet apart. Many gardeners often use their own variation of the ABasket Weave@ or design ingenious other trellises that work for them. The key to success is building a trellis that=s tall enough and sturdy enough to support the vines. I think I=ll try trellising my tomatoes this year.

Published: 2/14/2014 1:51 PM

GARDEN DAY THE CURE FOR GARDENERS WITH SPRING FEVER

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 2/21/14

After a long and dreary winter, WSU Extension=s Spring Garden Day on March 8th offers a cure for lcoal gardeners with spring fever. This daylong educational gardening program will be kicked off with two terrific keynote presentations.

Dr. David James will start Spring Garden Day with his presentation on butterflies. At the young age of eight, James was a budding entomologist who was fascinated by butterflies and began rearing them at his English home. After studying zoology in college, he migrated to Australia where he did his graduate research on the winter biology of Monarch butterflies.

James came to Washington State University in 1999 and is stationed at the WSU Prosser Research Station where he is researching biological control of insect and mite pests in vineyards and other irrigated crops. He also directs the WSU AVineyard Beauty with Benefits@ project that involves using native plants to both beautify and attract beneficial insects to commercial vineyards.

As busy as that keeps him, he still finds time to study butterflies, including his favorite, the Monarch butterfly. He recently coauthored a beautifully illustrated book on the caterpillars of Pacific Northwest butterflies titled ALife Histories of Cascadia Butterflies.@ James has been quoted as saying that A a world without butterflies would be a very sad place.@ His presentation will include butterfly biology as well as how to protect and encourage butterflies.

Dr. Steve Sheppard, Chair of the Entomology Department at WSU in Pullman, will be giving the second keynote about honeybees. Sheppard=s bee story also begins as a young boy with a great grandfather who had more than a hundred hives along the Savannah River in the southeast. However, Sheppard didn=t become a beekeeper until after taking a beekeeping class in college. After that, he went on to study bee genetics in graduate school.

Sheppard is also head of the Apis Molecular Systematics Laboratory at WSU. They focus on honeybee colony health in the Pacific Northwest. Pesticides are just one of the things that threaten honeybee populations across the country. At Spring Garden Day, Sheppard talk about the fascinating honeybee and how gardeners can protect this valuable pollinating resource.

The keynotes will be followed by a variety of classes for backyard gardeners. Presented by gardeners and other local experts, the scheduled classes are Raised Beds and Container Gardening; Drip Irrigation for the Home Garden; Gardening in Miniature; Managing Fruit Tree Insect Pests; Backyard Greenhouses; Growing Perennial Flowers; Basic Rose Care; and Tools to Make Gardening Easier.

The cost of the program is $20 per person if you pre-register or $25 at the door. More information and a registration brochure can be found on-line on the Benton Franklin WSU Master Gardener Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wsumastergardeners. You can also call 735-3551 for information and a registration brochure.

Who: Sponsored by WSU Extension Master Gardeners of Benton & Franklin Counties

What: Spring Garden Day – a daylong gardening workshop

Where: The Gallery, Bethel Church, 600 Shockley Rd., Richland, WA

When: March 8th, 2014 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Why: Help new and experienced local gardeners learn more about gardening

Published: 2/21/2014 1:47 PM

CHICKEN LITTLE AND IMPENDING DROUGHT

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 1/24/14

I feel a little like Chicken Little, but local gardeners and homeowners should be afraid. This winter has been very dry and long range forecasts are not currently predicting any relief in sight , but optimistic climatologists say things could change. We=ll see.

Right now snowpack in the Olympics is at 26 per cent of normal and the Cascade watersheds are at or below 50 per cent of normal. This situation has been set up by a winter drought situation in all of Washington with precipitation for first three months of winter at only 55 to 65 per cent of normal. USDA=s Natural Resources Conservation Service predicts that our stream flows in spring and summer will be at 60 to 80 per cent of normal.

What that means for us gardeners is that irrigation water is likely to be in short supply during the coming growing season. Now is the time to start planning on how to cope with this impending drought.

1. Currently, local soils are quite dry since we also have experienced less winter precipitation than is normal in our area. (Gray, foggy weather doesn=t add moisture to the soil.) It will be important to get ahead of the game and deep water trees, shrubs, and perennial plants now. Before watering use a shovel to check for a frost layer in the soil that would prevent water from penetrating into the root zone of plants. If a frost layer persists, wait until it disappears and then water your plants.

2. Most vegetable crops need at least one inch of water per week during the growing season. As you are planning your vegetable garden for this coming season, think about what crops you want to plant. To conserve water, avoid wasting space by planting vegetables that take up lots of space, such as sweet corn, vining watermelon, vining winter squash, and peas. Look for bush and compact varieties of squash, cucumbers, melons, and even tomatoes that will take up less area in the garden. If you plant in rows in your garden, move the rows closer together, leaving you with less area that needs watering.

3. Keep weeds in check with frequent light cultivation. Weeds compete with your vegetables and flowering plants for both water and nutrients. Regular, shallow cultivation with a stirrup, scuffle or AHula hoe@ will keep weeds from stealing limited irrigation water. If you don=t have a good hoe, get one now and be ready. I bought the AHula hoe@ a year ago and was amazed at how well it works cutting off young weed seedlings.

4. If your vegetable, perennials, trees, and shrubs are being watered with sprinkler irrigation, consider putting in some type water conserving irrigation system, such as drip tape, soaker hoses, porous wall hoses, or a drip system.

What do you need for drip irrigation? Consult the WSU Extension fact sheet ADrip Irrigation for the Yard and Garden@ (Peters 2011, FS030E) that is available at no charge from WSU Extension at: https://pubs.wsu.edu/. The author, Dr. Troy Peters, will be just one of the WSU faculty addressing in the Master Gardener during their training program this year. He will discuss AHow You Know When to Water.@ The 15 session Master Gardener training program starts on Tuesday. If you are interested in applying or learning more about the program, call the WSU Extension office at 735-3551 by Monday.

As the growing season approaches, I=ll talk more on saving water in our yards and gardens.

Published: 1/24/2014 1:43 PM

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