Washington State University Extension

Garden Tips

Archive for February 2016


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 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 ( and Seed Savers Exchange ( 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 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!


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 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 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



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