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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.

67th Annual Rose Show

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written May 28, 2015

This Saturday, May 30 the Tri-City Rose Society (TCRS) will be holding their 67th Annual Rose Show. It is amazing that this local group of rose enthusiasts has been holding this show and sharing their love of roses with other gardeners in the Tri-Cities for so many years. The show allows rose growers to show off their beauties and provides local gardeners the opportunity to ask rose experts about growing this popular bloom.

One of the Tri-Cities Rose Society’s members that will be answering questions and showing off her roses is Norma Boswell. She is a dedicated member of the TCRS, serving as editor or co-editor of the monthly TCRS Rose Herald newsletter for 33 years, plus holding the offices of secretary, vice-president, and president at different times. In addition, she is an American Rose Society consulting rosarian. This means she is strongly committed to sharing her knowledge of roses and their care with others.

Many gardeners know that roses can be difficult to grow without using chemicals for insect and disease control, but Boswell has taken on the challenge and practices organic rose care.  She does not rely on broad-spectrum insecticides for getting rid of aphids, instead she has become acquainted with beneficial insects and says, “It’s good to know what the larval stages look like so I can allow them to dine on my aphids.”

Like so many other TRS members, Boswell has lots of roses. She grows no less than 60 roses with a focus on miniature roses. What are miniature roses?  They are diminutive rose bushes that grow from 3 to 36 inches or more, depending on the cultivar. Small in stature, their blooms are also small, only 1 to 3 inches in diameter, and typically with little fragrance.

Mini’s have become increasingly popular in US gardens, perhaps because their size makes them easier to fit into the smaller yards and landscapes of today and their care is less burdensome. They can be planted amongst other shrubs or perennials in the landscape for a little “pop” of color here and there without worrying that they will take over their allotted space. Their reduced size and hardiness also make them good candidates for growing in patio containers.

Pruning can be as easy as shaping the plants with hedging shears, but this leads to dense shrubs that are more prone to disease and insect pest infestations. Rose experts like Boswell recommend pruning them much like regular roses every spring, but not as severely. Remove any canes that are dead, diseased, weak, or crossing, opening up the center and leaving healthy, vigorous canes. It is also advisable to cut miniature rose shrubs back in height by 1/3 at pruning time.

Boswell and the other TRS members invite you to join them for the 67th Annual Rose Show of the Tri-City Rose Society will be on Saturday, May 30th from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Richland Community Center at 500 Amon Park Drive in Richland. If you do attend the show, look for Boswell’s mini-roses as well as her wonderful miniature rose arrangements.

Seize The Moment and Learn From Other Gardeners

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written April 30, 2015

One of the wonderful characteristics of many home gardeners is that they thirst for more knowledge about plants and gardening.  Many also enjoy sharing what they know with other gardeners.  There are three upcoming opportunities for local gardeners to chat with each other and learn.

Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale May 2: We mentioned last week that the local WSU Extension Master Gardeners will be holding their Spring Plant Sale this Saturday, May 2 at 1600 S. Union in Kennewick in the parking lot of Highlands Grange Park starting at 9:00 a.m. If you are like me, you may not have room for even one more plant, but you might still want to drop by and talk with the Master Gardeners. The plant sale chair, Dave Hammond, knows all about growing veggies, especially potatoes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Hammond and other Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your gardening questions. Plus, I bet you can find room for just one more plant!

Compost Workshop May 9: A Composting & Waste Reduction Workshop will be held on Saturday, May 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Kennewick Branch of the Mid-Columbia Library at 1620 S. Union. The workshop is free and open to the public, but you must pre-register by calling 735-3551. At the end of class, each participant will receive a compost bin and book on composting. There will also be an opportunity to tour the Compost Demonstration Area (behind the library in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden) with a Master Gardener.

I will be teaching participants how you can turn yard and kitchen waste into valuable organic matter by composting. Finished compost is sometimes referred to as  “black gold” because it helps improve soil texture when mixed with garden soil. Improved soil texture leads to better drainage and aeration in heavy soils. In sandy soils, like I have in my garden, compost increases the retention of water and nutrients. Composting is a great way to divert yard waste away from the solid waste stream, recycle it, and use it to grow healthier, more productive gardens.

Bring your lunch and enjoy it in the garden after the workshop.

Orchid Show May 9 & 10: When it comes to orchids, my thumb is not as green as I would like. I have a windowsill filled with mini-orchids and I have had fairly good luck with them surviving and even blooming, but occasionally one starts to die. Usually my ailing orchids’ problems are related to the roots and re-potting.

Tom Walker, Orchid Society member,  points out that re-potting is needed when a plant outgrows its pot or the potting mix has decomposed and is not providing adequate drainage and air for the roots. I admit that because I fear re-potting my darling orchids incorrectly and because I can not find a suitable orchid potting mix locally, I procrastinate re-potting.

The South Central Washington Orchid Society is holding its annual Orchid Show on Saturday and Sunday, May 9th (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and 10th (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) at the Tri-Tech Skills Center at 5929 W. Metaline in Kennewick. Admission is only $3.00. I am planning to go so I can get some help for my ailing orchids and purchase a good orchid potting mix. Local orchid society members will have beautiful blooming orchids on display and will be giving seminars on orchid care, in addition to several vendors selling orchids and orchid supplies.

So seize the moment and take advantage of one or all three of these opportunities to learn from other gardeners!


GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Written – JANUARY 9, 2015

When WSU Extension started the Master Gardener program in 1972, they had no idea how the program would change and grow. The original purpose of the program was to train volunteers so that they could help answer the deluge of calls for help with gardening problems coming into county extension offices around the state.

WSU Extension Area Agents, David Gibby and Bill Scheer came up with the idea of recruiting and training volunteers to staff ‘Plant Clinics.’ They developed a training curriculum to be delivered by WSU faculty and local experts. The basic course included food gardening, lawn care, landscape management, pest management, and the safe use of pesticides.

The first Master Gardener volunteers graduated in 1973 in King, Pierce, and Spokane counties after taking 40 hours of training. They were given the title of ‘WSU Extension Master Gardener’ after they returned 40 hours of service back to the program by staffing plant clinics. The program started in 1975 in Benton and Franklin Counties.

Since 1973 the Master Gardener program has grown exponentially in Washington and the rest of the US. The program has also changed. WSU Master Gardeners still receive quality training, but the basic curriculum is delivered via a quality on-line course and is supplemented with face-to-face training that meets local needs.

Master Gardeners focus on education about research-based sustainable gardening practices. This includes using less pesticides, protecting beneficial insects and pollinators, good soil management, proper irrigation and fertilization, plant selection, and other environmentally sound gardening practices.

Just like the first class of graduates, today’s Master Gardeners staff plant clinics and answer gardeners’ questions, but they assist WSU in providing educational outreach programs in communities:

-They establish and maintain demonstration gardens where they teach about gardening, demonstrate gardening skills, and produce fruit and vegetables for local food banks.

-They provide leadership for the Plant-A-Row for the Hungry program and assist in setting up community and school gardens.

-They mentor community gardeners.

-They teach children about plants and gardening.

-They offer classes on food gardening, landscape care, lawns, irrigation, tree care, integrated pest management, and more.

I have been working with Master Gardener volunteers since 1976. What I cherish about the program are the people, their love of gardening, and their dedication. Not all are expert gardeners, but each brings a unique set of skills to contribute to the program.

In 2014, our local Benton-Franklin WSU Master Gardeners returned 11,895 hours of service helping people solve their plant and pest problems and learn about gardening. They also donated 2128 lb. of produce from their Demonstration Garden to the local food banks. Under Master Gardener leadership, 600 local gardeners participated in the Plant-a-Row program and donated about 21,000 lb. of produce to people in need in our communities. Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners helped build eight new community gardens and mentored gardeners at 24 local community and social service gardens. They also taught almost 3000 youth about plants, gardening, and insects.

Back in 1973, I do not think that Gibby and Scheer could have imagined the growth and evolution of the Master Gardener program into the wildly successful and diverse program it is today. I know they would be proud of the many volunteers. They are an awesome group of people.

Published: 1/9/2015 12:46 PM


GARDEN TIPS – written by – Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

published – December 19, 2014

Winter is a great time for gardeners to catch up on their reading. If you do not already have a stack of books waiting for you, here are a few suggestions for your winter respite.

Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies by David G. James and David Nunnallee could be classified as a ‘coffee table’ book because of all the beautiful color photographs of not only adult butterflies, but also each stage of their life cycle. You might not think of butterfly caterpillars as attractive, but this book reveals their unique beauty.

This comprehensive volume was ten years in the making and covers the life histories of the 158 butterfly species found in British Columbia, Washington, northern Idaho, and northern Oregon. Gardeners, hikers, amateur entomologists, and natural history buffs should not miss this book. James and Nunnallee also cover the biology, ecology, and rearing of each butterfly species included in the book.

A botanist at heart, I am intrigued by the book, The Drunken Botanist. Few botany books make it to the New York Times Bestseller list, but this one written by Amy Stewart, is a bonafide hit. It is subtitled ‘The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks’ and focuses on the herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and even fungi that humans have used to make alcoholic brews and spirits. This book is said to be a mix of ‘biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology’ and includes fifty cocktail recipes as well as growing advice on many of the plants used in the recipes.

This is not Stewart’s only book with an intriguing title. She is also author of Wicked Bugs – The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects and Wicked Plants – The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities.

Next on my list for reading is any issue of Green Prints – The Weeders Digest, but I would suggest subscribing and starting with the 100th issue of this literary gardening magazine. I recently received a copy and it reminded me of this wonderful little quarterly magazine. The editor started the magazine 25 years ago with the intent of getting to the human side of gardening, not the how-to of growing plants. In any issue you will find sweet short stories, heart-warming tales, anecdotes, pretty artwork and poetry about gardening that will make you laugh, smile, or cry. It will certainly cheer the gray winter days. To subscribe go to:

If you want to make the most of these winter months, you might want to study one of the best references available for gardeners on the topic of pruning, American Horticultural Society Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. This book is subtitled ‘The Definitive Guide to Pruning Trees, Shrubs, and Climbers.’ The most recent edition was revised and updated in 2011. Dr. Ray Maleike, retired WSU Extension Horticulture Specialist, recommends this book to gardeners with pruning questions. Available only in paperback, it costs less than $20. Another good paperback tome on pruning, An Illustrated Guide to Pruning by Edward F. Gilman, costs over $100, but it is rich with diagrams and illustrations. If you read all 496 pages, you will be a pruning expert!

Published: 12/19/2014 12:37 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 7/11/2013

This has been quite a year for gardeners who are hoping for a banner crop of tomatoes and other vegetables from their gardens.

First, we had a spell of cool weather that allowed cool-season crops to prosper, but warm-season veggies like tomatoes, squash and cucumbers just shivered and refused to grow. This cool weather was followed by unseasonably high temperatures and then more cool weather.

Now that warm weather appears to be here to stay, my warm-season crops are thriving and flowering.

One of the great things about growing your own vegetables is being able to harvest them at the ‘peak of perfection,’ when they are full of flavor and nutrition. Because gardeners don’t have to worry about shipping their veggies, they can pick tomatoes when they are ripe and tasty.

Perfecting the skill in knowing when it’s time to harvest different vegetables takes some finesse and experience. Seed packets usually provide a guide of the average number of days from planting to maturity. However, this is just a ‘ballpark’ figure that will fluctuate depending on weather and other growing conditions.

Vegetable experts recommend picking your veggies early in the morning because that’s when they are the crispest, juiciest and sweetest. Be careful when harvesting

your produce. Veggies picked at their peak of perfection are quite tender. If you aren’t able to easily twist the fruit from the plant, use a knife, hand pruners or garden sheers to cut them off the plant. Take care not to bruise or scratch the skin.

It’s important to keep up with your harvesting. This encourages the plants to keep blooming and producing fruit.

Occasionally, a zucchini will hide beneath the leaves and escape harvest until it is too big for good eating. These ‘escapees’ still should be harvested and disposed of in the compost pile.

Harvesting tips

— Tomato: Pick when they have developed a uniform color for the variety. Fruit should still be firm.

— Summer squash (yellow, zucchini, patty pan): Harvest when small and tender, before the seeds start to develop. I like to harvest my zucchini before they get any longer than six inches, the same for yellow squash.

— Carrots: Get these beauties out of the ground when they reach the desired size. It’s best to lift them out of the ground with a garden fork, especially the long-rooted types, rather than pulling them. Carrots left in the ground too long, especially during hot weather, will be woody and lose their sweet flavor.

— Snap beans: As the name implies, these are best picked when they can be easily snapped in two and while the seeds are still small and not bulging. If you wait too long the pods will be tough and the beans starchy. Harvest frequently for the best quality and to keep the plants producing.

— Peppers: There are now different colored varieties, such as purple, yellow and orange, but sweet peppers are best when shiny green and about three to four inches in diameter. They still can be used after they turn red or yellow. Hot peppers can be picked when still green or after they change color.

Read more here:

Donate extra food to Mid-Columbia food banks
With local gardens starting to produce, now is a good time to remind area gardeners that any extra produce they have from their gardens can be put good use at local food banks. The food banks welcome fresh garden vegetables that will help fight hunger and provide a healthier diet to the needy in our region, plus every pound you donate can be claimed as a $1.50 deduction.

Here is a list of the local food banks. Because most are staffed by volunteers, it

s recommended that you first call to make sure they are open and available to take your donation. First United Methodist, 703 W. Clark St, Pasco, WA, 547-9731, Sat. 9am–noon

Salvation Army, 310 N. 4th Ave, Pasco, WA , 547-2138, Tues & Thurs 9am–11am

Adventist Community Service, 605 Road 36, Pasco, WA , 547-4998, Tuesday 9am–noon

Golden Age Food Share, 504 S. Oregon St, Pasco, WA , 547-8310, Monday–Thursday 8am–noon

St. Vincent DePaul Food Bank, 115 W. Lewis St, Pasco, WA , 544-9315, Wednesday 11am–4pm

Union Gospel Mission, 112 N. 2nd Ave, Pasco, WA, 845-1800, Everyday 8am–5 pm

Pasco Christian Church, 1524 W. Marie St, Pasco, WA, 531-8830, Monday–Friday 3pm-4pm

Tri-Cities Food Bank, 420 W. Deschutes Ave, Kennewick, WA , 586-0688, Monday–Friday 8am–noon

Harvest Outreach, 120 W. Railroad Ave, Kennewick, WA , 582-9064, Monday–Thursday 11am–3 pm

Tri Cities Food Bank, 321 Wellesian Way, Richland, WA, 943-2795, Monday–Friday 7:30am–11:30am

Salvation Army, 1219 Thayer Drive, Richland, WA, 943-7977, Tuesday & Thursday 9am-11am

Jericho Food Ministries, 2500 Jericho Road, Richland, WA , 627-0750, Tuesday– to Friday10am to 4pm

Jubilee Ministries Food Bank, 1429 Stacy St, Prosser, WA , 786-3033 or 781-0976, Tues, Wed, Thur & Sat 9am–noon

Tri-Cities Food Bank, 712 10th St, Benton City, WA , 588-5454, Wednesdays 9:30am–11:30am, Thursdays Noon to 2:30pm and 6-8pm

Connell Food Bank, 124 N. Columbia, Connell, WA , 234-0243, 2nd and 4th Weds of Month 9am–11am

Read more here:

Published: 7/11/2013 3:16 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 2/8/2013

‘Grow. Cook. Eat.’ could be the mantra of any avid vegetable gardener, but it’s also the title of a great gardening book by Willi Galloway. While her book includes plenty of sound advice for vegetable gardeners, it also could be considered a coffee table book because of the beautiful photographs of vegetables or a cookbook because of the scrumptious recipes.

The author, Willi Galloway, is an award winning radio commentator, writer, and former editor at Organic Gardening magazine. Not only does she love growing vegetables, she also enjoys cooking and eating them. She has said that she’s not sure if she gardens because she loves food or if she loves gardening because she grows food. Galloway also writes a kitchen gardening and seasonal cooking blog ( and hosts an online garden-to-table cooking show with her husband.

While she now lives in Portland with her husband Jon, her dog Domino and her small flock of chickens, Galloway moved to Seattle after leaving the staff of Organic Gardening magazine. In Seattle she became a WSU Extension Master Gardener and served on the board of Seattle Tilth, a nonprofit organization that teaches people to grow produce organically.

Galloway is an experienced organic urban gardener who encourages others to grow their own food. In her book’s introduction she notes that to ‘grow food is to really know food’ pointing out that there’s so much more to experience when you eat veggies grown by you instead of buying them at the store.

Most gardeners know that tomatoes are the tastiest when grown and harvested fully ripe and juicy right from the garden. Who doesn’t like popping sugar sweet cherry tomatoes in their mouth when working in the garden? Galloway points out that there’s many other tasty veggie treats awaiting us fresh from our gardens. If you only buy fresh vegetables from the grocery store or even from a farmer’s market, you miss utilizing more of what vegetables have to offer, such as radish seed pods, beet greens, herb blossoms and more.

Grow Cook Eat is full of sound basic gardening information and helpful tips. One tip is to acquire an inexpensive soil thermometer to take the guess work out of when to plant in the spring. With a soil thermometer you can check to see if the soil is warm enough for peas, potatoes, transplants, and seeds.

Want to grow vertically in your garden using a trellis? Galloway favors the use of panels of welded wire mesh used to reinforce concrete. She recommends attaching panels to the common wooden cedar fence using staples to turn it into a vertical gardening space. For best exposure to the light, place your panels on the west or south facing sides of the fence.

Galloway’s tip on pre-sprouting peas in moist paper towels before planting in the garden insures that the peas will sprout and grow before rotting in cold soil. She’s found that pre-sprouted peas will be up and growing before unsprouted peas break the soil surface.

The subtitle to Galloway’s Grow Cook Eat is ‘A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips. If you love both vegetable gardening and eating vegetables, you’ll love this book.

Side Bar: Galloway Keynotes at Spring Garden Day – Saturday, March 9th

Willi Galloway, author of Grow Cook Eat, will be the keynote speaker at WSU Extension’s Spring Garden Day on Saturday March 9th. Spring Garden Day is an annual day-long program of gardening classes for local gardeners.

Galloway’s morning keynote will be followed in the afternoon by a variety of other exciting classes presented by WSU Master Gardeners, WSU faculty, and local experts. Classes include Growing Blueberries, Square Foot Gardening, The World of Geraniums, Pruning Young Trees, Establishing a Backyard Pond, Be a Great Garden Photographer, and Xeric & Alpine Plants of the Mid-Columbia.

The cost of the program is $20 per person and participants must pre-register by March 8th. For a registration form call the WSU Extension office at 735-3551. Spring Garden Day is sponsored by WSU Extension and the Benton Franklin Master Gardener Program and will be held at Bethel Church in Richland.
Published: 2/8/2013 10:31 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Next weekend is the Home & Garden Show at TRAC in Pasco. If you’re a gardener, there are opportunities to talk to local experts about flowers, trees, and gardens. Upstairs you’ll find the annual Flower Show . They’ll of course have lovely flower arrangement and plants specimens from their yards on display, but more importantly you also get the chance to talk to local garden club members who know all about growing flowers in local gardens.

Down on the arena floor, you have the opportunity to ask all your tree, shrub, and garden questions at the side-by-side booths of the Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council and the WSU Extension Master Gardeners. If you want to know about tree selection and proper pruning, stop in at the forestry council booth.

The MCCFC is a non-profit group with the goal of educating local residents about planting trees correctly and keeping local trees healthy with proper care. At their booth, you can find information on tree selection, planting trees, pruning, and tree care. I’ll be at their booth for part of Sunday. Also On Sunday , Howard Madsen, the president of the MCCFC, and Brian Cramer, a council member representing the PUD, will be giving a seminar about tree pruning do’s and don’ts.

At the WSU Extension Master Gardener booth you’ll learn about upcoming classes for local gardeners and the three-acre Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. Have a yard or garden problem? An insect you need identified? A sick plant? The WSU Extension Master Gardeners will be there to provide you with free, research-based answers to your questions.

You wouldn’t believe the mountain of seed catalogs that I’ve received im the mail. I’ve already talked about some of the specialty vegetable catalogs in the pile, but I must tell you about one from Cloud Mountain Farm. It’s one of the mainstream major purveyors of mail order plants and seeds with a glossy and impressive catalog. It’s a much smaller companies that isn’t trying to woo you with pretty pictures, but by offering plants that aren’t quite so common.

This year is my first time for receiving Cloud Mountain Farm’s catalog. They’re located in Everson, Washington, which is located “along the western edge of the Cascade Mountain range in northwestern Washington ” about twenty minutes from Bellingham. The catalog is not large and it’s on newsprint paper. I thought this would be just a specialty fruit catalog with a black and white picture of an apple blossom on the cover, but there’s much more than just fruiting plants that they offer.

Cloud Mountain Farm (CMF) has some unique and tempting ornamentals to sell. They will ship quite a few plants, but if the plants being offered are too big for shipping, they must be picked up at the nursery. While they may have a more moderate climate than most of our region, they offer a number of plants that are hardy in our region too. Here’s a few that might tweak your curiosity:

Stellar Dogwoods (Zone 5): These are hybrids that are a cross between flowering dogwood and Kousa dogwood. CMF offers Aurora with white flowers and Stellar Pink with light pink flowers.

Camellia Hybrids (Zone 6-10): These beautiful flowering broadleaf evergreens prefer acid soils and partial shade, but I’ve been wanting to try one of the hardy camellias anyhow. CMF offers both spring and fall blooming types. Autumn Spirit might be a good bet since it’s reported to be very hardy and fairly sun tolerant, although partial shade would probably work best here. It produces deep rose pink flowers in October.

Dwarf & Miniature Conifers: It’s easy to find full-sized fir, cypress, cedar, juniper, and pine trees trees, but it’s hard to find dwarf and miniature versions. CMF designates dwarfs as those that grow one to six inches a year and reach a size of one to six feet in about ten years. Miniatures are Lilliputian in growth and stature, growing less than one inch a year and only reaching a height of one foot or less in ten years. These smaller plants have a niche in smaller landscapes and in rock and miniature gardens.

CMF offers a number of other unique and unusual ornamentals, as well as tree fruit, nuts, grapes, and berries. You can reach Cloud Mountain Farm at www.cloudmountainfarm or by calling 360-966-5859.

Published: 2/14/2009 11:53 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I was recently asked to speak to a combined class of sixth graders at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School. I wasn’t sure what I could talk about that might be of interest to the students, but I decided to talk about planting trees. After I finished giving my presentation I invited questions about trees or plants from the class. I was delighted to see how interested the students were in plants… almost everyone’s hands went up with a question. Here are just three of the questions that I received. I thought you might like to know the answers too.

QUESTION 1: It seems like our real Christmas trees dry up as soon as we set them up indoors. My parents are worried about fire and think that we should buy an artificial tree instead. I like real trees the best. They smell so good. Is there anyway to keep a real tree fresh for longer so we can get one without my parents worrying?

A fresh tree kept in water indoors can last for a month or more in good condition. There are four keys to keeping a real tree as fresh as possible and avoiding a fire hazard. First, start with a fresh tree. A tree that’s already dried out won’t last long no matter what you do.

Second, use a clean tree stand that holds at least four quarts of water. Once you set the tree up, it should be checked everyday and refilled as the water goes down. Never let the water level drop below the base of the tree. Research at WSU has shown that a fresh tree can take up as much as a full gallon of water the first day you set the tree up! Use only plain water with no special preservatives or additives in the water. WSU research has also proven that water additives, home concoctions or commercial products, have no benefit. In fact, some additives can actually reduce tree quality.

Third, cut off an inch or more off the base of the trunk just before you place it in the stand. This exposes the new xylem cells. These are the cells that take water up. When not covered with water, the xylem cells seal over within six hours and the uptake of water is obstructed. That’s why it’s always critical to keep the water level in your stand above the base of the tree. If allowed to dry out even once, water uptake will be slowed and your tree will start to dry out.

The fourth and final critical key to keeping a real tree as fresh as possible, is to situate the tree away from sources of heat such as hot air registers, baseboard heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces.

QUESTION 2: My aunt has a weeping fig tree (indoor plant). She recently moved it from one place to another in her house and it dropped all its leaves. Should she move it back?

Weeping figs seem to drop their leaves if you cause them any sort of stress or change in their environment. In fact, it’s the most common problem with this indoor plant. If the new location adequately provides for its needs, then it will eventually stop dropping leaves and grow new leaves. The best environment for a weeping fig is one where they get lots of bright indirect sunlight, warm day (75 to 85 degrees) and night (65 to 70) temperatures. They also like high humidity and do best if their soil is kept moderately moist. Your aunt should move the weeping fig back if the new location fails to provide adequately for the plant’s needs.

QUESTION 3: We bought some of the lucky bamboo at the store. Can we plant it outdoors and why is it “lucky” ?

The plants sold by craft stores and other marketers are not really bamboo. Instead they are Dracaena sanderiana, a type of tropical plant that can be grown as a houseplant. Marketers selected this dracaena because it’s stem looks so much like bamboo and it’s easy to grow them in water. Other types of dracaena, such as Dracaena marginata, are also tropical plants that are grown as indoor plants. As a tropical plant, it can’t be planted outdoors and expected to survive the frosty temperatures of fall and winter.

As to why it’s “lucky,” I’m not sure. It could be because of the special significance of bamboo in various Asian cultures. Bamboo has long been a symbol of good luck or good fortune. Various marketers indicate that lucky bamboo is based on Chinese tradition, with different number of bamboo stalks having different meanings with the main ingredients for a happy life being “happiness, wealth, and longevity.” Different numbers and arrangements of the lucky bamboo signify different wishes for you, such as three stalks for happiness, five for health, six for prosperity, seven for good health or wealth, eight for thriving or prosperity, ten for completion and perfection, and twenty-one for a powerful blessing. A tower of lucky bamboo with 35 or more pieces “anchors fortune and lights up the future” and signifies more good things in life, a better life, or a promotion.

To care for lucky bamboo, their bases are placed in some sort of medium, such as clean aquarium gravel, clean sand, decorative pebbles, or marbles with water. They can also simply be sustained in plain water, covering the stem for an inch or less in water. Some Marketers don’t recommend adding any fertilizer to the water, others do. The water should be changed once a week. Don’t use water containing fluoride, as it’s toxic to dracaena.

The lucky bamboo do best with some indirect sunlight. They will grow roots on the stem bases, and more leaves from the sprouts that form at the top and sides of the stalks. However, their stalks will stay at the same height. They’re considered more of a decoration or curiosity, than a houseplant. Lucky bamboo can be maintained for quite a while in a home environment if they get some light and you regularly change their water.

You’ve probably noticed that some lucky bamboo for sale has fancy, curled stems and you may have wondered how they grew that way. It’s certainly not natural, as dracaena stems tend to be straight. Lucky bamboo farmers train the plants to grow that way. They do this by growing them horizontally on a table and covering three sides of the plant, so that only one side receives bright light. The plant then grows toward the light and the stem grows in that direction too. They then periodically rotate the stems to create a curl in the stem. Supposedly, it takes quite a while to create just one curl… an average of one and half years.

They were a great bunch of students Horse Heaven Hills Middle School and it’s my hope that they’ll stay interested in science and plants.

Published: 12/18/2004 2:10 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Have you watched that show on television called “Mythbusters”, where they test urban myths and legends to see if they could possibly be true? It’s an updated way to look at science and test the truth of modern folklore. Mr. Wizard was never like this! Unfortunately, this show has ignored an important area of modern myths… gardening myths and anecdotes. Gardeners could benefit from a little “mythbusting” or scientific testing of the validity of some garden myths floating around out there.

For instance, one of the most recent myths to surface in the gardening world is that of compost tea. If you haven’t heard of this before, you’re probably wondering what in the world is compost tea. Compost tea is made by soaking finished compost in water and then using the “brewed” tea or liquid portion for fertilizing plants. This can be done by making a “tea bag” out of a nylon stocking and stuffing it with compost. A fine mesh animal feed bag can also be used. The “tea bag” is soaked in a five-gallon bucket or small barrel partially filled with water. The compost is steeped for several days with periodic stirring or agitation to get a better brew.

Once brewed, the tea has traditionally been used as a liquid organic fertilizer. However, numerous popular sources now tout compost tea’s powerful anti-microbial components capable of fighting various plant diseases that attack plant leaves and fruits. Many of the sources promoting compost tea as a way to control plant disease are also trying to sell gardeners something… their own brews, compost additives, or special aerating equipment for making a more sophisticated, better quality tea.

The problem with all this is that the effectiveness of compost teas seems to be primarily anecdotal, not based on sound research principles. Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, WSU Extension Horticulturist at WSU Puyallup, has searched peer reviewed scientific literature for research reports on the effects of compost tea for controlling plant diseases. It appears that non-aerated compost teas may be useful in suppressing some types of plant pathogens, but aerated compost teas have “no scientifically documents effect as pathogen suppressors”.

Gardeners probably already know that there is a great deal of variability in compost because the materials composted depend on their availability and will usually vary from season to season. Also, some gardeners are more skilled or dedicated to composting than others. What it “boils down to” is that just as there is great variability in compost from batch to batch, there is great variability in compost tea from batch to batch. While some compost teas may contain large numbers of pathogen fighting microbes or pathogen fighting chemical compounds, others may not. More research is still needed before gardeners start using compost tea for application to plants for control of plant diseases or for foliar “feeding” of plants.

A new myth might be surfacing… using aspirin to control plant diseases. I read about this recently in a newsletter that came across my desk. Apparently a solution containing aspirin is surfacing as a home remedy for powdery mildew control on roses. Whenever a new gardening myth or home remedy surfaces, gardeners wondering about its “truth” should subject it to a set of criteria to determine its validity. Anecdotal recommendations shouldn’t be relied upon… even if you see it in print.

1. If you read about it in print, are articles that appear in that magazine, newsletter, or journal reviewed and critiqued by independent experts in the field? If not, scientific verification of the claims should be sought elsewhere.

2. Consider who is writing the article or a book? Is it a gardening author or book published by the popular press or is it published by an academic or scientific publishing house? It’s not uncommon to see the popular press pass on anecdotal information or home remedies based on pseudoscience.

3. When experimentation has “proven” a premise, such as the use of compost tea to suppress disease, has the experiment been proven elsewhere with the same results? A premise or hypothesis becomes the “truth” only if subsequent studies have failed to disprove it.

4. Ask yourself about the motives of the authors. Are they trying to sell you something or perhaps trying to sell their publication? This has been the case with compost teas where the promoters say that aerated compost tea is better… and they just happen to sell compost tea aerating equipment.

Now back to the aspirin. I saw this in a gardening newsletter written by local gardeners and published by their club. It’s certainly not a scientific journal reporting on a scientific study. They’re simply passing on a home remedy that other gardeners have tried and believe to be effective. The aspirin producer is not touting their product as a plant disease control product. No one is trying to sell anything.

On the surface this home remedy may seem like myth, but it actually has some scientific basis. When plants are attacked by and insect disease, they respond by producing certain chemical compounds which can improve a plant’s resistance to the pest or they can stimulate the production of such compounds.

In plants, this disease resistance or immune-type response is stimulated by salicylic acid, the ingredient in aspirin. The salicylic acid signals the plant to make a variety of defense related proteins. Research has shown that acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) applied to plants can induce resistance to some diseases.

One chemical company now produces a salicylic acid derivative that induces systemic resistance response in plants. It’s called Actigard and is registered for use on some commercial vegetable crops for control of certain diseases. When enough aspirin was used in experiments to induce a systemic response, plant damage generally occurred. Actiguard is supposedly gentler on plants.

The amount of aspirin recommended in the newsletter may not harm plants, but I would bet that it’s the water spray and possibly the additives of soap or horticultural oil recommended as part of the aspirin spray mixture that actually provide powdery mildew control. Research has shown that a regular application of water can be effective in controlling powdery mildew. Imagine that!

Published: 10/30/2004 2:14 PM

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