Plant Life

ramblings and tips about plants and all things green from Peg Tillery of WSU Kitsap Extension.
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More Plant Sales on Tap and a Heronswood Event

April 21st, 2013 by Peg Tillery

More Plant Sales

Hello Dear Readers – Here are three more plants sales on tap.

Kingston Garden Club – Saturday May 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Kingston Community Center on Highway 104 just before the ferry terminal.

Holly Ridge Center – Gold Wing Road Rider Association is holding a plant sale on Friday May 10 benefitting Holly Ridge Center. The sale will be at the Rocky Point Fire Station (1550 Rocky Point Road in Bremerton) from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Also not to be missed on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the Heronswood open garden and plant sale presented by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation. Entrance to Heronswood is at 7530 NE 288th in Kingston; gates will close at 4 p.m. Visitors will take self guided tours of the garden. Nurseries on site with lots of plants for sale are: Windcliff, Far Reaches, Colvos Creek, Sundquist, Naylor Creek, Friendly Natives, Dragonfly, Foxglove, Chimicum Woods, Celestial Dreams, Keeping It Green, Desert Northwest, and Rhododendron Species Foundation. Featured speakers will be Dan Hinkley, Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken.


Pesticides – What’s a Gardener to Do?

April 21st, 2013 by Peg Tillery

Plant Life Blog – April 21, 2013
Pesticides – What’s a gardener to do?
By Peg Tillery

This is the time of year when abundant dollars are pumped into advertising about various yardcare products. Many of which fall into the pesticide category. Pesticide is the general term for products that kill or eliminate a pest. The suffix “cide” means “to kill.” Herbicides kill plants; insecticides kill insects; rodenticides kill rodents and arachnicides kill spiders. Fungicides to control fungus conditions also fall under the pesticide category.

How do we learn and know which products to use and if we even need to use them? Are organic products better than other products (often referred to as synthetic based)? Are certain products time sensitive and even though the commercials and advertisements say to use them now, should we? This blog will attempt to answer some of the questions. In addition I’ve added other links so you can do some research yourselves at your leisure. Remember too, that consulting with staff at the local Kitsap Extension Office or CPH (Certified Professional Horticulturist) staff at reputable local nurseries can often answer your questions. Also know that reputable licensed pesticide applicators have to meet strict state standards and can be a good resource when necessary.

Be wary of products on the shelves of the big box stores, whether they’re garden centers, home improvement centers or “everything in one place” stores. Many of these businesses have buyers who order the shelve stocks for every situation nationwide and the products on the shelves may not even be applicable for our pest problems here in our region. In addition, know that “organic” does not always mean safe. Organic means it’s derived from a fruit, vegetable or other plant based source. Organic products to control pests or plant conditions are not as strictly regulated as the “synthetic” based products. Also in either situation, organic or non-organic, the liquids and fillers used to help the product adhere to or be consumed by the pest are not always tested as rigorously as the base chemical has been. Sometimes the “inerts” or other ingredients in a product can be harmful too. Know that if something can kill, it may be able to cause residual harm to other non-target organisms.

Keep in mind that pesticide based liquids and powders that stay on a plant or other surface can potentially wash or soak into the soil or nearby water bodies. The majority of the water we drink in Kitsap County comes to us from groundwater. What we put on the land and into our streams and lakes ultimately ends up in our groundwater table and is pumped up into our wells and reservoirs. What doesn’t stay in these water tables (also known as aquifers) ends up in the marine environment surrounding our peninsula. The same waters where we harvest or catch fin fish and shellfish and other edibles and where we swim and recreate.

It’s important that we know what we’re putting on our plants and property. The only way to know that is if we determine first if we even need to use a pesticide. In most cases, no pesticide is necessary. But if we do need a pesticide then we need to determine how serious the problem is. We also need to thoroughly read the labels on the products. This can be a real challenge at times. You may want to bring a magnifying glass with you to read the fine print. Product labels can be folded up in accordion pleat fashion – you are, by law, allowed to open up the label to read all the instructions and caveats. You’ll also want to look for “signal” words. Some of these words, usually in bigger print are: caution, warning, danger, hazard and poison. This 2 page downloadable publication explains the signal words:
www.npic.orst.edu/factsheets/signalwords.pdf

Many home and yardcare products are broad spectrum or combinations of products. Another term commonly seen on these products is systemic. It is best to avoid broad spectrum and systemic products. Most plant pests and conditions involve one organism, not a broad sweep of several organisms. It’s best to target only the pest that is damaging or destroying something, not other organisms in the vicinity. Insects in particular can build up tolerances to various pesticides so it’s good to only resort to the pesticide when it’s needed, not to use it “just in case.” It’s also important to know the life cycle of various pests. Applying a pesticide when it won’t work is also not good. Be aware too that killing off beneficial insects can be an unintended consequence.

“The label is the law” is a term that is used with regard to pesticides. This means that the product will only work on the target plants and pests listed on the label and that it must legally only be used as directed on the label. The product must also be disposed of as stated on the label. If you do resort to pesticide use, be wise and only purchase the smallest needed quantity. Unused products can be delivered to the county hazardous waste disposal sites.

Pesticide use in schools was a topic of concern in the late 90s and early 2000s in Washington State. The Washington State Department of Agriculture has legal oversight of the use of pesticide products in Washington State schools. Each K-12 school and licensed day-care and adult-care center must post notices 48 hours before pesticides are used inside or onsite of the facilities. Many such schools and facilities in Washington State have adopted IPM (Integrated Pest Management) processes and procedures in addition to following the WSDA rules for posting pesticide use.

IPM means assessing what is causing the problem or damage and then using the least toxic and most efficient methods and products to remedy or remove the problem. It is a suite of processes and techniques. Examples of IPM are: right plant/right place – selecting the correct plants for the soil, water and light requirements of a particular site; correct pruning at the right time of year; and eliminating food sources for vermin. Without food sources and entrances to buildings vermin cannot become a nuisance, or they will be less of a nuisance and not as many pesticides will be employed.

Even though this piece is a bit lengthy for a blog post, it’s only the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Learn to become well-informed consumers before picking up that advertised pesticide. Don’t forget to consult with our numerous local resources – Master Gardeners, Extension Office staff, and Certified Professional Horticulturists at reputable local nurseries. We all want to help you make sense of the myriad products on the market, many of which you’ll never need to use.

Here are a few more links to resources for further reading:

http://npic.orst.edu/ – National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University – excellent research based portal for abundant information on safe use of pesticides and how/when to use pesticides
http://npic.orst.edu/mlrDetail.html?state=WA – section of the above site dedicated to Washington State resources and information

www.npic.orst.edu/factsheets/signalwords.pdf – 2 page publication with information on signal words and how to interpret labels on pesticide containers

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pi137 – publication from University of Florida Extension – how to interpret the “alerting” words on pesticide containers/products

http://www.clemson.edu/extension/pest_ed/app_training/core/unit02.html – We don’t all have the time to become Master Gardeners or licensed pesticide applicators but this link to the Clemson University Extension curricula has a great question and answer format with all kinds of information about what pesticide labeling involves and how to interpret information to make good educated decisions.

http://www.clemson.edu/extension/pest_ed/app_training/core/ – Here’s the whole manual from Clemson that is used for training pesticide applicators, but the information is also helpful to home gardeners. It’s worth spending time with this document.

2-4-D
Controversy has surrounded the use of 2-4-D an ingredient in many yardcare and agriculture products. Here are just a few links to articles and research about 2-4-D. In 2012 the EPA denied the requests from Ecology and numerous states and organizations to ban or limit this broad spectrum broadleaf herbicide. You can read through the information provided within these links and decide whether to use this product or not at your own gardens. You may want to take note of the studies performed with regard to several cancers found in dogs who spent time on lawns and turf where 2-4-D was used.

http://wwwfac.mcdaniel.edu/Biology/eh01/pesticides/pesticides1.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/10/business/energy-environment/epa-denies-request-to-ban-24-d-a-popular-weed-killer.html?_r=0

http://www.iephb.nw.ru/~spirov/hazard/2_4-d.html


Native Plants are Great

February 3rd, 2013 by Peg Tillery

Hello Dear Readers,

It’s been a while, but I’m finally getting organized enough to at least blog once a month.  Today  I’m sharing an article on Native Plants that I prepared for a group of folks called Shore Stewards.  These citizens on our peninsula have taken a pledge to be good stewards of their own piece of land where they live.  If you’d like to learn more about the Shore Stewards Program through WSU Extension please send me an email ptillery@co.kitsap.wa.us or give me a call 360-337-7224.  In the meantime enjoy these tips and be sure to visit the WSU native plant website http://gardening.wsu.edu/nwnative/ where you’ll find lots of awesome color photos of native plants and how and where to use and plant them.  I have some of my own personal photos of incorporated native plants; but, alas I could not figure out how to post them on this blog.  I will practice and post some in the near future.  Until then, enjoy the following information about native plants.

Native Plants Work in a Myriad of Ways

Native plants are ideal for home gardens and at the same time as they provide diversity to a landscape can also create a habitat for wildlife. Native Plants are mostly disease and pest free and usually survive very happily in our relatively wet winters and springs with drought-like summer months from mid July through mid October most years. Native plants rarely if ever need fertilizer. In our region where fungi and molds happen naturally, native plants can have diseases and conditions, but they usually don’t succumb to these conditions. The various fungi and phytophthoras that attack our madrones are an example. Newly planted natives also need regular watering their first two to three years until they’re established in a landscape.

The native plants in my own garden, where we’ve lived for over 20 years have never needed fertilizer. A few of the natives festooning my half acre garden are: Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor); Salal (Gaultheria shallon); Douglas fir (Psudotsuga menziesii); Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii); Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii); Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii); Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus); twinflower (Linnaea borealis); Mahonia (Oregon Grape); Trillium; Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium); Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum); Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa); Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis); Vine Maple (Acer circinatum); Sword fern (Polystichum munitum), Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and Red-Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum). All of these plants provide great habitat (and food) for myriad creatures plus give continuous interest to our garden. They also coexist very well with the ornamental plants in my garden, all of which are quite similar in growth, habitat and needs to our native plants.

Planting Natives and Ornamentals Together

Native plants blend in well with other ornamental plants. The trick (if there is one) to incorporating native plants, or selecting native plants, is to determine how much size (height and width) is available for the plants to inhabit. Trees can get very tall and wide and some natives can become quite sprawling. It’s also important to know what the particular native’s cultural requirements are (i.e. soil type, water requirements, sun/shade requirements). Remember some native plants like dry rocky soils and others like moist, humus rich soils (like the duff in a forest). It’s a good idea to visit a local park or nursery where natives are already in abundance to get an idea on which ones appeal to your particular tastes, or will fit your particular site conditions.

Finding the Right Plant for Your Situation

If you’re working from a mandated list provided through a regulatory entity, realize that these lists are sometimes very general to meet the needs of a wide range of conditions. You may wish to consult with an experienced landscape designer or architect who has knowledge and expertise in working with current rules and regulations. WSNLA (Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association) has a list of CPH (Certified Professional Horticulturists) who have a background in these matters. Visit http://www.wsnla.org/ to learn more about WSNLA and to find a resource list of CPHs in your area. WSU Kitsap Extension has Native Plant Advisor volunteer educators who can often answer your questions in selecting the right plant for your particular situation. Call the Extension Office at 360-337-7224 for a referral to a Native Plant Advisor. The Native Plant Advisors provide resource and education to residents of the Kitsap Peninsula.

Another good way to see how native plants grow is to visit a nearby nature center, park or preserve. Master Gardeners and Native Plant Advisors maintain native plant displays and/or education at these sites: Buck Lake Native Plant Garden in Hansville; Fish Park in Poulsbo; Anna Smith Native Plant Trail near the intersection of Tracyton Boulevard and Fairgrounds Road; Lions Park on Lebo in east Bremerton, Manchester State Park (near the admission booth); Thelar Wetlands in Belfair. Note that these volunteers are not on site every day.

Plant Sales

Local Conservation Districts offer plant sales. The sales vary according to each Conservation District. Some are in the fall and others are in early spring. The Master Gardener Foundation of Kitsap County plant sale each year on Friday and Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend has a section offering native plants. Many local nurseries offer native plants and Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery at 5919 78th Avenue NW, Gig Harbor, specifically grows native plants for our peninsula. Visit http://www.woodbrooknativeplantnursery.com or call 253-857-6808 for details.

Other Resources

MISC0274 “Winter in the Woods: A Winter Guide to Deciduous Native Plants in Western Washington” gives tips on identifying bare plants by their twigs, texture and features such as leaf scars and fruits and seeds. The guide includes a glossary of scientific terms to aid in identification, plus notes on commonly confused plants. This guide is helpful when trying to figure out what vegetation to cut back or remove when establishing a garden on a new piece of property or expanding an existing garden. You do not want to remove a great native plant by accident. The cost for this publication is $6 plus shipping and handling.

Another extremely valuable publication is MISC0273 “Grow Your Own Native Landscape: A Guide to Identifying, Propagating and Landscaping in Western Washington with Native Plants.” Once you see this publication, you’ll want it. This particular publication is no longer in a print version, however you can download the entire publication for free. Download a free copy of this publication at https://pubs.wsu.edu/ListItems.aspx?Keyword=MISC0273

Washington State University Extension has a great website on native plants. Key in http://gardening.wsu.edu/nwnative to find abundant information. The photos and plant recommendations for a wide variety of situations and growing conditions are a good place to start and even finish on your quest to explore the attributes of using and/or incorporating native plants into an existing or new landscape.

“Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast” by Pojar and MacKinnon – this paperback publication is divided into color coded sections to aid in choosing a plant or looking up a plant that has peaked your interest. The definition of natives includes plants found in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and British Columbia. Pojar and MacKinnon also list the ways in which the plants were used for food, clothing and/or shelter by natives and early settlers and often still persist in use to this day.

“Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest” by Arthur R. Kruckeberg is also in a sturdy paperback format. Color photos are included in the center of the book, but nearly every page includes pen and ink line drawings of the particular plant being described. Many northwest gardeners call this the native plant bible for gardeners.

“Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest” by Russell Link, also a sturdy paperback version, includes how to design a landscape or explore and/or edit an existing landscape and includes abundant lists of plants and landscaping ideas. The underlying theme is how to attract wildlife to our gardens, how to discourage them if one has too many pesky critters, and in doing so helps us to understand how the landscapes, human beings and wildlife are interconnected. The plant listings include sizes of plants, various planting zones and climates and features tons of useful appendices with abundant information and cross references. Even though there are no photos or color prints, if you can only purchase one book, this one is the book for learning about and actually incorporating native plants into our gardens.

“Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest” by Russell Link is the follow up book to Landscaping for Wildlife listed above. It too is a sturdy paperback publication, and is crammed full of abundant information about the critters who share our neighborhoods and surrounding natural areas. Its main purpose is to give us an appreciation of the creatures living in our own backyards and byways, but it helps us cope with them when they can become pesky or a hazard. It doesn’t educate us about the native plants, but does educate us about why native plants are a very good thing and how all the creatures who were here before us depended on these plants. We really can live peaceably with the wild critters in our region.

DVDs Available through WSU Kitsap Extension

The Kitsap Gardener series on Bremerton Kitsap Access Television includes 4 videos featuring information on native plants. If you’d like to purchase any of these videos for $5 a copy please contact ptillery@co.kitsap.wa.us or rkjohnso@co.kitsap.wa.us 360-337-7224

The videos are on:
• Landscaping for Septic Systems using Native Plants and Related Plants
• Incorporating Native Plants into an Existing Landscape
• Landscaping with Native Plants
• Native Plants for Shade


Fairy Gardens

July 31st, 2011 by Peg Tillery

Our granddaughter Bridget asked me to help her plant a fairy garden as a present for her seventh birthday on June 10. Here are ideas to create your own fairy garden, whether for a child in your life or for the child within you.

Fairy gardens can be small or big depending on the space available. Some can even be created in containers or boxes (remember to use those with drainage). The only limitations in creating a fairy garden are those imposed by our own imaginations. Never fear, fairies are quite forgiving and they’ll enjoy any kind of sanctuary you can create for them and for yourself.

Fairy gardens are magical places where imaginations can run wild. When local gardener Denise Johnson’s children were still young she created a fairy wonderland for them in her garden. Fairies like sparkly things so Denise placed sparkly beads and bits of polished glass into hollow glass blocks and then incorporated the blocks into stairs in the garden. Some of the blocks had openings on the side where the children could leave notes for the fairies. The fairies would leave little treasures in exchange for the notes.

Use small pebbles to create tiny pathways for fairies. It would be fun to have children paint and decorate the pebbles. Don’t be afraid to use some glitter in the design. Remember to watch for fairy dust sprinkled overnight in your garden once it’s completed. Hint for parents: this magic dust looks like glitter.

Fairies sip on flower nectar and enjoy the same flowers as butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant leaves become parasols to shelter fairies from spring rain or summer heat. Fairies love sun so summer is the best time to spy one. Remember to sit very quiet and still.

Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla) and other flowers with large leaves collect water making perfect pools and bathtubs for fairies. Lamb’s ears (Stachys bysantina) serve as blankets and towels for fairies and their babies. Nasturtiums and other cup shaped flowers provide perfect cribs and cradles.

The following plants are just a few recommended for fairy gardens: Rosemary (Rosemary officianalis); Hydrangea, Japanese maple (Acer palmatum); Magnolia; Flower Carpet Roses; Clematis; Nasturtiums; hardy fuchsias, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Calendula, Columbine, Hosta, Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium); Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla); Ferns (look for rickrack fern and button fern); Cosmos; Balloon Flower (Platycodon) and Campanula. Use thyme, violets and other smaller plants for fairy gardens in containers.

An age old favorite set of books on fairies is the flower fairy books by Cecily Mary Barker created in the 1920s. These books have been reissued by Penguin Press. Look for: “Flower Fairies of the Spring;” “Flower Fairies of the Summer;” “Flower Fairies of the Autumn” and “Flower Fairies of the Winter.” Each page features a poem and illustration with a fairy nestled in the plant described in the poem. Nearly all of the plants named will grow in our area.

I found a wonderful Klutz book/kit called “Fairies – Petal People You Make Yourself” at Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo. It has instructions and all the materials to make a “dozen blooming buddies.” The author is 13 year old Rachel Haab. I ordered an extra copy for our other granddaughter, Maireid so she and Bridget can make fairies to decorate Bridget’s fairy garden.

Country Nursery and Gardens at 2075 Seabeck Highway offers classes on creating and planting mini fairy gardens. The nursery has abundant containers, plant choices and a host of tiny tempting accoutrements to decorate and enhance fairy gardens. Grandpa Pat and I succumbed to several of these temptations.


Bloedel Reserve Premier Plant Sale & Open House April 16 & 17

April 14th, 2011 by Peg Tillery

Don’t miss the Bloedel Reserve Premier Plant Sale and Open House on Saturday April 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission to the Reserve is free both days. There will also be lectures by Dan Hinkley and Kelly Dodson.

For complete details visit www.bloedelreserve.org.

Plants at the sale have been propagated and grown at Bloedel Reserve and by these premier Northwest growers: Dan Hinkley, Hardy Fern Fundation, Sundquist Nursery, Far Reaches Farm, Naylor Creek Nursery, Desert Northwest, Steamboat Island Nursery, Keeping It Green, Mesogeo Garden, Chimicum Woods, Bambu-U, Dragonfly Farms, and Rhododendron Species Foundation.

This is a not to be missed event. You will also have the option of strollng the Reserve. It’s a lovely time of year to dodge the rain and enjoy the charm of the Bloedel Reserve and the verdant plantings throughout this treasure right here in our own backyard.

For a list of other upcoming plant sales see my Plant Life column dated April 16, 2011 in Saturday’s Kitsap Sun.


Too wet to garden? Come take the Beach Naturalist course.

March 13th, 2011 by Peg Tillery

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s been challenging to go out and garden during this very very damp and wet and rainy and monsoony weather. I have an idea, let’s all stay inside for a few hours each Thursday from March 31 through May 5 and learn about becoming volunteers in the WSU Extension/Washington Sea Grant Beach Naturalist Program. More than half our Beach Naturalists are gardeners too and one of our class sessions talks about seaweeds (aka algae) one of the original plants in our world.

Kitsap has nearly 300 miles of salt water shoreline and even more miles of fresh water streams.  If you’d like to help people enjoy and learn about our marine shorelines and streams the Beach Naturalist course just might be for you.  Classes are on March 31, April 7, 21, 28 and May 5 at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton, with two sessions available:  from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 6-9 p.m..  In addition we’ll have the opportunity to learn first hand at 5 scheduled Beach Walks on: April 7, 9, 21, 23, and May 21.

The course covers seaweed (algae), fish, invertebrates, clams, crabs, anemones and other sea critters; marine riparian hatitat and conservation, beach etiquette and beach walk coordination.  In order to graduate and receive a certificate, badge and hat, each Beach Naturalist must attend 4 of the 5 classes and 3 of the 5 beach walks; plus volunteer 25 hours each year in educating the public.

The Beach Naturalist Program is sponsored by SSWM (Surface and Storm Water Management, Kitsap County) and is a program of WSU Kitsap Extension and Washington Sea Grant.  Staff coordinators are Peg Tillery (WSU Extension) and Jeff Adams (Washington Sea Grant).  There is a materials fee of $55 but scholarships are available. 

To sign up for the course please contact Lisa Rillie 360-337-7157 (Ext. zero) or email lrillie@co.kitsap.wa.us – she will send you the registration form and volunteer application papers to fill out and return. The Registration deadline is March 25.


Slugs – David George Gordon’s New Book

March 13th, 2011 by Peg Tillery

In my blog post and column about slugs I cited a book by David George Gordon. That book is now out of print, but do no despair. David has a new book out called “The Secret World of Slugs and Snails: Life in the Very Slow Lane. ” Here’s a link to his website:  http://www.davidgeorgegordon.com/biography.html 

David George Gordon will be here in Kitsap County at the Poulsbo Farmers Market on June 18th, sponsored by Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo.  David also is the author of the “Eat a Bug Cookbook” – yum, tasty (well at least to some). Now if he can just come up with a cookbook to help us rid our area of knotweed I know a Noxious Weed Coordinator (Dana Coggon) who’d love that one.


Slippery, Slimey Slugs

March 7th, 2011 by Peg Tillery

Slugs
     Contrary to popular belief, we really can live peaceably with those slimy mollusks in our gardens. Slugs start sneaking and sliding around our gardens each spring when the weather begins to warm.
     The “Western Society of Malacologists Field Guide to the Slug” by David George Gordon, published by Sasquatch Books says, “You’ll never be able to eliminate all of the slugs in your garden—as proved by one English zoologist who systematically removed 400 slugs from a quarter-acre garden each night for several years without any observable effect on the population.”
Slugs can live from one to six years. Their eggs are less than one-fourth-inch in diameter and resemble fertilizer beads. Eggs are laid in clutches of 3 to 50; some species lay as many as 500 eggs per year. A slug’s mouth has a tongue like organ called a radula covered with up to 27,000 teeth. Our mucous covered mollusk friends are distantly related to oysters and squid. Slugs moved onto land, developing a lung. The hole on their right side functions like a nose bringing in air.
     The slime absorbs water, keeping slugs moist. Alice Bryant Harper in “The Banana Slug: A Close Look at a Giant Forest Slug of Western North American Forest,” by Bay Leaves Press, says, “Water absorbency is why you can’t wash slime off your hands; you have to rub it off, as you would rubber cement. Slime probably has a scent that helps slugs find other slugs. Slime of our native Banana slugs acts as a nitrogen rich fertilizer.”
     Locally, find “Rainy Day Slug,” a delightful children’s book by Port Orchard writer Mary Palenick Colborn and illustrated by Sumner resident Lorie Ann Grover. This story is about a very cute and colorful banana slug who wends his way through a home.
     Banana slugs are good slugs and we want to cherish them in our woodlands and gardens. If you find any, please try not to kill them. Nudge them back into the woods.
     According to wildlife biologist Klaus Richter, our pesky brown, black, grayish non-native slugs “are annuals like our annual plants. They die in the winter. Only their eggs survive. You won’t want to bait for slugs until a problem occurs.” Then when you find munchings eradicate the slugs with an environmentally friendly product or method.
Conscientious gardeners avoid baits with Metaldehyde which can lead to nervous system damage or death in humans and other animals. Slugs feeding on these baits become dehydrated but they can and do rehydrate when it rains so you’re not really killing many of them. Read every bit of the labels for baits containing this chemical, including the hazards section before deciding to purchase these baits. If you have any Metaldehyde products left over in garages or sheds, take them to the Kitsap County Hazard Waste Site for disposal.
     A more satisfying and efficient product, out on the market for several years, is iron phosphate, commercially sold as “Worry Free” and “Sluggo.” Other products become available yearly containing iron phosphate. It will not harm plants, humans, other critters or our furry pets. Iron phosphate also works as a fertilizer. It can be a bit pricy but a little bit goes a long way. Use iron phosphate around your prized plants and then let the slugs munch judiciously on other plants. Determine your own tolerance level for slugs.
     Please don’t use salt or ammonia to kill slugs. There are too many slugs for this method to be useful. An abundance of salt or ammonia is not good for your plants. Sharon Collman, WSU Extension Educator (now in Snohomish County) is a slug and insect expert. When she explains how slugs will literally turn themselves inside out writhing in pain from salt exposure it changed many gardeners’ minds about using this method ever again.
Many of us do take perverse pleasure in the slice and dice method of slug control though. Go out early in the morning and evening to find slugs. Slice and dice, using a knife, clippers or scissors. Slug family members will come and cannibalize the carcasses. (Yuck!) Several gardeners strategically place flower pots turned upside down around choice plants. Early morning and evening they upend the pots, harvest the slugs and dump the slugs in soapy water to melt them. Alas, the gardeners didn’t explain what to do with the slug gunked soapy water. Perhaps you’ll avoid this method too.
     Another way to reduce slug damage is eliminating slug hiding places. Cut back all overgrown grassy and weedy areas near your vegetable or flower gardens. Pick up and compost all rotting garden debris. Plant extra flowers and vegetables so you’ll have some left to enjoy. Believe it or not, there are quite a few plants slugs don’t even nibble: herbs, scented plants, evergreen plants, prickly plants. Ask your gardening friends and nursery staff to recommend plants ignored or avoided by slugs.
     Sluggo works on snails too. Our area is getting more and more dry land snails. These pesky critters hitch-hiked in on nursery stock. Use the same methods of control as you would with slugs. When purchasing new plants for your garden look for snails and slugs on the bottom and rim of the containers. Scrape them off and leave them behind. Avoid bringing them home to visit.


Potatoes

March 2nd, 2011 by Peg Tillery

Potatoes
     Have you ever tried to grow your own potatoes? They’re an ideal plant for children and adults to try. They can be grown directly in our gardens and in containers. Ciscoe Morris even grows some of his potatoes in a hole-perforated garbage can.
     Traditionally, gardeners plant potatoes on or around St. Patrick’s Day. Purchase seed potatoes from your favorite nursery or at a feed store. Some gardeners even buy organic potatoes to plant in their gardens. The non-organic potatoes are often treated with a growth inhibitor, so you won’t want to use those for your potato starts, they won’t germinate.
     Cut the potatoes into sections making sure to leave one or more eyes for each section. Allow several hours or overnight for the sections to dry out and callous over. Some of the smaller varieties will need to be planted whole, rather than in segments. If you’re using the Ciscoe garbage can method, you’ll keep all the potatoes whole.
     Potatoes grow from tubers (what we know of as eating potatoes). The plants grow from these tubers. When the plant reaches about six inches tall, cover up the stem and most of the leaves with soil or straw, leaving one to two inches exposed. Each time the plant grows taller, cover up more and more of the stem, always leaving a segment of stem with leaves sticking out. Do this several times. It’s called “hilling up.” Covering up the stems allows the plants to produce the potatoes to harvest. The potatoes are growing in the dark all along the covered up stems. Continue until the plant reaches one to three feet tall, depending on the variety. You’ll be watering the plants regularly (at least once a week, and more in the dryer summer months). You’ll also fertilize the plants at the beginning.
     New potatoes are harvested earlier in the growing year. Mature potatoes are harvested anywhere from September through November. Some gardeners leave their potatoes in the ground through the winter, harvesting them as needed.
     The only drawbacks to growing potatoes is they’re often hard to uncover. You may discover plants popping up and growing in unexpected places year after year. The only problems potatoes encounter is blight (a rarity here in our area) and scab. Scab is more unsightly than harmful to the potato. Scab can be managed. Avoid potato blight by rotating vegetable crops.
     For more information about planting and growing potatoes call the Extension Office at 360-337-7157. For Ciscoe’s potato planting method visit www.ciscoe.com/archive/spuds.


Trees Beautiful Trees

January 29th, 2011 by Peg Tillery

Trees are one of the most beautiful creations in the plant world. Unfortunately we human beings have a way of pruning the bee geebies out of them on a regular basis. What is it about us that makes us think we need to prune (think massacre) all the life out of our trees? Especially trees lining our city and county streets.

I drive from north of Poulsbo in to Bremerton to the Extension Office Monday through Friday and all along Kitsap Way and 11th Street I see trees that have all their limbs whacked back. None of these trees is under, near or in the way of power lines, nor are they blocking any views, but still every year some “landscape” company, and I use the term very sceptically, comes in and prunes off all the trees branches and limbs until the tree looks like a coat rack. 

Why do they do that? Why do businesses hire them to do that? There are so many reputable companies in the landscape and arborist business who would do the proper job. What makes it even worse is these poor brutalized trees were fine as they were and there was no reason to prune them at all.

In a minute we’ll talk a bit about proper pruning techniques but first while we’re on the subject of trees my other pet peeve is trees that have been planted and staked.  The stakes and wires are left on for years, compromising the tree’s ability to grow strong and be anchored. Quite often the wires are so tightly wrapped around the tree that the tree’s bark grows around the wire and eventually the tree dies because it’s natural circulation of water and nutrients from the soil can no longer travel up through it’s vascular system. The tree is essentially strangled for lack of a better way to describe what happens.

I’ve often thought we should start a group called “Release the Trees” and we could go around the county in the dark of night pulling out the wooden stakes and removing all the wires around tree trunks of all the staked trees. Don’t get me wrong, it’s sometimes ok to stake a tree but no longer than 6 months tops.

When a tree is planted without stakes the action of the wind and weather moves the tree back and forth. In response to this, the tree anchors itself firmly into the soil. The tree’s roots grow properly and the structure of the tree becomes healthy and strong. Proper staking (when necessary) is only used as a gentle support and the braces and wires are removed within a few months.

This is also the time of year when many people decide to prune trees. Fruit trees do need pruning and the months for that are indeed from now through early March. Here’s a helpful free fruit tree pruning publication to download http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw400.pdf

Pruning is used to remove diseased, dying or dead plant material. It’s best done on a yearly basis before the branches get too large in diameter. Pruning is also a way to train young trees. Visit our local libraries or bookstores to find “Guide to Pruning” a very helpful book by Cass Turnbull, founder of Plant Amnesty.  Also check out Plant Amnesty’s website http://plantamnesty.org for information on what, when, where and how to prune woody shrubs and trees. You’ll also see Cass’s hall of shame trees (aka the bad pruning gallery) – images of how no tree or shrub should look.

Also look for “The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers” by George E. Brown, edited and enlarged by Tony Kirkman. It’s the second edition of this book which was first published in 1972. Brown was a famous arborist and founder of the Arboriculture Association and many changes have come about in arboriculture since the first edition of this book. Kirkman revised the text to reflect current practices and has added 50 new images. Trees are listed by genus and species with tips on estimated size at maturity, when to prune for the best health of the tree and at what age the tree will flower or fruit.

Copies of a short DVD video tutorial on tree pruning can be purchased at the WSU Kitsap Extension Office for $7.50. Call 360-337-7157 or email lrillie@co.kitsap.wa.us for details.