Monday, July 6, 2015

Surviving the heat wave

This heat wave we've been experiencing in the Inland Northwest lately is really starting to get old!

You might recall that in a recent video on the importance of mulching, I mentioned that I thought we were going to have a hot, dry summer. Believe me, I didn't want to be right about this and I'm certainly not gloating about my prediction -- nobody wants to have to deal with this sort of hot weather, right?

I had some thoughts on ways to help your plants -- and yourself! -- survive the heat and wanted to share them with you:
  • BE SAFE. The most important aspect of your garden is YOU. Be sure to use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, wear a broad-brimmed sun hat, and work in the garden during the cooler hours of early morning or evening if you can. If you start feeling dizzy or have a pounding headache, get yourself indoors ASAP.
  • CRITTERS. Be aware that the critters around your garden are going to be more stressed than usual, due to the lack of water and plants to forage on. This means they will be bolder about coming into your yards and munching on your landscape. Very annoying! You might need to take steps to protect your plants, whether it's with deer fencing, barriers or repellents. If it's the latter, be sure to read the labels for information on how to apply it, and if you're trying to protect edible crops, make sure the label says it's safe to use the product on them. Very important!
  • MULCH. I have been mulching my veggie plants like crazy and cannot emphasize enough how important this is. I'm primarily using grass clippings because we don't treat our lawn with chemicals, but you can also use pine needles, straw, shredded leaves or bark. The only caveat about using bark, however, is that if you mix it (or wood chips) into the soil at the end of the season, it has a tendency to tie up the nitrogen in the soil, which is not a good thing. So if you use either of those materials, I'd remove them and use them for mulching around something like shrubs or perennials. When mulching your veggies, keep it thick (3-4" is ideal).
  • WATERING TIMES. Try to water during the early morning hours, when the least evaporation will take place. Watering at night isn't a good idea because staying wet for hours at a time isn't good for a lot of plants and can actually spread disease. Watering in the middle of the day will burn plant leaves and shock the plants. If you do have to water something down and the hose has been lying in the sun for a while, let it run until the hot water escapes and cool water starts coming out of it -- that first water can be really hot and burn plants (and yourself).
  • WATERING METHODS. If you can, water your veggies (and other plants, if possible) close to the ground rather than overhead. This means using soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems to put the water right where the roots can get at it. This way, you're not wasting water by watering pathways or losing water through evaporation, and you're not watering leaves, which don't need the water as much as the roots do.
  • MONITOR MOISTURE LEVELS. With this extreme heat, it wouldn't hurt to occasionally poke your finger into the soil to see if there's some moisture in it. That way, you can adjust your watering as needed. Look for signs of stress such as wilting leaves, stunted growth or developing fruits dropping off the plants.
  • CONSIDER SHADE CLOTH. If you're growing lettuce or other greens -- which tend to prefer cooler temperatures -- consider lightly covering the bed with some lightweight shade cloth. You'll want to place it onto hoops or some type of support structure to carry the weight of the cloth.
  • NO PRUNING, PLANTING, DIVIDING. As much as you might want to, this is NOT a good time to prune, transplant or divide plants! They are under too much stress from the heat as it is. Doing one of these activities will likely kill the plant.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Stay cool, and hopefully we gardeners and our plants will make it through the heat wave just fine!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Raspberry problem: White Drupelet Disorder

Last week, I worked a shift in the Spokane County Master Gardener plant clinic. That's where we identify plant diseases or insects, or make plant suggestions for specific settings, and so on.

Two clients came in with the same problem and it was something I've noticed on my own raspberry plants so had planned to research it.

Do you see how parts of the berries in each photo are white or tan, rather than red?

That is "White Drupelet Disorder." It is caused by exposure to ultra-violet rays which occurs during periods of hot weather. And if you live in the Inland Northwest, you know we've been having a heat wave over the past 5 weeks or so.

In case you're wondering what in the world a drupelet is, that's what each "bump" on a raspberry is called, which surrounds a seed.

After doing some research on how to resolve this problem, I learned there are two main things:

1. If possible, cover your raspberry patch with a lightweight shade cloth.

2. Water your plants overhead twice a day for about 15 minutes at a time. This will cool down the plants. If one of those times is in the evening, be sure to do it early so the plants and berries have the chance to dry off before night sets in.

According to what I read, most caneberries are susceptible to this so both raspberries and blackberries can develop White Drupelet Disorder.

My raspberry patch is just about done bearing for the season, so I plan to try the above two steps on my blackberry patch. I remember having problems on them last summer so it's worth a try!

July 5 column

Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Organic abundance. It's a preview of next Sunday's Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour, which run's from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Six gardens will be featured during the tour. Here are the addresses:

  • 2456 E. Mountain Vista, Coeur d’Alene
  • 1151 E. Warm Springs Ave., Post Falls 
  • 7260 N. Courcelles Parkway, Coeur d’Alene 
  • 7535 Mt. Carrol, Dalton 
  • 4860 Cuprum, Coeur d’Alene 
  • 959 7th St., Coeur d’Alene

See ticket information at the bottom of this post.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Teem "TJ" Scarborough's garden. It was a beauty! He grows veggies and fruits very successfully so tour-goers will learn a lot from his techniques. He's also done a good job of keep the resident deer popular out of his garden, which is something most Inland Northwest residents will be interested in hearing about!

Here are photos (including the top one) of areas of his garden:

TJ put structural plants inside his back fence to keep the deer out.

TJ uses covered hoops and cold frames to grow heat-loving crops.

TJ's family enjoys sitting in the garden in the evenings.

You can purchase tickets at any of the gardens on tour day, or at the following nurseries:
·         Ace Hardware, 4th and Harrison, Coeur d’Alene (208) 667-9466
  • Aspen Nursery, 6075 E. Commerce Loop, Post Falls (208) 667-7511
  • Greenacres Nursery, Greenacres (509) 928-1922
  • Mix It Up Gifts, 601 E. Front Ave., Coeur d'Alene (208) 667-8603
  • New Leaf Nursery, Lancaster and Highway 95, Hayden (208) 762-4825
  • Northland Nursery, 8093 W. Prairie Ave., Post Falls (208) 773-3247
  • Northwest Seed & Pet, 2422 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane (509) 534-0694
  • Northwest Seed & Pet, 7302 N. Division, Spokane (509) 484-7387
  • Plant Land, 15614 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley (509) 922-7618
  • Van Hoff's Garden Center, 1844 Government Way, Coeur d'Alene (208) 930-4424
  • Westwood Gardens, 15825 N. Westwood Dr., Rathdrum (208) 687-5952

For more information, go to or call (208) 664-0987; call (208) 661-0773 on tour day.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28 column

Here's how the pea patch is doing!
This is a close-up of a 'Golden Sweet' snow pea pod.
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Early start, plenty of peas. This one is an update on how my vegetable garden is coming along.

You'll learn about some exciting heirloom varieties of tomatoes and winter squash I'm growing this year, what's happening in our hoophouse, how the 'Golden Sweet' snow peas have done and so on.

I hope you'll enjoy reading it and, even more important, I hope your gardens are growing beautifully so far, despite this intense heat!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 21 column

Here is a link to today's column in The Spokesman-Review:Cultivating community Cultivating community. Throughout the summer months, I enjoy profiling local gardeners and the beautiful gardens they've created.

Today is my first such profile is on Master Gardener and Peaceful Valley resident, Carol Bryan. She was kind enough to allow me to traipse through her garden!

She has a lovely front-yard garden and has spread the joy of gardening in her neighborhood, which I think is terrific!

To the above left is part of her raised-bed vegetable, berry and herb garden. To the right is a view from her upstairs porch, where you can see the parking strips along the street that she has been very active in planting.

I'm a firm believer in the fact that we can all learn from each other and it's interesting seeing how others are growing a garden. I hope you'll enjoy hearing what makes Carol tick and what her approach to gardening is.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book review: Garden-pedia

Book review: Garden-pedia
by Susan Mulvihill

When reading garden books or wandering through nurseries, do you ever feel daunted or confused by various botanical terms? You are not alone. I’ve been a Master Gardener for a long time now and even I struggle with certain terms. Well, I’m happy to report there’s help on the way for all of us.

A new book called Garden-pedia: An A-to-Z Guide to Gardening Terms (St. Lynn’s Press, 202 pp., 2015, $16.95) has been written by Pamela Bennett and Maria Zampini to help Master Gardeners, students, gardening aficionados  and those working in the horticulture industry master these terms.

From “abiotic” to “zone,” the authors went to great lengths to list and define the words we commonly see, yet occasionally struggle to comprehend in our line of work.

Garden-pedia is a colorful guide filled with illustrative photos for most of the definitions... and the occasionally humorous definition -- just to remind us that the authors don’t take themselves too seriously and that gardening should be fun!

For example, read part of the definition for “double digging”:

“... you take out the top one foot of soil and place it in the bottom of the first trench, then take the next one foot of soil from the bottom and put it on top of the bottom soil in the first trench. Keep doing this until you are either dead tired or the garden bed is ready to go! Hint: you will be dead tired anyway, but hats off to you!”

There are cross-references throughout Garden-pedia to other relevant terms that have been defined elsewhere in the book. Within each definition, there are also highlighted terms that will also have their own definition.

For example, the definition for “rootstock” refers the reader to other important related terms such as “roots,” “graft,” “ornamental” and “dwarf.”

Some definitions are very clear and don’t require explanations, while the authors provide clear examples of the context of words for most definitions.

Garden-pedia is both informative and very easy to use. It is worth picking up a copy to help you wade through terms in garden books, magazines, on plant tags and in other literature produced by the horticultural industry.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14 column

Tom and Peggy Best's garden.
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: 'A living canvas'. It is a preview of next Saturday's (June 20) Spokane in Bloom garden tour.

This year's tour, which is put on by the hardworking members of the Inland Empire Gardeners, features six outstanding south-side gardens.

I had the pleasure of visiting Tom and Peggy Best's garden and it was wonderful! You won't want to miss the tour because you'll come home with all sorts of great ideas for your own landscape. All of the photos you see were taken in their garden on a stormy evening recently! You are sure to get plenty of design ideas from the Bests' garden, as well as the other five gardens on the tour.

I should also mention there will be a barbecue lunch available in the Bests' garden for an additional cost. There will be music and garden-related vendors at each stop along the way. What a fun way to spend the day before summer officially starts!

The tour will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 at most gardens the day of the tour, or ahead of time on The Inland Empire Gardeners’ website at or at the following Spokane nurseries:
  • ·         Blue Moon Garden & Nursery, 1732 S. Inland Empire Way
  • ·         Gibson's Nursery, 1401 S. Pines Rd
  • ·         Green Thumb Nursery, 16816 E. Sprague Ave.
  • ·         Judy's Enchanted Garden, 2628 W. Northwest Blvd.
  • ·         Northwest Seed & Pet, 7302 N. Division St. and 2422 E. Sprague Ave.
  • ·         Ritter's Florist & Nursery, 10120 N. Division St.
  • ·         Tower Perennial Gardens, 4010 E. Jamieson Rd.

The gardens on the tour are located at the following addresses:
  • 2717 E. 40th Ave.
  • 523 W. 18th Ave.
  • 1028 E. 33rd Ave.
  • 1216 E. 54th Ave.
  • 3620 E. 35th Ave.
  • 1110 S. Denny Ct.

For more information, go to

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dealing with slugs

The other day, I noticed this leaf damage on one of my artichoke plants. I immediately suspected slugs, and quickly confirmed this when I saw a bit of a slime trail on the underside of the leaf. Grrr!

In the past, I've used organic slug bait or handpicked them whenever I found any. And when I give talks about vegetable gardening, I mention how one option is to use beer... but I have to admit I'd never given it a try.

Well, I'm happy to report that it works! Here's what you do:

1. Start with clean, empty tuna cans or cat food cans.
2. Push them into the soil, with the lip of the can even with the surface of the soil.
3. Fill each can with cheap beer. (no point in using something good, right?)

Here's how it works:

Slugs are attracted to the yeast in beer. They slither on over to investigate, fall into the can of beer and drown. Yahoo!

I placed the beer in my artichoke bed the night before last. I didn't catch it the first night but did get it last night. I'm guessing there are more where it came from, so I'll leave the cans of beer in place for a few more nights. My husband thinks the yeast smell that attracts them won't dissipate for a while so I'm trying to get my money's worth!

I have two other veggie beds that I'm watching for signs of slug damage. One is our lettuce bed and the other is our cabbage bed. If I see any problems, you can bet I'll be moving the cans to those beds and breaking out another can of beer to fill them with!

I'm sure slugs serve some sort of useful purpose, but as a gardener, I certainly haven't discovered what that is!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 7 column

Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Easygoing daylilies provide color, cheer almost anywhere. It's all about daylilies, which are one of my favorite, carefree plants.

Here are some of the varieties I mentioned in my column:

'My Sweet Rose'

'Chicago Apache'

'Strawberry Fields Forever'

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pollinator garden challenge

Here's a most worthy goal: let's all create pollinator gardens to help reverse the alarming decline of pollinators around the world.

The National Wildlife Federation has joined forces with the National Pollinator Garden Network to encourage "hundreds of thousands of gardeners, horticultural professionals, schools and volunteers to help reach a million pollinator gardens by the end of 2016," according to the press release I received.

It goes on to say that "any individual can contribute by planting for pollinators and certifying their habitat.Every habitat of every size counts, from window boxes and garden plots to farm borders, golf courses, school gardens, corporate and university campuses. Everywhere we live, work, play and worship can, with small improvements, offer essential food and shelter for pollinators."

So what can you do?

For starters, you can visit the NWF's Garden for Wildlife website to learn more about how you can make your garden more friendly to pollinators. This includes tips on what to plant, the types of shelter to provide, having water sources available and eliminating pesticide use. This website also has information on how you can get your garden certified as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

I love the idea of getting schoolyard gardens involved in this as well as corporate America!

You might recall that my husband, Bill, and I recently built an "insect hotel." (here's a link to a video of that project on my YouTube channel)

I also wrote a column about it for The Spokesman-Review. The video and column just might give you some ideas.

In addition, I planted a section of my vegetable garden with pollinator-friendly plants about a month ago so I am really trying to do what I can to help out.

On March 15, I had another column in The Spokesman-Review on welcoming beneficial insects to the garden. Be sure to take a look at that for more information and encouragement!

Let's all do what we can to turn this problem around. I know we gardeners can be a force for change!