Monday, July 21, 2014

Final cherry report


I thought you might be interested to hear how things went in our quest to grow cherries organically this year:


  • We have four producing cherry trees at this time. Two sweet cherries ('Bing' and 'Rainier') and two pie cherries ('English Morello' and 'Montmorency'). We also have a young 'Montmorency' that isn't producing yet.
  • In the spring, my husband Bill hung some sticky yellow "indicator" traps in the trees. They are a way to know if cherry fruit flies are in the area. When cherries start turning from green to yellow, that's when they start causing trouble.
  • As soon as he started seeing the fruit flies, he began spraying Bull's-Eye Bioinsecticide, which we purchased from Garden's Alive. It contains spinosad (a soil bacteria that is harmless to humans) as the active ingredient and is considered organic. It's really important to follow the label directions and not overuse it in the orchard because you don't want to run the risk of having the fruit fly adults and larvae develop a resistance to it.
  • Bill has since decided that he probably waited a little too long to start spraying because he thinks the fruit flies were active before he started noticing them in the traps. He's making some notes to remind himself of this for next year. Even so, we had a minimal amount of insect damage.
  • We also purchased some bird scare ribbon, which I've written about recently (Keeping the birds out of the cherries and Update on cherry trees) and discovered that it worked quite well in scaring away magpies and starlings. We did get the occasional robin but otherwise, it worked amazingly well. We definitely got a larger harvest this year from all of the trees. Every time we finished picking cherries from a tree, we immediately removed the bird scare ribbon from it because you don't want to run the risk of having the birds get used to it. That's very important!
  • Unfortunately, about a week ago, we had quite the hail storm which caused damage to a few of the 'English Morello' and to most of the 'Montmorency' cherries. Even so, our harvest from the former was our best ever. Those are what's peeking out of those canning jars in the photo.  ;o)
  • We discovered that the 'Rainier' variety tends to do really well, which I believe is because of the pale fruit color. We think the color confuses the fruit flies into thinking they're not ripe enough to lay eggs in. It also confuses the birds somewhat for the same reason: the cherries just don't look ripe to them.
  • We didn't experience any other problems with the cherry trees this year, such as diseases. We did notice one interesting thing, though: the spinosad apparently wiped out the ants that had been going up into the tree as there was a small amount of aphids on some of the branch tips. So that was a nice side benefit.
  • We've frozen some of the sweet and pie cherries and canned 14 quarts of pie cherries for future cherry pies and other desserts. Looks like there will be plenty for at least one cherry pie per month!
Looking forward to seeing how next year's cherry crop does!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20 column

Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Knowing culprit keeps tomato problems in check. Since gardeners love to grow tomatoes, and since certain issues can crop up with them, I thought it would be helpful to talk about this today.

Hopefully your tomatoes are growing great, though, and you'll never need this information!

If you're wondering how mine are doing, I'm happy to report that we've been picking 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes and a few of the 'San Marzano' paste tomatoes. Boy, you just can't beat the taste of a homegrown tomato, can you?

This photo shows you how the beds we put in last year are doing. From left to right: corn, tomatoes and winter squash. In the foreground on the lower right is a corner of the pumpkin and melon bed. It's so exciting to see everything growing so well.

Happy gardening!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13 column

TFM president Dave Lennstrom enjoys the view at Mirror Pond.
Here's a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Fundraiser benefits Mirror Pond. It's all about next Sunday's (July 20) "Picnic for the Pond," which the Friends of Manito is hosting.

This will be a fundraiser for the improvement and restoration of Mirror Pond in Manito Park. The event includes a catered dinner, live music, a silent auction, and a no-host beer and wine garden run by No-Li Brewhouse. Everything takes place in and around the lower Manito Park/Rotary picnic shelter.

Tickets cost $30 for adults and $15 for kids aged 6 to 16. Here's the important thing: the deadline for purchasing tickets is Tues., July 15. That's because TFM needs a head count so they will have enough food on hand.

You can purchase tickets through the TFM website, at the Friends of Manito office (4 W. 21st Ave.,) or you can call (509) 456-8038.

I hope you can go to the picnic. It should make for a really pleasant evening and it's for a great cause, which you'll read about in my column.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Protecting corn plants from wind

My veggie garden is in an area that can occasionally get pretty windy. Most of the crops do just fine but corn is particularly susceptible to the wind.

I have to say that there is nothing quite so depressing as having a really great-looking patch of corn one day, then have it all snapped off at ground level and lying in a heap the next. This has happened a few times in my garden over the years, and the last time it happened several years ago, I vowed not to let it happen again.

So here's what I do each year:

Once the corn plants are about 14-18" tall, I pound in stakes at each of the corners of my corn bed. Then I grab a ball of twine and run a line of it around the perimeter of the bed at a height of about 12 inches. After the plants grow a bit more, I repeat the process -- but this time, about a foot or so higher than the previous time. I do this one more time, once the plants are about 4 feet tall.

Corn plants have very short, stubby roots that don't hang on so well in a big windstorm. That's why I surround the bed with twine so that when the wind starts to blow, the plants have a little something to lean on so they don't blow all the way over. And it works great.

It just takes a few minutes and is well worth the effort. By the way, I took the above photo this morning and as you can see, the corn is nearly 5 feet tall already! I have high hopes for a good corn harvest this summer. I'll keep you posted...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Update on cherry trees

I wanted to do a follow-up to my July 13 post ("Keeping the birds out of the cherries") so you'd know how things are going.

You'll recall I recently purchased some 2"-wide holographic bird scare ribbon in an attempt to keep birds away from the ripening cherries. Well, it has worked great!

While it hasn't completely kept the robins out of the trees, we haven't seen any starlings or magpies in there, which is a first. And it's made a huge difference because we have only lost a small percentage of our crop to the robins.

Because the bird scare ribbon is wider than most flash tape sold at garden centers, it makes quite a lot of racket any time the slightest breeze blows. It's a rustling sound, though, not an obnoxious sound. In addition, the wider ribbon flashes like you wouldn't believe, so I'm certain it's startling enough to the birds.

One interesting thing we've observed is that our 'Rainier' cherries are much less appealing to birds, which we think is due to they don't turn red like most types of cherries. So that's been a real plus. They also seem to be much less bothered by cherry fruit flies than other varieties, again because of the fruit color, so there's hardly any worms in them. If you've been debating which type of sweet cherry to plant, I'd consider these to be huge selling points for the 'Rainier'.

My husband Bill has been using an organic spray that contains the active ingredient spinosad to deal with cherry fruit flies. That has worked quite well for him although he thinks he waited a bit too long to begin the spray routine.

That's because he had some indicator traps (sticky yellow traps that attract and catch the fruit flies) hanging in our little orchard and kept waiting to spray until he saw there were some caught in the traps. But he's now wondering if they were already prevalent in the area. Our 'Bing' cherries had more fruit fly damage, although still less than we would normally get.

The sprays containing spinosad are also supposed to work against codling moths, which is an apple problem, so Bill has been using some on our apple trees as well.

We picked the rest of the 'Rainiers' a few days ago and decided to pit and freeze them for future use in desserts. That's what you see in the photo above... I meant to take a photo of the huge bowl of cherries we picked but forgot until it was too late! (Sorry.) We picked the last of the 'Bings' two days ago. The pie cherries, 'English Morello' and 'Montmorency', aren't ripe yet but will be soon. Those cherries are looking great and since they develop later than the sweet cherries, we think it demonstrates that the spinosad spray has been very successful on them. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6 column

Today's column is probably one you've been waiting for: the preview of this year's Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour! And boy have they got some beautiful gardens to share with you.

The tour, which is next Sunday (July 13), features 5 gardens in and around Coeur d'Alene and runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Here is a link to my article in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Private Idaho paradise.

Tickets cost $15 if you purchase the tickets prior to the day of the tour at the locations below. You can also buy tickets the day of the tour at any of the gardens, for $17 and at the tour nurseries marked with an asterisk (*):
  • *Coeur d'Alene Ace Hardware, 1217 N. Fourth St. (208) 6677-9466
  • Mix-It-Up, 601 E. Front Ave., Coeur d'Alene, (208) 667-8603
  • *Van Hoff's Garden Center, Coeur d'Alene (208) 930-4424
  • New Leaf Nursery, 12655 N. Government Way, Hayden (208) 762-4825
  • Aspen Nursery, 6075 E. Commerce Loop, Post Falls (208) 667-7511
  • Northland Nursery, 8093 W. Prairie Ave., Post Falls (208) 773-3247
  • Westwood Garden, 15825 N. Westwood Dr., Rathdrum (208) 687-5952
  • Plant Land, 15614 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley (509) 922-7618
  • Northwest Seed & Pet, 2422 E. Sprague Ave. (509) 534-0694 or 7302 N. Division St., (509) 484-7387
  • Greenacres Nursery, 18605 E. Appleway Ave., Greenacres (509) 928-1922
Locations of the gardens:
  • 12582 Strahorn, Hayden
  • 915 E. Deerhaven Ave., Dalton Gardens
  • 514 E. Garden Ave., Coeur d'Alene
  • 4354 Schilling Loop, Post Falls
  • 2987 N. Jenicek, Post Falls
For more information, visit the Coeur d'Alene Garden Club website or call (208) 664-0987.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

New product: ThermaCELL lantern

Here's a new garden product that you might be interested in. It's the ThermaCELL lantern that has been designed to keep mosquitoes and black flies away from you while gardening, entertaining or pursuing other outdoor activities like camp-outs.

The lantern uses a mosquito repellent to establish a 15 foot square zone to protect you from those hungry biting insects. The repellent is synthetic copy of the natural substance found in chrysanthemums so you don't have to worry about using harmful chemical on yourself or your clothing.

I haven't had the opportunity to test it in my garden just yet as our weather essentially went straight from winter to summer, missing those cooler spring months when mosquitoes are prevalent. That's a nice problem to have, eh?

The lanterns are attractive and simple to use. You just insert a butane cartridge in the bottom and a wafer holding the repellent on the top and you're good to go. As you can see in the photo above, there's another  style of ThermaCELL available, which performs the same function.

You can find them at specialty gardening stores, hardware stores, Ace Hardware and Home Depot. They sell for about $25.

If you'd like to learn more about this product, go to thermacell.com.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New product: OrnamenTrap from Rescue!

There's a new product out from the Rescue! company, which is based in Liberty Lake, Wash. They're the same folks who bring you those yellow jacket traps that work so well.

This new product, called the OrnamenTrap, will trap yellow jackets and nuisance flies but has been designed to enhance your outdoor decor rather than be something you want to hide from view.

It's a reusable trap that is non-toxic and made in the U.S.A. The traps contain an attractant to lure in yellow jackets and flies; they drown in the bottom of the trap so you're not dealing with nasty chemicals.

OrnamenTraps retail for $13.49 and you can by refill inserts for $6.49.

I went to their website to see where you can find them locally and was amazed by the long list of locations all over the Spokane area. Just do a search on their "find a retailer" form by inputting your address or zip code.

Here's a link to more information on the OrnamenTrap.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Veggie garden update

Definitely knee-high by the 4th of July!

I think it's time for another update of how my veggie garden is coming along. Most crops are doing great while a few are being a bit sluggish. And can you believe all of the rain we've been getting lately?! Moisture is always a good thing but I think the plants would like some nice sunny days for a while now.

What's doing great:
Cabbage plants are forming heads
  • Artichokes - These guys took a while to get going but suddenly are taller and the plants are quite stout with larger, prickly leaves. I'm watching for any signs of stink bugs which were a problem last year.
  • Cabbage - The plants are starting to form heads. The tulle (bridal veil fabric) is still working really well at keeping out cabbage butterflies and aphids, plus I can keep an eye on the bed better than by using floating row cover.
  • Carrots and parsnips - The plants are doing great, lots of foliage. I actually picked one of the carrots a few days ago -- it was about 1/2" in diameter and 10" long. Very sweet and tasty.
  • Celery - Plants are getting kind of bushy, with lots of developing stalks. We should be able to start harvesting some of the stalks within the next couple of weeks.
  • Corn - it's a little taller than "knee-high by the 4th of July," which is terrific. No problems whatsoever. I'll soon put some stakes at the corners of the bed and run twine around the edges to give the plants some extra protection when it's windy.
  • Fava beans - Mama mia! They are producing pods like crazy, which I won't harvest until they're particularly large and "lumpy." Will keep you posted on those.
  • Leeks - The plants are finally getting going, with about 1/4" thick stalks and are maybe 10" tall. As they grow, I'm slowly filling in the trench with soil around the bases of the plants, which will blanch (turn white) the lower half of each stalk.
  • Lettuce and arugula - We've been harvesting both for a few weeks now and really enjoying it. I've noticed that the arugula is trying to go to seed so have been pinching off the flower stalks. I believe this crop prefers to grow during cooler weather so will grow some this fall and see how it does.
  • Onions - All of the plants are growing well and we've been harvesting some as scallions, which has been a treat.
  • Potatoes - Lots of foliage so far, hopefully lots of potatoes developing underneath!
  • Tomatoes - Almost all of the tomato plants have really hit their stride. Most plants have tomatoes developing on them and some are just starting to turn color. We even have our first ripe 'Sungold' cherry tomato on the vine! You should see how many paste tomatoes are growing already on the 'San Marzano' and 'Italian Pompeii' plants. Can you say homemade sauce and catsup? Mm-mmm.
  • Fava beans
  • Winter squash, pumpkins and melons - all of the plants are growing beautifully. Looks like we should have plenty of squash and pumpkins to get us through next winter! I initially struggled with spotty germination but now the plants are making up for lost time. One new variety this year is 'Cream of the Crop' which is a white acorn squash that grows as a bush; you can either harvest it young as a summer squash or let it mature as a winter squash. Those plants are the largest (see foreground of squash photo at bottom).

    What's doing so-so:
    Squash bed doing great!
    • Pole beans - I mentioned in my last update that I had an odd problem with germination, so that really threw me off my schedule. Now the plants are climbing the arbor but still seem like they're taking their time. Hopefully they'll kick it into high-gear very soon. I should also mention that the 'Scarlet Runner' beans are starting to bloom.
    • Bush beans - These also took a long time to germinate and the plants are growing slowly.
    • Okra - This is my first year for growing these. There are a couple of developing okra on the plants but the plants themselves are growing verrrry slowly. Not sure what the problem is.
    • Straw bale garden - The plants in my 2 straw bales (tomatillos, peppers and cucumbers) are growing quite slowly, which is a bit of a disappointment. I'm hoping they'll perk up soon.

    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    June 29 column

    Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Roses keep giving all summer long. In it, I am pleased to feature Master Gardener Peggy Jeremiah and her beautiful rose garden.

    Boy, can she grow roses! During my visit, I admired how all of her plants were very healthy and robust, with shiny leaves. She really has a green thumb. In this column, she shares her impressive knowledge of what it takes to grow every gardener's favorite flower.

    I hope you will enjoy it.