10-28-2017 Mason Bee Workshop

The mason bee – our gentle friend and incredible pollinator. Most likely you have seen these busy native bees in your yard; you just haven’t met them yet. Join Master Gardener Vione Graham for an introductory workshop on mason bees. The presentation will cover their role in pollination, their life cycle and habitats and how we can protect these valuable creatures.

The event will conclude with a demonstration of nest/cocoon cleaning. Saturday, Oct. 28 from 1 to 3pm at the 78th Street Heritage Farm; 1919 NE 78th St., Vancouver, WA 98665.

If you have mason bee cocoons and a nest structure designed to come apart, bring them and plan to clean them. Also bring a medium size bowl (football size is good) and a container with a lid, such as a yogurt tub.

FREE! No registration necessary.

For more information: (360) 397-6060 x5738 or Erika.d.johnson@wsu.edu

10-19-2017 Grow a “Greener” Green Lawn Workshop

Learn the latest on establishing, renovating and maintaining turf that meets your needs. Get time-tested tips practiced by golf course superintendents for mowing, mulching, watering and managing weeds without toxic chemicals.Discover eco-lawns, and learn where to get more information on low-input lawn care. Speaker Weston Miller serves as associate professor and Extension agent for Oregon State University. He manages the popular Master Gardener TM program for the tricounty Portland metro area. Miller also helps to educate new and aspiring farmers to responsibly steward natural resources and build small-scale enterprises through OSU’s Beginning Urban Farmer Apprenticeship.

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 • 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Luke Jensen Sports Complex – Bud van Cleve Community Room

COST: FREE! No registration necessary.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:(360) 397-6060 x5738 or Erika.d.johnson@wsu.edu
Visit us at http://extension.wsu.edu/clark/gardening/

Attract Wildlife To Your Clark County Backyard

Published: July 6, 2017, 5:57 AM

There are many benefits to attracting wildlife — birds, frogs, bats, pollinators and others — to your garden. They can control insect pest populations, pollinate your crop plants, and improve soils, and they can be a delight to observe basking or foraging about in your yard.

All wildlife requires food, water, shelter and space. There are simple things you can do to provide for these necessities and bring wildlife into your yard. Try to landscape with native plants, as our native wild animals recognize these and have been living in and with the native plants throughout history.

Provide plants that flower and fruit at different times of the year. Ideally there are food sources available year-round, including winter. Leaving plants to go to seed provides these oil-rich food sources well into winter. Winter-berrying plants are priceless to wildlife in the cold of winter.

Evergreen shrubs and trees provide shelter and cover year-round.

If you have room for a pond, even a small water feature, consider adding one as a source for drinking and bathing and as habitat for frogs and newts, some of whom will even dine upon slugs.

A rock pile provides a secure shelter for amphibians as well as a source of food from the insects that are also attracted to such areas. Warm rocks are a great place to bask in the sun!

Brush piles also provide cover for small mammals and birds. Brush piles are simply small piles of sticks, branches, leaves, etc. that allow an animal somewhere to hide, rest or retreat from harsh conditions. Leaving your garden cleanup until spring gives you roughly the same effect, by providing cover and forage throughout the winter.

Provide a variety of nest boxes around your yard. Toad houses can be as simple as an overturned garden pot with room to get under. Organizations such as Bat Conservation International and The Audubon Society can provide blueprints and recommendations on good locations to put boxes.

Don’t be discouraged if no one moves in initially; it can take a while for a critter to find your box. Providing increased number of essential habitat needs ups your chances of getting a tenant sooner. You can also try moving the box to a new location.

Use damaged trees

Some of the best nesting and feeding opportunities come when a tree is damaged or fails. Having a certified arborist ensure safety, but leaving a snag or stump, provides all manner of wildlife opportunities to find insects or nest within or on it.

Some animals can become a nuisance, especially once they become accustomed to your backyard garden paradise. Most will avoid areas if humans pester them; something as simple as mild harassment — banging on pots or sealing off hiding spots under decks — will keep many at bay.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website “Living With Wildlife” has extensive resources on the common animals one might encounter in the area, and how to live with them or kindly decline their wish to live in your yard. You can visit their website at wdfw.wa.gov/living/.

If you would like to gain some hands-on experience building bird houses and bat boxes, consider attending one of two “Gardening With Wildlife” workshops with the WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener program. The workshop is offered twice this summer, July 22 and Aug. 12, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Bud van Cleve Community Room at the Luke Jensen Sports Park.

The event includes a presentation of practical approaches to attracting wildlife into your garden, followed by an opportunity to build bat and bird houses for installation at a nearby park. Bring gloves for the build; children 8 and older welcome. Visit extension.wsu.edu/clark/gardening/workshops-events/ for more details or call 360-397-6060, ext. 5738. The workshops are free and no registration is required.

Clark College students install drain at community greenhouse

By The Columbian

Published: June 21, 2017, 5:59 AM

HAZEL DELL — Thirty-three Clark College students from Kristen Myklebust’s and Veronica Brock’s Food and Your Health classes attended two work parties at the Hazel Dell School and Community Garden. They assisted with work, including planting, weeding, spreading bark and working on a major project to install a French drain at the entrance to the greenhouse. Previously, elementary students and garden volunteers had to walk across a “lake” to enter the greenhouse when it rained, according to Barbara Nordstrom, a master gardener from Washington State University and garden coordinator. “Thanks to the work of the Clark students and funding from the Master Gardener Foundation, winter rains should not result in a swim to the greenhouse.”

WSU series teaches gardening

By Meg McDonald for The Columbian

Published: June 1, 2017, 6:05 AM

Four Vancouver families living in homes built in partnership with Evergreen Habitat for Humanity have already experienced the community’s enthusiastic willingness to help. They will have another taste of that neighborly spirit this summer. They are the people who will work with Clark County Master Gardeners and community volunteers to design and install garden spaces on their properties.

For the second consecutive year, the WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener program is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to offer a series of workshops on gardening topics, which will educate the homeowners and volunteers, and end with newly installed and planted garden beds and containers.

A grant from the Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County helps to pay for materials, and donations of labor and some plants meet most of the remaining needs.

Master Gardener Jane Johnson worked closely with one of two participating homeowners in 2016 to design his low-maintenance garden, which includes mulched surfaces, a raised garden bed that the grandfather can easily access, and two fruit trees. The trees were selected using the Master Gardener motto “right plant, right place” to be appropriate for the small and rather shady yard. The workshop during which the garden was built attracted twenty volunteers. Jane has continued to follow up with him since then, and is happy to see how attractive the space still looks and how much the garden is producing.

The first of this year’s events will be held on Saturday, June 10, from 10 am to noon. Registration is online at http://bpt.me/2940284. Master Gardener Laura Heldreth will discuss how the homeowner can use the space in her sunny front yard to grow vegetables. The steps of planning, planting, tending and harvesting will all be included in the discussion. Those who don’t have the space for beds can learn how to create a vegetable garden with containers. After the presentation, the participants will work together to plant vegetable starts.

The second 2017 workshop will be held on Saturday, June 17, from 10 am to noon. In accordance with the homeowner’s request, it too will focus on vegetable gardening. Registration is online at http://bpt.me/2949136. The workshop will center on how to design a vegetable garden to fit a small space, and which vegetables are best for a new gardener. After the presentation, participants will install a raised bed for the family.

Each workshop is limited to a maximum of 20 participants. Location is provided upon online registration (both homes are located in central/east Vancouver). Children are welcome to join in the fun. To register or for more information call 360-397-6060, ext. 5738, or email erika.d.johnson@wsu.edu. You may also check the Clark County Master Gardener website at http://extension.wsu.edu/clark/gardening/workshops-events for more details.

Meg Mcdonald is a Master Gardener through the Washington State University Extension program.

Gardening for our friends, the pollinators

By John Moore, WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener

Published: May 25, 2017, 6:05 AM

What’s all the fuss about pollinators? For one thing, we depend on pollinators for the majority of the crops we eat. And at least 80 percent of all plant life depends on pollination for reproduction. And more pollination makes for better fruit set and quality in addition to increasing fruit size, resulting in more productive farms and gardens.

So, abundant populations of pollinators are critical for our food supply and ecosystem health.

Honeybees get most of the credit for this job, but they are not alone. There are thousands of other types of bees that also pollinate, not to mention butterflies, beetles, birds and many other species. The problem is that there are times that our needs may outstrip the capability of honeybees to do their thing. The honeybee is not native to North America, and it is facing rapid decline: The Varroa mite is a parasite that has destroyed honeybee populations in many regions of the country; Colony Collapse Disorder has taken a large toll; and the pesticides we use to control “bad bugs” also kill “good bugs” such as honeybees, too.

Sarah Bergmann, Founder and Director of Pollinator Pathways in Seattle, http://www.pollinatorpathway.com, makes a strong case that native plants and insects have a much better chance of riding out adversity than do non-natives. So it makes sense to develop and preserving native plants as a buffer for fluctuations in pollinator populations. The National Wildlife Federation, www.nwf.org, challenges us to focus on native plants in the garden, since native plants and insects have coevolved over centuries and depend on each other for survival. And because they are native, they are the most reliable and sustainable source of food for wildlife, including pollinators.

What you can do:

Pollinators’ needs are relatively simple: food, water and habitat.

Food: Many pollinators are generalists when it comes to food. They may prefer a certain source, but they will branch out a little when it’s not available. Others, like the Monarch butterfly, depend on only one source, and if it’s not around, neither are the Monarchs.

Pollinators need food all year long, so try to have something in bloom year-round. And since we know that native plants are our most beneficial and reliable source of food, focus on the many beautiful native options. As an added benefit, native plants require much less work and attention to thrive in their own habitat.

Water: A source of good water is important in attracting and keeping insects and other pollinators. If there is not a natural source of good water close to you, Penn State University’s Pollinator Garden Certification Program suggests strategies as simple as adding a bird bath or a puddling area for butterflies, or as complex as installing a water garden. You could also just hang a dripping bottle, or place a small container of water out in the open. Be sure to change the water two to three times per week when mosquitoes are breeding.

Habitat: Pollinator habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate. There are programs designed to restore habitat like those designed by Pollinator Pathways, the National Wildlife Federation and the Pollinator Partnership. We can make significant contributions around our own yards by using their guidelines. Amy Bartlett Wright, in her excellent article for the National Gardening Association, “The Other Pollinators” suggests that we tolerate a little mess (a sometimes controversial concept at my house): Leave dead snags and leaf litter, keep areas bare for ground-nesting insects, and leave some weeds that provide food for pollinators.

Protection from predators is critical. Good habitat provides adequate protection from most predators, but well-intentioned humans with chemicals may be the No. 1 threat. If we choose to use them, we must use pesticides thoughtfully and in strict compliance with label directions. It’s not only the law, but it’s the best way to avoid killing those “good bugs” and polluting our water system.

How can we do it?

If you’re like most people, it’s one thing to know what to do for our pollinator friends, but it’s quite another to put that knowledge into action. Fortunately, there are ample resources that lay out the how-tos on managing pollinators.

Online is a good place to start:

The Pollinator Partnership, www.pollinator.org, has an in-depth site that includes specific regional information. Their guide, “Selecting Plants for Pollinators, A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners, In the Ecological Region of the Pacific Lowland Mixed Forest Province” is an excellent resource. www.pollinator.org/guides

The National Wildlife Federation www.nwf.org, is a leader in attracting and preserving pollinators, and they have a program you can use to certify your backyard habitat. For information on certification and many other activities for children and adults, try www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx

The Xerces Society, http://xerces.org, has a variety of very helpful resources that are region-specific. My favorite is “Pollinator Conservation Resources – Pacific Northwest Region,” which includes region-specific information like plant lists (including bloom times, color, and pollinator species they attract,) conservation guides, plant suppliers, and identification guides. http://xerces.org/pollinators-pacific-northwest-region

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, www.wildflower.org, includes a searchable database on native plants nationwide.

There are also many local resources you can tap:

WSU’s County Extension Master Gardener Program exists to get good, research-based answers to your gardening questions. You can contact them via email at MGanswerclinic@clark.wa.gov or by phone at 360-397-6060 ext. 5711.

If you’d like to learn more about gardening for pollinators, the WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardeners and Clark County Public Health Solid Waste Outreach are presenting Gardening for Pollinators workshop at the Pacific Park natural garden demonstration site at Northeast 18th Street and 172nd Avenue in Vancouver from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 3. For more information, visit http://extension.wsu.edu/clark/gardening/workshops-events.

Feed your soil to add nutrients that were depleted last year

The Oregonian

By Homes & Gardens of the Northwest staff on April 25, 2017 at 7:56 PM

By WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener, Jessica Weir

Vegetable gardeners often need to amend their soil each year, adding back the nutrients that were depleted during the previous growing season. Soil amendments can be either enriched fertilizer salts (man-made) or organic (derived of natural process).

Soil is more than just a combination of sand, silt and clay. Between the non-living particles are whole populations of tiny creatures; bacteria, fungi, worms and others. There can be billions of these creatures, collectively known as microbes, in a single teaspoon of fertile soil.

Microbes break down nutrients, like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, so that plant roots may easily absorb them. Choosing the right amendment makes a difference in the lives and effectiveness of microbes.

Amending with fertilizer salts changes the balance of soil microbes, and once that balance is altered, more fertilizer amendments will be needed. This puts the gardener on a treadmill of regularly adding fertilizers and searching for the right balance of nutrients.

Examples of organic amendments include composts, manures, natural fertilizers, and cover crops. These additions support and feed soil microbes, enabling them to do their work of making nutrients available. As microbes digest the amendments, the nutrients are available to plants roots slowly over time. Organic amendments also improve the workability of soil, adding more pore space to hold air and water.

Apply amendments and fertilizers conservatively; some release nutrition to roots quickly and others slow. Nutrients not used up by plants or microbes can contribute to nutrient pollution of groundwater that flows to rivers and oceans.

If you’re curious of what is available in your soil or want to know how much amending is needed, you may want to consider testing your soil. Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, WSU extension expert, suggests testing before adding amendments to get “an idea of what the soil contains before more material is added.”

Those interested in soil testing, are invited to join Master Gardener and Soil Scientist, Martha Minnich for Soil Testing Demystified, a presentation on April 26, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Vancouver Community Library.

Dr. Minnich will cover the complexities of soil testing and interpreting its results. She will cover the when, why and how to test your soils, translating results, basic plant nutrition and information on organic amendments and fertilizers.

Bring in test results, if you have them, for discussion of specific examples and be ready to work in groups as you are guided through breaking down this complex subject into easier to understand concepts.

Energy Adviser: Soil content critical for native plants

Energy Adviser: Soil content critical for native plants
Tests can show alkalinity, acidity, plus nutrient value
Published: March 23, 2017, 6:00 AM

It’s tough to draw a line in the dirt and say plants before this date are natives and those after it aren’t. There is no exact date that defines what a Pacific Northwest native plant is.

If you need a rough dividing line, it falls somewhere after 1824, when David Douglas explored and cataloged plants of the area for the London Horticultural Society, and before 1836 when immigrant wagon trains first rolled west.

“Once the Oregon Trail opened, settlers brought all kinds of seeds,” said Julie Carlson, master gardener and volunteer at NatureScaping in Brush Prairie. “Washington is known for apples, but the settlers carried apple seeds and planted them here.”

Nearly 200 years later, some of these newer arrivals have become invasive, such as Japanese knotweed, Scot’s broom, and Himalayan blackberries that easily overtake native habitats.

“Native plants evolved to attract native wildlife and wildlife has adapted to native plants,” Carlson said. “That’s especially true of pollinating insects.”

This makes them better suited to the area. Wildlife and pollinators have a long history of mutual interaction with native plants. They also have adapted to our wet winters and dry summers and repel harmful insects, organisms and diseases better than non-natives, and are suited for our soil.

While there are 3,000 plants native to Western Washington, fewer than 300 or so are suitable for residential use, according to the Washington Native Plant Society website, http://www.wnps.org, where you can find descriptions of many species. Other places to research are the WSU Master Gardener Program, and local nurseries selling native plants. Searching wsu.edu also turns up information on native plants for our area.
Once established, native plants need less water, fertilizer, and pesticide than non-natives do. According to the EPA, homeowners apply 20 times more chemicals an acre than farmers. Planting natives reduces the chemicals flowing into groundwater and makes yards safer for kids and pets.

Placing native plants in the right location with the right soil is important to their success, Carlson said. Homeowners planning to make a significant investment in landscaping with native plants should have their soil tested to find if it meets the needs of the plant. “Too often, housing projects scrape much of the soil off leaving mostly clay,” she said. “Knowing what’s in your soil is the first step toward establishing natives around you home.”
Soil tests show the acidity or alkalinity (pH) of your dirt, as well as its nutrient value. Washington State University Extension recommends a Portland company, A&L Western Agricultural Laboratories. According to its website, A&L charges $36 for a test and report including recommendations and graphic charts. Recommendations may include how to bring the pH of your soil to the level needed for natives.

For properties with multiple micro-cultures, wet and shady, or sunny and dry, more than one soil test may be needed. The test results can help DIY landscapers and gardeners know where to put their plants. “I cannot say too often ‘put the right plant in the right place,’ ” Carlson said. “A moisture and shade-loving native won’t do well in the sun no matter how much you water it.”

Native plants can also save energy. Planting native trees and plants strategically can cut your home’s energy use. A well-planned landscape can reduce the summer air-conditioning costs between 15 percent and 50 percent for an unshaded home, according to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“The key to native plants’ success is finding an environment where they will thrive — and using lots of compost,” Carlson said.

For more ideas related to landscaping and home improvement, mark your calendar for the annual Clark Public Utilities Home & Garden Idea Fair, April 28 to 30. Details at www.homeandgardenideafair.com.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.

Now is the time to gear up for gardening

Planning now can help make for a productive growing season

By Rick Bannan/rick@thereflector.com

Feb 21, 2017

Seed packets have instructions on when they should be planted. Picking out seeds now while there are still plenty in stock is one way to prepare for the growing season this year

Spring is not quite here, but that doesn’t mean those looking to have the best garden ever in 2017 shouldn’t be thinking about seeds and weeds already.

Although some days it still manages to dip to freezing temperatures occasionally, there is plenty to be done on days when it isn’t raining in February and March.

According to a list of monthly tasks from the Washington State University Clark County Extension, February is the time to prepare vegetable gardens for planting, once the soil is workable.

Photo courtesy Metro Creative services

Getting the right time to plant is important and depends on whether it’s ornamentals, vegetables, annuals or perennials, said Karen Palmer, Hockinson resident and 16-year Clark County Master Gardener.

For perennial plants, Palmer said the sweet spot was to get them into the ground once the ice and snowy weather is done with but before it gets too warm. Roots need to be established in cooler soil and some natural rain is preferable during that time.

Generally mid-March into April is fine for hardier perennials. The general rule for annuals like marigolds is Mother’s Day weekend for planting, Palmer said.

Vegetable growing times are another story, Palmer explained.

“Each kind of vegetable has a little bit of a different requirement for both air temperature and soil temperature,” Palmer said.

For produce, paying careful attention to the guidelines on the seed packet was paramount for a solid yield. With planting times still a ways away, some tasks can be done ahead so that when the growing season is starting up, gardeners aren’t scrambling.

“Once it’s time to plant, you’re going to be busy,” Palmer said, “and it’s good to get those preliminary things out of the way.”

As of last week, Palmer said she was already pruning while her garden was still relatively dormant. Although the weather was harsh, trees are already starting to bud out given the periodic warmer days.

“Now’s a great time to be shopping for those seeds, while you have a good selection,” Palmer said, mentioning that from nurseries to big-box stores like Fred Meyer, many places have stock.

For vegetables, applying lime to the beds was another ahead-of-time task Palmer said, on a day where the weather cooperates early enough to give time for the additive to settle before planting.

Just because it’s “lime time” doesn’t mean it’s time for the heavier tools, Palmer explained, adding tilling or hoeing when the soil is wet can end up destroying the soil’s structure.

Pre-season upkeep also means checking watering systems, Palmer said, in order to make sure hoses are ready for another season. Leftover fertilizer might also be tired out over the winter which could mean a need to get a new bag as well. All beds, regardless of plant, can benefit from a fresh layer of compost, either from a bin that’s been at work over the winter, or fresh material from a nursery.

A mistake some gardeners make is applying a pre-emergent weed preventer like Preen to their beds prior to planting. Though the application might kill the weeds, it can also stop the crops gardeners want to grow from doing so, Palmer explained.

The weeds do have to go, though, and whether that is by way of a manual hoe or through a chemical that won’t kill the produce is up to the gardener’s preference, Palmer said.

After that initial weeding Palmer offered a recommendation for garden beds with pathways or ample space between crop rows; apply newspaper or cardboard before a top coat of compost in the rows to help keep things clear.

“That really helps suppress the weeds,” Palmer said. “Then that paper or cardboard decomposes and just becomes more organic manner.”

With the harsh weather in Clark County this year, plotting out what’s going to grow this season might be a good escape for gardeners wishing for sunnier days.

“Now’s the time to start dreaming,” Palmer said.

Building Value-Oriented Businesses

By Leslee Jaquette – Senior Messenger
“Values are the definition of our actions in life.” ~ Armin Houman

Armin Houman’s observation aptly describes two local business owners. Each has built a successful encore career that capitalizes on a lifelong passion, dovetails with her personal value system and benefits the community.

Local farmer Eloyce O’Connor, 72, combined her gardening and teaching skills to develop a business that creates healthy, herb-based products and educates people about their advantages. Former Army nurse turned photographer Kate Singh, 63, captures the best in her subjects and often donates her art in support of community organizations.

Teaching healthy living
After retiring from a career as a special education teacher and administrator in 2000, Eloyce O’Connor explored several activities before starting Garden Delights Herb Farm three years later. Located on 5 acres in the Brush Prairie/Hockinson area that O’Connor and her husband have called home for decades, the vegetable and herb gardens comprise less than one-fifth of the farm.

O’Connor’s partner is her 37-year-old daughter, Erin Harwood, who works as the STEM coordinator in the environmental education arena for Clark Community College. The two share a passion for growing food and herbs using organic methods. They are also both educators who gain great satisfaction from the science of developing healthy products as well as teaching people why and how to use these them.

As a master gardener, O’Connor explains that her personal interests lead her to teach how to grow the plants and use herbs in cooking. After an internship with a local medicinal herbalist, Harwood is more interested in developing and sharing information about the healing qualities of herbs.

These days Garden Delights propagates and sells live herb plants, and during the growing months the women often offer classes and events. For example, in May, Garden Delights will again provide many plants for the Camas Mother’s Day Plant Sale.

This past year the partners have focused on developing and marketing herb-based products for pets and humans. Garden Delights’ most popular products are organic catnip and herbal flea collars.
“The collars need to be copyrighted because they are so original,” said O’Connor. “They work well and help deter fleas without using chemicals.”

In terms of culinary and home products, several new items consumers will enjoy are O’Connor’s reformulated cooking blend, and a carpet sprinkle to freshen rugs. The herbalists are also looking at developing herbal pet shampoos and herb-based beauty products.

As the largest herb growers in the county, the mother-daughter herb farmers are proud of their work and products.

“We feel good about bringing organic products to the community,” explained O’Connor. “When we sell plants or products, we are always educating people how to use them. That’s the most satisfying thing to me.”