Blueberry Pruning workshop – Feb. 17, 2018

Love juicy, sweet just-picked blueberries from your own bushes? Not sure how to keep them performing at their best?

Join Master Gardeners for a workshop on blueberry pruning; Saturday, January 13 from 10am to noon.

We’ll view a couple of short videos on blueberry pruning basics: when to prune, choosing which canes to cut, and where to cut them. We’ll discuss tools, garden sanitation, and how pruning is part of a sustainable and organic approach to blueberry plant care. Location provide upon registration (Hazel Dell area).

Then we’ll head out to the on-site blueberry patch to practice our skills. This entails a 5-10 minute walk up a steep hill. Those with mobility issues may drive.

Dress for the weather and bring water, garden gloves, and a pair of sharpened loppers or hand bypass pruners if you have them.

Registration Required: No admission without advance registration at

For more information: (360) 397-6060 x5738 Visit us at /workshops-events/

Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop – Feb. 3, 2018

Fruit Tree Pruning

Increase the beauty and productivity of your fruit trees with this informative, hands-on pruning class. Timely pruning can improve the shape, strength, and fruit set of your trees, while simultaneously helping to reduce pest and disease pressure.

The morning lecture includes general pruning theory. After a brown bag lunch, the class moves outside to practice specific techniques to help you learn how to make the best cuts on your fruit trees with confidence and skill.

WHEN: Feb 3, 2017 — 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m

COST: $45


LOCATION: Vancouver, WA (Exact location provided upon registration)

BRING: Brown bag lunch. Coffee/tea provided. Dress for weather, physical activity and rugged ground.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 360-397-6060 x 5738 or


Blueberry Pruning Workshop – January 13, 2018

Love juicy, sweet just-picked blueberries from your own bushes? Not sure how to keep them performing at their best?

Join Master Gardeners for a workshop on blueberry pruning; Saturday, January 13 from 10am to noon.

We’ll view a couple of short videos on blueberry pruning basics: when to prune, choosing which canes to cut, and where to cut them. We’ll discuss tools, garden sanitation, and how pruning is part of a sustainable and organic approach to blueberry plant care. Location provide upon registration (Hazel Dell area).

Then we’ll head out to the on-site blueberry patch to practice our skills. This entails a 5-10 minute walk up a steep hill. Those with mobility issues may drive.

Dress for the weather and bring water, garden gloves, and a pair of sharpened loppers or hand bypass pruners if you have them.

Registration Required: No admission without advance registration.

For more information: (360) 397-6060 x5738 Visit us at /workshops-events/

Garden educators teach parents about school gardens

By The Columbian

Published: November 1, 2017, 5:55 AM

Hazel Dell — Fifteen teachers, parents and garden educators met on Oct. 5 at Hazel Dell School and Community Garden to discuss what resources are available from the Washington State University Master Gardeners program.

The meeting was called by Erika Johnson, master gardener coordinator for the college, in response to inquiries about starting, maintaining and sustaining school gardens. The group toured the garden, went over lesson plans developed by the Garden Discovery Team and viewed kits and educational materials available from Washington State University Extension.

Lisa Peloquin, mater gardener and event facilitator, led a discussion on school garden challenges at the event, which was hosted by Bobbi Bellomy and Barbara Nordstrom, Hazel Dell School and Community Garden coordinators and master gardeners.

Additional gatherings of school garden educators are planned for November and February, and anyone interested in more information is asked to contact Johnson at or 360-397-6060 ext. 5738.

Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Yellow squash and orange pumpkins.

By Viki Eierdam

Winter is all about layering, catching up after a busy summer and feeding the soul from a pantry stocked with home-canned goods and a freezer full of garden vegetables. Before you burrow in, apply these principles to your outdoor spaces and get a jump start on next year.

Keeping the carpet green

Even with the trend towards smaller lawns, grass typically takes up the most ground surface for property owners. To keep it looking nice through winter and give it a jump start on spring, Steve Miller, owner of Miller Landscaping, offered a few key maintenance essentials.

• Fertilize by the numbers. It’s important to use a low nitrogen fertilizer (the first number) with a fairly high amount of potassium (the last number). Nitrogen promotes leaf and stem growth while potassium is an overall plant health nutrient that strengthens the lawn to withstand cold weather conditions.

• Mow low. The recommended height in late fall is two inches. Snow accumulation encourages snow mold which is a fungus that thrives under lawns blanketed with snow for multiple days.

• Rake up leaves.  Although leaves provide excellent organic matter for gardens (see below), left on grass and bushes, they will suffocate the lawn and plants like heather. Unraked leaves can even cause bug problems and root rot around the base of trees.

• Pruning. With so many different kinds of bushes, trees and hedges, it’s best to consult a professional. For shrubs, best practice will depend on whether the bush is flowering or not. For trees, Miller recommends pruning before the leaves drop. Although it’s easier to see all the branches of a tree when the tree is bare, that rule of thumb disrupts the natural food storage process (i.e. there won’t be the right amount of food in the tree’s roots to produce a healthy canopy of leaves in the spring).

Tucking in for a long winter’s nap

For gardeners, preparing the vegetable plot for winter is as essential as planting, watering and harvesting the bounty.

Karen Palmer, master gardener with the Washington State University (WSU) Clark County Extension, shared tips to make the transition from active summer gardening to winter seed catalog perusing as efficient as possible.

• Harvest the remaining crops.

Recordkeeping. While the plants are still in the ground, take some time to write down where each crop was planted this year. Next year, when crops are rotated as recommended, this will make it easier to plot out a new configuration.

Personal inventory. This is also a good time to note what vegetables you liked and didn’t, what you’d like to plant more of/less of next year, what grew well and what yielded poorly.

Clean it up. Remove all plant debris, particularly if any plants showed signs of disease. Clean leaves and vines from all structures (e.g. stakes, baskets, trellises). Structures can then be stored in the garden beds. Pulling spent plants doesn’t have to be done all at once. If you think a few more tomatoes will ripen or that pumpkin patch is still giving, leave them in.

Amend the soil.  Fall is a good time to add lime to the garden because it will work down to root level by next spring. Lime transforms our area’s acidic soil into the neutral soil that vegetables prefer. For example, blossom end rot in tomatoes, peppers and squash is a sign of calcium deficiency caused by acidic soil.

Plant cover crops. November is a little cold, but for next year, consider planting cereal rye, winter wheat, winter oats, fava beans or phacelia between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. Cover crops inhibit weeds, stave off erosion and can be worked into the soil as organic matter in the spring.

Use those leaves.  After raking up leaves from the yard, cover garden beds with a nice thick layer of them. This is another way to hold down weeds and becomes organic matter in the spring.

Winter crops. Chard, kale and leeks can often give through the winter. Palmer harvests her kale a few leaves at a time and pulls them out when she plants new kale the following spring. Now is also a good time to plant garlic and shallots for a July/August harvest. Lettuce and spinach will grow until the area receives a hard freeze.

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

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 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 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 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 You may also check the Clark County Master Gardener website at 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,, 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,, 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,, 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.

The National Wildlife Federation, 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

The Xerces Society,, 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.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center,, 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 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

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.