Spiders are ‘freaking cool’
Gail Langellotto’s eyes lit up and excitement rose in her voice as she introduced the 50 people in my Master Gardener class to the world of arthropods.
Spiders are her favorite. She’s well aware that not everybody loves them with her level of fervor.
“They’re just so freaking cool,” said Langellotto, who is an entomologist and the coordinator of the statewide Master Gardener program.
Some, such as jumping spiders, have arguably the best vision of all invertebrates. Most spiders will gobble up almost anything – even their own kind, until they need to mate with them.
“Imagine that if you are a cannibal, you eventually reach a point in your life where you have to stop seeing other members of your species as meals and instead look at them as mates,” Langellotto said.
Besides being fascinating to watch, spiders and other natural predators of pests are one strategy in an integrated approach to pest management, which is often referred to as IPM. IPM is an approach to pest control that involves managing the harmful bugs in your garden using many different methods, ranging from making the habitat unfavorable to pests to monitoring the infestation level, rather than simply reaching for a pesticide.
Langellotto’s particular pleasure is walking through her garden and squishing aphids between her thumb and forefinger.
Other bugs that are natural enemies of harmful insects include assassin bugs, parasitoid wasps and ladybugs.
“Try to make your garden a happy home for beneficial insects,” Langellotto advised.
Lawns in the grass seed capital of the world
Barb Fick, a horticulturist with the OSU Extension Service, held white and black bags of turf grass seed in her hands. She handed the bags of creeping fescue and bentgrass to my classmates to inspect.
Lawns, she said, are one of the most important things you study as a Master Gardener. It seemed fitting given that Oregon is the grass seed capital of the world. Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces almost two-thirds of the cool-season grasses in the United States, according to this OSU website.
So Fick offered the following pointers on lawns:
- Choose turf grass that’s suitable for your site’s soil, light and drainage conditions.
- If you live east of the Cascade Mountains, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues and turf-type tall fescues are best.
- Turf-type perennial ryegrasses, fine fescues and bentgrass are best suited to conditions west of the Cascades.
- Keep your lawn healthy to stave off unwanted weeds and moss by fertilizing it and watering it regularly.
- Apply a slow-release fertilizer every September or when your lawn looks hungry.
- Mowing is probably the most important thing you can do for your lawn.
For more information, Extension offers the following guides on lawns: