The internet is full of tips for houseplant care. But not all of them are based on science or proven to be safe and effective. So Master Gardener Trainees Leo and Carrie researched these suggestions just for you! Whether you are new to houseplants or are familiar with growing them, we hope this list of research-based resources will support your success.
Which houseplants are right for me?
How much light your dwelling gets, how much time you have, and the people and pets in your home, are things to consider when picking houseplants.
Plant pests can certainly be one of the most frustrating parts of growing your own food garden. Trap crops are part of an Integrated Pest Management plan. Here’s how they work.
A TRAP CROP can be defined as a sacrificial plant that draws away damaging insects from the desirable crop.
Essentially, a trap crop works as an alternative host that draws away invading insects, giving the main vegetable crop an added layer of protection. In some cases, insects have a preference for these alternative hosts, and when given the choice, will go to the trap crop first. After trap crops are infested with target insects, they can be controlled with timely insecticidal applications or mechanical removal. While trap cropping can be extremely beneficial, it is often not a complete solution. Trap crops will not control all insects and the use of integrated pest management (IPM) is necessary. IPM practices include rotating crops, attracting beneficial insects, and prudently using organic and synthetic chemicals.
Another great resource that details trap crops as well as intercropping and companion planting, that, when combined with trap crops, can make an even bigger impact when controlling pests.
Identification is key
You will definitely want to make sure you have correctly identified the pests causing damage to your plants. Different pests may prefer different trap crops and may require different integrative pest management (IPM) techniques. This resource is a helpful guide to identifying common pests as well as insects that are beneficial and helpful to gardeners.
Example: Flea beetles
Flea beetles (including Epitrix spp. and Phyllotreta cruciferae) are a well-known garden pest on crops like kale and broccoli.For flea beetle control, Chinese southern giant mustard (Brassica juncea var. crispifolia) is an example of a trap crop that has been used effectively in the United States to protect crucifer crops from flea beetle damage. In studies conducted at Washington State University (WSU), a diverse trap crop containing Pacific Gold mustard (B. juncea), Dwarf Essex rape (B. napus), and pac choi (B. campestris L. var. chinensis) successfully protected broccoli from the flea beetle. Diverse trap crop plantings combine plants that have different phenologies (life cycles which can be influenced by the environment, weather conditions, and nutrition), chemical profiles, and physical structures that make them more attractive to flea beetles.
It is important to note, however, that trap crops may not provide complete protection, especially during heavy pest infestations. You also have to manage the pests on the trap crop by removing them by hand and killing them, or using insecticide. Trap crops will be even more effective if several integrated pest management strategies are used together, like
Control weeds in and around planting sites to limit food sources for flea beetles.
Remove old crop debris so that beetles will not be able to get protection in the winter.
Plant crops as late as possible. Plants grow faster in warmer temperatures and are more stable to resist damage from flea beetles.
Use row covers or other screening to keep beetles out when the seedlings are growing.
Remove row covers before the flowers come up so pollinating insects can reach the plants.
These articles give excellent detail on managing flea beetles:
Congratulations to Linn County Master Gardener Association for winning the Marje Luce Search for Excellence from Oregon Master Gardener Association, for their publication Bee Notes.
Bee Notes raises awareness about stewarding native pollinators, including timely tips for care of blue orchard mason bees. Bee Notes is a key component of the outstanding pollinator education initiatives of Linn Master Gardeners, including the BEEvent Pollinator Conference which won this same award in 2019.
Search for Excellence is the recognition program of Master Gardener volunteer work, both throughout the United States and Canada (at the International level), and across the State of Oregon within the OMGA.
“In 2005 no one stepped forward to take over Through the Garden Gate tour and the board had decided not to have it that year. Marti didn’t want to see that happen so she started trying to recruit folks. I was a new trainee that year. Marti convinced me my garden was worthy to be on tour. It was March with only a few months to go till the tour. Not much time to get my garden ready for the tour but I agreed. The problem was we were still 2 gardens short. Marti asked if I had any ideas. We ended up recruiting two of my wonderful neighbors with beautiful gardens. Had it not been for Marti stepping up the garden could have just been a memory. ”
–– Nancy Messman, Linn County Master Gardener Association.
Eat more fruit and vegetables! We have all heard this command from many sources. And for good reason! Produce is the main source of many vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other nutrients in our diet. Did you know that if your garden includes fruit and vegetables, you may eat more produce than people who do not garden? This warms the hearts of your parents, dietitians, and doctors.
Any produce you eat is a good thing and includes all of those nutrients your doctor is hoping you will eat. But it does beg the question, is one tomato the same as another? Does a tomato have the same amount of nutrients in it regardless of where that tomato comes from, how it was grown, and how it is processed? Not necessarily. The condition of your soil, how you manage your garden, and how you harvest, store, and process your bounty can all impact the nutrient content of your produce. Whether you grow cucumbers in a container on your patio or have a large garden in your yard, how can you make sure that the produce you grow has the most nutrition possible? Follow these 7 steps to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck
Test Your Soil pH
The nutrient content of produce begins with healthy soil. If your garden soil pH is off, nutrients that might be in the soil may not be available to your plants. For example, if your soil is too acidic, your plants may not get enough calcium leading to blossom end rot in your zucchini and tomatoes. Adjust your soil pH in accordance with test results.
If your soil lacks nutrients, your produce will also lack nutrients. A soil test can tell you the amount of phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and micronutrients you have to work with. Fertilize and amend your soil in accordance with the soil test, plant needs, and package instructions. Proper use of fertilizer and soil amendments can optimize produce flavor, texture, color, size, nutrient composition, and shelf life. Be careful – too much fertilizer can be just as bad as too little!
Overwatering your garden can lead to nutrient leaching, robbing your plants of needed nutrition. Underwatering (especially in hot conditions) can not only stress and damage your plants, but it can also prevent nutrient distribution from the soil to your garden plants. Know your garden watering needs and do it!
Know when your vegetables are at their peak and harvest as close to that time as you can. Every fruit and vegetable has its unique indicators of when to harvest. While many vegetables are at their highest deliciousness when allowed to fully ripen on the plant, allowing some vegetables to remain unharvested past the peak ripeness can result in inedible produce. For example, okra becomes woody and inedible when left to grow after peak maturity is achieved. Some produce can continue to ripen after harvest. While harvesting prior to maturity may prevent the neighborhood deer and squirrels from snacking on your tomatoes, early harvest means tomatoes lower in vitamin C than tomatoes left to ripen on the plant.
Reduce the time between harvest and eating or processing as much as you can. As soon as you harvest fruit and vegetables, they start to lose nutrients. After all, you have removed the produce from the plant that provides nutrients and water.
Store Your Harvest Appropriately
If you do need to store your harvest, make sure that you are doing so correctly. Each type of produce prefers a specific type of storage environment. Storing your harvest correctly not only keeps it fresh longer but also helps retain nutrients. Some produce, such as snap beans, prefers cold, moist storage. Some produce, such as winter squash, prefers warm, dry storage.
Do you can, freeze, or dehydrate your harvest? Different nutrients react differently to different preservation methods. Water-soluble vitamins (the B vitamins and vitamin C) are more likely to break down in the preservation process than fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K), minerals, and fiber. If you are particular about preserving a particular type of nutrient, choose your harvest preservation method appropriately.
Written By: Chad Kuwana, Master Gardener Volunteer Trainee
Check back in with your azaleas and rhododendrons this summer!
At this point of the year, summer is in full swing and daily high temperatures are consistently in the upper eighties and nineties. The beautiful spring weather that brought about stunning blooms in your garden is just a memory as you try to beat the heat with some freshly picked berries.
While some spring blooms may be holding on, most azalea and rhododendron bushes have lost their flowers and your attention has likely shifted to other parts of your garden like your fruits and vegetables. However, as you water your plants, you might notice notched edges on the leaves or fuzzy white spots on the branches of your azaleas or rhododendrons. These are signs that black vine weevils or scale might be present on your plants.
Black Vine Weevils – Otiorhynchus sulcatus
Black vine weevils are a type of beetle (Curculionidae) about ½ inch (12.7 mm) long. They cannot fly and are mostly black with small patches of white. The larvae are also about ½ inch (1.27 cm) long but are white with a brown head. Adult black vine weevils eat foliage and are most active at night. You will notice notches in leaves from where they were feeding. Larvae, however, feed on the roots of your azalea or rhododendron, so they can cause more severe damage to your plant as it can lead to diseases like Phytophthora root rot.
The reason you might be noticing evidence of their presence in July and early August is because of their life cycle. Black vine weevils usually emerge between May and June after overwintering in their larvae stage. Upon emerging they need anywhere between 21 and 28 days of feeding before they are ready to lay eggs and begin a new generation. Thus, peak adult populations are seen in the summer. Once they are ready to lay their eggs, black vine weevils can lay as many as 500 eggs over a two to three-week period.
Assuming you don’t have cultivars that are less susceptible to weevils in your garden, there are a few things you can do.
If you’ve caught it early and the weevil population isn’t overwhelming, you can get rid of the weevils by hand. Once it’s dark (remember they are active at night), you can shake and beat the leaves over a sheet that will collect the fallen weevils and then dispose of them.
Another option is to use corrugated cardboard as a wrap around the trunk (also overnight). This wrap will serve as a trap so that when they seek shelter during the day, you can collect and dispose of them. Instead of a cardboard wrap, you can use a sticky material that will trap the weevils as they crawl up and down the trunk.
Lastly, you can also use parasitic nematodes to help control the infestation at the larval stage.
Azalea bark scale are small insects about .13 inches (3.3 mm) long. They are red in color but are most recognizable by the fuzzy white sacs on twigs and branches. These egg sacs or ovisacs are important to remove during the summer so they do not hatch. When they hatch in September, the young scale will start to feed on the azalea or rhododendron by penetrating the bark and sucking out sap and will excrete a substance called honeydew. This honeydew will invite sooty mold and fungi to grow and cause your plant to look darkened, yellow, and/or sickly.
The azalea bark scale lay their eggs in early April to hatch in May. During the summer, the young scale will feed and mature to produce the fuzzy white sacs in June and July. This is when you might notice the sticky substance on branches called honeydew and sooty mold covering the leaves. You might also start to see more fuzzy white sacs on the twigs and branches.
Starting with the fuzzy white sacs, you can brush them off with your fingernail or toothbrush. If an area is heavily infested, pruning is the best method for removal. Keep in mind also that fertilizing with too much nitrogen will support the population growth of scale.
Hopefully, this post can help you get familiar with these two pests that might be hurting your azaleas and/or rhododendrons. Please reference the resources below for more detailed and extensive information on monitoring and controlling these pests in your garden. It’s easy to forget all the details that go into keeping up your garden so make sure to check in with the OSU Extension Monthly Garden Calendar to help you stay on top of key garden chores throughout the year.
Are you trying to manage your garden weeds without chemicals? While I’m not endorsing any company, I’ve found a few hand-weeding tools that might help. And, possibly with tools for the task, you’ll see hand weeding as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and not merely a chore.
Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). These include long sleeves, long pants, closed-toed shoes, gloves, eye protection, and ear protection.
Avoid wearing loosely draped clothing or things that can be caught by tools when you work.
Be aware of your environment for safety risks.
Short Handled Tools:
Japanese Weeding Sickle
The weight of the tool is biased toward the front for easy handling
Typically, the edges are very sharp and come to a point
This tool works well on thick-stemmed roots
Half-moon Hand Garden Hoe
Works beneath the surface to pull the roots of the weed
Typically, the edges are very sharp
The crooked neck attached to the blade helps to correctly position the blade
This award is presented to an OSU Master Gardener™ from each County by the Oregon Master Gardener™ Association (OMGA) working cooperatively with Oregon State University. This annual award recognizes outstanding dedication and service of an OSU Master Gardener at the county level.
Master Gardener of the Year
Brenda Winslow has been a Linn County Master Gardener since 2010. Over these years she has diligently staffed and answered hundreds of plant clinic questions at the Sweet Home Farmer’s Market. Within the very large Linn County, Brenda’s presence on the eastern side of the county has made a huge difference in keeping more Master Gardeners involved. Brenda has used her gardening knowledge to teach classes in Albany, Lebanon and Sweet Home. She started and fundraised for the high school and junior high school gardens and taught classes at the Boys and Girls Club. She has helped at the Demo Garden, ran clinic tables at the Harvest Festivals, worked container planting sessions and been a resource for the Sweet Home Beautification team and the Garden club. The BEEvent Pollinator Conference and the Albany Garden Tours fundraiser are other projects she has volunteered at. Brenda has been on the Linn Master Gardener Association Board for 5 years, and is currently 2nd Vice President. She is in charge of keeping membership lists up to date and helped produce our membership directory. Her knowledge and experiences are shared with enthusiasm in a way that encourages others. Thank you, Brenda!
Behind the Scenes Master Gardener Volunteer of the Year Awardees
Behind the Scenes Master Gardener Volunteer of the Year Awardees This award is presented to an OSU Master Gardener™ from each County by the Oregon Master Gardener™ Association (OMGA) working cooperatively with Oregon State University. This annual award recognizes an OSU Master Gardener™ who works quietly and unselfishly behind the scenes to further the OSU Master Gardener Program on a county level. This is not a person who is out in front working on projects, so that everyone knows their contributions. Rather, it is a person whom few may actually know the level of their contributions.
Rene Miller became a Linn County Master Gardener in 2018. Over the past three years she has become a major team worker on the Pollinator Project. She has helped with many cocoon harvesting classes and has lead sales of bee supplies. She harvested and cleaned a lot of mason bee cocoons that are sold by Linn Master Gardeners to help fund the association. Recently Rene helped harvest and process teasel for a mason bee research project. Besides the Pollinator Project she has also become a major team worker at the Willamette Community Garden. Work there isn’t just gardening, but also helping non-master gardener community members learn more about best practices for vegetable gardening. Rene is a volunteer garden educator at Waverly Preschool. She has answered questions at the Albany Farmer’s Market table and has been a volunteer on a Garden Tour. Rene’s cheerful demeanor and having a collaborative attitude make it fun to work with Rene. Thank you, Rene!
Nancy Ragghianti has been a Linn County Master Gardener since 2018. Nancy is currently a Member-at-Large on the Linn MG Board. She has worked at the Linn Demo Garden and at other events, but the thing that makes her special is her skills with website design and maintenance. www. LinnMasterGardeners.com was set up about 4 years ago. Nancy has done many updates and changes to make this an informative site for the public as well as for our association members. With COVID there were new challenges. The Linn MGA’s BEEvent Pollinator Conference went virtual. Nancy set up the on-line registration and the evaluation process for the conference. With the virtual conference, she set up a new on-line order and pick up process for mason bee supplies. She also publishes the Linn County MGs “Bee Notes” e-newsletter on the website. “Bee Notes” currently has very close to 800 subscribers. The association members and Linn Extension staff appreciate the ardent work she has done to make the website informative, useful and educational. Thank you, Nancy!
Bobbye Rainey became a Linn County Master Gardener in 2020. Before Bobbye went through Master Gardener training (pre-COVID) she volunteered at the Linn Demo Garden and continues to work there twice a week. She has enthusiastically worked on many projects and does whatever is needed whether it is weeding, planting, harvesting or some odd job. This year Bobbye has joined the Linn MG Board as a Memberat-Large. Twice a week she and another new Master Gardener have staffed the Linn County MG plant clinic help. She diligently answers on-line gardening questions from the public. Committing time 4 days a week, she has had a major impact. Additionally, Bobbye set up and staffed seven parking lot pickup sites in Linn, Benton, Marion and Lane County for people to pick up pre-ordered bee supplies. Part of this delivery process was gathering and bagging supplies, calling those who missed the pick-up and finding alternate delivery options. Bobbye’s friendly demeanor along with her professional collaborative style are an asset to our association. Thank you, Bobbye!
One of the primary fundraisers and education outlets for Linn Master Gardeners is the BEEvent Pollinator Conference. The following is a history of that project and how it has grown and changed.
Our Mission: The primary purpose of the Linn County Master Gardeners Association Pollinator Project is to provide information to the general public about the plight of pollinators, both native and non- natives. We provide knowledge and materials to ordinary citizens to help them make their spaces friendly to pollinators, and so that they can become informed advocates. A secondary, but very important, purpose is to raise funds to support the outreach programs of the Linn County Master Gardeners Association to educate the public in healthy and productive gardening practices.
History: In 2014, Barbara Fick, then a Linn County Extension agent, was talking to retired entomologist and Master Gardener Volunteer Rich Little about how we could increase the public’s awareness of pollinators. In 2015 the BEEvent Pollinator Conference was established to help home gardeners and small farmers better understand how they could help bees. That first conference had 54 participants. In recent years about 200 participants have registered to hear nationally known speakers and local experts talk about pollinator health. The BEEvent is now the largest pollinator conference in the PNW. Between 60-80% of attendees are new each year, so that means we are reaching a lot of people. Due to the COVID pandemic, the 2021 BEEvent went virtual. That was a new challenge and learning experience for all!
Keynote speakers over the years have included Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist of the Xerces Society, Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, Olivia Messinger Carril from New Mexico, co-author of “Bees in Your Backyard,” and James Cane, research entomologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Logan, Utah. Cane has been studying bees for 30 years and is known for having applied his long-term interest in bees to help measure, understand and mitigate human factors that can shift nesting and foraging opportunities for bee communities.
Rich Little has given many presentations about native bees throughout Oregon for Master Gardeners and the public. Each fall Linn Master Gardener instructors meet with small groups to teach how to properly harvest and clean cocoons. Harvesting the cocoons helps ensure a healthier outcome and you learn more about what is inside the nesting sites. During these classes our participants develop an understanding and learn to follow the “Best Management Practices” for Mason Bees. This helps gardeners and small farmers become more successful in helping our native bees.
In 2016 we started an e-mail publication called “Bee Notes”. The purpose of Bee Notes is to share information and reminders to those who have mason bees. We also share articles about pollinators that will help the home gardener be a better steward in helping pollinators. Currently there about 800 subscribers. Rich Little, who has a degree in entomology, writes most of the more technical information. Ranee Webb writes some of the Bee Notes. Our webmaster, Nancy Ragghianti, does the final touches and publishes the Bee Notes. Together we make a team. We are amazed at the success of Bee Notes!
Linn County Master Gardeners were early in starting the use of our own website. You can now find a lot of information including Bee Notes on the website- www.LinnMasterGardeners.com.
The Oregon Master Gardener Association awarded Linn County Master Gardeners the Marje Luce Search for Excellence Award in 2020.
Proud of Our Successes and Yours:
Our Master Gardener volunteers sell bee supplies and houses as well as mason bee cocoons. In normal years about 50 master gardeners are involved in our pollinator project.
We believe our Master Gardener volunteer’s campaign to promote pollinator health is having a positive effect.
Linn Master Gardeners have worked with the OSU Bee Project, the Benton Soil Water and Conservation District and Shonnard’s Nursery in developing our Pollinator Project and supporting their outreach programs as well. We have had contacts from people out-of-state asking to find out more about how we do the conference in hopes of putting on conferences similar to ours. Awareness of native bees has increased and we like to think we have helped you and many others learn more.
All of these projects happen because at least 50 Linn Master Gardeners and a few Benton Master Gardeners got involved!
One of the reasons that I love spring in the Willamette Valley is the masses of colorful rhododendrons. It’s hardly surprising that this flowering shrub is so popular, because it comes in a wide range of sizes and colors. Many species are evergreen which is an additional bonus to add structure to your garden in grey winter months. Spring is a great time to plant rhododendrons and it’s not too late.
There are about thirty species of rhododendron native to North America. They are found naturally in temperate deciduous forests and enjoy the acidic soil found in these wooded hills and mountains. If you are looking to plant a Northwest native, consider Rhododendron Macrophyllum, the Pacific Rhododendron. Its flowers can range from pale pinks to deep purples. It will grow to be 8 to 10 feet in the garden but can grow much bigger in the wild.
Another interesting native is Rhododendron Occidentale, the Western Azalea. Its flowers range in color from white to pink, but all have a yellow spot on the upper petals that adds interest and beauty. Their flowers are known to be quite fragrant. Unlike the Pacific Rhododendron, the Western Azalea is deciduous and can have very pretty autumn foliage.
Regardless of which rhododendron you choose, they require similar growing conditions:
Acidic soil with a pH usually between 4.5 and 6
Soil that drains well and is rich in organic matter
A consistent level of moisture
Dappled shade, although it will tolerate a variety of sun exposures
Having the right soil conditions is very important before you plant your rhododendron. Many of us in Western Oregon already have acidic soils but if you have questions about getting your soil tested or how to interpret a soil test, I would recommend reaching out to your local OSU Extension Office. You can also reach them online at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert.
Rhododendrons can be prone to root rot. That is one reason to mix in a good amount of organic matter into your planting site. Some sources recommend a mix of 50% organic matter. In addition to building healthy soil this organic matter will make sure the roots are getting oxygen and not becoming soggy. Organic matter also helps to feed your plant to keep it healthy.
Before you place your new rhododendron in the ground make sure to water it well. When you place the root ball in the ground it should be planted at the same level as it was in the pot. Then mulch it with a thick layer of pine bark mulch, which is good for those acid loving plants. Make sure there is a nice ring of space between your trunk and your mulch to prevent fungal diseases. As the mulch breaks down it will also provide more nutrients to your rhododendron.
Although rhododendrons have specific soil requirements, they are very easy to care for once planted. The mulch and organic soil you used will help the soil have consistent moisture, but they may need additional watering in the heat of summer. They generally don’t need to be trimmed but do benefit from deadheading spent flowers. Rhododendrons appreciate a yearly fertilizer in the fall and a refresh of their mulch.
Rhododendrons look great as foundation plantings around your home. Their range of colors will fit into any planting scheme and they will bloom for years to come. If you don’t have one yet, consider planting a rhododendron.