By Margaret Bayne, OSU Extension Staff-retired, OSU Master Gardener

February 2018

Gail Langellotto OSU Pollinator Health Website

Got pollinators? Listen to this podcast with Dr. Gail Langellotto, OSU, to learn about ground nesting bees, the potential problems of plant lists, and how to maximize the benefits of urban landscapes for pollinators.(PollilNation podcasts, OSU)

Are Poinsettias poisonous? This question comes up every year, and unfortunately it is often answered by MGs incorrectly.  Here is the scoop: Poinsettias are not poisonous! For nearly eight decades, this rumor has continued to circulate because of one unfounded story in 1919.  Learn what the science says about this myth and also how to care for your Poinsettia. (University of Illinois Extension)

Houseplant problems? “Improper watering, sudden changes in environment, cold drafts, lack of fertilizer, insect or disease attack may cause problems for houseplants.”  Learn more about problems with and the care of houseplants from University of Illinois Extension. (U of Illinois Extension)

Winter is the perfect time to reflect on the successes and disappointments of last year’s garden. Learn how to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work. (Pamela T. Harden, MG, Penn State U)

Sometimes extremely cold weather can be a good thing! “The brutally cold temperatures take a toll on an invasive insect in the Smokies that has killed millions of hemlock trees in the United States.” (Jim Matheny, WBIR)

What happens to bugs in a forest fire? With the recent fires in Oregon and California in the news, here are some answers. (Polistes fuscatus-Administrator of the blog,

Why nature loves hexagons! From Insect eyes to bee hives and more. Watch this Informative video. (Infinite Series, OPB)

Blueberries, Lynn Ketchum, OSU

Blueberries!Organic blueberry growers can go toe-to-toe with commercial growers if they plant in raised beds, use a weed mat mulch and low amounts of nitrogen, according to a 10-uear study from OSU.” (Kym Pokory)

Are you a teacher, or just want to learn more while having some fun? Check out these inquiry based labs to explore the twelve principles of plant biology.  (American Society of Plant Biologists)

Fascinating video- Life in the compost bin.  “Watch this one minute video which spans two weeks in a typical vermicompost bin: two compost earthworm species (Eisenia fetida and Dendrobaena veneta) in a base of aged vermicompost with plenty of fresh organic kitchen waste (used coffee grounds, carrot and potato peels, celery and carrot leaves, egg shells, etc.) on top.” (Wim van Egmond, Vimeo)

Beautiful bugs!  “We typically think of insects as pests or pestilences, carrying disease or gnawing their way through our gardens before we can get a bite. But they are also gorgeous creatures, as photographer Levon Biss explores in his latest book, Microsculpture: Portraits of Insects. The book is a continuation of his Microsculpture exhibit at Oxford’s Museum of Natural History, which displayed bugs from the collection in a larger-than-life way.”  Enjoy! (Mary Beth Griggs, Popular Science)

What happens to plants during an eclipse?Researchers tested plant rhythms during the recent solar eclipse. The varied results have left the researchers with interesting questions.” (Science Daily)

Great insect die-off? “Scientists have identified 2 million species of living things. No one knows how many more are out there, and tens of thousands may be vanishing before we have even had a chance to encounter them in the ‘great insect die-off’. (Jacob Mikanowski, The Guardian)

Mahonia ‘Charity’ is a beauty in the garden. Neil Bell, OSU

Winter interest in the Garden. “One of the coolest things about gardening in the Pacific Northwest is winter gardens,” said Neil Bell, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service.”  Learn more about these plants from an OSU expert. (Kym Pokorny, OSU)

Natter’s Notes


Jean R. Natter, OSU Master Gardener

Odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile; lateral view.
Fig 1. Odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile; lateral view. The small petiolar node is hidden by the abdomen. (From Accessed 11 January 2018;

Ants! They’re likely major players in perhaps one of the oldest good-news-bad-news stories ever.

The good news is that ants are valued for their beneficial activities. They add large quantities of spent plant and animal remains into the soil surrounding their colonies as they cultivate and aerate the soil. They also create channels for water and roots. They’re predators, too, and are members of nature’s clean-up crew, carting away debris that includes stray crumbs indoors and dead insects outdoors.

The bad news is that, outdoors, ants sometimes get carried away. If they aerate the soil in and around a rootball excessively, water passes through the ground too rapidly to soak in, the plant wilts, and may die. Then, too, people take a dismal view of their uninvited excursions indoors when they trail across the floor, headed for the pet’s dish or wayward crumbs.

Overall, it’s safe to say that most people detest the little buggers. People don’t want to control them. They want to eradicate them. Forever!.

Well, the cold, hard truth is this: That’s not possible; ants are here to stay.

Everyone, clients and Master Gardeners alike, must discard their dreams to eradicate ants. The more accurate strategy, although far less comforting, is to hope to manage ants.

Odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile; dorsal view.
Fig 2. Odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile; dorsal view. Notice the small petiolar node hidden by the abdomen. (From Accessed 11 January 2018)

Odorous house ants, Tapinoma sessile, are probably the most common house-invading ants across the country. They’re small, dark brown or black ants, 1/16- to 1/8-inch long, with the usual 3 body parts of an insect – head, thorax, and abdomen. The characters which define them as ants are a petiole (a narrow connection between the thorax and abdomen) and a pair of elbowed antennae. The character which differentiates them from other ants is the single node on the petiole; it’s small and hidden by the abdomen. When crushed, these ants emit a rather penetrating odor, likened to rotted coconut.

Colonies are relatively small, to about 10,000 individuals, each with multiple queens. Nests are usually outdoors just below the soil surface, underneath pavers, wood piles, or other debris. But nests may also be indoors, in a wall void or near warmth-emitting sources.

Odorous house ant populations enlarge by one of two methods: mating of reproductives or via budding. Budding may be triggered when a hundred or so workers transport several of the colony’s queens to a new site. With time, a series of closely related, cooperative colonies—a supercolony – forms.

Sweets are a favorite food but they will eat most any people or pet food.

Managing ants requires a multi-pronged approach.

  1. Sanitation (clean up regularly), and store perishable foodstuffs in tight, rigid containers.
  2. Caulk and seal entries such as cracks in the foundation or gaps where utilities enter structures.
  3. Limit honeydew-producing insects: ants, mealybugs, whiteflies, and scale, both soft and cottony scales.
  4. Limit access indoors by trimming foliage away from structures.
  5. Use commercially-formulated ant baits and repeat as needed.
Aluminum cast of ant nest (species not identified) reveals the extent to which some ants will go.
Fig 3. Aluminum cast of ant nest (species not identified) reveals the extent to which some ants will go. (Cast by Walter R. Tschinkel, entomologist and former professor at Florida State University.)

Ant baits are superior to sprays but require more time to be effective, occasionally several weeks. The reason? They are shared with other ants within the colony, including the queens. If a bait is ineffective after a week or more, try a different kind. It can be useful to pre-bait by first setting out a small dab of jam or other food.

Active ingredients in commercial ant baits

  • Avermectin – Derived from soil bacteria; affects the nervous system.
  • Boric acid – An inorganic compound used in ant management for years. Mode of action unknown.
  • Fipronil – Causes hyperexcitation of the central nervous system causing convulsions and death. Very active against ants.
  • Hydramethylnon – Interferes with energy production.
  • Imidacloprid – Useful in baits for ants that prefer sweets.
  • Insect growth regulators (IGRs) – The queen’s reproductive organs degenerate and immatures die before they become adults.
  • Indoxacarb – Activated by enzymes inside the insect.
  • Spinosad – Produced by soil actinomycetes; the insect dies of exhaustion because of continuous activation of motor neurons.
  • Sulfuramid – Potentiated by enzymes inside the insect body; toxic metabolites inhibit energy production.


(Click the link below for PDF containing the above text and all the images.)

Ants PDF

“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”
– Barbara Winkler

Spring is on the verge of emerging and so is a brand, new Master Gardener season.  February is a great month to polish your MG badge and renew your engagement in volunteer activities and continuing education opportunities.

It is also an opportunity for you to help usher in the new class of trainees.  Come sit in on one of the MG training sessions (here’s the schedule).  Introduce yourself to a trainee.  Sign-up for phone clinics and farmers’ markets (via CERVIS,) so new trainees can have the experience of working with someone who can show them the ropes.  Share your passion for gardening and the Master Gardener program with the new trainees.  Note: phone clinic schedules and farmers markets will open at staggered times in the next few weeks.  Please check back on CERVIS if the event you are looking for is not posted.

Display Your 2018 Sticker!

OSU Extension Service Metro Master Gardener badgeAgain this year, we have distributed a new, 2018 MG badge sticker to indicate those Master Gardeners who are up-to-date with their volunteer, continuing education (recertification) hours and have submitted their signed 2018 Conditions of Volunteer Service agreement. You served diligently!  Now display your sticker proudly!

To maintain your certification, the following are the minimum criteria for Veteran MGs in 2018

Start logging your hours on either a 2018 PDF or Excel Volunteer Log Sheet.  Once that log sheet is brimming with your annual requirements, please submit your log to the Metro MG Program office, no later than September 30, 2018.

Expand Your Gardening Know-How – Earn your 2018 Garden-Ed Hours

There are many, varied options for Continuing Garden Education/Recertification in 2018.

  • 2018 Master Gardener Training – Attend any of the MG training classes offered in February and March at the 3 Metro-area training locations.  Morning sessions and afternoon sessions each count for 3 hours of continuing education.  Attending the training classes is a great way to brush up on the basics.  Here is the 2018 training schedule along with location addresses.
  • Online MG Training Modules – Take and successfully ‘Pass’ any of the online MG training modules. All MG training modules are offered free to current Veteran MGs.  Look for an upcoming email in late February for registration details.  Each module ‘passed’ counts for 2 hours credit.
  • Hands-on education workshops –  Dig in to one of the hands-on workshops being offered as part of the MG training curriculum.  A wide range of workshops will be offered…plant propagation, improving garden soil, fruit tree pruning, vegetable gardening, insect ID, and more! Current, Veteran MGs are allowed to take one of these workshops.  If space allows, a Veteran can get special permission to take an additional workshop.  Veteran MGs will be notified of workshop offerings and registration details via email in March.  Each workshop counts as 5 hours continuing education/recertification hours
  • Watch the OSU Extension Service Advanced training webinars
    A wonderful new addition for MG continuing education.  The webinars keep MGs up on the latest horticultural science developments.  For the upcoming 2018 webinars you must register in advance to watch them ‘live’.  Click on the following links to register for upcoming webinars or to access recordings of past webinars.  Each viewed webinar counts as 1 hour credit

  • Metro-area Chapter Presentations.  The Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Co. Chapters all offer several speakers and classes throughout the year that count as credit.  Find designated speakers and classes announced in the three Chapters’ monthly newsletters – easy to locate in the category tabs above, or on the Metro MG Garden Education Events Calendar. Always look for a designation like “approved for MG garden education credit” or “qualifies for continuing education/recertification hours”.
  • Growing Gardeners Conference Attend classes designated for continuing garden education at the Oregon Master Gardeners Association’s Gardeners Growing Conference (formally known as “Mini-College”).  The 2018 conference is scheduled July 12 through the 14th, at Linfield College in McMinnville. This 3-day conference will offer a wide-ranging slate of garden-focused classes. Any classes designated as continuing garden education/recertification can be counted for 2018 credit.  Details have yet to be posted – so be sure to check-out the OMGA website in the spring.
  • Upcoming education opportunities. Keep your eye out for additional designated continuing education credit opportunities as they surface throughout the year.  Be sure to read this monthly MG program newsletter and occasional email announcements.

February Marks the Beginning of 2018 Training

Photo courtesy of Eddie Rosen

We have a strong line-up of instructors and subjects for our 2018 MG Training classes.  The schedule offers some exciting new changes.  In support of the goals of the state Master Gardener program, instructors of our in-person classes are adding more interactive and hands-on activities to their presentations.

Join us to hear perennial favorite instructors and plus a few new instructors and subjects.  Also, take the time to welcome and introduce yourselves to members of the new class of trainees.

All of the 2018 Training classes will qualify for 2018 MG continuing garden education/recertification credit.

For the detailed 2018 Training schedule, please see the link below.

2018 Metro Master Gardener Training Schedule

Changes to CERVIS Volunteer Registration Service

This year when you sign-up for volunteer events in CERVIS, our online volunteer registration system, you may notice a few changes.

First off, visually it is a bit different in layout, color, and fonts.  This system wide change should make navigating the site easier.

We have added shift slots that are specific to 3 different categories of volunteers.

  • Veteran Only
  • Interns Only
  • Veteran or Intern

When registering on CERVIS please sign-up for the appropriate slot.

This change will assist coordinators in adequately filling shifts for their events. This change also will make it clearer and easier for Interns to serve on shifts with Veteran MGs.

All ‘current’ certified 2018 Master Gardeners have access to CERVIS.  If you are unable to access CERVIS, please contact: Jordis Yost –  or Marcia McIntyre – .

The Good News Gets Even Better!

Last month we posted our Metro Master Gardener Annual Report.  The numbers were stunning and a mere reflection of all the good work being done by YOU!  Well the good news is even better than we reported.  Regarding the number of public contacts Master Gardeners made in 2017, presenting to the community via our Speakers Guild and 10-Minute University we reported 2,820 contacts.  Our numbers actually chime-in at 3,927!  That is remarkable!  Kudos to all who diligently plan, coordinate, prepare, and present engaging, informative, OSU research-based, horticulture research to the gardening public!

Seeking Master Gardener Speakers

Would you like to join in making gardening presentations to community groups through our Speakers Guild?  The Metro MG program receives dozens of requests every year for garden presentations.  We have a small, but mighty, group of MGs who answer the call and present throughout the 3 counties – but requests greatly exceed what these dedicated MGs can handle.  Therefore, we are looking for even more MGs to share their research-based gardening know-how.  We will supply support materials, and those interested can shadow experienced presenters.  Reach out and have fun making a few presentations a year!

Master Gardener, Evie Hausman

Presentations are needed on a variety of subjects:

  • Beginning gardening
  • Vegetable gardening
  • Fruit trees
  • Pruning
  • Composting
  • Container Gardening
  • IPM for the Home Gardener
  • Small Fruits
  • Perennials
  • Planting
  • Soil
  • Beneficial insects
  • Pollinator gardens
  • Tomatoes
  • Small space gardening
  • Native plants
  • Seed starting
  • Propagation
  • What’s your garden passion that you are willing to share?

Would you like to be part of this vital community outreach?  If so, contact Marcia McIntyre,