Odds and Ends
This page contains small snippets of gardening information that don't seem to fit in well anywhere else. Many of the items were originally seen on the Home page and, since the Master Gardeners are big recycling fans, it would be a shame to just discard them.
This page will expand as time goes along, so check back again!
WSU Gardening Articles
WSU Extension horticultural and agricultural professionals often write gardening articles for the general gardening public. These interesting and informative articles are focused on gardening situations and problems encountered by gardeners in Western Washington. Below are links to three of these excellent gardening series:
Pest Corner is the title of a series of gardening articles which originally appeared in the Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties Master Gardener Newsletter. They are adapted from articles written by Don Tapio, Area Extension Agent for Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties, WA.
'Dig This' is a weekly column written by Peg Tillery, Horticulture Extension Coordinator for WSU Kitsap County, WA.
The Monthly Regional Garden Columns page contains a series of articles on Western Washington gardening by WSU Extension's Holly Kennell and Mary Robson (both now retired).
"April Showers Bring May Flowers"
The storms of winter are past, the soil is warming nicely as sunbreaks become more common, and the violet-green swallows are greeting us in the garden. It is time to forget winter and focus on spring! Here are some quotes and short verses from Quotations About Flowers to help you get into the gardening mood:
"Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair."
"Earth laughs in flowers."
"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."
"I will be the gladdest thing
"I wandered lonely as a cloud
"Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms."
"Have you ever seen a flower down
"A flower's appeal is in its contradictions - so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect."
"How can one help shivering with delight when one's hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor!"
Garden Math and Calculators
A gardener is sometimes faced with the task of doing simple mathematical calculations, such as when measuring the square footage of a garden bed or calculating fertilizer or pesticide rates. While the mathematics involved is not difficult, it is easy to forget the individual steps if you do not practice on a regular basis. There is help available!
Pnwmg.org provides a 14 page information sheet on Basic Garden Math which will show you how to calculate the perimeter, area and volume of various regular and irregular shapes, convert measurements, and find the solution to some typical garden situations.
eXtension.org, an educational partnership of more than 70 land-grant universities (including WSU), provides links to garden calculators and sites discussing garden mathematics. Some of the eXtension.org links are listed below:
While artificial Christmas trees are popular, many people continue to be attracted to the sight, smell, feel, and traditional elegance of natural Christmas trees during the holiday season. Below you will find a brief history of the Christmas tree tradition, photographs of some of the common Christmas tree species grown in our area, interesting facts about grown trees, tips on how to select and care for your cut tree, how to care for a live Christmas tree, and information on local Christmas tree recycling.
Christmas Tree History
The first recorded reference to the Christmas tree dates back to the 16th century. In Strasbourg, Germany, families both rich and poor decorated fir trees with colored paper, fruits, and sweets. The tradition spread through Europe, and was eventually brought to the United States by German settlers.
Early Christmas tree decorations included homemade cookies and "sugars", corn husk dolls, and various food ornaments such as pomander balls (apples or oranges studded with whole cloves and dusted with cinnamon) and strings of popcorn. Today there are a great many options when decorating your tree: various ornaments, beads, colored lights, and even revolving tree stands that play music. NEVER use candles on or around a Christmas tree!.
Christmas Tree Varieties
Common Christmas tree species grown in the Pacific Northwest are Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii), Grand fir (Abies grandis), and Noble fir (Abies procera) .
Less common Christmas tree species grown in our region include Nordmann (Abies nordmannii), Turkish fir (Abies bornmulleriana), Fraser fir (Abies fraserii), Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), western white pine (Pinus monticola), and Blue spruce (Picea pungens).
Christmas Tree Facts
These Christmas tree facts are from the National Christmas Tree Association.
Cut Christmas Tree Selection And Care
The following tips for caring for your Christmas tree are from an interview given by Washington State University plant pathologist Gary Chastagner, WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center. These tips will not only make sure your tree looks good through the holidays, but also help ensure that it doesn't dry out and become a fire hazard.
Live Christmas Trees
Some people have a live Christmas tree in their home during the holidays, planting it in their garden at the end of the season. If you plan to enjoy a live Christmas tree, here are some things to consider:
Recycling Your Christmas Tree
One of the great advantages of grown Christmas trees is that they may be recycled after use. One may either recycle them at home, turning your tree into valuable compost, or participate in a local recycling program. You may obtain Christmas tree recycling information from your disposal company or your specific city and/or county.
The pumpkins we consume and carve into jack-o'-lanterns are the fruits of vines in the gourd family (the Cucurbita genus), which includes squashes, pumpkins, marrows and gourds. Pumpkins are native to North America, where they were used by Native American tribes as a food source. Pumpkins are a nutritionally-rich food, high in fiber and the important antioxidant beta-carotene. In the United States pumpkins are grown primarily for commercial processing, with a small percentage grown for retail sales.
There are a number of pumpkin varieties available, including those for eating or carving, miniature sizes, small standard orange pumpkins weighing 2 to 5 pounds at maturity, larger varieties weighing 15 to 25 pounds, and the giant pumpkins that grow to hundreds of pounds in size (the largest pumpkin ever grown weighed over 1,100 pounds!).
The Clark County WSU Extension offers this advice if you wish to grow your own pumpkins:
They like at least six hours of sunlight each day, and require four to five months of frost-free growing days to reach maturity. Plant your seeds when the temperatures consistently reach the low 70's during the day, usually in late May. A single vine can grow as long as 25 feet so make sure you give them plenty of growing space. Plant four or five seeds in a mound, about 3 feet in diameter and 10 feet away from other mounds. Surround each mound with a six-inch wide by six-inch deep moat to help hold water around the plant roots. Pumpkins need lots of indirect water, but keep the soil on the mound moist, not wet. Seeds should sprout in 7 to 14 days. About two weeks after the seeds have sprouted, you should thin them out. Pull out all except two or three of the healthiest and largest plants on each mound. If by the time a pumpkin has grown to the size of a grapefruit and looks unhealthy or shriveled, it should be removed. This will allow the healthier pumpkins to get more water and nourishment. To help encourage the "rounded" pumpkin, wait until the pumpkin is at least a month old, then very carefully lift the stem and vine in one hand and the pumpkin in the other and adjust it so that the bottom sits flat on the ground or on a thin piece of wood. Your pumpkins will be ready to harvest once the color of the fruit has developed into a deep orange. When you cut the pumpkin be sure to leave several inches of stem, and it will stay fresh longer.
Most pumpkin varieties take from 90 to 120 days to mature. In Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties, with our short growing season, select short-season or early varieties to grow.
Pumpkins are low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. They are a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Iron and Manganese. On the down side, a large portion of the calories in pumpkins come from sugars.
Pumpkins can be preserved safely at home by freezing, drying or pickling. To freeze pumpkins, the flesh is first removed, partially cooked until fork tender, then mashed and stored in the freezer for up to one year. Pumpkins are dried by first cutting the flesh into thin strips, then drying the strips in a dehydrator until brittle. Pumpkins can also be added to pickled products such as salsas, chutneys and relishes, but these should be considered to be fresh foods that need to be refrigerated. Pumpkin seeds may also be roasted and enjoyed as a special treat.
The USDA recommends that you do not try to can pumpkins at home. Pumpkins are a physically-dense food which resists the penetration of bacteria-killing heat during the home canning process. Pumpkins are also a low-acid food, which makes safe home canning more difficult. It is recommended that you purchase and use commercially canned pumpkin and pumpkin butter in your cooking.
The carving of jack-o'-lanterns is a tradition passed down to us from the ancient Celts, who placed carved turnips and gourds on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones and to ward off evil spirits. Select small to medium sized pumpkins for most jack-o'-lanterns; generally, the larger and more elaborate the design, the larger the pumpkin. The top of the pumpkin is opened, the seeds removed, and the design carved freehand or by following a design drawn on the pumpkin surface. Special, safer knives are available for children to use when carving pumpkins, and adult supervision is always recommended.
The carved pumpkins may be lit by a candle placed inside (cut a small "chimney" hole in the top to allow heat to escape), or by a chemical light stick dropped inside. If you use a candle to light your jack-o'-lantern, be sure to position it so visitors, their costumes/clothing, and other combustables will not come into contact with it. While it is not recommended that you eat a jack-o'-lantern after you have finished displaying it, the seeds removed during the carving process may be roasted and consumed.
Sources Of Pumpkin Information
Since October, 2006, a significant decline in the number of European Honeybees (Apis mellifera) has been noted in 26 states from Florida to California. The decline has been called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), for the worker bees appear to simply leave the hive and never return, leaving only the egg-laying queen and a few young workers. With no workers to gather food and care for the hive and young, the honeybee colony is doomed to collapse.
When considering honeybees, most of us think of the wonderful honey they produce. However, the most important service honeybees perform is their pollination of our food and other crops. Honeybee-pollinated crops provide roughly one-third of the U.S. diet, and the bees' pollination services are estimated to be worth $15 billion annually. If honeybee numbers and pollination activities continue to decline, many of the foods that we currently enjoy could become both scarce and much more expensive. Efforts are underway to use wild native bees to help pollinate crops, but the results so far have been limited.
"Pollinating California's almond crop alone already requires more than half the current population of American honeybees", Discover, March 2008.
Scientists are unsure what is causing CCD. Theories include natural fluctuations in bee populations, a new disease, pesticide poisoning, nutritional deficiencies, parasitic mites, fungal or viral infections, and even suggestions like vibrations from vehicles and cell phone radiation (this last one has been discredited). Many scientists believe the cause may be a combination of several factors, rather than just one. The economic stakes are high, and researchers throughout the world are working feverishly to determine the cause of CCD and find a solution.
There are some things that individual gardeners can do to protect and encourage our valuable bee pollinators, both honeybees and wild native bees.
Check out this WSU publication on how you can protect and encourage Beneficial Insects in your garden.
Collecting Garden Seeds
The following article is by Grant Wood, University of Saskatchewa.
I am often asked if seeds can be collected from garden vegetables and flowers and used next year to seed the garden. The answer to this is both yes and no! Yes, some plants can be propagated successfully from their own seed. But some do not set seed within our growing environment, others do not breed true to seed, and many vegetables and flowers are hybrids, with seeds that often produce inferior plants.
Why Collect Seeds?
Enthusiastic gardeners love a challenge, and find great satisfaction from mastering the technique of collecting and planting seed. Many ornamentals, including bachelor buttons, cosmos, Iceland poppies, Johnny jump-ups, marigolds, morning glory, and violets, readily set seed which is easy to collect.
The creation of new varieties is perhaps the most exciting aspect of growing plants from seed you collect yourself at home. When two plants are crossed, each resulting seed is unique in its characteristics. Because of genetic variability, the offspring can be totally unlike either parent. Through controlled crosses many fine ornamentals and vegetables have been created. Avid gardeners may be able to create new and exciting hybrids in their own backyards.
As exciting as the process might be, you should keep in mind that many varieties are hybrids, and the seed from these will be unpredictable. The original hybrids are derived from a controlled cross between two selected parents. Seeds saved from these hybrids often do not resemble either parent, and are often inferior in quality.
Another drawback of this technique is that some vegetables do not breed true to seed. Potatoes are a good example. This is primarily why potatoes are grown from tubers rather than seed. The small balls that form at the top of the plants contain thousands of seeds. If collected when mature and planted, the seeds will produce potatoes. Unfortunately, the resulting plants are exceeding variable in color, shape and quality.
Tips on Seed Collection:
Garden hoses are a staple item in almost every garden, found hanging on a wall in the garage, coiled neatly by the hose bib, or in one of those mysterious, mind-numbing tangles through which not a single drop of water will pass. What is the story on these simple, yet indispensable, garden tools?
Garden hoses come in a variety of materials, sizes, and lengths for almost any purpose and pocketbook.
Which garden hose you buy should be based on the length you need and how much water you want. If you only need a 50 foot hose and not a large amount of water, then an inexpensive 1/2" hose might do the trick. But if you need a very long hose, or a great deal of water, then a larger 3/4" diameter hose would be a better choice.
The table below is based on information from the University of Idaho Extension's Garden Hose Flow Calculator. All the calculations use a supply pressure of 40 pounds per square inch (PSI), with GPM equaling gallons of water per minute.
You can see that a small increase in hose size makes a large difference in the water flow. For example, going from a 1/2" hose to a 3/4" hose (a 50% increase in size) triples the water flow through the same length of hose.
Here are some tips on how to protect and maintain your garden hoses:
When you read about roses in a gardening book, article or catalogue, the flower color is sometimes difficult to judge from the description alone. The names used for rose colors are somewhat subjective, and one is left wondering what the color difference is between a scarlet and crimson rose, or between a mauve and lilac rose.
While it is not configured like a traditional round color wheel, the color wheel on the right shows some of the colors you will find in commercial rose offerings. This image is from rosefile.com, where the use of this unusual color wheel is discussed in detail, along with a description of how new rose colors are developed from natural pigments. Very interesting reading.