Master Gardeners of Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties, Washington


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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."
- Susan Polis Shutz

"Earth laughs in flowers."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."
- Gertrude S. Wister

"I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one."

- Edna St. Vincent Millay

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance."

- William Wordsworth

"Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms."
- Ikkyu Sojun

"Have you ever seen a flower down
Sometimes angels skip around
And in their blissful state of glee
Bump into a daisy or sweet pea.."

- Jessi Lane Adams

"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."
- Adabella Radici

"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!"
- Colette

Happy Gardening!

Garden Math and Calculators

numbers 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! 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. logo, 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 links are listed below:

Christmas Trees

Christmas Tree 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.

  • Real Christmas trees are an all-American product, grown in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

  • Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource.

  • For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in its place. There are about 1 million acres in production for growing Christmas trees. Each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

  • There are about 15,000 Christmas tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part time in the industry.

  • There are approximately 5,000 "choose and cut" farms in the U.S. It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of average retail saleheight (6 feet), but the average growing time is 7 years.

  • The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, Michigan,Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California, and North Carolina.

  • The top selling Christmas trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and white pine.

  • The enduring tree symbol, which is even older than Christianity and not exclusive to any one religion, remains a firmly established part of our holiday customs. A beautiful live Christmas tree engages our senses of sight, touch, and smell, and evokes feelings of joy in both young and old.

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.

  • Cut Trees When selecting a tree tap the butt on the ground a couple of times and watch to see if any of the fresh green needles fall off.

    "You can expect some dead brown needles from the inside of the tree to fall off, but if a tree is losing more than a few green needles it's already drying out and should be avoided," Chastagner said. "If you test a few trees and they're all dropping green needles you should probably move on to another tree lot."

  • Once you get the tree home, trim a quarter-inch thick disk off the butt (unless that's been done for you at the lot when you bought the tree) and put the tree in water. Unless you mount the tree in its stand right away, trim another quarter inch before placing it in the stand. That ensures that the tree will be able to take up water.

  • Always trim the butt with a cut perpendicular to the tree trunk. Cutting it at an angle or "whittling" the base of the tree to fit the stand seriously decreases the tree's ability to take up water.

  • Christmas Tree Stand Use a tree stand with adequate water-holding capacity for your tree. As a general rule, the stand should provide one quart of water for each inch of trunk diameter, or a gallon of water per day for a 4-inch diameter tree trunk.

    Chastagner researched Christmas tree stands, and found that only six out of 22 stands tested provided adequate water-holding capacity for trees larger than 4 inches in diameter.

    "The water capacity listed on the label or box can be misleading," Chastagner said. "That's the capacity of the reservoir when the stand is empty, and you need to allow for the amount of water that will be displaced when the tree trunk is put in the stand."

  • Display your tree away from heat sources such as heat vents, fireplaces and direct sunlight because they'll speed up drying. Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process and reduce water use.

  • Providing an adequate supply of clean water every day is the best way to maintain freshness. Chastagner advises against using water additives whether they are commercial preservatives or old home remedies such as adding sugar, aspirin or bleach to the water.

    "Additives don't work," Chastagner said. "Adequate clean water does."

  • Monitor your tree for dryness through the holiday season. If the tree is dry, remove it from the house.

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:

  • If you live in an area where the ground freezes, decide where in your garden you wish to eventually plant the tree, and then prepare the hole prior to the first snow.

  • Trees should be kept in the house no more than 10 days - fewer days are even better.

  • Move the tree in and out of doors gradually from outdoors to a garage, then to a cool part of the house, then to a warm room. Reverse this procedure after Christmas.

  • Move tree with a handtruck, skateboard, or wagon to avoid injury.

  • Do not use flocking or artificial snow.

  • Do not use hot lights.

  • Keep tree in the coolest part of the room.

  • When selecting a tree, container grown is usually a better choice than ball and burlap because the root system is better established.

  • Some good choices are Alberta, Norway or Colorado blue spruce; Noble, Grand, White, Alpine or Douglas firs; Scotch, Ponderosa, White, or Austrian pines.

Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Recycle Your 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.

  • Grays Harbor County Solid Waste. (360)249-4222.
  • Pacific County Environmental Health Division. Long Beach (360)642-9382, South Bend (360)875-9356.



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.

Pumpkin Varieties

kids love pumpkins

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!).

Growing Pumpkins

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.

Pumpkin Nutrition

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.

Preserving Pumpkins

pumpkin seeds

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.

Carving Pumpkins

carved pumpkin

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

Honeybee Decline

European Honeybee

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.

bee hives

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.

  • The single most important thing you can do to protect insect pollinators is to reduce or eliminate your use of insecticides around your garden and home.
  • Install hole-punched wood blocks in your garden for native bees to nest in.
  • Provide nesting spots for bumblebees and ground-dwelling bees.
  • Plant year-round flowering plants in your garden.
  • Leave some of your property in a wild state.

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.
squash seeds

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.

mixed seeds

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:

  • Seed must be collected after it is mature, but before being shed. Thoroughly dry the seed to prevent premature death of the seed and to ensure proper storage until spring.
  • Crossing plants to derive new and exciting hybrids is not an easy or simple procedure. Scientists must know a great deal about the parent plants such as their pollination and fertilization requirements, seed production, seed viability and growth habits. For the homeowner, it is often best to let nature do the crossing at random and see what new hybrids arise.
  • You may want to try to determine the source of the pollen that produced a desirable cross. But because some plants are wind-polinated and others are pollinated by insects, tracking the pollen source down can be a very difficult task.
  • Once harvested, seed must be dried thoroughly for about a week. Drying will prevent premature death of the seed and ensure proper storage until spring. Dry the seed at room temperature (max 109 degrees F) in a well ventilated room. Drying the seed with silica gel is common practice.
  • sprouting seeds on paper After drying, do a germination test to determine if the seed is viable. Select 10 seeds and germinate them on a piece of moist tissue paper. Some plants do not have a high percent (40%) germination, while others germinate readily (90%).
  • Store viable seed in an air-tight container to prevent re-absorption of water. Film cases or vitamin bottles are suitable for this purpose. Label the container with the plant name, the specific cross if known, and date of collection. Store seed at a cool temperature (34 to 40 degrees F).
  • A very good reference manual describing seed collection is "The New Seed-Starters Handbook" by Nancy Bubel. Other books dealing with seed propagation can be obtained from the local library.

Garden Hoses

garden hose

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.

  • Hose Materials: Garden hoses are usually made of either vinyl, polyurethane or rubber, with rubber hoses being heavier, more durable, and also more expensive.
  • Construction: Garden hoses may be made of one or more layers (plies). Usually the more plies or layers there are, the stronger the hose. Hoses often have reinforcing mesh between the plies to prevent bursting, and may have an outer covering to prevent wear, cracking and avoid kinks.
  • Size: Garden hoses are usually available in 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", and 1" diameters, with 5/8" and 3/4" hoses being the most common sizes. The larger the hose diameter, the lower the resistance as water moves through it, resulting in greater water flow and higher pressures. All things being equal, the larger the hose diameter, the greater the cost.
  • Lengths: Hoses are usually sold in increments of 25 feet, with 100 foot hoses the longest commonly seen in garden centers. In general, the longer the hose the more resistance water encounters as it moves through it, resulting in less pressure and water flow at the end.
  • hose couplings Couplings: Garden hose couplings are either plastic or brass, with brass couplings wearing longer but being more expensive. The couplings of standard garden hoses all have the same threads, regardless of the hose size. Inside of the female coupling (the end that connects to the hose bib) is a removable gasket to ensure a tight seal. These are inexpensive and easy to replace. You may also buy adapters to join two hoses together, or replacement male or female ends if one becomes damaged.
  • Specialty Hoses: These include commercial-quality hoses which, while expensive, would be a good choice for hot water or severe service. Flat hoses expand under water pressure, and are more compact and easier to store. Soaker hoses have tiny perforations that allow water to slowly trickle out so that plants are watered in a gradual manner.

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.

Hose Size 50 Foot Hose GPM 100 Foot Hose GPM
1/2" 12 GPM 6 GPM
5/8" 22 GPM 11 GPM
3/4" 36 GPM 18 GPM

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.

tangled hose

Here are some tips on how to protect and maintain your garden hoses:

  • Keep it out of the sun.
  • Coil it after use, removing any kinks.
  • During winter, drain the hose and store it out of the elements.
  • Never tug on the hose when trying to eliminate a kink. It may make any tangles more difficult to undo and loosen the hose coupling.
  • Remember that sharp bends weaken the hose.
  • Keep your hose away from strong chemicals, such as fuels, solvents and acids.

Rose Colors

Rose Color Wheel from

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, 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.