Archive for the ‘Pests & Plant Problems’ Category

Glossy Abelia

This month I have an awesome gardening tip for you.  It’s a little known secret, but one that has huge benefits toward your gardening success.  First, though, a question: When is the best time of year to plant?  If you answered spring, then I have some news for you.  Fall, especially in the Pacific Northwest, is the ideal time to get all kinds of plant from cool-season veggies and perennials to evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs into the ground.

In the fall, our soil has been warmed continually by the sun and warm soil encourages the one thing guaranteed to have your plants flourishing – root growth. Roots will continue to grow through fall and winter until the ground freezes.  Then, in early spring, roots begin new growth or if we’ve had a mild winter, roots continue to develop at a faster rate.  The more established the root system the farther it reaches into the soil to return nutrients and water to the plant.

Katsura Tree

In the spring, a newly planted plant gets a slow start due to cool soil conditions, but the fall plants have a head start on root growth. When summer finally arrives, the plant established in fall is far better equipped to deal with heat and drought due to its well-established root system.

In addition to a well-established root system, there are many other good reasons to plant in the fall such as increased rainfall.  Consistent watering is a key component for gardening success and fall rains take the pressure off you and your water system.

Fall planting means fewer pest and disease issues because both are at the end of their lifecycles.   Not to mention that it’s just more pleasant gardening in the fall.  The cooler weather is easier on your body and without the “get-it-all-going” pressure that spring brings, you can work at a more leisurely pace.

Last but certainly not least, it’s much better for the plants to be in the ground, so no garden center wants to over-winter potted plants if they can help it.  This means there are loads of excellent plants available at discounted and clearance prices.  Don’t forget that The Plant Farm has Dollar Days going on during the month of September. Bonus!

Here are five great plants you’ll want get into your landscape this fall…

Crimson Queen Japanese Maple

Crimson Queen Japanese Maple feature foliage with dramatic color and a delicate texture year-round.  Their stunning appearance makes it a perfect garden focal plant.

Glossy Abelia is a gracefully arching evergreen shrub with bright, glossy foliage and fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers that bloom into fall. They make excellent alternative fencing when used as a hedge.

Vanderwolf’s Pyramid Limber Pine

Vanderwolf’s Pyramid Limber Pine is a beautiful soft-textured silvery blue pine with a distinctive pyramid shape.  The graceful shape makes it an excellent feature or accent tree and this conifer is very resilient in addition to being disease and pest resistant.

Katsura Trees are delightful ornamental deciduous tree.  In the spring, the delicate heart-shaped leaves on the delicate tree limbs are reminiscent of paper chains.  In the autumn, the red, yellow and orange foliage lights the tree up and there is a wonderful cotton candy or burnt sugar fragrance.

Vine Maple

Vine Maples are gorgeous Pacific Northwest native deciduous shrubs and an excellent choice for your landscape.  They are native, so they are extremely happy in your yard and grow really well.  Vine Maples feature lovely bark coloration in addition their beautiful foliage and they are attractive year-round.


Learn more by visiting our website: www.theplantfarm.com or on Facebook.


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Mason Bee


by Guest Blogger and Bee Expert, Dave Hunter

I’m sure either you’ve heard that honey bees are facing huge issues across the world, or you’ve witnessed the lack of fruit now growing on your trees over the past few years.  This is due to many factors.  The honey bees are facing severe mite problems as well as a global issue called “Colony Collapse Disorder” where hives are abandoned by the entire colony.   Besides adding more and more chemicals to a hive, scientists still have no solution after 6 years of intense worldwide collaboration.

The native US bumble bees are equally seeing drastic reductions as well.  This could be due to introduction of European bumble bees carrying their own diseases, pesticides our farmers/home owners use, global weather change, or “who knows what.”

Don’t give up hope yet!  You can be part of the solution, starting with your backyard.

I’d like to introduce you to an unusual concept; you can raise pollinating gentle bees yourself without fear of getting stung. 

How is this?

The bee kingdom has two different types of bees; social (honey  bees, bumble bees), and solitary (where every female is a queen and they assume all duties.)

The bee kingdom lives in three types of environments; hives they create (honey bees, paper wasps), holes in the ground  (bumble bees, miner bees) and holes in twigs (mason bees, leaf cutters).

In general, social bees, hornets, and wasps work in a community where each has their own job.  Where we get in trouble is with the hive defenders.  “Protect the queen and our babies” is their rallying cry!  And stinging occurs…

The solitary bee, on the other hand, has no workers and little to defend.  If she guarded her nest, she wouldn’t be able to gather pollen.  As a result, it’s EXTREMELY hard to get stung by a solitary bee!  When your hand or head gets in the way of her hole, she simply hovers, goes around you, or flies away to find her hole later.

The spring mason bee is one of natures strongest pollinators.  They gather as much pollen as possible in each trip.  This results in a massive pollen exchange in each flower.  The mason bee doesn’t create honey, but nearly 99% of the flowers they land on are pollinated.  This makes them a valuable pollinator!

Your role is vital.

The agricultural scientists I collaborate with are concerned about successful pollination rates in our commercial orchards over the next five to seven years.  Already, there are small orchards/berry farms that are having difficulty with obtaining honey bees for pollination.

I’d like you to learn to be successful raising the spring mason bee.  Success means:

  • Learning how easy it is to raise mason bees this season. (Buy mason bees now and try it out!)
  • Make mistakes and learn from them.  Our website, crownbees.com, is easy to navigate, learn what to do,  and when you should be doing things.
  • Keep enough mason bees to pollinate your yard and give your extra bees to friends & family each year.
  • In 5-7 years, I’ll ask for some of your excess mason bees… these will be used in local commercial orchards like Wenatchee, Yakima, and Port Angeles.  These bees will be crucial at that point if the honey bees are less numerous.  The mason bees won’t be replacing the honey bees, but rather filling in the gaps where there aren’t enough to completely pollinate a crop.

Mason bees are simple to raise.  All you need to provide is:

  • Spring pollen in your yard.  Fruit trees, big leaf maples, rhododendrons, pieris japonica, or dandelions!  You’re a gardener and should already have enough pollen in your yard.
  • Nesting material to lay pollen in for nesting.  Paper tubes, reeds, or wood trays.  Anything that can be opened later for inspection.  (Not drilled blocks of wood!)
  • A house to keep the nesting material dry.  Small, square,
    diamond, or raindrop shaped.  The choice is yours.  Our website will help you optimally place it.
  • Mud to separate her eggs.  (Welcome to spring in the Northwest!)
  • A bit of love and care.  It’s quite easy to do this when you’re able to get so close to these bees!
  • Learn more about the gentle mason bee’s life cycle on on our website.

How do you start?

  • Attend a free class at The Plant Farm.  On Saturday, November 19th at 11:00 a.m., I’ll be speaking and will answer your questions.
  • Buy mason bees, nesting material, and a house at The Plant Farm.
  • Sign up for Bee-Mail.  This is a program on Crown Bees that reminds you when to do what.  We’re here to help you be successful!

Dave Hunter, of Crown Bees, is a bee expert, and our friend!  He’s teaching a free MASON BEES SEMINAR at The Plant Farm this Saturday (November 19th) at 11:00am.  Go to our Events Page for more information and to sign up for this terrific class!

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You can’t help noticing that the days and nights are getting cooler and it’s getting darker earlier. Your garden and landscape plants have noticed, too. Out here in the Pacific NW, it doesn’t get nearly as cold as other parts of the country; at least not for as long.  We still need to think about what is happening to our plants and prepare to help them through the approaching colder days.  Here are few helpful tips, reminders and ideas for fun out in your yard and garden this September, and information that will give you a head start on spring.

Pruning now? NO!

Your plants know colder weather is coming because the day length is getting shorter. Your shrubs and trees, and even perennials, get ready for winter from their upper tips downward. This means if you cut off the top of the plants as part of your fall clean up, you are removing the hardiest portion of the plant! 

Pruning hard now is why many Pacific NW gardeners lose plants every year.  Always leave seed-heads whenever you can.  For roses you leave the ends of the stems with the rose ‘hips’ from the spent rose flowers. If you remove the rose hips, the plant no longer has the influence from these seed heads and could start growing again at the wrong time of the year.  The Tip: Don’t cut back plants in the fall. Let them go to seed.  You might notice a bird or two enjoying them too.  Mulch them later in October-November with compost or lots of leaves to tuck them in for winter.  I’ll give you a heads up in the coming months when you can get back out and do your hard pruning.

Fall Planting

Enough talk of cold; we still have lots of gardening time at hand!  Really, don’t you love to plant this time of year? Cooler digging weather for us humans, Mother Nature’s rains will be coming soon with free water and the plant bargains available at season’s end are spectacular! The ground is so much warmer now than it was in the spring and it seems like plants just heave a big sigh when you tuck them in.  Fall planting is one of the most successful times of the year to plant, period.

Grass is super easy to start now.

If you have doggie pee patch jobs to fix or a full on re-vamp of your lawn, September is a very advantageous time to get it done. Stop in and grab our free information sheet about installing a lawn. We offer lots of fresh grass seed mixes that are perfectly blended for our Puget Sound region in handy 5 and 25 pound bags. If starting from scratch, or just caring for your present yard, you should apply a good fertilizer soon.  I love the Dr. Earth Organic lawn fertilizer.  It’s safe for kids and pets to play on right away!  While you’re at it, it’s also time to apply a dose of Calpril lime. Lawns need lime in the fall because calcium and magnesium are leached out of our soils with all the rain. The Calpril lime replaces those elements much to the pleasure of your grass.

Vegetable harvest time and Winter Veggie planting time!

Keep harvesting sweet corn and other vegetables as they ripen. It’s easy to let things get ahead of you, so check the plants often.  September is a good time to get some seeds going for the winter crops which grow well here in the Puget Sound. Starting seeds this month is so much faster than in May. The ground is warmer now and plants virtually pop up; seemingly overnight!   Plant now, right out in the garden, these vegetable from seeds; Arugula, cabbage, carrots, corn salad (Mache), fava beans, garlic (plant the cloves), peas, lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, basil and cilantro. Our garden seeds are available all the way through winter. Garlic, by the way, should always be planted in the fall and harvested the next summer.

A great practice for fall veggie gardening is to plant a ‘cover crop’ where there is nothing else growing. The cover crop helps keep weeds at bay as it grows during the winter and is spaded into the soil in the spring to break down into what is called ‘green manure’. Cover crops add back into the soil nutrients as well as lots of organic matter.

 As the chill of fall gets closer, covering your crops with a ‘garden blanket’ will prolong the harvesting of many of the vegetables in the garden. Harvest Guard is an ultra lightweight cover that floats over plants. It will prevent light frost damage allowing for a longer growing season. Also known as reemay cloth, Harvest Guard will also stop insects, birds and animals from getting at your prize crops.

Plan ahead for fruit trees you’ll want next spring.

Most nurseries bring in fruit trees in the spring and sell most all the stock by summertime. But when fall crops of some of our favorite fruits are ready, like apples, we get lots of requests for fruit trees this time of year. Plan ahead for the trees you want to grow next year. Get the ground dug up and loosened now so when the bare-root fruit trees arrive next spring you’ll be set to go. Think about creative new spaces to grow fruit trees, like flat against a wall or creating a fence with espalier trained trees. You can make more of your growing spaces when you have time to plan.

Slugs having sex in my garden!

I had not, in all my years gardening, seen two slugs having ‘relations’, but now I have and twice in 2 weeks.  The other night, coming home late, I noticed something dark against the house and it was moving. I thought it was going to be a bat. Turning on the porch light revealed two slugs going at it in a slug love embrace. YUK! Slugs are hermaphroditic; each one equipped with both female and male organs….so that means twice the slug egg laying capacity! I’ll start looking for the slug eggs soon and wipe them out before more get to hatch.

 If I need to use bait for the adults, I use Slug Magic, a very safe way to rid your garden of the slimy slugs. Iron phosphate is the ingredient in Slug Magic which breaks down into a nutrient the plants can use.   Slug sex…who knew?

And now I have a question; what do you like to do out in your garden in the fall? Comment below to offer some of your ideas for fall garden fun. See you at The Plant Farm!

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August is a beautiful time to live here in the Puget Sound, especially if you are a gardener.  To keep your garden and landscape beautiful here are a few tips I’d suggest thinking about this month.

Water smart! To me, when the sun is hot it means drier soils and sunburned plant! This is only because I get to see leaf samples on a daily basis once the heat sets in. Folks that water for a few minutes, even daily, see crisp-scorched leaves and panic. Sun scorched soil that is too dry produces leaves that curl upward and turn quite crispy. If this sounds like one of your garden issues see the July 9th blog on watering tips for heat. Water smart!

Plant some more veggies! Planting seeds now will reward you with tasty spinach, radishes, carrots, beets, lettuce, and green onions this fall. The veggie garden needs regular watering and whenever possible, water in the morning or early afternoon. We still have some super nice tomato plants and peppers in big pots ready to go home with you, it’s not too late to still enjoy some home grown goodness of your own.

Strawberry Shortcake time! It is still planting season for our Seascape summertime strawberry crop, the Plant Farm preferred variety perfect for your strawberry desserts. This new ever-bearer has bowled us and our guests over with its exceptional taste and productivity. More folks than ever before have commented on how great they are! You can plant them in a sunny garden space or in a large container on the patio for quick picking… Yum! 

Get rid of the girls….begonia girl-flowers that is!   Remove single-petal female begonia flowers from the tuberous begonia plants to grow the biggest flowered begonias you have ever seen!   The female flowers are small, single and have a winged seed pod right behind the flower, as you can see in the photo below with only one flower. The girls are produced right next to her male flower counterpart.  

If the male flower pollinates the girl, he falls off, job complete. The male flower is very full with petals and much showier than the female flowers, so I get rid of all the girls. My begonia in the back yard is my red accent plant in the garden to the left of the patio. I love red flowers and the huge double-red male begonia flowers are just about the flashiest bloom around for my shaded space. We still have non-stop tuberous begonias available!

  The male blooms on my begonia, pictured, are retained for weeks if no girls are around to distract them! Female flower.

Vines- climbing color!  Prune back the overgrown wisteria vines now and tie-up other fast growing vines before the tangled mess can’t be trained. The wisteria grows lots of extra shoots and you may get gobbled up trying to reach the porch someday if they are left to their own devices!

You can plant clematis right now with the roots buried a bit deeper into the soil. The roots of the clematis prefer cooler, shady ground that is well draining and enriched with organic compost. A tip: I always plant the clematis on the north side of another shrub that will help shade the root zone. Cooler roots= a happy and vigorously blooming garden performer!

Don’t worry- plant now and be happy with your outdoor rooms.  You don’t need to wait for the fall to plant; I assure you the plants want to get into the ground! The roots will be much happier with cool soil surrounding them than the hot, confining plastic walls of a pot!

Summer is when we are outdoors and really living in the yard, so why not make the rooms you live in outside as beautiful as the indoor spaces. Watering the new arrivals is usually handled every four to six days or so if you water deep when you water and mulch the ground around the new plants with organic compost or bark.

This is not the time, however, to dig up a plant and move it to another location. Wait until late fall to start such projects (except for perennials past their blooming, see dividing perennial notes below).

Lawns were also mentioned in the July 9th blog. The same watering and mowing information applies for this month, so check out that blog entry for a refresher.  

You can get a new lawn started pretty fast now that the soil is warmed up. In the chilly spring, grass seed is super slow to germinate and even though fall is the ideal time to start a new lawn, sometimes the opportunity presents itself around this time of year! We have seed, fertilizer, lime and organic compost and all the instructions you’d need to create the lush green lawn of your dreams.

Hanging basket haircut time? Sometimes even with all the best fertilizing and attention the hanging baskets get to looking a little long and scraggly. Give them a hard haircut with hedging shears! (I’ll have to cut my big basket back soon and post the photos in our facebook photo album to show you why it’s such a good practice.) Cutting the entire basket back will promote a brand new flush of growth and flowers. I’ll cut my basket back by ½ its size and then cut some of the topmost stems farther back to promote a bushier top. I know it’s hard to do this when they are still flowering, but remember, pruning stimulates growth! Then make sure you are feeding the baskets every other watering with the Summer Liquid Feed 20-10-20. This is the only fertilizer formula we use on our hanging baskets! 

Perennials- early spring/summer bloomer can be dug and divided now. Perennials are those hardy plants that grow and bloom year after year. If they are spring and early summer bloomers that no longer bloom like they once did, then you can dig them up and divide now to get them ready for next spring. Tip: water well prior to digging. Divide the big clumps up, giving some chunks to friends and neighbors, if you have too much for your own garden.  There is such a rich selection of perennials to choose from right now at the nursery and it’s always fun to look for colorful additions to add some new summer interest in your garden.


Stop in soon...the fish are hungry!

Water quality for your fish pond? We have some big floating Water Hyacinths for sale at the nursery right now. Every May we bring in 50 Water Hyacinths to float at the top of the waterfall in order to help with the biological filter system. Right now there must be thousands! Because we have so many fish and they get fed constantly by guests and their kids, the floating raft of plants grows to massive quantities and we have to start selling some off. These are big healthy plants that will help use up the nutrients from the fish waste to grow before the alga gets a chance to take hold. 

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We sure have seen a lot of folks bringing in plastic zip lock baggies full of samples lately!  Little sacks full of problems from their gardens. These samples help us to best diagnose the issue and recommend to the worried gardener an arsenal of retaliation options.

Here are just a few of our everyday recommendations to those who come in toting trouble.

Got Bugs? Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew to the rescue!  This environmentally safe product is ideal for the organic minded gardener. The active ingredient is a naturally occurring bacterium called ‘Spinosad’. A scientist discovered it on a Caribbean island in an abandoned rum distillery while on vacation. He took soil samples home to the lab and grew these bacteria that had natural insecticidal qualities, all while having a low impact on beneficial insects. Cool vacation for a scientist! You can use this bug killer to control leaf miners, caterpillars, thrips, leaf rollers, cabbage loopers, and more!

Got Deer? You may have heard Ciscoe Morris talking about Bobbex, a great deer and rabbit repellant. Well, Ciscoe is right. The fact is, deer (and rabbits) don’t like Bobbex. If you spray this product on your plants they will not eat them, period. I have watched the videos, I have recommended to many, many guests and all reports are, “it works!”  The all-natural ingredients stop deer browsing by using multiple smell and taste deterrents that WILL NOT WASH OFF. Bobbex can be used on all ornamental shrubs, flowers, and around vegetables too!

I too can now say I know how it feels to have a deer invading my garden… About a week ago I was sitting on my back step early on a Sunday morning drinking a cup of coffee. I live pretty deep inside the city limits, so I never thought I’d see a deer walking through my back yard.  But there he was, walking right by my rose bush, and I bet he would have stopped if I hadn’t been about 25 feet away. You can guess that Bobbex is now at the top of my shopping list!

Got Birds?  Have you ever grown blueberries or strawberries or cherries and just couldn’t wait for the crop to finish getting ripe and juicy? You go out to the garden with bowl in hand to pick those luscious, juicy berries. Then, to your huge disappointment they’re all gone! Birds have been feasting at will on the fruits of your labor!         

Here are two solutions: This year, before it happens again, try a draping of bird netting over the crops. If you can get the crop covered before the ‘dine and dash’ happens, you will be able to eat the fruit yourself for once! The Bird-X netting comes in – 7X20’, 14X14’ and 14X45’ – handy sizes to protect all those tasty treats.    

The other solution is a roll of flashy Mylar tape– red on one side and silver on the other. You hang the Mylar ribbon on your cherry trees (holding the loose end while throwing it over the tree works great) and the breeze takes care of the rest. The fluttering of the Scare Tape deters the feathered thieves. Another option is to affix it to bamboo stakes over your blueberry and strawberry crops. You could use both the Mylar tape and Bird-X netting to guarantee you’ll get that fruit this year!

Got Weeds?  And really, who doesn’t? Weeds can get ahead of you in a hurry when we get rain and then a spot of sun. There are many ways to get rid of them but prevention is the best method of all.

Use mulch, like our ‘Plant Farm Preferred Organic Compost,’ to cover the soil. Two to three inches over the root zones, with about 1” right at the trunk of the plant. This not only protects the roots from sun and getting crusty, but this practice buries most weed seeds too deep to germinate. If you lay a barrier that breathes, like ‘Gardener’s Weed Shield’ underneath the compost, you have a clean bed for a long time!

You could also use a pre-emergent weed preventer like ‘Amaze’ or ‘Preen’ on the cleaned up bed that has been mulched with compost. These granular products stop the weed seeds from ever germinating. But when weeds do pop up, you can spot treat with either an organic solution such as ‘Burnout ll,’ or ‘Round-up.’ These are non-selective herbicides, meaning they kill whatever you spray them on, regardless of what it is.

‘Burnout ll’ is made of clove oil, vinegar, and lemon juices and can kill weeds in 8 hours or less. This is a top down burn and usually kills annual weeds first time. But, if the weed is a tough perennial it will regenerate a new top. If this happens, zap it again. Every time it re-grows it has to use up the stored food and eventually dies.

Spot kill weeds in the lawn with Bonide’s ‘Weed Beater Lawn Weed Killer’. When you grow the grass thick and mow it higher, especially in the hotter summer months, the weeds are fewer.

Got Slugs?  Slugs are the yuckiest of all the leaf munchers I know of, I absolutely cannot stand them eating my salad greens and then having to  wash off the slime before I eat the lettuce.  Where I grew up we did not have these huge things! In Iowa, the slugs grow to less than an inch.  After many years now in wet Western Washington I have learned that if I use Bonide’s  ‘Slug Magic’ the giant leaf-eating slugs magically disappear! The pets, critters and kids are all very safe from this iron sulfate based slug killer. The coolest thing about Slug Magic is that as it breaks down the plants eat up the iron as a nutrient, so nothing goes to waste!

Another solution for slugs is to use ‘Slug Tape’. Corry’s Slug & Snail Copper Tape can be used as a barrier to deter slugs and snails from crossing into areas you want protected from damage. Apply to surfaces in areas that are prone to slug and snail damage, like green house benches, raised flower and vegetable beds, flower boxes, and potted and container plants. Slugs and snails will not cross the copper tape.

Now, do you feel better knowing your Plant Doctors are here?  Bring in samples you would like diagnosed in plastic bags or containers where the bugs or disease won’t escape into our greenhouse.  Take photos of the sick plants, especially close ups and come pay us a visit at The Plant Farm soon. We can steer you towards answers and solutions that will help your plants thrive!

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