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The OSU Extension Office is located at 505 N. Columbia River Highway in St. Helens and can be reached at 503-397-3462.
Metro Creative Connection
Hot topics for August• Tomato late blight can develop after several days of rain or misty weather. Watch weather forecasts and protect your plants by spraying a copper fungicide (considered “organic”) ahead of a rainy cycle. Blossom end rot can be slowed by consistent watering.• Caterpillars in your cabbage: A common butterfly in the garden is the white winged species called the imported cabbage worm. As the name implies, this in-sect is not native to North America but comes, as cabbage does, from Europe. The butterfly winters over as a chrysalis and emerges as an adult in May. Females lay yellow eggs on the undersides of cabbage family leaves. She can lay as many as 200 eggs on multiple plants. Caterpillars hatch and eat. Sometimes they are hard to see within a broccoli head before cooking but disgustingly obvious after.Good controls are floating row covers, the organic insecticide spinosad (several trade names) and the microbial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis. Make sure you buy the B.t. for caterpillar control. B.t. has virtually no mammalian toxicity and only kills larvae in the butterfly/moth family. B.t. does not migrate off target. It needs to be applied when the larvae are small to be most effective and should be reap-plied after a rain or overhead irrigating.• Spider mites are often blamed for more problems than they actually cause. But hot, dry weather favors the spider mite. We have had that in abundance this year. To see if your skimmias, arborvitaes, or other plants might have mites, shake a limb over some white paper. If the specks move, the plants have mites. You can hose plants down with a strong blast of water or spray with insecticidal soaps or summer spray oils.• Annual flowers tend to fade without a fertilizer boost. You can apply a blended fertilizer granule or water with liquid fertilizer solutions. The liquid fertilizer doesn’t last as long so more applications will be necessary. Organic gardeners can use bloodmeal or chicken feather meal.• Dripping trees. There have been more calls about “sap” dripping from trees this season. The sticky stuff is actually “honeydew” which is excreted by aphids, scales, and other similar sucking insects. It is a bit of a puzzle why it is worse this year. Speculation is that the warm April moved the aphids into high reproductive gear early. Alternatively, it is possible that the Harmonia lady beetle (a magnificent aphid predator) didn’t fare well through the winter.• Irrigation is so important in August. Subsurface moisture is depleted by now, temperatures are hot and plants are at crucial stages of growth. We get very little rain in August. Most gardens and lawns will need an inch of water or more per week to keep going. In the hot cycles we have been having, it is often closer to two inches per week that is needed. Trees or shrubs planted this spring need more water because their root systems are not well developed, and we started the growing season with very low soil moisture.• Sunburn has been a problem on apples and both needled and broadleaf ever-greens. The 114º weather was too much to handle. Most of the damage is on the south or west side of a plant. Damaged apples will not mature normally and will often fall off before ripening. Damaged leaves are browned at the tips, midribs, or margins. They look bad but generally don’t constitute more than a cosmetic concern. If all the leaves on a particular plant were affected, the plant was grievously short of water or something is wrong with the roots.• Flying termites generally don’t require sprays or exterminators. The reproductive forms of the termite fly this time of year to mate. Fertilized queens drop to earth, shed their wings and look for a suitable home. Suitable is the key. A dampwood termite requires continuously wet wood. If there is no dirt piled up against your house or leaking pipes in the walls, you don’t have to worry about the dampwood termite. They can’t live there. The subterranean termite is more devious. It must have moisture. But it can conduct moisture up mud tubes from the earth into your house structure. Crawl under your house once a year to look for these tubes. Do watch out for carpenter ant infestations. They cause most of our structural damage and they are less picky about the wood they carve out to live in.Rats and compostRats can be a problem in compost piles. Vegetable and fruit wastes are the lure. If the density of fresh fruit and vegetables trimmings is attractive to them, they will spend much time in the pile. Unfortunately, they will also explore your garden itself or your house if they think there is food or shelter to be had.You can reduce your problems by having a tight cover your compost pile and some barrier like expanded metal or a rock base underneath. Turning the pile often to mix food waste with landscape trimmings or grass clippings reduces the piles attractiveness and actually speeds the composting process. Some gardeners choose to use worm bins for their food waste and compost their yard waste separately. That is generally a safe (from a rat invasion perspective) procedure.I know at least one gardener that puts their vegetable and fruit waste into a blender every day and makes a “compost smoothie” out of it. The blended liquid is poured into the compost pile, adding both moisture and readily available nutrients for the compost microorganisms but leaving little for the rats to scavenge.Important notesPlant an extra for the food bank, senior centers, or community meals programs. Cash do-nations to buy food are also greatly appreciated.The Extension Service offers its programs and materials equally to all people.Have questions?If you have questions on any of these topics or other home garden and/or farm questions, please contact Chip Bubl, Oregon State University Extension office in St. Helens at 503-397-3462 or at [email protected] The office is open from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and will be fully open in August.Free newsletterThe Oregon State University Extension office in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and farming topics (called County Living) written/edited by yours truly. All you need to do is ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call 503-397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at extension.oregonstate.edu/columbia/ and click on newsletters.Many Extension publications available onlineAre you putting up salsa, saving seeds, or thinking about planting grapes? OSU has a large number of its publications available for free download. Just go to catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu. Click on publications and start exploring.The OSU Extension Office will fully re-open on Aug. 2.Contact InformationOregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County505 N. Columbia River Highway St. Helens, OR 97051503-397-3462
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