Column: Garden Plots | News | – St. Helens Chronicle


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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.

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It will be interesting to see the plant response to this week’s heat blast.There are several mitigating factors that may reduce damage. Temperatures will be a bit lower than the heat nightmare at the end of June. Additionally, day-length is considerably shorter now which should help. We probably will see more sunburned apples, possibly more bark damage, and some loss of tomato and green bean flowers. Corn maturity will accelerate, and the squash family loves this weather, assuming they both have plenty of water.Another reminder is in order about how little moisture there is in our soils. Keep woody plants that you really value watered.Blackberry and raspberry canes that are done fruiting can be removed and the new “primocanes” can be tied up to the trellis.There is still time to plant a fall/winter vegetable garden. It is also a good time to prep the area where you will plant garlic in late September to early October.It is still unclear how many yellow jacket and bald-faced hornet nests are active. Calls to the office are picking up but still seem lower than normal. My vaunted ability to predict whether it would be a high or low year based on spring rainfall is in question. I bet on low despite some early warm days (good for yellow jacket queens) but followed by some cool, moist though not really rainy days (maybe not so good for the queens). There is an off-chance that nest starting was delayed until mid-June and fall hunting season could be lousy with yellow jackets.Slugs have been non-actors for the last several months. They aren’t gone but are hunkered deep in protected places including soil cracks and under anything marginally moist. I haven’t missed them.Aphids are showing up in droves on kale and other cabbage family plants. Control is a challenge but washing them off in the garden and also in the kitchen makes the crops edible. Where are the lady beetles?There seem to be an abundance of chipmunks this year. Usually, food abundance the previous year (or a decline in predation) helps to predict numbers. But neither factor seemed to be different than normal last year. It was a mild winter and perhaps breeding started early and often.The flea talk• There are dog, cat, rodent, human, and other species that fleas use for blood draws. We tend to have mostly dog and cat fleas.• Fleas start breeding after their first blood meal.• A fertile female lays 10-20 eggs per day. The eggs drop from the pet, particularly where the pet sleeps. The time from hatching to adult can be as short as two weeks up to several months or even more. Most fleas live for several months.• Flea populations consist of roughly 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae, and 5% adults. Of course, only adult fleas need your blood.• Under ideal conditions, 10 female fleas can produce over a quarter of a million flea eggs/larvae/adults. When they are on a roll, watch out.• Flea larva are tiny and worm-like. They feed mostly on the feces of their flea parents which is largely composed of partially digested blood. But almost any organic matter will do. Yummy.• Once an adult flea attaches to your cat or dog for blood, they mostly stay with the animal.• Fleas can go into suspended animation and can live for a year or considerably more without any of that delicious blood. In fact, there was a German experiment in the early 20th century that seemed to show that fleas could be kept alive for over 15 years without food.• Fleas can transmit tapeworms, bubonic plague, and other maladies. No word on COVID but it is very unlikely for a variety of reasons.• Many pets (and humans) are intensely allergic to flea saliva.• To get rid of fleas, you must: • Vacuum inside persistently and vigorously to suck up the wiggly flea larva.• Spray methoprene, an insect growth regulator that keep the larva from ever becoming adult fleas. The larva die of boredom (perhaps). It is slow to take effect since it doesn’t effectively kill adult fleas. You can find some aerosol mixes that have both adult knock down capability and then methoprene, which works more slowly.• Treat the pet. That is where most of the fleas reside. Insecticides that move from a drop on the back (imidacloprid and others) through the animal have revolutionized flea control. Talk to your veterinarian about options.• Outside lawn flea treatments are the last choice in terms of effectiveness. Cat fleas don’t overwinter well outside, dog fleas do a little better.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 OSU Extension Office is fully reopened. Masks still required inside.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 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.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 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 Click on publications and start exploring.Contact informationOregon State University Extension Service – Columbia CountyAddress: 505 N. Columbia River Highway St. Helens, OR 97051Telephone: 503-397-3462.

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