Friday, August 8, 2014

Fall Webworm in Kitsap County

Fall Webworm "tent."
Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension
Slide Series,
This spring the resurgence of Western Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum) became more noticeable here in Kitsap.  I wrote about it here.  If you're worried about your trees because of it, seeing caterpillar tents in your trees now in summer might give you the jitters.  Fortunately, there is good news:  new "tents" in your trees at this time of the year are nothing to worry about.  They are caused by a far-less troublesome moth species called Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea).  Right now, the rascally Western Tent Caterpillar exists only as sleeping egg masses on the twigs of your prized fruit tree.  Next April they'll awaken and wreak havoc.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Non-Scientific Vinegar Weed Killer Experiment

My "Driveway".  Yes, that weed strip down the
center is growing on a gravel driveway.  It is green in
August because I had my tomatoes on top of it
(moved to the left in the image).
I have an old gravel driveway.  I don't think it's been re-graveled during the entire life of the house. If you
have one of these driveways, then you probably also have weeds.  Lots of weeds.  Well, you'll have lots of weeds if you're loath to use conventional herbicides on your driveway as I am.  In the past, I've used a propane torch to burn away the weeds and it did work well, but lugging around a small tank and flaming weeds in the hot sun was not fun.  I've read of using vinegar to kill weeds.  Some articles claimed good success.  Others poo-poo'd it to some degree.  I finally decided to give the vinegar recipe a try after discussion of it stumbled onto my Facebook feed.  The ingredients are cheap, so why not try it on my driveway?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Publications Tab

I just added a tab to the blog for items that have been published in blog posts.  I'm hoping this will make it easier to find these items (graphics, PDFs, etc.) rather than having to search my posts.  So far there are only two items there.  More will be added as the blog grows.  Enjoy.

How Do I Know When to Water My Plant?

I briefly discussed water and garden plants in a previous post.  But the topic is worthy of much more

Image by Northwest Garden Diagnostics, 2014
discussion than is worthy of a single blog post.

To help the more novice gardeners among us figure out if a plant is ready to be watered, I've made another graphic that builds on the one from my last post.  Because this is a one page graphic and this topic is actually rather complex, the image over simplifies the topic with the goal of making things easier for beginners.  You more advanced (or snooty....cough!) gardeners can probably poke all sorts of holes in it and list exceptions.

A bigger version can be downloaded here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blog for Nature Geeks

I found a blog on the web that I think is worth checking out: if you're an uber nature geek.  Great writing and great photos!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Feature - have a plant problem? Send us some pictures!

So you have a plant or garden problem? Send us your pictures!  We would love to take a look at them to help you figure out what is going on.  There is no charge. Just click on the "Submit Images" tab to get started.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tent Caterpillar Moths Are Flying Now

Jerald E. Dewey, USDA Forest Service,
The tent caterpillars that were eating are trees until recently are still around although not so active.  Some though have already cocooned and pupated, emerging as mating adults. They're out laying the golden egg clusters for next years brood.

So, between now and next spring, keep an eye out for the egg clusters (see photo at right) that will hatch out next years wave of leaf-chewers.  If you find them, just rub them off.  No pesticides needed.

Is Your Soil Dry?

After two decades of post college gardening experience, I've learned that watering plants is not nearly as simple as people seem to think it is (or should be).  I've worked at a couple different plant nurseries in my time.  Everyday people would come in with various garden questions.  Often these were questions about "What is wrong with my plant."  I quickly observed that many people were annoyed, or even offended if it was suggested that maybe the plant just needed water or, in some cases, had been watered too much.  We gardeners often tend to view watering as one of those things that is so basic to our hobby or profession that we unconsciously presume ourselves to be experts on the matter.  Any suggestion to the contrary is damaging to our egos.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beach Botanizing

Fay Bainbridge Park.  Photo from the BI Parks & Rec website.
“Botanizing” is the act of studying plants, usually in their natural habitat.  In my case that typically means looking for plants I’m not familiar with, identifying them, and if appropriate tasting them. Today I had time to go botanizing.  In recent years I’ve not had time to do that much at all.  Botanizing in my youth is what really built my love of plants.  It’s a major part of who I am now.

I’m quite familiar with the woodland flora where I work and live, so coming across native plants that I can’t identify is unusual.  Well...that’s not quite true.  I’m a little daunted by grasses and mosses so there are many of those I can’t identify.  But I am working on them.  And sedges.  And willows.  Okay...maybe there’s more than I care to admit.  But I’m slowly chipping away at them.  Let’s just say I’ve just saved the hardest for last.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, part 2

This article is part 2 of my previous BMSB article found here.

BMSB Nymphs.  Two nymphal stages are present. 
Note the color difference
Gary Bernon, USDA APHIS,
Now is a good time to be on the lookout for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).  You may have earlier encountered adults as they emerged from their winter hiding places.  Their task was to lay the next generation's eggs on the underside of host plant foliage.  Now, in early June, the eggs begin to hatch and the BMSB nymphs (juveniles) emerge to feed on their host plant.  As the season progresses, these insects and their damage will become more and more obvious.

Probably these smelly pests aren't in Kitsap county yet, but then again someday they probably will be.  So what do you do if you think you've found one?  Here are some steps to follow:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Outdoor Ohana

Meet Outdoor Ohana, aka, a non-profit organization run by family friend Alli Krug.  Her site promotes hikes, runs, and swims for families and details various hikes she's done locally and back in Hawaii.  There is even an educational section called "Freeschool" with STEM lessons.  It's a great resource for families looking for outdoor activities.  I intend to use it with my kids!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Western Tent Caterpillar Parasite Pictures

Photo by Darren Strenge, 2014.
In an earlier article found here, I wrote about the increasingly apparent return of the western tent caterpillar
to Kitsap county.  In that article I mentioned Tachinid flies, parasites that lay eggs on live caterpillars to be used as food by the fly larvae upon hatching.  These flies, along with a virus, are two parasites that help to bring the tent caterpillar infestations under control over a period of a few years.  At the beginning of these infestations, the population levels of these parasites can be very low.  But they are around and in my yard, I found a caterpillar with the egg of a Tachinid fly stuck to its head.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Part 1.

Adult Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ,
Many people are either unaware or only vaguely aware that there is a problem with imported pests.  We’ve all heard of fire ants and africanized honeybees and most of us in Kitsap county are aware that Scotch Broom is an imported invasive weed.  Even here in Kitsap, invasive organisms are more common than many of us suspect.  “Invasive” organisms are, mostly, animals and plants that are not native to our area and have the potential to cause some sort of damage.  Scotch Broom, Himalayan Blackberry, and Yellow Flag are all examples of invasives that we may like (pretty flowers or tasty fruit) but cause ecological and/or economic damage.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tent Caterpillar Update

In my May 7th post, I discussed the return of the western tent caterpillar to Kitsap county.  They've been growing in size and damage.  I've noted no catastrophic damage as yet...that may come next year.  But the little buggers do seem to be starting to crawl away from their hosts trees now, possibly looking for a place to pupate.  I've seen them crawling around.  One showed up on my recycling bin (see photos).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Columbine Surprise

I think Columbine (Aquilegia to us plant nerds) is arguably one of my favorite flowers.  So it's not to surprising that I let European Columbine (A. vulgaris) freely seed in my garden.  New plants come up every year.  I've got plain old single flowered Columbine in either bluish purple or cream colored petals and sepals.  I've also got a spurless, double flowered variety with  maroon petals.

Monday, May 12, 2014


By THOR (Flowering Rosemary) [CC-BY-2.0
 via Wikimedia Commons
I'm not sure where I first encountered rosemary.  I seem to recall my mom had some at the house where I grew up in the Tri-Cities of Washington State..  When I moved to Kitsap county in the late nineties I shared a house with two women.  They had a rosemary bush somewhere around the house. I lived there for five years but for some reason I cannot remember where the plant was; obviously rosemary is not a powerful memory booster.  One of my roommates introduced me to mustard roasted potatoes with rosemary.  To this day, it's one of my favorite potato dishes and rosemary is one of my favorite culinary herbs.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Western Tent Caterpillars Returning to Kitsap

If you've lived in Kitsap county since the early 2000's, you probably remember the tent caterpillar infestation.  Many deciduous trees, especially those in the Birch, Willow, and Rose families were more or less defoliated by June.  I remember seeing whole neighborhoods where every Red Alder was completely bare of foliage due to this voracious, leaf-feeding insect.  On heavily infested trees, their numbers were so great that you could hear the "rain" of their frass as it fell from the tree.  Frass is insect may want to mind where you stand outside.  Truly it was not a pretty sight.