Sunday, June 26, 2022
June 26, 2022

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Keep pests away with smart gardening practices


BELLINGHAM — Despite the recent cold, hail and snow that hit the region, it’s never too early to start planning your garden.

Master Gardener Beth Chisholm runs Whatcom County’s WSU Extension Master Gardener and Master Composter programs. She is also the Whatcom Community horticulture coordinator, runs the Community First Gardens Project and supports local community food gardens with technical support and volunteer work.

The WSU Extension Master Gardener program was founded in 1973 in Washington, and is part of a larger network throughout the U.S. connected with land-grant universities in each state. Washington’s program works in partnership with Washington State University to provide in-depth training in horticultural studies for residents who become volunteer gardening experts in their community.

Today there are over 3,000 Master Gardeners serving 28 counties in Washington.

The program’s gardeners can be contacted with questions about plants and gardening, to request a master gardener to speak at an event, or even help a group or organization with gardening questions.

What are the worst pests in the Pacific Northwest that eat away at people’s gardens, flowers, etc. Why are these the worst? What attracts them to gardens or specific plants?

If we are talking about vegetable gardens there are a few — aphids, white flies, slugs, cutworms, wireworms. These pests are opportunists and are seeking out fresh new growth in our springtime gardens. Also in the Pacific Northwest, we have a maritime climate, which makes it easier for insects to overwinter. We have high humidity and a lot of dense vegetation, aka weeds and other places for pests to hang out.

Other vertebrate pests include deer — we have a huge population of urban deer who love landscape plants of just about anything in your landscape.

What are ways to protect your garden from these pests, but not hurt the pests?

The best protection is to maintain healthy plants and good soil conditions, use drip irrigation, crop rotation, and floating row covers as barriers to pests. Fences for the bunnies and deer. WSU Whatcom Extension really steers gardeners away from “sprays.” In our plant clinics, we educate garden clients to practice these IPM methods: prevention, cultural control, mechanical, biological, and last resort is a pesticide.

  • Cultural controls: Discourage pest invasion with good sanitation, removing debris and infested plant material, proper watering and fertilizing, growing competitive plants, or using pest-resistant plants.
  • Mechanical: Hand weeding, using tools to cultivate, knocking off pests by hand or with a stream of water
  • Biological: Using beneficial organisms to fight the bad guys — or trap crops (example: Plant nasturtiums to attract aphids away from your desirable crop).

Are there plants that are less likely to be eaten by pests?

Not really — healthy robust plants can withstand some nibbling from insects.

Deer-resistant plants are not 100 percent, but these plants deer mostly avoid:

  • Evergreen shrubs include boxwood, California lilac, Mexican orange, rock rose, daphne, Japanese aralia, Japanese holly, leucothoe, privet, box leaf honeysuckle, Oregon grape, Pacific wax myrtle, lily-of-the-valley shrub, heavenly bamboo, rhododendron, sweet box, evergreen huckleberry, Burkwood viburnum and David viburnum.
  • Deciduous shrubs are barberry, blue beard, corokia, silverberry, forsythia, kerria, beauty bush, magnolia, potentilla, firethorn, red-flowering current, elderberry, spirea, snowberry and lilac.
  • Most vegetable crops can be easily damaged by deer, but the onion family and potato should be safe. Many herbs are deer-resistant, such as garden chives, mint, rosemary, lavender, thyme and oregano.
  • Deer-resistant perennials are yarrow, monkshood, anise hyssop, wormwood, foxglove, hellebore, candytuft, Shasta daisy, lupine, rose campion, bee balm, daffodil, catmint, Russian sage and lungwort

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