Living Columns & Blogs

Ask a Gardener: Don’t want to flatten your plants with the watering hose? Try this tip

A ceramic sculpture also makes a hose guard in Melissa Balch’s garden surrounding her Tacoma home.
A ceramic sculpture also makes a hose guard in Melissa Balch’s garden surrounding her Tacoma home.

Have you had the frustrating experience when watering your garden beds, of having the hose knock down plants as you attempted to pull the hose along? I’ve found myself frustrated too many times, and love this idea.

Here’s a reader’s solution: take metal rods or rebar 8 to 10 inches high. Insert them along the edges of the bed. Then get metal tubes of a slightly larger diameter and slip one over each rod and let it fall to the ground. It will spin as you drag the hose around them.

No more plants will be injured due to hose.

Question: My raised beds are being overrun by sowbugs, also known as pill bugs. What can I do, as I suspect they’re eating more than their share?

Answer: The answer’s simple: clean up. Whether it’s under rocks, compost or boards, sowbugs love to hide. They multiply exponentially.

They like damp hiding places, so cleaning up your beds is the best way to clear them of sowbugs. These insects favor young, succulent plants, and they can do a lot of damage.

It’s possible that trapping them will help control these destructive bugs. Simply put out rolled up newspaper or cardboard. At night the sowbugs will take up residence, and in the morning, you just dispose of the bug-filled tubes.

Don’t think, however, that you can win the war. The females hatch 25-75 young per brood, keeping the eggs in a body pouch. Still, keeping your beds cleaned up and doing some baiting will help you keep sowbugs in check.

Demonstration gardens

Now that things are planted and growing with only watering, staking and weeding as needed, it might be a good time to take a trip to see a demonstration garden. It’s a fun way to see new ideas and plants, and answer questions about what a plant might look like when full-grown. It’s a timely way to get ideas about your next year’s garden. Gardener’s are the ultimate future planners.

I can recommend two excellent demonstration gardens. One is at Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale. It’s the work of the Whatcom Master Gardeners. There’s a lovely old house, built at the turn of the century, and now a museum. Surrounding the house are gardens with signage to help identify the plants. There’s a dahlia garden, a children’s garden, a weed garden, a vegetable garden and several others. I particularly like the weed garden to help me identify my troublesome weeds.

The second recommendation is thanks to the Skagit County Master Gardeners. The Discovery Garden is located just outside Mount Vernon at 16650 State Route 536-Memorial Highway. It is a well-established garden, begun in 1998. It consists of 30 distinct gardens, including small fruit, cottage, herb and easy care, to name just a few. There’s excellent signage. Prepare to spend some serious time, as there’s so much to see and learn.

Q: I am still having problems with slugs. Any new ideas I might try?

A: Your timing is good, as a reader suggested a novel way to combat those slimy creatures. She swears it works, as unlikely as it sounds. Her slug eradicators are mousetraps.

Yes, you read that right. But the reader, quite by accident while baiting for mice under her porch, batted zero for mice, and instead found several unlucky slugs ensnared in the traps. She has found the best bait that she makes in quantity and keeps in the refrigerator. Here it is:

• 1 slice bread, crumbled small

•  2 Tablespoons peanut butter

• 1 Tablespoon Elmer’s Glue

Put the baited traps where you’ve been having slug problems. I’m soon to experiment with the unique slug deterrent myself. I’ll let you know, and let me know the results if you try.

The name of Hovander Homestead Park was corrected July 10, 2017.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a life-long gardener and Master Gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to For more gardening information online, go to