Living Columns & Blogs

Take a trip to B.C. botanical garden with Whatcom Master Gardeners

Ladybugs are among the most efficient of the beneficial insects, particularly for home gardeners. The adults and larvae feed voraciously on aphids and mites, among other plant pests.
Ladybugs are among the most efficient of the beneficial insects, particularly for home gardeners. The adults and larvae feed voraciously on aphids and mites, among other plant pests. Associated Press

A great opportunity to tour the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, B.C., is being offered by the Whatcom Master Gardeners. This bus tour will include a stop at Southlands Nursery, a fabulous nursery with treasures for even the most discerning gardener. You’ll be able to buy from a wide variety of plants, not all of which are available in the United States. An inspector will be on hand to certify your purchases so you can bring them back into the U.S.

VanDusen Botanical Garden is lovely, particularly in this season. There you can talk to experienced gardeners and learn about plants that might be good in your own garden. This will be a docent-led, highly informative tour of the gardens.

The plan is to depart at 8:30 a.m. July 14 from the northeast corner of West Bakerview Road and Cordata Parkway. Free parking is available there. Tickets for the tour and bus ride are $56. To secure your place, write a check to the Whatcom Master Gardener Foundation and mail it to WSU Whatcom County Extension, 1000 N. Forest St., Suite 110, Bellingham, WA 98225.

Bring a picnic lunch, but remember, no fruit with pits can be taken into Canada.

Question: Can you believe that I already have aphids in my garden? They love roses, of course, but they’ve also taken up residence on some of my vegetables. What’s the best way to rid myself of these sucking creatures?

Answer: The good news is that aphids are soft-bodied and therefore easily dislodged with a blast of water. That is guaranteed to work, but you might have to keep at it. If you see ants running up and down the plants, you are witnessing an amazing natural phenomenon. The ants take care of the aphids so they can “milk” the aphids of their sweet liquid. It’s a benefit to both insects, though not so much to us gardeners.

If water doesn’t seem to do the trick, you might try insecticidal soap or Neem oil sprayed on the plant, but be ultra sure to cover all leaf surfaces. You might also band the plants at the base with something sticky like Tanglefoot or slick like teflon tape, both of which make it impossible for ants to get a foothold.

Natural predators help control aphids: wasps, lady beetles (or lady bugs), and lacewings. And finally, Ma Nature helps when she turns the heat up in the summer. Aphids don’t like heat, and it will reduce the populations naturally.

Question: As a novice vegetable gardener, I want to have some helpful resources on hand. Which are the best for our area?

Answer: Some books are more useful and pertinent to gardeners in the Pacific Northwest. Check both Steve Solomon and Bina Colbert. Solomon has a long history of researching and selling vegetables in the Northwest, and has published several books. He is particularly expert on soil, and gives good recipes for making or improving your soil. Colbert’s expertise is in winter gardening, and extending the season in the Northwest, which is entirely possible for everyone.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a lifelong 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 newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

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