Our spring field trip to the Elisabeth C. Miller Garden in Seattle was unforgettable. We spent an hour on a guided tour of this truly remarkable garden. To learn more about the garden, visit millergarden.org.
Normally growing aphids is a bad thing, but in respect to our beneficial insect program, it's a good thing. Here in the Environmental Horticulture Program at LWIT we grow and propagate thousands of plants in our greenhouses. Each year the students put on a huge plant sale that generates money that helps fund the program. This year we had a serious threat from aphids, which began appearing in November and stayed through the spring. Working with Alison Kutz from Sound Horticulture, we began a biological control program, using beneficial insects. We started to bring in good bugs to help us wipe out the bad bugs.
One of the insects that parasitizes aphids is the native wasp Aphidius matricariae. It seeks out aphids and lays an egg inside them, killing the aphid and producing another generation of wasp. Each female lays about 100 eggs, but may attack 200-300 aphids in the process. That's a lot of destruction from one tiny super-wasp. The larvae develop entirely inside of the aphid which turn a light brown and remain on the leaf surface. These aphid shells are referred to as 'mummies'. They aren't just found in greenhouses, I recently discovered an aphid mummy on my Japanese Maple. I was happy that nature was helping me keep my plants healthy.
Buying Aphidius frequently, however, can get expensive, so we decided to raise our own. A true baby wasp nursery in the greenhouse. It's called the banker plant system. We raised a type of aphid that only lives on grasses, so it wouldn't transfer to our greenhouse crops, and this provided a place for Aphidius to maintain and grow their populations. More wasps, less aphids...healthier plants. We had to build an exclusion cage to keep Aphidius out until the aphid populations were strong enough. We sprouted our wheat plants and left them in the exclusion cage for 2-3 weeks and them placed them on benches around the greenhouse. It was fascinating to watch the Aphidius we released near these plants. We could actually see them attacking the aphids, not a good viewing activity for the faint of heart. This is parasitism at its best. As our wheat matured we noticed more and more aphid mummies appearing on the plants. The system appeared to be working! Our aphid numbers did get too high at times and we still had to spray with insecticidal soap. Next year we will start our wheat earlier and get a strong population of Aphidius ready to engage in battle.
Written by Elaine Sawyer, May 2014
Last quarter the students took part in helping to increase wildlife habitat in our study arboretum on campus. Some students noticed some curious fungal growths coming from the base of a Douglas Fir. An assessment from a local consulting arborist told us that the tree had laminated root rot. Over time this type of rot will cause the main root system to die and eventually the tree will come down, likely in a wind storm. He recommended we turn the tree into a snag instead of cutting it all the way down.
A snag tree can be naturally occurring where the top breaks off or the tree slowly dies leaving a bare trunk inviting birds, small mammals and other wildlife. In our urban environments leaving dead trees is often frowned upon but we saw it as a huge learning opportunity and a way to bring more life to our arboretum.
The department of fish and wildlife has a great site with more info on the importance of snag trees for the dozens and dozens of species that depend on them. (Check out the link for more information http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/snags/)
We called in a local arborist to turn our Fir into a snag, which should hold up for many more years to come. He started by climbing and sawing off lower limbs leaving branches then worked his way up to the top removing it with a chainsaw. He then did some creative cutting to make the top appear rough, a though it had broken off. This will help initiate decay and create a more natural look.
The greenery was saved to make seasonal wreaths to raise money for student scholarships, the wood got chipped for mulch and the larger rounds will likely become firewood. All in all this was a great way to 'save' a tree and give back to our local community of birds. We have a thriving populations of birds including some huge Pileated Woodpeckers that will be thrilled with the new addition.
Fall certainly came back all of a sudden! The early and long summer abruptly ended for us Pacific Northwesterners in mid September.
I have found that life as a horticulturist is one of experience and observations.
Last spring I observed an increase in the amount of tent caterpillars on ornamental and fruiting trees. This
fall I am noticing many egg clusters adhered to the branches of trees.
Look closely at the young, 2 year old, branches of deciduous trees. You will notice a gray, translucent, shiny mass hardened on the stem. These are next year’s tent caterpillars. Tent caterpillars are cyclic and we have not had a bad infestation for 10 years or so.
I am now wondering if we will see tent caterpillar populations on the increase over the next few years. Start looking at your trees and let me know if you are noticing egg masses. My mode of pest control for the tent caterpillar has been to flick the egg masses off with my thumb nail and letting nature take care of it. All my caterpillar nests were either taken out by me or the birds this year.
Again, I am wondering, observing, studying. What type of winter this will be? Many plants are extremely drought stressed. The soils are powder dry. Even with the most recent rains the soil is very dry.
I keep observing, watching how plants are responding to our ever changing climate. Are you doing the same?
Our Spring Plant Sale is quickly approaching (April 26-27th & May 3-4, 9am-3pm) and we have been getting many requests for plant list. We know that planning the garden is half of the fun, especially this time of year on those rainy days, so here are the preliminary lists of annuals and edibles (click links to download the pdf). I've included slideshows with some pictures from previous years to help get the imagination going.
If you had looked behind the scenes of the Northwest Flower & Garden Show this year you would have found Environmental Horticulture students and alumni from Lake Washington Institute of Technology everywhere teaming with companies, individuals and industry organizations to install twenty three top notch display gardens that span over six acres inside the Washington State Convention Center.
Our students spend as much time outside of the classroom learning as they do inside the classroom. I like to call it education without walls. This week all students were in force helping out at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.
Here's a little peek into what they were up to.
Video of Horticulture students planting out a remediation project at Water District #119 last month. The day turned out just perfect for planting, with the sun peaking out and temperatures mild we couldn't have asked for more. We even had the chance to see salmon in the nearby stream as we worked.
It's fall and as we prepare to welcome a new group of students to our classroom next week, we also find ourselves reflecting back to past students and the not so distant days of sending them off into the world with their newly defined skills and knowledge gained from their time spent here in the LWIT Horticulture Department.
Claire Hardwick, Lake Washington Institute
of Technology Environmental Horticulture Alumni and 2010 graduate is one of those past students currently on our minds. As we prepare the classrooms, she is getting ready
to leave for Scotland to attend the Scottish Agriculture College
(SAC) to earn a degree in Environmental Studies at the University of
Edinburgh. SAC is Scotland's land-based higher education institution, offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses that focus on the rural economy and environment, including subjects such as agriculture, business, animal science, environment, green technology, conservation, and horticulture. We are thrilled that Claire has decided to continue to pursue her interest in Environmental Horticulture that was initially fostered here in our greenhouse and classrooms.
How did this all come about? Claire began researching different institutions wanting to continue her education in Environmental Horticulture after graduating with an Associate Degree from LWIT in 2011. She was particulary interested in focusing on a science based curriculum in Environmental Horticulture but one that could also continue to foster her interest in herbal medicines. Last November following much research and finding many of the educational institutions in the United States were heavily agriculturally based, she took a trip to Scotland to visit the SAC. After visiting the college and receiving a private tour of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh by one of the program’s instructors Claire was convinced that SAC was the next step for her. Her desire to attend did not however guarantee her entrance into the school. She went through a rigorous application process and in the end was one of only twenty five students accepted into the competitive program.
Claire will be entering this fall as a second year student having received credit for some of her coursework completed here at LWIT. She will be taught by a team of staff including lecturers, researchers, advisers, and consultants and is eager to take classes focusing on plant classification, botany and herbal medicine. Many of the horticulture courses she will be enrolled in are offered jointly with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). Claire’s most looking forward to benefitting from the strong industry partnerships that the college engages in such as its partnership with the RBGE. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) was founded in the 17th century as a physic garden and is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain. It now extends over four Gardens boasting a rich living collection of plants, and is a world-renowned centre for plant science and education. Approximately, one half of Claire's coursework will occur in this unique classroom setting.
We of course asked Claire, what role if any did the LWIT horticulture program play in her decision to attend SAC. She responded by saying that it was her learning in the LWIT Environmental Horticulture program that inspired her to look beyond her
initial interest in floral design and created a hunger for more of the science aspects of horticulture. She after graduating from the program returned to us and designed her own special project propagating fuchsia starts. She credits this experience as one among many here that encouraged her to step beyond her comfort zone and pursue her passion further.
We wish Claire happy travels and well wishes. We have no doubt that she is headed for an exciting career in horticulture and look forward to hearing about her future successes and endeavors.
The Horticulture Program here at Lake Washington has, over the years, developed a strong community of friends and supporters. Volunteers, garden clubs, alumni, industry professionals and businesses have helped in many ways to make the student experience a richer more fulfilling one. This support comes in the form of scholarships, help running the plant sales, mentoring students, being guest lecturers and so much more.
Pine Lake Garden Club is part of our community of supporters and has been for over 19 years. For years they have donated scholarships for horticulture students but this is the first year they have ever opened their private gardens for a tour. Proceeds from this tour will be donated to the Horticulture Program. We are very grateful for their continued support and completely excited for the garden tour. I've heard wonderful things about the gardens and can't wait to be inspired.
Details from the Pine Lake Garden Club website:
"Please join us for this delightful self-drive tour. Ten members of the club are opening their personal gardens.
Each garden is very different from the next and each profiles the taste and talent of the homeowner. Some of the gardeners are quilters and their work will be on display. Others are artists and their creations will surprise and delight you.
The gardener's ages range from a spry 85-years to a creative, modern 25-year old and the garden sizes from about two acres to quite small, proof that gardening really is for everyone.
The tour is on Saturday, July 28 between 10 AM and 4 PM. Tickets are $10 per
person, available for purchase the day of the tour in front of John L. Scott Realty, 718 228th Ave NE, Sammamish WA 98074. Maps and directions will be provided.
All proceeds will be donated to the Lake Washington Institute of Technology,
Environmental Horticulture Program.
Click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Please note: No strollers. Children 12 and under are free. No smoking.
Never step into flowerbeds. Do not touch plants or objects in the garden.
Please ask the owner if you have any questions. No dogs."