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Gardening in Washington State

Archive for September 2015

Protect Your Young Apple Trees from Renegade Rabbits


If you have seen cute little bunny rabbits romping in your young orchard over the summer, don’t be surprised if you start seeing damage to your young fruit trees. Rabbits nip off the tops and gouge the bark of stems in winter. During winter, rabbits and hares remove “chips” of bark and wood from thin-barked woody plants, sometimes girdling the entire trunk.



Washington State is home to several species of rabbits and hares. Of these, only the snowshoe hare and the introduced Eastern Cottontail commonly damage gardens, orchards and landscapes.
To prevent winter damage to your young trees and shrubs from “wascally wabbits”, you can keep them away from the plants by:

• using wire or plastic tree guards, or
• wrapping lower trunks with burlap or wire mesh, or
• using rabbit-proof fencing, or
• applying rabbit repellents registered for home use.

Remember to reduce hiding places near your garden or orchard by eliminating thick brush, including brush piles, and by placing screens over openings under outbuildings. This will help reduce the number of rabbits and hares around your home and protect your landscape plants.

Submitted by: Dave Pehling, September 28, 2015


Why are my conifers losing foliage?

In the fall, after a long, dry summer, an evergreen conifer may not have enough resources to sustain all of its green foliage; thus, it will shed its oldest foliage (i.e., the foliage found on the innermost part of a branch). In doing so, the tree is prioritizing its resources. The oldest foliage is the least productive because it has become dirty over time and, being on the interior of the branch, receives the least amount of sunlight. The tree will sacrifice this older foliage in favor of the newer, more productive foliage.


Ladd Livingston, Idaho Dept of Lands,

Although the tree’s appearance may be somewhat alarming, this seasonal foliage loss is a normal part of conifer growth. The foliage loss is particularly noticeable in western redcedar, where it is referred to as “flagging.”

Seasonal foliage loss can also be particularly pronounced in pines. Some years seem to have particularly pronounced seasonal dieback, depending on weather patterns and other stress factors. Thus, even when a tree has excessive interior needle loss, it is not necessarily an indicator of disease, insect attack, or other unhealthy conditions. There are some insects and disease agents that tend to attack a tree’s oldest foliage, but these agents usually leave signs of their activity, such as chewing or speckling across the older foliage.

You’ll find more information about seasonal foliage loss here.

Submitted by: Tim Kohlhauff, September 21, 2015


European Chafer

In 2001, European chafer grubs were discovered infesting lawns in New Westminster, the greater Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada, less than 15 miles from the northernmost border town in Washington State. The risk of movement from infested areas via human activity is high.


Larvae are the damaging stage of the European chafer. They commonly prefer to feed on cereal plants like turf grasses and wheat. They have also been found feeding on the fine roots of broadleaf plants and conifers. In turf, larvae feed in the root zone up to the root crowns. Secondary pests such as raccoons and skunks peel back turf to feed on the grubs, causing significant damage to lawns.

April to May and September to October are the best times to monitor for the grubs because this is when they are the easiest to spot (i.e., at their largest stage).

For more information, see Pest Watch: European Chafer.

Submitted by Sharon Collman, September 14, 2015


Last Call for Tomatoes!

Those of you growing tomatoes should be harvesting them. So how did you do? Did you have lots of red tomatoes, mostly green or very few? Tomatoes can be very temperamental, and, if not cared for correctly, you can end up with few fruit or mostly green tomatoes. Now is the time to write notes about what did and didn’t work in your garden, so you’ll have something to refer to this winter when you’re planning next year’s plantings.


Pick tomato fruits when they reach mature color but still retain some firmness. Size and color will depend on the plant variety selected—yellow, orange, pink, purple, and green varieties exist, as well as the typical red varieties. Tomatoes usually ripen about one month after the fruit begins to show. As the fruits continue to ripen, they will begin to lose firmness, and the flavor may be affected. Tomatoes can be picked early, after the fruit begins to change color, and will continue to ripen off the vine, with best results occurring at temperatures from 68°F to 77°F.

End Uses
Tomatoes are a versatile fruit and can be used in a variety of forms: fresh, frozen, juiced, pickled, stewed, dried, preserved and canned. For details on how to use and store tomato fruit, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation website, which offers research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. Additionally, see publication PNW300 Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products.

For more tips on growing tomatoes, see our WSU Fact Sheet FS145E, Vegetables: Growing Tomatoes in Home Gardens.

Submitted by: Gary Fredricks, September 8, 2015


Gardening in Washington State, Puyallup Research and Extension Center

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