WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener Program and the Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County
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Photo by Laura Heldreth , Master Gardener, Class of 2012

Coordinator's Corner - News from Erika

Erika Johnson, Master Gardener Coordinator,
WSU Extension Clark County
 and MG Class of 2012

Two-hundred seventy-eight volunteers served with the Clark County Master Gardener program in 2018. Completing 20,650 hours of service and continuing education, the monetary value of your contribution, at the standard volunteer rate of $24.69 per hour, is estimated at $509,848.That’s over half a million dollars, folks!
I really couldn’t be more proud of the day in and day out work Master Gardeners put into making our program a beacon of garden and sustainable landscape education in Clark County.
You have inspired me to match your energy, enthusiasm and passion in each and every project we accomplish.
The 2018 calendar is done and 2019 is starting to fill. I can’t wait to get back to work on our on-going projects and to find out all of the new ways we will discover to reach ever new audiences.
Thanks to all who served in 2018 and a great big welcome to all of those who have joined us for 2019!

Photo by Laura Heldreth, Master Gardener, Class of 2012
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WSU MG Facebook
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WSU MG Website
Coordinator's Email
Coordinator's Email

Master Gardener Foundation News

Martha Minnich, Master Gardener, Class of 2012
and President of the MGFCC

Spring planning, seed starts, and warmth are returning. You are probably thinking of the garden. The Foundation thinks of planning and plotting for the continued financial stability of the Master Gardener Program. Whether referring to short- or long-term changes, our mission is to maintain the program.
In January, the Foundation set its budget for 2019. We appropriated over $5800 to external grants, $55,000 to program and fundraising expenses (mostly plant sale supplies), and 10% of our plant sale profits into the strategic operating reserve fund. Thanks to all of you who are MGFCC members, and to all of you who donate hours (and more hours) to help with the plant sale, plant holding area at the Home and Garden Idea Fair, and other fundraising activities. You make it happen. You’ve kept us strong. Thank you.
MGFCC Facebook
MGFCC Facebook
MGFCC Website
MGFCC Website
Foundation Email
Foundation Email

Blog Review: Whatsitgarden

Laura Heldreth, Master Gardener, Class of 2012

One of my favorite gardens in Vancouver belongs to Linda Coombs. Fortunately,  she shares photos of her garden year-round in her blog, Whatsitgarden. Plus, she shares photos of bouquets in her handmade earthenware that she sells in her Etsy shop, Littleplantpots.
Whenever I ask her what the name of her blog means—what’s it or what sit? she just gives me a mischievous smile and changes the subject.
Linda’s garden is on a windy hillside on the eastside of Vancouver. She makes use of the wind by filling her garden with grasses and firework shaped flowers on long stems that blow in the breeze and glow in the sunshine. Native pollinators feast on the flowers. Her garden is luminous and filled with kinetic energy.
Linda has the perfect “She Shack” to read or take a nap. On the surrounding patio, she entertains with delicious slabs of homemade cake and ice-cold wine. Her Boston terrier, Mickey, guides you through the garden and jumps on your lap for a quick snuggle when you sit down.
I highly recommend reading Linda’s blog, Whatsitgarden, to learn more about creating a luminous garden in full sun and to enjoy the story of her evolving garden.

Photos by Laura Heldreth

Tool of the Quarter: Triangle Scuffle Hoe

John Moore, Master Gardener, Class of 2016

The triangle scuffle hoe is a specialty tool with a lot of utility for the home gardener. The hoe is designed to tackle young weeds by slicing them off at soil level. At this stage of growth, the roots shouldn’t have enough energy to regenerate the top, so the roots die as well.
To accomplish this job, it has a sharp, thin blade with three cutting edges, allowing it to cut on the push and pull stroke.  The shape makes it possible to get into tight areas, and the long handle allows you to get the job done without getting on your knees.
A word of warning: these tools are SHARP and need to be handled carefully and kept out of the reach of children.  If you get a little sloppy, they can cause unintended damage: I can vouch for the fact that they will slice through a soaker hose with the greatest of ease! Also, don’t over tax the blade: rocks or woody stems will damage the thin edge.
The triangle tools come in a wide variety of sizes, from tiny (about two inches) for tight beds to large (about 6 inches) for open gardens.  As when choosing any long handled tool, make sure that the handle is the right size for you.  It should allow you to comfortably work the hoe while minimizing bending at the waist.
In order to be effective, keep the hoe clean and sharp.  Wipe it off after every use, keep the blade dry in storage, and use a fine file or a whet stone to keep a keen edge.  If you have a wooden handle, lubricate it with a good oil from time-to-time.
Like the stirrup (Hula) hoe, the triangle hoe can really ease your workload and save time dealing with small, tender weeds.
Happenings at Hazel Dell School & Community Garden
Barbara Nordstrom, Master Gardener, Class of 2005

Garden Coordinators Bobbi Bellomy and Barbara Nordstrom led 45 Clark College students from Veronica Brock and Kristen Myklebust’s health classes in winterizing the garden. The Community Garden has two main focuses: educating children about how food is grown though gardening, AND providing produce for the school weekend backpack program and summer food pantry! This growing season we hope to expand to partner with the Clark County Food Bank and Share House.
In January, Cinda Trigueros with assistance from Garden Discovery Team members Felena Erecacho, Pam Kirkaldie and Claire Sprowls, led new Master Gardener trainees in presenting “Herbi and the Miracle of the Seed” to all Hazel Dell School kindergarteners. The lesson was presented with the Herbi puppet made by Bekah Marten. New Master Gardener trainees, who assisted in presenting the lesson, were Tere Allen, Donita Andrews, Karen Briggs, Pam Evans, and Sally Loveland. Both presenters and children had a fun and educational lesson as Herbi told the progression of a bean from seed through growing stages and back to seed. The children dissected a bean seed to discover the start of a new bean plant ready to sprout. Thank you to the Garden Discovery Team and the new Master Gardener trainees for making this happen!
Hazel Dell School Experience Lab photos by Cinda Trigueros:
Donita Andrews, Master Gardener trainee, and Herbi the Bean;
Hazel Dell School students having a closer look!
Master Gardener trainee, Pam Evans assists kindergarteners
Photo of Clark College students by Barbara Nordstrom

Non-Toxic Indoor Houseplants for Dogs & Cats

Alyson Cooper-Williams, Master Gardener, Class of 2016
I have two dogs and two cats and because they tend to nibble on things, I have been reluctant to have indoor plants. That is until I inherited orchids from my mother, when she passed away.  I was delighted to learn that orchids were non-toxic to dogs and cats, which led me to research other houseplants that may co-exist with pets.
Here is a list of several indoor houseplants typically available that are considered NON-toxic to dogs and cats, when ingested in small quantities.
Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exalta bostoniensis)
Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)

Leafy Plants
Air Plant (Xerographica)
African Violet (Saintpaulia spp.)
Calathea (Calathea spp.) 
Cast Iron Plant (Apidistra) Fatsia japonica
Haworthia (Haworthia spp)
Peperomia (Peperomia)
Prayer Plant (Calathea insignis)
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus australis)

Cattleya labiata
Christmas Orchid (Cattleya trianaia)
Cocktail Orchid (Cattleya forbesii)
Easter Orchid (Cattleya mossiae)
Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis)

Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
Feather Palm (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Lady Palm (Rhapis flabelliformus)

Blue Echeveria (Echeveria glauca)
Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)
Hens and Chicks (Echeveria elegans)
Shrimp Cactus (Schlumbergera russelliana)

As always, do some research on any plant you bring into the house with pets. Check with the ASPCA and/or your veterinarian.
List for Dogs:
List for Cats:
If you believe that your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, or if you have any further questions regarding the information contained in this database, contact either your local veterinarian or the APCC 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Favorite Plant: Camellia

Susan Simpson, Master Gardener, Class of 2016

Camellias are flowering shrubs or small trees with striking glossy, dark green foliage and brightly-colored blooms that make them one of the main attractions in a year-round garden. Depending upon the species or the cultivar of the camellia, they can grow from 6 to 20 feet tall.  Their flowers range in size from miniature to very large and may resemble roses or peonies in their appearance. Although many cultivars offer multicolored blooms, the flowers of most camellias are white, pink, or red.
Spring or fall is a good time to plant camellias. It is a good idea to select and purchase camellias when they are in bloom, so that you know exactly what their flowers look like. Choose a location where the camellias will have sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon.  Camellias require acidic soil, and the top of their root balls should be planted even with the soil level. This will help water drain away from the center of the plants.    Apply 2 or 3 inches of mulch around the newly planted camellias to help maintain moisture and prevent weeds from growing. Water the camellias thoroughly after planting.
Camellias should be fertilized after they finish blooming with a fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Apply the fertilizer around the plant’s drip line for better absorption. Fertilizing in moderation is the key to keeping the plants healthy and attractive in your garden. Too much fertilizer may burn the leaves and cause them to drop off.
Fall and winter is an excellent time to replenish existing mulch around camellia plants.  Pine straw is one of the best mulches for camellias because it acidifies the soil. They should have several inches of mulch to keep their moisture levels and temperatures constant throughout the year.
It is best to water camellias deeply about twice a week, because they need moist soil. It is important to not let the plants dry out. If they dry out for just 24 hours during June to mid-August, flower bud production will be affected. The flower buds will either open partially, or they won’t open at all.
Camellias should be pruned lightly after their spring blooming is finished, and before new growth appears. Prune them carefully, so that you maintain the natural shapes of the plants.  Trim back leggy top growth to promote a fuller plant form. Pinch off the tips of the branches to encourage more fullness.  Remove all the dead and dying limbs to help prevent disease. This will also allow the plant to refocus its energy on producing more vigorous branches, foliage and flowers.
For more information, check the following websites:

Photos by Susan Simpson

Recipe of the Quarter: In Praise of Peas
Ang Lipsky, Master Gardener Class of 2015

Sweet green peas are a quintessential spring vegetable, and they are a great way to start your garden in the cool Pacific Northwest. There are many easy-to-grow varieties that can be planted in containers or as a bush or pole crop.  Shelling peas, also known as English peas, must be removed from the tough, fibrous pod before eating and are usually cooked. Snap peas have a sweet, edible pod.
Whether fresh or frozen, peas are a good source of important nutrients.   They contain a significant amount of protein and iron and have more fiber then either oatmeal or broccoli.  Peas also contain lutein which, along with fiber, protects the heart from atherosclerosis.  Lutein acts as an antioxidant and is also important to eye health.
Peas are a great year-round vegetable.  Nothing beats a sweet snap pea straight out of the garden. Frozen peas retain their taste, texture, and nutritional value very well, and are also rather inexpensive.
For a fresh take on hummus, try this recipe that includes sweet green peas along with traditional garbanzo beans.
Sweet Pea Hummus
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked (one can equals almost two cups)
1 1/2 cups green peas, lightly steamed
3 T sesame tahini
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 T lemon juice
1 t chopped garlic
1 T olive oil, plus extra
2 t lemon zest
2 T fresh herbs (optional)
Place beans, peas, tahini, lemon juice, sea salt and garlic into a food processor or high-speed blender. Pulse to combine a few times, and blend at a regular speed. With the motor running, drizzle in 1 T of olive oil and keep blending until creamy and smooth. Add extra oil or water if it is too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Pulse in lemon zest and herbs if using them.


Native Plant of the Quarter: Western Bleeding Heart

Alyson Cooper-Williams, Master Gardener, Class of 2016

Many of our native plants are dismissed as being common while they are treasured in far-off lands (like the UK). One such plant is our Pacific or Western Bleeding Heart, Dicentra Formosa.
Most of us have seen this dainty looking plant while hiking in shady wooded areas. Even when not in bloom, its ferny delicate foliage is appealing and useful in the shade garden.
The foliage is lacy, or fernlike, and typically grows 10-20 inches in height. It will often die back in summer unless given extra water, but returns in cooler weather. Spreading by fleshy rhizomes, Bleeding Heart prefers moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. The flowers are heart-shaped and are usually a pale pink to a deeper pink, but can sometimes have a lavender hue. The flowers dangle from long slender stems in clusters above the foliage. Bloom time is generally March to July. Extra watering may extend the bloom.
Zones: 4 – 8, Part-shade to shade
Distribution: CA, OR, WA (mostly west of the Cascades)

Habitat: Coastal, west-side forest,  under-story of coniferous forests
Plant associations: Madrone, Coast Redwood, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Dogwood, Deer Fern, Sword Fern, Maidenhair Fern, Western Columbine
Wildlife: Attracts hummingbirds, bees, butterflies
Suggested uses: Border edging, mass planting, container
Cultivar: Dicentra Formosa “Langtrees” has white flowers with bluish foliage. This cultivar is often grown in the UK. I grow this and think it is a most attractive plant for the shade or woodland garden.
Further reading:

Photo courtesy of Plant Oregon

Healing Gardens

Laura Heldreth, Master Gardener Class of 2012
Have you ever visited a healing garden at a hospital? Legacy Health has six healing gardens in their medical centers in the Portland Metro Area, led by Teresia Hazen who runs the Horticulture Therapy program. In May 2016,  the groundbreaking ceremony took place for the healing garden on the third floor at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center located in Vancouver, Washington. The two year old garden is filling in and is a lovely place to visit year round.
Imagine being a long-term patient in the hospital, stuck inside under glaring lights, with the constant bustle of staff and visitors. Now imagine, being taken outside to enjoy the fresh air and a garden in bloom. Unsurprisingly, studies show that patients heal faster when they are able to visit and enjoy a healing garden. Horticulture Therapists are trained to treat patients using plant materials and gardens to help patients meet their medical goals. Visiting the garden also helps reduce work stress among the hospital staff.
As gardeners, we enjoy therapeutic horticulture when we’re out puttering in our gardens, taking a nap in a hammock, and participating in a garden club. Studies show that being a home gardener improves memory, mood, health, and life expectancy. Simply put, gardens and the act of gardening is good for us. 
For more information on the healing gardens:
Link for more free photos of the gardens:

Master Gardener Program Launches Heritage Tree Program

Erika Johnson, Master Gardener Coordinator,
WSU Extension Clark County
 and MG Class of 2012

The Pacific Northwest is known for its trees – their abundance, size and grandeur. But as human development continues, many of us are seeing large, old trees with decreasing frequency.
The concept of “Heritage Trees” has come to describe trees designated by a community as significant to that place – either by extraordinary size, unique species, or affiliation with a historical event.
The cities of Vancouver and Ridgefield have such a program, but include only trees within city limits. Trees worthy of “Heritage Tree status” within Clark County, but outside of those two municipalities, don’t yet have the opportunity to be included in such a program.
Until now…announcing The WSU Clark County Extension Master Gardener Program Heritage Tree Program!
Do you know of any extraordinary trees in our community? Consider nominating them as Heritage Trees. Nomination criteria along with important details about the designation (such as the fact that it does not include any legal status or protection for the tree) are available on our Heritage Tree web page at

Decode Your Seed Catalog

Peg Carver, Master Gardener, Class of 2016

Seed catalogs are dream books, helping us envision the perfect vegetable or flower garden. But look past the pictures and read the fine print, so your garden lives up to your vision.
  • Saving seed? If so, look for Open Pollinated (OP) species. These varieties grow true from seed, unlike those with hybrid, F1 (first generation) or have an “X” in their name.
  • Days to harvest or bloom. Compare days to bloom or harvest to your local last frost/first frost info. If you start plants indoors, you’ll count days to harvest/bloom from the day plants are set out in the garden. Catalog info is based on the seed grower’s test garden experience, so check their gardens’ locations and adjust your timetable accordingly.
  • Get disease resistance details. The term “disease resistant,” without listing specific diseases, means little. Good seed catalogs specify which diseases each plant or seed variety is resistant to in the description and some include a helpful glossary.
  • Direct seed or start indoors? Do you have the space, time or inclination to start seeds indoors? If not, look for “direct seed” options you can plant in your garden when the soil warms. Recommended planting dates are noted for direct seed varieties.
  • Right plant, right place. Seed and live plant descriptions offer plenty of information about the variety’s light, soil and moisture requirements, as well as what to expect for size. They’re a great resource to plan your garden.
Adapted from “How to Read a Seed Catalog”, WSU Chelan County Extension Master Gardeners by Kathi Scheibner, Master Gardener.

Easy on the Eyes 

Melissa Leady, Master Gardener, Class of 2016

These days, everyone is interested in reducing their exposure to the harmful blue light emitted from LED monitors, TVs, and phones. The center of the retina, known as the macula, is especially vulnerable to blue light. Damage can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Spending time in the garden is one way to get away from all that screen time. Another way to protect the retina is with a nutrient called lutein. The highest known concentrations of lutein are found in a common garden flower, the nasturtium. An annual in zone 8, nasturtiums are easy to start from seed in early spring, either indoors or on a frost-free covered porch.

They come in two varieties, bush (Tropaeolum minus) and trailing (Tropaeolum majus). Whichever variety you choose, plant them in an area with plenty of sunshine. They are somewhat drought tolerant, but do not like excessive heat. They are also prone to collecting aphids. Check under leaves and hose off or remove infected branches or use them as a companion plant.

The flowers and leaves are edible with a bright peppery taste. If the flowers are left to go to seed, the seed pods can be pickled as capers. A quick internet search will turn up a variety of recipes to try.

Nasturtium flowers contain 45 mg of lutein per 100 g serving. The USDA's daily recommended allowance of lutein for reducing cataracts and AMD is 6-20 mg.

Photos from the Internet

Maintaining Healthy Soil for Healthy Plants

John Moore, Master Gardener, Class of 2016

Healthy plants require healthy soil.  The goal is to build and maintain soil that will retain nutrients, drain properly and provide adequate air to the roots and organisms living in the soil.
This quarter, we’ll focus on organic matter (OM) to build structure and tilth. In the spring, when we look out at what might be a waterlogged mess in the garden, the need to maintain structure and tilth is probably obvious.   But before you grab a wheelbarrow full of organic matter and till it into the garden, try to avoid some common pitfalls.

First, know what you’re dealing with. Perhaps the most common soil-related question we address in the Answer Clinic every year is “How do I break up my clay soil?”  It’s a common perception that clay dominates the soil in Clark County, but the fact is that there is a lot of silt and sand, with varying amounts of OM, in this area as well.  WSU has collected a few do-it-yourself methods to determine your soil composition.  You can get a good idea of what you have to work with in the following article:
Beware of the common advice that dictates adding several inches of organic matter every year. Adding OM is a good thing--to a point--but the “more is always better” approach has a couple of drawbacks:
  1. In large quantities OM can cause a build-up of phosphorous in the soil.  Unlike nitrogen, phosphorous isn’t used in great quantities and can leach out of the soil, polluting groundwater, streams and lakes. This build-up can also eventually become toxic to plants.
  2. Soil microorganisms require nitrogen to break down organic matter. Where large amounts of OM are being mineralized, there can be a deficit of nitrogen for your plants’ development.
 So what strategy could we use to improve our soil while avoiding the pitfalls?
Avoid very high levels of OM in your soil—while recommendations from research vary somewhat, 3-7% seems like a reasonable range.
  1. Accept that this is a multi-year project.  Add modest amounts of OM every year, preferably not at planting time.  If you must add OM at planting time, consider adding a quick release form of nitrogen to counteract the deficiency created from OM mineralization.
  2. Avoid quick fixes.  For example, gypsum is widely touted to break up clay soils.  But as our horticultural laureate, WSU’s Dr Chalker-Scott has found, it only brings improvement in saline soils, which are not common in Clark County.
  3. And maybe most importantly, wait until the soil dries out enough to work — working wet soils can ruin the structure for years, causing more harm than good.
Grow for the Kitchen
Jessica Burnett, Master Gardener, Class of 2017

The greenhouse is a good way to jump-start getting your plants growing for the year.  Since seedlings are so small, you can start a few each week. Then, by the time it's warm enough to go outside, they should be strong.  Here are a few tips:
  • I recommend starting with the ones that can tolerate the cold.
  • Plants that are slow growing are also candidates for starting in the greenhouse.
  • Ensure you harden your plants off before leaving them outside. Doing all that work to have them die is always devastating.
If you’ve never grown your own herbs before, this is a great year to start. They are good for you and good for the pollinators. You can never have too many herbs!  More pollinators mean more pollination of your plants. Those tomatoes, fruit trees, and other plants in your garden need them to be successful.
Since greenhouses come in many shapes and sizes, choose one that’s best for you. Whether it is a Jiffy planting container, a hoop house, or building a permanent structure off of your garage, let your imagination be your guide!
Also, be sure to stop by the Master Gardener Mother’s Day plant sale presented by the Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County for all those other plants you didn’t have room for in the greenhouse.

Health Benefits of Houseplants

Anita Jinks, Master Gardener, Class of 2013

We can all agree that living with plants in the home or office adds beauty to our lives. Did you know they can also reduce stress, improve your memory and help you pay attention to detail? According to Texas A & M University, houseplants can even improve your relationships by increasing your concern and empathy toward others.
Beyond the social and emotional benefits of living in a plant-filled environment, some studies have shown that indoor microbial communities are an important component of everyday human health.1 Poor indoor air quality has been linked to health problems, including asthma, which has reached epidemic proportions especially among urban-dwelling children.2  Houseplants can filter air through their photosynthesis, removing carbon dioxide and returning oxygen to the air. In addition, plants can remove toxicants from air, soil, and water by metabolizing some toxic chemicals (releasing harmless by-products) and incorporating toxicants such as heavy metals into plant tissues, thus sequestering them.
The often-cited research conducted by NASA was published in 1989 and suggested that plants provide a natural way of removing toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air.3 They recommended at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space, a notably vague measurement as size of plant is not specified. It is also important to mention that this research was intended to apply to a tightly sealed space capsule that might quickly become contaminated. As building construction has increasingly emphasized energy efficiency, our indoor environments run the danger of becoming more like a space capsule. Not only do we need to carefully monitor the indoor-outdoor air exchange, but we might consider using plants to mitigate unhealthy air. In highly ventilated buildings, the benefits of houseplants are mostly limited to their aesthetic and psychological values.
Several lists of plants that are most likely to improve indoor air quality are available online.  In general, they include tropical plants that thrive on reduced sunlight and photosynthesize well in household light.  The following is a list of the original plants recommended by the NASA study.

  1. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
  2. Lady Plam (Rhapis excelsa)
  3. Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea erumpens)
  4. Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
  5. Dracaene (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’)
  6. English ivy (Hedera helix)
  7. Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelinii)
  8. Ficus (Ficus macleilandii ‘Alii’)
  9. Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’)
  10. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

If you would like to learn more about this subject, I recommend this book written by the principal investigator of the NASA Clean Air Study.How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office, B.C. Wolverton, 1997; ISBN 0140262431.
1Berg, G., Mahnert, A., & Moissl-Eichinger, C. 2014, January 29. Beneficial effects of plant-associated microbes on indoor microbiomes and human health. Frontiers in Microbiology.
2Environmental Health Perspectives. 2011 Oct; 119(10): a426–a427.


Bullet-Proof Plant:  Three-leaf Bittercress
Laura Heldreth, Master Gardener, Class of 2012

If you’re looking for a tough yet dainty looking evergreen groundcover for your shade garden, I highly recommend growing Three-leaf Bittercress (Cardamine trifolia).
Three-leaf Bittercress has glossy evergreen leaves and dainty white flowers in spring that attract bees and butterflies. It slowly spreads in tidy round circles that are four inches tall and up to 2 feet around. Once established, Three-leaf Bittercress grows in dry, part to full shade and doesn’t require regular watering. However, occasional summer water keeps it looking its shiny best. Three-leaf Bittercress is ideal for your dry shade garden.

Photos by Laura Heldreth

Dear Gabby Gardener

Lillianne Barrett, Master Gardener, Class of 2014

Dear Gabby Gardener:

Is it true that domestic rabbits can benefit a garden?
M. Hare
Dear Mr. Hare:

My rabbit Hans turns his ration of vegetables and hay into approximately one-quarter cup of droppings daily. He is potty-trained (easily accomplished with house bins), so he deposits them all in a corner of his plastic bin “toilet.” It is easy to carry it to the garden and use its contents to enrich the soil or the compost pile. It is not as smelly as other manures and is easy to handle.
Unlike other fresh manures, composting isn’t necessary prior to putting rabbit droppings to use in the soil. Being a “cold” rather than a “hot” manure, rabbit droppings will not burn plants. The firm consistency means nutrients will slowly release into the soil as they break down.  This happens more quickly when it rains, or the garden is watered. This is a natural form of “time-release” fertilizer!
Michigan State University Extension notes that rabbit droppings are rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and potash, and they also contain beneficial trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper and cobalt. An added benefit is that red wriggler worms love rabbit manure, and you can also use them to make Rabbit Compost Tea.
Rabbit Compost Tea: To a five-gallon bucket of water, add a large scoop of rabbit droppings. Give it a stir every now and again for a day or two. Let the manure settle to the bottom and use the “tea” at the top of the bucket to water your plants. The remainder at the bottom of the bucket goes onto your compost pile.

Photo by Lillianne Barrett

Cinda Trigueros, Master Gardener, Class of 2015

It’s that time again!! Are you anxious to get out and get those little hands dirty? It’s not too early; start indoors!! Kids who plant their own food are much more likely to make healthier choices.
Here are some great inexpensive ways to start your garden indoors well before the weather changes, along with a few garden marker ideas that will hold you over until outdoor planting starts.

Here are some easy, free ways to start your seeds indoors:
  • Toilet paper rolls, just tuck the sides of one end, fill three-quarters full with soil and plant one seed per roll. The rolls can even be cut in half. Plant them right out in the garden when ready.
  • Pastry containers from the store make great little greenhouses.
  • Berry containers are great and already have drainage holes in them.
  • You can use eggshells.  Did you know you can save your eggshells after Sunday breakfast for planting? Simply wash them out, poke a tiny hole in the bottom, fill with soil and plant a seed. Transplant them outside in the garden.
  • Use your empty egg cartons. Just tear them apart when ready to plant.
  • HGTV has a great article with step-by-step directions to make rolled newspaper seed starter pots at
Here are some great ideas for garden markers you can make while waiting for those seeds to sprout. What a great way to celebrate Earth Day April 22nd!
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Decorated paint sticks
  • Painted rocks, and so many more!
For full instructions, check out this link:

Photos:  Courtesy of the internet

Fun Fact: Gardening is Good for You  

Ang Lipsky, Master Gardener, Class of 2015

We all know that vegetables are good for you, and that physical activity can help keep you healthy.  But did you know that the health benefits of gardening have been scientifically proven, and are more extensive than you may think?  A large examination of twenty-two independent studies from around the world found that gardening provides numerous benefits to physical, psychological and social health. These benefits include:

  • Reduction in depression and anxiety
  • Increased cognitive function
  • Reduction in obesity
  • Greater sense of community
  • Higher quality of life

Many different aspects of gardening combine to provide these benefits.  For example, a stronger connection to nature has been shown to improve mood. Gardening requires physical activity, which is good for mental and physical health.  Social ties are strengthened through involvement in community gardens, clubs, and interacting with like-minded neighbors, and of course, eating home-grown vegetables contributes to a healthier diet.


Your Garden News Team:

Alyson Cooper-Williams, Ang Lipsky, Anita Jinks, Athena Andersen, Barbara Nordstrom, Carol MacLeod, Cheryl Aichele, Christine Anderson, Cinda Trigueros, Diana Chernofsky, Denise Jones, Erika Johnson, Heather Fisher, Jani Graham, Jennifer Piatti, Jessica Slatten, Jessica Weir, John Moore, Kathy LaShier, Laura Heldreth, Lillianne Barrett, Maureen Humbert, Meg McDonald, Melissa Leady, Pat Stephens, Peg Carver, Steven Redman, Susan Simpson, Susan Zoller, Tere Allen, and many other volunteer contributors.

We invite your feedback to continue to provide a quality and meaningful newsletter for you and all our friends. Email us at

Thank you!  Maureen Humbert - Editor

Photo Credit - Laura Heldreth, Master Gardener, Class of 2012
WSU Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office.
As a nonprofit organization, the Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County is dedicated to fundraising efforts to help perpetuate the WSU Clark County Extension Master Gardener Program and to promote research-based horticulture practices at the 78th Street Heritage Farm through education, consultative programs and experiences; and to award grants in Clark County for horticulture education projects and programs that preserve or enhance our environment. 
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Vancouver, WA 98665

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WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener Program · 1919 NE 78th Street · Vancouver, WA 98665 · USA

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