Tag Archives: soil

Integrated Pest Management Resources for Home Gardeners

Jane Billinghurst, WSU Skagit County Extension Master Gardener volunteer

Posted April 29, 2020
[To receive an email when the Fidalgo Grows! blog has a new post, enter your email in the blog subscription area to the right.]

In a recent post, I outlined the amazing free bulletins WSU Extension provides for people wanting to grow vegetables at home. Here are the two main links where these resources, tailored specifically for growing conditions in western Washington, can be found:



After you have planned and planted your garden, the next item on your list is to protect your hard work and keep your vegetables healthy.

The bulletins help here. There is info, for example, on dealing with voles and using row covers to keep insects away from your veggies.

But there’s another way to access info about dealing with pests and diseases that are common in western Washington. If you suspect a particular bug or disease, you can go to Hortsense and check out what the damage caused by those bugs and diseases looks like. The site then describes the biology of the pest or disease, lists non-chemical management options available to you, and provides general links to pesticide information.

WSU Extension also has a bulletin that explains how Integrated Pest Management works—that is, choosing the least invasive way of dealing with pests and diseases and keeping your vegetables healthy. Where and how you plant and your choice of what to plant all make an enormous difference to how healthy your vegetable garden will be. If you understand IPM (both in the planning stages and after you’ve planted your vegetables), you can set yourself up for success and have fewer pests and diseases to deal with in the long run.

WSU Skagit County Extension Master Gardener plant clinics are here to help if you’d like more info about how best to deal with a plant problem. The Master Gardeners (MGs) are not offering in-person plant clinics at the moment, but they’re taking inquiries via email (skagitmgplantclinic@gmail.com). You can also leave a phone message at 360-395-2368. Please provide the location and a detailed description of the problem, plant, or insect. Send digital photos if possible. Also, provide a phone number in case the MGs have more questions. You can find more information here.

It All Starts with the Soil

TWIG (“This Week In the Garden”) posts will appear weekly, on Mondays, to help you know what to focus on for a successful growing season.

This Week in the Garden (TWIG #1)

April 20, 2020

It all starts with the soil

Peter Heffelfinger

If you are new to gardening this year it is important to remember that everything begins with your soil. While Fidalgo Island is blessed with a moderate climate for year-round vegetable production, there are challenges in finding a good garden site. 

The first few gardens I had here lacked any real layer of topsoil, the healthy, friable layer of dark dirt that is the basic need for growing a crop. Due to the Ice Age glaciers and various former river beds, we have layers of gravel and clay or concrete-like hard pan that can lie right under a layer of regular soil. In the worst scenario, one needs to build an enclosed raised bed filled with new topsoil. It is vital, though, that the hard sub-soil be loosened up first with a spading fork to provide good drainage. Soggy soil means poor growth, more pests, and eventually dried-out unbreakable clods. Note: do not invert the gritty subsoil to the top layer; keep it at the bottom, underneath the topsoil.

I rake up the available dirt into raised beds 6-8 inches high to warm up the soil in spring and to drain better in the winter. It is important to regularly add composted organic matter to keep the soil loose for aeration and good tilth. Note: compost alone does not supply large amounts of balanced nutrition to your plants. Amendments are needed, whether from well-rotted manure or organic commercial mixes. I use a combination of both. In addition, given that our native soil is acidic, a dusting of slow-acting dolomite lime (not fast-acting industrial lime that may burn your plants) is also required (except where you plant potatoes, which prefer acid beds).

Given that we are well into spring, I would concentrate on planting early, cool-weather crops, such as lettuces, radishes, and greens such as spinach and Bok Choy, which will readily go to seed in summer heat. Once the soil heats up in early to mid-May, it is time to plant beans, squash and other warm weather varieties. I hold off on corn until June 1st. For tomatoes, peppers and cukes I use a grow tunnel for added heat during our cool night mists that roll in off the Sound. We are in a maritime climate, even as our summers get warmer and drier.