Author Archives: Nancy

Guarding the Grapes

September 23, 2018


The predictable announcement was, “Yum!” from anyone who tasted our Interlaken table grapes. One taster cocked her head and let her eyes drift upward, savoring the sweet with a little tart sensation.

We were thankful to have a few grapes this year! Last year was a bust due to powdery mildew. In 2017, the grape clusters shriveled and dropped. We knew we needed a plan for the 2018 season.

Our first step was to sign up for another class from the grape guru Michelle Moyer (WSU – Prosser).

Michelle explained: Powdery mildew (Erysiphe necator) comes in many forms. A vine is most susceptible when temperatures are 68F to 86F and humidity is moderate (40-75%), conditions that are quite common in Western Washington during the growing season.

Sat, Oct 6, 2-5, CIDER FEST!
Bring your tools for sharpening
Bring your appetite for tasting
Bring your wallet for homemade goodies

In cool climates, powdery mildew typically shows up one month after bud break – approx. May 30. Weather During Critical Epidemiological Periods and Subsequent Severity of Powdery Mildew on Grape Berries. Plant Disease 100:116-124.   Moyer, M.M., D.M. Gadoury, W.F. Wilcox, and R.C. Seem. 2016.


Proper pruning, including fruit-zone leaf removal and shoot thinning, to facilitate air circulation and sun light penetration is critical to aid in the control of powdery mildew. UV exposure and air circulation are both effective against this fungal problem.

Sadly, our most mature set of three vines rest along the sound wall where air circulation is compromised.

Michelle referred to a study by Matthew DeBacco (2011)  wherein compost tea and milk spray were used to combat powdery mildew.

Well! These materials were easy to find and certainly organic so we began our own experiment. The left vine we treated with neem oil, the middle was the control where we did nothing and the right vine received powdered milk spray (1/4 C non-fat dry milk, 1-T baking soda and a few drops of dishwashing soap to a gallon of water.)

We were not absolutely consistent in our applications but we tried to spray about every week to 10 days.

pow. milk

Our results (see photos) were convincing; the powdery milk spray was the most effective. All clusters dropped on the control and all but one on the vine sprayed with neem oil but we did have clusters ripen completely on the milk treated vine.

Next year we plan again to spray using an improved milk recipe per the studies we’ve read. We’ll use a backpack sprayer to make the process more efficient. We’ll also prune more effectively in February and remove fruit zone leaves a bit earlier than we did this year. We may try compost tea as a test spray against the milk spray. However, making the tea every other week is quite a process so we shall see.



P.S. On a recent visit to Carnation Farms, the garden supervisor mentioned that she has had luck treating basil with powdered milk spray.

More reading: Crisp P, Wicks TJ, Troup G, Scott ES (2006) Mode of action of milk and whey in the control of grapevine powdery mildew. Australasian Plant Pathology 35, 487–493.

Space To GROW

September 17, 2014

We have plenty of space to grow more plants in the orchard! We could spend a lot of money purchasing all the berry bushes and companion plants we need to fill the tree guilds and planting beds. Instead, we are propagating our own plants, mostly from cuttings and division. New plants, new skills.

I took my first propagation lesson at Seattle Tilth. The winter savory we cut and planted in that class 140530 propagation WP_20140530_004is now growing in the Liberty tree guild. A ‘cutting’ is a piece of new growth taken from the plant and cared for while it races to develop roots to stand on its own.

Propagation from a cutting is not as simple as just snipping a woody stem and sticking it in the soil. Some plants, like willow, are almost that easy but most require careful attention to several factors. The new growth must be cut at the right time, properly prepared, placed in the right medium, and kept moist, but not wet. So far, I’ve been successful with winter savory, grapes, currents, honeyberries, lavender, and elderberry. I have failed with figs and blueberries, but I’m not giving up. I’ve learned a few things and I’ll try again.

Propagation by plant division is much easier. Often it is as simple as digging up a plant, dividing the 140917 straw propagation 910root mass, and replanting as two or more plants. For example, at a spring work party volunteers divided the daffodil bulbs growing around the pear tree and moved half of them to the Early Fuji tree guild.

Strawberries divide themselves by sending out runners. I’ve been placing the young runners in little pots where they can take root and mature. I then move them to a new guild.

Propagation from either cuttings or plant division gives you an exact copy of the parent plant. As such, it is important that you like what that parent produced. Before I take cuttings of a fruit-bearing plant, I taste the fruit! Likewise, if I want to propagate a pollinator plant I make sure I’m cutting from a plant that bees like.

Sun, Sept 21, 2-4pm, Work Party
We can use weeders
Sat, Oct 18 2-5pm, Cider Fest!
We can use volunteers
Sun, Oct 19, 2-4pm, Work Party
We can use compost

As I’ve worked at starting new plants, I’ve amassed a few resources. I usually start by doing a web search on the name of the plant I want to grow and then add ‘propagation’. I find the state and county extension service sites most trustworthy. A good one from North Carolina is  The Secrets of Plant Propagation, by Lewis Hill, is an excellent manual to which I refer frequently, but I am not always patient enough to follow his highly regimented methods.

We still need volunteers to help on the Plant Selection Committee. Please consider serving.

Nancy H.

Enlisting Nature to Stem Climate Change

March 16, 2013

On February 27 I attended a panel discussion on, Enlisting Nature to Stem Climate Change: Capturing carbon in our NW cities, farms and forests, co-sponsored by the Sustainable Path Foundation and Climate Solutions. Speakers discussed ways in which forest, urban, and agricultural landscapes can be managed to increase their ability to capture and store carbon dioxide in the form of organic carbon. They also elaborated on other ways that we might mitigate climate change by our use, management and interaction with these landscapes.

Nancy Rottle, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington, talked about the urban landscape. She used the term green infrastructure to encompass plant-based urban landscapes and all of the functions they perform. The multiple functions of green infrastructure can be categorized as: social, circulatory, biologic, hydrologic, and metabolic.

The social function provides community and open space. The circulatory function helps to provide opportunities for active transport: walking, running and bicycling. The biologic function addresses the ways that green spaces can provide habitat that increases the biological diversity of urban areas. The hydrologic function refers to the ways that green landscapes can be part of the use, treatment, storage, and transport of water. In the metabolic function green infrastructure becomes part of our energy and food systems.

Professor Rottle elaborated on these functions with several important points. Green infrastructure can side-step climate-related controversy because we like it and want it. Green infrastructure helps promote resiliency and redundancy in the urban environment. Good social space helps make urban density palatable so it’s easier and nicer for people to live with a smaller environmental footprint. Urban greening and habitat provide contact with the natural world which helps cultivate environmental values. Growing food is an important way for people to start building connections with their environment. The ways that green infrastructure treats, stores and uses water can save energy.

After listening to this discussion, especially Professor Rottle, I have some new ways to think and talk about the goals of Freeway Estates Community Orchard. We are creating green infrastructure that can provide services in all five of the functional areas discussed.