Aquatic Noxious Weeds

We have been barely poking our heads out into the podcast realm this summer. Our gardens are taking too much time. Sorry for that. But here is an interesting tale for your listening pleasure.

Summer is hot in the Northwest. The bugs are buzzing and the weeds are popping. Even aquatic weeds are blooming. Greg Rabourn takes about battling noxious weeds in the waters of the area with Ben Peterson Aquatic Weed specialist with King County Noxious Weed Program.

Here is the WSFW brochure on aquatic links.

Noxious Weed Hotline 206-477-9333

Lake Weed Watcher Online Training Program


Planting Trees From Pots

Marty Wingate and Steve Scher take a look at the big trees in the pots at Sky Nursery in Shoreline, WA. Cut the roots, make a big hole and keep the the tree watered for a few summers to make sure it thrives.
2015-04-04 14.30.47

Marty's Favorite Pelargonium

Plans For Pots? Go Big!

Tips for planting annnuals, tips for great plants to pick on this episode of A Dry Rain.

Marty Wingate and Steve Scher are back at Sky Nursery in Shoreline, Washington to take a look at annuals you can, Marty might say you must, add to your pots for color and texture. Her advice, GO BIG!

Marty shares her favorite Pelargonium varieties. We call them Geraniums here. Her true favorite, Crystal Palace Gem.
She also recommends the smaller flower pansies because they can hold their heads up.

Great for bees, Sweet Allysum

And if you, like Steve, want a hardy fuchsia, look for the Fuchsia Magellanica, blooms for May through September.

Blue Skies performed by our friend Daryl Redeker.


The One Hundred Plants You Don’t Want Anywhere Near Your Garden! (Though they are probably already there)

Greg Rabourn talks to education specialist Sasha Shaw of the King County Noxious Weed Program.

There’s a new list of state noxious weeds for 2015. It’s just like the Emmy Awards, but even more noxious. The government sees the list as an organizing tool to try and figure which sweet little plant might just hide a thuggish, dangerous disposition.

And just like other awards, there are different categories, with different levels of obnoxiousness.
Class A weeds are serious but there aren’t many yet, so they might still be controlled.
Class B, think Butterfly Bush, is still limited to just portions of the state.
Class C are the ones that are commonplace. Blackberry is Class C. So is Field Bindweed. But you knew that, seeing as how you can take your eyes off a patch for a day and come back to find it buried in bindweed. Its little white flowers can’t hide bindweed’s nasty streak.

There is a new thug on the list this year. Italian Arum, or Italian Lords and Ladies. Gardeners know it. Shaw says there is so much already around, it can’t be stopped.

The same goes for a new grassy Class A noxious weed, a showpiece ornamental called Ravenna Grass. You can buy Ravenna Grass at nurseries around the state. Too bad, because it turns out all the purplish bronze heads waving in the wind have spread seeds to fields around the state. It’s just one more invasive weed turning unique native habitats into some a new kind of environment. Native habitats are disappearing under the onslaught on noxious plants and animals.

Noxious weeds ruin forests, fields and streams. They hurt the economy, harming agriculture and raising costs for governments and homeowners. Maybe the worst damage they do is to our native environments. Noxious weeds end up winning a lot of the battles, shutting out native plants, denying wildlife habitats, turning our fairly friendly NW forests and fields into nasty thickets. Blackberries come to mind. We love the fruits, but who loves the thorns. Some scientists consider the spread of invasive weeds the biggest threat to native habitats around the world.

The weeds can devastate ecosystem benefits that whole populations depend on, destroying access to freshwater in some places, destroying habitat for insects that pollinate crucial food crops in others.

Some noxious weeds make it into new areas thru garden sales. Others are spread by wind, water or wildlife into industrial sites, fallow fields and disturbed areas. Seeds take a ride on pant legs, car tires, even those sweet bouquets your kid picked for you on a field trip. Some homeowners may unknowingly be breaking the law by allowing noxious weeds to grow and spread on their property.

Some plants are quarantined by Washington state’s agriculture departments Shaw told Greg. They can’t be sold at nurseries at all. The federal government also has a quarantine program.
You’ve encountered state agents at the borders asking you if you have purchased fruits or sometimes even nursery plants in an adjoining state. These quarantines are set up to try to keep the invasive out.

Some plants on the list still escape, like Scotch Broom and Japanese Knotweed, both of which are spreading across vast areas.

There is no national agreement on the sales, and sometimes even the importation, of many plants. That may be why it’s often only after a plant has proven itself a nuisance that it makes in on to some noxious weed lists. By then, it is usually too late.

Once a plant has escaped and has become established in the environment, the Department of Agriculture has determined that quarantine would be ineffective, Shaw says, and education is the better approach.

The noxious weed list is their tool to spread the word. So is the King County Weeds of Concern list. Shaw says the list is prepared in order to educate folks to plants that aren’t designated noxious but still have a deleterious impact on native environments.
One of the new plants on the list is Bishop’s Weed. It is an ornamental plant that brightens up dark gardens. It also spreads by roots and fragments. It is a weed of concern, spreading across parks in King County.

The very thorny Black Locust tree is on the weed of concern list this year. So is Bird Cherry, the root-stock of many cherries. Both are invading forests. You can guess how bird cherry is spread.

Efforts to curb some plants can run counter to economic interests. Ilex Aquifolium, English Holly isn’t on the state noxious weed list, though it is being monitored.
It is a weed of concern for King County.

According to a paper published in the late eighties, it isn’t known when Holly first showed up in the Northwest, though a shipment from Europe is documented as being received in 1869. Commercial production began in the 1890’s. 40 trees were planted on a farm in Puyallup in 1891, with harvesting commencing in 1898. In 1986, Holly brought in over two million dollars to the region’s economy. Back then the NW supplied over 85% of the world’s crop.

In 2010 King County tried to get the English Holly listed as a noxious weed. The NW Holly Growers Association successfully pushed back, arguing that there is no definitive evidence that Holly is invasive. The trade association argued that listing the plant would be devastating to their industry.

On Vashon Island, which Sarah Shaw says could be called Holly Island, many stands of Holly thrive in Vashon’s now not-so-native forests. Holly shows up in native forests in California as well, where the plant is also being monitored.

Shaw says people should particularly be on the lookout for Poison Hemlock.
Watch out! It is a deadly poison and it is showing up in P-Patches, where it looks a lot like carrots. Shaw has even seen Poison Hemlock growing in carrot patches.
How to tell the difference? The Hemlock has white roots. The stems have reddish or purple blotches and the leaves look a little different than carrots.

poison hemlock


You can take a class to learn more about identifying and controlling noxious weeds. The next King County class is May 6th in Kent, Washington.

There is a lot of information available online about noxious weeds and their impacts.

Check the links in the article as well as the extension agencies in your county for information and classes.

Michael Pollan, Gardener

Steve scher talks with Michael Pollan about his garden.

Michael Pollan is the author of a number of influential books about food, culture and healthy eating. Through all his years of writing about our need to understand the foods we eat and our need to put the nation on a healthier diet, he has maintained his garden.

For the Podcast,“At Length,” Steve Scher talked with Michael Pollan about a recent article he co-authored advocating a national food policy. That was policy. They spent a little time just talking about his garden as well.

Michael Pollan is in Seattle April 8th to give a talk entitled, “Our National Eating Disorder.” It is part of a series of talks at the University of Washington on Weight and Wellness.

Fine color and structure for winter

Your Questions and More Community Garden Strategies

Some listeners sent in great questions, about plants that needed identification and about varieties to grow. We share our answers with all of you and Willi Galloway continues to share her ideas for how to plant a community garden plot for maximum fun and benefit.

Please send us more questions, to Facebook, to Twitter to our email

The question of community gardens is rich in research.
The benefits of gardening are being well documented. The value of bringing communities together at gardens sites are too.
Here is what the CDC has to say.

An early history and assessment from the University of Wisconsin.

A great overview.

Ron Finley, an inspirational advocate.

Greg Rabourn

Spring Flowers and Rain Garden Rebates

Willi Galloway, Greg Rabourn, Steve Scher and Mary Wingate started wandering around the spring flowers popping open. That somehow wound its way to rain gardens and much more.

Seattle Public Utility Rain Garden Program
Portland Rain Garden Promgram
Snohomish County Rain Gardens

Below find the recent press release from SPU including upcoming workshops.

14,000 Seattle homes just became eligible for big rebates
Rainwise Program rebates average $4,500 for approved rain gardens or cisterns

SEATTLE—Fourteen thousand homes in north Seattle just became eligible for big rebates—average rebate $4,500—under the popular RainWise Program. A joint effort by Seattle and King County to fight water pollution, the RainWise Program offers rebates to cover up to 100 percent of the cost of a professionally-installed rain garden or cistern on private property.

In all, 55,000 homes and businesses in the City of Seattle are now eligible for the program.
Expanding RainWise into Seattle’s University and Greenlake neighborhoods could help keep up to 18.2 million gallons of stormwater out of Lake Washington and the Ship Canal during heavy rains.

Besides being beautiful, rain gardens help reduce one of the largest sources of water pollution by naturally cleaning and controlling stormwater. Cisterns can store runoff from rooftops that can later be used to water outdoor plants and gardens.

More than 600 customers have already received RainWise rebates, collectively reducing stormwater runoff by 9 million gallons annually.

“Working together, one home at a time, the RainWise approach adds big value to the larger effort to protect our waters,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “It’s a win for all, because we can all be part of the solution.”

It’s exciting to see the RainWise program expand, because smart stormwater management is crucial for achieving regional water quality goals, such as protecting Puget Sound,” said King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks Director Christie True. “Green infrastructure also enhances neighborhoods and supports resilient, healthy communities.

The city and the county will also host a series of free RainWise events March and April, offering people an opportunity to learn more about the program and meet contractors who are trained and ready to install these systems.

RainWise Events in Seattle

Tuesday, March 17 – 6 to 8 p.m.
The Hall at Fauntleroy Schoolhouse
9131 California Avenue S.W.

Saturday, March 21 — 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Hunter Farm Gathering Place
7744 35th Ave N.E.

Sunday, March 29 – 3 to 4:30 p.m.
King County Library Southwest Branch
9010 35th Ave. S.W.

Wednesday, April 1 – 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Ballard Public Library
5614 22nd Ave. N.W.

Saturday, April 11 – 11 2 p.m.
West Seattle Nursery
5275 California Ave. S.W.

Additional information, including a complete list of workshops and event registration, is available online.

Ann Burchart, a RainWise customer said, “I am happy to have a sign in my yard letting neighbors know about the rain garden on my property. I hope to inspire them to get their own. At the very least, I can help them learn more about the problem and how we all can pitch in to reduce pollution going into Lake Washington.”

The RainWise Program is part of a larger plan to reduce combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, which occur when stormwater causes sewer lines to overflow into local waterways during heavy rains.

Reducing CSOs is imperative to people and fish, since our waters are shared. CSOs are 90 percent stormwater but contain enough sewage to put public health at risk when they happen in areas where people swim and play.

King County and the City of Seattle are working with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Ecology to reduce combined sewer overflows using a combination of methods, including green infrastructure that enhances natural systems to filter and slow stormwater, and traditional “gray” facilities such as underground storage pipes and tanks.
Additional information about the RainWise Program is available at by calling the Garden Hotline at 206-633-0224.

Marijuana Agriculture on Vashon Island (Part 2)

Plant breeders have been cultivating and manipulating marijuana genes for years. With the industry now above ground, gardeners are getting a look into the agricultural operations around marijuana breeding.

Greg Rabourn concludes his tour of a marijuana breeding operation with Michael a marijuana seed breeder on Vashon Island. His company is Vashon Seed and Mercantile.
Shango Los was along for the tour from the Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneurs Alliance. VIMEA is an advocacy and trade organization for legal marijuana produced on Vashon Island in Washington State.

Our theme music is by Vashon Island guitarist Daryl Redeker. You can also find him on You Tube.

Beneficial Bugs For The Garden

What is your favorite bug? Is that question an oxymoron for you?
Marty Wingate talks to Jessica Walliser about her book,”Attracting Beneficial Bugs To Your Garden.”

Bugs are your friends in the garden. Really. Find the balance. They are wildlife too.
Bugs are your friends in the garden. Really. Find the balance. They are wildlife too.

Get beyond that common feeling of stomping on bugs. Jessica reminds us that the bugs are not the enemy. As organic gardeners, it is easy to see how insects are the workhorses, even sometimes the saviors, of the garden.
Jessica has gone from being a certified pesticide applicator to an organic gardener who focuses on the bugs that prey on pests in the garden. She has eliminated all pesticides, even the organic ones.

Walliser says that one major change does come in the garden. Pick plants that support something else in the garden, a pollinator or a parasitic wasp. She says plant with a purpose, think about habitat, eliminate all pesticides and you will attract beneficial bugs to your garden.