Archive for Dog and Cat Friendly Gardens

Natural Slug and Snail Control In Your Portland Landscape

California Brown Snail in Portland, OR

Slugs and snails do a lot of damage in Portland gardens.

Slugs and Snails in your Portland Landscape

My history with slugs in the garden

I was never thrilled with my options for dealing with slugs and snails.  In the 80’s we had the typical little gray French slugs and snails in our gardens and they were pesty enough.   I had often just hand picked them and kept the numbers down.  Then in the 90’s we started seeing California Brown Snail and they added significantly to the total damage.  It was too much for me to manage organically.  The beer bait didn’t work for my garden on a city sidewalk in NW Portland’s Nob Hill District.  Dogs would drink the beer which is NOT good for them and the traps looked tacky too. Using the snails for escargot doesn’t work as a pest management practice since the typical serving is six 1 ½” snails per person.  My family would  never go for Escargot anyway.  They are not adventurous diners.

 

Slug Bait Problems

NW Native banana slug does not damage living leaves

The banana slugs only eat leaves that are decaying or broken. They also pollinate native spring flowering plants on the forest floor. I did not like leading them to slaughter.

I started using the “pet safe” iron phosphate slug bait.  It was an easy method to cut down the population compared to beer baiting or hand picking them. The problem with slug bait is that it does not discriminate. It would lure innocent NW native banana slugs to their death along with the real culprits that did the damage to my plants.

Another problem with slug bait is it doesn’t protect your plants immediately.  Slug bait lures the slugs to the bait but does not kill them right away.  They have time to do a lot of damage before they sicken, stop feeding and then die.

Worms die from iron poisoning

The major issue is the iron phosphate remains in the slug’s body and breaks down and ends up in the soil.  This iron residue left behind in the soil created a toxic environment for worms, the creatures who keep our soil healthy.

I didn’t notice it myself until I got raised beds in my community garden.  I noticed a steady decline in the population of worms in my beds.

Copper wire around vegetable bed deters slugs

Daizzie inspecting the copper wire which keeps slugs out of my veggies by producing an electric shock.

 

There is an inert ingredient in the pet safe slug bait that combines with an active ingredient to kill earthworms.  They die from iron poisoning.  The combination was also causing harm to wildlife and to small domestic animals so it was time for me to make a big change.

Slug Bait Alternative-Natural Slug Control

Ann Lovejoy is a trusted resource and treasure for Pacific NW Gardeners.  She is the one that made the connection between the iron phosphate “pet safe” slug bait and the harm it was doing.   Read more about how slug bait kills worms. 

She made several suggestions for what to use instead of slug bait.  My favorite is using liquid caffeinated coffee sprayed onto plants as a repellent.  I tested it this past fall to great success.  I was able to protect my kale crop from slugs.  I purposely sprayed coffee on only half the plants as a test.  The plants I did not spray were missing half their foliage.  The plants I sprayed had no holes or missing foliage.   I sprayed at least once a week during the fall rains.  Ann says a direct spray of coffee will kill the slugs but I could not tell if this was a success.   I sprayed the coffee directly on slugs but when I came back the next day the sprayed slugs were no where to be seen.  They may have crawled off and quietly expired but I was not sure. Maybe my coffee wasn’t strong enough. I will do more testing now that the soil has warmed up enough for new slugs and snails to hatch. I’ll post again and share what strength of coffee it takes for an obvious demise.

I can’t wait to share this with my landscape design clients.  Many clients have pets.  The fact that pet safe slug bait is toxic needs to be shared.

Another option to deal with slugs in raised beds is to line the edge of the bed with copper.  I used a copper ground wire but you can use sticky copper tape available at most garden centers and it will last maybe one garden season if you are lucky.  It is easy to buy and apply to your raised beds, pottery and containers.

Slug or Snail?

What’s the difference between slugs and snails?  Slugs and snails are pretty much the same animals according to Robin Rosetta, Associate Professor at OSU.  Over time slugs evolved out of a hard shell so they could move through cramped spaces and allow them to get down into the soil to find food and protection.  Apparently, there is still sort of a shell under their hump like mantle.  Snails still have a shell and so are restricted to above ground activities.  They use their shells to survive inclement weather and are protected from some enemies and predators.

Portland Landscape Design Remodel

Echo Chamber water feature in NE Portland designed by Landscape Design in a Day and D and J Landscape Contracting

Freshly installed echo chamber water feature will reduce traffic sound from nearby NE 33rd. Jasmine, a fragrant evergreen vine will enhance the screen for the hot tub room.

Lynda and Michael live in a sweet old Northeast Portland Grant Neighborhood House.  It’s a classic with a big front porch and several mature large trees including an amazing 40′ tall Japanese Maple.   They raised their kids and more than one wonderful dog in this house. Their landscape adventure began with the loss of their old plum tree – okay kind of sad but it was so big it ate the backyard space.  It also blocked most of the morning light.  Their dining area was crammed up against the hot tub.   Once the plum was gone they realized a golden opportunity had landed in their laps. They wanted a good designer to look at the possibilities and create a landscape design that would utilize every square inch of their small backyard.

They didn’t want a “perfect” garden.  Lynda and Michael have some gardening chops so the plants didn’t need to be extreme low maintenance but it did need to be simple. The existing landscape was overgrown after 20 plus years.  They were happy to let a lot of the plantings go so they could have a new look. They selected NW Natural and low water landscapes from my list.  A touch of cottage style fit the old house nicely so that was included.

Their Wish List:

Before: Dining took place next to hot tub.

Before: Dining took place next to hot tub.

◊Privacy for dining

◊A separate room for the  hot tub, their current landscape had the dining table next to the hot tub.

◊Plenty of patio space for entertaining

◊ A bit of lawn for their sweet dog Mira.

◊Michael especially wanted a water feature for the sound. The traffic sounds from NE 33rd interrupted conversations and the ability to relax in the back yard.

Grant Park Portland Oregon Landscape Design in a Day

Sam of D & J Landscape Contractors installing the new plantings.

Water Features:  Over the years I’ve noticed people have  very different experiences with traffic noise and other urban background sounds.  My own family is a good example;  my husband can tune out background noise and carry on a conversation but I often can’t. Some people can have their TV or radio going on in the background and carry on with language based activities.   Some people have filters and some people don’t.

My favorite design element, a water feature solves this problem and adds an elegant visual focal point.  An echo chamber water feature triples the water noise but is safe for kids because there is no need for a pond,  not even a tiny one.   Standing water is dangerous for kids, birds and provides an environment for mosquitoes.  Birds can drown in ponds that they can’t get out of.  The echo chamber is a buried steel box, it is easy to clean and you can control the volume of water.   My sister turns her water volume up so the water leaps from the pot.   This is attractive but results in quite a bit of splash and the evaporation that results uses a lot of water.  Other clients keep the water volume  turned down so it slowly spills from the drilled rock or plumbed  pot.  It still makes that wonderful water sound because first the water noise is produced when water drops onto the rocks around the pot or rock.  Then the water goes through the surface rocks, through the steel grid and into the chamber.  As it hits the rocks that line the chamber the sound is amplified inside the box.  It is so simple.

Landscape Design in a Day

An 8′ wide and 16″ thick slab of rock was drilled for a dry return water feature.  Designed by Carol Lindsay, Landscape Design in a Day for a Raleigh Hills home.  It was safe for kids and gave a dramatic focal point to the entry landscape.

 

 

The echo chamber was designed by Lew Smith of Smith Rock on Johnson Creek Blvd.  It creates more sound out of the water available so it’s also environmental. For perfection itself another small plug-in water feature,  something you might pick up at Portland Nursery or Cornell Farms, as a second water sound creates the effect of a water based duet.  We typically locate the 2nd small water feature in another part of the landscape. The sound of water helps people attune to their immediate environment and filter out the background noise.  For the best sound I like to place the water feature near the side of the house or in this case we used the garage wall so it could be easily heard from the dining area and the hot tub room.  The wall  adds amplification, providing a place for the sound to spring from.

Plantings:  So much of the landscape was overgrown, after all it had served for over 20 years.  We kept the mature Japanese Snowbell Tree, a December blooming Chinese camellia which serves as Lynda’s view from her office.  The overwintering Anna hummingbirds  love this simple 7 petaled deep red camellia flower and they put on a show for 2 months.  We planted easy care Beesia Deltoides near the bird bath because it will appreciate the splashes of water and has glossy heart shaped leaves that will reflect the light.  Saxifraga ‘London Pride’,  Hosta Sum and Substance and a mass of Wood Fern will add year round color under the Snowbell Tree.  A sterile variety of Russian Olive, Eleagnus ‘Gilt Edge’ will be trained into a small evergreen tree, giving more  privacy to the hot tub room and fragrance in the fall.

We will show off this garden in a blog next year when the plantings have filled in.  The client, Michael Shay,  is a professional photographer and has promised photos for us.

Lawn Do Over for Portland Landscapes

Landscape Design in a Day's newly installed RTF grass.

Landscape Design in a Day’s newly installed RTF grass with dry stream bed.

This is the year for rethinking the lawn. As a Portland landscape designer many of my new clients want to make big changes in their landscapes.  I am recommending clients replace their old lawns with new and improved grass varieties.

My Lake Oswego clients, George and Marcia, contacted me completely discouraged about their front yard. I met them in the fall after our particularly hot and horrid summer of 2015. They had spent their entire summer watering and watering their lawn.  It wasn’t dead on the October day that I came to their home but as you can see it was quite unattractive.

Uplands Neighborhood of Lake Oswego

Damaged Lake Oswego lawn

They decided it was time to hire a designer and start over with their landscape. It is a typical Lake Oswego landscape with heavy clay soil, fir trees nearby with thirsty roots, and drainage problems.

Before we even started the landscape design process, I was able to share information about a new lawn grass that uses less water and is more durable than the grass (perennial rye grass blends) we have been using for the last 30 years.  Working closely with Kevin Schindler of Autumn Leaf Landscaping Inc. we replaced their old lawn with Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) grass and designed a naturalistic dry stream bed that also solves the drainage problems.  Solving the drainage problems also enhances the health of the grass.  Even RTF grass doesn’t do well in a boggy winter soil.  George and Marcia are very pleased with the appearance and performance of the new grass.  They love their new dry stream bed and how it has pulled together the entire front yard, giving it a dramatic focal point.

They are no longer slaves to watering.

Installation day at George and Marcia’s Lake Oswego home.

This year several of my clients have taken out their old grass and installed RTF.   From a distance it looks like any lawn, in fact it looks more uniform because it grows so thickly that it tends to crowd out weed grasses much better than our perennial rye grass does.  My Lake Oswego clients especially appreciate the fact that RTF tolerates more sun and heat and if they did decide to let it go dormant, it will come back beautifully.  RTF can even handle a south facing lawn with reflected heat from a sidewalk.  This is the most difficult place to successfully grow grass so Portland landscape professionals are embracing this new product.

It is available as a roll out turf product (sod) and as seed.  Kuenzi Turf & Nursery

After Landscape Design in a Day Front yard

Rose City Park Neighborhood

No grass lawn

West Portland Park  Neighborhood

Other clients want no lawn designs, thinking it will be lower maintenance.  No lawn will mean lower water usage but replacing a lawn with paths and plants does not promise low maintenance. Even the fairly new minimalist style using 90% round river rock and 10% plants isn’t as low maintenance as you think. Someone has to blow dust and debris out of the river rock frequently to prevent weeds from building up.  Many clients simply don’t want to mow any lawn and are fine with the first two years of extensive weeding that is needed to get a no lawn front yard established.  For a lot of people, however, weeding is the least favorite gardening chore.

Synthetic Lawn Installed in front yard

Newly installed synthetic lawn in Parkrose Heights neighborhood

Other clients are installing synthetic lawn.  Before you sneer at the idea of fake grass (which I did when I first heard about it), check out these photos of my Southeast Portland clients Bob and Norma Bleid.  They gave themselves a retirement gift, front and back synthetic lawn.  No water, no chemicals, no fertilizer; it is the ultimate low maintenance landscape lawn.

Early fall is a particularly good time to install a new lawn or landscape.  With a good irrigation system landscapes can be installed any time of the year.  As a Portland landscape designer I am not fond of July or August installations, I know my clients will be “nervous nellys”  seeing their plants’ leaves droop, scorch and burn in the summer sun.  The fall rains typically do a beautiful job of providing the moisture needed to get plants (including grass) well established.  This eliminates the stress and worry of summer planting.

 

 

 

Big Ideas, Small Backyard

Mr. Kim likes his grass and didn't want to see it disappear from the landscape.

Mr. Kim likes his grass and didn’t want to see it disappear from the landscape.

I met this happy couple at the Yard Garden & Patio show.  They had the best little puzzle for me to work on.  They had a small landscape and a small back porch.  They needed it to expand somehow to add a hot tub, a dining entertaining area and keep their cozy covered family coffee hang out a great place….hmm.  They had areas of grass that didn’t do well due to lack of sun.  Betsy liked to garden and had a successful edibles garden but it took up a lot of room.  Their dog, Mr. Kim the pug, was happy and liked grass because he loves to poop, well he does, it’s his big thing in life…… so while we could take away some grass to meet our goals, we had to leave enough to keep him happy.  We needed privacy plantings for using the hot tub that looked and felt friendly to the neighbors.  It needed to be tall to block the neighbors’ second story bedroom view but the planting space was too narrow for a hedge.

Lastly, a fine ironwork of art made by Betsy’s brother needed a place of prominence in the landscape.

The perfect place for the special art work. The iron art work looks great on the wall.

They called me after the show and I remembered them instantly.  I was so pleased to work with them.  I didn’t actually know of course, how I would help them, it was very small and there were a lot of “built ins” we couldn’t move such as a long rock wall and large trees whose roots were underneath the entire back yard so there would not be much changing of grade.  It was going to be tricky!

Like most Landscape Design in a Days, I could not do this without my clients.  Together we tried various layouts and narrowed it down to THE ONE that would work.  Usually I have two layouts that clients like that would work.  This one was so tough that I could only come up with one that I liked and which happily they loved.

An easy way to get some privacy.

An easy way to get some privacy.

Their carpenter was very helpful and did a great job of following our plans.  Their price tag was under 20 grand, not including the hot tub.  They ended up with two dining areas, one up in the lawn area.  We put it where the grass always died.  They love this new room.  They felt cut off from their yard and garden before the design.   Now it feels very open and gave us a great space for ornamental plantings.  The path that leads to the shed got a well placed zag in it.  The shape of the path adds interest and gave us the perfect place for a large pot.

 

Now the family has 2 places to sit and eat or enjoy a cup of coffee.

Now the family has 2 places to sit and eat or enjoy a cup of coffee.

What they got was an integrated landscape with lots of useful areas and great flow.  Their tiny yard feels spacious now.

Dog friendly shade trees for small yards

digging dog small

On the hunt for a cool spot to lay.

It’s hot and dogs are smart.  They want shade and we can provide it or be warned, they may figure out something on their own.  A lot of dogs left to their own devices in a treeless yard will dig a hole under your nice big hydrangea or other shrub and lay in the cool earth in shade.  This may work out just fine for your pet but not your plant!

If you have a big yard you probably have at least one big tree so you have shade.  If you have a small landscape it gets trickier.

Small trees for full sun that provide shade:

Katsura Heronswood Globe

Katsura ‘Heronswood Globe’

 

 

Katsura H. Globe has medium sized heart shaped leaves and casts light shade. (Eventually 15′ – 20′.)  I’ve not seen it this big in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Lagerstromia natchez

Crape Myrtle ‘Natchez’

 

 

 

This Crape Mrytle has a thick leaf and can cast a heavy shade.  Beautiful flowers, bark and fall color make it a favorite.  (Eventually 20′ tall and wide.)  I’ve not seen it this big in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Strawberry tree

Arbutus Unedo ‘Compacta’

 

If you select Strawberry Tree Arbutus Unendo ‘Compacta’ be sure to purchase the compact variety.  It is my top choice for heavy cooling shade for a small yard.  I’ve seen this as a 15’x15′ vase shaped tree after ten years.  Please note, too much summer water will kill this durable evergreen.

 

blog Hydrangea phantom at Normas

Tree form Hydrangea Paniculata

 

 

This large shrub/small tree has large leaves and is great for dog shade.  This plant is in Norma B.’s landscape.  It was planted in 2013.  It can be a 15’x15′ tree but typically is kept 10’x10′ with pruning.