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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Arctostaphylos, Native plant gardening, Mulching

Is is good to mulch Arctostaphylos uva-ursi? If so, would an aged bark be best or a mulch that contains manure? How deep should the mulch be?


Native Plants in the Coastal Garden (by April Pettinger, 2002, p. 27), says the following about mulching Pacific Northwest native plants:
"...When an established native plant garden requires maintenance, it is usually minimal: mulching is probably the most important---and often the only---maintenance required. In any garden, mulching is arguably the most beneficial care you can give your soil and your plants. There are many advantages to using mulch. It suppresses weeds, conserves moisture by minimizing evaporation, and releases nutrients to the soil...Good mulch materials are compost, decaying leaves, well-rotted manures, sea kelp, mushroom compost, seedless hay or straw, shredded prunings, natural wood chips, grass clippings and evergreen needles and cones. Commercially available screened bark---usually referred to as bark mulch---has little to offer other than its ability to conserve water; it has no nutritional value and in fact depletes the nitrogen in the soil. When spreading mulch, don't pile it too close to stems of plants. If you are using compost as mulch, spread it about 2 to 4 inches deep. Other materials may be applied to a depth of 3 to 7 inches..."

Date 2018-11-07
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Insect pests--Control, Arctostaphylos, Aphids

My Arctostaphylos uva-ursi has suffered from galls caused by aphids. What approach would be best to combat the aphids and when is the best time in their life cycle to attack?


Kinnikinnick or Arctostaphylos uva-ursi sometimes suffers from galls caused by aphids, and is also susceptible to fungal diseases. If your plant has galls, you would see distorted, thickened, and often reddish leaves which almost don't seem leaf-like. The aphids may also secrete honeydew which can then turn blackish with mold.

Douglas Justice, University of British Columbia Botanical Garden Associate Director offers these comments on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi:

The Arctostaphylos uva-ursi cultivar 'Vancouver Jade' -- a UBC introduction and one of the most widely grown cultivars in temperate climates -- is adapted to wetter conditions than many other cultivars, as it was selected from the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, like all kinnikinnicks, it is not a plant for poorly drained, shaded or high traffic areas. And unfortunately, it appears to be rather more susceptible to manzanita pod gall aphid than other cultivars. Populations of that insect pest can build up during "warm winter" periods (such as we've been experiencing in Vancouver over the past several years) and disfigure plants significantly.
Source: UBC Botanical Garden Forums

Oregon State University has information about leaf gall on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi in their Plant Disease management handbook online.

The following, from Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook (WSU, OSU and U. of Idaho, 2005) provides more information about the aphids.

Kinnikinnick Arctostaphylos - Aphids

Manzanita leafgall aphid, Tamalia coweni:

Pest description and crop damage - Manzanita leafgall aphids are grayish or greenish in color and prefer new growth. They feed on the leaves of kinnikinnick and other manzanita species (Arctostaphylos spp.). Aphid feeding causes the leaves to thicken and form bright red galls. Older galls turn brown. Severe infestations may slow the growth of the plant.

Nongall-forming aphids also may be seen occasionally on kinnikinnick. They are greenish, soft-bodied insects that may feed on leaves or stems. Honeydew, a sweet, sticky material, may be associated with aphid feeding. It may attract ants or become covered with a growth of dark, sooty mold. Severe infestations may result in leaf and twig dieback.

Management-biological control: Syrphid fly larvae are important predators of leafgall aphids, and will feed on them inside the galls. Avoid use of broad-spectrum insecticides which kill these and other beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles and parasitic wasps.

Management-cultural control: Prune off and destroy galls where seen. Avoid frequent shearing and overfertilization, which encourages succulent new growth favored by aphids. Wash other aphid pests from plants with a strong stream of water or by hand-wiping. Avoid excessive watering, and use slow-release or organic sources of nitrogen. Control ants, which "farm" aphids and protect them from predators in order to harvest their honeydew.

Date 2018-08-23
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Lolium, Ajuga, Vinca, Hedera helix, Festuca, Arctostaphylos, Achillea, Land treatment of wastewater, Ornamental grasses, Lawns and turfgrasses, Landscaping drain fields

We have a new house that we have to landscape around. The biggest problem is that we have to be careful what we plan due to the septic system. It is an evaporation system, with two huge cement tanks buried under the ground in the front of the house and plastic pipes running through the side yard. We are planting grass in a rectangle right above the biggest bunch of the plastic pipes, but what can go around it or by the cement tanks that will not grow long roots and dig into it? In looking at the planting information on the packages and in my Western Garden Book, nothing seems to mention root depth.


Below is an article entitled What to Plant Over the Septic System by Mary Robson (originally published in her Regional Garden Column for Washington State University Extension, December 6, 1998):

"As more and more people move into rural areas, questions about septic systems and landscaping have become quite common. This column deals with some of the basics. A new brochure from Washington Sea Grant called: Landscaping your Septic System, offers considerable detail on the subject and provided much of this material.

"First, be sure that the septic field is clearly identified, and you know where the reserve area is. Keep all construction away from these areas. Understanding the functioning of the system is vital. Get information. (Some of it is available in video form.) The drainfield will not work well if overloaded with extra surface water, so be certain that it is not in the path of downspout run off or irrigation systems.

"Sunlight and air circulation also help the drainfield perform properly. Avoid surrounding it with tall trees. (Some shade is fine, but you would not plant an oak on the edge of a drainfield.) Set up some barriers so that it is not compacted by frequent foot traffic. Occasional mowing or moving through the field to check the system is certainly fine, but you do not want the drainfield in the middle of a heavily used path.

"There are advantages to using plants over the drainfield. Plants do help provide oxygen exchange and contribute to evaporation necessary in the drainfield area. Choose plants with shallow, non-invasive roots. You do not want breakage or damage in pipes from root intrusions.

"Grasses are most commonly recommended for the septic area. Lawn can be attractive. Do not overload the system by watering it a lot. Meadow grasses or a mixture of turf grasses like perennial rye and some broadleaf flowers (such as yarrow) can also look good and require little maintenance. Several mixes sold as Eco-Turf or Fleur de Lawn have these components.
"Small, shallow-rooted ornamental grasses (for instance, Festuca ovina 'Glauca' 4-10 inches) can also be good looking. Very tall grasses like Stipa gigantea are not appropriate. Avoid over-active plants like English ivy (Hedera helix), which is becoming a menace in forested areas by moving in and stifling trees.

"Edible crops are not suggested. Vegetable gardening requires frequent cultivation, and digging in the drainfield area is inadvisable. Also, the brochure notes that: Sewage effluent is distributed through the soil in the drainfield area. Any root vegetables planted in this area may be directly exposed to septic tank effluent.

"Other possibilities are low-growing ground covers. Some, such as bugle weed (Ajuga reptans) and vinca (Vinca minor) grow vigorously and would fill in quickly. The native kinnickinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) grows well in full sun but is slow to establish. A mulch around the plants may help with weed control while the plants spread.

"The green growing layer over the septic tank helps the system to function, adds to the appearance of the landscape, and should, ideally, be set up to allow easy monitoring and maintenance. Keep landscaping simple and straightforward, remembering that the object is the good performance of the system."

To get more information on septic systems, contact your local health department. The brochure Landscaping Your Septic System (pdf) is available through the Sea Grant Program.

Here are links to publications that might also be helpful:
Mounds: A Septic System Alternative
Understanding and Caring for Your Sand Filter System
Care and Feeding of Septic Tanks

Date 2018-08-15
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pittosporum, Wind-tolerant plants, Morella californica, Arbutus unedo, Osmanthus, Pyracantha, Chamaecyparis, Arctostaphylos, Pinus, Cotoneaster, Ceanothus

I am looking for evergreen hedges that will tolerate a windy site. Do you have any suggestions?


Sunset Western Garden Book (2007 edition) has a list of wind-resistant plants. From that list, there were a few plants which meet some of your site's needs (evergreen, fast-growing, about 7-10 feet tall). They are:

  • Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree)
  • Arctostaphylos (Manzanita)
  • Ceanothus
  • Chamaecyparis
  • Cotoneaster
  • Escallonia
  • Morella californica
  • Pinus species (you would need a dwarf pine for your size limits)
  • Pittosporum (many of these grow taller than 10 feet over time, but P. tobira might work)
  • Pyracantha

I don't know if it is tolerant of winter winds, but Osmanthus delavayi makes a nice, dense evergreen hedge with flowers, and reaches about 8 feet. It grows fairly quickly also.

Two good resources for finding more information on the plants above are Oregon State University's Landscape Plants and Great Plant Picks.

Also, I found an article (no longer available) on wind tolerance from Colorado State University Extension which may be of interest. Here is an excerpt about the physical characteristics of wind tolerant plants:

"When considering which trees and shrubs do well in windy conditions, examine the shape and thickness of the leaves, stems and branches. Wind-resistant trees usually have flexible, wide spreading, strong branches and low centers of gravity. Wind tolerant shrubs often have small, thick or waxy leaves or very narrow leaves (or needles), to help control moisture loss. Plant species that have large, flat leaves "catch" wind. These plants have a tendency for branch breakage when strong gusts blow, or if laden with heavy, wet snow. Evergreen (conifer) trees are an excellent choice, having needles and being flexible in high winds."

Date 2019-06-12
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