Tomatoes need even watering to minimize blossom end rot.

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We have had very nice weather lately.

Tomatoes will be ripening soon if they haven’t started already. I don’t think the hot days were hot enough to reduce fruit set and the nights have been just perfect for tomato pollination.

We are all watering now. Tomatoes need even watering to minimize blossom end rot. This poorly named problem is not a rot or disease but a calcium deficiency at the bottom end of the tomato. The calcium-poor cells are weakened and then collapse, creating a black to brown circle of dead cells on the bottom of the fruit. Medium to large tomatoes are susceptible, rarely cherry type fruit. You can cut that portion away and eat the rest of the tomato. Consistent watering keeps calcium flowing to all parts of the plant. Peppers can also develop blossom end rot.

I have gotten a few reports of sunburn on peppers. It usually shows up on the southwest side of the fruit near the shoulder. It can be far worse if a pepper plant falls over in the middle of a hot day and fruit that had not become adjusted to the intense sun are now ex-posed. So, stake your peppers firmly and water evenly as well.

Where did all those aphids come from?

Aphids are pests of a variety of ornamental crops like roses, street trees, certain flowers like dahlias, and vegetables like corn, beans, cabbage family, tomatoes, artichokes and others.

So, what do aphids look like? First, they are small. Second, they come in a variety of colors including pink, orange, green, black, and brown. That is confusing to people who have an idea of what aphids look like, but they only know one of their many colors. And, third, there will be lots of them. You might ask, why are there so many? It is because they are reproductive machines. With sex, without sex, the result is the same in the aphid world. More aphids and fast.

Aphids damage their hosts by their voracious feeding and sometimes, by passing along plant viruses from infected to uninfected ones. They have little piercing tubes that they insert into the sugar water conducting pipes of the plant. They draw the sugar out, use some of it and deposit what they don’t use as “honeydew” on the leaves and cars and furniture below them. When we talk about trees “sapping” in the summer, that rain of sugar water is from aphids (or some similar insects) feeding on tree leaves.

Aphids tend to concentrate on the undersides and on the stems of the newest leaves.

Control strategies:

Let nature take its course. Lady beetles and other predatory insects feed on aphids and can control many infestations over time. This is probably the best solution for trees where aphid sapping wouldn’t affect cars, patios or furniture. Some ant species protect aphids from predators so that they can harvest the “honeydew.” Yellowjackets consume aphids after fighting off the ants.

Washing off aphids repeatedly. This clearly won’t work on big trees and is a somewhat marginal strategy unless done often.

Spraying with insecticidal soaps can be helpful on vegetables and flowers. These soaps work best on soft-bodies insects like aphids, but must get on the aphids themselves. Thus, you must get the spray under the leaves, in the new growth and on the stems where the aphids are. Otherwise, you just clean their feet.

There are several insecticides, both organic and conventional, that provide decent aphid control. However, they may damage pollinators or other beneficial insects so use thought-fully. Call me if you have questions.

The bottom line on aphids is to be vigilant and treat beginning infestations before they get out of hand.

Hazardous waste collection event on August 29

Due to COVID-19, three earlier Household Hazardous Waste Collections were canceled. The County will offer a collection event from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Aug. 29, at the Transfer Station in St. Helens. These are important events if you have accumulated household quantities of hazardous materials that need a proper (and free) disposal. Please check the Columbia County website for further information on what they take and updates in case of COVID cancellation:

The OSU Extension office is closed to face-to-face public contact but you can still reach us

We are developing plans for re-opening that will have to be approved by the University and ultimately, the Governor. In the meantime, all of us (faculty and staff) will still be working, mostly out of the office, answering phone calls left on our answering machines, email messages (, writing newspaper columns and newsletters, and working to develop programs that can reach you online.

We are really committed to helping our communities in any way we can, especially in our areas of subject matter expertise (farming, gardening, forestry, food, food safety, and nutrition, healthy decision-making, and youth education) and any other way we can enrich your life and/or make you safer in these challenging times. Please do not hesitate to contact us. And please, take all steps necessary to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe.

Pressure Gauge Testing:

Pressure canners with a dial gauge need to be tested every year before you use them for accuracy. Canning with a gauge that is off can result in under-processing of home canned foods, which is unsafe. For complete instructions on this opportunity go to: COVID restrictions are still in place at our office which is located at 505 N. Columbia River Highway, St. Helens, Or 97051

Free newsletter

The Oregon State University Extension office in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and farming topics (called County Living) writ-ten/edited by yours truly. All you need to do is ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call 503 397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at and click on newsletters.

Many Extension publications available online

Are you putting up salsa, saving seeds, or thinking about planting grapes? OSU has a large number of its publications available for free download. Just go to Click on publications and start exploring.

The Extension Service offers its programs and materials equally to all people.

Contact information for the Extension office

Oregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County

505 N. Columbia River Highway

St. Helens, OR 97051

503 397-3462


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