Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Avoiding Bed Bugs

Cimex lectularius, bed bugs, are parasites of human beings. Their only food is our blood, and they need it for every stage of their lives. Scientist tell us that they are very genetically diverse, very adaptable, and that they have been with us as long as we have existed. Once they thoroughly infest a home or an apartment, they are difficult to get rid of. The best offense is a good defense.

The first thing we need to think about is how they arrive in our homes to begin with.  Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. They hitchhike in and out of homes and business on people’s shoes, hats, scarves, sweaters, and coats. Holiday parties and family gatherings, where coats and sweaters may be thrown on a bed or be crowded into a closet, are the beloved Grand Central Station of bed bugs. Hotels and motels are also often bed bug transit stations, and they can be carried home in one’s luggage.  

Bed bugs can also enter our homes under their own power.  The adults grow to about 1/16th of an inch, sometimes larger, and they can travel fairly long distances and squeeze through the tiniest cracks.  One survival instinct possess is the desire to spread out.  A small population of bed bugs is difficult to detect; however, a large one is impossible to ignore.  

These adaptable creatures have also learned to sense threats, and will flee from rooms, homes, apartments, and businesses where pesticides and heat treatments are being used. Whether or not the treatments are successful for the home or apartment in question, the majority of the insects will have fled through narrow cracks around baseboards, windows, plumbing, switch plates, and through electrical outlets as well.  These are the same pathways they can use to enter your home!  

One begins to see how tricky it can be to avoid an infestation. Understanding what attracts bed bugs can help. They have very a very keen sense of smell, and it is cued into all the sorts of scents that humans emit, even the ones we cannot smell ourselves.  Their sense of smell is their primary way of finding us.  
In our homes and apartments, and even in our offices and businesses, we can begin by sealing those tiny cracks mentioned above that allow them to enter. Those tiny cracks also allow scents to waft down the pathways and hiding places in our walls where bed bugs like to spend their days, out of the sight of human beings. 

Frequent airing out of our homes and offices is also helpful.  Given a choice, bed bugs will head for the strongest human scents.  You don’t want that to be your home.  Besides, frequent airing lets out the toxins that are out-gassing from all the synthetic materials found in our homes and buildings, the fumes from our cleaning products, and it lets in fresh air and oxygen.  Frequent airing makes your home healthier!

Laundry Tips: 

Laundry should be done frequently, as piles of dirty laundry are bed bug magnets. Sheets at least, and all bedding if there is a possibility of infestation, should be washed every week. Washing with hot water and drying on high heat kills bed bugs.  And for those doing laundry at home, once the washer has filled and started agitating, you can turn off the cycle for the night or the day, and they will all drown—even if the fabrics involved cannot stand high heat.  If you have no laundry facilities at home, you can use a bucket or the tub to soak those items that cannot be washed in hot water or put in the dryer.  Just make sure to squeeze out any air and that the fabric is completely submerged.

When out visiting, avoid piling your outer wear up with other people’s clothes or hats.  If you know ahead of time that this is not going to be avoidable, have a couple of plastic garbage bags waiting for you at home, one by your front door and one in the most convenient place to change clothes near your entrance. Also have a complete change of clothes waiting for you near the second garbage bag.  Place all your outer wear in the first one, and seal it tightly.  Then change your clothes and seal them in the other bag.  In between, you might wish to shower and wash your hair.  Bed bugs do not ordinarily hitchhike on our skin or in our hair, and they usually wait till we are asleep to actually touch us, but we can easily transfer them to our hair with hats and scarf’s.  And in very heavily infested buildings they can drop down on us from light fixtures and vents. 
Your bagged clothes can then be treated at your leisure.  You can soak them for 6 to 8 hours, wash them with hot water and dry on high, or leave them outside in freezing weather for four days or more.  Ironing with a hot iron or steaming thoroughly with a special clothing steamer will also do the trick.  In addition one can purchase small heat chambers made for treating items that may have come in contact with bed bugs.
And then there are our shoes.  Shoes smell like heaven to bed bugs.  Taking your shoes off when you come in your home, or even before, is a good idea.  Not only does this reduce the possibility that you are depositing these hitchhikers throughout your home, it gives the shoes a chance to air out.  The less scent the shoes have, the less attractive they will be to bed bugs.  In fact, having two or three pairs of everyday shoes is a good idea.  The longer you can air them out between wearings, the better.  If your feet tend to sweat and, um, well, smell—several sets of activated charcoal inserts will help.  You can also air the inserts out separately from your shoes, and rotate them on a daily basis.

Tea Tree, citronella, and lavender essential oils are known to confuse bed bugs.  Using a drop or two on each shoe before leaving the house can be helpful.  Essential oils are generally available from natural food stores, herb shops, some bed and bath type stores, as well as from many on-line outlets.

There is also a product called CimeXa which is completely non-toxic when used as directed.  It is the current scientifically proven go-to treatment for bed bugs.  It’s a dust that has no scent at all.  A tiny puff wafted into each shoe provides excellent protection from any bug that comes in contact with it.  Once you have your CimeXa, read the label and consider treating the inside of your car as well.  If you are going to travel, treat your luggage before you leave, and all your belongings before you come home.  With CimeXa, more is not better. The dust should be applied so finely that you can’t actually see it.  If the bed bugs can see it, they will avoid it.  CimeXa is only available on-line at this time, but it is available from many different sellers.  (See comments for more information on CimeXa.)

Helping Others:

Meanwhile, if you need to help a friend or family member with laundry and sealing all those tiny crawl spaces in a building where there is a known infestation, don’t stop at using essential oils.  Deet, which can be a problem for sensitive people, is the best bed bug repellant you can buy.  It is not healthy, however, to use Deet on a daily basis.  But if you need to help clean up an infested area, put it to good use.  And definitely wear clothing and shoes that can be soaked, left out to freeze, or washed and dried on high heat.

Bed bugs reproduce very quickly, and they then disperse in an effort to protect themselves.  Ignoring someone else’s infestation is not only harmful to the person affected; it is harmful to us all.  Let’s try to be good neighbors and help where help is needed.  We can stop this before it becomes our scourge. 


Your right, this isn't about gardening, but you might need to know!  


Published by the Willapa Harbor Herald, December 21, 2016 under the title 'Bed Bugs are Among Us.' Posted here with permission.  (This version is slightly edited. The originally published version refers to our local community and this version also contains a few corrections.)

Copyright 2016, Harvest McCampbell.  Please feel free to use the buttons below to share.  All other rights reserved.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

House Plants for the Holidays

Carefully chosen gifts can improve our loved one’s lives! You don’t need to spend a ton of money to show you care, brighten up a dreary room, and improve the air your gift recipient breathes. Houseplants provide all these benefits and more. If you have elderly or ill family members, research has proven that when they have plants to look at, they recover faster and feel less pain. House plants bring many of the benefits of gardening to those who can’t or won’t get out and dig in the dirt. Below you will find two easy to care for plants that make long lasting gifts.

House Plants Keep on Giving

Extensive research has been devoted to the effects of house plants on indoor air quality. While researchers don’t always agree on which plants are the best, Philodendrons and spider plants feature prominently on most lists. These tough guys don’t need any special care. They make good gifts for those who may be just starting out with houseplants and others who have limited time or abilities. They also make good gifts for busy people, for elders, disabled, or ill family members; in which case, part of the gift can be your regular plant care visits.


Philodendrons, while not traditionally thought of as holiday gifts, actually live much longer than most of the plants marketed for the season. Philodendrons are a very diverse group of plants. Native to the tropical zones of the Americas and the West Indies, there are over 900 different species found in the wild. They typically grow in the dim light found under the canopy of tropical rainforests. This adaptation to low light allows them to thrive indoors. They do need adequate light, however; and will do best in a bright room. They love cool morning sunlight, but they are likely to burn if exposed to direct afternoon sun during the warmer months.

Philodendrons would certainly prefer to be watered on a regular basis, as long as their soil is allowed to dry out in between watering.  However, I have had proof positive that they can stand a lot of neglect. (I am much better at caring for my outside plant menagerie than the poor souls stuck inside.) Of the three varieties of Philodendron that have shared my homes, the largest, a split leaved Philodendron (now classified as a Monstera), once nearly completely took over my front room. It came to me as a tiny one leaved start in a vase with some ivy. After ten years, each leaf grew to be a foot across, and there were at least fifteen leaves on the sprawling plant. What poinsettia ever lived so long?

For small rooms, look for heart leaved or trailing Philodendron. There are varieties with solid leaves, with decorative holes through the leaves, and some with variegated foliage. They also do very well in our area and are easy to start from cuttings. Philodendrons are best for households without young children. They contain calcium oxalate and are considered toxic, so avoid them where youngsters feel they have to put everything in their mouths. (Spider plants are considered child and pet safe. More information on them is coming right up.)

Water your Philodendrons once a week or so, first checking to make sure the soil has dried out. Over watering can lead to root rot and fungal infections. Occasionally adding a little dilute organic fertilizer or diluted left over coffee will help them stay happy and healthy. When the leaves are dusty, a damp cloth gently applied will return their shine. While polishing the leaves keep your eye out for scale and mealy bugs. They can be easily removed with the same cloth; or with a moistened swab, if they are hiding in hard to reach spot.

If you are on a budget, Philodendrons, and many other house plants can be grown from cuttings.  If you don’t know anyone with cuttings to spare, Etsy has many offerings.  They have more variety than most dedicated nurseries, better prices, and offer everything from cuttings, small plants, to mature specimens.  Simply search on “Philodendron” from Etsy’s home page:  <>  If you are in a hurry and have a little money to spend, you might want to check out Blooming Crazy Floral in
Astoria.  They have three different kinds of philodendrons, starting at $35.00 per plant: <>

Philodendron and Spider Plant, happy together!

Spider Plants:

These tough and prolific plants do a great job of removing toxins from the air, and they are considered safe for children and pets. (This certainly doesn’t mean you should encourage them to take a taste.) Resistant to neglect, they still provide a delicate and lacy accent to any bright room. Spider plants have long gently curving grass like leaves in solid green or striped with white. They produce long flowering shoots that sport tiny lily like flowers, followed by young plantlets that hang in mid air. As the little “spiders” grow in size and number they hang down from the mother plant, forming a curtain or veil. When the plantlets begin growing roots they can be removed from the stems and rooted in water or moist potting soil and then put to work as air cleaners in other rooms. A spider plant makes a great gift that keeps on giving, whether for yourself or for others on your list.

Like Philodendrons, spider plants are happiest if you let their soil dry out in between watering, once they have well established root systems. They are rarely bothered by pests, especially when they are kept inside. But if you see signs of mealy bugs or scale, a damp cloth or swab will make quick and easy work of these pesky guys.

Etsy also seems to be the go-to place for spider plants as well.  They have a large selection of varieties.  Starts can be purchased for a few dollars, while more mature plants can range up to about $40.00.  Search on “spider plants” here to check out the selection:  <> 


Published by the Willapa Harbor Herald, December 7th, 2018.  Posted here with permission.

A version was previously published by the Hoopa People News, which you can view here:  

Copyright 2016, Harvest McCampbell.  Please feel free to use the buttons below to share.  All other rights reserved. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Beneficial Insects Love Irises!

Purple Iris, 2006, my Hoopa Garden.

Irises make an important contribution to the garden environment by attracting a variety of predatory ground beetles. The larva of these beetles live in the soil, where they consume slug eggs and slug larva.  

Dutch Iris, 2015, from Growing Together Community Gardens.

The key to putting ground beetle attracting Irises to work for you most effectively, is to plant just a few each of a large variety of Irises that bloom at different times, and spread them around the garden.  The longer you can keep the adult ground beetles happy, the more likely they will be to lay eggs in your soil.  Ground beetles also prefer soil rich in organic matter, with strategically placed sections of rotten limbs or other untreated wood, to use as daytime shelter and nursery areas for egg laying.  

Learn more about developing healthy organic matter rich soil and attracting beneficial insects by clicking on the 'labels' found directly under the share option buttons found beneath this post. 


Text and photos copyright 2016, Harvest McCampbell. Please feel free to use the buttons below to share.  All other rights reserved.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Red Veined Sorrel

Red Veined Sorrel is easy, beautiful, and edible too!

This showy sorrel is often grown as an ornamental, however it is totally edible cooked or raw. The younger leaves are tender, and in certain seasons they are choice; however it is always wise to give them the taste test if you are hoping to use the lovely leaves in a salad, because they have a tendency to become strong flavored and slightly bitter. Simmering or braising does tenderize them and sweeten them up. In addition to using them in salads and as a garnish, they are great added to soups and as part of the mix in an old fashioned 'mess of greens.'

Red Veined Sorrel from Growing Together Community Gardens.

Red Veined Sorrel is easy to grow and plants and seeds are often available at nurseries, garden centers, and through mail order catalogs and on-line sellers. They are offered under a number of different names, including red sorrel, blood sorrel, and unicorn plant.  Once established they will return each year and their clumps will slowly increase in size and they can be divided to share with friends or to get them established in a few spots in the garden.

When you notice that they start shooting up tall stems, you will want to cut them back to the ground. They are vigorous self sowers and those tall stems are getting ready to make thousands of seeds!  A few of these striking plants are often welcome in the garden, but thousands are definitely too many!


This post started out as a photo description on Growing Together Community Gardens' page, where I have gardened for the last 3 years, and where I have been the coordinator for the past 2 years.


Copyright, 2016, Harvest McCampbell.  Please feel free to share using the buttons below.  All other rights reserved.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is a very adaptable ancient herb that is found in gardens everywhere!

It is in the mint family, as are many culinary and medicinal herbs. Many mint family plants go dormant over the winter in our area. In our garden, Lemon Balm is first to greet spring with new green leaves. Sometimes it even stays green and lush through most of the winter.

Lemon Balm has a pleasant mild lemony-mint flavor. It makes a great cup of tea, and the young tender leaves can also be added to all kinds of salads. It is sometimes used in spring rolls, stir fry, curry, and Thai dishes as well. Any recipe that calls for basil can be given a new taste sensation by substituting Lemon Balm.

Lemon Balm also has a long history of use in cosmetics and as a gentle medicinal plant. It is a great carbon fixer, and when mature produces lots of organic matter that us useful in making compost or adding to mulch.

In addition the flowers (which are inconspicuous) attract bees--especially mason bees--and other pollinators and beneficial insects as well.  Providing for and attracting pollinators and beneficial insects is part of the important and necessary work of every gardener.

Here are some links to everything you need to know to get started using Lemon Balm for tea, flavoring, cosmetics, or as a gentle herbal remedy:

If you have never made tea from fresh herbs before, check out this link:

Tips for using Lemon Balm in cooking can be found here:

Here are some great recipes to try:

You can treat yourself to a home spa day with a Lemon Balm bath and home made Lemon Balm toners and astringents:

If you want to explore its medicinal properties check out this link:

For more fun things to do with Lemon Balm see:

Lemon balm is easy to grow from seeds.  Plants can be found through local plant sales, nurseries, and on-line herb specialists.  Many gardeners receive their first plants from other gardeners and then pass along the offspring.  Lemon balm is a reliable self sower to the extent that some people consider it a pest.  If it gets pesky in your garden, cut it back to the ground about midway through its first flush of tiny flowers, before they set seed.  Mature clumps can also be divided with a shovel, to reduce their size and share with friends.

Most of the text posted here originally appeared on Growing Together Community Garden's Facebook Page, where I have been gardening for the last three years and where I have been the coordinator for the last 2 years.  

Please feel free to link, share, or pin, this or any content on my blog.  Repost or republish only with written permission.  Copyright 2015, text and photos, Harvest McCampbell, all rights reserved. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Thing About The Garden . . .

One can go to the garden a little grumpy or in pain, with a headache or a resentment—and work one’s self back into peace.

That happened to me yesterday, suddenly, in the rhubarb.  Suddenly everything else was just gone and there I was sitting on the cool earth, enmeshed in the jewel tones of rhubarb, entranced by the beginning of autumn glimmerings on blueberry leaves, and the glory of the Jerusalem artichoke's crown of fall flowers.  I was suddenly just there, the sweet brisk fall air tickling my skin.  I was just there with Creation and rhubarb.  No more grumpiness, no more pain, no more headache, no more resentment.  I was back into peace.

Our first frost had visited the night before and these lovely stalks of rhubarb were tugged and twisted loose for the food bank.  Each stalk a gift.  A gift to me, in their simple beauty.  A gift to the food bank, and from there a gift to the precious people who depend on the food bank, who look to the food bank for something sweet they would otherwise never have.  My thoughts went to these precious people, some of them elderly, some of them disabled, some of them working long hours for low pay—supporting our economy and our elite yet not able to make ends meet.  My thought went to these precious people.

Rhubarb is seldom available in our stores and when it is, it is very expensive.  And here was this gift, fresh picked, organic, and loved.  Grown with love.  Given with love.  There certainly is not enough for everyone.  But not everyone loves rhubarb.  Our food bank is very special.  Customers get ‘points’ which they spend, they get to make choices.  And for some people that choice, today, will be rhubarb.  Sometimes rhubarb is more important than tuna fish or eggs.  Sometime the memory of the treat made from grandma’s garden is more nourishing than anything else can be.  And for some people, that is the gift that rhubarb can bring.

In many of our old cultures, our wealth was not counted by what we hoarded.  Our wealth was counted by what we gave.  Creation is the gift to us, which nurtures us.  Before we made up all this extraneous stuff, before people owned and controlled land, before they developed monetary systems that impoverished many and enriched few, before all that, everything we needed was a gift from Nature, from Creation, and the labor of our own hands.

Photo-- Shelia Rickers.  Me pulling weeds at Growing Together Community Gardens, completely oblivious to the camera.

My hands are not as young as they used to be.  But there are still a few hours of labor left in this aging body.  I can still weave myself back in to Creation, back into the garden, and I can still count myself wealthy as I find that I, and the garden, have something to give.  



If you would like to join us at Growing Together Community Gardens, we have a very few available garden beds; and we always welcome volunteers.