Become a Fan

Sign up for our newsletter

Twitter Feed

  • Could not connect to Twitter

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

August 1st, 2011

Did you know that by mulching with yard waste, we can reduce about twenty percent of the solid waste in landfills?

Jackie Kneeland and Sue Borden, both Placer County Master Gardeners, wrote the article titled “Reuse What Grows in our Yards,” in the Summer 2003 issue of The Curious Gardener, which describes five different methods for the low maintenance gardener to create compost used for mulching. Click here to read the full article.

Compost is not a fertilizer, but rather a soil conditioner. Composting helps to prevent the nutrients from becoming chemically bound in the soil and not available to the roots of the plant. By grinding garden waste, leaves, and small branches into pieces and using them on top of the soil around the plants, we conserve water, suppress weeds and protect roots from extreme soil temperatures.

Here are five ways to compost with much less space and effort than traditional composting:


Open air composting consists of scattering small piles of yard waste around your garden. Make piles in the corner of your garden or near recently pruned shrubs. These small piles should not contain food scraps and will not decompose as fast as the larger traditional compost piles. Consider throwing alfalfa pellets or aged plant eater manure on the piles to supply them with the extra nitrogen that would come from the food scraps.


Closed air composting consists of composting in one small area of the yard. Use kitchen scraps and yard waste in a solid plastic container with a tight fitting lid, that is open on the bottom to the soil. You can even use an opened black plastic bag to tightly cover the pile (or better yet, just toss your scraps into a black plastic bag, cut a hole in the bottom and leave that in the sun). Do beware closed air composting is more likely to cause odor problems than some of the other options!

Meandering Trench Composting


  1. Post-hole Composting- Dig a hole with a shovel or post-hole digger, add kitchen scraps, and cover with at least eight inches of soil. These holes should be made in the garden in between plants or around the drip line of a tree. These composting holes hold moisture, which will eventually leach a weak compost tea into the soil.
  2. Meandering Trench- Dig a short one foot ditch, chop yard trimmings and food scraps, and mix them into the soil in the bottom four inches of the trench. Resume digging the trench until the materials are covered and a new trench is formed.
  3. Pit and Trench- A three season rotation of soil incorporation that includes:
  • 1st season: The garden includes a trench to fill with food scraps, a row for growing crops and a third row to use as a path.
  • 2nd season: Use the fertile soil in the former compost trench to grow crops, use the former crop row as a path and loosen the former path to use as a new trench.
  • Finally:  After three years the cycle starts again.
Trench Composting

When creating any kind of compost pile, avoid using material that re-sprouts, such as willow, alder, and Bermuda grass.


Tips for Planting Your Veggies in a Container

July 7th, 2011
Roberta Hopkins, Sacramento Master Gardener, wrote a tip list for planting with containers. Click here to see the complete list. 


  • Containers can be decorative or utilitarian or both!
  • Full pots are HEAVY, so plant pots in their final location to save yourself from having to move them later.
  • Metal pots are heat conductors and should not be used in the summer
  • Clay pots should be soaked in water for 5-10 minutes before planting in them, as they are more porous than glazed ceramic, wood or plastic and will dry out faster.
  • All pots need a drainage hole.
  • Use pots no smaller than 6″ across.


  • Stick your finger into the soil to test for moisture- if it is dry, it it time to water!
  • Frequent watering leaches nutrients our of the soil, so fertilize the plants with a balanced fertilizer about every 2 weeks
  • Plants in containers basically have their roots exposed so they dry out faster than plants in the ground, they need more frequent (slow and thorough) watering.
  • Use commercial potting mix, not gardening soil because gardening soil compacts in the pot, making it too difficult for the roots to reach water, air and nutrients.
  • Heat and dry air affect plants in containers more than those in the ground.
3 Steps for planting into a pot
  1. Fill the container with potting mix until you reach the depth of the plant container plus an extra 1-2 inches because once you water the mix the soil will settle. (See step 2.)
  2. Water thoroughly and let the mix settle.
  3. Place the plant in the container and water thoroughly again.

Recipe for Potting Mix

  • 2/3 cubic yard nitrogen stabilized ground bark, coir dust or peat moss
  • 1/3 cubic yard washed 20 grit sand
  • 6 lbs. 0-10-10 granular fertilizer
  • 10 lbs. dolomite

Mix all the ingredients together in a wheelbarrow. 

Containers can be decorative or utilitarian or both!


Does sprinkling tomato plants with seawater increase their nutritional value?

March 15th, 2011
by Zuhayr Mallam, founder of the UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG). For more information about this group, visit their website.

Tomatoes are among the most popular items in American gardens today and are commonly used in many types of salads and sauces. They have an especially rich history at UC Davis (see the “square tomato” and other tomato research on campus) and thrive in the Sacramento Valley, due to the prime tomato-cultivating summer climate.

Image taken from the Gillaspy Lab webpage at Virginia Tech University

Tomatoes are high in antioxidants, which are thought to help fight cancer, prevent heart disease, slow aging, and confer a host of other health benefits. And although it has been long held that salt is harmful to soil, several studies conducted worldwide have shown that spraying tomato plants with diluted – approximately 10% saline – seawater can actually increase their nutritional value and taste! The salt in seawater is thought to produce stress in tomato plants, which respond by producing more antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and chlorogenic acid, as well as other taste-enhancing chemicals – albeit it makes the fruit somewhat smaller. Many are still concerned about salt causing soil degradation and rendering some seawater-treated tomatoes inedible, but scientists cite that plants thrive in balanced soil containing both macro– and micronutrients.

This theory is still much up in the air, but it is good food for thought. A major potential benefit of this method would be providing irrigation for crops in areas with freshwater restrictions and shortages as well as malnourishment.

Hmm… This may be an interesting opportunity for a summer science experiment! Let us know if you decide to give it a try.

As always, consult a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet!


Spring Gardening Tips

March 9th, 2011

Spring is almost here!  The vernal equinox is on March 20 and marks the beginning of spring in the northern  hemisphere.  Here are some gardening tips to get ready for the season from “The Yolo Gardener” Spring 2011 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners, by Master Gardener Linda Parsons. Thank you Linda for these great tips!

Yum!  Can’t wait for peaches this year!  Make sure to get out there and trim and treat your fruit trees before buds swell.  Image from


  • Prune foliage and branches damaged by winter.  If you haven’t yet pruned your roses and fruit trees this is the last month to get them ready for spring bloom.  Don’t put it off any longer!
  • Take care of weeds now before they take over.
  • Remove old growth from perennials and dig and divide crowded plants. 


    • Begin cultivating your perennials – loosening soil once it is dry enough – and add soil amendments such as compost, peat moss and organic fertilizer. 
    • Be sure to use fertilizer recommended for each plant type.  Too much nitrogen will make plants grow too quickly, producing weaker growth.
    • Care for roses and fruit trees by adding rose food and soil amendments, as well as a cup of alfalfa pellets and two tablespoons Epsom salt to each rose plant.  This will help the roses produce more basal breaks (new growth) and chlorophyll.
    • Mulch your garden to a depth of 3 inches to reduce weeds and require less watering.


    • Start your plant selection: 
      • Pansies, violas, Dianthus, Iceland poppies, primroses and plant candytuft are all early blooming annuals.  
      • Bulbs, corns and tubers like cannas, begonias, lilies and dahlias can be planted now.
      • Some good shade plant selections include astilbe, columbine, coral bells, Dicentra, Foxglove, Hostas, Nepeta, Pulmonaria and ferns.
      • Primroses are one of the earliest spring flowers, and are often a common sight at Victorian cottage-style gardens. Image from
      • A good drought tolerant selection can include Russian sage, Muhlenbergia, rabbit’s tail grass, Buddleia, echinacea, rudbeckia and gallardia.
    • Remember to lightly fertilize and mulch after planting!  Plants will do better if they are planted at or slightly above grade.
    Rabbit or bunny’s tail grass is a great drought-tolerant selection, and it’s cute!  Image from


      • Due to above average rainfall, there are going to be more insects and diseases this year, so keep an eye out for early fungal diseases and aphids.
      • March is your last opportunity to spray fruit trees with dormant (lime-sulfur) spray before buds swell to get rid of wintering fungus and spores.
      • Check plants regularly (especially roses) for black spot, rust and mildew.  Also check for slugs, snails and earwigs, as well as aphids, mites thrips and scale with the advent of warmer weather.  Keep these harmful insects in check by planting yarrow, alyssum, feverfew, dill, parsley, coriander, penstemon and asters to attract beneficial insects.
      • Visit if you want to use commercial pesticides.


      • Check your irrigation system to make sure your lawn is getting enough water.  Increase the water amount as the days get longer and warmer.
      • Re-seed thin areas and begin your fertilizing and mowing schedule.  Try applying a light topcoat of compost to improve lawn growth and health.


      • Stake tall growing perennials and vegetables before they start bending over in late spring.
      • Later on in the season thin fruit trees, leaving four to five inches in between each fruit to help remaining fruit mature properly and to keep branches from being over-weighted which can cause splitting.
      • Deadhead spent flowers to ensure a long blooming season.
      • Plant containers with annuals and herbs.

      To read the unabridged version of this article go to their website and download the Spring 2011 newsletter here.  You can also sign up to receive this newsletter by entering your email address at the top of this page.


        Pomegranates – A Healthy Winter Snack

        December 14th, 2010

        by Zuhayr Mallam, Founder of the UC Davis Diabetes Awareness and Advocacy Group (DAAG).  For more information about this group, visit their website.
        Pomegranates make for a delicious snack, and these plump red fruits are also one of the healthiest foods around.

        Image taken from

        On the Table
        Pomegranates are chalk-full of nutrients including Vitamins B and C, fiber, and potassium, while being low in fat, sodium, and calories. Recent medical research suggests potential health benefits such as lowered blood pressure, lowered risk for heart disease (especially in diabetics), and prevention of tooth decay. Although it is high in sugars, these are natural sugars that are attached to special, disease-fighting antioxidants. And remember – the seeds are the edible part of a pomegranate and contain the bulk of the nutrients! The juice is very nutritious as well, but stray away from brands that are packed with refined sugar.
        In the Garden
        Pomegranates are the perfect winter fruit; they are in season from November to March! Although native to Persia and the Himalayas of Northern India, pomegranates were brought to California in the late 18th century and have been able to thrive in the interior valleys (like Davis!) due to the cool winters and dry summers. This versatile fruit tree grows in a variety of soils (although deep soil is preferred) and is relatively easy to care for. All that it requires is nutritious, well-drained soil, sufficient sunlight, and sparse watering. And even when the fruit dries up, it provides beautiful ornamentation for your garden!
        For more information about the varieties of pomegranates grown in the UC Davis Good Life Garden click here!
        Try this Recipe for… Pomegranate Salad
        Image taken from
        Toss yourself a tasty salad including:
        ·      lettuce
        ·      pomegranate seeds
        ·      pomegranate juice
        ·      lemon juice
        ="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle" style="line-height: normal; margin-bottom: 0.0001pt; text-indent: -0.25in;">·      apples, pecans, and/or pears
        ·      ground black pepper
        ·      vegetable oil
        ·      dijon mustard
        Brought to you by the Diabetes Advocacy & Awareness Group (DAAG)

        UPDATE: IT’S NOT TOO LATE to plan for the Fall / Winter Season

        October 26th, 2010

        For all you local gardeners who may be feeling like you’ve missed the boat by not sowing your seeds yet for the Fall / Winter season; it’s not too late!  (Or, at least we hope so!)

        Pat, our gardener (in the hat), takes a moment to speak with a journalist.  Note how she has cut back many of our garden perennials like chives and the ornamental society garlic to grow again during the Fall and Winter season.

        Last week our gardener Pat worked hard on the “out with the old” chore of garden clean-up by pulling out any herbs unharvested by our enthusiastic community of gleaners!  (Thank you again to those who participated in our last herb harvest of the year!)  She also began prepping the soil by working in compost from our own Student Farm, along with a soil supplement we told you about last season called Earthworks Renovate/Plus.  For more information about this product check out our previous blog entry on the topic here.

        This patch is where we grew our corn.  The spearmint patch in the foreground looks very happy doesn’t it?  It smells great too, but don’t forget to keep it pulled up and pruned back from areas where you don’t want it–mint likes to take over!

        It is looking rather barren out there now.  It’s times like these when there’s hope in the air…as in, I hope something grows from all those seeds of lettuce, chard, kale, beets, etc. we’ll be planting this week!

        What’s going on with your garden so far this season?


        Decorating Your Edible Garden with Alyssum!

        August 19th, 2010
        See our gardener Pat Stoeffel trimming the white alyssum border around our tomato plant bed.

        We get great feedback on how beautiful our edible garden looks. (THANK YOU!  We love to hear your feedback!)  We have our campus senior landscape designer Christina DeMartini Reyes to thank for her excellent planting plans!  She likes to use borders of different types of flowers to achieve a variety of goals.  Planting flowers around your edibles not only attracts pollinators, the colors of the flowers provide contrast to the greenery of the fruit and vegetable leaves, they are excellent around the bed borders because they define the space, AND they can act as a type of ground cover.  All of this is great for the garden, but how do you keep it looking good throughout the season?  It isn’t easy!

        Today when I visited the garden I noticed that our new Good Life Garden gardener, Pat Stoeffel, was trimming back a border of alyssum that was looking particularly rangy.  She had given it a trim a couple weeks ago, but here it was leggy again!  She wants to keep the area looking nice so she is shearing it back by about half to reveal the new bloomers beneath the old!  (See the photos below.)

        Do you plant alyssum to attract pollinators to your garden?  Do you use it as a border?  How do you keep it looking fresh and healthy?  Let us know!

        Pat trimmed this alyssum back just a couple weeks ago, but now it needs more pruning.  This photo shows a patch of half trimmed, half untrimmed alyssum.  Note how she is trimming about half of it back to reveal the newer growth underneath.
        This photo shows a detail of what the new growth underneath looks like.  It looks compact and fresh doesn’t it?  We want to get rid of the brown, leggy, rangy stuff to reveal the fresh flowers.  It’s kind of like exfoliating your skin to reveal a new fresh layer underneath!  (Okay…maybe not!)
        Pat laughs here because she’s feeling more like a barber than a gardener!
        This is a different patch of alyssum in the garden which nicely frames our bay laurel trees.  This patch has not needed any pruning, yet.  We think maybe it’s because the fertility of the soil may not be as high as our tomato bed.