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Planting, Maintenance, Prevention: October

October 6th, 2011
This blog is the second of a four-part series on Planting, Maintenance, and Prevention tips for the months of September, October, November and December. We’ve compiled the information from a two different articles, both written by Kathy Tomas-Rico, Solano County Master Gardener, in the newsletter, Seeds for Thought. Click here to see the original article and stay tuned for the rest of the post for this series!

PLANTING

Continue to set out edible seedlings, like onions or garlic for next year’s harvest. Sow annual seeds, like wildflowers, in a sunny spot for the best show in spring.

Sweet Pea

If you’re interested in ornamental varieties, plant anything that is not frost-sensitive, including sweet peas, ground covers, shrubs, trees, vines, perennials and natives.

MAINTENANCE

Keep control of slugs and snails with bait containing iron phosphate, which is safer on edible crops and around children, pets and wildlife. Don’t forget about your lawn! October is the time to dethatch, aerate and fertilize your grass.

Veggie Bed

For vegetable beds, double-dig them by loosing the soil to a depth of 24 inches and adding compost.

PREVENTION

If the rain has begun, check for areas of standing water because this is where mosquitoes will hang out. If no rain yet, continue to irrigate.

Lemon Tree

Keep tidying to reduce the debris that harbors insects and disease over winter. Apply copper or other recommended controls if you see brown rot or citrus blast on your citrus trees.

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Planting, Maintenance, Prevention: September

September 6th, 2011
This blog will be the first of a four-part series of Planting, Maintenance, Prevention tips for the months of September, October, November and December. We’ve compiled the information from a two different articles, both written by Kathy Tomas-Rico, Solano County Master Gardener, in the newsletter, Seeds for Thought. Click here to see the original article and stay tuned for the rest of the post for this series!
PLANTING

Now is the time to seed delicate salad greens such as arugula, chard, kale, lettuce and mustard. Other vegetables to consider include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or spinach. Don’t forget about beets, carrots, leeks, onions, and peas, radishes, and turnips, which can also be planted now.

Purple Coneflower with a visitor!

Looking for some fall color? Try blooming perennials such as asters, chrysanthemums, gaillardia, gloriosa daisy, Japanese anemone, lion’s tail, purple coneflower and salvia. For some instant color consider calendula, forget-me-nots, pansies, primrose, sweet peas, or violas which are annuals that are to be planted at the end of the September.

MAINTENANCE

If summer heat persists, keep up the watering schedule until the rainy season begins. Also keep deadheading annuals to keep the blooms coming. Keep up the slow, deep watering of citrus trees.

Tomatoes

If you still have tomatoes that are producing, keep on pickin’! Dig or pull any plants that have finished producing or have become diseased. Add only healthy plants to your compost pile.

PREVENTION

As the leaves and fruit start to fall, they may harbor disease and can attract nasty yellow jackets. Don’t let debris pile up!

Red Spider Mite

Little red spidery things on your plants may start to show up but you don’t want them. Red spider mites can be kept at bay with insecticidal soap, sulfur or an early-evening spray of horticultural oil.

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The Fungus is Among Us!

August 30th, 2011
 

In the 2009 edition of The Yolo Gardener, Linda Parsons, Yolo County Master Gardener, wrote the article “Foiling the Fungus Fairy”. Click here to read the full article or continue on to see our shortened version.

Black Spot

Seeing spots? White, black or rust colored blotches or lesions usually means fungus has arrived!

Rust

For diseases to occur, plant pathogens must come in contact with a susceptible host plant. Therefore pathogens can be past on to plants through transplants, soil, humans, animals, insects, infested seeds and wind or water. The most common garden fungus diseases are powdery mildew, black spot, rust and sooty mold. They are most problematic during the spring and fall seasons due to temperatures and humidity fluctuations.

Powdery Mildew

Follow these easy steps to avoid fungus attacks:

  1. Select high quality plants and seeds. Select plants with healthy looking leaves and strong stems.
  2. Do not plant too early. Plant growth may be slowed by cold temperatures which makes them more susceptible to attack by disease-causing organisms and insects.
  3. Rotate crops. Grow your crops in different parts of your garden each year, be sure not to rotate crops with those in the same plant family.
  4. Avoid over-crowding the plants. Crowding plants creates a moist, humid environment that is favorable to diseases.
  5. Water early in the day. Plants that remain wet throughout the night are more susceptible to disease.
  6. Remove diseased leaves, flowers, and fruits as soon as they are noticed. Disease is easily spread by wind, rain and overhead watering.
  7. Mulch! Mulch prevents soil that may harbor disease-causing organisms from splashing on to plants.
  8. Fertilize carefully. Avoid over-fertilizing because too much nitrogen promote tender, fast growth, which is susceptible to attack by fungi.
  9. Keep insects and insect damage to a minimum. Insect wounds provide entry points for disease-causing organisms.
  10. Practice good gardening sanitation. Always start with a clean planting site.
Sooty Mold
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All Things Garlic

August 24th, 2011
 Thanks to Dorothy Volter, Nevada County Master Gardener, we are all about garlic! In the Fall 2003 issue of The Curious Gardener, Volter wrote an amazing article about why we should love garlic and how to grow it. Click here to read the full article.

For all those gardeners looking for a short gardening getaway from (hopefully) a robust summer season, garlic is the answer! Garlic doesn’t need to be planted until October or early November, while requiring little amounts of your time and it grows all winter. Because of this garlic is not for the instant gratification gardener but it is worth the wait.

Elephant Garlic

When choosing a garlic variety to plant, be sure to select one that is certified disease-resistant bulbs. To avoid contaiminating your garden with unwanted diseases, it is important that you rotate your garlic crop and avoid planting members of the Allium family in the same spot each year. When possible garlic prefers well-drained soil with a high organic content.

Dug up garlic bulbs
 

How to grow garlic:

  • Choose the variety you prefer and buy whole bulbs
  • Break bulbs into cloves before planting but do not peel them
  • Only plant the larger cloves as the small ones will only produce small bulbs
  • Plant cloves about 4 inches apart in rows, with the rows 1-2 feet apart, and two inches under the soil
  • Irrigate the crop (if it hasn’t started to rain yet) and continue to pay close attention the to moisture in the soil as you will need to irrigate again in the spring

 

Drying garlic

Starting in mid-June to early July you will see the leaves yellowing and beginning to dry. This means it is time to harvest! It is best to dig the bulbs out as compared to pulling them because pulling could separate the stalk from the bulb or split the bulbs apart which reduces storage life.

Leave the stalks on the garlic and allow them to dry before storing. Garlic can be dried in the sun or in a well-ventilated location indoors. If you choose to dry in the sun consider placing plant tops on top of the bulbs to protect them from sunburn.

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Ready, Set, Grow

August 22nd, 2011

It may seems like months away but your winter vegetable garden needs attention now! In the Fall 2010 edition of The Yolo Gardener, Peg Smith, Yolo County Master Gardener, wrote a great article on getting ready for winter vegetable gardening. Click here to read the full article.

Although August is harvesting time for tomatoes and zucchinis, it is also the time to start planning for your winter vegetable garden.

READY- Soil Preparation

Anytime you remove a plant or prepare new soil for a vegetable bed, you have an opportunity to improve the tilth of your soil. Many parts of the Sacramento surrounding area deal with the good and the bad of clay soil.

Clay soils are nutrient rich but compact easily, acting like a bog when wet and cement when dry. Adding compost will improve a plants ability to survive in any soil condition.

SET- Right Plant, Right Time

The winter garden must-have is the Brassica family, which is the only vegetable family to have edible varieties developed from all plant parts.

  • Broccoli is considered a flower
  • Cabbage is considered leaves
  • Turnips/Radishes are considered roots
  • Rapeseed oil is derived from seeds

Use this chart to help you plant the Brassica family at the right times:

Interested in vegetables that aren’t in the Brassica family? Other vegetable varieties that will do well in the winter are fava beans and peas.

Both of which are legumes that have rhizobia bacteria in their root nodules. These bacteria are important because they produce nitrogen compounds essential for plant growth. When the plants die, the nitrogen is released which enriches the soil for subsequent plantings.

Consider rotating legumes around your garden to increase the health of the soil in various areas.

Use this chart to help you plant legumes and other winter vegetables at the right times:

GROW- Watering Wisely

Young transplants need a moist soil but not an over saturated soil. Also seedlings should never show signs of wilting because that means they are dried out. Young transplants will need some temporarily created shade if there is unseasonably warm weather. This can be as easy as using an old bed sheet pinned up to a fence.

As the seeds develop and mature, you can encourage strong root penetration by watering deeply and then allowing the surface soil to dry before deep soaking again.

Once the winter rain begins you will only need to water during the drier weeks of winter.

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Herb Gardens

August 18th, 2011
 In the latest issue of the Placer County Master Gardener newsletter, The Curious Gardener, Johanne Ryker (Placer County Master Gardener) wrote a great article on integrating culinary herbs into the garden. Click here to read the full article.  
 

Culinary herbs are those whose fresh or dried leaves are used in cooking. This includes, but is not limited to: basil, parsley, French tarragon, chives, rosemary, and thyme.  

Tips for growing culinary herbs  

Many herbs flower and are a wonderful, colorful addition to your landscape!

Two important things to consider when planting culinary herbs:  

  1. Harvesting your herbs at full flavor
  2. Never using any fertilizer or pesticide that isn’t labeled for use on edible plants
Mint

Herbs that tend to spread like mint or oregano can be grown in containers, then sunk into the ground to incorporate them in a flower bed. (Be careful not to let the tips of the plants hang over and touch the ground or they will root, grow and spread.)  

Harvesting culinary herbs  

Pinch and use your herbs often!

Most annual herbs taste the best before they flower, because once the herbs flower their older leaves begin to decline and their new leaves are smaller and bitter tasting.

If your herbs begin to bloom quickly and vigorously, cut the whole plant back by one third and try to pinch more frequently. Young plants need to be pinched back to encourage them to branch out and become full. Annual herbs, such as basil, can be pinched as soon as they are 3-4 inches tall.  

Creativity Tips  

When selecting a planting location consider a southern and western exposure for both a sunny and warm location. A nice visual combination is to include both upright and trailing herbs such as creeping thyme and/or oregano.

Rosemary Skewers

Rosemary is a beautiful ornamental herb that is also deer resistant. This herb makes a great substitute for traditional barbecue skewers as it will enhance the flavor of your kabobs!

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How to Improve Your Soil Drainage

August 17th, 2011

In the most recent Placer County Master Gardener newsletter, The Curious Gardener, Charlotte Germane (Nevada County Master Gardener) wrote an amazing article about how to deal with poor soil drainage. Click here to read the full article or continue on to see our shortened version.

If your soil does not drain quickly enough your plants can drown, which is why proper soil drainage is so important. One problem that can cause poor soil drainage is “layered soil.” All soil transitions from one layer to another but layered soil refers to abruptly changing soil layers which makes it hard for water to move through easily.

Check for poor grading, over-irrigation, and thatched lawns

Before you decide your soil is the issue, walk through your garden and evaluate the grading. It is possible that at some point in your yards history the soil was graded so the water drained towards an area with no easy outlet. Therefore if you unknowingly have started your garden in that spot, your soil will be holding too much water. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, measure the output at each station as you may accidentally be providing your plants with too much water.

Heavily thatched lawns will not absorb a reasonable amount of water as thatch builds up over time creating a barrier which water cannot penetrate.

Try renting a dethatcher to help increase water absorption.

Test your soil’s drainage

  • Take your shovel, dig a hole one foot deep and fill the hole with water.
  • Allow the water to drain completely and then refill.
  • Measure the amount of water that drains in one hour.

If the amount of water that drains is less than two inches per hour, your soil has poor drainage. This could indicate your soil is clay soil which is great at holding on to water, so much so that it may not let the water drain away fast enough.

How to improve soil drainage

One major thing to understand is the difference between soil texture and soil structure. Soil texture refers to the proportions of sand, silt, and clay in the soil and cannot be altered, where as soil structure can be changed because it is how the particles in the soil aggregate.

  • Add organic material- You can improve tilth by adding finished compost to the soil, which helps to create larger pores in the soil giving both air and water more room to pass through. Try adding 2-3 inches of finished compost to your beds and incorporate with a fork or shovel.
Vetch Cover Crop

 

  • Plant cover crops- Considered a traditional method for soil enrichment, crops such as vetch or clover are not grown to maturity, but are planted and then tilled or dug back into the soil before the seeds set. These crops improve soil drainage by breaking up the soil with their roots and by acting as “green manure” when they are plowed back in.
A side yard French drain.
  • Build a French drain- Moving water downhill is key to improving soil drainage, thus finding a downward slope in your garden is well worth the effort. If you have a flat yard consider creating a trench with a 1-3 percent gradual slope and filling the bottom with rocks to assist in moving the water away from the problem area.
  • Dig or drill through a hardpan or clay pan layer- Hardpan can develop as a result of mining or construction activity. Hardpan less than two feet think can be double-dug during the dry season, then watered and allowed to settle. With hardpan over two feet think, you may need to do some deep ”ripping” or drilling.  
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