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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!


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

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.


The Buddy System

July 12th, 2011
Jan Bower, Yolo County Master Gardener, explains how the planting buddy system or companion planting works in her article from the 2010 Summer issue of The Yolo Gardener. Click here to read the full article.

Jan explains companion planting is the idea that some plants benefit from growing in close proximity to others, it’s nature’s ”buddy system.” Some known benefits of the buddy system are better growth, higher yield, pest control and weed repression.

The Three Sisters buddy planting

This idea originated with the Native Americans, specifically the Iroquois, who planted corn, beans and squash together calling the combination “Three Sisters.” Unbeknownst to them this threesome worked so well together because squash takes nitrogen out of the soil, while beans put it back. Lastly corn creates shade which is needed for good production of squash and beans.

Here is a list of was to create beneficial plant associations:

  • Trap Cropping- Plant a secondary plant that attracts pests away from the main crop
  • Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation- Reduce the need for nitrogen based fertilizers by planting legumes and/or clover which add nitrogen back into the soil
  • Physical Spatial Interactions- Plant your garden with a tall, sun loving plant and a low, shade loving plant. For example, plant corn or sunflowers with squash or lettuce.
  • Beneficial Habitats- Create a habitat that attracts and supports a population of beneficial insects.  To do this reduce pesticide use and provide host insects, nectar, pollen, water and shelter. Beneficial insects include: ladybugs, lacewings, hover flies, spiders and wasps.
  • Security Through Diversity- Mix different types of plants in the garden so if pests or adverse conditions destroy some plants, others will remain.
Ladybugs helps us get rid of those pesky aphids!

Here are some buddy planting examples:

  • Mint, rosemary, and garlic create a strong scent that repels aphids, ants and other pests from members of the cabbage family (broccoli, turnips, radishes) as well as roses.
  • Beans and peas should never be planted near the members of the onion family (garlic, chives, leeks and shallots). The excessive nitrogen given off by beans and peas encourages more foliage and less bulb. Also the sulphurous gas given off by onions is toxic to peas. Instead try planting beans and peas with carrots!

Do you plan your garden to incorporate companion or “buddy” plantings? Let us know combinations you like.