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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 edenbrothers.com.

SPRING CLEANING

  • 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. 

     FERTILIZING, COMPOSTING and MULCHING

    • 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.

      PLANTING

    • 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 hortmag.com
      • 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 lilacsandroses.blogspot.com.

      DISEASE AND PEST CONTROL

      • 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 ipm.ucdavis.edu if you want to use commercial pesticides.

      LAWN CARE

      • 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.

       MAINTENANCE

      • 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.

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        3 Tips for Managing Flea Beetles on Your Eggplants!

        August 9th, 2010

        We’ve been bitten!  Fleas just don’t attack your pets, they can attack your plants as well!  Check out the photos of our poor eggplants.  This year we have quite a few eggplant varieties growing in the garden (imperial black beauties, rosa bianca eggplants, snowy eggplants, and Vittoria eggplants), and not one has evaded the wrath of the flea beetle.
        Here are a few tips on how you can manage these pesky pests:
        1.  Make sure to get rid of your garden debris in the fall to remove overwintering beetles.
        2.  Cover your seedlings with a protective covering until they are in the sixth leaf stage.
        3.  Use an aluminum foil mulch.
        The good news is that this year the fleas planned their attack later in the season than last year which allowed our eggplants a chance to establish themselves before housing these unwanted guests.  We hope our plants will still produce enough healthy fruit to not worry about having to to get rid of the fleas, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted!
        For more information, check out what the University of California Integrated Pest Management (UCIPM) Program has to say on the topic here.  
        Have you had a problem with flea beetles before?  What treatments if any have given you success?  Let us know!
        This is how you know you have flea beetles–holey, lacy leaves!  This plant must have been feeding an army!
        In this photo you can see our eggplant in the front and our bush beans in the back.  The flea beetles have no interest in munching on those beans at all!  Their tastes are specific!
        Despite their porous leaves, these eggplants continue to blossom!
        I love the color of the eggplant blossoms, don’t you?
        We sure hope these blossoms produce delicious fruits despite the unwanted guests!
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        WEBSITE WEDNESDAY: University of California Integrated Pest Management

        June 23rd, 2010

        Keeping your edible garden free of bad bugs can be difficult, especially if you are not even sure what type of pest is the problem! This common issue brings us to today’s ‘Website Wednesday’ recommendation–The University of California Integrated Pest Management (UCIPM) website specific to ‘Pests in Gardens and Landscapes–Vegetable and Melons.’

        In February this year our gardener Arlene encountered this pest who’d taken up residence on the flip side of a cabbage leaf. We knew it was some kind of moth based on the pupae. Then we found this entry on the IPM website describing the color of the pupae by following the links associated with cabbage pests: “Pupae are green with faint yellow lines down the back and sides; there is no spun cocoon. The cabbageworm is active throughout the year in California.” Voila! We have a cabbageworm and now know the best way to manage them is by handpicking. Now that was easy!

        It’s not always that easy, but regardless this website is awesome! You can delve deep, really deep into the various types of pest that may be affecting your garden. In addition tons of tips for identification, UCIPM also provides tips on various types of management. The UCIPM website is not just about pests either, it also provides cultivation tips and techniques, weather data, and top-notch publications useful for any home gardener!

        Do you have any pests that you are having a difficult time identifying? Post a photo on our Facebook page under ‘Fan Photos.’

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