Help From the Contra Costa Master Gardeners' Help Desk
Request: I'd like to reduce the use of tap water to irrigate my garden by recycling water from our washing machine. I understand this recycle/reuse water is called "graywater". Could you provide me some guidance on how to use graywater for my garden?
Response: Thank you for contracting Master Gardeners' Help Desk about using graywater in your garden. It's important that we learn how to use water more efficiently as drought conditions continue. I applaud your desire to use graywater as a tool to optimize our finite water resources. However, the use of graywater does come with some challenges.
Graywater is untreated waste water from clothes washers, showers, bathtubs, bathroom sinks and laundry tubs that is used for outdoor watering. In California, graywater does not include waste water from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, toilets, or laundry water from soiled diapers.
Graywater is also an option for irrigating your ornamentals but it should not be used to water root vegetables or any vegetables whose plant parts come into contact with the soil due to the potential that human pathogens might be present.
For more information on graywater installations, see the East Bay Municipal Utility District website http://www.ebmud.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/Graywater%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf and
When using graywater to irrigate plants, you should avoid using household products that contain sodium or sodium compounds, bleach or boron, as these can adversely affect plants and soils resulting in an alkaline soils condition not well tolerated by many plants. The UC article "Using Household Wastewater on Plants" http://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/fertilization_Householdwastewater.pdf describes the effect on plants of using products which contain boron and chlorine. The Greywater Action website http://greywateraction.org/contentgreywater?friendly?products/ provides a list of products available that are phosphate, sodium, chlorine and boron free. Although we can't recommend any specific brand, Greywater Action considers the following laundry products graywater friendly: Oasis Liquid Laundry Detergent, ECOS liquid detergent, Vaska and Dr. Bronners liquid soap. The Ecology Center in Berkeley also evaluated a number of laundry products for compatibility with graywater systems and the results are listed on their website: http://ecologycenter.org/factsheets/greywater?cleaning?products/ .
I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.
Thank you for doing your part to conserve water.
Contra Costa Master Gardeners' Help Desk
Note: The Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/
Moving into the digital age, the Handbook's 2d Edition is now also available in e-book form. I bought the e-book a month ago. I find it quite complete and useful. Although I somewhat miss the heft of reading the “paper book”, with the digital version I can find something I'm interested with just a click…and everywhere it occurs in the Handbook. I've now loaded the Handbook on every digital device I have except for my phone…and I'm thinking about that too. It's easily readable on my inexpensive 7” tablet (Android OS), laptop (Windows 7 OS), and desktop (Windows Vista OS). For Apple owners, the description of the e-book says that it is formatted for Apple's iPad. I ordered it online from UCANR, and within a few seconds of paying for it with my credit card, I downloaded it and loaded it to my computer. With some available, free software I also loaded it onto my tablet and laptop. If this is your first e-book, you like me, will probably also need e-book reader software on your computer. Many good ones are readily available and free for whatever computer and/or operating system you are using.
Once you are into e-books, especially for gardening and horticulture, there are numerous e-books available for a wide variety of interests and cost, including free. For example, two free e-books that I've found of interest that you might also be interested in are described below:
Knott's Handbook for Vegetable Growers
… from Amazon… “The leading one-stop reference for commercial vegetable growers for more than 50 years Rooted in tradition, branching out to the future. For more than half a century, Knott's Handbook for Vegetable Growers has provided generations of commercial growers with the most timely, accessible, and useful information available on the subject…”
This handbook is definitely for the serious vegetable grower and should be a useful addition to UC publications. If you are interested and probably already an avid home vegetable gardener or maybe a “newbie” wanting even more detailed vegetable growing information, you should find this handbook of interest …and the price is right. While it is commercially available for purchase (new it is > $65), it can also be downloaded from a University of Missouri Extension web site for free without any obvious restrictions. http://extension.missouri.edu/sare/documents/KnottsHandbook2012.pdf
Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding
…from Amazon.. “With Hybrid, Noel Kingsbury reveals that even those imaginary perfect foods (..of our memories…) are themselves far from anything that could properly be called natural; rather, they represent the end of a millennia-long history of selective breeding and hybridization. Starting his story at the birth of agriculture, Kingsbury traces the history of human attempts to make plants more reliable, productive, and nutritious—a story that owes as much to accident and error as to innovation and experiment.
This e-book interested me as I've recently been following the GMO food discussions on the web. Kingsbury is a well-known landscape architect, designer, and author. This book provides a readable introduction of the history of how our foods evolved over the last thousand years… leading up to the current (and probably forever) discussions of GMO foods. The book can be obtained free from the University of Chicago Press this month (April 2015) at the following link:
This free download comes with DRM (digital rights management controls) that might cause you to have to jump through some hoops to download and read it, i.e. read the publisher's instructions closely. I believe the book is worth it. You will also have learned some interesting facets of manipulating e-book formats as well.... good training for the future...
Here's to some great e-book reading… and learning… and for free.
Contra Costa County Master Gardener
- Author: MaryJo Smith
In the garden, Verticillium Wilt (VW) can affect potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, some cole crops, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, cucurbits, artichokes, avocados, peaches, nectarines, caneberries, and apricots. It can also affect landscape plants and flowers. In fact, there are over 400 plant species that are affected by the Verticillium wilt disease (VW). Given the wide range of hosts that succumbs to VW, it is important to prevent, or at least manage, the disease.
The fungus persists in soil for long periods. Although infection is favored by cool weather, because the fungus interferes with water transport in the stems, crop damage is most severe during periods of hot weather when plants are stressed for water. This is one of those diseases that can “crop” up on you (har har snort, pun intended), but with some forethought, can be avoided or at least minimized. If you suspect that your soil is infected with VW, the best way to know for sure is to have your soil tested by a plant & soil diagnostic laboratory.
Use Resistant Cultivars. If you don't have a problem with VW, then a great way to avoid it is to try to select resistant cultivars when choosing your starts. Some cultivars are more tolerant than others. Practice proper cultural practices in order to avoid stressing plants. For example, if growing artichokes, don't take crowns to be used for propagation from where the disease has occurred (plant only pathogen-free plants). Likewise, don't plant annual artichokes in an area with a history of V. dahliae. All annual artichoke varieties are more susceptible to VW than the perennial Green Globe variety so consider planting only perennial artichokes.
Crop Rotation. Another way to manage VW is to rotate your crops. Don't plant the same crop/similarly susceptible crop in the same area/bed in consecutive years. Ideally, rotate out susceptible crops for 2 to 3 years. For example, rotate the tomatoes and peppers with non-host crops such as beans, corn or broccoli. Cereals, grasses, and legumes are good rotation crops.
Biofumigation. Planting broccoli, a non-host of VW, may also help reduce pathogen levels through a process called biofumigation: decaying broccoli residue, when disced into the soil, either gives off natural chemicals that can kill VW or alters the soil microflora so that VW survival is reduced. You can also use cauliflower too, but only in winter or early spring.
Soil solarization. In warmer areas of the state, solarization is an effective control of soilborne pathogens and weeds. Solarization is carried out after the beds are formed and when the weather conditions are ideal (30-45 days of hot weather that promotes soil temperatures of at least 122°F). The effectiveness of solarization can be increased by solarizing after incorporating the residue of a cruciferous crop, in particular broccoli or mustards, into the soil.
(all information courtesy of UC Davis ANR, Integrated Pest Management Program) For more information, see the links below:
My cherry tree has red spots on the leaf stems. Is this normal?, and if not, what should I do to prevent and/or remedy that problem.
Contra Costa Master Gardeners Help Desk Response:
Thank you for calling the Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk today regarding the the red spots on your cherry tree leaves.
I was able to confirm that the “red spots” are normal as cherry trees produce a leaf stalk (petiole) that often has 2 or more ‘nectar glands' (your “red spots”). They are known as extrafloral nectaries. These are separate from the flower. If the tree is attacked by pests, these glands exude a special “scent” that attracts beneficial insects that will (hopefully) eat the pest, and so help to protect the tree. It is essentially a natural pest control. The glands are the red “bumps” in the pictures below:
Because you also mentioned that you were interested in the science, please see the scientific details at http://www.botgard.ucla.edu/html/botanytextbooks/lifeforms/antplants/extrafloralnectaries.html.
Enjoy your cherry tree and please contact the Master Gardeners again for any future questions.
Contra Costa Master Gardeners Help Desk
Note: The Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: email@example.com, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us//span>
- Author: MaryJo Smith
Saturday was Day One of the Great Tomato Plant Sale in Walnut Creek. Tomato lovers, young and not-as-young, formed a line that snaked around the corner and down the street as they waited for the sale to begin. The garden was abuzz with activity as CCMG volunteers set up the tents and tables, did plant inspections, and found their stations. The help desk tent was ready to answer questions about tomatoes, gardening, or the Master Gardeners' programs; the garden guides were ready to help with location and selection of tomatoes and other veggies; the expeditors were posted at the end of the garden to guide the customers through the checkout process; and the cashiers and CI's were at the registers to ring up the purchases.
The gates opened promptly at 10:00 am. Customers, with lists in hand, focused on finding the tomatoes they had carefully selected from the myriad of varieties offered, for their gardens this year. For the next two hours, there was a frenzy of tomato buying. There were flats, there were bags, there were bins, there were carts, and there were wagons. It was amazing. I manned one of the cash registers and by the third hour, I think I had rung up over 900 plants. The seven other cashiers were also ringing up about the same amount. The pace continued, with only a few lulls when many of the attendees stopped to listen to Our Garden's Janet Miller, give presentations on growing tomatoes and other veggies. It was a great turnout!
Even after selling so many plants, believe it or not, we still have lots of inventory at both locations and they are definitely not “left-overs.” While we sold out of a few varieties, we still have over 3,500 tomato plants at Our Garden. And, we've set aside 3,000 plants for the upcoming West County sale.
So, if you missed the first day of the GTPS, don't despair – Our Garden will have plants -- tomatoes (of course!), peppers, various other veggies and herbs, beans, and even some flowers -- available this Wednesday and upcoming Saturday, and West County will have its very own sale on Saturday as well. CCMG volunteers will be on hand to help you out.
Come check it out!