Client's Request: A visiting friend of mine has given me as a present a large 5 gallon Peony (Paeonia lactiflora 'Festiva Maxima'). These friends grow these back East, but I'm not familiar with Peonies or growing them here in Contra Costa County. Would you please provide me with some guidance on planting and caring for this Peony in my garden?
CCMG Response: Thank you for contacting Master Gardeners with your question regarding planting your new peony. How lucky you are to receive a five gallon Peony from a friend! Often a showy spring flower in colder Eastern gardens, they can also be grown in temperate Contra Costa County when situated properly in the garden.
A permanent, morning sun only or partly shady site is ideal for your peony. Protection from afternoon sun and from harsh winds will help to prolong its life. Peonies will perform best in well-drained, evenly moist, rich soil with a pH near neutral. They are drought-tolerant once established. Hardiness Zone: up to 8 means that the cooler spring/summer exposure the better and that cold exposure in winter isn't a problem. This most likely will lead to planting it with a north-easterly exposure in the garden trying to be “cool” in the summer at the same time trying to get adequate morning sun.
- Good drainage! Reasonably good soil!
- Usually needs a sunny location for blooms - will do well in light shade but best blooms usually on those in full sun. In central and east county you will want a spot with morning sun and partial or afternoon shade (ideally 4-6 hours of morning sun).
- Keep away from large trees or heavy shrubs to avoid root competition.
Soil Preparation - important factor in growing peonies! Prepare well before planting!
- Planting hole – Dig twice as wide as actual root size. Dig or till in a 2 - to 4 - inch layer of organic matter into heavy clay soil. Mix double handful of bone meal with soil for each plant. Sunset Western Garden Book also recommends letting the soil settle for a couple of days before planting.
- Planting - Ideal time is early fall. Once planted, peonies can be left to grow undisturbed indefinitely. They may take 3 - 4 years to reach mature size; may not bloom first year and only a little the second
Watering – All peonies need regular water and should not be allowed to dry out. Apply 2 – 3 inches of organic mulch to retain moisture.
Here is a link to additional information about pests of peony in the landscape:
Please let us know if you have any additional questions regarding growing peonies in your area!
Contra Costa Master Gardener 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//span>/span>
Assistance for the Home Gardener from the Contra Costa Master Gardeners Help Desk
CCMG Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the Contra Costa County Master Gardeners. It's always a good idea to check the toxicity of a pesticide before using it! Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide found in seeds from the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica). While Neem Oil has a very low acute toxicity rating for people and other mammals, it can be toxic to bees if not properly applied.
The University of California considers Neem Oil as moderately toxic to bees and recommends application only during late evening, night, or early morning and when plants are not blooming, i.e., when bees are not typically out foraging.
The following UC IPM (Integrative Pest Management) website provides additional information on Neem Oil (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/PNAI/pnaishow.php?id=53). When applying any pesticide it is very important to follow the label directions precisely, take all necessary precautions, wear appropriate safety equipment, and only apply the pesticide where appropriate and necessary for a specific pest. The following UC website provides guidelines on the safe and effective use of pesticides http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74126.html.
If you are interested in reading more about pesticides and bees, UC recommends the article "How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides" by Oregon State University on the web at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PDF/PMG/pnw591.pdf.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any additional 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/
- Author: Richard Hornberger
For many years, I have been sowing seeds in the ground, but in the last four years, I have been moving to indoor propagation of vegetables and flowers under controlled heat and lighting conditions. Typically, I sow seeds in an open or multi-cell planting tray using a soil mix of compost, peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. I have also used Rockwool cubes with success, but I prefer a light soil mix.
I am always looking for new information that will help improve my propagating techniques. A few months ago, while googling seed propagation, I came across an article by Stephen Scott of Terroir Seeds, about seed orientation. Scott believes that pointing the seed in the right direction (meaning with the root in the down direction) when planting will improve germination rates and vigor of the plant.
Before painstakingly planting my seeds with the radicle pointing down, I decided to research this theory a little more. One of the first web “hits” to come up was a repeat of the same article posted on the Monterey Bay Master Gardener Blog. I also found a similar article written by Master Gardener and Environmental Scientist, Diana K. Williams at SFGate. However, I wasn't able to find any UC Davis studies on the subject. Interestingly enough, the few university-based studies I did locate either did not support this idea, or directly contradicted it, such as studies with cucurbits (squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and cucumbers) that showed higher germination and vigor rates when the radicle is planted in the upward direction. While this is not a widely studied subject, most folks who have studied the subject make it clear seed orientation does not affect germination or vigor.
Although a little let down that the seed orientation theory came to naught, I nonetheless enjoyed my on-line sleuthing, and for now at least, I'll continue to plant my seeds without worrying about orientation./h1>
Do you want to be a Master Gardener? Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I interested in learning about plant anatomy, physiology and care?
- Do I have the time to participate in an intensive training program?
- Do I believe in volunteering within my community?
- Do I have enough time to complete the required volunteer service?
If you answered yes to these questions, the Master Gardener program could be for you. Before applying to the program, prospective Master Gardeners attend a mandatory orientation session that provides a more complete overview of both the training and the subsequent Master Gardener volunteer responsibilities.
Next Master Gardener Volunteer Training
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer Master Gardener, the next Training Program will be held in the fall and winter of 2015-2016. To apply to the Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program for either Alameda County or Contra Costa County, you must be a resident of that county, and must first attend an Orientation Session.
Orientation Sessions for the two counties are being held jointly, but the actual Training Programs will be conducted separately. You can sign up for any Orientation Session that suits your schedule, and will learn about the dates and locations for the actual Training Programs at your Orientation Session.
These sessions are free and will be held on:
- Sunday, June 14, 2015, 1:00-3:00 pm. UC Cooperative Extension Offices, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 75 Santa Barbara Road, Pleasant Hill.
- Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 7:00-9:00 pm. Telegraph Community Center, 2316 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland.
- Thursday, June 25, 2015, 1:00-3:00 pm. Los Medanos College, Library Building, Room L109, 2700 East Leland Road, Pittsburg.
- Sunday, June 28, 2015, 1:00-3:00 pm. San Leandro Public Library, Estudillo Room, 300 Estudillo Avenue, San Leandro.
- Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 7:00-9:00 pm. Los Medanos College, Library Building, Room L109, 2700 East Leland Road, Pittsburg.
- Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 1:00-3:00 pm. Alameda County Public Health Dept., Redwood Room, 1100 San Leandro Boulevard, San Leandro.
Registration for Orientation Sessions is now open!
Please click here for more detailed information on the Training Program and to register for an Orientation Session.
from the Contra Costa Master Gardener 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//h2>
- Author: Susan Heckly
Before I knew better, I though what I had building nests in the rafters of my greenhouse were yellow jackets. You know, those yellow and black flying meat-stealers, visiting the patio table for a taste of BBQ'd salmon. The ones that, if you disturb their nest, will do everything they can to defend themselves, including flying up pant legs and stinging like crazy.
My ever-helpful significant other decided that he would take care of the greenhouse dwellers for me. Since the nest was about 10 feet up at the top of the roof, he thought a blowtorch would be the easiest and least risky way, at least for him, to do the deed. Unfortunately, with the nest hanging only centimeters from a plastic roof panel, the greenhouse suffered from the flame of the blowtorch. It was only after this ill-fated attempt to eradicate the greenhouse dwellers that I learned they were not actually yellow jackets, but were instead paper wasps.
Paper wasps look quite a bit like yellow jackets: they are both distinctly black and yellow and both have stingers. If you look closer, paper wasps are more slender, with skinnier waists and thinner wings. They look more relaxed in flight—they carry their long legs not up close to their bodies like yellow jackets, but dangling down. One of the biggest differences is their tolerance. Yellow jackets are notoriously aggressive, while paper wasps are pretty laid back and will not attack unless you are very close and they feel threatened.
As an example of their non-aggressiveness, I carried a small paper bag of diatomaceous earth from the greenhouse across my yard. When I started to open the bag, I realized there was a paper wasp nest attached to the side, and hanging on the nest were 2 wasps tending the nest. Not only were they not aggressive, they didn't move at all. They clung to the nest as I scooped out enough for the job, closed up the bag, and carried it back to the greenhouse. I apologized for disturbing them.
Paper wasps are beneficial insects in the garden because they prey on other insects that we consider pests—caterpillars, flies, and beetles. They also feed on flower nectar and honeydew from insects.
They nest in protected areas such as under eaves or tree branches, in attics, bird houses and greenhouses. Unless the nest is really close to a doorway or heavily trafficked area, it should be left alone. If you see a nest being built somewhere problematic, remove it early in the season as it's just being built.
For a reference guide to help you distinguish between yellow jackets, paper wasps and other daubers, click here to view IPM Pest Note No. 7450. This Pest Note also contains information (including links to three wonderful demonstration videos) on identification, life cycle and management of social wasps.