- Author: Kathy Gage
This segment will discuss remaking our back yard. We also took on the project of replacing our front lawn once the backyard renovation was mostly complete, but more on that in the next post!
In late 1996, my husband, two children, and I moved from Montana to San Ramon. In Montana, we had tried to make a living in a rural setting, but “You can't eat the scenery", I learned too late. When we moved to San Ramon, for a variety of reasons, we needed to find an empty house read for immediate possession. The house we bought came with a big backyard pool. We certainly enjoyed having the pool for many years, but once the kids were out of the house, we didn't use it much. The solar panels used to heat the water meant the pool was only hot enough to swim in from mid-May through September. While the maintenance costs weren't astronomical, we spent plenty to keep it in good condition. Other swim venues were very close at hand – San Ramon's huge swim complex is right over the creek at California High School – and I belonged to 24 Hour Fitness so I could swim there in an indoor pool any time of day.
At the time of the pool's deconstruction (as I like to call it) I was in the midst of my Master Gardener training through Contra Costa County and University of California County Extension Program (UCCE).
I knew from my MG training I wanted to have raised vegetable beds and to plant easy-care plants and shrubs. Since we live near the entire spectrum of K-12 schools, we also decided to add lawn for salability purposes. Many parents would want to have a play space for their children.
Our house is a typical tri-level suburban house that sits on a 70' x 100' sf. lot. In my Soils class, I learned our house sits on clay soil with no nutritive value, suitable only for supporting a 1500 sf. house. I would have to bring in lots of good stuff if I expected anything to grow! Because of San Ramon permit requirements, we had to replace our pool, and concrete decking with the same type of soil our house sits on. We had a soils engineer overseeing the placement and compaction of soil trucked in from the East Bay Hills. Only the final 12 inches could be ‘living' soil we could plant ornamentals and trees in. We were assured the soil was decent, though we might want to add compost and other amendments to attract worms and the like.
The hillside at the back of the property was covered with mulch, which was easy to live with and easy to replenish as necessary. The landscaper first moved the mulch to the level surface around the grass and the raised beds, and then added soil to the hillside. I have since added a lime tree, two miniature agapanthus plants, and three pittosporum bushes to the hillside, and creeping rosemary and white yarrow against the date palm behind a stone wall barrier. The fourth side, along our other neighbor's fence, now has agapanthus, two rhododendrons someone gave me, a transplanted ornamental onion set, and in the corner, a leafy grape plant that so far does not bear fruit but turns a lovely red on the fall. My neighbor's vinca minor has been creeping into that corner as well, and I am doing my best to encourage it.
My two planter boxes hold a mishmash of plants. Last year's crop of heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, various peppers and artichokes were a wash-out due to the lack of enough hours of sun. Now I am using the beds as a nursery of sorts, to grow small plants and seedlings for re-planting elsewhere. I also have one artichoke that is blooming, and some red onions and garlic that I expect will make it and be edible
I have barely touched the surface of my efforts, but I am happy to know that every plant is there because of me. It's okay if some die, because I know where I can get more. I have to admit I did not enjoy the work initially because I had so little confidence. I thought I had a ‘black thumb.' Now I know that is not true. Although I have a long way to go to become a ‘master' master gardener, I know I can accomplish what I set my mind to achieve. And boy, oh boy, is that a great feeling!
Next chapter: My front yard conversion: a lot more work that continues to this day!
Client's Question and Request:
I'm in central county and growing Zinfindel Grapes in my backyard garden. The vines are now several years old and producing fruit this year. The grape leaves have now developed “blotches” and the grapes look “cloudy” and not very healthy. What's the problem and what can I do about it? The pictures below show the leaf damage and what the grape bunches look like.
MGCC Help Desk Response and Advice:
Based on the grape samples and the photos you provided, the problem with the grapes appears to be powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease on grapes. It first shows up as faint white powder on the grapes but later can progress to cause brown russeting on the developing grapes. That russeting was somewhat apparent on the grape samples you brought in. Affected fruit cannot ripen normally and may crack as it grows.
Shady conditions and lack of good air circulation favors the development of the disease on grapes. When the vines are pruned iduring dormancy so that shoots are positioned in the next growing season, try to prune so that the plants will allow exposure of the developing fruit to sunlight and good air circulation. Avoid overhead watering of the vines which can spread the fungal spores to new locations.
Next growing season, watch closely for the appearance of powdery mildew. Early signs of a developing problem include young emerging leaves being deformed or showing a puckered condition. Prune out such areas as soon as they appear and it may help to prevent new infections.
If you lose a large percentage of the grapes this season, you may also want to consider the use of fungicides to prevent a recurrence next year. Take a close look at this UC website which gives detailed information about different types of fungicide that can be used and includes directions on how and when they should be applied: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7494.html
We hope this information is helpful. You're welcome to contact us again with any further questions
Help Desk of the Master Gardeners of Contra Costa
Note: The Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's 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: Molly K Weden
One day recently, a client at the nursery where I work brought in a sprig of Salvia mellifera, Black Sage. She said it was all over her sages, all of them! The plants seem otherwise healthy. They are in a sunny spot, receive drip irrigation not too often, and were fine for years up until now.
Looking closely, I guessed it might be some kind of gall. We picked and poked at the protuberances and put it under our low power microscope, which revealed that the growths were tubular.
What is all over her Black Sage?
It is a midge - Rhopalomyia audibertae - that creates a gall on sages.
The plants affected by this little gallfly are Salvia melllifera - Black Sage, and Salvia apiana - White Sage. Many creatures spend part of their life cycles in a gall. Mites, certain aphids, moths, flies, and wasps are just a few. Their eggs are deposited on the plant, and when they hatch, the larvae start to eat.
It is not clear how the larva affects the plant tissue, whether it is secretions from the mouth or the other end! The plant tissue changes in weeks or months to envelope the little creature. It becomes a protective enclosure for the larva while it grows. Fortunately, it doesn't harm the plants. It just looks ugly.
In this case, the gall is a member of the Dipteral order of insects, a tiny fly – or midge - that borrows the leaf tissue of a couple familiar sages. There is another midge, of the genus Rhopalomyia, that looks similar, but it employs the Baccharis group of Chaparral plants, such as coyote bush, as its host. The midge on the Black Sage is Rhopalomyia californica, the Baccharis gall fly.
These creatures don't hurt the plant, and the distorted leaves can be cut back if desired.
For further information on galls, see:
UC_IPM Managing Pests in Gardens: Gall Makers, http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/PLANTS/INVERT/gallmakers.html
Bugguide (Hosted by Iowa State University Dept of Entomology), http://bugguide.net/node/view/376111
The Gall Midges of California Essig Museum of Entomology,essig.berkeley.edu/documents/cis/cis02_2.pdf
- Author: MaryJo Smith
There is some debate over what to water next after the Tree.
Ultimately, it depends on whether your focus is on food crops or on the landscape, the ease of replacement, and the expense. I value my herbs because I cook with them, and I also want a small vegetable garden to eat from this summer (food prices will be higher). So, I plan on sacrificing bedding plants and annuals in favor of my herbs, strawberries and vegetables. I'll use mulch, shade cloth and drip irrigation to get the most from the water I have available to me.
The Lesser Nobles – Shrubs.
Typically shrubs planted within the past two years will require irrigation during drought, thought not as much as newly planted shrubs. During severe drought conditions, plantings up to five or six years of age may also require supplemental water.
The Merchant Class – Perennials and Established Trees and Shrubs.
Established shrubs or trees (three years or more in the ground) can be watered deeply about once a month, especially if they are showing signs of stress. Deep, thorough irrigations from spring through summer can be enough to keep most trees and shrubs alive when water is in short supply. Many tree and shrub species will drop leaves or wilt under severe water shortage but will survive. Under-watered fruit trees probably will produce less, if any fruit, but will also survive. Once water shortages are lifted, these trees will again leaf out and produce fruit.
The Serfs – Established Lawns, Groundcovers, Containers, Bedding Plants and Annuals.
Annuals and herb plants are a lower priority because they require the most watering to keep alive and can be replaced inexpensively or can be replanted next year when adequate water is available.
P.S. Remember, The Tree is King.
- Author: Molly K Weden
Just some thoughts about being in the gardening biz for so long. Besides being a Master Gardener the last 4 years, I have worked in retail sales at a local nursery for many years.
One of the things we encounter with the public is their discomfort with the nomenclature of plants. Many gardening concepts get a bit twisted, too.
A kid asked if we sold aphids.
Many have asked for hummus to improve their soil. With a side of tahini?
One woman wanted asylum. I know the nursery is a serene place, but I think she really meant allysum.
Another lady wanted some albuterol. She wasn't wheezing, so I directed her to the abutilons.
One young guy came into the nursery looking for credentias. I wracked my brain trying to figure out what he wanted. I just hope he didn't get yelled at for coming home empty handed.
Overheard: "I think salvia is part of the sage family."
Rhododendrons are rhododendrums, camellias are chamelions, and every vine is a jasmine.
A lady called us trying to locate a pedophilia tree.
People come in looking for Purple Verbas, Blue Static and Lantania.
My coworker K. swore she kept a straight face while a customer insisted on getting chlamidia.
These are true observations! We do our best to listen, and I have a personal rule to never be snarky to the uninformed. How else would a person learn if they didn't ask?