- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
"I had the same experience that most people did," Gable said.
Banks began the 2014 summer gardening season like most home gardeners, full of hope and enthusiasm. But as fall approached she found herself with "a few spindly stalks of okra, a tangle of barren melon vines and a pepper plant loaded with misshapen pods."
Gable and another UC Cooperative Extension advisor, Janet Hartin, chalked up this year's garden frustrations in part to the state of California's water woes.
"A lot of people are calling and want to rip out their whole garden and just put in native plants," Hartin told the columnist.
But she and Gable assured the writer that vegetables are well worth the water it takes to grow them.
"...By growing fruits and vegetables, you're decreasing your carbon footprint," Gable said. "You're not using pesticides, not making trips to the grocery store... The environmental and health benefits of home gardens are lasting and important."
Gable offered some suggestions to improve the chances for success:
- Add compost to the soil to provide nutrients and increase water-holding capacity
- Switch to water-conserving drip irrigation
- Insulate the soil surface with a thick layer of mulch
- Make careful planting decisions
"(Gable) steered me to a bevy of experts who take questions by email and phone through the University of California's Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program. I've bookmarked local planting guides and advice online at http://www.ucanr.edu," Banks wrote.
To read the Los Angeles Times article by Banks, click here.
- Author: Dohee Kim
Donald R. Hodel, environmental horticulture advisor, is the recipient of the 2014 Horticulturist of the Year award from the Southern California Horticultural Society. The distinguished award recognizes his lifetime of contributions to Southern California horticulture, including his applied research projects that helped to improve practices in the selection and management of landscape plants and trees.
Hodel will receive the award on September 13, 2014 at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.
"I'm honored to receive this award from the Southern California Horticulture Society. It's nice confirmation and recognition of my body of work in and contribution to the landscape and tree care industry," said Hodel.
Hodel has been with UC Cooperative Extension for more than 30 years and is an international authority in palm horticulture and taxonomy. His research has taken him to places all over the world, including Mexico, Central America, South America, Hawaii and the South Pacific, and Southeast Asia. He has authored and co-authored more than 500 publications about identification, selection and management of plants. He has also authored and co-authored eight books, including Exceptional Trees of Los Angeles.
Hodel earned his master's degree in tropical horticulture from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and his bachelor's degree in ornamental horticulture from Cal Poly in Pomona.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Now, they have a new online resource to consult about urban farming. Last week, the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources launched a website to provide practical, science-based information for urban agriculture.
At the website ta http://ucanr.edu/urbanag, visitors will find information on raising livestock, crop production, marketing and policies for farming in their backyards, on a few acres, at a school or in a community setting.
Rachel Surls, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Los Angeles County, and a team including UCCE farm advisors, policy and advocacy experts, urban planners, agricultural economists and others created the new urban agriculture website in response to the results of a UC survey of urban farmers in California.
"Our team interviewed urban farmers around the state about their challenges and successes, and what information they really needed as they got started," said Surls, who specializes in sustainable food systems. "Based on their needs, we looked for science-based educational materials that would be helpful and packaged them into this website.
"The site will be a resource for urban farmers who are selling what they grow, as well as school and community gardeners, and folks who are keeping some backyard chickens and bees. We also intend it to be a resource for local policy makers who are making decisions that impact farming in California cities."
Many urban farmers are beginning farmers, according to Surls. "They need basic information on planting, pests and irrigation, as well as information that's more specific to farming in the city," she said. "For example, they must navigate local laws and regulations that impact farming which include zoning and health codes."
The UC ANR Urban Agriculture website also advises urban farmers about environmental issues that they may encounter.
"Urban soils can sometimes be contaminated and may need testing and remediation," Surls said. "Farming close to neighbors in the city can also bring special challenges."
She encourages people to check back for updates as the Urban Ag website continues to grow.
"We'll also share stories about urban farms around California and news around the state about urban agriculture policies and initiatives." Surls said.
For more information, please contact Rachel Surls at (626) 586-1982, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For 100 years, University of California Cooperative Extension researchers and educators have been drawing on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. UC Cooperative Extension is part of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. To learn more about UC Cooperative Extension services in Los Angeles County, please visit http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
- Author: Dohee Kim
Long before European settlers arrived in America, the Los Angeles River was an important source of food and water for native peoples. Europeans settled the Los Angeles area in part because of the river and fertile alluvial soils it provided. The river and its tributaries frequently flooded and changed course, forming wide alluvial floodplains that extended across southern Los Angeles from modern day Santa Monica to Long Beach. When Los Angeles began its transition to teeming metropolis and settled these flat floodplains, the river's natural characteristics led to disastrous flooding.
In the interest of saving lives and property, civil engineers sloped the banks and encased them in more than 30 miles of concrete, a move that completely altered the fishery. In 2010, UC Cooperative Extension completed research that indicated life is still capable of being sustained in the LA River, despite the concrete and influx of pollutants from local storm drains and sewage treatment plants.
Working with Friends of the Los Angeles River, an organization interested in restoring the LA River to a more natural state, UCCE natural resources advisor Sabrina Drill surveyed the fish population in the river's eight-mile Glendale Narrows area, a section that, because of its underlying geology, was left with a natural bottom. The researchers discovered a diverse and bountiful fish population in this stretch of the river.
"To our surprise and delight, toxicity reports show the small number of fish we tested to be free of mercury and have extremely low levels of PCBs," Drill said. "This may not be true for the rest of the river. Glendale Narrows is one of the cleanest sections, probably because the natural river bottom cleans itself and because of the high quality effluent coming out of upstream water reclamation plants."
The survey identified eight species of fishes, none of them native, plus tadpoles and red swamp crayfish in the river. The eight fish species are: fathead minnow, carp, black bullhead, Amazon sailfin catfish, mosquito fish, green sunfish, largemouth bass and tilapia. They hail from Africa, South America, Eastern North America and Asia.
Whether reestablishment of native species to the river is possible remains to be seen, and may not be the most important factor in river restoration.
"Difficult though it may be, you can't make the LA River what it used to be simply by digging up the concrete," Drill said. "Because of all the development, the water we import, and changes in hydrology, temperature, and water quality, it's not the same system it was before people settled here."
According to Drill, large-scale habitat restoration and restoration of some historical floodplains will dramatically enhance the ecological function and natural beauty of the Los Angeles River.
Drill has also served as part of the Technical Advisory Committee for the City of Los Angeles/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to restore and revitalize portions of the LA River since 2008. Recently, she began field work to update to the Los Angeles River Fish Study, which she co-authored in 2008.
To view a video about fishing in the LA River, click here. The seven-minute documentary, created by film maker Megan McCarty, includes an interview with Drill.
- Author: Melissa Womack
California has experienced record dry conditions with an explosive wildfire season approaching. The state even declared May 4 to 10, 2014 "Wildfire Awareness Week," urging residents to prepare homes for potential wildfires.
"Creating and maintaining a defensible space is critical for the protection of homes," said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. "It has never been more critical to strengthen our fire prevention efforts, in light of the elevated fire conditions we have been experiencing in California. We have increased our inspection staffing and now we need the public to make sure they, too, are prepared for the increased fire risk due to drought."
Homeowners can easily create a defensible space to help protect their homes and improve their chances of surviving a wildfire through easy maintenance practices. A minimum defensible space of 100 feet around your home is required by California law (Public Resources Code 4291). Check with your local fire department for specific defensible space requirements in your area.
Creating a 100-foot space around the home is oftentimes the easiest and most effective first line of defense against wildfires. According to "Landscaping Tips to Help Defence your Home from Wildfire," the goal of the law is to protect the home while providing a safe area for firefighters.
A buffer between structures and trees, grass and shrubs help slow or stop the spread of wildfire. Break your property surrounding the home down into two zones.
-Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds (vegetation).
-Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
-Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
-Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
-Relocate wood piles into Zone 2 (see below)
-Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows.
-Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks.
-Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.
-Cut or mow annual grass down to a minimum height of 4 inches.
-Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees (see diagram).
-Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs and trees (see diagram).
-Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones and small branches. However, they may be permitted to a depth of 3 inches.
Again, prepared homeowners are not only protecting their homes, but also providing a safe environment for firefighters responding to the call of duty. Visit The California Garden Web or ReadyforWildfire.org for more information about preparing your home for wildfire season and for information about fire-resistant landscaping. You can also visit UC Cooperative Extension's Fire program.
Photo Credit of Image 2: CAL FIRE, www.fire.ca.gov/span>