- Author: Launa Herrmann
They're here! The tulip bulbs I planted in early December are dancing away to March's gusty winds. With a little fall planning and bulb digging, anyone can add a vibrant splash of color to a spring garden. Certainly, tulips are a simple solution. (To view my previous blog on the topic, see “Chill Time for Tulips” posted December 5, 2013).
Tulips thrive in dry summers and cold winters. In Solano County, we have both. While many gardeners view tulips as annuals, I treat mine as perennials. I'll leave the bulbs in the ground and enjoy their springtime show year after year until a ravenous rodent or fungus gets the best of them. Only then will I replant. In the meantime, deadheading blooms and removing the dried spent leaves is the only fussing around I'll do.
With a vibrant color pallette to choose from, you can creatively paint your garden with tulips from outside flower beds and borders to raised beds and pots. Most can be forced into bloom indoors. Flowers range from single to double, and vary in shape from cups to bowls and goblets to lily-like. Some are tall and upright, while others are short and stout. Edges may be ruffled, fringed or plain.
- Author: Janet Snyder
As Master Gardener's, we probably agree that blooming flowers are considered a real treasure in our gardens. There is such joy in nursing and tending a plant and then watching it produce a beautiful, colorful flower. However, since it is a little too early to go out in to my garden and fill a vase with flowers, you can imagine my surprise when a flower shop delivered a lovely arrangement to me yesterday from a dear friend! I've been enjoying the colors and smells of the arrangement today, and I started thinking about the care of an arrangement after delivery. In addition to being a certified Master Gardener, I am also a certified florist, so I know that caring for arrangements is important and fairly simple. If your delivery includes instructions on the care of your arrangement, please follow them. If not, here are some basic instructions on the care of cut flowers and arrangements.
Depending on the type of flowers used, your arrangement could last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so giving them a little TLC each day can extend your enjoyment of the flowers. The most important (and obvious) is to make sure the flowers have fresh water every day. Immediately upon delivery, give your flowers a fresh drink of water. Many times, arrangements are delivered with only a small amount of water to avoid drips and spills in transit, so it is important to check the water level and fill up the trough or container. If the flowers are loose in a vase, keep the water line below the leaves (drowning leaves lead to bacterial growth in the water). Sometimes a packet of floral preservative/flower food is included, so by all means add this when you water, remembering to follow package directions. If the water becomes cloudy, you should replace it with fresh water.
Loose flowers benefit from stems receiving a fresh cut daily. Remove one stem at a time when you do this. It is recommended to use a sharp knife and cut an inch or two off the stem at a diagonal. Use pruning shears on woody stems and branches. Take care to make a clean cut so that you don't crush the stems, as crushing the stems can shorten the life of the flower. After cutting, immediately place the stem back in to the fresh water. Please use safety precautions when using the sharp knife and pruners!
Keep the flowers in a cool spot away from direct sunlight, heating and cooling vents or sources, fans, and televisions. Nothing is sadder than wilting flowers!
I like to replace the dying flowers in the greenery with store-bought loose flowers or blooms from my own garden. The greenery in many arrangements can easily last several weeks, extending the life and enjoyment of the arrangement.
Most important of all, take time to smell the flowers!
- Author: Marshall Foletta
My bees arrive in two weeks—three pounds of Italian honey bees, 10,000 Apis mellifera ligusticas.
I began to think about starting a hive last year during master gardener training. For our final project my group explored Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)—the stunning decline in commercial bee populations over the past decade. Since 2005 beekeepers have reported the mysterious and rapid disappearance of their bees, entire hives virtually vacated. In most cases, the queen remains, but the workers are simply gone.
The reasons for the collapse are still unclear. Since bees have relatively fragile immune systems, many suspect the pesticides used in commercial agriculture. Studies have led several European countries to restrict the use of Imidacloprid, one of the most widely used insecticides and part of a class labeled Neonicotinoids. But other researchers suggest that the causes of CCD are more varied. A recent study revealed that Tobacco Ringspot virus, a pollen-borne pathogen, may be a factor in the collapse of bee populations.
The consequences of all this for agriculture are enormous. Close to $20 billion worth of crops depend on bee pollination. Last year, California's $3-billion almond industry barely escaped a crisis due to the shortage of “rental bees” needed for spring pollination.
Some apiary activists believe that a legion of backyard beekeepers could help sustain bee populations until the causes are fully identified and the necessary regulatory measure are taken. That seems a bit unlikely. But in researching my hive I was surprised to find that most local ordinances are fairly reasonable, making backyard beekeeping a possibility. Vacaville will issue a bee permit if you agree to place your hive at least 20' from property lines and 100' from neighboring houses. The 20,000 square foot lot requirement is somewhat prohibitive. But other cities are even more tolerant. Fairfield has no lot-size requirement and requires only that hives be 10' from property lines and 50' from neighboring houses.
Designing and building my hive was also fairly simple. The Internet is loaded with information—beekeeping websites, forums and even hive blueprints. I built my 12” by 40” top bar hive (complete with a side window so I can watch my bees at work) for less than $40.
Whether my little colony will make a difference—whether my bees will escape the pathogens or pesticides killing off our bees—remains to be seen. But I'm excited about getting started.
- Author: Libbey McKendry
Birds are beautiful in the garden. I love hearing them sing and watching them flit here and there. But, when they devour all the lettuce and other small transplants something must be done! But honestly, it took me quite a while to discover that they were a problem.
A year or so ago when I planted a three foot by three foot square bed of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) by scattering the seed, the baby plants disappeared before they could even get their true leaves. I thought it must be slugs (Gastropoda or gastropods), so I put down Sluggo. You only need a teaspoon per square yard and more is NOT better. It didn't seem to help. When the next planting disappeared while still quite young I thought it might be the pill bugs (Armadillidium vulgare) or earwigs (Euborellia annulipes) so I threw down a teaspoon of Sluggo Plus. The plants still disappeared. What could it be? I didn't want to give up but I was stumped!
At the time I was also having trouble with getting broccoli (Brassica oleracea) seeds to grow. The young plants would get up to about three inches high and then the leaves would be eaten off to the center ribs. My broccoli area looked like little green skeletons waving at me! When I tried planting transplants instead of seeds I had no problem. What was causing the damage?
The light went on when I came out early one morning and startled a crow which hopped, jumped, then flew into my neighbor's tree and proceeded to scold me. It was the early birds and they were getting more than worms!
I now have three really good methods to defend my tender plants from bird damage. First, I needed something to keep the lettuce out of sight from the birds, something that would be easy to pick under and water under when necessary. I decided to use a floating row cover because it is light and can be easily cut it to fit a specific area. To keep it up off the baby plants I used clothes pins on thin bamboo stakes along the sides (see the picture below). After some experimenting I discovered I didn't need to completely cover the area on the sides, just the top which made it easy to pick and water under. The birds stayed away! I don't think they like how the row cover flaps a bit in the breeze and they probably feel vulnerable if they go underneath. It is definitely too low for crows.
Recently I found a new toy at Orchard Nursery in Lafayette which became my second method to protect lettuce. It is a nine foot by two foot Grow Tunnel. It is just the perfect size for two rows of lettuce and looks tidier than the floating row cover. Again I use clothes pins on the structure to keep the cover lifted when I need to pick or water. It has the added benefit of encouraging faster growth as it keeps the area warmer in the winter.
As you look at the pictures below you might ask why are the plastic bottles are on the bamboo stakes. My husband and I saw them being used in a community garden in Autun, France. At first we thought they were protecting the gardener's eyes as they bent over the garden but when my husband added them to my bamboo stakes to protect my eyes as I bend over the beds, we realized the bottles rattle and sparkle in the breeze so their main purpose must be to keep the birds away!
Between the gently rattling, sparkly bottles, the row covers and the Grow Tunnel we now enjoy many fresh garden salads.