- Author: Jenni Dodini
The thing that I love about traveling is learning what a plant looks like in its natural habitat. I learned quite a bit about Ficus trees during my trip to Costa Rica. The things that I knew before the trip were few: 1. They are beautiful, and 2. If left to my tender mercies they will surely die.
This tree had to be over 50 feet tall! I almost fell backwards when trying to get this picture to include the top of it.
This is me at the base of it and below is a close up of what its roots looked like going into the ground.
Of course, upon my return home, I had to look things up, so I consulted the Sunset Western Garden Book and also looked on-line at gardeningknowhow.com and HGTV.gardens.com just to get a different point of view. Then the idea of this blog was born.
The ficus is a member of the fig family, Moraceae. The family includes the commercial, edible fig as well as climbing figs, the banyan tree and the potted rubber tree. (I was really surprised about the banyan tree!) They are classed together because of the fruit they produce, which is mostly NOT edible. While they are considered a tropical plant, they can be grown successfully outdoors in our area. However, none were listed as growing in our zone, 14, but they will if they are grown indoors or in a location protected from wind and frost. There are 9 species listed in the Sunset Western Garden Book, but for brevity, I will only discuss the ones that are more common to our area. I will not talk about the edible fig tree as that is a whole other discussion.
The Ficus benjamina is a very popular houseplant, except at my house. It is native to India, Malaysia, and Hawaii. If grown outdoors, in its native environment, it can grow to 80 feet tall and spread to 70 feet wide! In California, they do well in the southern part of the state, but only grow to about half that size. The roots are VERY invasive. They do well in pots. They do well in sun or shade, but exposure needs vary by species.
The Ficus pumila, "Creeping fig" seems more suited to our area as it is listed for zones 8 - 24. It is native to China, Japan, and Australia. It is actually a vine and attaches itself securely, even to metal, in a barnacle-like fashion. Since it is generally grown on protected walls, it does well in cooler climates. However, it is prone to sunburn on south or west facing walls. It has tiny heart shaped leaves when young and has invasive roots and can get wild if untrimmed. The recommendation is to trim it down to the ground every few years.
The Ficus elastica is the rubber tree and the Ficus lyrata is the "Fiddle leaf" for obvious reasons. They both have the same characteristics as above.
All are considered to be finicky plants. They like indirect or filtered light. They do not tolerate low temperatures or drafts. The ambient temperature needs to be greater than 60, and preferably greater than 70. They like high humidity, but do not like their roots to be wet, so they only need to be watered when the soil in the top of the pot is dry. They do like consistent watering. They grow rapidly and require monthly fertilizer in the spring and summer and every 2 months in the fall and winter. To limit the growth, trim regularly and only repot every 2 years.
The #1 problem is leaf drop, which is usually caused by a stressor. The most common stressors are too much or little water, low humidity, too little light, relocating, repotting, drafts, and temperature fluctuations or extremes. A stressed plant is more inclined to become infested by pests. The usual suspects are mealy bugs, scales, spider mites, and aphids. If you notice "sap" on a tree, it is actually honeydew from a pest. You can use Neem oil to treat for pests.
I hope that you have better luck than I do. I just appreciate the beauty of other people's plants.
- Author: Cheryl A Potts
We have Puccina! An opera singer visiting from Milan? No. A Neapolitan mastiff puppy? No. A high caloric pasta dish from Tuscany? No. We have orange "stuff" on our and our neighbor's lawns, which actually gets tracked into the house by shoe and dog paw.What is it? How did it get there? And how do I make it go away?
So I mopped up my floor, got out all by books and start searching the internet. This is what I found: this is a fungus of rust called, among other things, Puccina. The information I found was somewhat confusing, as most of the literature stated that this fungus shows up mid summer when draught conditions are causing slow growth, so "draught conditions" may be the operative word here. I cannot control the weather, but I can develop some good habits to discourage the orange fungus from invading my lawn ever again.
Suggestions to prevent this invasion are as follows:
The lawn should not be mowed too close to the ground. Mowing below the recommended height depletes the grass of its energy and thins the lawn's canopy encouraging weeds. Mow frequently, but not more than 1/3 of the plant height. Regular mowing severs infected blade tips helping to reduce the amount of fungus. Also, the fungus can be spread by the mower itself, so cleaning blades after mowing will help.
Do not water at night or even late afternoon. Water in the morning allowing the grass to dry by night. Also, avoid frequent, light watering and instead water more deeply less often. Light watering encourages roots from going down deeply into the soil causing the turf to experience injury during dry periods. Also, poor root health allows root nibblers, such as summer patch fungus, to gain entry into grass plants.
Fertilize according to directions. Over doing or under doing can cause damage. Over fertilization can cause great leaf growth, but poor root development. Under fertilizing can cause rust or dollar spots (silvery or grey spots on your lawn) to develop. Generally, a fall and spring application of a slow release form of nitrogen is recommended.Be willing to thatch. Some thatch is good, as it actually acts as a layer of mulch, but the layer of thatch should not be more than 1/2 inch thick.
If you are planning on planting a new lawn or simply reseeding an existing one, know that there are grasses that are resistive to certain disease such as Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass. It is recommended to include at least one of these cultivars in the blend.
After spending time learning about this problem, I have since noticed that our fungus as well as our neighbors orange "stuff" has all be disappeared (thereforr no picture) and does not seem to have caused any real damage. Puccina, like the aphids of spring may simply come and go. We can deal with them actively or simply wait for them to disappear with the changes brought on by Mother Nature.
So, do not overwater, under thatch, over fertilize, under or over cut, underwater, over thatch, or .... Perhaps we should just take out our lawns and grow a water tolerant garden instead I might note that Puccina is not harmful to pets, except for the emotional trauma your dog may experience from your reaction as she tracts the orange "stuff" onto your carpet.
- Author: Betty Homer
Recently, I have taken an interest in creating air plant terrariums. I fell in the love with the idea that I could create and observe small, unique, artistic, portable worlds full of life, which I could incorporate into any room. It is like bringing a piece of the outdoors inside.
Tillandsias are part of the bromeliad family. They are unusual in that: (1) their roots are used for the sole purpose of attaching themselves to a host, e.g., a tree, so that they can position themselves to receive an optimum amount of sunlight and air (i.e., air plants are epiphytes); and (2) their leaves are used to absorb water.
As such, Tillandsias are uniquely suited for terrariums. In addition, Tillandsias are slow-growing, low-maintenance/hardy, inexpensive, occupy little space, and there are many species from which to choose. All that is required is either soaking the plant in water once a week or misting water on it every couple of days. There are also spray fertilizers for Tillandsias.
Below are simple instructions to assemble a basic terrarium. Most any material, preferably non-toxic, can be used as an air plant's substrate (foundational layers). In a recent trip to a local hardware store chain, a very small terrarium about 3” in height with very little decoration, (unlike the one featured) cost approximately $10. You can assemble something far better and more original for less. You are only limited by your own creativity and imagination. Consider re-creating a scene that reminds you of good times or places you love, like the beach. Bring a part of that world inside to transform your space.
Materials needed for the terrarium referenced herein:
Glass vase (any attractive glass container you like and that is lying around in your house, will do, including a fish bowl).
1 package of granulated sand (any color you want) which can be found in most craft stores for approximately $4.00.
1 package of shells which can be found in most craft stores for approximately $5.00 (leftover shells can be left to build future terrariums for family and friends).
1 or more air plant (you may need to order this on-line or go to a specialty nursery in the Bay Area. There are some in SF).
Reindeer moss (fresh or dried, whatever your color preference). This can be purchased on-line or at a well-stocked nursery.
Rock, branches, etc., you can salvage from your garden, etc.
Tweezers to move objects around, but if you are careful, tools be unnecessary.
Pour sand into the glass container to use as the substrate. Arrange the rest of the objects to your liking. Remove plant for submerging into water once a week for 1-2 hours if desired; otherwise, you can spritz the plant with a mister every couple of days.
Pic #1: Possible materials you may consider with which to create your terrarium.
Pic #2: Voila! End product.
- Author: Marian I Chmieleski
Although most water-wise gardeners are thinking about removing much of their turfgrass-- in some areas the irrigation of that turfgrass may even be prohibited--many of us still do have a lawn and now is a good time to see if it needs a little rejuvenating.
If the lawn has had years of heavy traffic from soccer games, dog races or lawn parties the soil may be compacted. In that case, it is difficult for water, oxygen and nutrients to penetrate the soil and reach the roots of the grass. Aeration can vastly improve the health of a lawn growing in compacted soil. If you choose to aerate your lawn, do avoid tools that simply punch holes in the soil. They actually contribute to compaction. Aeration is best done with an aerating machine that brings up little cores of soil, opening the area up for a healthier growing season. The cores do not need to be removed, but will decompose and add nutrients back into the soil through the thatch layer.
Additionally, that thatch layer might be a problem. Some thatch on a lawn is quite healthy. It acts much as a mulch does by shading the soil to reduce water evaporation and to protect roots from frost; by shading out weeds; and by actually providing a cushion to help protect from compaction. However, when the thatch layer builds to well over half an inch in depth, it can prevent water's reaching the soil, harbor pests and elevate the crown of the grass plants above soil itself, exposing plants to damage from temperature extremes. If thatch seems to be a problem, de-thatching will be your answer.
You can hire someone to professionally dethatch your lawn or you can do it yourself either by renting a vertical mower or a verticut machine, or by simply using a dethatching rake. Our front lawn is very small and my husband found a dethatching rake in my sister's garage, so that's the method he chose. It turned out to be very good exercise and a not-too-lengthy process (says the woman, who was not wielding the rake).
Following a "how-to" video he found on YouTube, he went over the lawn first in one direction and then in another at 90 degrees to the first, pulling the thatch off the lawn as he went. Afterwards, he used our regular lawn/leaf rake to rake up more of the thatch that had been cut but was still lying on the lawn. When he had finished the lawn had a much cleaner look and he re-seeded any resulting bare areas. We're now hoping that our little lawn will rebound happily, enjoying the rains that are expected this week and the sun that is sure to follow.
Even though it might be better if we did not keep that lawn, the fact that it has been dethatched should allow it to do well with less water than it previously needed. We'll count that as progress.
- Author: Jennifer Baumbach
Good morning home gardeners. The UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Solano County are announcing two upcoming events you might be interested in:
Beginning Gardening 101 series. The Master Gardeners will present a series of talks every Saturday in the month of March from 9am until noon at the UC Cooperative Extension office at 501 Texas Street in Fairfield. Each talk will be a basic discussion of gardening how to's for Solano County. So if you're new to the area, new to gardening or just want to hear the basics again, please call me at 707-784-1321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.
The dates are:
March 7-MGs will cover tools, the climate zones and how to figure out yours, soils and soil amendments
March 14-MGs will cover landscape design, plant selection and how to plant
March 21-MGs will cover Integrated Pest Management (IPM), intro to vegetable gardening, and intro to fruit trees
March 28-MGs will cover color in the garden, and after that presentation we will hold a round table for the public to ask the MGs questions.
The second event will be a little new for us. We will have a Succulent Exchange on April 18 from 9 am until noon at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 501 Texas Street, Fairfield. For those of you who are familiar with our Plant Exchanges, this exchange will be structured very much the same-with one exception, it will focus on succulents and cacti. MGs are propagating their plants at home now in order to share with you, the public. The public is also encouraged to bring in their succulents and cacti, but nothing over the 1 gallon size. We also ask that you label the plant with its Genus and species name if possible. We will have cuttings, pieces, potted plants and other items related to succulents and cacti at the event. We hope to see you there!