- Author: Betty Victor
The National Heirloom Exposition was held in Santa Rosa at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Sept. 9-11, 2014. As their advertisement says, this is “The Worlds Pure Food Fair”. The show is held for home gardeners, farmers, children and anyone-especially if you are interested in organic gardening. This was my first time attending this exposition. I did learn that any profit generated by this is donated to school gardens and food programs.
Our first stop was the “Hall of Flowers” where the produce exhibit was held. On entering this exhibit hall the first thing you see is the “Tower Of Squash”. This tower is approximately 12 feet tall, and maybe 8 feet wide. It is made from every type and color of squash that is grown. Not all the heirloom's shown are from California, several came from different parts of the country. The people who built the squash tower came from Illinois. Also in this hall were several exhibits done by children in their respective school gardens class. They ranged in age from kindergartners through high school age.
Large pumpkins, the type that are grown for the large pumpkin contests that are held lined one wall. A table had various types and sizes of plants that were bonsaied. Some of the containers had succulents in them, as a reminder not to over water. Another table had the most unusually gourds that I have ever seen. Several colors, sizes and some looked like they had warts all over them.
Chile peppers from very mild to the very hot ghost peppers were on a table all by themselves.
But the stars of this room were the tomatoes, so many it's hard to remember all of them. There was a string of very tiny red ones to the very large. Tomatoes, with variegated colors, along with dark plum, red, yellow, green and burgundy. One tomato that stood out was named ‘Blue & Gold' that starts out green, goes to red then turns to a very dark burgundy almost black as it ripens.
There was even a Chef, who said he has appeared on television with this special talent. Carving beautiful designs in watermelons.
Another building held the poultry. Outside they had sheep that sheds, so it doesn't produce wool. This sheep is grown as a food source. Alpacas, plus several sheep that do produce wool all these animals are fed organic food.
Inside the main building is where the approximately 300 venders selling organic products for gardening, and home. Others had tools, food, books, and jewelry. All in all it was a fun, educational, day with a group of friends.
- Author: Sterling Smith
Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa, preys upon a wide variety of insects even reported to dispatch a hummingbird…allegedly. They are generally considered a beneficial insect. Females are light green in color and large, about three inches in length when mature.
Egg masses are laid in the fall on tree branches, fences and other sheltered locations. About an inch long, they over-winter with nymphs emerging in the spring looking like miniatures of the adult. The author once collected an egg mass, left it in a covered jar inside, and discovered a collection of very active nymphs a couple of months later. Then I just released them into my garden.
Attached picture was taken over Memorial Day weekend, Mantis shown is about 0.5 inches in length.
There is a wealth of pictures and information on-line, enter Praying Mantis into your browser or by following this link to information on the UC IPM website http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/NE/mantids.html
- Author: Ken Williams
September first, Labor Day, and I have been laboring. Each year around this time I have to start dealing with the leaves that fall from my beautiful tree; Acer saccharinum, Silver Maple. Yes, it is still 22 days until the first day of autumn. In years past, I dutifully raked and bagged and then put in the green waste container or my compost pile until it becomes too full, sometimes filling up both green waste containers. This is a normal occurrence once a week for five to seven weeks depending on the weather. A lot of work but the shade that it provides from its placement on our West side is more than worth it. Not to mention all of the great compostable material.
I have changed from raking and bagging to blowing and mulching this past year. I know blowing isn't the “greenist” way to go, but with all my different landscape areas raking is really difficult. I can gather all the material to the middle of the lawn area and then with the mulching/vacuum attachment I can reduce the bulk amount by my estimate of about 1/5th. The mulching allows me to get more in the green waste container and it also allows for faster composting. I also have a couple of fellow Master Gardeners who are always good for a couple of bags for their compost pile. If you haven't tried the mulching/vacuum idea you should give it a try, it also reduces the amount of time I spend on the leaves and gives me more time for other gardening chores.
- Author: Karen Metz
Let me start with a riddle. What do Chinese ground orchids, chrysanthemums, azaleas, miniature roses, Chinese wisteria and sedum all have in common? Do you give up? They are all going to be offered at the upcoming Master Gardener Plant Exchange on September 27th at the UCCE Office at 501 Texas St in Fairfield, CA. The event will run from 9:00 to 12:00. I have also heard rumors of bird of paradise, succulents and who knows what else. Each time we have put on this event the selections have been different and unique.
Remember this is a free event and open to the public. Bring any plants, cuttings, seeds, gardening tools, books or garden art you would like to share with other gardeners. We will also be sharing gardening information and knowledge in the form of lectures and handouts. To date we have lectures on Succulents and on Fairy Gardens planned.
Please do not bring any invasive, diseased or overly large (over 5 gallon pots) and thorny plants to the exchange. It will be a great chance to see and obtain some new plants, perhaps learn some new techniques, and get some gardening questions answered. It's also a great chance to hang out and chat with some pretty cool people-other gardeners! Hope to see you there. I can't wait.
- Author: Erin Mahaney
Have you ever just had to have a plant, knowing that that the relationship won't work out in the long run? I'm not talking about the impulse buy that we gardeners all engage in at times, but the well-considered, educated purchase we know won't end well . . . but we just have to give it a try.
Several years ago, I purchased a vanilla plant. I had noticed it in an on-line catalog some time earlier, and although I was intrigued, common sense prevailed. Let's see – a tropical vine that requires warmth (temperatures above 60 degrees) and preferably humidity above 50 percent—ideally a greenhouse environment in our climate—takes years to mature before flowering, and has to be hand-pollinated if and when it ever blooms? Not a recipe for success in my cool, wind-blown, Benicia home. (And I confess, I was trying to behave after a failed attempt with a dwarf Jamaican heliconia.)
But then the vanilla plant went on sale and I was lost. For the price of a few lattes, I could hold the hope of harvesting vanilla beans in my own home! Well, I never actually expected to harvest anything, but sometimes the fun is in the trying.
My vanilla plant is a variegated Vanilla planifolia, one of over 60 vanilla orchid species, which is native to Mexico. It is the only orchid that produces an edible fruit. In its home tropical environment, the vanilla vine can grow up to 30 feet (or longer, according to some sources). In the wild, the plant takes up to seven or eight years to mature before blooming, blooms intermittently—and just for one day—with pale yellow or green flowers. The only natural pollinator is a species of Meliponia bee that occurs only in Mexico, and so early efforts to cultivate vanilla elsewhere failed.
The vanilla plant's growth and fruiting habits explain why vanilla beans are so expensive. It wasn't until 1841 before people learned how to artificially pollinate the flowers and vanilla production spread to other tropical and subtropical regions. In commercial production, the plant still takes several years to mature before blooming. Then, each vanilla flower must be hand-pollinated within twelve hours of blooming to bear fruit. The plants don't bloom all at once, but instead bloom over a period of weeks, which requires weeks of labor-intensive hand-pollination. The seed pods then take nine months to mature before they can be harvested and cured for several more months.
After nearly three years, I can report that my vanilla plant is still alive, albeit growing slowly. It is in a room with a southeast-facing window with bright sun, although it isn't a particularly warm room in the house. The first year, the plant did well in the summer, growing nearly a foot and putting out glossy green variegated leaves. The second summer, I thought I was going to lose the plant. It appeared to suffer from root rot and was dying. I almost threw it out, but noticing the aerial roots, decided to try cutting off the dying base and rooting a few of the aerial roots in the soil. It worked! Today, my vanilla vine is glossy and healthy, reaching an estimated 2.5 feet in length as I wind it over a small support. It has grown to the point where I'm considering repotting it with a larger support to climb on, but I'm reluctant to disturb what appears to be working.
I don't really expect to ever see an orchid flower on my vanilla vine, but it's fun to think that it could happen someday. (And if it does, I can only hope that I'm home that day!) In the meantime, the glossy green vining plant is a pretty, interesting, addition when nestled amongst my plant menagerie.