- Author: Carmen Kappos
For years I thought of garden pests as various insects and small animals but larger animals like deer can do quite a lot of damage to the gardens in our area near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) has an excellent online article on deterring deer from browsing on plantings. Check the website for the full discussion HERE.
As the article says; most people enjoy seeing deer in the wild. I know I do, and I enjoy seeing them around my house as well. I also enjoy seeing my ornamental plants flower in the summer. That is a bit of a challenge; just as a favorite plant is about to bloom the tender new growth can be clipped off by this beautiful neighbor.
As the saying goes “good fences make good neighbors,” the UC IPM article states that “physical exclusion is by far the best and most reliable way to protect gardens, orchards, and ornamental plantings from deer. “ Fencing is discussed in detail, but in my small patch of a garden, a full fence is impractical. Individual plant protectors, also mentioned in the article, are a much easier way for me to enjoy flowers in my yard.
The left photo shows some scarlet penstemmon, a favorite of mine and the hummingbirds. Penstemmon in my yard is often browsed by deer but, so far, this year the plants with individual protectors are untouched. The fact that any of my plants are blooming at all is reason enough for me to celebrate. Seen in the photos, the easily constructed plant protectors are surrounding a daylily and a native Gilia blooming in the background. The Gilia got clipped by deer early in the season but after the cylinder was added I had no further damage, even though the top is open. The right hand photo shows the easily constructed plant protectors are surrounding a Day Lily and a native Gilia blooming in the background. The Gilia got clipped by deer early in the season but after the cylinder was added I had no further damage, even though the top is open.
In past years I have also made larger enclosures to surround an entire planting bed with good results. Dustin Blakey, our local Cooperative Extension farm advisor described that if the enclosure is small and tall enough that the deer would not be able to move freely inside, then they likely won't jump in. The largest individual enclosure I've made is two feet by three feet and it worked well. It also needs to be small enough or tall enough that they won't just dip their heads in and browse.
For a real challenge, grow a vegetable patch near our wild neighbors. I stopped by the community garden in Lee Vining recently and got a tour of the many ways they exclude garden pests. The perimeter fence keeps out rabbits, but is not tall enough to keep out deer. To keep the deer off their plants, they enclose the raised beds in wire mesh, and keep adding on segments as the plants grow taller. Also, as you can see from the photos, shade cloth on top of some raised beds keep the deer off and a little opening can still allow bees and other pollinators in.
The Lee Vining Community Garden is celebrating twenty years of growing this summer. Congratulations on producing food while living with and enjoying our wild neighbors!
- Author: Carmen Kappos
Do you have problem weeds between patio slabs, or growing in cracks? A good tool for removing weeds from tight spaces may be one you already own. A long handled flathead screwdriver works well to dig in between tight joints.
I priced an eight inch flat head screwdriver at eight dollars, while on the internet a variety of crevice weeding tools cost fifteen dollars up to thirty dollars, plus shipping.
If you do use a screwdriver as a crevice tool, you will want to dedicate it to gardening, as they can get pretty beat up. Just remember, don't nab someone else's screwdriver from their tool box, you'll never be able to return it in the condition you borrowed it. It's well worth saving a few bucks and getting your own.
We'd love to hear about your favorite tools, please leave us a comment.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Page, Karen and Dornenburg, Andrew. The Flavor Bible. Little, Brown and Co., 2008.
Sercarz, Lior Lev. The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices. Clarkson Potter, 2016.
One of the best things* about working in Cooperative Extension is that there always seems to be plenty of interesting food to try at the office. Between staff and volunteers, we get to try all sorts of flavors on a daily basis. I'm not sure we're at “arms race” status yet, but our office's nutrition educator, Amy Weurdig, just shared her newest tools to up her cooking game with us: two books about flavors and seasoning foods.
Along with working here at our office, Amy is a Master Gardener and a Master Food Preserver. She definitely gardens with food or drink in mind. Her latest plan is to grow saffron here in the Owens Valley. But what can you do with all that saffron, especially when you have a garden full of produce? After all, one zucchini plant, assuming you can keep squash bugs at bay, can feed a small army. Some creativity is needed to get it all used. And that's where seasonings and flavor pairings can come to play.
In her research Amy came across two interesting resources: The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, and The Spice Companion by Lior Lev Sarcarz. These two books provide invaluable information about some key flavors we use in cooking, but they take a very different approach to the topic.
The Spice Companion is a beautiful book. (It covers many herbs, too, so don't worry if you're a spice-o-phobe.) Thomas Schauer's photographs and Nadine Bernard Westcott's illustrations, to me, are the highlight of this work. This is a book you will want on display, not jammed into the kitchen bookshelf next to the spiral-bound church cookbook you bought in 1983.
The book is organized as an encyclopedia of the world's spices. Each spice has a lovely illustration or photo, and possibly a food based on it as a key ingredient. Along with this artwork, there is text explaining its use, harvesting and botany. As an easy-to-use feature, each flavor has recommended food pairings, complementary spices, and recipe ideas. Reading through this book may inspire you to try a few new things since it contains some fairly obscure ingredients, but to me the best use would work like this: Let's say you planted a dozen pepperoncini plants in Spring and you're inundated with these peppers. What can you do with them besides make pickles or give them away? It turns out they're fairly versatile! I like its idea of using them to flavor an Italian-style bean dip. I see it as a fine book to browse while you're munching on a scone in the sunroom on Sunday morning.
The Flavor Bible takes a different approach to the topic of taste. Instead of an array of herbs and spices from A to Z, this book gets to business right away. While it is peppered with pictures of food, it is mostly text and is much more information dense. After 36 pages of how the book works (if you're impatient just read pages 35 and 36 get on with it) you are presented with over 350 pages of concepts, foods, flavors, and cuisines. Each entry will tell you when it is available, good ways to prepare, and recommended flavor pairings. The authors don't mince words here. This is a book you should look over to get familiar with, then keep nearby for reference. If you like to cook and eat more than read about and look at food then this no-nonsense book is for you. I see this as a book that will end up with stains and stuck together pages after a few years because you'll thumb through it with dirty fingers or a dripping spoon.
Some of the entries in The Food Bible are mundane, much like when the dictionary includes words like “smile” that you would never look up. For example there is an entry on sour cream that, naturally, suggests putting it on baked potatoes. However, most entries are more useful. The last entry “Zucchini Blossoms” should be of special interest to any gardeners who didn't realize all the fun things you can do there. I'm especially intrigued by its recommended pairing with lobster!
I probably gained 5 pounds just looking over these two books. (Reviewer's note: I was eating a giant burrito. Your experience may vary.) They are both full of ideas for the gardener with too much bounty, or one who is just bored and needs inspiration.
Either book will set you back about $40. If you are a passionate, but inexperienced or highly experimental cook—the kind who tends to wing it in the kitchen, you will probably appreciate The Flavor Bible. Those of you more set in your ways and just need some inspiration or would like to learn more about new ingredients will enjoy The Spice Companion. Both are good references, but they have very different approaches that may not appeal to everyone. I'm glad Amy bought both and let me review them both side by side.
Mmmm. Some butternut squash bisque with saffron sounds really good right now, Amy.
*Well it's good for my taste buds but not so much for my waistline.
- Author: Sarah Sheehan
Set in the middle of an elder community in Bishop, the Sunrise Garden has flourished for seven years providing information to Inyo-Mono Counties Master Gardeners and delectable bounty for its residents.
So far this season, the six varieties of tomatoes grown both in sun and shade are yielding impressive numbers. The tomatoes are counted and weighed as well as notated for their size, color, shape, flaws and flavors twice a week. The varieties this year are: Better Boy, Big Beef, Carmello, Champion II, Early Girl and Jetsetter. On August 29th we picked more than 44 lbs of tomatoes which we donated to the residents.
While tending the garden a careful watch is made for any evidence of pests or decline. To this end, the watering system is regularly checked, plants are water sprayed from below to dislodge pests and their cages shaken to rid them of excess water.
Green bell peppers are also grown in sun and shade and they too are thriving with 18 inch plants having as many as 24 peppers. So our task is to thin and cheer these green jewels on. The only issue we have had thus far is a little sunburn as it has been an unusually warm summer in the Eastern Sierra.
These tomatoes are grown in two other sites around Bishop and it has been noted that the same tomato variety has a slightly different taste dependent on which location it was grown. At the end of season we will be posting our results.
The tomato gang: Carolyn Lynch, Joan Nash, Marti Holton, Sarah Sheehan, and Denyse Racine.
- Author: Amy Weurdig
I'm by no means a gardening expert. I did somehow succeed in becoming a Master Gardener for the University of California Cooperative Extension here in Inyo/Mono counties, but I have so much more to learn. I still struggle with plant identification – whether or not it's a native plant, a tree, or a sad looking potato plant that I thought was a sick pepper plant.
Last year we moved into our new house in Mustang Mesa in February; but let me spend a bit describing what living on the “Mesa” means in terms of gardening. It's dry, it's hot, and our house backs up to open land filled with sage brush, oh and let's not forget the complete and utter lack of soil. However, all of that cannot detract from the unobstructed view of Mt. Tom or the White Mountains to the east. I honestly, had no idea what to expect in terms of gardening in this location - a new adventure.
It was a busy time since I had ordered bees that were due to arrive in April, gardening season was starting up, and I had so much nesting to do! Not knowing a whole lot about gardening in this area, I planted “Test Garden A” out in the garden area of the corral out back. It included 27 tomato plants (thanks to my husband), shallots, potatoes, Thai peppers, jalapeños, kale, strawberries, radishes and beets. Figured that would give me some sort of idea of what to expect. Note, this was not in raised beds or with irrigation – did I mention I live out in Mustang Mesa?
The bees get put in their hive in the corner to do what bees do and the tomatoes start their vine-y, bunching, and thicket-ing onto each other. The kales gets off to a great start, the strawberries plants are sputtering along. I finally start to see shoots of radishes and beets – oh my!
Then I start to see little nibbles being taken out of pretty much everything but the Thai chilis and the tomatoes- Like big ol' bites! Varmints have found my garden. Brainstorming ideas. I decide to start bending up bits of chicken wire we had stored away from the previous owner of the house, into cute little chicken wire cloches. I saw success for about a week, when the varmints figured out they could just push my cloches over. In came rocks of all shapes and sizes to weight down the cloches. Again, minor success was gained.
The kale that was doing so well but starts to look moth eaten – overnight. I watch and spray and watch some more. Aphids have arrived, complete with their extended families and set up camp in the Kale. They decide to make their way through whatever was left over after the rabbits, and ground squirrels had done their nocturnal dining. Only the tomatoes seemed to have any traction for survival and a few potato plants. So I surround them in their own varmint excluding netted fence, which is not a graceful thing to circumvent. I do see success in the tomatoes and am able to acquire enough to dehydrate, eat, and freeze for future consumption, but not much else was taken out of the garden.
The challenges of all the pounding sun and wind, varmints and debilitating insects led me to have a plot at the Bishop Community Garden (BCG) this season while I plan my attack on building raised beds out on the Mesa in the formal style known as a potager which I think will address my OCD tendencies and entice my darling husband to help raise some vitals.
My garden this year in the BCG has been so very much fun. I've been mentored by two wonderful friends who happen to be dual sport UCCE volunteers. They've aided me with supreme compost, seedling plants, turning over and weeding, switching out soaker hoses for drip lines, nurturing my plants during my knee repair, and have given so much encouragement! I could not have done it without them! I highly recommend having a plot at BCG. By having the plot at the Community Garden, I've learned a lot, been able to meet many new fellow gardeners and had a much better time gardening overall there rather than at at home, where all my work was spent feeding varmints!
I'm looking forward to gardening more out on the Mesa and exploring ways to enrich the experience and to learn better techniques to produce a garden that is varmint/pest resistant – I'm hopeful!