Raspberries and blackberries can be planted from late fall through early spring. These plants tend to spread, so select a location that will naturally limit their growth. Placing them next to fences and buildings is ideal because they can provide trellising. To install plants, dig a wide, shallow hole that can contain all the roots. Trim off any dead or damaged root tissue and spread the roots out, within the hole. Roots should not be planted more than 2 inches deep. Cover with soil and press down firmly to eliminate any air pockets. Water well to settle the soil and hydrate the canes. Cut newly planted canes to a height of only 6 inches. Red raspberry plants are generally spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, while black and purple varieties are spaced 3 to 4 feet apart.
Cane berry plants produce more fruit and stay healthier when they are trellised. Cane tips that reach the ground will start producing roots, rather than flowers and fruit. Only the largest canes should be retained.
All others should be pruned out because smaller canes produce smaller fruit. Also, tip back canes to prevent them from getting longer than 6 to 8 feet. The further a berry is from the crown of the plant, the smaller it will be. Canes should be fanned out for good air circulation and to make it easy for pollinators to reach the flowers. Before removing older canes, check to see when your particular variety produces fruit. Some canes produce fruit on one-year-old canes, while other produce on older canes.
Watering cane fruits
Raspberries and blackberries use a lot of water, but they do not tolerate standing water or soggy soil. Frequent watering is very important during bloom time. Too much heat and water stress at bloom time can eliminate an entire season's crop in a condition called “berry blast.” Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are excellent tools for keeping your berry plants healthy and hydrated without wasting water.
Other benefits of berries
Adding berries to your landscape also provides pollen and nectar for beneficial insects, food for indigenous birds and wildlife, and most casual thieves won't brave a blackberry bramble to get to your back door.
Raspberry and blackberry canes grow well in Morgan Hill, and they are easy plants to add to your landscape. Try them today.
You can learn more about growing berries and other edibles at the South County Teaching and Demo Garden, found at St. Louise Hospital, 9400 No NameUno, Gilroy. Classes are regularly offered to the public. For more information, check the events page or call (408) 282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
by UC Master Gardener Kate Russell
This article first appeared in the September 27 – October 10, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life.
Even if you are not planning to plant many veggies and herbs this fall, you should definitely invest the time to plant a cover crop in both your garden and raised beds. Cover crops take very little effort. You plant them once, water initially to get them started, and then let Mother Nature take over — assuming we are blessed with another wet winter.
Here in the Bay Area, the primary need is to add nitrogen to our heavy clay soil in order to loosen it up and feed our plants. Excellent nitrogen-fixing crops include vetch, cowpeas, fava beans, and crimson clover. Buckwheat is a great choice if you want a quick fix. It germinates in about five days and is ready to be turned under in about a month. You can feed your soil now, and still get a great fall garden planted.
For information and cool-season crops, don't miss the upcoming Fall Garden Market at Martial Cottle Park's Harvest Festival Oct. 7. The festival celebrates the agricultural heritage of Santa Clara Valley. There will be food, entertainment, activities for the kids, park tours, and more.
You will find seedlings of many Asian and Italian greens such as Chinese broccoli, pak choi, tatsoi, chicory, escarole, and radicchio. There will be dozens of varieties of beets, cabbage, and cauliflower. Try growing a few leafy greens that are great in soups, stews, and stir-fry meals, such as chard, kale, and mustard. They are cut-and-come-again plants that will keep on giving through next spring. And, if like me, you can't live without a fresh salad, you will find a variable salad bar of lettuce, spinach, arugula, cress, and mache to grow; all you'll need for serving them is a little vinaigrette!
And yes, there will be peas, turnips, onions, and even kohlrabi, collards, and artichokes.
Don't miss out on the blooming beauties: Agrostemma, Clarkia, Delphinium, Larkspur, Linaria, Snapdragons, Sweet Peas. Flowers not only add beauty, but bring in the bees and beneficial insects necessary for pollination and fending off the “bad bugs” that can damage your garden.
Whether you are a seasoned-gardener or just starting out, you can pick up lots of tips from the festival's free educational talks — Amazing Succulents, Cool Season Vegetables, Glorious Garlic, and Native Plants.
Growing your own food, whether with your family or by yourself, is not only enjoyable but truly important! You will conserve water, waste less (no one wants to throw away what they have worked to grow), avoid using harmful chemicals, nurture your soil, and help support and feed our native birds, bees, and other insects. And most importantly, you will make a huge, positive impact on your children; kids actually will eat what they grow! So head on out to one of our upcoming Fall Markets, and dig in!
Upcoming Fall Fall Markets
There are three upcoming Santa Clara County Master Gardeners Fall markets The main event will be at San Jose's Martial Cottle Park (5283 Snell Ave.) on Oct. 7, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free, but there is a $6 parking fee.
Other Master Gardener Fall Garden Markets will be presented Sept. 23, 10 a.m.-noon, Palo Alto Demo Garden, 851 Center Dr., Palo Alto; and Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Guglielmo Winery, 1480 E. Main Ave., Morgan Hill.
by UC Master Gardener Rebecca Jepsen
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Jepsen
This article first appeared in the September 17 issue of the San Jose Mercury News.
Each individual region has its own characteristics and Morgan Hill is no exception. While other parts of the country use autumn to prepare for harsh winters, putting up storm windows, we have the luxury of yet another growing season.
Your tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, summer squash and melons are probably in full swing in August, but many heat sensitive plants have long since bolted and gone to seed. If you leave some of these plants in place, not only will they provide seeds for a future crop, but they will also provide nectar and pollen for many beneficial insects. The insects feed on or parasitize common garden pests, such as aphids, hornworms, cutworms, and many more.
With the help of these beneficial insects, you can reduce or avoid using chemical pesticides altogether. Even if you do not actively collect seeds from the previous season's crop, you will probably discover next spring that you have many edibles throughout your landscape.
Plants to start in August
To get a jump-start on your autumn planting, this is a good time to start seeds for artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, collards, fava beans, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce and spinach, peas, and turnips.
You can also direct seed arugula and beets in August, and this is the time to install Brussels sprouts and cabbage plants. Napa cabbage can be started now, as seeds or transplants.
With scorching hot days ahead, be sure to keep those seedlings watered and protected as they grow. They may need to be kept in a protected area, without too much direct sun.
As summer harvests reach their peak, you can help your plants stay healthy by removing dead and diseased plant materials.
In many cases, the more frequently you harvest, the more food a plant will produce. To feed and protect the current crop while preparing for your autumn garden, be sure to add aged compost and other mulch material to your growing beds. This will add organic matter for improved soil structure, and it will stabilize temperatures, and feed the worms and microorganisms that help your garden plants thrive. That way, as September rolls around, your garden beds will be prepared for carrots and all the seedlings you start now.
Staying one step ahead of the gardening game can make your landscape more productive.
You can learn more about garden design at the South County Teaching and Demo Garden, found at St. Louise Hospital, 9400 No Name Uno, in Gilroy. Classes are regularly offered to the public.
For more information, check our events page or call (408) 282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
by UC Master Gardener Kate Russell
This article first appeared in the August 30 – September 12, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life./h3>/h3>/h3>
The most important is to create a defensible space around the house perimeter. Ideally, you should have a 30-foot “free zone” from all buildings, structures, and decks. This space gives firefighters room to their job if needed. Often firefighters will bypass a home that has little to no defensible area in which to work, opting instead for one they think they will be more likely to save.
If at your place it isn't practical to remove all vegetation, it is extremely important to remove any dead plant material — dry leaves, pine needles and highly flammable plants such as Italian cypress, pine, fir, spruce, eucalyptus, junipers, palms, Japanese honeysuckle and some ornamental grasses.
Create fire-safe zones by building concrete or stone patios, walkways, and walls. Flower beds, gardens, appropriate ground covers and mulch placed near your home can also serve as a fire-break.
Removing highly flammable plants and replacing them with fire-resistant options is highly recommended — especially if you live in a high-fire zone.
What makes a tree or shrub fire-resistant? If it's non-oily, deciduous (drops its leaves in winter), large leaved and/or has high-water content. These fare best when exposed to high heat or fire. To ensure that your plants are as fire resistant as possible, make sure they're healthy, well hydrated and free of dead wood.
Excessive vegetation adds fuel to a flame. The plants nearest your home should be widely spaced and low-growing. Avoid large masses. Instead, plant in small clusters using a wide variety of species. Here are some fire-resistant options to consider:
Trees: California live oaks, native redwoods, California bay laurel, maples, citrus, cherry, apple, strawberry tree, dogwood, ash, loquat, ‘Little Gem' magnolia, toyon, white alder, weeping bottlebrush, redbud.
Large shrubs: Aloe, ceanothus, cotoneaster, escallonia, currant, pineapple guava, flowering quince, Island bush poppy, Pacific wax myrtle, photinia, pittosporum, mock orange, plumbago, podocarpus, laurel, viburnum.
Flowering plants: Azalea, camellia, hibiscus, lavender, monkey flower, California fuchsia, coral bells, society garlic, salvia, rhododendron.
Ground covers: Woolley yarrow, Ajuga reptans, purple rockrose, creeping coprosma, creeping thyme, ice plant, mock strawberry, wild strawberry, evergreen candytuft, lantana, Lamium, African daisy, wooly thyme, star jasmine, sedum.
Vines: Trumpet vine, potato vine, Cape honeysuckle.
Mulching around your trees and shrubs will help them retain moisture, reduce weeds and provide nutrients to the soil. However, if you are in a high fire area, avoid using wood chips and or pine needles, which can feed a fire. If you do have wood-based mulch, make sure to keep it moist, and add a layer of compost on top. Using compost by itself or layers of rocks or pebbles might be a better choice.
Raging fires can produce extremely high heat. Investigators of the 2008 Trabing Fire near Watsonville reported that temperatures had reached more than 3,000 degrees. Unfortunately, no plant would survive that!
If there is a fire near you, please heed the advice from your local fire authorities and evacuate if and when you are asked to do so.
by UC Master Gardener Rebecca Jepsen
Photo: Rebecca Jepsen
This article first appeared in the August 17 issue of the San Jose Mercury News.
Unless you're using a syringe, you've never really fed or watered your plants. When you irrigate or fertilize your plants, what you are really doing is watering and feeding the soil. It is the soil that feeds and waters your garden and plants.
Creating healthy Morgan Hill soil is the best way to grow healthy plants that need less protection from pests and diseases, produce more flowers and food, and require less work. Let's learn more about growing great soil.
What is great soil?
What is in your soil?
The only way to really know what is in your soil is with a test from a reputable lab. The Olson test is better for the West Coast, while the Brays test is better on East Coast. In the Bay Area, we tend to have clay soil that is highly prone to compaction. Aeration is frequently needed. Clay soil tends to contain plenty of most of the necessary minerals, and too much salt and phosphorous. Iron and nitrogen deficiencies are common in the Bay Area. Your soil test results should include percentage ratings for each of the major plant nutrients. It may also tell you how much organic matter is in your soil.
Organic matter in soil
Organic matter is critical to soil health, and it can range from 1 to 8 percent. As living things die and begin to breakdown, they add nutrients and improve soil structure. They also alter the electrical charge of soil. Ensuring there is enough organic matter in the soil also improves porosity, aeration, and biological activity.
Soil is usually described as being sand, loam (silt) or clay. Sand is big. You can see individual particles. And water and nutrients can drain away quickly. Loam is made up of medium-sized particles that hold a good balance of gases, liquids, minerals and organic matter. Clay is made up of extremely tiny particles that can hold a lot of water and minerals. Organic particles surrounded by clay are protected from the microorganisms that break them down into nutrients that can be used by plants, creating an unattainable banquet. Each type of soil benefits from the following:
Sand — add organic matter to help it retain water and nutrients
Loam — add organic matter to help maintain the inorganic mineral and organic matter balance
Clay — add organic matter to improve soil structure and porosity, and to speed the breakdown of organic matter
Adding organic matter to soil is critical to plant health. A one percent increase in organic matter can make a profound difference in soil structure. This helps plant roots get to and absorb nutrients. You can add organic matter to your soil by:
• Mulching with untreated chipped wood
• Amending with composted kitchen and yard scraps
• Incorporating aged manure from local horse and cattle farms
• Raising chickens and composting their soiled bedding
• Protecting bare soil with ground cover crops
• Applying organic top dressings
Once you've increased the amount of organic matter, you will want to add nitrogen. Nitrogen levels are the single most limiting factor in most gardens, and organic matter can help plants access the nitrogen already present. Most soils contain less than 1 percent nitrogen, while 2 to 5 percent is ideal. Which form will you use? Inorganic nitrogen can be found as nitrites or ammonium. When roots take up nitrates, they increase the pH of the immediate area, making it more alkaline. The opposite is true when plants take up ammonium, making the soil more acidic. Organic sources of nitrogen include blood meal and cottonseed meal, both of which will acidify soil.
You can't know which form of nitrogen is right for your soil until you know its pH. Soil with a low pH makes it harder for plants to access some macronutrients. Soil with a high pH does the same thing. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 to thrive. Growing great soil means identifying and managing your soil's pH.
Creating healthy soil
Soil creation is called pedogenesis. You can create great soil in your garden and landscape when you:
1. Learn what you already have, with a reliable soil test.
2. Regularly incorporate organic matter with compost, mulch, and even coffee grounds.
3. Analyze your soil structure and aerate, as needed.
4. Only add needed amendments, and in the proper form for your soil.
5. Determine your soil's pH.
Other ways to improve your soil's health is by growing cover crops, using crop rotation, installing foot paths to reduce compaction, and avoiding irrigation run-off and urban drool.
For more information, visit UC Master Gardeners or call (408) 282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
by UC Master Gardener Kate Russell
Image: Soil Textural Classes: California Master Gardener Handbook
This article first appeared in the June 21 — July 4, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life.