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Edible Landscaping

 

Edible Landscaping 

By Lee Oliphant   Master Gardener

 

Want to grow something edible in the coming seasons without increasing your landscape water requirements? There is an edible crop you can grow right in your perennial beds that you can count on to produce, sweet, delectable produce without straining your water conservation efforts.

 

Planting alliums like bulb or globe onions (Allium cepa) and garlic (A. sativum) in the fall will allow them to grow through the winter and spring when soil is normally moist. They should mature by June and July when water supplies may be limited.

 

Growing globe onions and garlic requires nothing more than good, rich soil. If your soil is clay or sand, enrich it with compost for nutrients and improved drainage. Plant seeds directly in the soil from October to December and sets (small immature onions) in January or February. Plant them pointy end up just below the soil surface, leaving 3 to 4 inches between sets.

 

Onions need a specific number of daylight hours to set bulbs; the requirement varies depending on the variety. Fortunately, we live in an area of California that grows both long-day and short-day onions. Choosing which varieties to grow may depend on whether you prefer sweet onions for salads and sandwiches or strong onions for cooking.

 

Garlic is planted and cared for in a manner similar to onions. A few feet of planting will provide an ample supply for most families. Plant bulbs between mid-October and mid-February. Purchase garlic bulbs from a nursery and plant each clove blunt end down with the top about one inch below the surface. Harvest both garlic and onions when leaves turn brown.

 

These easy to grow bulbs fit nicely into any garden bed. Once you're confident in growing traditional onions and garlic among your flowers, you may want to extend your planting to include bunching onions, scallions, shallots, and leeks; all part of the big, happy family of alliums.

 

Save the Date!!!  Saturday September 6, 2014, 10:00 to 2:00, is the UCCE Master Gardeners 8th Annual Tomato Extravaganza. Tomato and basil tasting, guest speakers and lots of fun in the garden! See you there!!!

 

 

Posted on Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 5:28 PM

A Lady Beetle and Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars

What's this?

 

A lady beetle, aka ladybug, sharing stories with Gulf Fritillary caterpillars?

 

Well, not likely.

 

The lady beetle (family Coccinellidae) preys mainly on aphids--it can eat about 50 aphids a day or some 5000 aphids in its lifetime. But it will devour other soft-bodied insects, including mites, scales, mealybugs, leafhoppers, and butterfly eggs and larvae (caterpillars). Butterfly caterpillars move quite slowly; they are not Indy 500 speedsters.

 

We spotted a lady beetle early this morning on one of our passionflower (Passiflora) seed pods, surrounded by hungry Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) caterpillars. It was  somewhat like a two-peas-in-a-pod scene, but without the peas.  Here were two insect species ON a pod, and both sharing the same warning color: red.

 

The Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are hungry.  Very hungry. They've stripped the passionflower vine of all its leaves and are now eating the stems and seed pods. Actually, we planted the passionflower vine for them.  But are they THAT hungry? They are. They're famished. And there are literally hundreds of them.

 

Sometimes we think that all of the Gulf Frit butterflies west of Mississippi are gravitating toward the plant to lay their eggs. The vine cannot support that many hungry caterpillars,  despite predation by scrub jays and European paper wasps.

 

The lady beetle, we assume is not only eating the tiny yellow eggs of the Gulf Frit, but the tiniest of the tiny larvae.  It's an exquisite buffet of tasty treats with high nutritional value.

 

And easy pickings. 

Lady beetle, aka ladybug, with its new
Lady beetle, aka ladybug, with its new "friends"--Gulf Fritillary caterpillars. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Lady beetle, aka ladybug, with its new "friends"--Gulf Fritillary caterpillars. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars move around the lady beetle, aka ladybug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary caterpillars move around the lady beetle, aka ladybug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars move around the lady beetle, aka ladybug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A touching moment. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A touching moment. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A touching moment. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars will grow up to look like this. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary caterpillars will grow up to look like this. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars will grow up to look like this. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Lighter crop of wine grapes blamed on drought

Sangiovese grapes.
Wine grape growers are expecting a lighter than normal crop in 2014 due to the drought, reported Jeremy Thomas in the Contra Costa Times.

"The drought is impacting everybody," said Kevin Zollinger, a Livermore vintner. "Everybody's cutting back. Are our vines more stressed this year? Yeah, probably, because you don't have the charge in the soil that you normally have."

The winegrape grower said he and other farmers are holding back water as much as possible without stressing the vines.

Janet Capriele, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Contra Costa County, said winemakers typically withhold water to limit vine growth and intensify berry flavor and color. However, excessive underwatering could be harmful.

"We're already cutting back, so the plants are already a bit stressed," Caprile said. "With these additional cutbacks, we may be stressing the grapes beyond the quality you'd want. We'd expect to have smaller crops and smaller berries."

 

 

 

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 4:28 PM

143-year-old Washington navel mother tree gets special care

The mother of millions of navel orange trees around the world, a 143-year-old Washington navel orange tree in Riverside, is carefully protected by UC scientists and the Riverside parks department, reported Suzanne Hurt in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Georgios Vidalakis vows to protect the Washington navel 'mother tree.'
"We're not going to let this tree die," said Georgios Vidalakis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Riverside. Vidalakis is the director of the UC Citrus Clonal Protection Program.

Scientists protect the tree using special tools, insecticides and disease monitoring.

According to legend, the seedless and sweet Washington navel was an accidental mutant that appeared on the grounds of a Brazil monastery in the early 1800s. Tree clones were sent to USDA in Washington, D.C., and from there acquired by Eliza Tibbets, who tended the trees at her home in Riverside.

"Producing budding stock to make other saplings, Tibbets' trees birthed a citrus industry dubbed California's second gold rush," the Press-Enterprise story said.

John Bash, a UC Riverside staff researcher who worked with the Washington navel for 32 years, called the mother tree "one of the world's agricultural icons."

"There are literally millions and millions of trees that can trace their ancestry back to that single tree," Bash said.

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 9:17 AM

The Cactus Climber

He's a survivor.

His sisters and brothers didn't eat him when he emerged from the egg case. In fact, he probably ate some of his brothers and sisters.

He has managed to elude his predators: bats, birds and spiders.

Yes, our praying mantis is very much alive and quite well, thank you.

It's early morning and the praying mantis is a lean green machine as he climbs a green cactus from his base camp, a flower bed of pink lantana. He's not engaging in mountaineering for the sport of it or for the summit view. He's climbing the cactus to better position himself to find prey: to ambush an unsuspecting butterfly or bee.

He's not concealed but he's perfectly camouflaged. And he's cunning.

He stops, swivels his head 180 degrees--praying mantids can do that, you know--and proceeds to climb to the top of his Mount Everest.

It's a sight you don't see very often. First, because praying mantids usually blend into their environment. Second, how many times have you seen a green praying mantis climb a green cactus?  And third, this cactus climber has something in common with the plant: the needlelike "ouch" factor. The cactus is spiny. The praying mantis has spiked forelegs to grasp its prey.

The mantis reaches the summit. He folds his forelegs as if in "prayer." Well, not quite. He looks as if he's begging for his breakfast.

It promises to be a good day, a top-of-the-morning day.

Praying mantis, perfectly camouflaged, stops in the midpoint of his climb. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis, perfectly camouflaged, stops in the midpoint of his climb. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis, perfectly camouflaged, stops in the midpoint of his climb. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis reaches the summit. In the background is a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis reaches the summit. In the background is a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis reaches the summit. In the background is a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis folds his spiked forelegs, as if in prayer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis folds his spiked forelegs, as if in prayer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis folds his spiked forelegs, as if in prayer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 9:18 PM

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