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From the UC Blogosphere...

California summer fruit smaller and tastier this year

Drought and warm winter weather combine to reduce the size, and increase the taste, of 2015 California stonefruit.
California's summertime stonefruit - peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots - are tending to be smaller in 2015, reported Lesley McClurg on Capital Public Radio. But don't despair. The smaller fruit is typically tastier, said a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) expert.

"That smaller peach this year very likely is sweeter than the moderate-sized peach of last year," said Kevin Day, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor and director in Tulare and Kings counties.

Most of the change in fruit size can be attributed to the drought. When irrigation is limited, water content of the fruit diminishes and sugars become a greater proportion of the fruit mass. However, Day says drought isn't the only reason for 2015's smaller fruit size. California also had unusually warm temperatures in January and February 2015, causing fruit to ripen faster.

"A variety that might ripen after 120 days of being on a tree in a year like this ripens in only 110," Day said. "And, so it's consequently shortchanged out of 10 days of growing."

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2015 at 9:38 AM

Is This What's Wrong With Your Tomato Plant?

Client's Request: Client is growing tomatoes in a community garden. Several of the client's tomato plants are now droopy, appear diseased on the stems and leaves, and not performing as expected. Client dropped off a sample of the tomato plant (leaf and stem) at a Farmers' Market Master Gardener Help Desk. It was then delivered to the MGCC Pleasant Hill office for a Help Desk analysis of the problem (s?) and recommendations of what to do next.

Tomato Pith Necrosis damage


 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Pith Necrosis damage
Pith Necrosis pictures from OSU Fact Sheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MGCC Help Desk Response and Advice:  We were able to determine what was going on with your tomato sample by viewing it under our microscope. We found spider mite infestations, but that is secondary to what is actually going on with the plant. We believe that the tomato plant is suffering from "pith necrosis". While Master Gardeners have seen some previous evidence of this tomato disease, it is so far rarely seen in California, and UC does not have very much information or recommendation on the disease. However, Ohio State University has a Fact Sheet that provides information on the disease and its management. http://u.osu.edu/vegetablediseasefacts/tomato-diseases/tomato-pith-necrosis/. From our reading of the Fact Sheet, it doesn't appear that there is much you can do to manage the disease at this point in the tomato growing season, but you should consider your cultural practices before planting in the same plot next year (e.g., crop rotation, fertilization, etc.). The OSU Fact provides the best guidance we have at this time.

Spider Mite significant damage
on tomato plant
You will also want to read up on spider mites and keep an eye out in the garden for other plants which may be affected. Spider mites are difficult to control but it would be worth making the effort because you are in a community garden situation. UC does provide information on spider mites identification and control on this rather commonly found pest. Take a look at the section on cultural control in particular as spider mites thrive in dusty conditions so irrigation and dust control in the garden is especially important.  http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7405.html 

Thanks for contacting us and providing the sample.

Help Desk of the Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County


Note: The  Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions.  Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA  94523. We can also be reached via telephone:  (925) 646-6586, email: ccmg@ucanr.edu, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2015 at 1:09 AM

The Effect of the Drought on Insects

he drought has caused a number of immature praying mantids to die for lack of food.  This is a female female Stagmomantis californica, as identified by Andrew Pfeiffer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The severe California drought--we're in the fourth year--is affecting us all, but it's also affecting insects, says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. She writes...

he drought has caused a number of immature praying mantids to die for lack of food.  This is a female female Stagmomantis californica, as identified by Andrew Pfeiffer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
he drought has caused a number of immature praying mantids to die for lack of food. This is a female female Stagmomantis californica, as identified by Andrew Pfeiffer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

he drought has caused a number of immature praying mantids to die for lack of food. This is a female female Stagmomantis californica, as identified by Andrew Pfeiffer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, August 28, 2015 at 6:16 PM

The Spider and the Skipper

A banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata)--as identified by UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro--waits for prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a a story about a spider and a skipper. Technically, a banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) and a fiery skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus, family Hesperiida). The garden spider lies in wait, its head down, clinging to its real...

A banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata)--as identified by UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro--waits for prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata)--as identified by UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro--waits for prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata)--as identified by UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro--waits for prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) wraps its meal, a male fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) wraps its meal, a male fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) wraps its meal, a male fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

While the garden spider wraps its prey, two fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus) prepare to mate on a Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
While the garden spider wraps its prey, two fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus) prepare to mate on a Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

While the garden spider wraps its prey, two fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus) prepare to mate on a Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 5:55 PM

Adapting to drought by removing urban landscapes has unintended impacts

A Western scrub jay on a California lawn. (Photo: Wikimedia commons)
Removing landscaping in urban areas to adapt to the California drought carries a gamut of potential repercussions on wildlife and the environment, reported LA Weekly. Two of Gov. Brown's water conservation rules - withholding water from grassy road medians and encouraging residents to remove their lawns - are taking an unexpected toll.

The subject was raised recently by two University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts in a position paper they published on their website, the story said. Don Hodel, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in LA County, and Dennis Pittenger, UC ANR Cooperative Extension area environmental horticulturist at UC Riverside, said landscapes and turf offer tremendous benefits to residents, communities and the environment.

"Nobody thought this out," Hodel said. 

The LA Weekly article also quoted Loren Oki, the UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist for landscape horticulture based at UC Davis. Among the obvious problems created by California's turf-removal program, Oki said, is "encouraging people to plant during the heat of the summer, which is the worst time" for new plants to survive in the ground. He predicts many of the low-water plants will not survive the late-summer heat.

Another UC Davis scientist, biochemistry professor William Horwath, raised the potential for turf removal to kill the "decomposition community" that lives in soil.

When cities and homeowners remove vegetation from land, that diminishes the diversity of the soil biology, especially the larger fauna such as worms, which feed off of the droppings of leaves and other materials from plants.

"If you are not growing anything, just gravel or mulch, you'll be losing a lot of worms, and you will at the same time be losing a lot of carbon from under the soil back into the atmosphere," Horwath said.

Oki was one of the authors of a recent post on the UC ANR California Institute for Water Resources blog, The Confluence, that provides practical, well-thought-out advice on drought-tolerant landscaping in California.

"A variety of options exist for gardeners implementing landscaping changes," the article says. "Trading in your turf for concrete, rock, or artificial turf are options. However, none of these selections promote healthy soils and other ecosystem services. In fact, all of these options can be problematic because they create a heat island effect and may have water infiltration or runoff issues."

The story details seven strategies for conserving water while maintaining a living landscape.

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 12:07 PM

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