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New FREE Publication on Sustainable Landscaping in California Available for Master Gardeners

New free publication on sustainable landscaping by Janet Hartin, Pam Geisel, Ali Haravandi, and Rachel Elkins
University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners have been at the forefront of promoting sustainable landscape practices.  UCCE Master Gardeners now have a new free powerful publication at their disposal, “Sustainable Landscaping in California: How to Conserve Resources and Beautify your Home Landscape” (ANR Publication 8504). 

This in-depth publication provides research based information for individuals interested in adopting sustainable landscape practices. These practices include: plant selection, water conservation, pest management and providing wildlife habitats.

The free publication contains helpful figures, photos, and references for individuals looking for detailed and more complex information. “Sustainable Landscaping in California” can be a powerful tool for new volunteers working at a helpdesk or for developing workshop content or use in a presentation.

The sustainable landscaping publication is available as a free downloadable Adobe PDF from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Catalog.  Don't forget to check-out some of the other high-quality gardening publications available. Ask a local UCCE office about publication discounts for volunteers!

Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 2:26 PM
  • Author: Aubrey Bray

Fruit Tree Thinning Workshop


Fruit Tree Thinning Workshop

By Jutta Thoerner    Master Gardener


I had a lot of small fruit last year and much of the fruit dropped prematurely. How can I prevent this from happening again? Robert, San Miguel


 This premature fruit drop is referred to as “June drop”, which occurs in our area around May. It is a natural process that thins fruit in an attempt to prevent overbearing – or a crop load that the tree cannot successfully support.

However, this natural thinning is sometimes not enough. Signs that too much fruit is produced by the tree include broken branches laden with fruit, small fruit or alternate bearing of crop.  In this extreme drought year, thinning your fruit is particularly important.  Manually thinning will help your tree to get through this season less stressed, minimizing susceptibility to diseases and even sunburn. Some examples of trees that benefit from thinning include apples, Asian pears and certain European pears. These trees produce flower clusters from each bud and each flower can become a fruit. Thin these pome fruits to one or two fruit per cluster and at least 6-8 inches apart. The size of the fruit should be 0.5 inches to 1 inch in size at the time of thinning.

Stone fruits such as apricots, plums, peaches and pluots produce one fruit per bud and often, for example with apricots, on the entire length of the branch.  Thin all the fruit clusters to just one fruit and leave 2-4 inches between each fruit. Thin when the fruit is ¾ to 1 inch in diameter.  

If you have small trees or believe in keeping your trees small with summer pruning, hand thinning is the easiest and also produces the most accurate results. If you have a large tree and ladder climbing is no longer your hobby, attach a short rubber hose or cloth to a long pole. Strike individual fruit or clusters once or twice to break the fruit up and it will drop. Remember to clean the dropped fruit off the ground to lessen the spread of diseases. If you want to see a demonstration on “How to thin fruit”, join the Master Gardeners on April 23rd @ 1 30 pm for a one hour workshop in the Demonstration Garden (Garden Of The Seven Sisters).   

Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Earth Day conservation tips come from UCCE

Substituting drought-tolerant plants and mulching the soil surface are other ways to conserve water.
Small changes in irrigation habits can result in big water savings said an Earth Day report in the Merced Sun-Star written by Thaddeus Miller.

The article focused on the Earth Day festivities at UC Merced, but the water-savings tips came from David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County. A large fraction of home water use happens in the yard. Doll said reducing lawn watering time and fixing broken sprinklers are important first steps to water conservation.

Grass lawn can use more water than many agricultural crops - including almonds, walnuts and tomatoes. Generally residents can cut back lawn irrigation and keep it green.

Doll shared a simple test to prevent excessive landscape irrigation. Pinch the soil between the thumb and index finger. If dirt crumbles and falls away, it needs water. But if it forms into a ribbon one-inch wide or longer, it can go another day or two without water, Miller reported.

Water conservation is part of the citizen science project being launched May 8 by UC Cooperative Extension to mark its 100th anniversary. On the Day of Science and Service all Californians are asked to report their water saving strategies. To participate, go to





Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 1:57 PM

UC conservation ag specialist is no-till farming's 'Johnny Appleseed'

Jeff Mitchell, left, at a conservation agriculture field day.
The untiring leader of the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center, Jeff Mitchell, was compared to the legendary American farming pioneer Johnny Appleseed by the author of The Grist's Thought for Food blog, Nathanael Johnson.

Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, took Johnson to research fields and farms to show progress being made toward more sustainable production practices in California row-crop farming. Johnson turned the visit into a 1,300-word feature that included links to conservation agriculture research Mitchell has published in California Agriculture journal.

"There's a soil scientist at Berkeley, Garrison Sposito, who says it may be just once or twice in a century that agriculture has an opportunity to re-create itself in a revolutionary way," Mitchell said. "... I think that's what's happening with conservation agriculture. It's energizing for me to wake up to that every day.”

Mitchell and his colleagues are proponents of four tenants of conservation farming:

  • Don't disturb the soil
  • Maximize the diversity of plants, insects, fungi and microbiota
  • Keep living roots in the soil
  • Keep the ground covered with plant residues

Mitchell took the writer to the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points to see research plots that have been farmed continuously with conservation techniques. The beds "have not been worked in 15 years," Mitchell said. “There's more organic material going into the soil, more carbon and more nitrogen. There's more capture of water, and the shade and residue reduces soil water evaporation.”

As the years passed, the soil improved. Instead of the farm equipment needing to break up clots of compacted soil, the researchers found they were planting into soft, fine-grained earth, continuously tilled by worms and roots and microorganisms.

Mitchell learned that residues and no-till practices can reduce irrigation water needs by 16 percent, as well as cut down dust emissions and store extra carbon in the soil.

Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Daily Life For Master Gardeners

What's X Got to do With It?

By Andrea Peck


X is a magical letter. Xanadu is part myth, part reality and fantasy all the way.  Xena, Warrior Princess - she was fantastically tough. Xylophone and xanthum gum are fun.  Words beginning with X are the comics of the alphabet. They do not play their sound cards scrupulously.  Instead, X has its way with other letters, resorting most often to the all-powerful Z sound. Nevertheless, we accept this crisscross oddity of a letter – perhaps because it so often suggests that what is to follow is anything but dreary.

Certainly xeriscaping is no exception in the horticultural realm and in these dry times it may become less an interesting permutation and more a necessity.

The word xeriscaping has its own saga. A combination of “xeros,” meaning dry and “landscaping,” the term was coined by an employee of a Colorado water department and is currently a registered trademark of the Denver water department.

Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping that focuses on water conservation. Drought tolerant plants and those that thrive in local conditions are utilized. Plants that have the same water needs are grouped together and the framework of the garden is taken into consideration.  An area where rain or water collects can be a driving element in plant placement. Rain gardens or swales may direct water and serve as natural irrigation.

Xeriscaped gardens are multi-purpose. Conserving water is key, but so is reducing environmental impact. Slow growing plants are used to reduce trimming maintenance and lessen green waste. Lawns with their heavy water needs and constant mowing are either minimized or taken out altogether. Rock and permeable stone dramatize the beauty of the plants while adding little additional care. Pest resistant plants and local plants reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizer, thereby saving money and reducing pollution.

The design of the xeriscaped garden goes beyond aesthetics.  But, this by no means is an indicator that you will be changing from your lovely lawn and rose garden to something, well, ugly.

A well-designed xeriscaped garden is a beauty to behold. In fact, because such care is put into it, I might say that it trumps my own, willy-nilly approach which involves impulse purchases as the seasons change.  I'll blame it on the x.

Converting your own garden may cost in labor, time and money initially, but over time, the savings in water, maintenance and enjoyment certainly make up for it.


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Visit the Paso Robles Multiflora Garden Club's Spring Plant Sale at First Presbyterian Church at 610 South Main Street, Templeton. The day is Saturday, April 26, the time is 9:00 am until 1:00 pm. A wide selection of plants, including drought tolerant varieties will be available. Beautiful garden art (water not necessary!) is for sale and there will be experienced gardeners there to help. Proceeds go to a college scholarship fund which benefits a North County student majoring in horticulture or agriculture.


Advice To Grow By workshops are the third Saturday of every month beginning at 10:00 am.

Calendar of upcoming ATGB workshops:

 ATGB Schedule 2014 Jan to June

ATGB Schedule 2014 July to Dec.


Mark your calendars! There will be a plant sale of drought tolerant, Mediterranean plants after the June ATGB.  (JUNE 21)

The Garden Docent Program Has Begun!

Our educational demonstration garden - Garden of the Seven Sisters - will be open to the public every Thursday and every third Saturday of the month from noon to 2:00 p.m. MG docents will be on hand to answer questions about our many educational plots.

Please make note of the following:

  • No pets allowed other than service animals
  • Rain cancels
  • For more information, call or email our helpline - 781-5939,

Finally, visit this site if you would like to be notified of upcoming events by email:



Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 at 12:27 PM

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