Master Gardener News Blog
By Linda Lewis Griffith
Citrus trees grow so well on the Central Coast that it's easy to take them for granted. You may have a lemon tree on your patio or a tangelo that supplies the whole neighborhood with bags of sweet, tangy fruit. Even hard-working citrus appreciate love now and again. And you can do that by regularly feeding them.
Citrus trees planted in the ground get most of their nutrients from the soil. The exception is adequate nitrogen. Deficiencies in nitrogen reduce yields and adversely affect size, color, sweetness and peel texture of the fruit.
Nitrogen should be applied several times throughout the year. The first feeding is in January or February, just prior to bloom. The second occurs in May. The final feeding is in June.
Select a nitrogen fertilizer, such as ammonium nitrate or urea. Determine the size and needs of your particular plant and follow the instructions on the label. For instance, a one-year-old year tree should get 1 tablespoon of nitrogen fertilizer three times per year. As the tree matures, the application rate increases approximately one- tenth of a pound per year. A five-year-old tree may require 1 pound of nitrogen fertilizer divided into three applications.
Apply the fertilizer over the root area of the tree and at least 1 to 2 feet outside the drip line. The fertilizer should be thoroughly incorporated into the soil. Avoid feeding too late in the season as it may delay fruit coloring or make the rind tough.
Citrus grown in containers have slightly different needs. Frequent watering leaches micronutrients out of the soil so they're often deficient in iron, zinc or manganese. To compensate, use a complete, slow-release fertilizer and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Foliar sprays are also effective if applied in the spring when leaves are approaching their full size.
More information about fertilizing citrus is available through the University of California Division of Agriculture and National Resources website:
Brown and Green and Other Stuff
By Andrea Peck
Organics wastes do not contain methane. It is only when
they are placed in an anaerobic environment that
methane is produced. (See link in post for source)
The other day someone told me that orange peels can't be composted. Then I heard through a game of telephone that crackers and bread don't belong there either. That convoluted conversation ended with the hands-in-the-air conclusion that kitchen waste should not be composted at all.
You'd love to laugh - but you can't because let's face it, we have all been in that head-shaking position of can I or can't I?
Our compost is a crazy nest of mess. Egg Cartons, octopus, Tootsie Roll wrappers and other exotics have been found during compost turning days. Some things I need to pull out later, like plastic strawberry cartons and bottle caps, while others break down remarkably well.
But, what can you “legally” compost?
That list is long, long, long. This week I decided to make a short list that encompasses a sampling of odd-ball items that you may wonder about. I've placed them into an informal ragtag of unscientific categories.
Paper makes composting difficult because it encompasses a wide range of products. Compost cereal boxes, cardboard egg cartons, notepaper, old, new and junk mail, bills. School stuff: homework, flashcards, faux paper décor, messy handwriting practice and anything having to do with the Common Core. Party stock: napkins, paper towel, tissue, grocery receipts, paper tablecloths, paper plates, party streamers, pizza boxes, cardboard boxes. The list goes on. Infinitum. Assist nature by shredding large items first please.
- Woody Stuff:
Toothpicks, matches, wood skewers, sawdust, pencil shavings, twigs, wooden airplanes. Again, this is a category that goes on. Be creative, but don't drop anything in your chute that is toxic. Large wood items, such as logs and fence posts will decompose, but let's get real here, that will take many moons.
This is a favorite category for those of us who like to shock their neighbors. Compost your hair, pet hair, fur, feathers, whatever. Consider leather and eel skin, just don't go picking any pockets with the excuse that your compost needs more browns. Or are those green?
First, you should try to eat your food and then, if possible give it away to dogs and chickens and other creatures (this does not include your Ho Ho's, but you and I know that you ate every last one of those). Next, compost. Jam, jelly, spaghetti sauce, popcorn, fish, frozen vegetables, potato chips, crackers, bread, cereal, spices, tea, tea bags, coffee, grounds and filters, pasta, rice soy, rice and almond milk, tofu and leftover alcohol. Stay away from meat and dairy if you get rodents or critters. Your bin may not get hot enough to kill the bacteria associated with meat (bones included). Try to reuse and compost as much as you can because food that ends up in the landfill produces methane gas. See this link for more information: http://compostingcouncil.org/admin/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Keeping-Organics-Out-of-Landfills-Position-Paper.pdf
- Random Rubbish:
Dust bunnies, lint, cotton and wool clothing, masking tape, white glue and paste, household plant leaves.
You knew this one was coming. Chicken and horse poop, bunny pellets, bird droppings, fish bowl and aquarium water, gecko droppings…let's see what other animals do we have here? It's like a zoo in our home. Exceptions: dog, human, cat feces. And remember, it's very important to make sure the compost get hot enough to kill potentially harmful bacteria.
- Just Plain Gross:
I'll say it first. Yuck. Toenail clippings, razor shavings, Kleenex and cotton balls, non-plastic Q-tips. Your husbands attempt at a beard (not in the middle of the night, ladies). Stop. That's enough, already.
Finally, use your greywater to moisten your ball of wax.
Share your compost knowledge: comment below with additional weird and unusual items that have successfully (or unsuccessfully) made their way into your compost bin. Also, questions are welcome!
Landscape Water Management
By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
I want to improve my irrigation practices this summer. Any tips?
My 1st tip: Add to your current water supply and make the most of your resources. For example, install a grey water system and add barrels to collect rainwater. If you have areas on your property that flood or have water runoff during a rain event, create soil swells and redirect the runoff water so it stays on your property.
Another tip: Mulch everywhere possible. Mulch suppresses weeds, cools the soil, soaks up excess water, and slows evaporation which reduces the amount of irrigation you need to apply.
March is a good month to install, update or repair existing irrigation systems.
Many different irrigation systems are available: drip tubes, soaker hoses, micro sprinklers, and drip tape are a few popular choices. These need to be checked for leaks, clogged emitters and uniformity when applying water. To find out how much water your system dispenses, set out several small empty cans or containers under the emitters or sprinklers. Set a timer for 60 seconds and turn on the water. Then, empty the cans to measure the water collected. Simple math will tell you how many gallons or ml per hour are dispensed.
To figure out how much water is needed and how often to apply it, several factors come into play. It starts with the soil and its ability to hold onto the water you apply. This is referred to as the Available Water Holding Capability or AWHC. While loamy soil holds onto water the longest, sandy soil has the lowest AWHC % with 3-6% due to its texture and hydraulic charge. If you have sandy soil, applying water more frequently for a shorter duration is important. Another factor to consider is evaporation or how hot is it on the day you irrigate. The measurements for evaporation (ET) may be estimated by current or historical weather data (ETo).
If you are interested in learning how to collect and apply irrigation data, join the Master Gardeners on March 21st, 10 am-12 pm, and learn about the scientific method of calculating how much and how often to irrigate. The workshop will be held in the auditorium across from the garden. Arrive early as seating is limited!/span>
A Peep Through The Keyhole…
By Andrea Peck
This year my garden is overgrown and wild. Today I saw new dandelions. They must have grown to eye-level during the night. I suppose that is their job. I did get in one good weeding session this weekend. My son and I cleared a pathway. Slowly we dug, snatching out recalcitrant grass and big-leafed, taprooted freeloaders, our gloved hands searching for the broken concrete edges that mark the beginning of a bed. I resist removing any greenery; the enhancement of green growth is so lovely, weeds or not. Now they have outgrown me. My hens, which have mutated from a group of 8 to 12 in the last half-year have been given free reign. They help by tugging grass tops and digging little hollows in the soil. Then they lie down and fluff themselves in the loosened dirt. Okay, they don't help that much.
Now that I have made a start, my motivation has skyrocketed and I've begun restructuring the garden in my mind. It is something I do that irritates my husband and makes little sense to stable people who prefer the status quo. Nevertheless, my imagination moves garden beds like little Lego buildings, as I mentally recreate my garden Nirvana. Between florid daydreams and reality, I happened upon the topic of keyhole gardens. I have seen the term bandied about here and there, but I had no idea what this type of gardening entailed. I soon found out that keyhole gardens are circular raised beds (about 6 feet in diameter). They have a break in one section that allows access to the center (hence, the name “keyhole”). Inside the center is the real genius: a compost bin. The compost bin is 1' – 1 ½' in diameter.
The structure of the keyhole garden is different from raised beds in that the soil is sloped slightly so that the center is highest. This allows moisture and nutrients from the compost bin to feed down into the soil. Greywater can be used to moisten the compost bin and indirectly irrigate the plants. The outside edges of the keyhole garden are made of anything that is solid enough to hold in the soil. Cinder blocks, broken concrete, wood, brick, even sandbags and straw are options. The hard, outside rim is higher than the soil in order to prevent runoff. Before planting, the interior of the keyhole garden is layered with cardboard, newspaper and compostable materials. Where soil is compacted, rocks may be used at the lowest level to create additional drainage. The top layer (approximately 6 inches) is filled with appropriate growing medium.
Initially, plants must be watered. But, as they become established, watering is done at the compost bin. This encourages roots to grow towards the compost bin and benefit from the nutrients in the compost.
The beauty of the system is in its functionality. Compost is immediately useable, greywater can be incorporated, the height is easily accessible and the quality of the soil allows you to grow more plants in a smaller space which creates a mulch-like effect that inhibits the growth of annoying weeds.
One word describes it: amazing.
If you'd like more information, plus a visual, check out the following videos:
PLANTING SPRING VEGETABLES
By Leonard Cicerello UCCE Master Gardener
Now is a good time to begin planning your spring vegetable garden. Plan it on paper before you begin. Select a site that receives at least 8 hours of full sun each day, is relatively level, well-drained, and close to a water source. Prepare the soil properly and amend and fertilize as needed.
For a spring garden, plant warm season vegetables that are recommended for your area. These vegetables grow best when average temperatures are 65⁰ to 95⁰F. Begin planting after the danger of frost has passed. For coastal areas like Pismo Beach, frost danger has typically passed by March 11; for San Luis Obispo, March 27; For Paso Robles, April 18. Try to plant your garden close to your home. You are likely to spend more time working in your garden if it is easily accessible. Plus, you will not have to carry tools very far.
A few interesting techniques to use in the garden include growing vertically, succession planting, companion planting and intercropping. Grow vertically, if you can, instead of horizontally. Staking and tying crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and pole beans will maximize your available garden space. Succession planting is sowing seeds of a given crop at 1-2 week intervals to produce a continuous supply of vegetables, such as beets, beans or radishes. Companion planting is planting two different crops in the same place at the same time. One crop matures and is harvested before the other. Radishes and carrots work well this way because radishes can be harvested long before the carrots are too large. Intercropping involves planting early maturing crops between rows of late maturing crops to increase production in small spaces. Beans, radishes, green onions, spinach, or leaf lettuce can be planted between rows of tomatoes, peppers, or corn. However, do not let one crop shade out another.