Master Gardener News Blog
The Lady is a Peach
By Andrea Peck
Most peach trees are country bumpkins that sit out in the field in the sweltering heat. They have a patch of rambunctious grass around them and funny, lopsided leaves that tilt in a wayward manner. They do not stand tall and exult like an oak. They do not curve over industriously like an apple tree. They are not lush and thick like an orange tree. They drop fruit so juicy that it seems a crime in this dry state that they are allowed to exist at all. They are bright and yellow, a little flushed. They are my favorite fruit.
But, let me tell you, my tree is no happy-go-lucky country peach. This lady is a stalker all the way.
She keeps her distance during the winter. Her leaves have fallen; she is skeletal like a 1980's fashion model. I look out my kitchen window and I have to remind myself that she is there. But, trust me, she is there.
During the spring, she gathers herself up like gloved hands on a Victorian dress and begins her advance. She is impertinent. Her branches, feathered in green, stretch closer and I wonder if she is coming in. On days when I've had too many cups of coffee, a sideways glance in that direction makes me think she has breached the window.
Soon, as summer hits full boar, she will begin throwing peaches at the family. Why pick them? She will let us know when she wants us to have them. We concede to her. One minute the peach will not come off the branch. The next it falls cleanly with a solid thump. Temperamental.
The one thing I can say about my peach tree is that she is productive and easy to care for. She is a lady through and through. My kids and I are bloated and sticky as we roll down the street looking as if we have been ruffled by a green-leaved grandmother.
We are happy.
For more information on the lovely green goddess, the peach tree, click here:
By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
I have heard about dry farming crops in agriculture, could I save water in my garden with the same method? Susan, Paso Robles
Dry farming is a technique that has been used for thousands of years in the Mediterranean regions for farming olives, grapes and grains. How does it work? Using a tillage technique, the farmer/gardener starts to work the soil as soon as possible after the last rain of the season. By disking (two passes) and using a roller, the goal is to have three to four inches of dry, even soil when cultivation is done. This is often called dust mulch or dust blanket and it traps the moisture in the soil.
In order for this technique to work, several key elements have to be present. The soil must have good water holding capability, which excludes sandy soils or heavily fractured soils. This technique requires a minimum of 10-12 inches of rain during the rainy season. If the crop is a permanent crop, such as grapes or tree crops, sufficient spacing between the plants is required to avoid competition for water and nutrients. Planting the appropriate rootstock for permanent crops is essential for dry farming in an orchard or vineyard. Under the right conditions, the following vegetables, fruits and nuts can be successfully dry farmed in California: tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, winter squash, olives, grapes, garbanzos, apricots, plums, pears, apples, various grains, potatoes, almonds and walnuts.
The farmer/gardener has to be content with lower yields, often 1/3 of the yield expected from irrigated crops. Fruit and nut crops are often too small for produce buyers from large grocery stores and markets, even though they are generally sweeter, denser and store better than commercial grown products.
Here are some interesting water saving facts from a UC Davis cost study. If not irrigated, these crops would save the following amounts of water: two feet per acre for potatoes (Klamath basin), three feet per acre for apples (Sierra Foothills) and 16,000 gallons/acre for lightly irrigated grapes (Napa Valley). While dry farming is not for every grower or for every region in California, it could be a promising alternative system in times of uncertain water supply./span>
By Andrea Peck
There is always some sort of discrepancy that faces a family. There are never clear seas. A day or a few may go by without a ripple, but that is the extent of unfettered peace; it is not meant to endure. We are plagued by a few thorny subjects; one or two points of contention, and here and there, a set of little hardly-important wobbles. The topic of repotting a large plant is one such wobble. It is a subject that is broached with care lest it become a hardy point of disagreement. The plant is there. Always there. But the adult occupants of the home skirt around the issue; clearly no one wants to deal with its silent presence. Perhaps one adult shies away from heavy lifting. The other balks at the cost of a new, larger pot. Maybe you are the gardener. Maybe your significant other has trash duty.
In quiet moments, one of these adults may begin to speak on the subject and then trail off and turn away.
The conversation starter, weak though it may be, at least gives the speaker the honor of making an attempt. A response that sounds like gobbledygook may ensue. Then suddenly, the topic is dropped and both backs are turned towards the offending indoor item. It is a primitive move.
Ah, the quandaries that beset a family.
But, don't break out your white board and begin brainstorming just yet. Resist the urge to find an online article called “How to Get Your Spouse to Deal with the Indoor Plant.”
There is a better way.
Repotting need not be the answer at all. Not when you have topdressing. Doesn't that have a fancy ring? Can you just see yourself the next time this pseudo conversation appears out of nowhere?
Your spouse: Hmmm. Should that plant? Repotted? Um. (This is said in an incomprehensible dialect that sounds purposefully similar to a Neanderthal).
You fight your normal urge to turn away.
You channel Audrey Hepburn and say (cooly): You know, darling, I recently read that repotting is paseʹ when it comes to large plants. In fact, we can topdress our ficus instead. What do you think?
You can even appropriate a slight European accent to drive home the idea that this is in fact de rigueur.
Once your partner agrees, joy ensues. Love and dopamine shower you both as you have now headed off what could have become a Stage 1, Bone of Contention-type marital issue.
So, are you sold?
Well, then, let me tell you it could not be easier. Instead of lugging that old platypus of a plant outside and buying a heavy and expensive new pot that won't fit in your car, simply let the soil of your plant dry out.
Then, let your plant crumble into dust and buy a fake plant.
Ha! Ha! Just kidding. You can see how I get myself into trouble.
Okay, back to topdressing. Let the top inch of soil dry out and loosen it with a fork. Gently remove that soil with a spoon. Then, with the fork, make gentle perforations in the remaining soil. Finally, replace the soil that you excavated with a quality potting soil. Try to do this yearly in the spring.
Then, find your new best friend and go out to dinner with the money and time you saved.
Family Day In The Garden
By Steve McDermott UCCE Master Gardener
Chances are that your interest in gardening began as a child. Perhaps grandpa let you hoe the garden, mom asked you to water her prize Dahlias, or you picked flowers to make a bouquet for a friendly neighbor. Maybe you developed the passion when you got to pick a giant zucchini. Most of the Master Gardeners in San Luis Obispo County started that way and they want to share their enthusiasm with your family in the Garden of the Seven Sisters demonstration garden.
The Master Gardeners are hosting a special Family Day in the garden. Participants will visit different stations throughout the garden for a brief, yet exciting garden fact.
One station will explain how to plant a cutting and each family will go home with a geranium cutting of their own! Each family will have the opportunity to visit the sunshine garden, the kitchen garden and the fire safe garden among others. The composting station and the fruit orchard with also have many helpful tips to share. Water conservation tips will also be shared throughout the morning.
This is an excellent time of the year to visit the garden - flowers are in bloom, leaves are verdant and trees are bearing fruit. Family Day begins at 10:00 a.m. sharp and ends at 12:00, July 19, 2014. Please note, adults need not be accompanied by children, but children must be accompanied by an adult. And for the safety of all, only service animals are allowed in the garden. The demonstration garden is located at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. Dress comfortably, wear sunscreen, bring water, and please park in the lot next to the demonstration garden. See your smiling family on Saturday!
Would You Like That With Or Without Loopers?
By Andrea Peck
I blame it on the grocery store. We stroll leisurely amongst the turnips as rows of glistening produce greet us. The light is unnatural. Everything costs too much – but oh, doesn't it all look so good. Organic produce beckons. Spring mix! Washed 3 times! Exclamation point! How did our time as hunter-gatherers lead to such decadence bound in plastic and displayed on metal shelves?
Nowhere is there a bug. Not one. Should we ask - where are the flies? Do you see a bee, a bird, a beetle?
How do they do it?
Certainly my own garden flounders at such perfection. One day I talked myself into the merits of a salad instead of a chocolate donut. I do this by allowing myself chopped up cheese. I walked out to the garden where I have a half wine barrel filled with red leaf lettuce and kale. The lettuce is an easy keeper. The kale had holes. The holes, though tiny, made me balk a bit. I forged on, figuring this was real life and so I cut a handful of small leaves and tossed them into my colander.
Walking into the house I noticed the possibility of a wriggling green entity. Perhaps the same creature who took a nibble here and a dabble there? I asked my son to find my glasses and bring his own eyes on the subject. He agreed that something green and not an extension of the leaf was taking up space on the leaf. With my glasses, my son and a magnifying glass I could see a green caterpillar. It was a tiny galloper along the spine of one small leaf. Well, one little green meanie is tolerable, but it was the possibility of more that soon struck my son and I.
Are there more? I said reticently.
I think so, He said. He looked up all brown eyes and seriousness.
Then I remembered something I had just learned at my kids' gymnastics class. Something acrobatic. With my phone. It had happened when I was attempting to photograph my kids with my phone from way up high in the nosebleed section of the gymnasium. I quickly figured out that I could “zoom in” on my kids, thereby getting a closer-up photo. Maybe you have tried this trick or maybe you are guessing now, but when I could not see the invisible interlopers I made a dash for my phone, gathered my kale leaves and zoomed in.
The view was not good.
In fact, it was somewhat choking. There were six caterpillars, so tiny that you could easily miss them with the naked eye. My new viewing method allowed me to identify these warriors of destruction as loopers. These little green goblins feast on a host of garden fare, not solely kale, and they move with a quirky inching motion that could be construed as a loop. I suppose.
What is most interesting to me is that I use a screening material as coverage over my plants – unfortunately, it took me a few days to get the deterrent in place. I guess a few days is all it takes for the metamorphosis of the looper, a pretty white butterfly, to lay her eggs. Remember, when pests lay eggs the results can be phenomenal.
And not always in a good way.
For treatment, avoidance and general information on the looper, visit the Master Gardener website: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/VEGES/PESTS/loopers.html