Master Gardener News Blog
Nancy Hartwick UCCE Master Gardener
I want to replace my lawn to cut down on water use and maintenance. What do you suggest?
Tom, San Luis Obispo
Turf is considered the number one irrigated crop in America, so eliminating or reducing the size of your lawn will definitely save water. And, not cranking up the power equipment for grass mowing and trimming will also cut down on air pollution.
Removal of the lawn will be the first chore, and it must be done thoroughly for best results because perennial grasses like Bermuda can regrow from almost any part of the plant left behind. After digging up all visible grass and roots, it is a good idea to water the plot and wait a week or so to see if anything sprouts.
When you're modifying a landscape remember: less is more; plant sparingly. If you have too many plants, you may need to water them as much as you did the lawn. And, an abundance of plants can create more maintenance work such as pruning and fertilizing. You can fill in the space between plants with walkways, patio areas, found and repurposed objects and garden art. If you use paving, choose permeable materials such as dry laid bricks, pavers, and stepping stones. These materials will allow water to drain into the soil and stay on your property to recharge your water table. Solid pavement such as concrete and asphalt forces water to drain off your property and into the watershed.
Before you plant, consider laying down landscape cloth to slow down weed growth. After cutting pieces to size, overlap the edges and secure with landscape pins. And of course, choose plants that are drought tolerant such as California natives or other Mediterranean climate species. There are many types of shrubs and seasonal flowering plants available with interesting variations of color and shape.
When the plants are in place, cover the area with organic mulch such as wood chips or bark to retain moisture and add to the aesthetic appeal. Water your plants when the soil is dry. Water deeply and thoroughly to encourage strong root development.
For more information on lawn removal and alternatives, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/scmg/Lawn_Replacement/
Green Beans At Grandma's House
By Andrea Peck
My grandma used to grow green beans. One summer, we took the long trip to Michigan to visit her. She lived in a large brick house on the edge of a river. I vividly remember four things: strawberry-flavored Quik, Legos, a song that went “skyrockets in flight, afternoon delight” and green beans. I was young then, so my memory is fuzzy, but at this point I definitely think that my grandma gets complete credit for introducing me to a vegetable. Not just any vegetable – one that I liked.
Of course, these were from her garden and she lived on a farm. Homegrown are better, as you well know.
I have planted my own beans, but I either forget to water them or the snails demolish them and I seldom enjoy the benefit of becoming familiar with them. They are transients that come and go. The truth is that I probably sabotage myself because I never do find a prime vining location in my garden. This year is different, however. In fact, I am challenging myself on this very day to plant the string beans and snap beans that I purchased over a week ago. At this very moment, they are sitting outside in their original little black plastic pots. Actually, I feel them staring at me through the wall. Probably their roots are sweating as I type. And seriously that is just bad spring juju.
So what to do?
Beans are warm-season, annual legumes. Once their roots are solidly established they create their own nitrogen fertilizer. This “nitrogen-fixing” ability is why many seasoned gardeners suggest growing beans as a means to improving the fertility of your soil. There are many types of beans, and below I include a list of disease-resistant varieties suggested by the Master Gardeners. Some beans, such as snap beans, are eaten pod and all, while others, such as lima beans, are primarily eaten for the seed.
Oh, lookie here! I just dug up an interesting MG fact: “Bush snap beans are the most popular because they mature early and do not require trellising.” Who knew?
Beans should be planted after the danger of frost. Seeds do not germinate well in cold soil, so wait until the soil heats up to 60° – 70° F. Beans like fertile soil, so before you plant, add some compost to the bed. Once established they will not need any extra fertilizing.
Goldencrop Wax, Resistant Cherokee
Fordhook 242 Bush
King of the Garden
Baby Fordhook Bush
Well, with that I'm off. I think I hear my little orphan plants complaining outside. Sounds vaguely like, ‘it's a hard knock life…'
Irrigation Workshop and Drought Tolerant Plant Sale
By Andrea Peck UCCE Master Gardener
Do you find the idea of irrigation confounding? Are you all tangled up in landscape pipe? Does your math ability disappear when it comes to line length and pipe measurement? If this describes your relationship with landscape irrigation, then you're in luck. The Master Gardeners of San Luis Obispo are holding their monthly Advice to Grow By Workshop. This month, a team of Master Gardeners will teach you how to build an irrigation system. Imagine becoming familiar with terminology such as emitters, valves and ¼” tubing. Consider the benefit of utilizing water to its utmost and saving time, while deterring excess weed growth. In this dry state, it's a topic with which we should all be familiar.
The workshop will cover the various types of irrigation systems, installation, timers (both plug in and battery operated) and pop-up sprinkler systems. You will be instructed on how to create a garden plan before implementing an irrigation system. The details of pipe and valve sizing, water sources and water pressure will be discussed. You will learn the process of irrigation system assembly. Drip systems with the various paraphernalia, attachments and range of combinations will be addressed. A discussion of necessary and helpful tools will round out the workshop.
The workshop will provide an overview that will benefit the beginning gardener up to the most mechanically minded Do-It-Yourselfer. Questions will be met with insightful answers.
Just in case you're more interested in shopping than hard labor, the workshop will be followed by a plant sale. From 12:00 until 2:00, you can check out the selection of edible, native, succulent and Mediterranean plants all grown and propagated by Master Gardeners. Let the Master Gardeners assist you in selecting the best edibles and plants for your home. Natives, succulents and Mediterranean plants are all drought-tolerant, beautiful and generally require little pampering.
Prepare for the weather! Don't forget to bring a comfortable chair, water, sunscreen and a hat. The workshop takes place from 10:00 until 12:00 in the Garden of the Seven Sisters, located at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo./span>
Fire in the Garden…No Thanks.
By Andrea Peck
You've tested your smoke alarms and changed their batteries, but have you taken a good look at your garden?
Most of us don't consider the garden when it comes to fire, but a fire-safe landscape can save your keister on a hot summer day when sparks decide to fly. Handsome as they are, I'm not sure I'd like a home visit from the fire department anytime soon. A 12-month beefcake calendar would do just fine, thank you very much.
Your landscape factors heavily into the fire prevention equation. We spend hours selecting drought resistant natives and planting Monarch habitat. We purchase patio furniture and then arrange and rearrange it. But, fire safety? What's that all about?
According to CalFire, there are a number of points to consider when looking at fire safety in your garden.
The most important area is the 30' of space between your garden and home. This area will either ignite quickly or discourage fire by creating a “break.” Unfriend fire by creating a barrier (referred to as defensible space) using hardscape that is non-flammable. Concrete, rock, boulders, brick and pavers are all good choices. Flying embers are able to travel over a mile; those that land on concrete quickly burn out.
Utilize plants that have high moisture content. In firefighter terminology, this is called vegetation modification. Rockrose, iceplant and aloe are great plants that combine lower flammability and drought tolerance. Shrubs, such as hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac, and shrub apples are good choices. Instead of conifers such as pine and fir, plant hardwood trees, poplar, maple and cherry. Near the home, it is best to keep plants low to the ground - the taller the plant, the greater the potential that your plant will act as a “fire ladder.”
Check out the following link for more plant options: http://www.bewaterwise.com/fire02.html
Garden areas that are broken up by hardscape are highly recommended by CalFire. Not surprisingly, keeping water sources and hoses ready and useable is considered part of fire-safe landscaping. Be sure to trim tree branches at least 10 feet from your chimney. Slow the spread of fire by separating plants so that their branches and leaves do not overlap.
Keep plants clean and free from dry and dead debris. Dead leaves and branches act as kindling. Clean underneath decks and weedy hiding places. Not only will you placate a hot fire, but you may discourage my favorite neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Rodent. Consider non-plant material that may combust in high heat. After you consider it, make sure it's not located near your structure or anyone else's either.
Maintenance is key when it comes to fire safety. Spring is here and it's time to clean - just don't sweep anything under the rug…
All Season Color
By Lee Oliphant UCCE Master Gardener
I'd like to create a garden with year-around color. Is that possible? Kit L., Cambria
It's easy to have color in your garden year-around if you think beyond the usual high maintenance annuals and perennials. Consider the foliage color of trees, shrubs, and vines first. Foliage helps you gain the variety and the affect you desire.
Some foliage provides dramatic color, especially in the fall. Trees such as Chinese pistache, crape myrtle, eastern redbud, Japanese maple, liquidambar, persimmon and scarlet oak are colorful characters in nature's drama. Japanese barberry, oakleaf hydrangea, and smoke tree are shrubs that change hues as the days shorten.
Winter and early spring blooms grow on trees such as crabapple, dogwood, magnolia, redbud, flowering cherry and plum; and on shrubs such as azalea, viburnum, blue hibiscus, and cassia. Drought tolerant ceanothus, jasmine, lavender, rockrose, rosemary, and salvia are great additions to a color garden. Climbers that show off in late winter/early spring include clematis, Hardenbergia, climbing roses and wisteria.
Summer brings jacaranda trees to full glory in the warmer regions of the county. Shrubs such as fuchsia, gardenia, hydrangea, spirea, and Justicia, as well as low growing plants such as gazania, catmint, lantana, and verbena put on a show. Vines like Bougainvillea, bower vine and passion vine lift your spirits providing elevated, eye-catching drama.
Looking for shrubs and trees that provide color through several seasons? Cape plumbago, Abutilon, germander, oleander, salvia, tree mallow and shrub roses are good long-blooming, low maintenance plants. Perennials such as daylilies, coreopsis, purple coneflower, Rudbeckia, statice, Alstroemeria, gaura, Heuchura, Tagetes, flax and grasses are favorite drought-tolerant plants that provide color for months.
Tips for a colorful garden: plan carefully. Start with trees and work your way down. Know when trees, shrubs, and perennials bloom in your microclimate. Consider green and grey as colors. Make foliage your basic layer. Add complementing colors just as you would in a painting. Lay out your garden carefully to take advantage of natural light, soil, and needs of plants. Plan, plant, sit back, and enjoy the show!