Master Gardener News Blog
By Leslie E. Stevens UCCE Master Gardener
Looper caterpillars get their name from their distinctive locomotion – arching their middle section by drawing up their back legs and inching along leaves and stems of plants. Unfortunately, this engaging trait belongs to some of the garden's more destructive pest families. Long before you spot one of these slinky critters, they'll have chewed the leaves of your prized plants into tatters overnight.
Cabbage loopers (Trichoplusia ni) are among the most common looper caterpillars. They're members of the noctuid moth family and cutworms and army worms. These green 1-1/2-inch-long larvae chomp their way through cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and collards. They also have a taste for lettuce, spinach, beans, peas, celery, parsley, radishes, potatoes and tomatoes.
The adult cabbage looper – a brown, nocturnal moth – lays its tiny, domed-shaped eggs singly on the undersides of mature leaves. The pupa is enclosed in a thin cocoon attached to leaves in the plant's crown or in debris on the ground. The looper's lifecycle lasts between 23 to 95 days as long as temperatures stay above 50⁰F and below 90⁰F. The higher the temperature, the shorter the lifecycle. In our mild coastal climate, five or more generations may occur annually.
A host of other caterpillars share the cabbage loopers peculiar gait and voracious eating habits, but are otherwise unrelated. Commonly known as inchworms, geometrid relatives number in the thousands. They're about an inch long, many are green or brown with vivid markings. They feed on fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants, such as apple, avocado, oak and bougainvillea.
Prevention & Control
Despite the different lineage, management is similar for caterpillars of both families. As weather warms in the spring, watch for moths. Use row covers to protect your susceptible crops and prevent moths from laying eggs among your plants.
At the first sight of damage, inspect the undersides of leaves early in the morning for larvae and physically destroy them. Squish them or flick them into a container of soapy water. Avoid broad-spectrum and long-acting pesticides since they also kill beneficial predators such as spiders and wasps that help manage looper populations. If physical removal of loopers is insufficient, try applications of less toxic Bacillus thuringiensis.
Greywater Made Easy
By Lee Oliphant UCCE Master Gardener
Q. Where do I start in setting up a graywater system for my garden? Carol, Cambria.
Using greywater is an excellent way to reduce the waste of a valuable resource and minimize water that enters waste water collection systems. Greywater is used household water from sinks, showers, bathtubs, and washing machines. It does not include water from toilets, kitchen sinks (remember that raw chicken you rinsed), or dishwashers. Greywater should not be used on any edible plants in the garden.
While you can carry out buckets from your sink, shower, or tub, there is an easier (on your back and shoulders) way to use non-potable water for outdoor irrigation. A greywater system uses gravity to redirect wastewater from a washing machine to the yard, rather than to the sewer, and is called Laundry to Landscape Greywater System. A construction permit is NOT needed for this system as long as the system does not alter plumbing by cutting into pipes. A hose to the house exterior is attached to the washer hose and must follow the Health and Safety code 17922.12. This system requires a 3-way valve that allows you to switch between a greywater and sewer system. Water must be diverted to the sewer if used for dirty diapers, infectious contaminants or if it contains cleaning products harmful to plants such as bleach, softeners, and dyes.
According to chapter 16 of the California Plumbing Code, greywater cannot be stored and must be used within 24 hours from the time of collection. Immediate use minimizes the development of bacteria and other harmful pathogens.
There are other, more complicated systems than the Laundry to Landscape Greywater System. However, both require permits and plumbing alterations. It is always wise to check with SLO County and your specific city before beginning your greywater project.
Identify detergents that are safe for the environment before using the Laundry to Landscape Greywater System. Become familiar with plants that do well with greywater such as madrone, western redbud, coffeeberry, toyon, manzanita, rosemary, ceanothus, salvia, lavender, and penstemon. They will survive the alkaline environment created by greywater.
For more information on using greywater in the landscape, download Use of Greywater in Urban Landscapes in California: http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu.
10 And Counting!
By Noni Todd UCCE Master Gardener
Have you ever looked a tomato head in the eye? Now is your chance. The 10th Annual Tomato Extravaganza is kicking off this Saturday August 20th at 10:00am. This is your chance to experience a one stop experience surrounding all things tomato!
Free workshops, books and edible plants for sale.
The always popular tomato and basil tasting.
Along with food vendors selling frozen Acai bowls, as well as hot dogs, hamburgers, and other goodies. Looking for a bee and birdhouse to take home. We have those for sale as well!
Meet a few of the California Rare Fruit Growers who are as friendly as they are knowledgeable. How often can you say that?
So come on out and enjoy a day of food, sunshine, friendly Master Gardeners and most of all TOMATOES!!/span>
Tomatoes to Taste and Plants to Fill Your Garden
By Tami Reece UCCE Master Gardener
This year will be San Luis Obispo's UCCE Master Gardeners' 10th Annual Tomato Extravaganza and Plant Sale. What started out ten years ago as a simple presentation and a tasting of a few tomato and basil varieties has turned into a half day of workshops, educational booths, and a tasting of several different heirloom tomatoes and basil.
At our first few events, we did not even have a garden. Then, in 2008 we broke ground on the Garden of the Seven Sisters and have since created a unique landscape filled with over 18 educational themed plots including a Kitchen Garden, Lawn Alternatives, Succulents and Cactus, Fire Safe Landscape, Providing Wildlife Habitat, Curb Appeal, Fruit Orchard, Rain Barrel display, and Rain Garden. On Saturday, August 20, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, our garden will be open for you to explore.
This year's Tomato Extravaganza will feature booths and activities throughout. In the garden, we will have three free workshops - Gophers, Ground Squirrels, Voles and Moles at 10:30; Start, Grow, and Harvest the Best Tomatoes Ever at 11:30, and Preserving Tomatoes; Enjoy your Garden All Year at 12:30. Booths for kids include an insect display and making tomato heads. For adults, the Master Gardener Helpline team will be available to answer questions and at another booth we will be have books, gardening journals specific to San Luis Obispo County, and native bee and birdhouses for sale. Some of our other informational booths will be hosted by UCCE Master Food Preservers, UC CalFresh, and California Rare Fruit Growers. The landscape and edible plant sale will include herbs, basil, fall vegetables, and drought tolerant or low water landscape plants. In the auditorium, you can taste several varieties of heirloom tomatoes and basil varieties such as cinnamon and lime. While you're there, sample our basil lemonade, a crowd favorite, and tomatoes will be available for purchase.
The weather will be sunny and warm so bring a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water to stay hydrated. We look forward to spending the day with you in the garden!/span>
By Linda Lewis Griffith
Cucumber beetles are common pests in our vegetable gardens. The most common species in California is the western spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata. It is a greenish yellow insect with twelve black spots on its back. Western spotted cucumber beetles are often confused with predaceous lady beetles. They can be distinguished by their antennae; lady beetle antennae are short and stubby. Those of the cucumber beetle are long and threadlike. A second species is the western striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma trivittata, which is yellowish orange with three black stripes.
Adult cucumber beetles attack the tender young growth of stems and leaves and the buds and petals on mature specimens. They may also eat ripening stone fruit. Larvae of the spotted cucumber beetle feed on the roots of corn, small grains, beans, sweet peas and several grasses. Striped cucumber larvae feed exclusively on the roots and leaves of cucumber, squash, pumpkins and melons. Cucumber beetles also spread cucumber mosaic virus and bacterial wilt.
Beetles over winter as adults in weedy areas, then move into planted fields as soon as seedlings emerge. They lay their yellow orange eggs at the base of plants or in soil cracks. Hatching larvae burrow into the ground seeking out roots. They feed for 2 to 6 weeks, pupate, and emerge as adult beetles that attack the aboveground portions of the plant. They can produce several generations each year.
Cucumber beetles are difficult to manage. The best strategy is placing protective cloth covers over emerging plants and removing them when plants are big enough to tolerate damage. Seedlings must be covered early before the insects are able to lay eggs under the cover.
In addition, natural predators, such as soldier beetles, tachinid flies, braconid wasps and certain nematodes, help control cucumber beetle populations.
For more information, visit this website: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/VEGES/PESTS/cucumberbeet.html
Saturday August 20th is our 10th Annual Tomato and Basil Tasting and Fall Plant Sale. Stop by between 10:00 and 2:00 to taste heirloom tomatoes, unique basil varieties, buy a few native or low water plants and visit our many educational booths. There is also workshops on Gophers and Ground Squirrels, Growing Tomatoes, and Preserving Tomatoes. Watch for next week's Wednesday article for more information. See you there!/h4>/h1>