Master Gardener News Blog
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).
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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SPRING PLANT SALE:
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:
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, visit this site if you would like to be notified of upcoming events by email:
Composting Reduces Water Waste!
By Tami Reece Master Gardener
Compost is a mixture of carbon-rich dry brown materials and nitrogen-rich green plant materials. Composting is the process in which organic materials are decomposed through a series of biological events. The resulting small volume of material, what we call compost, will continue to slowly decompose.
One of the many benefits of adding compost to soil is that the nutrients in the compost are released slowly, making them available to plants over a long period of time; thereby reducing the need for additional soil conditioners.
The benefits of using compost are numerous. Composting retains soil moisture, thus limiting the amount of irrigation needed and minimizing runoff. Compost can also lighten heavy clay soils and improve the water holding capacity of sandy soils, helping you to further manage your water resources. Well composted soil supports beneficial microorganisms, encourages root growth and balances soil pH. Composted soil also moderates soil temperatures and can protect plants from freezing conditions. Additionally, when used as mulch, compost can help suppress weeds! Long term benefits of compost involve the recycling of organic materials that would otherwise be sent to landfills.
Another form of composting is worm composting, or vermiculture. Vermiculture uses worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material to develop a compost that can be used to amend an existing garden.
If you would like to learn more about composting or vermicomposting please join the UCCE Master Gardeners at our Advice to Grow by Workshop on Saturday April 19, 2014, at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo in the Garden of the Seven Sisters. Along with a lively presentation about composting, there will be Wriggley Wranch stacking worm bins available for purchase for $120.00. The worm bins include worms and all the information you need to set up your vermicomposting at home! Please bring a hat, camping chair and water as seating is limited.
Save the date: Wednesday, April 23 at 1:30 pm, there will be a one hour fruit tree thinning demonstration of deciduous fruit trees (not citrus or avocados). It will include information on why it is important to thin fruit and how and when to do it for all types of fruiting trees. The demonstration will be at 2156 Sierra way, San Luis Obispo.
The Day My Angel's Trumpet Began A Hollerin'
By Andrea Peck
It's amazing what a plant can do.
One weekend, about a year ago, I saw a relatively large angel trumpet (brugmansia) plant at a yard sale.
I tried to walk on by. But those flowers brought me to an immediate and full halt.
It was $40.00, which is kind of expensive in the world of yard sales. Nevertheless, it hardly took me a minute to decide. Most of that minute was spent rehearsing a legitimate excuse to my husband. The plant was lush with beautiful green leaves. It stood at about 3 feet tall and had striking pink drooping flowers. It even smelled good.
I tried haggling, but the woman was savvy and my plant lust was just contained enough to prevent obvious drooling. She would not lower the price.
I had to come back with my two kids and the car and of course, my money. I loaded the plant into the front seat of my car nearly smashing it in the process. When I arrived home I placed my expensive new purchase right outside my front door.
You have to know my house. It's small and I think, cute. But, it is lacking a certain finesse. For example, if you walk in the front door and keep walking, you will walk out the back door.
It is a forthright home.
The angel trumpet plant suddenly gave it a bit of mystery. Not a lot, mind you. For that, it would need reconstructive surgery, but just enough to be coy. The perfunctory front door now took on an air of an entrance. I no longer felt that exiting my car was within the same motion as walking into the house.
Even though the plant was not huge, it led you to the door. It beckoned.
My new plant and I got along swimmingly for a few months. I was obviously grateful, she was obviously lovely. It was a balanced relationship. Until the day my beauty began showing signs of distress. It began with a slow stippling effect on the leaves. Then the healthy green leaves metamorphosed into yellow and green. Many of the leaves simply turned brown and dropped.
I noticed my angel's trumpet had a gray cast.
What does that mean, exactly?
As bad became worse I began to suspect a plant disorder. I suspected spider mites, to tell you the truth. But I had never experienced mites firsthand and I did not see any crawly creatures on the plant, try as I might, to locate a tell-tale offender. I kind of wanted to ignore the whole thing and hope for a flower, but things took a steep decline. In a state of panic, I googled spider mites and there the little buggers were! Right there in high definition I saw the glazed, spotted leaf that was the mirror image of what lay outside my abode.
I careened onto the Master Gardener Website and found a helpful guide. It turns out that spider mites are common in the garden. They are also super tiny and hard to spot. Mites thrive in hot, dusty conditions. A plant that is water stressed is especially susceptible.
Treatment for mild cases is not painful. Mite prevention begins with proper irrigation. Mites are soft bodied, so a sharp spray of water will often damage or kill those that have made your plant its home. Broad-spectrum insecticides that treat a general variety of pests are best avoided as they often have the opposite effect on mites.
In the event that a small creeper of any variety has moved into your garden, I've attached a link to the Master Gardener Pest Notes Library. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/index.html
Campsis radicans (trumpet vine or trumpet creeper). RHS Wisley Surrey UK
Right Plant Right Place
By Steve McDermott Master Gardener
Q: I go to the nursery and see perfect beautiful plants and bring them home. But after a while, they never look as nice as the ones in the store. Am I doing something wrong? Marilynn, Los Osos
Don't feel badly about how your plants faire after planting them in your own garden. The plants from professional nurseries are given extraordinary care in a controlled environment. Although you can't control as many factors as a nursery can, you can have a flourishing and beautiful garden if you find the right plant for the right place in your garden.
For the best results, the location you choose for each plant would resemble their natural habitat. Would your plants be found under the shade of oaks, alongside scrub brush on a rocky hillside or on a tropical island? One may choose to mimic their natural environment or pick and choose plants of various origins with similar cultural needs. Clusters of plants with similar needs will make maintenance tasks more efficient. So, find the right plant for the environment in your yard and your plants may look even better than the ones you bought at the nursery.
First look for plants that are suitable for your general climate; then plant according to your home's environment. Determining how your house is oriented—north, south, east and west. The north side of your house provides the most shade and the coolest temperatures while the south side is the sunniest and hottest. Therefore, plants near your house on the north side receive little direct sun and will generally need less water than those on the south side. Plants labeled for shade and partial shade are best for the north side of your house. Partial shade plants do best in dappled or limited sunlight, such as morning sun or under trees and taller bushes. Plants labeled full sun are best suited for the south side of your house. Plants that prefer early morning sun should be planted on the east wall of your house, while plants that prefer afternoon sun should be planted on the west. Follow these same orientation guidelines for planting near trees, bushes, fences and other structures.