Master Gardener News Blog
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.
Asian citrus psyllid
By Andrea Peck
My intended focus of discussion this week was the writhing mass of maggots that took up residence in my compost bin for two days, but it turns out a more dire circumstance may be brewing in SLO County.
On March 26, 2014 the notorious Asian citrus psyllid was found in a trap disguised as a floating campsite in Arroyo Grande. The free loader was alone.
The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri, is a small, winged insect, brown in color and approximately the size of an aphid. It typically feeds on citrus trees such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and mandarins and a few very closely related ornamental plants in the family Rutaceae (e.g., calamondin, box orange, Indian curry leaf, and orange jessamine or orange jasmine).
The ACP feeds on new leaf growth, leaving the young leaves twisted and curled. New shoots are often lost in the process. But, it is not this feeding habit that is the biggest concern. It is the disease that the ACP transmits. The insect is a vector of the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, associated with the citrus disease huanglongbing (HLB), also called citrus greening disease. HLB causes leaves to yellow and the fruit to be bitter, hard and misshapen. The inevitable death of the tree occurs in as little as five years. The psyllid can pick up the bacterium when feeding on an infected tree. Once the ACP is infected with the bacterium, it will be a carrier for the remainder of its life and can transfer the disease when feeding on other trees.
In the United States alone, consumption of oranges is higher than that of any other fruit. California is one of the top four citrus producers in the country and the top seller of lemons. The lemon industry in California is valued in the upper $3 million range. With so much at stake it is understandable why concern is at its peak – especially amongst the agricultural community.
Due to the severity of the problem, the USDA has created a new Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group, or emergency response group, to address HLB.
Locally, the Arroyo Grande area is under a mandatory quarantine to within a five mile radius while state and local officials determine the extent of the invasion. This quarantine may be extended in the near future.
Checking your trees at home is not only important for your own garden, but the fate of the commercial industry. Check all citrus trees thoroughly, especially the underside of leaves and areas of new growth. Adult ACPs have a sleek, aerodynamic shape and are known for their distinct feeding habit; the insect appears to be latched on head first into the plant material and its tail end is raised into the air. The nymphs exude a characteristic waxy, white substance that hangs from leaves in a corkscrew-shaped manner. Images abound across the internet – but remember even one insect is cause for alarm and should be reported.
Citrus plants, material or fruit should not be transported outside of quarantined areas. Purchase trees from reputable, licensed California nurseries. When disposing of tree clippings, dry or double bag prior to disposal.
Click here for a map of the quarantine area.
Find more information and photos on the UP IPM and UC Riverside websites - http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74155.html
Call 1(800) 491-1899 if you suspect your tree has been infested.
Don't forget ! There will be a plant sale of drought tolerant, Mediterranean plants after the June ATGB.
Calendar of upcoming ATGB workshops:
Saving Garden Water In April
By Lee Oliphant Master Gardener
Q. March rains brought my garden to life. Other than the usual cleanup and weeding, what needs to be done this season of the year? Nancy W., Cambria
This year will be challenging for gardeners. It appears that water restrictions will continue throughout the county as we progress through our third year of drought. Planting will take a back seat for most of us. Keeping our existing plants alive will become a priority. Many of us live in communities that have mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation. Gardeners are becoming remarkably creative in finding ways to obtain, transport, store, and utilize non-potable water for landscapes.
If you're planning on adding new plants, choose Mediterranean plants that require little summer water once established. Remember, even drought-tolerant plants need some summer water until they become established. If you must add colorful plants to satisfy your summer need for vibrant color, consider Gaillardia (blanket flower), Rudbekia (coneflower), penstemon, yarrow, agastache, perennial geranium, daylilies, lavender, red-hot-poker, Russian sage, and lavender. These plants can survive years of drought with minimum supplemental water.
There are veggies that are considered drought tolerant. Many common varieties of zucchini, kale, and believe it or not, tomatoes need little water to produce. Herbs such as sage, rosemary, hyssop, lavender, oregano, and thyme are also drought-tolerant.
Tips for drought tolerant vegetable gardening:
- Plant vegetables early this year. Choose plants that grow in cool weather. Summer plants take more water. Plant chard, kale, and arugula now.
- Plant drought tolerant varieties like ‘Dark Star' zucchini and stupice tomatoes.
- Double the depth of beds so that roots will be able to reach down where the soil is moist.
- Dig in more than the usual amount of compost to hold water.
- Remember to mulch the soil as you would your landscape, to a depth of 3-4”.
The drought will test our determination to continue our love affair with our gardens. Continued success in gardening will depend on our willingness to research and experiment with “water with less” approaches in California.
Find more drought information resources online at http://cesanluisobispo.ucanr.edu/