Master Gardener News Blog
Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education Workshop
by Kim McCue Master Gardener
Good nutrition is a key component to academic success, which is why the California Department of Education (CDE) launched the Garden in Every School Initiative in 1995. Research shows that children who grow and harvest their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. When this practice is coupled with nutrition education, studies show students increase their understanding of nutrition and develop healthier eating habits. Furthermore, according to the CDE's School Garden Program Overview, a major study showed, “77 percent of students in environment-based education programs scored higher than their peers across all standardized tests and had higher grade point averages.” To view the CDE's document please see http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/he/gardenoverview.asp#ref5.
The UCCE Master Gardeners' Garden-Based Learning program educates teachers and volunteers on how to plant and maintain a school vegetable garden and how to incorporate state educational standards in the process. The program stands on the premise that a school vegetable garden teaches students how growing food locally provides nutritional and environmental benefits. Based on the CDE's report, a school garden may also provide additional academic benefits.
Readers interested in participating in ongoing school garden projects are invited to join the Master Gardeners and UCCE Cal Fresh Program Nutrition Educator, Lisa Paniagua, this Saturday, March 8, for the Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education workshop. The program is from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the UCCE Auditorium and Seven Sister's Demo Garden, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Online registration is required - http://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=12311.
The workshop will train participants how to use existing school gardens to enhance nutrition education for children to promote the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. The cost is $30 per person. The workshop includes hands-on activities in the garden and nutrition lessons including safe food handling practices. Each participant will receive a packet of information to help them get started at their school. Very important water saving signage and literature will be discussed and provided as well. Funding for the development and delivery of this workshop is provided by a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.
Ol' Black Water
By Andrea Peck
For the vast majority of us, that old black water keeps on rollin.' Black water does roll, daily, hourly and most of us turn a blind eye as we flush it into the abyss that we call our plumbing. Hardly a few of us would consider the stuff useful.
But the times, they are a changin' and the ability to reuse black and grey water has become a key player in water conservation. You'll be proud to hear that California is on the top of the list when it comes to recycling the dirtiest of water.
Recently, I had the good fortune to attend an information session about the new “purple pipes” that are to be installed in San Simeon. San Simeon is a small community with most of the population living in condominiums that have active home owners associations. The hotel business is the main source of commerce. According to one study done in recent years, approximately 450,000 gallons of potable water was used in a five month period by 7 of the 11 hotels for irrigation. Slightly more water was used during the same time period by the homeowner's associations for irrigation.
San Simeon operates from a well system that has had difficulties with saltwater intrusion during years of low rainfall.
I know, you may want to close your eyes and pretend it doesn't exist, but the folks in San Simeon can taste the situation.
Clearly, something had to be done. So, after a permit process, equipment was purchased and finally, the details are slowly getting ironed out.
The system that was purchased, the HipOx, uses an oxidation process to disinfect the water, while eliminating trace levels of pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals. Its beauty lies in its oxidation process that leaves little to maintain and no filters to replace.
San Simeon hopes to have up to 90,000 gallons of available recycled water per day which will allow citizens to water their landscaping while conserving their potable water.
The best part? Before this solution, the town's regularly treated effluent was flushed into the ocean. San Simeon will now retain approximately 40 percent of that water and instead of it being wasted on the salty sea, it now has the opportunity to replenish their groundwater.
As it should be.
By Jutta Thoerner Master Gardener
The Lawn has to go! Please help me to remove my thirsty lawn with inexpensive methods that do not involve machinery. Kathy H. Creston.
Thank you, Kathy for deciding to remove your lawn during this difficult drought year. You might know that lawns typically use 50% more water than drought tolerant plantings. One option is solarization. You need a clear heavy duty plastic tarp that will cover the lawn. The edges need to be buried in the soil. During the summer months, temperatures up to 140 ⁰F can develop, killing not only your lawn but also any weed seeds. Another great benefit is that many soil born pathogens cannot survive these temperatures. Studies have shown that plants grown in solarized soil grow faster and stronger. The increased rate of breakdown of organic material (your lawn) facilitates the release of many soluble nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and calcium. Expect good solarization results in 6 weeks.
If you want to replant the area with drought resistant perennials during the fall (the best time to save water and ensure a good start of the new plants), the next method might be more suitable. Cut the lawn as short as your mower allows. Use a spading fork to aerate and improve drainage. Cover the entire lawn, overlapping the material generously with any of the following: thick cardboard; burlap sacks, or newspaper at least 2 inches thick. In a non-drought year, you would wet this layer using your irrigation system. But because we need to save water, skip this step or use your grey water, one bucket at a time. The next layer calls for some nitrogen rich material. You can recycle your cut lawn clippings from step one.. Then in the fall, the lawn should be completely composted and you can plant into your new mulch . The last layer in this modified layered composting method is a landscape material that you want to keep permanently in this area. Woodchips come in different sizes and colors. Use gorilla mulch or stones if you do not want to landscape.
Gray Dream Believer
By Andrea Peck
Years ago, when I was a bit younger, when I only had one child and when I was first captivated by the green movement, I tried to talk my plumber/husband into converting our washing machine into a gray water system.
The idea was simple and carefree and rode on the tails of the clothesline that he had just installed.
He shook his head at my foolhardiness. “You need a permit for that,” he said in his laconic way. He was emphatic. I thought he was tired of projects and I soon forgot that honey-do for other “improvements.”
Slowly I learned that maybe he had a point – using gray water can be a gray area.
Gray water runs the gamut – from the simple act of collecting shower water to systems configured from your washing machine, dishwasher and sink. Some diligent folks are even able to reroute their bath water to the great outdoors. (Gray water should not be confused with “black water” which is toilet water).
Where is the gray area, you may ask? Well, gray water is, (how should I say this tactfully), grey. I wish I could nod my head at you and give you a portentous look at this point, but in order to prevent mass chaos, you must know the dangerous potential of grey water. Yes, it's true, your bath water, your laundry water and your dish water can retain hazardous creepy crawlies that you may not know about. That's because they are invisible. We're talking about bacteria, flakes of skin, oils and food bits. And fecal matter.
Slid that in, didn't I?
Well, it is the truth. Your grey water contains some “stuff.” The main thing to remember about gray water is that it should not be used on edible plants, nor should it be stored. I know, you may have fanciful dreams like I once did of your washing machine water doing double duty, pumping water into a lovely container. The container of my imagination had a hose attachment. I could use my water at my whim.
But, let me tell you, grey water is no fairytale.
It must be used quickly otherwise it turns into Black Water. Fecund, smelly water that writhes with life.
On second thought, maybe it is kind of like a fairytale.
On the bright side, if you are able to use your water immediately or pretty soon and consistently use washing products that are not damaging to plants, you will be able to use your grey water on your ornamental plants and trees. I clean my patio and driveway with it – it's great, soapy or not. I simply collect water using a bucket and lug it to where I need it. It's an arduous process, reminiscent of Cinderella, but if my 70-year-old mom can do it, then I have no excuse.
Products to avoid using on plants are those that contain chlorine and boron. Often laundry products containing boron (or borax) have levels high enough to cause toxicity to plants. Phosphates, on the other hand, are generally not harmful and may actually act as a fertilizer in the garden.
Using gray water in the garden is something anyone can do. Remember, even a little bit goes a long way over time. Save a bucket with your shower, use a bit when you rinse your dishes, don't forget to utilize the water from your fish tank and don't throw away the water after you boil or steam your vegetables – let it cool and use it. Small steps lead to big savings and when you are ready for a big project like converting your washing machine, keep informed, stay safe and go for it!
Rethinking Water use
By Tami Reece Master Gardener
I have read in the paper about the drought. How do I reduce the amount of water I use for my landscape without killing my plants? Courtney M. Templeton
Now is the perfect time to assess the water needs in your yard. Begin by prioritizing your existing plants. For some, lawn may fall in the low priority category while fruit trees may be a higher priority. Lawns, ground covers, bedding plants, and shrubs can be reestablished over a relatively short period of time, while mature trees are not as easy to replace. Additionally, it is also perfectly acceptable to reduce the irrigation for established plants and trees. Moderately water-stressed fruit trees will not produce a full crop of fruit, but the tree will survive to fruit again.
The next step is to remove weeds; roots and all. Weeds compete aggressively and successfully with your desirable plants for soil moisture. By removing the weeds, you can be sure that any water that is available will be accessible to your high priority plants.
Next, mulch, mulch, mulch! Add a thick layer of mulch, 6 inches or more, to limit evaporation; i.e conserving water. Check the soil moisture level around your plants by simply digging through the layer of mulch or by inserting a ruler down into the mulch just as you would use a dipstick to check the oil in your car.
If you are considering any new plantings of trees or shrubs, remember that even native plants need regular watering the first year until they are established. If new plantings are necessary, consider planting fewer than originally planned now and perhaps planting the rest in fall. Of the most common fruit and nut trees, almonds, figs and olives are the most tolerant of drought. Apples, apricots, cherries, pears, prunes, and walnuts are moderately tolerant with nectarines, peaches, and citrus being the least tolerant.
About 40 to 50 percent of a household's water use is used outdoors. As smart gardeners, we can have a meaningful impact on water conservation by reevaluating our landscape watering regimen. The Master Gardeners of San Luis Obispo County are committed to educating the public on water conservation methods. Find weekly tips on our blog at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or continue to read our weekly articles as we share water conservation tips for home gardeners.