Master Gardener News Blog
The Asian Citrus Pysllid Strikes Again
By Andrea Peck
If you have ever stepped on a Lego barefoot, you know that power need not come in a large package.
Despite major efforts to control the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), San Luis Obispo County is once again forced to contend with the pest. The first sign of ACP occurred in March, 2014, when an adult was found in a residential neighborhood in Arroyo Grande. In early August, a second ACP was captured in another residential neighborhood in a northeast portion of San Luis Obispo. About a week later, an adult and all other life stages – eggs and nymphs – were located within a 1/3 of a mile from the previous find.
The Asian citrus psyllid is a small insect that feeds on the leaves of citrus trees and plants closely related to citrus. Though the insect itself does not always pose a threat, the disease it carries does. The ACP has a sorry reputation for being the vector of the hard-to-pronounce, huanglongbing (HLB) disease. HLB, also known as citrus greening disease, is a bacterium that is a death-knell for infected trees.
The pest, the disease and the commercial citrus business cannot be taken lightly. It is estimated that Florida, one of the first states to be shaken down by HLB, has lost 50% of its commercial citrus groves due to the disease. Though HLB does not affect the health of humans, there are economic repercussions. The University of Florida estimates 6,600 lost jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity for the state.
As an agricultural state, California relies heavily on the citrus industry as a provider of jobs and revenue. As a citizen, you can assist with this current plight – remember, all sightings have occurred in residential landscapes.
*When buying citrus trees, remember to buy local and keep alert to news of quarantines. A reputable nursery will be routinely inspected by the Agricultural Commissioner.
*Do not move citrus plants or plant parts into the county from quarantine areas. Because of ACP detection, many California counties have been forced to require quarantines. For information regarding quarantine areas, call 805-781-5910.
*Assist the county by checking your own landscaping. Make sure that you know what the ACP looks like and check your plants for signs. (See photos below: The ACP has an odd, aerodynamic tilt to its body when feeding. The second picture shows the tell-tale ‘waxy exude' that is the calling card of the ACP). This creature is small, so use a magnifying glass (or the close-up element on the camera of your phone!). *If you are asked, allow the Agricultural Commissioner's staff to place an insect trap in your yard.
For more information, visit the California Department of Food and Agriculture website at: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov
Growing Citrus And Avocado
By Tami Reece UCCE Master Gardener
Is it hard to grow avocado and citrus trees in San Luis Obispo County? Mark A. Templeton
Citrus and avocado trees can be finicky plants. The right temperatures, soil conditions, and fertilizers are very important for both. Throw in the drought and all may seem lost. But do not be afraid. Master Gardeners are here to help! First, San Luis Obispo County has many microclimates. What grows in South County or in San Luis Obispo may not fare well in North County. You need to know your hardiness or climate zone and there are several in our county. Check the plant hardiness map at www.planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/ to learn about climate zones. Second, you will need to know which varieties work best in your area. A little bit of research will pay off in the overall success of your tree and minimize later frustrations!
To learn how to grow and maintain your citrus and avocado trees, join the UCCE Master Gardeners at their monthly Advice to Grow by Workshop on Saturday August 16, 2014. The workshop will include an in-depth discussion on citrus and avocado trees. The discussion will also include information about the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and the disease it vectors, Huanglongbing (HLB). A member of the San Luis Obispo County ACP trapping program will explain what the county is doing to ensure that this pest does not become established in our county. You'll learn what you can do to help, including offering to have a trap placed in your citrus tree. Home gardeners are on the front line of defense to stop the spread of ACP. Find more information about ACP and HLB on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website - http://ucanr.edu/sites/ACP/
The workshop will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m. and run until noon at the Garden of the Seven Sisters, 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. Seating is available, but does fill up fast. Attendees are welcome to bring their own folding chair. As a courtesy to our speakers and other guests, please arrive on time.
Don't forget your hat, sunscreen and water!
Those Aren't Real
By Andrea Peck
I have a topic that I've been avoiding. Dodging, really. It's not a portion of an idea or a droning insect; it's a real thing, a semi-garden thing.
The situation is this: I have a fake tree in my yard.
There. It's out. My secret is no longer. If you know me and drive by my yard, you may have noticed that cute pine-type tree sitting amongst the carpet vine. What you may not know is that tree is as fake as they come.
Worse yet, I love it. My whole family loves it. Who wouldn't love it? It's green all year round and requires no water or care!
Let me explain how we came upon this easy-care pine. You see, one day my son and daughter and I (this was almost two years ago) were walking on the street and from afar we saw the possibility of street gold. In other words: a free pile. We gathered momentum and ran up towards that pile in haste. I don't tell the kids, but I sometimes get overly exaggerated in my excitement about these free piles just so that they will run up steep hills and tire themselves out. Strenuous exercise is healthy. So is that couple of hours that I get to be by myself after they go to bed. Anyway, we took off full-tilt with the giddiness that only a free pile can stir up. Slowly we came across a magical synthetic Christmas tree. It was forlorn in its dilapidated cardboard box.
My son, the empathetic one, thought we'd better take it home. I could see what he meant. It looked in need of a stable environment.
We lugged it home and after that brief sprint, the endorphins must have been kicking in because I told the kids we should just stick it in the front yard. I can't remember the details, but I know that they were all for it. That's the great thing about fit, well-rested kids – they will go along with anything.
I guess I should say that the story gets mildly crazier. I guess the fact that it has been there for almost two years is strange enough. Especially considering that we have not had anyone really question its location. No, the strangest thing is how I discovered that I married the right person.
Every Christmas, my husband puts up with me decorating the ficus or some other non-traditional tree. One year we killed a lemon tree by bringing it in for too long and forgetting to bring it outside and properly plant it. Last Christmas he suggested we get a cut tree. I knew what he meant because I went through this with my brother years ago when my mom and I had purchased a $5.00 “Charlie Brown” tree the day Santa was supposed to deliver. My brother did not like that twig of a tree. He wordlessly went out and bought the real deal and we had two trees that year.
So, when my husband suggested a real-deal tree, I had a bit of dejavu.
Nevertheless, I had an idea and I was not going to be deterred. I suggested we bring in the fake tree and save ourselves some money.
Around the holidays, money is a charmed word. Mention it and you may get your wish. I think I probably twisted my head like a dog when it hears a weird sound because I just could not believe that he agreed with me. I wondered if the term ‘soul-mate' had some basis in reality as we brought that tree inside. You would think I would end there, but, the story gets even loonier: that tree elicited so many compliments.
And each time, I had to challenge my luck by asking if the tree rang any bells. I got no answers other than dropped jaws which I consider a compliment in the final analysis.
Since then, I have seen kindred spirits. In fact, it was not too long ago that my kids and I went to a yard sale and I was able to ask the owner of the home about the beautiful goldenrod flowers that bloomed from his giant palm.
I told him that I did not know that those trees bloomed.
He leaned in slyly and said, “Look a little closer.”
By Andrea Peck UCCE Master Gardener
Just how important is soil? Sara B. Los Osos
Though soil is simply the top layer of dirt, it should not be dismissed as “all the same.” Composed of rock sediment, animal microorganisms and plant matter, soil is an important factor for successful plant growth. Because plants get most of what they need through the roots, the composition, texture and nutrient level of your soil has a great impact.
There are three general types of soil: sandy, loamy and clay. Visually like a desert or dune, sandy soil is loose and dusty when dry. Sandy soils are coarse, which create wide, porous spaces between soil particles. Quick to drain and low in nutrients, this type requires a little bit of watering on a frequent basis. Native and Mediterranean plants thrive in this type of soil, as do cacti and succulents. On the opposite side of the spectrum is clay soil. Thick and sticky when wet, hard as a rock when it's dry, it's easy to recognize. This type has fine particles which retain water, minerals and oxygen. Most plants have a difficult time growing in a clay environment. Loamy soil is the middle ground. Rich in organic matter, loamy soil has plenty of nutrients. It retains water which helps keep the plant hydrated and assists in nutrient uptake, yet it drains well. The vast majority of plants have no trouble feeling at home here.
Soil pH is measured on a range from 1-14, where 14 is alkaline and 1 is acidic. Balanced or neutral conditions fall to 7.0 on the pH scale. The pH level influences nutrient uptake, microorganism activity and the solubility of minerals. Most plants do best when the pH is between 5.5 and 7.5.
Proper plant growth requires soil that contains ample amounts of the 20 essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Care for your soil by using garden compost and mulching with materials that break down slowly. This adds nutrients, creates loamy soil consistency and maintains a neutral pH.
With a bit of effort and maintenance your plants will settle in and let their roots get comfy.
By Andrea Peck
When I began gardening I had visions of long, furrowed rows. A farm, really. My home is small, but the lot is large enough. Were I to till the land and plant the length of it, I suppose we would have enough to feel farmish.
It took me a really, really long time to realize that this was an entirely unnecessary fantasy. The discrepancy between what our family used and my warped hallucinations was like cold water between glaciers. A gnat of an idea buzzed in my head that I did not need a mini-ranchette.
I think the drought this year finally silenced my gnat. He could die now, happily, because his work was done. I get it; I do not need that much food.
I see this same inclination in other gardeners. They are so hungry for the goal that I can feel giant pumpkin leaves coming out of their ears.
The best part about this drought and vegetable gardening is that we do not need to go big or go home. We can be thoroughly satisfied with small spaces, small containers and with the right methods, we are able to glean more from less.
When I began, I was not successful with lettuce. The snails got it. Everytime. They were so stealthily slow. Finally, I decided to make a very small, mini bed out of bricks. The snails could not enter my lettuce domain because on top of the bricks I placed an old bathroom window screen. My tiny bed was less than 1' x 18” but I got enough lettuce out of it to have salads continually for months. I simply re-seeded portions as needed. My plot was underneath a tree and that sheltered the lettuce from the hot sun. Simultaneously, the tree and the lettuce acted as mulch – they both kept moisture in and because of that, both required less water. Win, win.
There are other tricks: raised beds, containers, vertical gardening and little areas within the garden itself. I have decided that I like to keep most of my edibles close to the house. They are easier to water and care for this way. They are also in a less sunny portion of the yard, which cuts down on watering and prevents early bolting in some plants. I notice with my pumpkins that I don't need to find a way to pack a whole package of seeds. I like to have about two plants just to make sure one of them produces. One year I gave away 8 sugar pie pumpkins from one plant. I still had many left for pie making. Yes, all from one plant! This year I had the kids smash a few leftover pumpkins. Soon thereafter, pumpkin seedlings sprung up all over the place.
Often we forget that many vegetables are annuals that will not need a permanent space. Keep your soil useable throughout the year by maintaining good soil. Compost and mulch are great places to start.
As my learning has evolved, so has my image of my garden. No longer is it a static spread of dirt. It is teeming and alive. As I gain skills, my goals become sharper and leaner. I do not need a large herd of a garden; I need an agile leopard ready to pounce.