UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance
University of California
UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance

From the UC Blogosphere...

Wonderful News for the CA Master Beekeeper Program!

Elina Lastro Niño (left) tests a prospective graduate of the California Master Beekeeper Program. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Oh, how much this is needed! Congratulations to the California Master Beekeeper Program, the newly announced recipient of a...

Posted on Monday, December 11, 2017 at 4:43 PM

Growing the 3 Sisters

Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County

Client: I've heard various local home gardeners talking about planting the “3 sisters” in their vegetable garden. I think they are discussing corn, beans, and squash. Why would I want to plant the 3 sisters?

MGCC Help Desk: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk regarding growing the “3 sisters.”

<b>3 Sisters</b><br>from IALF
3 Sisters
from IALF
The traditional sisters are corn, beans, and squash, although there are other plants that work well as additions or substitutions: sunflowers, amaranth, watermelons, or bee balm, to name a few. In a 3 sisters garden, the corn becomes the pole for the pole beans. The beans enrich the soil with their nitrogen-fixing ability and help support the corn in the wind. The large leaves of squash or melon shade the soil to keep it cooler and retain more moisture, and their prickles provide a bit of a barrier against pests like deer and raccoons.

There are many variations on the 3 sisters garden, but the most traditional layout is something like this: several corn kernels planted in a circle, beans planted close to the corn, and then the squash planted in a wider circle around the inner plantings. 

This layout works great for growing dry corn and dry beans. If, however, you'd like to grow sweet corn and snap beans, you should consider an alternative. When growing dry corn and beans, everything is ready for harvest at the same time. But, fresh corn and beans will be ready before squash. You're probably not going to want to carefully step around your pumpkins or watermelon every time you harvest beans or corn, and the squash leaves probably won't appreciate being stepped on either.

In the above situation, an alternate layout is best. Rows of corn with beans planted in between is a great variation, with the option to plant some squash along one side. This variation has the added benefit of increased pollination for the corn. If you have a good amount of space, beans, corn, and squash can be planted in linear plots and used for crop rotation. From left to right, plant squash, then corn, then beans. Each subsequent season, move each crop to the right, so the corn and squash can benefit from the nitrogen-fixed soil the beans grew in. 

Companion planting can become a complex set of decisions. You will want to consider the variety of plants you wish to grow and then consider which do well together and which can exacerbate problems by, for example, attracting the same pests. Information regarding companion planting can be found at:

We wish you continued success with your gardening, especially growing the 3 sisters. Please do not hesitate to contact Master Gardeners again if you have further questions.

Help Desk of the Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (KR)

Note: The  UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round (except the last two weeks of December) to answer your gardening questions.  Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA  94523. We can also be reached via telephone:  (925)646-6586, email: ccmg@ucanr.edu, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog  (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/)

Posted on Monday, December 11, 2017 at 12:19 AM

Time Is Ticking...Do You Fuse Art with Science?

If fuse art with science through drawings, paintings, watercolors, photographs, sculptures, textiles, video, or mixed media, consider entering the Consilience of Art and Science Show at the Pence Gallery, Davis. Here a honey bee

Time is ticking...do you fuse art with science? Is your art ready to show? Organizers of the Consilience of Art and...

Posted on Friday, December 8, 2017 at 3:57 PM

Dwarf Butterfly Bush



Dwarf Butterfly Bush

By Leslie E. Stevens  UCCE Master Gardener



PLANTING ZONE:  USDA Zones 6, 7, 8, 9

SIZE:                           3-5 ft. tall; 3-4 ft. wide

BLOOM SEASON:   Dense, spike like, lavender flowers,early summer to late fall

EXPOSURE:              Full sun to partial shade

PRUNING NEEDS:   Remove spent flowers to prolong bloom. Cut back canes in late winter to promote fuller new spring growth.                  


WATER NEEDS:       Medium to low; drought tolerant once established.

NARRATIVE:  As its name indicates, the dwarf butterfly bush is a miniature version of its much larger 10-12 foot cousins.  And like its counterpart, this compact perennial not only fits beautifully into small suburban landscapes, it's a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that are attracted to its sweet nectar and colorful blossoms. 


NOTE:  Although commonly called “butterfly bush,” buddleia varieties should not be confused with Milkweed and Butterfly Weed, which are both members of the Asclepias family.  Milkweeds are the only plants Monarch larvae can eat, and therefore are critical to the Monarchs' survival. 



Posted on Friday, December 8, 2017 at 1:05 PM
  • Author: Leslie E. Stevens
  • Editor: Noni Todd

If You're Into Insects...and Good Causes...

A Peruvian walking stick changes hands among children visiting the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

If you're into insects--who isn't?--and want to support the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California,...

Posted on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 6:14 PM

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