- Author: Alison Collin
With the magnificent display of fall colors that now surround us in the Eastern Sierra it is difficult to resist the urge to visit a local nursery and acquire some plants that will liven up our own gardens. Although we cannot emulate the dramatic colors of the northern forests, we can certainly choose from palette of interesting shades – red, salmon, yellow, maroon, etc.
To get the best colored variety it is a good idea to visit a nursery in person in order to get what you want. We all know specific local trees that have outstanding color every year while others nearby don't seem to have anywhere near the same impact, proving that colors vary between different specimens of the same species. If ordering from a catalog, make sure to select a variety that has been bred specifically for good fall color.
Color can also be provided by fruits such as crab apples and colorful berries like pyracantha.
However, it is important not to get carried away by leaf color alone since for long term success other important factors should be considered. With our increasingly dry and hot climate it is prudent to make sure that our choices will be able to cope with our local conditions, and it is also vital to choose “the right plant in the right place”. Magnificent as our local cottonwoods are at the moment they do not make suitable trees for a small garden due to their enormous size and the problem of often shedding large branches as well as their water needs. Likewise the beautiful aspens are best left to grow in the higher elevations since they do not do well on the valley floor.
As always, when buying any sort of plant for the garden whether it is tree or shrub, do your homework; measure the space that you have available, think about the height that you want and decide what shape you need - upright or spreading. Check its hardiness rating making sure it is suitable for your zone, and consider the amount of irrigation that it will need and whether you are likely to be able to meet that need. Check whether it will be able to tolerate any adverse components of your soil such as salts, and also look upward to make sure that it will not be too close to utility wires.
A few suggestions for the eastside of the Sierra follow.
Trees: Koelreuteria bipinnata (goldenrain tree, Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache), Ginkgo biloba, Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud), Fraxinus spp. (ashes), Lagerstroemia indica (crapemyrtle), and the slightly shrubbier Amelanchier (serviceberries) or Sorbus (mountain ash) in the cooler mountain areas.
Shrubs: Cotinus (many different varieties with varying fall colors), Euonymus alatus (firebush), Punica granatum (pomegranate), Berberis (orange rocket or roseglow barberries), Cotoneaster, Rhus spp.
Fall color is often fleeting and a sudden frost can end it after only a few days of beauty, but other years it can last for much longer, and it is always good to have those moments of pizzazz to remember through the ensuing winter.
- Author: Jan Hambleton
Onions compete as one of the most versatile vegetables on earth, and are found in basically every cuisine. Growing onions and choosing the correct varieties is an art. Harvesting and storing onions also has its own challenges.
Several members of our Inyo-Mono Master Food Preservers recently planted and harvested a plot of onions. The onions had reached a large size and looked quite nice, so we just pulled them up…. THEN we read about how to harvest onions correctly!
You may harvest and eat onions at any phase of growth. However, they will be larger if left until they have finished growing, and they will store better. Generally it takes approximately 100 to 120 days for onions to reach maturity in our area.
Pull up any onions that send up flower stalks as they have stopped growing and will not store well. Use these onions in 3-4 days. You do not need to cure them.
Harvesting onions is simple, but there is more to the process than yanking them out of the ground.
Stop watering and fertilizing onions 7-14 days before harvesting to allow the onions to mature. When onions begin to mature, the tops will fall over. When the tops are yellow and approximately 70-80 % have fallen over, your onions are ready to be harvested.
You may bend the others over to hasten maturation of the rest.
Pick a day that is dry and harvest early in the morning when temperatures are more mild. If harvested in wet conditions, they will not cure properly and may rot in storage. Picking the right day to harvest can determine how well your onions will keep. Loosen the soil carefully around the onion bulb, then gently pull out the onion. Gently shake the soil from around the bulb. Any slight bruise may encourage your onion to rot. If you accidentally cut an onion, it will cause the onion to rot prematurely, so use it quickly. Place the onion outside in the sun for 1-2 days until the roots dry, they should be like brittle wires. If you are in a sunny, dry climate, such as Bishop, your onions may dry in a few hours.
Now you are ready to cure them.
Curing and Storing Onions
Generally long-day onion varieties store longer than short day varieties. Whether you grow long day, intermediate or short-day varieties, depends on where you live and which are more likely to grow the best in your area. Inyo-Mono counties are in the middle of the intermediate day variety growing area, and we also are on the cusp of the short day variety area. Past experience in gardens has been very positive with intermediate types.
Separate the softer, smaller onions and the thick necked onions and use these first.
Let onions cure on dry ground, out of the sun, or in a protected place like your garage or barn for 2-3 weeks. Do not cover with plastic or canvas. If they must be covered (i.e. for a short rain storm, etc.), use a light cotton sheet. Don't crowd the onions, keep them from touching if possible. The drier the air, the less time needed for curing. When the onions are dry, clip roots and cut tops back to 1-2 inches unless you are braiding the tops. This allows you to better see which onions should be used first and helps prevent them from rotting. When the onions look like the ones in the market, with dry, papery, thin, skins, you may store them. The ideal temperature is 40-60F.
To store them you may either braid the tops together, wrap them individually in newspaper, or hang them in a mesh bag or old nylon stockings. You may also put them in up to 2 layers in a cool, dark, well ventilated area.
Do not refrigerate your onions. Check periodically for sprouting or rotting onions, and remove them immediately. Rotten onions can be incredibly stinky!
Do not store onions with apples, pears or potatoes, as they may pick up the onion flavor. Pungent onions—those that make you cry the most—store longer, so use your sweet onion varieties first.
For More Information
Preserving Onions and Garlic (Clemson University)/h2>/h2>/h2>
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Do you like Owens Valley's native plants? Do you like reading blog posts? (You must since you're reading this!)
If that's you then we have some good news: we have a second blog that focuses on our native plant garden at the Lone Pine visitors' center.
It has an exciting name: Native Garden at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Vistor Center. We like catchy titles!
Just like this blog, you can subscribe to keep up with all the latest happenings in the project.
If you happen to be passing through Lone Pine, make a stop at the visitor center and check out the garden. It's located southwest of the restroom building. You'll see there has been a lot of work done on the project during the past year.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Have a garden question and want to see someone to get help? We can do that!
The UC Master Gardeners of Inyo and Mono counties will be at the Tri-County Fair this year. The volunteers will be helping with receiving entries at check-in times, but we will also be hosting a booth where we can answer any questions. This is a great place to bring those sick leaves.
If you can't make it to the fair, that's OK. We also have a helpline!
We can be reached by email at email@example.com (best because you can attach pictures) or by phone at (760) 872-2089.
- Author: Sheri Pueblo
A Living Mulch vs a Traditional Mulch Approach
Adding mulch to a garden is an efficient and easy way to improve your garden's quality and drought tolerance in our dry hot summers with low precipitation. Benefits of mulch include helping to prevent excessive evaporation and dryness by holding and maintaining moisture, keeping the soil underneath cooler for beneficial organisms, and reducing weed growth.
When spreading mulch material such as straw or wood chips, use a depth of 2-3 inches over the soil but keep a clear perimeter of 4 inches around the base of the plant so that the mulch won't rot or mold at the crown and possibly introduce disease. You may want to compost or fertilize the soil with slow release nutrients per treatment recommendations and water in prior to mulching.
A “living mulch” involves growing “fill in” plants either as a ground cover, cover crop or low growing plants that provide several purposes. A mixture of plants can grow longer depending on seasonal and zone (USDA or Sunset™)appropriate plant choices which can promote the overall health of the soil.
Plants produce sugars through photosynthesis and small amounts of these exude from the roots back into the soil. This process draws and concentrates microbes around the roots providing better access to nutrition for the plant, and can also improve soil structure and ability for rain permeation, deeper root growth, better water holding capacity, nutrient forming capacity and hummus formation, all which contribute to overall healthier long term soil building.
Of course weeds are weeds and you may still have to do some pulling, especially before they go to seed. However there should be much less weeding and you will have a nice variety of plants, edibles, soil builders and color.
You can find out more on several You Tube videos about living mulches if you're interested, but remember to use plants appropriate for the Great Basin and not coastal California for the best success.
If you have questions about mulch, living or otherwise, please contact our helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org./h3>