- Author: Chantal Guillemin
How can homeowners drastically reduce irrigation and still maintain a viable and pleasing garden? There are many garden practices that can help conserve and maximize water use. By implementing these, even with less water, plants are able to survive summer heat and drying winds. One effective water management strategy is irrigation by hydrozones.
Start by drawing a plan of your property indicating your trees, shrubs, annuals, lawn, a vegetable garden and other plants. Circle and group plants with similar water needs in hydrozones. Separate hydrozones could include lawn/turfgrass, mass plantings or annual flowers, mass plantings or perennial flowers, non-turf perennial ground covers, and individual trees and shrubs. Not sure of your plants' watering needs? Find out the water requirements of specific plants, by clicking on the link: http://ucanr.edu/sites/WUCOLS/.
Design a system with multiple independent zones so you can schedule irrigation according to each area's watering needs. Use a variety of irrigation methods and convert to drip irrigation where possible. To guide you in adjusting and resetting irrigation controllers as weather and seasons change, use UC's Easy Calculator for estimating water needs. You can also explore that site to find out about ET zone maps (ET refers to evapotranspiration). You'll see that Contra Costa County has 3 zones: 1,8 and 14.
Grouping of plants with similar watering needs could also include plants with similar root depths, plants that prefer shade or full sun, or plants located on a slope. Providing you keep your irrigation systems in good working order and with proper planning, irrigating plants according to hydrozones means plants receive only the quantity of water they need. No wasted water or overwatered plants!
Since it is difficult to maintain large plantings of vegetables and bedding annuals during a drought, consider reducing their size or eliminating them altogether. Doing this would allow water to be directed to more valued or expensive perennial plantings such as fruit trees which are considered a high irrigation priority. Consider reducing your lawn hydrozone area and expand your patio or deck to allow air and water to reach the root zone of trees.
Maximize your water use in all hydrozones by following these beneficial garden practices. Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch to slow down evaporation, inhibit weeds and keep soil cool. Add organic matter, such as compost to the soil. Water established plants deeply and infrequently. Water slowly and evenly around the drip line of trees using low pressure and applying water to a minimum of four sites around the perimeter. To keep evaporative loss to a minimum, water early in the morning, when the wind is down and temperatures are cool. Keep plants out of the wind. Familiarize yourself with your soil type and water infiltration rate as this will help avoid runoff.
By understanding the water needs of plants, drought gardeners can care for many types of plants, even with reduced irrigation. Grouping plants into hydrozones and watering them according to their needs is a proven effective water management solution.
For more about evapotranspiration, see UC's Evapotranspiration and Plant Water Use
- Author: MaryJo Smith
As some of you might know, over the past 2+ years, I re-landscaped my entire yard – both front and back. It was a large project; tearing out sod and concrete, and putting in new irrigation, lighting, plantings, and hardscape. Last year, I filled in the basic landscape with edibles such as artichokes, lemons, strawberries and grapes. These additions are examples of horizontal layering — planting to give levels of color and interest. Now, I am planting out the area around my fountain to add vertical layers.
The Blue Fescue, Oat Grass, New Zealand Flax and Reed Grass were planted last year. This year, I've added larger rocks and small boulders to create some more texture, then added a few plants. Some of the plants will spread out and some of the plants will grow up. Although I want instant gratification, and everything pretty and full right now, that's not always the best way to plant (ugh, bummer). For this area, I restrained myself and put in just a few small-sized plants.
When planning/planting, it's important to think about the plant height and width at maturity, and how that will work within the space. No. 1. on the diagram to the left is the Feather Reed Grass planted last year. It has that nice shape like a fountain grass, but it's more compact and works well in narrow spaces. It will grow nice and high and full to fill in the space behind the fountain without overwhelming the area. The diagram shows the approximate height and width when the grass grows in for the season.
No. 2 on the diagram is a Day Lily. It's a nice filler for that area, provides a nice pop of color and it doesn't compete with the Reed Grass.
No. 3 on the diagram are ground covers and sedum. The ground cover is a simple summer snow. It works in full sun, is easily maintained and will produce a carpet of small white flowers. It will spread out but not up. The accompanying Sedum is a light variegated green with red rims, which will slowly spread out and provide a nice contrast against the white of the summer snow and the pale grey of the stones.
No. 4 on the diagram is a small evergreen shrub called Coleonema Pulchellum “Sunset Gold” that will grow up and out a little (2′ x 4′ at maturity). It has a nice yellow-green foliage that contrasts nicely against the silver hues in that area. It has small light pink-flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer. Also, tucked in the rocks are a couple of Gazania – just for kicks.
With the weather we experience in this area, these plants should grow/spread fairly quickly. Because none of these plants were particularly expensive, if I need to rearrange them, or take any out, there is very little financial pain.
Check back later in the summer to see how this area filled out.
In the meantime, do you have any layering you've done? Share it here. We'd love to see it.
Advice for the Home Gardener from the Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk
Client's Questions and Requests
Client called and discussed about his need for more information about pruning his numerous backyard fruit trees. He lives in central county. CCMG Help Desk followed up with an email on advice about pruning his fruit trees.
CCMG Help Desk Response and Advice:
Thank you for calling the Master Gardener help desk this morning. It was nice to speak with you. It was also great to get a new recipe for cooking fava beans!
You have a wide variety of wonderful fruit trees in your yard, many of them not commonly planted in this area. You asked about pruning them. Basically, the idea behind pruning is to control size for easier care in maintaining and picking fruit (taller trees do not bear more fruit!); increase strength – develop strong limb structure; distribute sunlight evenly throughout tree; regulate fruit bearing – removes excess fruitwood; renew fruitwood – to continue strong buds and flowers; and to remove undesirable wood- dead, broken, and crossing branches.
University of California and its Cooperative Extension provides a wealth of information, most of it free through their catalog (http://ucanr.edu/Publications_524/)which you can order from (see also link on CCMG home page (http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/), column left). You can also find extensive UCCE information published on the web. Here is a link to a great publication that describes fruit tree pruning and includes diagrams to help you figure out how to prune your own trees: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8057.pdf.
You mentioned that some of your trees were getting large-here's a link to an article about pruning overgrown fruit trees: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8058.pdf. Both of these have enough basic information to cover all your deciduous trees, but for the less-common varieties, I'll give you some hopefully useful hints and tips below, as well as links to more information about each one.
Prune citrus in late spring or summer to shape trees, only to remove twiggy growth, dead wood and weak branches, or any crossing, broken or shaded branches from the interior. Wait until May to prune out any frost-damaged wood, as it may revive. Here is a link to Citrus for the Home Garden in Contra Costa County: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/slomggarden/blogfiles/4260.pdf. You'll find lots of information specific to growing citrus here. Here is another link that covers diseases and disorders of citrus fruit: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/C107/m107bpfruitdis.html. You'll see that brown rot is common in citrus—this causes the soft dark decay that develops in citrus and occurs mostly on the bottom side of fruit and happens mostly to fruit lower on the tree (closer to the soil). The dark spots on your Mandarins is possibly from a bacterial infection.
Codling moths (common on apples, pears and other fruit) can be a problem for quince. They can be difficult to manage, especially if the population has been allowed to build up over a season or two. It is much easier to keep moth numbers low from the start than to suppress a well-established population. In trees with low levels, codling moth often can be kept to tolerable levels by using a combination of nonchemical management methods; however, it is important to begin implementing these measures early in the season. Sanitation should be the first step in any codling moth control program. Every week or two, beginning about six to eight weeks after bloom, check fruit on trees for signs of damage. Remove and destroy any infested fruit showing the frass-filled holes. It also is important to clean up dropped fruit as soon as possible after they fall, because dropped fruit can have larvae in them. Removing infested fruit from the tree and promptly pick up dropped fruit from the ground is most critical in May and June but should continue throughout the season.
Excellent control can be achieved by enclosing young fruit in bags right on the tree to protect them from the codling moth. This is the only nonchemical control method that is effective enough to be used alone and in higher population situations. However, it is quite time consuming to apply the bags, so this method is most manageable on smaller trees with fewer fruit. You can bag all the fruit on the tree or just as many fruit as you think you will need. Keep in mind that unbagged fruit are likely to serve as a host and increase the pest population, so it would be prudent to employ sanitation to keep the population in check.
Here is a link to information about codling moths from the University of California: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7412.html that goes into detail about controlling these pests.
Prune in late winter after danger from winter freezes, but before the tree blooms in spring. To keep the interior of the tree open during the growing season, prune in summer as needed. Light annual pruning of established trees encourages fruit production; pomegranates tend not to require heavy pruning if maintained regularly. Remove dead and damaged wood during late winter and remove sprouts and suckers as they appear. Heavy pruning will reduce the crop.
As I mentioned on the phone, apricots should be pruned during the summer in late August because of a fungus that infects trees during the cool and wet season. Remove shoots from the center of the tree and cut out interfering limbs and dead and diseased wood. Here is a link to information about pruning apricots:
Fig trees are productive with or without heavy pruning. It is essential only during the initial years. Since the crop is borne on terminals of previous year's wood, once the tree form is established, avoid heavy winter pruning, which causes loss of the following year's crop. It is better to prune immediately after the main crop is harvested, or with late-ripening cultivars, summer prune half the branches and prune the remainder the following summer. If radical pruning is done, whitewash the entire tree. Here is a link to information from California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG): http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/fig.html.
Prune persimmon trees to develop a strong framework of main branches while the tree is young. Otherwise the fruit, which is borne at the tips of the branches, may be too heavy and cause breakage. A regular program of removal of some new growth and heading others each year will improve structure and reduce alternate bearing. An open vase system is probably best. Even though the trees grow well on their own, persimmons can be pruned heavily as a hedge, as a screen, or to control size. They even make a nice espalier. Cut young trees back to 1/2 high (or about 3 feet) at the time of planting. Here is information from CRFG: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/persimmon.html and from UC that includes information on pests and diseases of persimmons: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/PLANTS/persimmon.html.
Since so many of your trees are not typically grown in our area, one of your best resources is the California Rare Fruit Growers. Their website is http://www.crfg.org/, the local chapter is the Golden Gate chapter (http://www.crfg.org/chapters/golden_gate/index.htm). The Golden Gate Chapter of CRFG conducts meetings throughout the northern San Francisco Bay Area, usually in the odd-numbered months on the second Saturday of the month. Meetings almost always include speakers, tastings, a raffle of unusual plants and the chance to talk to people who live in your area and who share your interests. You would probably find someone who could advise you further on pruning techniques at one of their meetings. In addition, CRFG holds a Scion Exchange in January that you might want to attend. In the past when I've attended, they had classes on pruning of the various fruit trees that you have, let alone the opportunity to get scions that you might want to graft onto your trees (scions are usually free… $5 charge for non-members at the door). Information on the CRFG's Scion Exchange can be found at http://www.crfg.org/chapters/golden_gate/scionex.htm. I have always enjoyed the Exchanges when I attended.
I hope this gives you a start on pruning your backyard orchard. Please let us know if you have more questions.
Contra Costa Master Gardeners Help Desk
Note: The Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk is available year-round 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: email@example.com, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/
Did you know that the Contra Costa Master Gardeners have a Help Desk where you can have your gardening-related questions answered? Well, we do! Our Help Desk is staffed every week, Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-Noon. You can:
- Visit us during Help Desk hours at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2nd Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523.
- Call us at (925) 646-6586. If you call outside Help Desk hours, please leave both your phone number and email address so that we may respond to you in a timely manner.
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use email if you want to submit photos along with your question(s).
As part of our effort to help educate the public, we are going to be sharing some of the interesting problems that other CoCo County gardeners have been having, and share the advice and solutions that our Help Desk volunteers have come up with.
Here is our first installment, on staking young trees for proper support.
The Client's Problem: Lazy Trees!
In September of 2011 the client bought three Pistacia chinesis trees. In September of 2012 the client planted the trees, but found that when the nursery stakes were removed each tree leaned over, almost to the ground. The client added two stakes to support the trees. In April of 2014, the client removed the stakes and found that two of the trees still leaned over about 45 degrees, and the third still fell almost to the ground (see pictures below).
So of course, the client's question is why is this happening? And what can be done to help the trees stand up straight and support themselves?
From the description and photos it looks like the trunks of your Pistache trees have not developed enough strength to stand on their own properly. There are a number of factors that can contribute to this condition. When you purchased the trees they were most likely staked in the pots with a single stake and closely tied to this stake, as a temporary measure. This was done by the nursery for ease in their operations and is not helpful to the tree long term.
Staking of trees is undesirable in most situations and should only be used when absolutely necessary. When staking the trees it is important to use two stakes placed on either side perpendicular to the prevailing winds and not too close the tree (just outside the root ball zone). You will need to tie the tree to allow some movement of the trunk. Tree trunks develop their strength by bending and swaying in the wind very much as we develop strength through exercising our limbs.
For more information on staking, please refer to the following University of California website: http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/filelibrary/5253/16819.pdf
Your trees also look a little top heavy which may contribute to their problem standing up in their weakened condition. Often nurseries sell container trees with large tops ("lollipop trees"). These trees have usually been "headed back" and have many branches arising from the same point. This is a sign of poor branch structure for the tree in the long term. Young trees should have branches along the length of the trunk as this provides food for the tree and shade protection for the young trunk. You can thin the canopy to help reduce the load but never remove more than one-third of the branches when doing so. Take care with pruning as some types of pruning can trigger the tree to grow many more branches, especially dormant pruning.
For more information on selecting and planting landscape trees please refer to the following University of California website: http://ucanr.edu/datastoreFiles/268-234.pdf
Another possible contributing factor to your trees not establishing themselves is their root structure. Often, when landscape trees are purchased from the nursery, they may have been growing in a small pot for an extended period of time and the roots have circled the trunk in the pot. This condition results in twisted and girdling roots which hampers the trees ability to take up nutrients and anchor itself in the ground.
Before resorting to digging up these trees, though, the client could make sure that the trees are properly staked, and continue to check on the trees' ability to stand upright every three months or so. However, in the end, the only solution to this client's problem might be starting over with new trees that were better pruned from the start, and were planted more quickly into the ground to prevent root girdling.
Editor's Note: Each month the CCMG Help Desk's Quality Assurance Team selects responses to county residents' Help Desk questions that produced informative responses that are either unique or unusual, or provided updated information that would be informative to all gardeners, or are of general interest, especially of seasonal concerns. We are highlighting these responses in the HortCOCO blog so all interested Master Gardeners and the public may utilize the information.
The CCMG Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday 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: email@example.com, and we are on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu//span>/h2>
- Author: Eileen Linn
In celebration of the Contra Costa Master Gardeners' 30th Anniversary, we came up with 30 (plus 1) signs that you might be a gardener.
Hope you enjoy them!
- Argues constantly that compost smells sweet.
- Delays vacation travel until after the harvest.
- Dirt! In your house, in the trunk of your car, under your fingernails and on your shoes, even the good ones!
- Every vacation has a nursery and /or botanic garden involved.
- Favorite color is green.
- Gets at least a dozen catalogs in the mail - and they send you into a state not experienced since teenage dating.
- Gives zucchinis to friends and co-workers (and sometimes the postal deliverer and UPS driver).
- Home Depot and nursery's know you by your first name.
- Mountain of plastic pots squirrelled away.
- Own one too many floppy straw hats.
- People share all their plant problems with you.
- Pruning clippers in your back pocket.
- Seed collecting materials, plant holders and coffee grounds from the coffee shop in the car.
- The yard is in better shape than the inside of your house.
- There are plants waiting to be added to your garden.
- Trays of seedlings on top of your refrigerator/Cuttings in the refrigerator.
- Use Latin words in public.
- When you tour a garden you first look for their composting set up.
- Won't let anyone else prune the fruit trees.
- You drive by any lawn and think, that could be a garden.
- You have more pairs of gloves than earrings.
- You live in your Carhartts.
- You look at vehicles based on how many tools and how much soil/compost/amendments they'll hold.
- You stop talking mid-sentence when you see a plant you don't recognize.
- You try to save every puny little plant that should have gone into the compost.
- You wake up in the middle of a cold night and wonder if you should go out and cover your succulents.
- You water other people's plants when out for a walk from your own water bottle if they look thirsty.
- You'd give up a movie to trim and weed the garden.
- Your fingernails are the shortest they've been since birth.
- Your own garden book collection rivals Barnes & Nobles.
- You're in a national park and you have to resist the urge to pull weeds.