Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (MGCC)
Client's Request: I am a dedicated organic gardener, and I'm looking for a landscape professional to help design my front yard, which will include vegetable garden areas. I would appreciate any suggestions Master Gardeners may have on how to employ a landscape professional.
MGCC Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk with your request about hiring a landscape professional.
The UC Master Gardeners Program cannot recommend any particular landscape designer, construction or maintenance company. However, the following organizations, listed in alphabetical order, provide references to these professionals. This list is neither comprehensive nor all-inclusive, and no endorsement of any business or professional is intended.
American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the national professional association for landscape architects. Landscape architects typically hold a degree in landscape architecture, covering a broad range including design, planning, grading and drainage, construction, and horticulture. Each state requires a landscape architect to earn a license to practice. The ASLA website maintains a searchable list of members as well as photos of award winning residential projects. To find ASLA member: http://www.asla.org/ISGWeb.aspx?loadURL=firfin amd for ASLA specifically for home gardeners http://www.asla.org/homeandgardentips.aspx.
Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) This 25-year-old organization established a peer reviewed certification program based on built projects. The organization also “…encourages all members adhere to a code of professional standards, to actively participate in continuing education, and to be current with state-of-the-art developments and trends throughout the field.” Their website has a search function that will help you find a local designer. https://www.apld.org/.
Rescape California is a San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable landscaping. Qualified landscape professionals must complete a comprehensive training program and use sustainable practices.
See http://rescapeca.org/education/for-professionals/design-professional-training/ for information on their qualification program and http://rescapeca.org/directory/ for an online directory of Bay-Friendly Qualified Professionals.
Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is a local (Alameda & Contra Costa Counties) organization that seeks to educate and encourage the use of California native plants in home gardens. The organization provides contact information for those landscape professionals whose gardens have been featured in the tours. See http://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/find-a-designer for contact information and links to photos of gardens created by each designer.
California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) is a non-profit trade organization of licensed landscape and landscape-related contractors and professionals. See http://clca.org/consumers/consumers_home.php for general information and http://member-clca.org/max/4DCGI/directory/contractor/index.html for a directory of members.
Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) graduates have been trained in water-wise landscape practices including plant selection, irrigation system design and water management. QWEL maintains an online list of certified professionals in the East Bay. While the website lists all professionals under the category of non-residential, many perform residential services. For more information, see http://www.qwel.net/ and http://www.qwel.net/graduates/east%20bay/ for a list of certified professionals.
We wish you the best on your project and applaud the addition of edibles in to your landscape design needs!
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SLH)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's 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/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/)./span>
- Author: MaryJo Smith
It is tempting to pamper our plants through frequent fertilizing and watering to ensure that they grow big and lush. It understandably gives us a lot of pleasure and sense of accomplishment to see our plants thrive and bloom, or produce a bounty of fresh juicy fruit and vegetables. But, with a drought situation, now is not the time to pamper your plants. Now, is the time for tough love. Your plants might not like it much. They might become "petulant" by withholding their lushness, not flowering like before or not producing as much. But, they will survive.
Most of us unknowingly over-irrigate our plants, so its ok to reduce the water you give them. In fact, the amount of water given to plants can often be reduced by 20-40%. Most established landscape trees, shrubs, and groundcovers, regardless of the species planted, perform acceptably well with 20-40% less irrigation than they are typically given.
To reduce irrigation with the least harm to your plants, water infrequently and deeply. Do this by increasing irrigation runtimes and extending the number of days between irrigation events. I know this seems contrary to the idea that you should reduce the irrigation runtime and keep the same frequent irrigation interval, but this will work.
Schedule slightly longer irrigation runtimes so that the entire root zone of plants is rewetted at each irrigation; then gradually increase the interval between irrigation runtimes over a few weeks. This practice will allow you to save water while allowing your plants to adjust to a new watering regiment. After extending the interval between irrigations, the water budgeting or seasonal adjust feature found on many sprinkler controllers can be used to fine tune runtimes and achieve optimum water conservation.
When watering, consider the root systems of your trees, plants, shrubs and lawns:
- Tall fescue lawns normally have roots 6 to 12 inches deep
- Bermudagrass and other warm season grasses are normally at least 12 inches deep
- Trees, shrubs, and groundcovers are normally found within 12 to 24 inches of the soil surface
- Vegetables vary in depth from 6 to 48 inches (a chart that shows the root depths is linked below for you)
Adjust the runtimes in your irrigation controller every month to account for changes in the average weather conditions. This alone can reduce landscape water use by up to 10%.
It is important to gradually reduce the water over a few to several weeks so the plants can adjust to less water.
Try to irrigate during the very early morning hours (between 2:00 am and 6:00 am) because evaporation is lower and usually there is little, or no, wind to disrupt the pattern of sprinklers during these hours if you are watering lawns. In addition, water pressure is a little better for irrigation systems during this time.
To find out how deep the water is going into the soil, take a long screwdriver (or similarly shaped tool or soil probe) and probe the soil in several spots an hour or so after an irrigation. The depth that the screwdriver or tool can be easily pushed into the soil is the depth that the water has penetrated. If deeper wetting is needed to wet plant roots, then additional irrigation cycles are needed. If the soil is wet beyond plant roots, then the runtime should be reduced.
Checking the soil moisture each day during drought - or really hot, dry days - with this technique and watching the plants for signs of wilt or water stress will enable you to see how long it takes for soil to dry to the point where water must be replaced. This is the maximum interval between irrigations for the current season. Ideally, irrigation is applied just prior to the onset of plant stress, so schedule irrigation about one day shorter than the maximum interval.
Note: Established small shrubs or groundcover are those that have been in the ground for a period of one year or more. A tree or larger shrub must be in the ground for at least 3 years to be considered established.
To determine the root depth of your herbs & vegetables, go to: Herbs & Vegetables Root Depth Chart
Help and Advice from the Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk
I'm growing a lot vegetables and fruits this year. I'm expecting that many of these plantings will come ripe at the same time, I'd like to get the maximum value out of all this effort. At this time I'm especially interested in advice on storage for maximizing flavor.
Help Desk Advice and Recommendations:
The flavor of fruits and vegetables are influenced by maturity and quality at harvest and by how they are stored afterwards. To maintain the freshness and flavor of the produce you buy at the market or after all that work growing them in your garden, you are right to use the appropriate methods to store them at home. UC has some published some great straight-forward advice on this scenario… see the chart below:
You can click the picture and you may get a bigger view … or you can go to http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/datastore/234-1920.pdf to read and/or download and/or bookmark this easy-to-read and very informative two page guidance document from UC. (Thanks to Farmer Fred for reminding me of this very informative UC guidance….)
Good luck on your tasty garden harvest. Please do not hesitate to contact MGCC Help Desk again if you have further questions.
Master Gardeners Contra Costa's Help Desk
Note: The Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's 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: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us//span>/span>
Help for the Home Gardener from the Contra Costa Master Gardeners' Help Desk
Reply from the CCMG Help Desk: The insect you brought to share with us is indeed a garden problem. It is a Western Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata). The adults of this beetle feed on the leaves of melons, squash and other cucurbits, as well as corn, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, peas, beets, asparagus, cabbage, lettuce, and other vegetables...almost all the popular vegetables. They also feed on ripening peaches and apricots and other soft fruit. Management of this pest can be difficult if not caught early on. Small seedlings can be destroyed quickly; however, established plants are more likely to survive an attack.
The least toxic method of extermination is hand picking and dropping into a bucket of soapy water to drown them. Since the beetles are now attacking your Calendulas, you may want to remove or cut the plants down and bag the remains for disposal in your garbage in order to get rid of any potential eggs or larvae that may be on them. This should help reduce the population of the beetle in your garden.
Young seedlings and other small plants can be protected from damage by coverings such as screens, protective cloth, or individual cups or cones until they are large enough to tolerate damage.
Here is a link to some more information on this pest, along with pictures to help you with identification: ttp://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/VEGES/PESTS/cucumberbeet.html
Good luck managing these destructive insects! Fortunately you covered your vegetables before the beetles moved in to your garden! Keep your protection in place. You probably should keep the covers until plants are at leasatlarge enough to withstand damage from the beetles.
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/