- Author: Marcy Sousa
Have you always wanted to learn more about gardening? Would you like to have more of a science-based knowledge of gardening? Are you interested in meeting new people that have a similar interest while make a difference in the community? The San Joaquin UC Master Gardener Program might be right for you. The UC Master Gardener Program of San Joaquin County offers the opportunity to use your enthusiasm, knowledge and skills to serve the community as a volunteer.
We are now accepting applications for our next training that will begin in January, 2022.
Applications will be accepted until September 15th, 2021. Learn more on our training website where you can download an application. ucanr.edu/mgt22 If you have questions, please call 209-953-6112 and one of our helpline volunteers will get back to you.
- Author: Marcy Sousa
- Author: Melissa Berg, Master Gardener
Unlike bees, many moths have an obviously fuzzy body. This fuzzy underbelly ingeniously collects pollen from the plant providing the moth with nectar and, as it flies onward, the pollen is then deposited upon the next plant, and so on. While bees tend to forage closer to their nesting location, moths will often travel significant distances navigating by moonlight at a greater height searching for delicately pale leaves and aromatically scented blooms below from which to obtain nectar and indirectly pollinate. This characteristic likely plays a larger role in promoting genetic diversity across plant communities outside the range of diurnal pollinator landscapes. Furthermore, since moths visit such a diverse variety of plant species for nectar, pollination efforts for those plant species also visited by diurnal pollinators see a dramatic increase in overall pollination due to the overlap in the pollinator subgroup efforts. Although the order Lepidoptera encompasses both butterflies and moths, the diversity in the moth world is incredible. Consider the sheer numbers for a moment: there are about 140,000 species of moths versus about 20,000 species of butterflies. Meanwhile, bee species in the United States number a mere 4,000 of the 20,000 species known worldwide.
The most recent “world atlas of artificial sky luminance” (published in 2016) found that Singapore was suffering 100% light pollution to the extent that the populace was no longer able to achieve full night vision. The intensity of light pollution at this level has been found to alter circadian rhythms, depress melatonin levels, and increase cortisol levels all of which have profound impacts upon both physical and mental health. The United States contains multiple massive metropolitan areas suffering the same fate and, for more than a decade, it has been demonstrated that 80% of North American citizenry are unable to see the Milky Way. An unintentional consequence of continuous commercial and residential light is the creation of skyglow/light domes which are visible for hundreds of miles. This disruption of darkness necessary for nocturnal animals is not only adversely affecting those heavily populated centers but is resulting in cascading disruption and harm to natural landscapes, agricultural lands and animal life for hundreds of miles. Consider that the light pollution over the Los Angeles basin is visible over 250 miles away in the Mojave Desert. If we use a recent study targeting pollination levels and fruit set alone when light pollution on the blue spectrum is present, we could assume 60% fewer plants being successfully pollinated and 13% lower fruit set for the multitude of Central Valley agricultural fields within 300 miles of Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
Consider entomologist Akito Kawahara's simple message about these essential animals, “We can't live without insects. They are in trouble. ....”. He deftly points to the $70 BILLION estimated U.S. economic contribution these animals make through waste disposal and pollination as a method of demonstrating their vital importance to the world at large. If, indeed, we accept the premise that at least 40% of insect populations are in decline for reasons brought about by human activities, then Kawahara proposes “...people can also be part of the solution” by adopting simple changes with both immediate and long term benefits: -Dim or turn off your lights at night; -Install motion sensors for any essential exterior light sources and save on utility bills; -Use red or amber bulbs which are less attractive to insects; -Mow less and encourage natural habitat and food reservoirs for beneficial insects; -Dedicate 10% yard space to native landscapes to both attract and feed pollinators; -Use insect-friendly soaps and sealants-broad spectrum insecticide kills everything; -Ditch the bug-zappers - science has proven they do not kill predators; and -Become an insect ambassador by learning about all insects in your yard. Dr. Gretchen LeBuhn, an ecologist studying the effects of human induced landscape change on pollinators also suggests getting involved locally. Her “Great Sunflower Project” saw over 60% of participating individuals who found themselves unable to contribute actual data for her research because no insects were available to be counted in their metropolitan area, effecting at least one change to their immediate landscape in an effort to attract both diurnal and nocturnal pollinators back to their communities.
Although light pollution has not found its way into mainstream focus by governing bodies worldwide, scientific inquiry and investigative focus have shifted strongly in the past decade to spotlight it as a threat that could be substantially reversed if given the proper attention. Many scientists across multiple disciplines are turning to public involvement in hopes of turning the tide back in favor of co-existence with the animals necessary to human existence.
- Author: Regina Brennan, Master Gardener
A surprising number of serious gardeners confess to at least one occasion of being stumped by a gardening problem with no obvious answer. There are a number of ways to find an answer, one of which is the SJC Master Gardener Help Line. Master Gardener volunteers work diligently to provide answers based on good reference sources backed by science. You can reach the helpline at 209-953-6112 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are still waiting for the green light to open our in-person office, but we are hopeful that will happen soon.
Other serious gardeners prefer to tackle their gardening issue without any outside help, enjoying the quest for answers by utilizing online reference material such as the UCANR website and other source materials. A lot of hints and hacks are available in magazines, gardening books, and online blogs. It is prudent to give careful consideration to information from these sources, but it is even more prudent to test these hints and hacks by using the scientific method of diagnosing problems.
There are five general steps in diagnosing plant problems:
Step 1: Identify the plant
Step 2: Define the problem
Step 3: Collect Information
Step 4: Look for patterns
Step 5: Formulate a tentative diagnosis
Step 6: Provide solutions and options
A dilemma presented was the overnight disappearance of an entire fall planting of snow peas. No leaves were left on the few spindly stalks to examine for clues. Websites and books were examined, hoping to find answers. Winter weeds took over the raised bed and all was forgotten and replaced by other concerns. End of story with no answer? Enter the connection of hints and hacks with science methodology.
Sunset magazine is a reliable source of information and useful hints and hacks, consistently providing sound, reasoned advice. In the April 9, 2021 listing of Your Spring Garden Checklist, the following quote brought back the unsolved mystery of what happened to the snow peas: “Use plastic baskets from cherry tomatoes or strawberries to protect newly sprouted seedlings from birds. By the time the seedlings have grown tall enough to reach the tops of the baskets, they are no longer as tender as the birds prefer.”
It became obvious that not enough information had been collected initially in order to formulate a tentative diagnosis, but this helpful hack pointed to a possible solution that had not been explored. Birds are a part of the ecology of gardening and become problematic usually as fruit ripens on fruit trees, and are not normally considered a nuisance. The majority of birds observed in this area are scrub jays, and other field birds such as magpies which are usually solitary birds and are uninterested in young vegetable gardens. Further investigation and a recollection of a large flock of sparrows landing in the yard around the same general time gave another clue. Sparrows are migratory birds and travel in large flocks, often covering large areas as they forage for food, usually insects and seeds. Observation at the time of a very large flock of hundreds of tiny little brown birds scurrying around pecking at the bark covered ground was delightful to watch. As they ran around they looked like a field of mice. Unnoticed was the damage they were doing feasting on the newly emerged snow peas.
Once the diagnosis of bird damage was formulated, it was obvious what should be done to prevent this very unusual situation. Good advice for future vegetable crops is to cover with netting or a floating row cover until the plants get big enough as to not be tasty to any migratory birds that might want to stop by and visit and have a tasty meal before they go on their way.
The garden, located at 1324 Jackson Gate Road, near the historic Chichizola Store, will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to noon on these Open Garden Day Saturdays. Amador Master Gardeners will be on hand to offer tours, answer questions, and share their knowledge. Select plants, propagated by the rose team, will be available for sale. Plans are to offer classes and workshops at this site soon.
In addition to their once-monthly Open Garden Saturdays, other Master Gardeners may visit the garden by pre-arrangement on Tuesday mornings when the Heritage Rose Team works in the garden. If interested, contact Susan Price at (510) 909-4877.
Visitors can wander through the garden on their own or be guided by a member of the Rose Team. Bloom times vary throughout the season, so visitors will be greeted with something new and wonderful each month. The garden is dedicated to promoting integrated pest management, propagation, and energy-conserving garden practices. We hope to educate, encourage, and inspire. Come see what's in bloom.