- Author: Sue Davis
Four chores a month doesn't seem like much, but as the days grow hotter, and longer, be glad that with only four big things to think a out, the chores can be spread over several days if need be.
ONE –WATER – We are officially facing another drought year, so conservation of as much water as possible in the landscape is an imperative. Do not water mature, native California oaks. To save mature, drought tolerant trees, deep water only once per month. Mature fruiting and most ornamental trees growing in our clay-loam soil will need a deep irrigation every 14 days. Mature citrus trees can go about 10 days between deep irrigation. Potted trees need to be checked daily.
TWO – Lawn turning brown? Replace it with drought resistant landscaping. If you need to keep a lawn for some reason, and it is browning in large areas, it could be an irrigation problem. A quick irrigation audit of the lawn area will help determine if the sprinklers are matched and working properly. Information on checking the output of lawn sprinklers can be found here. Check with your local water provider to see if they are offering partial or complete rebates for changes to efficient sprinklers. In spots with a more defined edge, it could mean a lawn disease or pest problem. Evidence of caterpillars or grubs can be found just under the surface of the green grass right outside of the damaged area. If the brown area is not spreading, treatment to destroy the pests is
THREE – Mophead Hydrangeas (those with the big, round blooms) produce flowers on the previous year's growth – the “old wood.” To shape and control the size of a mature plant (5 years or more) and to avoid cutting off next year's flower buds, prune stems back to 12 inches right after the blooms fade this month. Fewer, but larger flowers will grow next spring if you cut some of the stems back to the base of the plant.
FOUR – Avoid harboring pests that will affect next year's production by cleaning up mummies of old fruit and nuts in and under trees.
ONE – Take some time during these dog days of summer to enjoy the landscape and garden while planning a winter garden and deciding on landscape additions. Select seed, gather whatever soil amendments, tools, and irrigation supplies are needed, and find where that perfect plant, shrub, or tree can be purchased.
TWO – It is time to think of a cool season vegetable garden. Just saying those words, like a mantra., may bring some relief from the heat this month. The downside is that the seeds need to be planted and nurtured this month to produce over the winter. Lee Miller's article, Planning and Planting a Cool Season Vegetable Garden, in the 2013 summer issue of the Master Gardener newsletter, Garden Notes, provides additional information. Lettuce, kale, and Chinese cabbage planted now will mature for fall salads. Try some heirloom lettuces this year to brighten both gardens and salads. Beets, carrots,
THREE – Apricots and cherries should have their final pruning this month. Pruning during the wet, winter season could lead to detrimental canker infections in the trees. The pathogens for these diseases are spread by rain or tree wounds (like pruning cuts) during wet weather and continue to spread through the wood of the tree for several years.
FOUR - Canes of single-crop blackberries and raspberries that have finished fruiting should be cut to the ground. Thin out the new growth. Remove all but 5 to 8 of the strongest blackberry canes and 8 to 12 strong raspberry canes per plant. Wait until after the fall harvest to prune ever-bearing varieties.
ONE – Leaf-footed bugs should be noticeable now. They are easily recognizable as medium to large sized insects that feed on fruits, fruiting vegetables, nuts, and ornamentals. They seem to especially love pomegranates and almonds. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts that allow them to feed on plant parts, particularly seeds. Leaf-footed bugs get their name from the small leaf-like enlargements found on the hind leg. They typically overwinter as adults in protected areas such as in woodpiles, palm fronds, citrus trees, under peeling bark, or in tree cracks. Overwintered adults live from September/October until late spring when the weather starts to warm. They can be handpicked and dropped in soapy
TWO – Landscapes can be brightened by setting out transplants of a variety of flowers found in local nurseries. If there is room, plant a tree on the southwest side of a dwelling to provide shade in the coming years. Be sure to check the mature size of the tree to know if there will be ample room once it reaches maturity. Shrubs and groundcovers that are beginning to look a little bedraggled should be replaced as the weeks begin to cool. If this is a more bountiful year for water, nature should do most of the fall and winter watering to develop a strong root structure and beautiful new growth starting next spring.
THREE – Although it seems kind of early to think about spring, now is the time to plant spring blooming bulbs. Bulbs should appear in nurseries right after Labor Day. They are most effective in big flowerpots and in kidney-shaped drifts at the front of garden beds. Some excellent choices include bluebells, daffodils, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, and tulips. Bulbs should bloom beautifully in spring with just rainwater over the fall and winter months.
FOUR – In case rain is sparse again this year, organic mulch applied several inches thick around plants will help keep roots moist. Keep the mulch 3-5 inches from the trunks of plants to avoid problems with rot.
- Author: Sara Milnes, Master Gardener
I once thought that roses were too demanding and prone to problems, but my husband loved them and convinced me they were not. We now have more than 30 healthy roses. Many rose difficulties can be controlled with careful selection of plant varieties and management of growing conditions.
Hybridized floribunda and landscape (shrub) roses, which have many blooms, generally have better disease and insect resistance than hybrid tea roses, which have fewer but larger flowers, although there are exceptions. When adding new roses to the garden, it helps to research rose ratings. The All-American Rose Society (AARS) tested rose cultivars beginning in 1939 and gave awards from 1940-2013. Many AARS All Star winners are still available and are generally attractive and disease resistant plants. The Julia Child rose in the Flower Garden at the San Joaquin County Demonstration Garden is an example of an AARS winner.
The American Rose Trials for Sustainability (ARTS) began testing roses in 2015 and gave its first awards in 2017.
They test in nine different climate zones over a two-year period. The San Joaquin County Demonstration Garden is the site of one of two Mediterranean Climate rating sites for ARTS. Karrie Reid, our Environmental Horticultural Advisor, has trained Master Gardeners to evaluate the roses according to a set criterion, and they are evaluated twice a month for two years.
Roses do best with 6 hours or more of direct sun. In the hot Central Valley, protection from late afternoon sun is desirable but not required. It is also best to locate them so they are exposed to good air movement, which includes planting them far enough apart. This helps reduce disease susceptibility. Roses are happiest in well-drained neutral soil (ph 7.0), although some roses tolerate less than ideal soil conditions better than others. The soil can be amended with compost when planted to improve drainage.
In California's Central Valley, roses need irrigation. Drought stress can lead to defoliation and cane sunburn and may contribute to spider mite problems. Overwatering or poorly drained soil, however, can lead to root diseases and nutritional deficiencies. Frequency and duration of irrigation will depend on weather conditions and soil texture, but twice weekly irrigation during the hot summer months should be sufficient. The top portion of the soil should be allowed to dry out before rewatering. Mulches help decrease water loss and will also help minimize weeds.
Roses generally need fertilizer, mainly nitrogen, but excessive nutrients may limit rose growth if the salt level becomes too high, as roses are not salt tolerant. Fertilization twice per year should be sufficient. This may only be necessary if there are symptoms of nitrogen deficiency, such as poor growth or chlorosis of the lower leaves. A slow-release fertilizer can be used, following the package directions carefully. For sandy soils, it may be best to split the application into two parts, one month apart. If there are signs of deficiency of the micronutrients iron and zinc (interveinal chlorosis of new leaves), iron and zinc supplements can be applied to the foliage according to directions.
Pruning is important and is generally done in January to remove dead and crossing canes, remove top growth, and to produce a vase-shaped configuration, which allows good air circulation. It is also important to remove all leaves and debris to reduce overwintering insects and diseases. In summer, dead or crossing canes can be removed at any time. Roses benefit from deadheading, or removing spent flowers, which allows the plant to conserve energy and produce more flowers. Blooms and spent flowers should be cut above the first outward facing five-leaflet set of leaves for first-year plants, and somewhat lower for established plants.
A Few Common Diseases
Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus and produces white-to-gray powdery growth on both sides of leaves, as well as on shoots and buds. Overhead irrigation or washing at midday may limit the disease by disrupting the spore-release cycle, but there must be time for the foliage to dry before evening. It is also best to avoid wetting the leaves if it is very hot, to avoid burning from water on the leaves. It is important to remove and dispose of all leaves of the winter pruning to limit infestations. Some roses are much more resistant to powdery mildew than others. Landscape (shrub) varieties are among the most resistant, as well as roses with glossy leaves. Plants grown with good air circulation in a sunny location are less likely to have powdery mildew problems.
Rust is also caused by a fungus and prefers cool, moist weather. Rust looks like small orange pustules on the underside of leaves and causes leaf drop. For plants infected with rust, avoid overhead watering and prune back severely affected canes. Dispose of all leaves in winter pruning.
A Few Insects
Aphids are the most common rose pest. They are normally only present in spring and early summer. They prefer rapidly growing tissue such as buds and shoots. Low to moderate levels do little damage, while moderate to high populations secrete large quantities of honeydew resulting in the growth of sooty mold, as well as ant colonies protecting them. Very high numbers may distort or kill buds. Aphids have many natural predators such as lady beetles (ladybugs) and syrphid flies. Aphids can be knocked off early in the morning with a forceful spray of water or controlled with insecticidal soaps or neem oil if necessary. Using more toxic systemic pesticides is harmful to natural predators.
Spider mites may become a problem in dry, dusty conditions. These small mites (the size of a period) cause stippling or bleaching of leaves and may cause leaves to fall off. They first appear on the underside of leaves and move to the upper side as populations increase. Some create webbing and some do not. Most insecticides are not effective and can cause their numbers to increase because they kill natural predators. Conserving natural enemies, sufficient irrigation and reducing dust help control mites. Periodic washing of leaves, especially the underside, can be effective in reducing populations.
There are many resources available to help keep your roses healthy. Here are a few:
Pub. 7465: Roses: Cultural Practices & Weed Control (http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PDF/PESTNOTES/pnrosescultural.pdf)
Pub. 7463: Roses: Diseases and Disorders (http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PDF/PESTNOTES/pnrosesdiseases.pdf)
Pub. 7466: Roses: Insects and Mites (http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PDF/PESTNOTES/pnrosesinsect.pdf)
You can also go to the University of California Integrated Pest Management website page on roses (http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/PLANTS/rose.html) and from there click on various topics related to roses, including other diseases and insects not mentioned here.
Roses add a lot of beauty to a garden and are not that difficult to maintain. If you select carefully and make sure they have their basic requirements (sun, air circulation, water, fertilizer), they will provide you with both flowers for your home and a lovely landscape to look at. Enjoy!
Oh, the irony that the food we need to nourish our bodies relies on creatures we can't communicate with, that measure half an inch long and have a life span of only six to eight weeks, at most.
Home gardeners understand all too well the importance of bees to a plentiful, nutritious bounty of fruits and veggies. Most likely, those gardeners also know there is a national decline in the health of honeybees which creates grave concerns about our national food supply. Beekeepers see it first and as they tend their hives and farmers are well aware of the honeybee decline too! Currently, even the general public is aware of our diminishing honeybee population.
But there is much discussion about what is actually causing the decline and, as life often goes, the answer is complicated.
A recent article in the 2020 Winter Issues of Mother Earth News by Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, a former research scientist
The study results prompted Dr. Lundgren to look deeper and wrote “…the public knows the bees are dying but much of the momentum behind saving them has been lost. We're losing more hives than ever and beekeeping as an industry will likely be dead soon if something doesn't change.”
His research on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatment (a then-new class of insecticide chemical related to nicotine used widely on farms and in urban landscapes) didn't control pests but were reducing the predators that might eat pests and diminish pollinators.
It was beekeepers that proved pesticides caused hive losses. After years of his own research, he determined many pesticides don't kill bees but instead affect genetics and hormones. He suggests, “pesticides can give bees learning disabilities and autoimmune diseases that affect reproductive capabilities that can't even be measured… and their impact may not be fully realized for generations.”
He also takes into consideration that a risk assessment of pesticides is constrained by the tools that aren't available for measuring the impacts of some chemicals in our environment. Diminishing federal and state funding results in scientists' need to rely on industry money for studies that strongly influence the type of study conducted.
Dr. Lundgren also conducted research on monoculture-based crop rotations which reduces the plant diversity honeybees need to survive and thrive. This monoculture farming requires more pesticides and fertilizers be applied to keep degraded farmland productive and these “agrichemicals” kill bees. Starving and bees exposed to chemicals have less resistance to parasites, he wrote.
The solution to the decline of bees, he asserts, is to reform agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is the answer not only to the plight of honeybees, but better farming practices and is starting to take hold in the farming community. Regenerative agriculture “improves soil health and promotes biodiversity (microbes, insects, plants, fungi, animals, etc.) while profitably growing food, according to Dr. Lundgren.
Healthy soil and biodiversity can improve bee health. Farmers can quickly restore the physical, chemical, and biological health of the soil. Practices such as no-till or reduced tillage, crop diversity, livestock-crop integration can improve soil health without chemicals.
Plant diversity around farms is essential to making and keeping bees healthy. The pollen and nectar of different plants contain the micronutrients and microbial communities that honeybees need to survive and thrive.
According to Dr. Lundgren, “Finding solutions that are natural and inexpensive will be important to stemming hive losses until we can right the ship of food production toward ecologically intensive systems.”
- Author: Flo Pucci, Master Gardener
Today, industrial agriculture and traditional gardening techniques can mistreat soil, often with synthetic chemicals. Soils have been depleted throughout the past years through the conventional agriculture practices of tilling, carbon mining, and salt-based fertilizers and pesticides that harm life in the ground, releasing carbon into the air - changing farms and gardens into sources of carbon emissions. Conversely, soil and microorganisms can hold a vast amount of carbon with good management practices by growing food more in harmony with nature.
We often think carbon is something dangerous because we associate it with climate change. However, it is the building block for all life. In the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, carbon produces a greenhouse effect that heats the planet, but plants use carbon to create cells to grow and feed microorganisms in the soil that supports them. Therefore, the principles of regenerative agriculture aim to reverse these adverse effects by following rigorous guidelines, which include using cover crops, reducing tilling, rotating yields, spreading compost, and moving away from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and factory farming.
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land management practice that uses photosynthesis in plants to sequester carbon in the soil while improving soil health, crop returns, water resilience, and nutrient density.
Consequently, regenerative agriculture is the conservation of land through practices that improve our soil, preserve our water, and enhance biodiversity. These processes often copy those found in nature, and with a shift of behavior, farmers and home gardeners can lessen and ultimately eliminate their dependence on pesticides and fertilizers.
Moreover, regenerative practices not only apply to the agricultural system; they can be implemented in our home gardens by applying the techniques used by regenerative agriculture. These practices will enable the home gardener to increase the organic matter in the soil, which in turn will introduce more nutrients into their crops, providing habitat for wildlife, offer a safe space to return to nature, as well as take action against climate change while making their garden more resilient to its effect.
Even though creating and using compost is a vital place to start, we can also consider other practices to enhance our soils and sustain the ecosystem. Keeping in mind that good soil practices are the foundation of gardening regeneratively, here are some regenerative principles home gardeners can implement in their gardens.
No-till/minimum tillage. Tillage destroys soil mass and fungal communities while adding excess O2 to the soil for increased respiration and CO2 emission. It can be one of the most destructive agricultural practices, which results in increased soil erosion and carbon loss. Consequently, no tilling/minimum tillage enhances soil mass, water filtration and
Soil fertility growth increases in regenerative systems organically through the application of cover crops, crop rotation, compost, mulches, and animal manures, restoring the plant/soil microbiome to promote the release, transfer, and cycle of essential soil nutrients. In addition, to prevent erosion, several university studies have shown that mulching can improve the growth of plants by improving soil-moisture availability due to reduced weed competition and reduced evaporation from the soil surface.
On the other hand, artificial fertilizer creates imbalances in the microbial communities in soil, creating dependency and weaker, less resilient plants. Moreover, research has established that synthetic fertilizer promotes climate change through the energy cost of production and transportation, chemical breakdowns and penetration into water supplies and the atmosphere, the alteration of soil microbial communities, and accelerating decomposition of soil organic matter.
Furthermore, building natural ecosystem diversity begins with the injection of soils with compost or compost extracts to reinstate soil microbial community population, structure, and activities. Next, they restore soil system vitality through full-time planting of multiple crops, intercrops planting, multispecies, and cover crops. Some examples of cover crops that are not for consumption but shield the soil are mustard, alfalfa, rye, clover, and others. Also, border planting for bees' habitats and other beneficial insects is essential. A garden or farm full of diversity in plant material will invite a wide array of beneficial insects and pollinators, strengthening its overall resiliency while reducing the need for pesticides.
Maximizing living roots in the soil year-round nourishes microbes by providing a food source or by releasing nutritious compounds into the ground. It has been estimated that plants realize from 10 to 40 percent of the carbon fixed by photosynthesis through the roots. This carbon increases soil organic matter.
Good, coordinated, grazing practices help improve plant growth, increase soil carbon deposits, and increase overall pasture and grazing land productivity while significantly increasing soil fertility, insect and plant biodiversity, and soil carbon sequestration. In addition, good practices improve ecological health and the health of the animal and human consumer by improving micro-nutrient availability and better dietary omega balance. Other advanced techniques include silvopasture (the intentional combination of trees, forage plants, livestock as an integrated, intensive management system) and agroforestry (the restoration of trees and tree crops on farms).
In summary, regenerative agriculture strives to limit chemical, physical and biological disturbance, keep the soil covered, add diversity of plants and insects, keep a living root in the ground as long as possible and integrate animals into your system. These self-healing, self-organizing and self-regulating principles enabled ecosystem health and function long before humans were on earth.
Regenerative agriculture means reversing the harm done to our soil and embracing agricultural practices that leave the land in better shape for future generations. But most importantly, regenerative practices in agriculture or a home garden offer the chance to build healthy communities.
For more information, please visit the follow sites
- Author: Constance Starner
- Having them near a door means they are more accessible when you need a spur-of-the-moment harvest.
- It is easier to provide good soil and drainage in pots.
- You can easily adjust for the watering and light needs of different plants.
- Pots control the growth of herbs—like mint and lemon balm—that like to spread in the garden.
- Attractive pots are a decorative addition to your garden.
We are fortunate to live in a climate that allows for growing a wide variety of herbs. You can start with the ones you like best, but it's also fun to try some that you are not as familiar with. Most are attractive plants in their own right even if you use them in the kitchen only occasionally.
Here is a group of seven easily grown herbs for getting started:
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Size: 2'-3' h x w; dwarf varieties (‘Spicy Globe') 8” h x 12” w
Light/Water: Full sun; keep moist, not saturated.
Soil: Loose, porous; pH 4.3-9.1
Harvesting/Pruning: Cut back to just above its second set of leaves when it has 3-5 sets of true leaves. Harvest every week throughout the season.
Notes: There are many varieties beyond the two listed here. It is used in salads and sandwiches, with vegetables, and in pesto. Best used freshly picked but can be dried or frozen. Add to cooked dishes in the last few minutes.
Common chives, onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Garlic chives, Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum)
(flattened leaves, white flowers)
Size: 12” to 18” h x w
Light/Water: Full sun to part shade; medium water.
Harvesting/Pruning: Harvest the tips once the plants have reached 6” tall, leaving at least 2”.Increases by bulb division; divide every three years. Deadhead before seeds spread.
Notes: Use snipped leaves in uncooked foods or added in the last few minutes to cooked foods. May be frozen. Use garlic chive flowers in the bud stage or freshly opened.
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Light/Water: Full sun; keep soil moist but not saturated.
Susceptible to root rot.
Soil: Light to medium texture, well-drained.
Use a pot at least 12” deep to accommodate the tap root.
Harvesting/Pruning: Harvest leaves in the early morning for best flavor and before the flower buds have opened; do not let the plants bolt for a continuous supply. Harvest dill seed at the end of the plant's life cycle when they've started to burn a golden-brown color.
Notes: Fresh dill weed can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days with the stems in a cup of water. It can also be dried. Dry the seeds by hanging the seed heads upside down in a brown paper bag and keeping it in a warm, well ventilated area for two weeks. The seeds or the whole seed heads are used for pickles or added to a variety of dishes. Dill weed leaves are used in soups, stews, meat dishes, pasta ,and egg dishes.
Curly leaf (Petroselinum crispum)
Flat leaf (Italian)(Petroselinum neapolitanum)
Size: 9”-12” h x 9”-12” w
Light/Water: Partial shade to full sun.
Keep moist but not soggy.
Soil: Potting soil mixed with compost.
Harvesting/Pruning: Cut back stalks with young leaves—the most flavorful—to ½”; they will continue to produce more leaves. Parsley is a biennial that us usually grown as an annual. Seeds will develop the second season; the leaves are best the first season.
Notes: Curly leaf parsley is commonly used as a garnish, but flat leaf is a versatile herb that can be used in soups, salads, casseroles, sandwiches, and a variety of other dishes.
Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. hurtum)
Russian oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. Gracile)
Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Size: 1-2' h x 18-24” w
Light/Water: Full sun or part shade; low water once established.
Soil: Dry, rocky, well-drained. Amend with gravel, shells, sand and compost.
Harvesting/Pruning: Cut back in late spring to encourage vegetative growth, and again in midsummer to prevent it from becoming woody. Flavor is best before the plant flowers.
Notes: Many varieties; often mislabeled by nurseries. Leaves and flowers are used in Greek, Italian and French cuisine. Leaves may be refrigerated for 3-4 days or dried.
Size: 3'- 4' h x w; smaller in containers.
Trailing varieties will drape over the edge.
Light/Water: Full sun; low water.
Allow soil to dry out between watering to prevent root rot.
Soil: Well-drained with added sand or gravel.
Harvesting/Pruning: Prune to encourage branching,
and remove yellowing or dead leaves and stems. Best time for harvesting is just before blooming.
Notes: A Mediterranean native, rosemary symbolizes remembrance. Its pungent flavor is used to enhance meats, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs and other dishes. May be dried or frozen, although some loss of color will occur.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Light/Water: Full sun; avoid intense afternoon sun in hot climates.
Allow soil to dry out between watering once established.
Soil: Well-drained, loamy soilless potting mix is best.
pH 6-7; neutral to slightly acidic.
Harvesting/Pruning: Snip sage early in the morning for best flavor, just above where two leaves meet. Cut back stems by no more than half to encourage new growth. Sage can be propagated by cuttings, division, seeds, and layering.
Notes: Fresh leaves can be stored for 3-4 days in the refrigerator, or the leaves can be dried. Beyond stuffing, sage can be used fresh or dried in a variety of savory dishes, soups, and sandwiches.
If you'd like to go beyond the basics, there are many other interesting and flavorful herbs to choose from, particularly those from international cuisines. You could grow purslane, lemongrass, cilantro, fennel, thyme, winter savory, and many others.
For more information: