- Author: Morris Lacey, Master Gardener
Springtime is here! Trees have awakened, roses are budding, and you are preparing the garden for a bountiful growing season. It can't get any better! However, you will improve your bounty when you prepare and deal with these three typical springtime pests. Simple scientifically proven methods to control the following pests and more are available at your local Cooperative Extension via the volunteer Master Gardener program in the form of the telephone hotline or website.
Hoplia Beetles emerge from the ground just in time to decimate most of the white/light/bright colored flowers on every type of plant, but especially roses and elderberries. To manage these damaging pests, place 2-3” of water and a drop of dishwashing liquid into white plastic pails or buckets and incorporate into your garden between plants being attacked. I also often pull out my pruning shears and grab the flowers covered in beetles and cut them off, throwing flowers and beetles into the bucket to prevent escape to damage other flowers. Thankfully, they only infest the garden in the spring for about 2 weeks, saving us from throwing up our arms in surrender and despair!
Spring is always a good time to check for Phytophthora (Root and Crown Rot). During our wet season, make sure your herbaceous and woody plants are not drowning due to poor drainage or settling of the soil around the base of the plant. Check the irrigation system to insure it is not dumping water on the crown and secure the emitter at least one foot away from the trunk. Provide adequate drainage by breaking through compacted soils around the root zone so water doesn't pond around the crown. Remove turf from the base of trees; however, do not mound additional soil on the crown as this will hold moisture and possibly infect the area with “resting spores” of these oomycetes formerly included in the classification of fungi. The picture above shows crown rot on a butterfly bush which developed after a very wet spring with continued moisture from the drip system, enabling the Phytophthora to girdle the trunk.
Let me part with one short story about a vertebrate pest that can ruin your garden and then some. My neighbor called me recently to check out a water leak in her second bathroom. I shut off the valves and stopped the leak. A week and a half later she noticed there was a pile of dirt under the sink. My wife and I looked and found a hole in the wall under the sink where the wallboard had been wet. We pulled out the vanity and opened the wall and found that gophers had been moving dirt into the area under the tub of the adjacent bathroom. Sand was piled up to the top of the side of the tub all the way around it! Over the next 3 days, we removed 4 full wheelbarrows of dirt from under the bath! All the while the neighbor had been using one of those electronic gopher-repellent devices for several years and thought it was working well. SURPRISE! Moral of the story: stick with UCANR data-driven methods for the best pest control. Check them out whenever you are in doubt!
- Author: Flo Pucci, Master Gardener
Many bulb crops are of Old World origin, introduced into horticulture long ago and subjected to selection and crossing through the years to yield modern cultivars.
In Horticulture, the term bulb is inaccurately applied to several botanical structures with a similar food storing function.
Bulbs can be grown in various ways; formal gardens, scattered in lawns under trees, or strategically planted throughout beds and borders. Countless bulbs will naturalize in an area and multiply, coming back for many years. Bulbs enable many common garden ornamentals to produce their flowers in early spring—other bulb-producing plants flower in the summer months. Therefore, careful planting and planning can provide many years of enjoyment from one planting session.
A bulb is comprised of a relatively large, usually sphere shape, underground bud with membranous or abundant overlying leaves starting from a short stem. A bulb's plump leaves, which are extended leaf bases in some species, function as food storage that enable a plant to lie inactive when water is scarce. However, when the environmental condition became advantageous, the bulbs resume their active growth once again. Moreover, some bulbs species are economically important to humans because of their fleshy leaves' taste and nutritional values, like onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks.
How to plant bulbs
Spring bulbs, also known as hardy bulbs, need several weeks of cold temperatures to break their dormancy and flower
Summer bulbs, also known as tender bulbs, are planted early to mid-spring and flower or leaf out in summer. These bulbs are not tolerant of cold temperatures and must only be planted after the ground warms up and there's no longer a threat of frost. The average planting times for summer bulbs in zones 8 to 10 is from late March to May.
They also can be stored in a cold, dry spot until planting is feasible.
Drainage and sunlight are of the utmost importance because root rotting can occur in wet soils. Loamy or slightly sandy soil is the most advantageous; they provide drainage and nutrients for bulbs to thrive. Also, adding a mix of organic materials can improve the nutrients and improve drainage if needed.
Place bulbs with the pointed end up and roots down. If not sure about the correct placement, plant the bulb at an angle or side and it will find its way to the surface. Cover with mulch to prevent weeds and water well to help them get established. If needed, cover bulbs with chicken wire or a mesh. Also, planting in bulb baskets or wire cages helps protect the bulbs from hungry critters.
Aftercare and Digging up bulbs, for all bulbs, after blooming, cut only the flower stem leaving the leaves untouched until they turn yellow or dieback. They are collecting and store energy. If the foliage is snipped too soon, bulbs may not perform well the following year.
Your labor will be rewarded with a beautiful garden full of life!
- Author: Melissa Berg, Master Gardener
While elders provide habitat for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle in Northern California, the berries are a significant food source for birds and the plant itself acts as sustenance for a host of native butterflies and moth species. It is vital to note that while any number of animals use the elder and its berries during their life cycles, the plant leaves, flowers, and fruit, if consumed in their raw state, are toxic to humans.
Sambucus enjoys worldwide geographical distribution as well as morphological diversity which previously led to the identification of 30+ recognized species. It was, however, Bolli's 1994 published dissertation which dramatically reduced that number to just nine. The following four Elderberry plants are most often found and/or cultivated in the United States:
- American elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis)
- European or black elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
- Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemona var. racemona)
- Blue Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana or Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea)
Sambucus racemona berries contain the highest concentration of cyanogenic glycosides making them the most toxic of all the elders. Native northwest cultures cooked these red elderberries to use in syrup, jam, and medicinal applications for millennia. This elder is primarily planted as an ornamental and available varieties include the “Black Lace,” “Lemon Lace,” and “Lemony Lace” plants as well as “Sutherland Gold.” Expect these varieties to be slightly smaller than canadensis at maturity, but with brightly colored foliage in keeping with their individual variety.
Care should be taken to plant elder either in early spring or fall in a spot with at least six hours of sun and allowing for an abundant spread and ten-foot height. Ensure your hole is at least two feet deep and three feet wide. Add organic compost as soil back into the hole to fill after planting, adding more compost annually thereafter. Elders enjoy nitrogen rich loamy soil and lots of water (which is why elders are most often found lining the banks of canals and waterways where it may enjoy as much water and Nature can provide). Healthy Elder roots are white to cream colored and some may even have a slightly fuzzy appearance. Be sure to rough
If you prefer a potted plant, it will do well if said pot is heavy bottomed, two feet high and equally wide because it is a large shrub in maturity and can topple a lightweight pot. Planting in pots does not differ from in ground.
For centuries, the elder has been considered a highly useful plant and as such, several species are both commercially and privately cultivated worldwide for industrial, culinary, and medicinal uses. Indeed, there is even significant folklore that varies by region and includes the belief that the trees have a sacred component which wards off evil and provides protection from witches. Elderberries have even found their way into the modern era including central appearances in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Elder Wand and “Elderberry Wine” by Elton John. Not only is the elder a pivotal figure across entertainment mediums, but its place within the culinary arena was also cemented by the choice of a Lemon Elderflower Cake from Violet Bakery for Prince Harry and Megan Markle's 2018 royal nuptials.
Commercially one can find the hollow elder twigs used as piles - the small wooden peg used to broach/tap maple trees. Not only that, but the elder pith is also often used by watchmakers for cleaning tools before commencing intricate work. Textile and weaving practices use a number of colors derived from various elders which are subsequently used to create dyes (blue, red, and deep black) for both cloth and basket reeds. Finally, teas, essence, extract(s) for syrups, and supplements are all consumed worldwide for their highly touted health benefits.
Most recently, a number of government sponsored and private studies have been undertaken to determine efficacy in the administration of herbal remedies such as elderberry syrup to aid immunity as well as elderberry supplements and teas as an adjunct in both lessening the adverse effects of viral pathogens such as COVID-19, MERSA in hospital settings and even the “common” form of influenza. The WHO and EMA already list Elderberry as a therapeutic adjuvant symptomatic therapy for is respiratory relief and strengthening properties so it's not surprising the NIH published a study in September of 2020 that found elderberry to be part of a very small group of herbal medicines found to have positive effects on early stages of influenza including COVID-19. Furthermore, a separate 2019 University study found that not only do the phytochemical compounds contained in Elderberry juices work to keep healthy cells from being infected, but they were also even more effective at inhibiting viral propagation in the later stages of the influenza cycle when cells were already infected (Drs. Deghani, Valtchez and Torabian, University of Sydney). It is worth noting that the phytochemical compounds and anthocyans found in Sambucus nigra canadensis are far more abundant that those found in European elderberry.
Thus, not only is the elder plant something of a hot commodity within the commercial world, but it is equally valuable to the individual gardener when considering that this beautiful ornamental shrub with showy foliage and flowers will be at home whether potted or planted in ground.
- Author: Julie Hyske, Master Gardener
If you have a pan, you can make a plan: baked lemon chicken with asparagus! It cooks together on a single-sheet pan, includes healthy veggies and tastes extra fresh, thanks to the dynamic duo of lemon and garlic. Next up is a Mediterranean orzo salad. It is loaded with crunchy, fresh vegetables, leafy spinach, briny olives, feta cheese and is mixed together with vinaigrette-dressed orzo pasta. Peas, pesto, artichokes and pasta shout “spring” in this salad mix. If you choose to add chicken or some shrimp, a pretty side dish becomes a dinner entrée. Any of these dishes can be finished with strawberry mousse. So, easy peasy with only three ingredients, so delicious!
1 lb. baby red potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp olive oil divided
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, divided
1 tsp kosher salt ,divided
½ tsp black pepper, divided
2 lbs thin asparagus, tough ends trimmed and discarded, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 large lemons juiced and zested
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to add, as desired
Place a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 400 ℉. Generously coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place the potatoes in the center and top with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon rosemary, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, spread into an even layer. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place the asparagus, chicken and garlic powder in a large bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice and add the lemon zest, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon rosemary, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, transfer to the baking pan with the potatoes. With a spatula, loosely toss the ingredients so that they are evenly combined and spread into an even layer. Overlap the chicken as little as possible. Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, stirring once or twice throughout. The asparagus may release some liquid, which you can carefully pour off the pan. Enjoy hot.
16 oz. orzo
3 cups baby spinach leaves, gently torn into large pieces
1-½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup cucumber, diced and seeded, about one medium
¾ cup red onion, diced
1 cup Castelvetrano green olives, drained and halved
1 cup Kalamata pitted olives, drained and halved
8 oz. feta cheese
½ cup canola oil
cup olive oil
1 lemon juiced
1-½ tsp oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
Bring a pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook the orzo for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside to cool. Transfer the cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl. Add the spinach, chopped vegetables and olives, then crumble half of the feta cheese over the pasta. In a small bowl whisk the canola oil, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper until mixed. Pour the vinaigrette over the pasta mixture and gently fold until the pasta and veggies are coated. Taste for seasoning and top with the remaining feta cheese. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight before serving. The pasta is best within 2-3 days but will last in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
1 lb. rotini pasta
3 tbsp. olive oil
¾ cup pesto (homemade or store bought)
5 oz. fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 cups frozen peas, cooked according to package directions (if you can find fresh peas, use those)
4 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Combine pesto, spinach, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth and creamy and add to the pasta. If it looks too dry or thick, thin it out with a bit of water. Add cooked peas, Parmesan cheese and remaining tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If it looks dry, add more olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
2 cups strawberries
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
Extra strawberries for topping
Clean and slice the strawberries. In a blender or food processor add the sliced strawberries with the sugar and puree. Remove half a cup of puree and set aside. In a cold bowl add the cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Then gently fold in the remaining puree. Divide the ½ cup of puree between the 4 small/medium glasses and top with the strawberry mousse. Refrigerate for approximately 1 hour or over night, if desired. Top with fresh sliced strawberries and serve. Enjoy.
- Author: Betty Liske, Master Gardener
Using a cement mix or its cousin, Hypertufa, create garden spheres, decorative toadstools, steppingstones, pots and vases, and so much more. The only limit is your imagination. There are many websites to boost your creativity and help with the selection of a project. Whether it is your first project with this medium, or you are a seasoned garden crafter and looking for a challenge, one of the sites at the end of the article will surely have something of interest.
The process of making either medium is easy and pretty much the same for both the cement mix and the Hypertufa. Slightly different ingredients make the latter a lighter medium to work with. Color can be added to the mix ahead of time for a pop in your garden or, for more texture, add some gravel. Lining the mold with items before pouring in the mix will create an interesting exterior surface. Try putting green moss against the mold surface, then press the cement mixture against it...gorgeous!
To begin the project, get all the materials set up within easy reach before mixing the concrete or hypertufa. Items you are likely to need include plastic or rubber gloves, a container (such as a wheelbarrow, or a five gallon paint bucket, or something similar) for mixing (if using the cement mix, put the container in or on something with wheels to make it easier to move around), mold for shaping item, vegetable oil or pan spray (to ease release of the item from the mold), a cement trowel, ingredients for the mix, water, plastic sheeting or garbage bags to cover the completed item while it dries), texture or coloring items for the project, a spatula or scrapper (for smoothing), clean up materials, and the directions for the project. It will be easier to work in the shade since the item will need to dry in the shade.
Estimate the amount of mix needed for the project. Start with a reasonable amount so that there is ample mix to complete the project. Mix small amounts at a time, alternating with water. Mix well until the mix is the consistency of cottage cheese. Keep adding more if needed. You'll have about 20-30 minutes before the mix starts to firm up.
- Choose your mix.
Cement Mix: Cement, sand; water.
Hypertufa: 1 part peat: 2 parts Cement: 1 part perlite; water.
- Spray cooking oil (PAM or other) or brush vegetable oil on the mold.
- Wearing gloves and using a trowel, put a small portion of the dry ingredients in the mixing container. Add some water. Mix well to the consistency of cottage cheese. Continue alternating wet and dry ingredients and mixing until you have the estimated amount of wet mix you will need.
- Scoop or pour the mix into the prepared mold, a small portion at a time. Add more as you work to fill the mold. You can also build the mix up the sides of mold first if items are around the edges for texture. Use a spatula or a scrapper to smooth the surfaces as necessary. Make any drain or other holes necessary.
- Put plastic sheeting over the project and move it to a shady area to dry. Allow 5-7 days for the item to partially dry. Pop the item out of the mold. Allow 2-3 weeks to finish drying. Once dry, the item can be painted or otherwise decorated. The cement will continue to strengthen for about a year.
Any of the following sites provide information on making your own concrete or hypertufa stepping stones for your garden as well as making the molds for the stones.