Most trees in California need supplemental irrigation above and beyond what Mother Nature supplies naturally. Even drought-resistant species need regular watering through their first growing season due to their shallow roots. Once trees become established, it's important to water less often but more deeply to encourage deep rooting and structural balance above and below ground. Both under and overwatering can lead to unhealthy trees and even death if the situation is not corrected. Trees receiving too little or too much water exhibit similar symptoms since, in both cases, water is not available to the plant. Trees initially wilt, grow slowly, and develop yellow leaves. Over time, growth stops and leaves become brown and drop. Overwatered trees often develop lower crown and root rot from one or more disease-forming pathogens.
Knowing what type of soil you have (soil texture) is as important as knowing the water needs of your trees. Use the ‘feel test' (pictured below) to find out how much water your soil holds and how often to water. Heavier clay-based soils hold water longer and drain more slowly than sandier soils that need to be watered more often for shorter periods of time.
Trees should not be watered on the same irrigation system used for lawns and groundcovers. Soaker hoses and drip systems allow trees to be watered less often but for longer periods of time than your lawn or groundcover. Avoid applying water too close to the trunk. Instead water half-way between the trunk and the dripline of the tree and outward. If you use a garden hose, apply the water on the lowest volume possible slowly, moving the hose every few hours to each of four quadrants around the tree.
Applying a 3-4 inch layer of mulch around the tree can reduce soil evaporation. Use only non-flammable mulches in fire-prone areas within five feet from the house and non-contiguous for the first 30' away from the house. In all cases keep mulch a few inches away from tree trunks to keep the trunks dry.
Tip: Before planting a tree, make sure there is adequate drainage. Dig a hole where you want to plant it (the same depth of the pot, which is about one foot) and fill the hole with water. Let it completely drain and refill it. Measure the time it takes to drain one inch using a ruler. If it does not drain more than one inch an hour it is not a good location for your tree. Avoid adding compost or soil amendments to try to correct the problem since tree roots will likely grow in circles, staying within the confines of the amended hole rather than growing outward the confines of the amended hole rather than growing outward.
I love research results that can be applied to everyday life and wanted to pass along a couple of tidbits. Did you know that playing in the dirt (e.g. what adults call 'gardening') and getting your hands dirty can boost your serotonin levels, producing a feeling of calmness and increasing your happiness? This is because many soils contain a bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which triggers this 'feel good' response. But the benefits don't stop there. Serotonin can also boost one's immune system which is a welcome outcome during flu season.
Another very interesting finding is that harvesting the fruits of your gardening labor, whether it be tomatoes or squash or even Brussels sprouts, can increase dopamine levels in your brain. This chemical rush results in mild euphoria. Researchers have even documented that just plucking an eggplant off a grocer's shelf can mimic this response. Evolutionary biologists are not at all surprised, attributing the more 'modern day' response to the onslaught of rural populations to cities and urban areas where fewer people actually grow their own food.
Have you ever heard of the term 'biophilia'? It was coined by Dr. Edwin O. Wilson, an entomologist studying the social behavior of ants and suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. I look forward to the day when there is adequate evidence that I can blog that biophilia is a fact rather than a theory! I do believe living things prosper together.
And, it's no wonder that school gardens are becoming so popular. K-12 students who engage in gardening are found to have greater self esteem, lower rates of depression and anxiety, improved social skills, a greater sense of cohesiveness and belonging, a lower body mass index and healthier diets. In many cases students engaged in gardening activities that are directly connected to mastering core subject matter even earn higher grades and perform better on standardized tests.
What does all of this have to do with our University of California Cooperative Extension programs in San Bernardino County? Our Master Gardeners, Master Food Preservers, Expanded Food and Nutrition (EFNEP) educators and 4-H members have banded together across professional disciplines to promote school gardens and healthy diets in several locations. As they say, a picture paints 1,000 words. You decide! I bet you can't help but smile (which is also good for your health) at the success of these events for both the students and the staff!
With only a few short weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and two very similarly looking plants, you may be wondering whether the gift a loved one gave you for Christmas is a Thanksgiving cactus or a Christmas cactus. (Many sold in local nurseries and large box stores this past Christmas season were actually Thanksgiving cactus, pictured below). While both are native to tropical regions of Brazil, host a wide array of flowers ranging from the more traditional pink hues to newer hybrids showing off white, red, yellow, and purple, they have different bloom periods. The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), blooms about a month after the Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata). The Christmas cactus also has slightly different projections on its leaves, which are more scalloped and less pointed that the projections on the Thanksgiving cactus.
Is yours still not in flower and not in the holiday spirit? Both species require cool temperatures and longer nights for about a month in advance of their flowering period. Both plants bloom optimally when grown outdoors when cool night temperatures dip`into the 50s and shorter nights reduce daytime light to 10 -12 hours in a 24 hour cycle. They can also be grown indoors in pots if kept in a cool dark area with no light between 5 pm and 8 am. During daytime, they prefer bright, indirect light. Full sun can cause the leaf segments to turn dark red.
Both species require good drainage but, even though they are in the cactus family don't let this fool you! They need adequate moisture - particularly during boom- and cannot make it through long, dry periods without supplemental water. Unlike most houseplants, they prefer to feel snug in their pots, almost to the point of enjoying being slightly pot-bound.
The University of California Cooperative Extension San Bernardino County Master Gardener program is now accepting applications for the October 1, 2019 - February 18, 2020 Master Gardener class on Tuesday evenings in Redlands. (There are no classes on Dec. 25 and Dec. 31.)
The class provides 50 hours of training on sustainable landscaping and growing food in home, backyard, and community gardens and is taught by University of California experts and knowledgeable practitioners. Master Gardeners come from all walks of life and no college degree is required. What successful applicants have in common is a passion for sharing knowledge gained from the training class with residents of San Bernardino County. Accepted applicants agree to volunteer a minimum of 50 hours by June 30, 2021 via one or more outreach methods: answering email and phone helpline questions; making presentations at workshops and community events; staffing information booths at Farmers Markets and other non-profit events; writing blogs and promoting the program via social media; working with communities and schools to develop gardens; and working with Healthy Communities throughout San Bernardino County to encourage outdoor exercise and activities. Accepted applicants must pass two open-book exams, present a group class project, and pass a background check (approximately $30). The class fee (includes training materials) is $175. Visit our UCCE Master Gardener website for more information and to complete an online application: UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Website. Applications must be received through the online system by or on August 31, 2019 to be considered.
There is a hybrid partially online option for residents of the high desert and mountains. Simply select this option on the application if this pertains to you. All costs and requirements remain the same as for in-class students.
Questions? Contact UCCE Master Gardener Coordinator Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com
We hope to hear from you!