- Author: Ed Perry
Do you keep notes on how your garden performs each year to help you remember what is working well and what is not? Maybe this is your year to start. Barb Fick, Home Horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, explains that there are many good reasons to keep a garden journal. A blank bound book or a ring binder filled with loose-leaf paper can make a great place to record what you do in your garden.
Having a year-to-year record of where things are planted will also help with crop rotation, which is the system of changing the types of vegetables and flowers planted each year in each garden location. Rotation discourages depletion of soil nutrients, pest outbreaks and soil borne disease. Without a good record of where each crop is planted however, it's easy to forget where a particular species may have been growing last year.
By recording each year's seasonal “landmarks” such as rainfall patterns and amounts, unusual weather such as rapid temperature changes, the date of the first daffodil bloom, the first frost and the arrival of the first hummingbird, you will be able to compare different years to one another and relate them to plant performance.
Fick writes that it's a good idea to record pest outbreaks in relation to what plants they are found on. It's also very important to include any control measures used, and the success or failure of those measures. This information will help you prepare for the same problem next year, or may help you decide not to grow that particular species next year. Also, record the appearance and activities of beneficial insects and their host plants. For instance, you may record that aphids on your rose bushes were brought under control by ladybird beetles and other natural enemies by mid-April. This information might help you make a decision on whether to use an insecticide to control the aphids the following year, or to let nature take its course.
To keep track of the amount of money spent on seed, fertilizer and garden tools, a journal can come in handy. It can also be a good way of keeping track of yields and a safe place to record the identities of the things you plant. You can keep a good record of species and varieties simply by taping the plant identification tags onto your journal pages, along with the planting dates and garden locations.
Fick says that along with being very practical, a garden journal can give you a feeling of accomplishment. When you add up the many hours spent, the numbers of species planted and the various garden methods used, most gardeners will feel proud of what they've done.
- Author: Ed Perry
If you do not prune your trees enough, they will become too tall to harvest, even with a tall ladder. If you have an unpruned fruit tree in your garden, you know that most of the fruit grows in the top. Yearly pruning is necessary to keep the tree at a reasonable height, for instance, no more than 10 or 12 feet high. If your tree is already overgrown, you may want to reduce its height gradually, say over a two-year period.
The main objectives of pruning mature fruit trees are to reduce the number and increase the size of the potential crop, to develop new fruit wood, to remove interfering and broken branches, and to contain tree height and spread for convenient harvest. Most fruit trees, when not pruned, produce more fruit than they can size and mature properly. You can prevent such overproduction with yearly pruning.
Persimmons, many figs, quinces and pomegranates bear fruit on current season's growth. When you prune these trees, remove old and weak branches, leaving some younger branches to produce new growth and fruit the coming year. Overcrowding and lack of sunlight will cause branches to die, so you need to thin out some branches to allow light infiltration into the tree so that the fruit wood stays healthy.
Nut trees such as almonds and walnuts do not need as much pruning for height control as fruit trees. You harvest nuts by knocking them down with a long pole, rather than by hand picking, so the trees can be much taller.
Fruit Tree Resources
Fruit Trees: Training and Pruning UC ANR Publication
The California Backyard Orchard For more details about training and pruning deciduous fruit trees.
Citrus and Avocado Trees Require Little Pruning For information on pruning citrus and avocado trees.
Ed Perry is the emeritus Environmental Horticultural Advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Stanislaus County where he worked for over 30 years.
- Author: Ed Perry
Soil solarization is a simple technique that you can use in your home garden to reduce or eliminate many soil-inhabiting pests. Solarization works by heating up the soil in the presence of moisture to temperatures that are high enough to kill many fungi, nematodes, weeds and weed seeds.
In order to solarize your soil, you must leave a clear plastic tarp on the soil surface for 4 to 6 weeks during the hottest part of the year, which of course is now. Black or colored tarps will not allow the soil to get hot enough, so you must use transparent plastic. Polyethylene plastic 1 mil thick is the most efficient and economical, but you must handle it carefully because it rips and punctures easily.
Before laying the plastic down, clean up all weeds, debris and large clods, then level and prepare the soil as for planting. The closer the tarp to the soil, the hotter the soil becomes. Air pockets caused by clods or debris will decrease the effectiveness of the treatment. A smooth, bare soil surface is best.
You must also wet the soil before covering it with the tarp. The moisture causes organisms to be more sensitive to heat and also allows the heat to penetrate deeper into the soil. It's best to wet the soil thoroughly before laying the tarp.
While some pests may be killed within a few days, 4 to 6 weeks of treatment in full sun during the summer is needed to kill most pests with solarization. The highest soil temperatures will occur when the days are long and hot, and when the sky is clear and there is no wind.
Many disease organisms are effectively controlled with solarization, including the fungi that cause Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and damping off of seedlings. Many annual weeds are also controlled, but perennial weeds such as Bermudagrass, field bindweed, johnsongrass, and yellow nutsedge are suppressed but not completely controlled by the procedure. Nematode populations are also reduced, but the heat may not penetrate deep enough to destroy those below the top foot of soil. Nematodes should be controlled well enough for shallow-rooted crops.
Once the solarization is completed and you've removed the tarp, take care not to disturb the soil very much. Turning the soil can bring up living weed seeds and diseases that were too deep to be destroyed by the heat.
Read the publication Soil Solarization for Gardens & Landscapes for more information.
- Author: Anne E Schellman
The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners of Stanislaus County are teaching a free Managing Pests in Your Vegetable Garden class on Thursday, July 18, 2019 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Agriculture Center on 3800 Cornucopia Way in Modesto at Harvest Hall, Rooms D&E.
Join us for a free class about common pests that plague warm-season vegetable gardens. Learn how to identify insects, diseases, and weeds and how to control them using less-toxic methods.
This family-friendly class is open to everyone. Participants will receive free seeds (while supplies last). Our instructor for the class is Ed Perry, Environmental Horticulture Advisor (emeritus) for Stanislaus County. This class is free, but please visit http://ucanr.edu/vegpests2019 or call Anne Schellman at (209) 525-6862 to sign up. Space is limited, so please reserve your seat today.
If you haven't already, please “like” us on Facebook and Twitter @UCMGStanislaus so you never miss an announcement for a class or workshop.
- Author: Ed Perry
Home gardeners often become concerned when their fruit trees begin dropping fruit prematurely. In some cases, fruit drop is nature's way of reducing a heavy fruit load. In other cases, premature fruit drop may be caused by pests and diseases, adverse weather conditions or poor cultural practices.
Apples may have a couple of periods when fruit drop occurs. The first is often after the flower petals fall off and may last two to three weeks. The very small dropping fruits are the ones that were not pollinated, so will not develop further. Many fruit species need to be pollinated by bees. Lack of pollination may be the result of cold or wet weather during the bloom period, or by a lack of honey bees. Also, if there is freezing weather just before the flower buds open, more fruit drop may occur.
Other adverse weather conditions may also contribute to fruit drop. For example, persimmons may drop if the weather turns suddenly hot in spring, just as the small fruits begin to develop. Trees not receiving adequate irrigation water would be more prone to dropping fruit.
Pests and diseases may contribute to the problem of premature fruit drop. Cool wet weather during the bloom period of walnuts often results in infections of walnut blight, a bacterial disease that damages catkins, leaves, and newly-pollinated nuts. Infected nuts may drop prematurely. Premature ripening and fruit drop often occurs in apples and pears that are infested with codling moth larvae.
In apples and pears, a second drop occurs once the fruits are about the size of marbles, usually in May or June. This is commonly referred to as “June drop.” Fruit drop at this time of year is thought to occur as a result of competition between fruits for available resources.
Some fruit tree species, such as plums, may experience a mid-summer fruit drop. Proper fruit thinning can help to prevent this. How much to thin depends upon the tree species. With peaches and nectarines, it's important to make room on the branches for each fruit to grow to 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter. Thin by pulling off ¾ to 1-inch long fruit in April and May, leaving one fruit every 6 inches. This results in more fruit on the ground than on the tree, but it's important to produce large, flavorful fruit and to minimize limb breakage.
Thin apricots when the fruit is about ¾ inch in diameter, leaving 1 apricot every 3 inches. Thin plums when the fruit is ¾-inch-long, leaving 1 plum every 4 to 6 inches. Thin apples after the usual May or June drop. Leave 1 apple every 6 inches or allow only 1 apple to remain per spur. Asian pears should be thinned to leave only 1 fruit per spur.
When mature fruit begins to drop, it's a sign that the fruit is ready for harvest.
Ed Perry is the emeritus Environmental Horticultural Advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Stanislaus County.