- Author: Rho Yare
And then, one day cities began reading those water meters and charging the nice, water loving citizens by the units of water used each month. You could almost tell the day the bills arrived. Neighbors discussed them at the mailbox with anger, frustration, even fear. “How can I afford this every month?” Or “How can I reduce my monthly bill?” And that was the birth (or at least the beginning) of serious discussions about how to be “water wise” or how to conserve water to lower the units of water consumption that consequently will lower the monthly bill.
During this last drought, many people just stopped watering their lawn. This helped reduce their water bill but does little else. In many cases it killed street trees as well.
Not watering grass in our climate guarantees that the grass will die. In its place, however will be weeds. Weeds can live and multiply in harsh, waterless conditions. And all those weeds are spreading seeds that land in your neighbor's lawns. And eventually even the weeds die from normal life cycle or lack of water. Then the wind blows the precious topsoil from your yard. This topsoil mixes with the other air in our valley and adds to air pollution.
What if I want to keep my lawn?
There are a few things you can do if you do not want to give up your lawn completely. Think about reducing the amount of lawn in your yard, which can help you save water and money. Having a beautiful yard without green grass does not mean just rocks, cactus, or artificial turf. Begin by removing a small section of the grass. Check with the Stanislaus Master Gardeners and local nurseries for plant suggestions to replace that green grass with other green, or gray, or yellow plants. Think beyond bark, boulders, and bare ground. The possibilities are endless. This time of the year is a perfect time to begin making plans for that winter yard renovation!
What are some easy tips to save water?
Now, if you are not ready to commit to a grassless or partially grassless yard there are some changes that can help in reducing water consumption. First, examine your current watering system. If you have a sprinkler system, do not assume that it is working properly. Checking weekly during the warm weather is a must, especially after the lawn is mowed and in the daylight. Is everything working properly, sprinklers putting water on the lawn not the sidewalk or street? Are the sprinklers clogged, broken, or even missing? If you have an automatic timer, check the timer, and remember to decrease time and days as the daylight time shortens and weather cools, and turn the sprinklers off when the rains begin. Be an agent of change for the better! Making a few changes now can make a difference in your water bill, landscape, and our world because we are all in it together.
Join Rho Yare on Zoom for an evening of tips on how to reduce your water bill, yard work, pesticide use, all while having a gorgeous yard on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Sign up at http://ucanr.edu/sustainable/2020 to receive your link.
- Author: Anne E Schellman
In August we featured an article by former Environmental Horticulture Advisor, Ed Perry, called "Save the Right Seeds."
This article discussed how to successfully choose which vegetable seeds to save to plant in your garden next year.
Now, we wanted to follow up with tips for how to save your chosen seeds. Master Gardeners Royce Rhoads and Heidi Aufdermaur taught this class last year, and plan to teach it again in 2021.
Here is a list of items to gather. Most likely you already have most of them:
-Marker and masking tape
-Knife and spoon
-Jars and rings; or just use paper cups
-Paper towels or cheesecloth
-Fine mesh or strainer
-Paper plates for drying
Most people save tomato seeds, so let's go over the steps to save them. Tomato seeds have a gooey covering over them that needs to be removed first.
Allowing the seeds to sit in water lets “good” bacteria break down that covering. The empty seeds will float and you can skim them off. The seeds you want are at the bottom of the jar.
Step 1: Label the outside of your jar with masking tape and a permanent marker.
Step 2: Cut tomato, scoop out seeds & put into jar.
Step 3: Fill your jar, with the seeds in it, 1/2 full of water. Cover with paper towel/cheesecloth.
Step 4: Two days later, skim off floating seeds and remove.
Step 5: Wait a few more days until a film forms on the surface (fermentation* process).
Step 6: Strain the pulp through a screen until seeds separate. Spread onto labeled plate until dry for a few days.
Step 7: Label a paper mailing envelope and add seeds. Make sure to include the date.
Your seeds can last up to 4 years if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Did you save any seeds using this post? If so, please tell us how you did in the comments below!
Vegetables such as peppers, eggplants, and melons are much easier to save than tomato seeds. Just remove and spread them out to dry. Squash seeds are also easy, but may need a little bit of cleaning by straining and rinsing with water.
- Author: Ed Perry
Most of the dependable varieties of vegetables that you grow in your garden are from hybrid seeds that were developed to improve the yield, quality, and dependability of crops. However, along with these advantages, the opportunity to grow seeds at home was lost because hybrid seed must be grown under very special conditions not found in most home gardens.
Hybrid seeds result from crosses between parent plants that are unlike. These crosses bring together the desirable characteristics of the parents, and allow you to grow better quality vegetables. However, any seed you save from hybrid plants and grow the next season will produce plants and fruits that have unknown and usually unfavorable characteristics. If you want to grow hybrids, the only solution is to purchase new hybrid seeds each season.
Open pollinated from plants that cross with other kinds of plants
A number of vegetable crops, including corn, squash and melons, cross-pollinate in your garden. In order to grow genetically sound seed from these crops, you must plant them at a considerable distance from similar plants. The distance varies for different crops, but ranges from several hundred feet to a quarter of a mile. Saving seeds from this group of vegetables is likely to give you disappointing results, unless you enjoy growing odd vegetables.
Open pollinated from plants that do not cross with other kinds of plants
Examples are tomatoes (non-hybrids), peas, beans, peppers and eggplant. You may save satisfactory seed from these crops from one year to the next for several years. However, even with these crops, a little genetic change takes place from year to year, so it's a good idea to get new seed every three to four years.
- Author: Anne E Schellman
Spring Vegetable Gardening for Beginners on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 6:00-8:00 p.m. will teach you:
- How to find out your soil type
- How to prepare garden soil for planting
- Planting techniques for seeds and transplants
- How to care for vegetable plants
- How to grow vegetables in containers.
Sign up now to reserve your space and free vegetable seed packets. REGISTER HERE
Stay tuned for announcements about each class in your email inbox so you can be the first to sign up!
- Author: Ed Perry
When planning your spring garden, one of the first decisions you must make is whether to use those seeds you saved from last year. Are they still as viable as they were when you purchased them, or will you be better off simply buying a new supply?
The answer depends upon the conditions under which the seeds were stored, as well as the length of storage. The two most important environmental conditions in seed storage are temperature and humidity. You should store all seeds under cool and dry conditions. An airtight, sealed jar placed in your refrigerator is a good way to do this. Stored in this way, many vegetable seeds will retain almost “first year” germination and vigor for several seasons. If you can't refrigerate your seed, at least keep it as dry and cool as possible.
The length of time seed is stored is not as critical as the conditions under which it is stored, but all seed deteriorates with time. Older seeds tend to require a longer time to germinate, and the seedlings do not grow as rapidly. Delayed germination and slow growth can cause young plants to be more susceptible to insect damage and seedling diseases. A delay in germination and growth can also delay maturity of the crop.
It's a good idea to test old seed before you plant. Place a few between moist paper towels and leave them at room temperature. Some seed normally takes longer to sprout than others, but if fewer than half of the seeds sprout or if they take an exceptionally long time, it's best not to use them.
Saving seed doesn't always save you money. In fact, it's more likely that losses due to poor germination and reduced vigor will more than offset any money you save by not buying fresh seed. However, buying new seed won't make up for poor planning. Even new seed will fail to sprout if it is planted at the wrong time of the year. If the seeds of warm season vegetable crops are planted before the soil warms up enough, they will often rot. For instance, the minimum soil temperature for seed germination of cucumber, cantaloupe, okra, pumpkin, squash and watermelon is 60ºF. However, at this temperature, the seed will not grow vigorously. A better soil temperature for those crops would be between 65ºF and 75ºF. Many summer vegetables require even higher soil temperatures for best germination and growth. For example, the optimum soil temperature for beans, eggplant, pepper, tomato and corn is 85ºF. As you can see, it doesn't pay to rush your planting.
Seeds need the proper amount of moisture and air in the soil to sprout. If the seeds dry out, even for a few hours, they will die. After you water, air enters the spaces between the soil particles as the excess water drains out of the soil. Since clay soils have less air space, seeds can suffocate if the soil is kept too wet. Mixing organic matter into the soil where you plant improves the soil's drainage and increases the amount of air in the soil. This will also help to prevent soil crusting, another reason seedlings often fail to appear.
Excess salts in the soil can burn tender plant roots. Soils with poor drainage may accumulate excess salts. Too heavy an application of fertilizer can also damage seedlings, so carefully follow the directions on commercial fertilizer products. If you use manures, mix them into the soil at least 4 weeks before planting and water heavily to wash out the excess salts they may contain.
Ed Perry is the emeritus Environmental Horticultural Advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Stanislaus County.