- Author: Ed Perry
- Editor: Anne Schellman
To have your soil analyzed, contact a commercial testing laboratory. For a list of soil laboratories located in Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno, and Merced Counties, visit https://cemerced.ucanr.edu/ClimateSmartAg/HSP/SoilTest/Soil_Testing_Laboratories_in_Fresno_Madera_Merced_and_Stanislaus_Counties/
For vegetable gardens, the application of a fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorus is usually all your soil will need to get your vegetables off to a strong start. Other nutrients like zinc or iron are sometimes deficient or unavailable in certain soils, but they are usually not applied unless plant deficiency symptoms appear.
Diagnosing a Plant Problem
Besides moisture, oxygen is also required in the soil for good root growth. Poorly drained soils often have little oxygen in them because excess water fills all the spaces between the soil particles. My advice to gardeners is to correct drainage problems first, then worry about fertilizers. Often problems with sick and dying plants are caused by overwatering or a lack of good soil drainage than by nutrient deficiencies.
If you have an unhealthy plant, gently dig near the root system and check soil moisture and drainage. Since plant roots need oxygen, roots may suffocate if excess water does not drain quickly. Unfavorable climatic conditions, including temperature extremes and drying winds can also affect plant growth, as well as insect pests and diseases. For small plants, pull up a plant or two and check to see if the roots are healthy.
The best way to keep soil healthy, especially in vegetable gardens is to add compost annually to improve soil health. For perennial crops like fruit trees, annual applications of fruit tree fertilizer in spring can be beneficial.
The UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardeners Can Help!
If you need help diagnosing a plant problem, take a plant sample to the UCCE office located at 3800 Cornucopia Way Ste A in Modesto. Master Gardeners are available on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon in person or by phone (209) 525-6802. You can drop off a sample anytime during business hours or fill out an online survey and attach photos using this link http://ucanr.edu/ask/ucmgstanislaus A Master Gardener will get back to you within 5 days of your request.
If you live in another county in California, you can find your local Master Gardener program by using this link https://mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs/
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./h4>/h4>/h4>
- Author: Terry Pellegrini
But wait! Did you know that cucumbers are actually fruits? Botanically speaking a fruit should have at least one seed and grow from the flower of the plant. Because of this definition cucumbers are classified as fruits because they contain tiny seeds in the middle and grow from the flower of the cucumber plant. While I will always consider it a veggie - as I do that other “fruit” the tomato – knowing its proper classification makes my inner Master Gardener very happy.
Growing cucumbers is relatively easy, although they do take some care. They need plenty of sunshine, loose and nutrient dense, slightly acid soil. Adding several inches of compost or aged manure into the soil, worked in to a depth of about 6 inches, is usually all it takes to make them happy. They do not like frost so plant your seeds after the threat of frost has passed – about March 20th here in the Central Valley. If you are planting a vining variety place your trellis first, before planting your seeds or transplants to avoid disturbing the roots of the plants later on. Also cucumbers HATE being watered by sprinklers (trust me, I learned this one the hard way). Water only at the base of the plant - I use a drip system that the cucumbers seem to love.
Bush varieties need a little extra care as the immature cucumbers can die or get slimy if they sit on wet soil or in water all day. A good layer of mulch around the base of the plant and then under the maturing leaves will keep your cukes out of harm's way.
Harvesting your cucumbers will vary in timing and size depending on the variety, but on average it takes between 55 and 70 days. Your seed packets or the information that accompanies your transplants should tell you when to pick your cucumbers. But no matter the variety, always clip off your cucumbers, don't pull off or twist them. This can damage your plants and may discourage it from producing more flowers and thereby less cucumbers. With care, your plants should give you several harvests, especially if your succession plant your cucumbers – planting one to two weeks apart.
Once harvested, the fun begins. Your cucumbers can be added salads, made into sandwiches, and can be eaten straight from the vine (yes, you can eat the skin – be certain to wash it first). I love to make fresh tzatziki sauce for dipping and of, course, pickles! Fermented or refrigerated, dill or sweet, a pickle made from those from your own garden are extra special.
We are excited to announce the UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener Program has started a YouTube Channel! Our goal is to bring you FREE gardening programming asked for by members of the community.
Our first video, Spring Container Vegetable Gardening was just posted. It was recorded on April 15, 2020. Master Gardener Rho Yare tells you everything you need to know about growing food in containers in spring.
Although spring is in full swing, there's still time to purchase vegetable transplants from a local garden or nursery. You can find tomato, pepper, eggplant, cucumber, and squash plants. There's still time to get seeds in the ground for melons, pumpkins, and beans.
We are planning for classes on vermicomposting (composting using worms), pollinators, fall container vegetable gardens, and possibly herbs. If you have a request, feel free to type it into the bottom of this article.
Transforming our classes from in-person to online has been a new challenge for us, but we are taking it in stride. Please let us know what you think about our classes by commenting or sending us an email at email@example.com
Watch our new video clicking on the link below. After watching the video, please share it with your gardening friends, and leave a comment telling us if you found it helpful.
- Author: Ed Perry
For gardeners the coming of winter means, among many other things, the beginning of the bare root planting season. Local nurseries will soon receive good supplies of bare root fruit and ornamental trees, roses, grapes, berries, and vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb. Unlike container plants, bare root plants are dug from the field when dormant and separated from the soil. This allows the nursery grower to ship plants at a lower cost and means a good saving for the buyer.
Since all the soil has been removed from the roots, take care to prevent them from drying out while you transport the tree or dig the planting hole. Never allow the plant roots to be exposed to sun and wind for more than just a few minutes. You can protect the roots for a few hours by placing them in a moist plastic bag or by covering them with wet newspaper or cloth. It's best to plant and water your bare root trees right away. If you need to delay planting for a day or more, you should “heel in” the plants. “Heeling in” is a method of protecting plant roots by placing the plants into a hole or shallow trench and covering the roots with moist soil, sand or sawdust.
You should consider trees, shrubs and other perennial plants to be long term investments. It's therefore worth the effort to pick the proper place for the plant. Fruit trees especially need full sun to produce properly, as well as room to grow. Most standard fruit trees can be planted 10 to 15 feet apart, or much closer if you are willing to spend time doing heavy pruning and careful training each year. Semi-dwarf fruit trees are good choices for a garden with limited space. It is not a good idea to plant a fruit tree in a lawn area, as the lawn's water requirements are not compatible with those of the tree. Fruit trees growing in lawns often grow poorly or are killed by shallow, frequent lawn irrigation.
Fruit trees prefer well drained soils at least 3 or 4 feet deep but will grow in shallower soils if you water carefully. Plant your tree when the soil is moist enough to dig easily. Do not plant in wet, sticky soil. The planting hole should be 2 to 3 times wider than the root spread, but only deep enough to plant the tree at the same level as it grew in the nursery. A tree planted in a deep hole will settle too much after watering. When this happens the tree is often attacked by a soil borne fungus disease where the soil contacts the trunk.
Before you plant the tree, carefully cut off broken or badly damaged roots with sharp pruning shears. Do not prune the roots to fit the hole. If necessary, put soil in the bottom of the hole so that the tree is slightly higher than the soil line. This will allow the tree to settle slightly without becoming buried. Using the same soil that came out of the hole, carefully cover the roots completely, then water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. You may want to complete the planting job by placing a mulch on the ground around the tree to help control weeds and conserve moisture.
For more information on care of your newly planted bare root fruit trees, berries, grapes, and roses, visit The California Backyard Orchard.
- Author: Anne E Schellman
The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardener Program is planning exciting courses for the public for spring, summer, and fall of 2019! Two classes are happening next month:
- April 11, Growing Herbs for Beginners
- April 29, Planting the Right Tree or Shrub for your Landscape Workshop
Summer & Fall Classes
- Pest Management in and Around the Landscape Class
- Fall Vegetable Gardening Class
- Gardening for Pollinators
- Low-Water Use Landscaping
- Vegetable Gardening for Absolute Beginners
- How to Save Vegetable Seeds
Signing up for Classes and Workshops
You can register for the Growing Herbs for Beginners Class now at http://ucanr.edu/herbs2019 or call Anne Schellman at (209) 525-6800 to reserve your space. Registration for Planting the Right Tree or Shrub for Your Landscape Workshop will cost $10 and is limited to 25 people. This post will be updated as classes are available for registration online.
Follow us on Facebook or twitter for announcements about class @ucmgstanislaus. You can also visit our Classes and Workshops page for updates. https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Classes/
Links to Helpful Pages
Who are the UCCE Master Gardeners? https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/
How do I apply for the Program? https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Become_a_UCCE_MG/