- Author: Betty Victor
I do not know about anyone else, but one thing I have noticed since COVID this year is it seems like once a week, I get gardening catalogs. Catalogs I have not received before.
But I must admit they are interesting to look through and see all the beautiful pictures of the flowers, shrubs, and vegetables, a lot of old varieties but a lot of new ones-at least new to me. This made me wonder if the pictures are touched up like the ones you see in the food magazines. I say this because I saw a TV program that showed how the food magazines touch up some of the food to make it look so good.
But back to the catalogs, these are the catalogs I have received from out of state:
Territorial Seed Company, Burpee Seed, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Breck's.
Now-on to some of my favorite nurseries that I have been known to buy from. I am sure most of you know about the local nurseries in our area if not here is a short list:
Morningsun Herb Farm, 6137 Pleasant Valley Rd, Vacaville
Lemuria Nursery, 7820 Serpa Ln, Dixon
Mid-City Nursery, 3695 Broadway , American Canyon
El Rancho Nursery, 3098 Ellsworth Rd. Vacaville
Some of my favorite out of county nurseries are:
Annies Annuals, 740 Market Ave, Richmond
Talinis Nursery, 5601 Folsom Blvd , Sacramento
The Plant Foundry, 3500 Broadway Sacramento
And of course, High Hand Nursery, 3750 Taylor Rd, Loomis
The Petaluma Seed Bank, 110 Petaluma, Petaluma
Flowers by The Sea is an online-only, which specializes in salvias (sages), I have ordered from them and have been very satisfied. So, enjoy nursery shopping. I know I will.
- Author: Jenni Dodini
Well, after turning in my last blog, Jennifer (UCCE Master Gardener Program Coordinator) asked, "What scientific research did you find to support corks helping keep moisture in the soil?" There really wasn't any when I did my blog. I think that I got carried away by all the pictures. Then I focused on the wood mulch that is bad for the plants and how that was wrong. Then it really got to bothering me that I had not followed my own advice and "do your research," so after the fact, I went and did my research. This is what I found, and it was not that easy. I ended up on these sites: OrganicAuthority, Smithsonian, GardeningKnowHow, and Univ. of Washington/Elizabeth C. Miller Library/ Gardening Answers Knowledge Base. They were the only ones with actual information.
Quercus suber, or Oak cork tree, is primarily native to Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean.
The corks that we know come from the bark of the tree and as most barks, contain Suberin "which is a waxy, hydrophobic substance." As with other barks, it repels water rather than holding onto it. The inner tree wood does not contain Suberin. The average cork tree lives about 150 years and is of ecological importance to the animals and the financial livelihood of the people in the areas where it grows. The bark is stripped from the trees once every 9 to 12 years and takes that long to grow back. The stripping process does not harm the trees. The average tree produces about 100 lbs of cork per stripping. One ton of the bark yields about 100,000 corks! Cork takes a REALLY long time to decompose unless minced up. I couldn't find any information on any nutrition it provides though.
So, what was my take away here? The corks in the bottom of a pot will help promote drainage. Corks in the top of the pot or on the surface of the soil will help lock in moisture, the same as any other mulch. And, DON'T FORGET TO DO YOUR RESEARCH!
- Author: Kathleen Craig
With the recent rain and warmer weather, my thoughts turn to taking hikes in the wildflower-covered hills.
Keeping my Solano County favorites in mind, I took a look at what websites might give more information and was pleased to find lots of excellent pictures and information.
Here are the places where I have seen the most spectacular wildflower displays:
Rockville Hills Park: we once hiked this park and found a stunning hill that had sprouted an impressive carpet of blue Forget-Me-Nots under a centuries-old oak tree.
For more information and stunning photography, see:
Jepson Prairie: Not exactly spectacular, but very interesting! (Given the pandemic this might be something you put off until next year) We took an organized docent-led walk around vernal pools on the Jepson Prairie and saw many rare wildflowers. You might see plants such as Solano grass, dwarf Downingia, Meadowfoam, and Yellow Carpet. I highly recommend going with a docent, who will show you samples up close and give information about how delicate the prairie ecosystem actually is. For more information and an exhaustive list of plants to be viewed there check out:
- Author: Paula Pashby
I was doing some gardening the other day and saw a bumble bee buzzing around as if in a frenzy. I didn't think it was looking for nectar or pollen because it was buzzing near the ground in an area of our garden that does not have flowers.
My guess was that it was a bumblebee queen looking for a place to nest. So, in excitement, I pulled out a bumblebee nesting box that I was waiting for the right time to use and placed it in the area where she was hovering. This nesting box was built by UCCE Master Gardener-Solano, Tom Tucker, and was used as a display item for the many bee presentations that Tom has given in the area prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I did some research and confirmed that my guess was on the mark. According to the UC Davis Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the bumblebee queen mates and overwinters by herself usually in a small ground nest. The bumblebee queen then emerges when the temperature is warm enough, usually over 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the queen emerges, she looks for a place to nest and lay eggs.
The nesting box I used is shown in the photos at the end of this article. It is weathertight and made from preservative-free lumber with inside dimensions of approximately 7” x 7” x 7”. A tube has been inserted through a hole for an entrance and exit point for the bees. The design is fun as it has a transparent plastic top with a wooden cover that can be pulled off to take a look at the bumblebees without disturbing them.
The box is filled with pieces of string or soft bedding material like nonsynthetic upholsterer's cotton. I placed it in partial shade on top of an old tree stump for a charming addition to the garden. This type of nesting box can also be buried with the tube reaching above ground for entry.
To encourage the bumblebees into the garden, I grow flowers that they are attracted to, such as poppies, sweet peas, bluebells, wild lilac, and plenty of different varieties of salvia.
Many bee nesting boxes are available online and in stores. If you would like to build your own bee nesting box, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has an easy step-by-step fact sheet called ‘Nests for Native Bees' found at https://www.xerces.org/publications/fact-sheets/nests-for-native-bees. The fact sheet also has information on different types of nesting boxes for our many other native bees.
I am looking forward to seeing happy bumblebees taking up residency in my bumblebee nesting box and hopefully, I will have good photos to share on this blog topic.
- Author: Mike Gunther
Sun higher in sky
Spring blossoms; colorful hues
Bugs, pollen, allergies