- Author: Patricia Brantley
A Gardener once planted too fast,
Thinking that Spring had come at long last.
Others told her she shouldn't,
But stop herself she couldn't,
So Frozen Veggies she had in a flash!
- Author: Betsy BUXTON
Sometime back between the Napa-Sonoma fire and the recent fire which destroyed the town of Paradise in Butte County, I had an opportunity to attend a seminar, presented both by Fire Safe Sonoma and the Master Gardeners of Sonoma County, on protecting our homes against wildfires. Now, I can hear you now: “I live in a town, not out in woods!”; but the many people who lost their homes in Napa and Sonoma Counties, especially the people living in Santa Rosa thought the same thing. Listening to the various speakers, I realized I thought I knew everything, BUT knew nothing about the danger fire presents to those of us who live in a town.
It used to be that people lived in towns and cities which were separated from “the wilderness” miles away; most of the surrounding lands were not a forest, with large and small trees growing thickly together but separated by grassy lands. A lot of us in California now live in what is referred to as the WUI OR Woodland Urban Interface, that is, where the woods meet the houses. The trend for quite some time has been for people to move out farther and farther away from the large towns and cities to “quaint” areas where wildlife is often seen from the house windows. This means that your home is actually farther and farther away from large fire departments and closer to larger “fuel loads” (more unprimed and unkempt shrubs and trees that are dry and will burn extremely hot and fast). Did you know that even with a light breeze that a fire burning a grassy area will move faster than a man can run? Think about that fact: A FIRE WILL BURN AND MOVE THROUGH AN AREA FASTER THAN YOU CAN RUN!
What can we do to help save our homes at this time? Plenty!! You can start by taking a good hard look at your home and yard. Is there a “defensible” space between the planted areas of your yard – on all sides—meaning a cleared area with no plantings just empty space? If you have any trees in your yard, are there branches hanging over the roof or on it? What kind of trees are they? Eucalyptus and palms are the worst trees to have as they both go up like tiki torches in fires. The palm because their fronds are very flammable and they allow a fire to climb up them and act as “candles” to ignite other trees on fire. The Eucalyptus are almost worse as they hold on to their dry leaves and branches which burn hot and fast; these trees also have a lot to oil which helps them ignite quickly and easily. The reason not to have trees close to the house is that roof will not burn easily (if you have a wooden shake roof, then yeah, that roof will burn quickly) but that the wood trim on the house can (and will) catch fire and direct the fire up through the soffits and into your house! This then is Zone 1.
Zone 2 is the space around the home to watch make note of is what kind of siding you have. Wood siding will burn quite nicely, while the vinyl siding will melt and expose the inner walls to ignition. The vinyl will also release fumes as well. A stucco siding will keep fire at bay UNTIL, the soffits are breached allowing flames to reach rafters and the roof sheathing. Also, keep the roof clear of debris such as leaves, pine needles, and small pieces of branches which fall quite regularly (Zone 3). For even better roof protection (Zone 4) use Class A roofing materials for the best protection.
Zone 5 is the gutters and downspouts which, if full of debris, will allow those leaves, etc, to be ignited by wind-blown embers. If you use gutter covers, make sure the covers are non-combustible. Zone 6 is the fencing surrounding your home which can generate embers and cause direct flame contact to the house. Remember to use non-combustible fences and gates; this is hard in towns like Suisun which do NOT allow metal fencing like chain-link. A mini note here: you are concerned with YOUR fence, not the neighbors. Zone 7 is the vents under the eaves, and in certain areas, at the base of the foundation. Use 1/8” metal mesh to cover these to keep the embers out! Also “box in” open eaves to create a soffit eave area. Zone 8 is the windows which should be multi-pane, tempered glass windows, and close them if and when a fire is near the house. Zone 9 includes decks and other “outbuildings”, attached to the wall of the house or just against them. Don't store any combustibles on or under the deck and maintain defensible around it as well. Finally, Zone 10 which continues from the 5' defensible space in zone 1 and goes 100' around the entire property. Remove shrubs from under trees to prevent “candling” up into the trees, prune overhanging branches over the roof line, thin trees, and remove dead vegetation. Move trailers, RVs or build defensible space around these and storage sheds. We can't keep our homes safe and sound from everything, but we can make it a little harder for a fire to devour our homes!
Learn more at DisasterSafety.org/Wildfire. This was a presentation of the Master Gardeners of Sonoma County and was an eye-opening seminar!
- Author: Betty Victor
While trying to decide what to write this blog on, I glanced out my family room window and saw some of my violets still blooming, not as many as during December through January. The leaves that were few and far between in late October are growing as most of the violets die back.
Some of you might know these plants by its many common names, the botanical name is Viola odorata, Some of its common names are, garden, sweet, wood violet and of course common.
Several years ago, I brought home a very small container of violets from my parents home to remember their Vacaville garden. It was the “plants to grow" back then. Almost every garden had them. So this small container came with me to Fairfield. I didn't know much about gardening then, ( I am still learning, new things every day )but I soon learned it didn't take them long to move from the small container to a small patch of soil. Now they are all over, growing in cracks in the cement and clear across the yard from where they started from. YES, they are invasive, once they move in, they do not leave no matter how you try. You think you have removed all of them, then turn around guess what, they are back.
But there is a good side to them. In the winter, most of the leaves die back and the purple violets bloom. So they do add some color on a cold winter day. In the summer, they might have a few stray violets but not many, they mostly leaves then.
Oh yes, I took some back to the garden they came from, so now my granddaughter and her husband can enjoy plants from her great-grandparents yard.
- Author: Kathy Low
If you like growing unusual fruit trees, you may want to consider growing a Japanese Raisin (Hovenia dulcis) tree. The actual fruit produced by the tree is small (only about a ½ inch), hard, dry, brown and inedible. But the tree produces a multitude of edible fruit peduncles that swell up and turn reddish brown when “ripe.” Only measuring about a ¼ of an inch, their taste is often compared to a crunch raisin or a crunchy raisin with a pear like taste. The “raisin” can be snacked on fresh off the tree or dried for later consumption. The trees produce a copious amount of “raisins.”
In South Korea, Japanese raisins are often incorporated into beverages and sold as a hangover cure. The Japanese raisins contain dihydromyricetin, a compound that helps breakdown alcohol in the liver. Although a few studies have been conducted on rats, the use of Japanese raisins as a hangover cure currently lacks sufficient human scientific studies regarding its effectiveness for this purpose.
Hardy down to USDA zone 6, the Japanese raisin tree is a self-fertile deciduous tree. It grows from thirty to eighty feet tall. It grows best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. And although it grows in a wide variety of well-draining soils, it grows best in sandy loam. It prefers a soil pH of 6.0 – 7.8.
Trees begin to blossom after three to four years, but it can take up to ten years for the tree to begin producing ripe peduncles, or “raisins.”
- Author: Karen Metz
I took advantage of a sunny afternoon to get out in the backyard. Everything was still quite soggy from the recent rains. There were several chores to accomplish. The grapevine needed pruning. I wanted to gather flowers to make some arrangements for the house. There was also a call for frost that evening so I thought I'd better harvest the remaining tangerines off my small potted tree. The last chore for late afternoon/ early evening would be to spread my assortment of old sheets over my succulents and citrus to protect them.
While I was puttering around it struck me just how wonderful it was to be able to garden, outside, in February. The television reports of the last few weeks of the Midwest and East Coast suffering from horrendously cold storms that brought temperatures plunging far below zero had been mesmerizing. It almost seemed surreal to be outdoors surrounded by greenery.
I also realized that 2019 would mark thirty years of living in this house. I have enjoyed watching the landscape grow and evolve over the years, changing from a barren lot to a lush (okay, some would say, overgrown) environment. As a child, I was a military brat, moving every three years or so. Being in one spot has allowed me the experience of watching a tree grow from a skinny sapling to a mature shade-giving beauty. Our yard now welcomes birds, squirrels, amphibians and insects. A morning frequently starts with a squirrel floor show. An afternoon may include aerial demonstrations by dragonflies or hummingbirds. The garden and its inhabitants have brought so much pleasure into our lives.
Another joy of being out in the garden has been capturing that beauty with photography. The advent of smartphones with their built-in, simple to use, but powerful cameras have allowed even novices like me to take a decent picture. I thought I would share some of my favorites from the yard and garden this last year.
Stapelia is a striking plant, but other-worldly in appearance. This variety of eggplant demonstrates how the plant got its name. Orchid Cactus is always stunning in bloom. The brilliant color of iris makes up for their short bloom time.