- Author: Jamie Brancazio
Our family loves a farmers market. My toddler loves picking out produce, bread, and snacks she can eat immediately, and my partner and I love discovering new fruits and veggies. This past spring at the farmers market we discovered garlic scapes and green garlic, and we've had them on the brain since.
Enter: the Great Garlic Experiment of 23/24
To be able to harvest both garlic scapes and green garlic, we quickly learned that we would need to plant both hardneck and softneck varieties. Both varieties are planted in late fall in our region, and in the spring, hardneck garlic varieties sprout delicious garlic scapes for harvest. Green garlic is harvested in the spring when farmers thin their softneck variety garlic fields. This year I'll be experimenting with California softneck garlic and Siberian hardneck garlic.
The next challenge will be selecting a garden bed. While we'll be planting in late fall (4-6 weeks before first frost), we won't be harvesting the mature garlic until next summer. I'll have both my winter and spring gardens in that time, so I want to choose a bed I'm ok to dedicate for that long.
In a few weeks, we'll be readying our garden bed to plant those garlic cloves scab side down and pointy side up to launch our first garlic experiment. Fingers-crossed, and we'll keep you updated!
- Author: Betsy Buxton
At the Farmers' Market in Vallejo, I hear the title of this blog a lot. Usually that comment is followed by “Wow, you know a lot!” The simple answer to that is no, I don't know a lot; but I usually can find out where to look for the answers to plant question puzzles. It's really very easy – anyone can do it – by looking on-line for answers OR by looking in books.
I've been told that I have a number of books in the tub at my feet – 10 to be exact – and I use them often. Question about plant diseases: the questions come back as to whether the ailing plant is a veggie, ornamental, or a tree. By paring the question down to particulars, the book selected will be the edibles book, diseases of ornamentals, or about small farms and orchards. If I can't find an answer for the asker, I can then point them in the direction to the UC Davis/UCANR websites which are arranged into various categories according to the problem and the plant.
You can do the same thing at home using various nurseries' websites. My favorites that I follow are Peaceful Valley, Green Acres, and our own local Midcity Nursery in American Canyon. They want to sell their merchandise and plants, sure, BUT their FREE (!!) blogs are loaded with information about growing and planting. There are others from out of state such as Plant Delights Nursery on the East Coast, Bluestone Nursery, and, slightly north of us, Digging Dog Nursery. I find Digging Dog quite helpful for planting for shady, drier areas and drought resistant plants.
Now, that I've suggested those, 2 of the websites, I love (and don't try to sell you stuff) are The Garden Professors and Horticulture on line. These offer fabulous gardening techniques, information by folks with Dr. and PhD., after their names with is down-loadable and is based on scientific, as opposed to blog by a person who loves to garden and is merely tossing out “words of wisdom” from hearsay.
Just last week, I copied out a 12-page blog about plant fungal diseases and then asked the author if I could share it at the Master Gardener booth. I received back a lovely thanks from the author for sharing the information.
Remember, all the information is free and available to you; just remember read any formation thoroughly and check in other places to make sure that it is based on science – your plants depend on you to stay healthy!
- Author: Kathy Low
If you live in water-conscience California, you probably love succulents because of their ability to retain water. Plus they come in all shapes, sizes, textures and colors. Most people buy succulents based upon their current appearance, i.e. taking into consideration the shape, size, and color they prefer for the space in which they are to be planted. But few people consider the succulent blossoms when purchasing.
I know I propagate and grow several more of the succulents whose blossoms I enjoy. I like propagating and growing lots of an heirloom Hens and Chicks (Sempervivvum) succulent I have because the blossoms attract hummingbirds. I also like growing Rock Purslane (Calandrinia spectabilis), because of their delicate eye catching pinkish magenta flowers.
Succulents generally blossom in the spring and/or summer. It's true that not all succulents will blossom, although all have the ability to do so. The two most common reasons that succulents may not blossom are the age of the plant (some will blossom only after they are a certain number of years old), and their current environmental conditions in they are growing are a main reason why many do not blossom.
Also, you should be aware that there are monocarpic succulents, also known as Death Bloom succulents. These are succulents that naturally die after blossoming.
If your succulents aren't blossoming, there are some ways to encourage blossoming. This includes making sure you're not withholding water and therefore stressing out the plant, making sure the succulent gets enough sun, and feeding the succulent a high phosphorous food monthly. Basically a healthy succulent is more likely to blossom that one that's stressed out.
- Author: Maureen Clark
Many years ago, back in 2007 I wrote a blog about the Hammerhead Worm Bipalium species. This pest seems to have reared its unusual head again. Most of the time people don't even see it, but it's there lurking in the garden.
The Bipalium species is a “hammerhead worm” or “broadhead planarians”. It is usually found in areas with heat, high humidity and with a lot of rain. They are usually seen in cool, dark, moist areas. It favors a moist habitat and is usually found near outdoor water faucets, or where the soil remains wet. They are carnivores and can be cannibalistic. They usually move and feed at night.
They originate from Southeast Asia. They have been found commonly in American greenhouses since 1901. The species was discovered in 1878 in the greenhouses of Kew Gardens near London, hence its scientific name, Bipalium kewense. More and more people are finding the Bipalium adventitium the past few years, due to warmer temperatures, thus allowing it to reproduce throughout the U.S.
They belong to a very primitive class of animals. This land planarian is flat, slender and brown, with longitudinal stripes; it can be large, and over a foot in length. The head is shovel-shaped (wider than body) and there are numerous minute eyes along its edge.
There are four different species of these Bipalium flatworm currently found in the US. Three eat only earthworms; one eats snails and slugs. Bipalium kewense is found across the southern states and may get over 10 inches. It has five dark stripes along the back including a thin middle stripe. Bipalium adventitium is found across the northern states, and is 4 -12 inches long. It has one narrow dark stripe on the back. Bipalium vagum is the mollusk eater now found in the southeastern US. It has three thick dark stripes, a dark neck collar, and two dark head spots.
Hammerhead worms have a sticky goo on their skin and secret a neurotoxin that is toxic and used to paralyze it's prey before they eat them. This neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. It does have the potential to harm people and animals, especially if digested. Use gloves if you see them and want to handle them.
Their bodies are very easily damaged. The flat worms will reproduce by division if cut, swashed or broken. Reproduction is principally by fragmentation at the posterior end. Lateral margins pinch in about 1 cm from the tail tip. Severance occurs when the posterior fragment adheres to the substrate and the parent worm pulls away. The posterior fragment is motile immediately, and within seven to 10 days a lightly pigmented head begins to form.
They have been reported to be a pest in earthworm beds. There are no known forms of pest management. They are not known for spreading diseases. One way to deal with them, is to take them out of your garden using gloves and put them in a container and pour some salt on them./span>
- Author: Paula Pashby
I recently wrote an article about a “Viceroy” butterfly visiting our garden. When I first spotted that beauty on our Butterfly Bush Buddleja, I originally thought it was a Monarch butterfly. After doing some research, I discovered that it was the look-alike Viceroy. The Viceroy is a joy to see, but I am always hoping that the endangered Monarch returns in greater numbers.
The other day we were enjoying the garden and thought we saw another Viceroy butterfly. It landed on the Butterfly Bush a few inches from where I was standing. I thought it was lovely to be so close to the butterfly and then realized – hey, this one does not have that black-line marking across the bottom wings that are found on Viceroys. This is a Monarch in our garden!
I was a bit confused since I read that Monarchs need the Milkweed Asclepias plant for their survival. So back to research again to learn more about this butterfly.
According to a UC Davis article by Kathy Keatley Garvey, “Three-Year Study Gives Insight into Monarchs and Milkweed” https://www.ucdavis.edu/blog/three-year-study-gives-insight-monarchs-and-milkweed, the Milkweed is the only plant that Monarchs lay their eggs on, and is crucial for the larvae survival. However, the mature Monarch can harvest nectar, as a food source, from a wide variety of plants, including our Butterfly Bush.
I was so inspired by seeing this Monarch butterfly that I have decided to now grow some Milkweed with the hope that they will come and lay eggs next year. If you would like to grow Milkweed in your garden, there are many varieties available from some of our local nurseries. I read that the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, and the Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis do really well in our area. Keep in mind that Milkweed can be invasive, so it is best to keep them contained in pots when possible.
The Master Gardener website lists plant sales that offer many choices of California native plants, including Milkweed. Check this the website to see information on upcoming sales: https://solanomg.ucanr.edu/. Also, check the California Native Plant Society (https://www.cnps.org/) as they periodically have plant sales that include Milkweed.
I hope you decide to plant some Milkweed; we can collectively help to support our Monarch butterflies!