- Author: Dustin Blakey
There is a lot of variety in the job of a farm advisor. Some days I'm working with water quality. Other times I answering tree questions. Today I had an insect to identify.
It took a little work, but the insects were banded ash borers.
- obvious yellow stripes
- a slender form
- long antennae
- sturdy legs
- Author: Trina Tobey
It's spring again! Time to start preparing your garden for planting. Read on for some tips to make this year's garden your most successful yet.
The first step in planning a garden is to select a site and amend the soil. Pick a site with good drainage, full sun, access to water, and low traffic. Leave walking room between rows. Never walk on the soil in your garden beds.
Prepare your soil three weeks before you plan to plant. Weed your garden and turn under any cover crops, if you grew any. You will want to loosen the soil 10-12” deep and break up big clods of soil to make it easy for the roots to grow. Do not till very dry or wet soil; soil should be dryish but still able to loosely clump with some effort. You can learn how to double dig your soil by watching the video on YouTube made by our own Master Gardeners: https://youtu.be/KHvgDUd0VS8 .
Next, you can mix in amendments if needed. Soils throughout most of Inyo and Mono Counties are derived from sources in the Sierra. Most soils in our area are well-drained, do not have accumulated salts, and have a good pH for growing plants. However, some communities in our area, such as Chalfant, have soil that is derived from other mountain sources producing alkaline soils that require amending with sulfur before planting. See our local soils page for more information about your local soil.: https://ucanr.edu/sites/newinyomonomg/Eastern_Sierra_Gardening/Soil/Your_Local_Soil_487/
Garden beds should be amended with compost annually. That is especially true here because our desert soils drain water excessively and hold few nutrients. Organic matter, such as compost, improves both the fertility and the texture of the soil. Inorganic fertilizers aim to feed plants and do not affect tilth or the holding capacity of soil. Mix 1-2” of compost or high-quality organic material into the top 4” of your soil with a hoe or a spade. If using manure, make sure it is fully composted. After mixing in the compost, water the bed evenly. Then, let it rest until planting.
If you have terrible soil, you can make raised beds and bring in external soil. Soil in raised beds should be composed of about ½ topsoil and ½ organic matter (mostly compost) by volume. No need to be exact! For more information on raised gardens, visit our website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/newinyomonomg/Eastern_Sierra_Gardening/Vegetables/Raised_Beds/
For best results, many plants require an additional fertilizer. The three primary nutrients plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Too much fertilizer can affect growth, so only add enough to meet the feeding needs of your plants so be sure to carefully follow directions for application.
Have an irrigation plan before planting. Soil needs to remain evenly moist during germination and throughout the growing season. Soil will dry out to a depth of a few inches in the sun. Below that, only plants can remove the moisture. Insert your finger into the soil to determine if the soil is moist or dry and adjust your watering accordingly. For water efficiency, irrigate at the base of the plants early in the morning or late in the evening. Drip irrigation is best. For information on irrigation, visit our website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/newinyomonomg/Eastern_Sierra_Gardening/Irrigation/
Remove weeds as they arise because they compete with your plants for resources. Usually, weeds can be easily controlled by pulling. If not, you can hoe or possibly use herbicides. Be extremely careful when spraying. Never spray when it is windy because most herbicides will kill your plants too. Always read the label and follow the directions when using herbicides. Most gardeners in our area are able to control their weeds with pulling and hoeing, however.
Now you are ready to plant!
Start warm season crops indoors six weeks before planting. You will want to plant as soon as possible for the longest growing season but after the danger of frost, since frost can kill your plants. As a general rule of thumb, transplant when the soil 4 inches deep is 60 degrees at 10 am.
In Bishop, the last frost occurs after May 5 50% of the time and after May 14 25% of the time. Most years the soil is warm enough to transplant well before the end of frost season.
If there is a frost after you plant, protect your plants by covering them. For more information on starting your vegetable garden, visit our website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/newinyomonomg/Eastern_Sierra_Gardening/Vegetables/Getting_Started/
Have fun with your new garden!
- Author: Sue Weis
As I was browsing through a seed catalog a couple of years ago, I found something I'd often eaten and enjoyed, but had never seen growing, sesame. Out of curiosity I ordered a packet of seeds.
A little history and other information
Sesame is one of the earliest oilseed plants to be cultivated. According to the University of Wisconsin's Alternative Field Crops Manual (AFCM) it has been grown for at least 4000 years, and the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center reports that production records are known from 1600 BC from the Tigris and Euphrates valleys. Because it can grow in more dry and hot conditions that many crops, it is now cultivated widely in Asia and Africa. Thomas Jefferson was very enthusiastic about the oil and tried it in test plots, but never had a good yield. It had been introduced into Georgia by enslaved Africans and Jefferson knew it as Benne.
Because the pods shattered easily, it could not be harvested by machinery until the 1950s when non-shattering varieties were developed. Most sesame products used in the US are imported from Asia or Africa, but some oilseed crops are now produced mostly in Texas and Oklahoma.
Sesame is used in many cuisines, as whole seeds, crushed seeds (tahini), meal or flour, or oil. The oil may be made from raw seeds which produces a light cooking oil or toasted seeds which produces a darker oil used more for flavoring. The oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and has a longer storage life than many oils because of an antioxidant component called sesamol. Sesame oil is also used in paints, soaps, and other non-food products.
My sesame growing experience
The seed packet said ‘Sesame, common', but the seeds weren't the ‘normal' white sesame seeds. These were black sesame seeds that are more often used in Asian cuisine. They arrived with a brochure that seems to have been designed for growing a field of plants, rather than a few in the garden. While researching this blog post I found that the AFCM has a very good Cultural Practices section for more information. Too bad I didn't find it before I planted. Maybe I will have to try again.
I planted them in a raised bed that is about 10 inches deep, in full sun. They germinated in late June, 2-3 weeks after planting. The directions suggested not irrigating much after they became established, but I decided those directions had been written for places with summer rain. Sesame doesn't do well in waterlogged soil according to the AFCM, so the soil must be well-drained. I hand watered them every day after observing that they weren't going to survive on Owens Valley rainfall. The plants didn't reach the height of 2-3 feet described in the brochure either. Most were about a foot tall.
Blooms appeared in August with flowers resembling those of a desert willow or a relative of snapdragons.
For people like me who like to know how this species fits into the taxonomic scheme, the scientific name is Sesamum indicum L. and they are in the family Pedaliaceae, which is in the Order Scrophulariales. This means that sesame is in the same taxonomic order as snapdragons and desert willows. Yay, Cal Poly botany program!
The flowers developed seed capsules (pods) that grew pressed close to the stems. The capsules turned brown and were ready to harvest in about a month. Each one held at least 20 seeds in four rows. I harvested about 20 plants and got about 1/3 cup of seeds.
If the pods were entirely dry, the seeds would pour out of the openings at the top of the capsules, but for some I had to crush the capsule, which made separating the seeds from the chaff much more work. Must work on my winnowing skills.
I've used the seeds in several recipes, and they are just as delicious as I'd hoped. So far my favorite is a recipe for sesame crusted fish that highlights the sesame flavor.
- Agricultural Marketing Research Center. https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/grains-oilseeds/sesame-profile
- The Jefferson Monticello. https://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/in-bloom/sesame
- University of Wisconsin Alternative Field Crop Manual
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Our local video crew has created an excellent video on the process of double digging a garden bed.
Double digging is essentially a process that breaks up a garden's subsoil. Our local soils that formed in a meadow often benefit from double digging. The more sandy soils on the alluvial fans don't need to be double dug. (But you do need to dig out the rocks!)
Hopefully you enjoy this video. Contact our helpline if you have gardening questions: email@example.com.
- Author: Harold McDonald
Yarrow is a plant that people have used for thousands of years. Indeed, Linnaeus, the father of plant taxonomy, gave yarrow the genus name Achillea after the great Greek warrior Achilles, who supposedly carried common yarrow with his army to treat battle wounds. It goes by many other common names, most of them related to its use on the battlefield: herbe militaris, knight's milfoil, staunchweed and soldier's woundwort (the latter from the US Civil War). Native American nations across the continent used yarrow for everything from toothaches to menstrual cramps. Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is found in every California habitat except the Mojave and Colorado Deserts; the Miwok used the plant as an analgesic and head cold remedy. Indeed, it would be hard to find a plant with such a long and varied history of uses, but my objective here is to focus on this often-overlooked plant simply as an ornamental!
Between the soil, the wind and the varmints, I have challenging growing conditions in my yard, to say the least. Yarrow is virtually pest-free—even deer and rabbits avoid it. It's pretty drought tolerant once established, and it prefers sandy, poor to average soil. Indeed, very fertile soil will cause too much top growth, and the leggy stems will flop over. In other words, it's just the plant for me!
Now, your past experience with yarrow may be different. Many yarrows spread by rhizomes, and in well-watered locations they can get out of control. But out here where even weeds don't prosper, I prefer my plants to be a bit aggressive! And if you choose the right yarrow and put it in the right location, you'll earn a lot of garden interest for almost no investment.
There are about 80 species of yarrow worldwide, but nearly all those found in nurseries come from just two of those species: Achillea millefolium and A filipendulina. Nearly everyone is familiar with the tall (2-3') yellow yarrows. ‘Coronation Gold,' ‘Moonshine,' and ‘Cloth of Gold' (my favorite) are three that are widely available. These are Achillea filipendulina hybrids and cultivars, and while they are hard to beat for a spectacular early season display, by July they are looking pretty bedraggled. I harvest many of the stems when they are first opening for dried flowers, and when the remainder start to fade, I cut them back to encourage a second bloom in fall. Best to place these vigorous growers near the back of the bed, because they're a bit drab after this shearing!
But beyond these most commonly seen cultivars, there is a whole world of tough, attractive yarrow to fit most anywhere in the garden. Woolly yarrow (Achillea tomentosa) is grown chiefly for its gray, fuzzy fern-like leaves. This spreader has yellow flowers and stays 6-12” high, the perfect plant for edging stones at the front of your beds. You can sometimes find this among the ground covers at local nurseries. ‘King Edward' (Achillea x lewisii) is similar, with beautiful butter-yellow flowers, but so far I've only been able to find it available one place online. Achillea ptarmica is unique, the flowers borne more singularly than the umbel typical of the genus. Some people use this more sophisticated yarrow as a substitute for baby's breath. Like many of the others listed here, you're not likely to come across plants in a nursery, but all yarrows are easy to grow from seed, so if you can wait a few years, you'll have plenty of flowers down the line.
Easier to find in nurseries, sometimes even in 6-packs, are intermediate-sized yarrows in all shades of pink, rose and cream colors. Most of these are cultivars of Achillea millefolium (common yarrow). I found ‘Paprika,' ‘Red Beauty,' ‘Island Pink' and ‘Summer Pastels' all in local nurseries this past summer, as well as a new dwarf cultivar of ‘Moonshine' and the russet tones of ‘Terra Cotta.' High Country Gardens is one of many places to find plants online, and if you're willing to grow your own, there are even more options available from places like Swallowtail Seeds.
I'm going big on yarrows this year! I planted seeds of ‘Colorado Mix,' ‘Summer Berries,' red, rose and white, and they all sprouted in less than a week, with germination rates of nearly 100%. Between the newcomers and all those I've already planted, I should have carefree blooms throughout the summer. And—since yarrows make great dried flowers—they will brighten the cool season.
Note: Links to sources in this article are provided as a convenience to the reader. No endorsement by UC Regents is implied or intended.