- Author: Susan Flaherty
Teepee Rolls are a new movement to make growing and cooking with mushrooms a fun experience!
I brought one home from Wisconsin's PBS Garden Expo this winter just to see if it really worked. I thought it might be a great project to do with kids in the future. (At the time toilet paper was easily accessible.)
Teepee rolls are made by soaking a roll of fresh, undyed, scent-free toilet paper in water and stuffing the center of the roll with mushroom spawn. The inoculated roll is then placed in a plastic bag and allowed to grow, thus beginning the conversion of paper to energy. Fresh air, combined with humidity is all that is needed to produce a tasty crop.
The roll is placed in an area that receives natural or artificial light, and maintained at temperature of 60-80°F. After a bit of experimenting I found that keeping the bag half closed and misting the inside twice a day to maintain humidity, worked best. The climate in the Owens Valley is dry and not known for growing mushrooms!
The mushroom babies (or pins) start as a cluster of what really does look like sewing pins, hence the name. As they grow, watch they don't get too dry. You will know if they take on a leathery and pale appearance or fail to develop fully.
Harvest the mushrooms at their base when the caps are the size of a 50 cent piece. Generally the stems of oyster mushrooms are not included in food preparation. I added my mushrooms to a marinara sauce and they were delicious.
After harvest, it is possible to initiate another flush or two, from the same teepee roll. This was a fun experiment and generated a lot of conversation.
You may order your supplies and/or the mushroom spawn from fieldforest.net or call (800)792-6220.* Unfortunately, you must provide the toilet paper.
*No endorsement implied. Link provided as a courtesy.
- Author: Jan Rhoades
It seems that everyone loves bees and thinks of them first thing when the topic is pollination and beneficial insects. Then, when the topic turns to wasps (and Yellowjackets) everyone changes their tune. To most people, wasps are mean, stinging attackers that can terrorize summer picnics. All of this is true, to a certain extent. That said, there is much more to know about wonderful wasps!
To start with, Aculeate wasps (those with stingers) came first. Bees are a branch of wasps that evolved to feed on pollen and nectar rather than caterpillars or flies. This transition was probably fairly smooth since many wasps visit flowers for nectar and prey items.
You are probably familiar with the paper wasps you find nesting under the eaves of your home. In addition, there are many other kinds of wasps. Some are specialists in the types of insect pests that they target, such as caterpillars or beetles. So if you want balance in your garden ecosystem and natural pest control, don't forget that wasps play a part. Here are some identifying factors and interesting facts:
Yellowjackets are 1⁄2 to 1 inch long with jagged bright yellow and black stripes. Their “waists” are barely visible. Unlike other common wasps, yellowjackets scavenge on human food. They nest in holes in the ground, inside wall cavities, or in hanging nests totally enclosed in gray paper with a single entrance. The western yellowjacket usually nests in the ground using an abandoned burrow, but occasionally nests in crawlspaces. Underground, the nest is a papery structure that provides a home and breeding area for the queen and contains cells where young are raised. Yellowjackets forage for a broad range of foods, but they often come into conflict with humans when they are attracted to meat, carbonated beverages, juices, desserts, deceased animals, and other food items.
Paper wasps have long slender waists, build paper nests with many open cells and are rarely aggressive. Paper wasps have long hind legs and a distinct constriction of the body between the thorax and abdomen. They are common in urban and suburban areas where they can build their papery nests under eaves of structures or in other protected locations. The benefits of wasps usually outweigh potential for harm unless a nest is in a high traffic area.
Mud daubers are dark-colored and thread-waisted. They build small, hard mud nests and rarely sting.
Paper wasps and yellowjackets are beneficial insects. They feed on caterpillars and other insects that could damage crops or ornamental plants in your garden. They also feed on house fly larvae.
Paper wasps aren't usually considered important pollinators, as they don't have pollen baskets or body hair that helps transport much pollen from plant to plant. For plants that require cross-pollination, like squash or melons, wasps aren't helpful. But for the many garden crops that largely self-pollinate, such as beans and tomatoes, wasps are a big help. The flowers of these plants still require “tripping,” a process that occurs when the stigma and anthers of a self-fertile flower make contact with each other due to a physical force from vibration (like wind) or, more efficiently, when an insect visits the flower. The tripping of bean flowers by visiting insects like wasps can increase bean yields .
As carnivores, wasps are not dependent on nectar like honeybees, but they do appear to enjoy a sweet drink. In fact, sophisticated “extrafloral nectaries” have evolved in some plants that encourage wasp visitation. These nectaries, commonly located on leaf petioles or near where they attach to plant stems, produce nectar that attracts wasps to protect the plant from pests. Considering that wasps are one of the most efficient predators of caterpillars in the garden, it is understandable that some plants have evolved to keep them around.
You might want to plant fava beans and cowpeas in your garden as they produce these extrafloral nectaries. Both of these plants attract not only wasps, but other beneficials as well, such as lady beetles and honeybees. Studies have shown that intercropping cowpeas with other crops reduces insect damage and is an effective integrated pest management (IPM) strategy.
This is the time of the year that wasps are re-emerging from winter hibernation and scouting for new nest sites. Unlike honeybees which produce stores of honey that see the entire colony through winter, it's only fertilized paper-wasp queens that live until the next year. These queens seek winter shelter in protected sites (such as your home), and then emerge in spring to find nest sites. If you find a wasp crawling inside your home this time of year, it is most likely a confused queen trying to find a way out. Rather than squashing her, help her find her way out, as they rarely sting without a nest to defend.
This is also the time of year that you can help wasps choose appropriate nesting sites. Their favorite nest sites will be under the eaves of your home, so consider leaving them there if not in a high traffic area. Paper wasps usually only sting to guard their nest or if they feel threatened by a human that is swatting madly at them, so give them room to feel safe. If you do not like the location that a wasp queen has chosen to begin building her nest, simply knock it down while the nest is small and new, without any defenders to protect it… she'll likely find another building site.
Most people don't want to have wasps living alongside them, but wasps are so beneficial for their pest control capabilities that, if you can possibly leave the nest alone, it is advisable to do so. If you discover a nest that needs to be removed, UC IPM has information about thier control. See this webpage for more information. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7450.html
Wasps spend their summers seeking out aphids, flies, caterpillars and other bugs - many of them pests - to feed to their larvae. Hundreds, or even thousands, of larvae can be produced each year in a paper wasp hive, so they get through a lot of bugs!
The best way to avoid being stung is to treat wasps with respect. Move calmly and deliberately, give them space to go about their business, and they will generally ignore you. If you are stung and have an extreme reaction get to the ER fast.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
In times of crisis and stress people often try to help each other out by passing along information they have gathered. This is a commendable act, usually done with the best of intentions. But with the proliferation of information sources available to us now, it is easy to pass incorrect information.
Even if one's intentions are good, it is possible to do harm by spreading misinformation. Please do due diligence in checking any information you wish to share with others to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date. Some of the information being spread online now is not only ineffective, it can be dangerous. (Do not consume bleach!)
These are some reliable sources of information about the COVID-19 virus.
- CDC's COVID-19 Main Page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
- California Dept. of Public Health (CDPH): https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx
- CDPH Press Releases: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/New-Release-2020.aspx
- Travel Guidance from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
- Social Distancing: https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/13/what-is-social-distancing/
- COVID-19 Tracking Map (Johns Hopkins): https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6
- Inyo County Public Health Dept: https://www.inyocounty.us/services/health-human-services/public-health-and-prevention-division
- Mono County Public Health Dept: https://monocovid19-monomammoth.hub.arcgis.com/
If you see a post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email that sounds especially intriguing, perhaps it's different than what you've been hearing, I recommend checking with the website snopes.com to see if it is a hoax. It's not infallible, but is a good test for hoaxes. An easy way to to this is to type part of the title or text of the post into Google and add the word snopes.com at the end.
Don't forget that gardening can be a relaxing way to enact social distancing!/h3>
- Author: Trina Tobey
Pruning Pomegranates is easy!
As a first year Master Gardener, I am learning fruit tree pruning hands-on for the first time. When it came to pruning my pomegranates, I had to dig a little deeper than my Master Gardener Handbook for information. So while I was doing my research, I thought it would be a good idea to type it up and share it on our blog. I took before and after shots of my two year old pomegranate that I pruned for the first time.
Did I do it right? You be the judge.
You will prune your pomegranate to remove tree parts that bear poor quality fruit, to encourage fruit production, and to allow good light penetration. You might also prune your pomegranate to maintain a certain shape for aesthetics or height for easy harvesting. Some people shape their pomegranates like a tree while others use pomegranates like a hedge. Like with any fruit tree, you need to remove dead and damaged wood annually. Pomegranates have thorns, so you will want to wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your skin.
Naturally, pomegranates are a multi-trunk shrub. However, they can be pruned into a single or mult-trunk tree. Either way, the number of trunks should be limited from three to six, otherwise fruit production may suffer. I left four on mine. Pruning your pomegranate into a tree form can mean risking fruit production if you live in an area that freezes like we do. So for high desert areas in Inyo and Mono counties, a shrub form works best. Pomegranates form fruit on second year wood, so be careful not to prune too much or you may end up with no fruit.
After planting, cut the pomegranate to 60-75 cm (24 to 30 in). In the first year after planting your pomegranate, you should remove suckers from the roots and trunks after your primary 3-6 trunks are established. Continue this practice at least annually or as they arise.
After the first year, you will prune your pomegranate during dormancy after the risk of frost has passed but before full bloom in the spring. In late dormancy of the year following planting, prune the branches by 1/3, remove crossing branches, and leave 3-5 shoots per branch.
After the third year, you will only need to prune your pomegranates lightly each year to encourage fruit production. Pruning your pomegranate heavily will reduce fruit production but you will want to prune heavily after a year with little growth in order to re-invigorate your pomegranate. If you have a year with little or no crop, prune lightly. You will want to prune more heavily on the tops because this is where the vegetative growth occurs. Open up the middle of the plant to allow light and air to reach the blooms, which will increase fruit set. Thinning shoots on the end of the branches will increase fruit size and quality on the remaining shoots.
So there you have it. Pruning a pomegranate takes less time and makes less of a mess than peeling and eating a pomegranate. Good luck!
For more information:
- Ferguson, L., Glozer, K., & Bell, M. (2008). Shaping Pomegranates. UC Davis. http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/datastore/391-575.pdf
- Wilson Bros Garden (2020). https://www.wilsonbrosgardens.com/how-to-prune-a-pomegranate-tree-or-bush.html.
- Growing Pomegranates in California (1980) UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Leaflet 2459.https://ucanr.edu/sites/Pomegranates/files/122804.pdf
- Author: Edie and Erich Warkentine
The garden is best known for its camellia, Japanese, and California native gardens. If you have children (or grandchildren) in tow, there is even a train ride to enjoy!
The tranquil Japanese garden is nestled among the camellias and has some beautiful koi ponds to enjoy. An interesting aspect of this garden is that it is located in a transition zone between urban and native habitats — hillsides dotted with oaks and California natives. I would recommend saving a visit to the California native garden for the spring or early summer, when the plants are in bloom.
Saving the best for the last, there is actually an art gallery at the top of a hill in the garden: the Sturt Haaga Gallery. This gallery contains revolving exhibits, but at the time we were visiting, there were several displays of particular interest to the gardener. (Several are shown on this page.)
The themes of the art on display were fruit and bees, tomatoes as fine art, and beehives — complete with bee sounds from deep inside the hive!
In another apple-themed display, a set of pictures by Los Angeles artist Jessica Rath documents her visit to Kazakhstan, the site of the original, wild apple forests from which all our domesticated apples originated. There is an ongoing effort to preserve the original forests, which are collocated with apple orchards in the area.
Less crowded than many other gardens in southern California, this garden can be well worth the effort to visit. Be sure to pop into the Dream House next to the gallery to see a well-stocked garden library as well.