- Author: Leslie Stevens
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Leslie Stevens UCCE Master Gardener
Planting area: Sunset zones 7-10, 12-14 and 18-21 (Note: mildew-resistant varieties also grow well in Zone 15)
Size: Varieties of single or multi-trunked trees run 25 – 30 feet tall and wide; shrubs 6 – 20 feet; and dwarfs from 3 – 6 feet.
Bloom season: Summer
Exposure: Full sun
Pruning Needs: Prune annually in late winter or early spring before buds appear to maintain an open center. Also nip off previous year's dried blooms to promote greater flowering in the summer.
Water needs: Low to moderate. Prefers infrequent deep soakings.
Snapshot: Crape Myrtles have been popular in southern states since they were introduced from China in the early 18th Century. They also are planted extensively throughout Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.
Their widespread popularity is well earned for several reasons. Crape Myrtles' modest size, well-behaved roots, and low water needs fit neatly into small yards, street medians and public spaces.
But they're loved for their beautiful smooth bark and stunning summer flower displays—pendulous clusters of purple, red, pink or white blooms that last for at least a month.
This deciduous tree also puts on a second spectacular show in late fall when its leaves turn shimmering shades of red, orange and yellow. Once the leaves have fallen, crape myrtles show off their marble-like bark in shades of tan or pink-tinged beige.
While crape myrtles are relatively problem free, they are susceptible to aphids. Also, if you are planting in areas with warm and moist climates, make sure to choose varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew and sooty mold.
- Author: Sara Arana
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Sarah Arana UCCE Master Food Preserver
I want to make homemade sourdough bread for the holidays, but it's so intimidating. How hard is it to make a sourdough starter? Evelyn B. San Luis Obispo
Think you can't bake sourdough at home? Think again! Sourdough bread is unique because it does not require commercial yeast to rise. It's made with a live fermented culture developed using flour and water, known as a starter. Sourdough is known for its characteristic flavor ranging from mild to strong, chewy texture, and a crisp crust. Nothing beats fresh bread right out of your oven. This might seem like an overwhelmingly detailed process. With practice, you may have enough confidence to experiment on your own. Try using different flours. Work a little less or a little more water into the dough. Let the dough sit a little longer, try fewer or more stretch and folds. Each adjustment will give you a slight variation in your bread. There is no good or bad here, just a beautiful loaf of homemade sourdough waiting for you.
NPR's Kitchen Window contributor, Sharon Vail, writes “Early settlers in the West, especially those adventurers who traveled north to Alaska, relied on sourdough to leaven bread before commercial baking powder and yeast were readily available. 'Sourdough' even became the nickname for California Klondike miners at the turn of the last century because they carried starter in their backpacks to make bread without having to find a town, let alone yeast. Vermont's King Arthur Flour offers a history of sourdough, including notes from the son of an Alaskan miner. The son writes that every miner's cabin had a ‘tin full of fermented dough, used in place of yeast in making bread, biscuits and flapjacks' hanging over the hot stove.” (www.npr.org) It seems sourdough starter has been a part of the American West's history and continues to be influential through to today!
It's important you have a starter established and fed before you make sourdough bread. Starter takes at least 48 hours but has better flavor the longer it develops. You can get complete instructions with a demonstration, tastings and recipes by attending our Simply Sourdough class to be held on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 10am-12pm at the UCCE Auditorium, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Class fee is $15. Pre-registration is required. Register: http://ucanr.edu/sourdough
- Author: Leonard Cicerello
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Leonard Cicerello UCCE Master Gardener
I have lousy soil, but I want to learn how to garden. Deb, Los Osos
The UC Master Gardeners Advice to Grow By workshop this month will be outstanding for beginning and experienced gardeners. Master Gardeners will cover the preparation of your planting site, no matter what you intend to plant.
The workshop will begin by discussing soil types and the characteristics of different soils. Each type of soil influences irrigation differently. Your fertilizing regimen will also differ with each type of soil. Since the microorganisms in your soil are important, you will learn how you to encourage and maintain them.
Most soils can be improved with amendments. Amendments typically consist of organic matter that's mix into the soil periodically. Amendments help to distribute water more evenly, stimulate root growth, and add to the overall health of your plants. As the amendments break down, we replenish them.
The workshop will also discuss composting, one of the most satisfying tasks in the garden. Compost pile are composed of garden waste, kitchen waste, and a little soil and water. Compost piles can be stored on the ground, in a large bin, or in a plastic barrel. Add some water and turn the pile. Mix everything well to distribute the heat that is created. The heat breaks everything down to create the magic compost.
The third portion of the workshop will focus on fertilizing, which involves soil testing for nutrient deficiencies and PH. Participants will learn about different fertilizers, and how and when to fertilize.
To learn more about soils, composting, amending, and fertilizing, join us at the UC Master Gardener Advice to Grow By workshop on Saturday, October 19 at the Garden of the Seven Sister, at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, 10:00 am to noon. We will meet in the auditorium. Garden docents will be available after the workshop until 1:00 p.m.
- Author: Jutta Thoerner
- Editor: Noni Todd
Wild Mock Orange
By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
Size of Shrub: 1-3 feet high, growth habit like a Lilac bush.
USDA hardy zone: 5-10
Bloom description and season: white, 2 inch showy and abundant flowers in March- May. Fragrant orange scent.
Pruning needs: after flowering for shaping as desired.
Exposure: part sun to partial shade.
Water needs: drought tolerant, but watering produces more flowers
When we bought our neighbors property in the fall, much of the landscape was stressed. Come spring, we were surprised by the explosion of white fragrant flowers from the Wild Mock Orange that, with some irrigation, spread quickly in all directions. Today, it is one of the showiest shrubs I have ever owned. The Wild Mock Orange is native to the northwestern USA. It does well in central oakwood lands and in pine forests. The name comes from its resemblance to flowers of an orange tree and, of course, from the lovely orange scent. Butterflies will flock to the bush during flowering. It adapts well to gardens, it's drought tolerant and in the hotter inland areas, it likes part sun and part shade. In coastal areas, full sun is best.
This plant is a fast grower, up to 24” per year. Prevent an out of control look by cutting back branches after bloom approximately 1/3 to 2/3 and cut all dead branches to the ground. Another way to keep this plant in check is to restrict water. The amount of growth and flowers can be directly traced back to how much it's watered. There are many different Mock Orange cultivars. For zone 2-8, check with your local nursery if you want to try a different cultivar than the wild Mock Orange. This is a wonderful background shrub, has no affinity for diseases and will delight you with its early and lasting flowers.
- Author: Andrea Peck
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Andrea Peck UCCE Master Gardener
Common Name of Plant: Zebra Plant
Scientific Name: Haworthiopsis attenuata
Planting Area: USDA Zone 11
Size: Up to 6”
Bloom Season: Summer
Exposure: Indirect bright light.
Pruning Needs: Pruning is not necessary
Water Needs: Grown outdoors, water weekly. Grown indoors, water monthly.
Snapshot: With deep green triangular-shaped leaves, and striking white stripes, the diminutive zebra plant is an eye-catching succulent. Relaxed and easy to care for, it fits seamlessly into a modern style décor. It grows up to a manageable 6 inches tall and spreads by little clusters or rosettes that grow solidly from the main plant. These clusters can be plucked to grow a new plant or allowed to spread out in a mounding horizontal direction. In mild climates Haworthiopsis grows outside. It does not tolerate frost so in colder areas (below 40 degrees), it is best kept in a pot outdoors during the warmer seasons and brought indoors when temperatures dip. This is a low-maintenance plant but in hot weather, it needs irrigation weekly. Be careful, however, as overwatering can be the death of H. attenuata. Particularly, be mindful of water inside the leaves---this plant is prone to rot because excess moisture does not drain easily.
Grown indoors, the zebra plant adds a touch of simple drama and requires less watering. Haworthiopsis blooms during the summer months. Flowers are white and tubular, growing on a long inflorescence. Originating, like its namesake, from South Africa, the zebra plant is best grown in bright, but indirect light. In nature, it thrives under the shade of rocks or other protective objects. Hot, direct sun may scorch the leaves. H. attenuata grows best in a loose, quick-draining soil with a pH in the range of 6.6 -7.5. Place your zebra plant in an area with good air-circulation. Use cactus fertilizer during the summer months for best results. Repot during the spring or summer months. H. attenuata grows at a snail's pace but once this appealing plant reproduces, you'll want to pull off a few to propagate and give to your friends.