Get ready for the 22nd Spring Garden Market, brought to you by the UCCE Master Gardener Program of Santa Clara County. The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 16 at History San Jose, 1650 Senter Road, San Jose.
Admission is free, parking is $6.
Again this year we will have a mind-boggling selection of 80 varieties tomatoes and more than 100 types of peppers, which is what we have become known for. There will also be hundreds of herbs, eggplants and ornamentals to choose from. New this year will be decorative succulent arrangements, all potted up and ready to go.
70+ Tomato Varieties
There will be more than 10,000 tomato plants this year, including the always popular Sun Sugar cherry, the classic Cherokee Purple. There also will be paste tomatoes, which are great for sauces and canning.
In order to extend your harvesting season as long as possible, opt for a few of the earliest fruiting -- ripe in 50 to 60 days -- and some of the tomatoes that take 90 to 100 days to ripen.
If you are growing in containers, look for determinate varieties that only grow to about 4 feet high.
90+ Pepper Varieties
If you love making salsa, try Jersey Devil or Opalka. Pair them with some new offerings from our "chili heads," including Sweet Sunset, an early fruiting, very sweet, Italian variety that is great for frying. It is compact, and it's good for containers, too.
Tunisian Baklouti is a hot pepper that is great for couscous and North African dishes. Etiuda is an orange bell from Baker Creek that produces a half-pound fruit.
Holy Moly is a mild pepper that turns chocolate brown when ripe. It is great for mole sauce.
If you love fire-breathing-hot, don't miss out on Bhut Jolokia Ghost and Trinidad Scorpion. For great habanero flavor with a little less heat, try Aji Amarillo, Bulgarian or Martin's Carrot.
Sweet pepper options include Corno di Toro, Romanian Gogosari and Cuollarici.
More vegetables and herbs
If you haven't tried growing your own eggplant, give it a go. Not only are they easy to grow, they are beautiful plants as well. There will be nine varieties to choose from, including Little Prince, Nadia, Rosa Bianca and Long Purple. They are great in stir fry dishes, hummus and even on pizza.
We will have 17 varieties of basil, including the prized Tulsi (Holy Basil) from India. Other herbs include oregano, thyme, lemongrass and stevia.
And ornamentals and succulents
Although we are known for our incredible edibles, we also offer more than 20 types of ornamental plants and flowers, including amaranth, cosmos, Rudbeckia and about 20 types of zinnia and 13 varieties of sunflowers.
In additional to the succulent pots, there will be dozens of succulents to choose from including aloe, aeonium, agave, echeveria and many more. Sampler packs will be available as well.
Although the plants are what might draw you to the sale, don't miss out on the educational talks. You can learn about drought-tolerant plants, growing tomatoes, embracing your clay soil, composing and gardening with pests.
There will be information booths featuring Martial Cottle Park, UC Davis All-Stars plants, native plants and the master gardener help desk, and garden-based activities for the kids. More than 40 vendors will offer food, arts and crafts, tools, clothing, chicken coops and, of course, plants, plants, plants.
This article first appeared in the April 3 issue of the San Jose Mercury News./h4>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h4>
We all know we're in a state of drought. The trick is to remember that even if we get enough rain to ease water restrictions, California is a summer-dry state. That means that it's naturally dry for long periods of time. I'm a fan of Saxon Holt's blog summer-dry.com. It's a great garden photography resource for learning about plants that thrive in summer dry conditions with limited amounts of water.
What does limited amounts of water mean? Start with an understanding of where you live (Morgan Hill is mostly in Sunset zone 14), your soil type, and sun/shade aspect. If you read summer-dry.com, plant water needs are defined as moderate (every 7-10 days), occasional (deep soaking every 3-4 weeks), and infrequent (deep soaking 1-2 times during hottest months). If you read about UC Davis Arboretum Allstars, plant water needs (for watering deeply during the dry season) are defined as moderate (once a week), low (every 2 weeks), and very low (once a month). As we move forward with the likelihood of continuing restrictions on the use of water in our gardens, choosing plants that thrive in summer dry conditions with limited water is a good investment. There is a big difference between watering established plants once a week and 1-2 times during the summer.
My favorite resources for inspiration and information include "Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates" published by EBMUD, "Landscape Plants for California Gardens" by Bob Perry, "California Native Plants for the Garden" by Bornstein/Fross/O'Brien, UC Arboretum All-Stars, and the recent Sunset Western Garden Collection. WUCOLS IV (Water Use Classification of Landscape Species) is a good resource that lists water use requirements. As you read about plant choices, you'll learn there are a number of different terms used, from drought tolerant, to water wise, to summer dry. They don't all mean exactly the same thing. Do your homework and understand what your plants need to thrive.
Here are some of my favorite summer-dry, medium-large size shrubs that are mostly low water users. They are on my ‘go-to' list for evergreen plants that add structure to the garden, always look good, work well with different garden styles, and they aren't temperamental if you play by their rules.
Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn' This Manzanita (3'-5' x 6') is an elegant, native choice. A. ‘Sentinel' (6'-8' x5') can be pruned up as a small tree. For something smaller, consider A. ‘John Dourley' (3' x 6'), A. ‘Emerald Carpet' (12”-18” x 3'-6') or A. ‘Carmel Sur' (12” x 6').
Rhamnus californica ‘Leatherleaf' If you're interested in creating a feast for bees, plant this native Coffeeberry (typically 5-6 x 5'-6'').
Rhaphiolepis umbellata ‘Minor' This is one of my favorites on the smaller side (3'-4'x3'-4' and can get taller), but as I was driving down Santa Teresa Boulevard this week (past Christopher High School) I remembered how much I like Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Clara' (3'-5' x 3'-5') for it's small white flowers and lovely round shape. Pittosporum tobira variegata A long time favorite, with grey green variegated leaves (5'-10' x 5'-10') and I love the scent when it's small, creamy white flowers bloom. For a smaller version, check out P. ‘Wheelers Dwarf' (2'-3' x 4'-5').
Get smart about choosing plants that thrive where you live and garden. To learn more about the range of options available, check out the following online resources:
waterwonk.us (easily searchable WUCOLS list)
Janet Enright is a UC Master Gardener of Santa Clara County, Bay-Friendly Qualified Landscape Professional, and QWEL (Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper) certified professional.
This article originally appeared in Morgan Hill Life./h4>/h4>
The UC Master Gardeners are creating a demonstration garden at the new Martial Cottle Park. UC Master Gardeners Pamela Roper, Nancy Creveling, and Elizabeth Evans wrote an article introducing us as a partner to the Martial Cottle community.
The following appeared in the Spring 2016 Martial Cottle Park Volunteer Newsletter. You can also view the newsletter on the Martial Cottle Park website.
At Martial Cottle Park the UC Master Gardener Program is primarily focused on training and demonstration in the following areas:
• Establishment and care of residential/home gardens and orchards
• Creating and maintaining the 4 acres of garden, orchard, and growing grounds
• Adaptability of vegetable cultivars for Santa Clara Valley's home gardens.
• Working landscapes with low-water requirements and native plant species
• Training on the recycling of compost
So what does this all mean? In simple terms at the UC Master Gardener parcel you will learn how to:
• Grow your own food sustainably
• Water-wise garden during a drought
• Enrich your soil by composting
• Garden for wildlife
• Create and maintain your own home orchard
Water-wise gardens offer plenty of color options, says gardening teacher
by Crystal Tai / Palo Alto Weekly
Water-wise gardens, popular during the drought, do not have to be a colorless compromise, according to Roberta Barnes, who teaches science-based gardening in Palo Alto. Planned right, they can be a great source of year-round blooms.
"Low-water plants from Australia usually bloom in winter," she said. "Then it's Mediterranean rosemary in late winter through early spring, naturalized tulips in spring, water-wise roses from late spring through summer, lavender in summer, California fuchsia in late summer through early fall, and correa from October all the way through next spring."
The seminar will cover how to design a water-saving garden with plants that bloom all year round and how to add low-water plants to a regular garden by hydro-zoning, the practice of clustering plants with similar water requirements in an effort to conserve water. The free presentation is part of a series sponsored by the Palo Alto Library and the nonprofit University of California Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County.
Water-smart gardening has already caught on in Palo Alto. Resident Jane Foglesong said she and her husband are adding native plants to their garden because they are attractive, require less water and chemical fertilizers, encourage beneficial insects and aid in the pollination of fruit trees.
"At present the native plants are integrated with other plants that need more regular watering, but over time we will add more natives, replacing those that need more water," Foglesong said.
To grow low-water plants, Barnes said it's best to start when the soil is damp, before the end of winter rains, which means there is still a little time left this year.
"One thing to keep in mind is that these plants still need a little water especially in their first year. 'Low water' doesn't mean no water," Barnes said.
As for how often one should water these natives, Barnes said, it varies from plant to plant.
Palo Alto resident Sue Luttner said her family changed their landscaping to eliminate the need for irrigation.
"When our first son was born in July of 1988 and I found myself with no time to shower, let alone water the yard, I let the lawn die," Luttner said. "We replaced it with native plants or plants native to similar climates."
Luttner called columbines and zauschneria "big winners" among the low-water plants at her house because they keep reseeding themselves. She also has plenty of herbs in her garden, including lavender and rosemary.
Palo Alto resident Pamela Chesavage said her family has a mix of natives and edibles in their front yard. The native plants needed very minimal hand watering after the initial installation and no additional water after the third year.
"I'd encourage folks to try to design their gardens themselves," Chesavage said. "Going to the class on the 18th would be a good start, but then I'd encourage folks to check out some books on California native plants, figure out which ones they like, measure their yards, and then start figuring out how to do the installation themselves."
Chesavage added that installation is by far the costliest part of changing a landscape, but it's not hard for amateurs to do.
Walking in the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden on Center Road in Palo Alto recently, Barnes passed by a variety of low-water plants: bell-shaped correa flowers in blush pink, periwinkle rosemary flowers, yellow coneflowers and coral-pink grevilleas. In the distance, a hardenbergia vine covered the fence with pinkish purple blooms.
"In my view, a water-wise garden is more interesting than a regular one," Barnes said. "It's amazing how low-water plants conserve water with either small or fuzzy leaves. It's also fascinating to observe the differences between regular and water-wise roses."
Gardeners who aim to save water don't have to replace their entire yards.
Callie Elliston, a master gardener who lives in Palo Alto, said her family replaced the lawns with native plants that only need water once a month. But they retained lemon, apple, persimmon and pineapple guava trees, along with blueberry bushes, for screening purposes and to save on re-landscaping costs.
"Now we have a glorious spring and enjoy a sustainable garden that provides shelter to native pollinators and small birds," she said.
Elliston added a plug for fellow master gardener Barnes' seminar: "Roberta is one of my favorite speakers -- an excellent teacher, knowledgeable, with a keen sense of design."
All seven photos by Veronica Weber can be seen here.
This article first appeared on the Palo Alto Online website, Friday, February 12, 2016. Reposted with permission./h4>/h3>
One of the best things about gardening in Santa Clara County is that, no matter how big your garden or how long you've been doing it, you get the sense that we're all in it together. A heat wave can wilt a single patio garden tomato as easily a 100-foot row of lettuce. Aphids don't care if you've been gardening for 30 years or just planted kale for the first time with your fingers crossed. They will find you! And so it goes with fruit trees when spring rolls around. Whether you have acres of orchards or a lone apricot in the backyard, it's time to start thinking about thinning your fruit.
If you aren't yet familiar with the concept of thinning fruit, here's a quick primer. Fruit thinning means removing excess fruit when they are between ½ inch and 1 inch in diameter. It is easiest to do this by hand, gently twisting the fruit or cutting it off with pruners. All stone fruit (peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, etc.) requires thinning. Apples and Asian and European pears do as well. There is usually no need to thin citrus, cherries, figs, persimmons, pomegranates or nuts. Stone fruit should be thinned to 2 to 4 inches apart on each branch. Peaches and nectarines should be thinned to 3 to 5 inches. When it comes to apples and pears, which produce fruit in clusters, you should thin fruit to no more than one or two of the largest fruit per cluster. You'll be up close and personal with your fruit when you do this, so take the opportunity to remove any damaged or disfigured fruit as well.
You'll be inclined to approach this task with a light hand, perhaps even feeling bad for that little fruit. After all, baby peaches are pretty cute. But leaving too much fruit on the tree will only create problems later. All those tiny peaches grow up to be big peaches, which can add a lot of weight to your carefully-pruned (it is, isn't it?) tree. Fruit trees typically set much more fruit than they can support which can be a drain on the tree's stored energy and even cause it to bear fruit every other year (alternate bearing cycle.) By thinning the fruit, you help to prevent these problems and maximize the size of the fruit you leave on the tree!
If this sounds like a lot of work, don't worry. Mother Nature is here to help. During “June drop” (which often happens in May around here) fruit and nut trees naturally thin themselves a bit. So there's nothing wrong with your apple tree if it sheds crop of immature fruit. And all your efforts will be rewarded when you finally take a bite of that ripe, juicy peach!
For more information:
Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees by C. Ingels, P.Geisel, M. Norton
This article first appeared in the April 2, 2016 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.