Sheltering fragile plants this winter
In the Bay Area we are also fond of some non-native but wonderful plants. Some are particularly susceptible to frost injuries. So this winter, as you reach for that big soft blanket folded up at the end of our couch, don't forget those beauties in your garden that need a little warming up as well. If you have citrus, bougainvillea, succulents, avocados, or fuchsias in your garden then I'm talking to you. And, unless you're willing to share your blanket (answer: no) then you should have a frost plan. An ounce of prevention for your plants will keep you warm and cozy on the couch. So, take a few minutes to prepare for the next time you find Jack Frost nipping at your rose (couldn't help it…and, side note, roses are very hardy and do not need protection):
- Water the ground around your plants thoroughly to moderate the soil temperature and protect the root zone.
- Wrap (non-LED) holiday lights around the branches of your shrubs and small trees. The small amount of heat they give off is often just enough to ward off the cold. And they're just so darn festive!
- If you haven't yet thrown out your Christmas tree, cut off the branches and pile them up at the base of your plants to keep them cozy. Any other spruce/pine boughs will do.
- Purchase floating row cover from a garden supply store or forage burlap sacks from your local coffee roaster. Wrap and/or drape either of them lightly over your plants. Then enjoy a cup of coffee.
- Bring potted succulents or other tender plants up on the porch where they can bask in the radiant heat of your house.
- Build an elaborate PVC or wood frame around your plants and drape plastic over them. No, on second thought, don't do this. Choose plants that are more suited for your area and you can avoid this all together!
And now, grab that blanket on the couch and sing with me…baby (kale) it's cold outside…
by UC Master Gardener Cayce Hill
This article first appeared in the January 20 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.
There are some great resources to help you do your homework when planning additions to your garden.
This is an ideal time to add California native plants. The California Native Plant Society has a resource, Calscape, that lists plants that are native specifically to your area. One of my favorites for (zip code) 95037 is Arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd. I love its reddish, crooked branches. At about 15' tall, in sun or shade, it's easy to fit into many gardens. Calscape also lists some annual wildflowers native to Morgan Hill. How about Baby Blue Eyes and Smooth Tidy Tips?
Santa Clara County Master Gardeners have a Waterwise Plant list that gives you great tips about which plants thrive in our area. You can choose based on plant type, and water and sun/shade requirements. They've done the testing for you, and the practical notes about growing conditions and watering are really helpful.
I'm renovating a garden with old oaks and here's what's on my list, that could easily be on your list, even if you don't have oaks. These are all typically easy to find in your local nursery. If you don't see them, they can order for you.
Arctostaphylos Howard McMinn – Howard McMinn manzanita is a native, medium sized (6' x 10') shrub that can be kept smaller by pruning. It is both drought and garden tolerant. I think it's quietly elegant and a graceful addition to any garden. It plays well with lots of other plants.
Correa Dusky Bells and Ivory Bells – I love Australian fuchsias and use them a lot. Dusky Bells is smaller (1' x 3'), with reddish pink flowers. I'm getting attached to Ivory Bells with its creamy white flowers and grey green, felt-like leaves. In the oak garden, it's planted next to A. Howard McMinn and underplanted with Stachys Helen von Stein, with its furry grey leaves, and they look great together.
This same planting bed under the oak includes Rubus pentalobus, a quiet, low dark green carpet, and iris Canyon Snow. There are lots of colors (purple, ochre, pale yellow, bronze) to choose from with our native iris, but I keep going back to the pure white charm of Canyon Snow.
Another area of this garden, includes drifts of Arctostaphylos Carmel Sur. Carmel Sur manzanita is my current favorite, low growing (1' x 4-6') native manzanita. It has glossy green leaves and grows relatively quickly. I'm also adding in Carpenteria californica Elizabeth as part of a mixed border.
When you're looking for inspiration and advice about great plants for your garden, make sure you also check out the UC Davis Arboretum All Stars plants list.
The horticultural staff of the UC Davis Arboretum have identified 100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don't need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden.
Use your local Master Gardeners for advice to grow by! Call our hotline Monday through Friday, 9:30-12:30 at 408-283-3105.
by UC Master Gardener Janet Enright
This article first appeared in the September 21 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.
No, wait, I didn't mean it like that. Well, yes it's true that I'm not a big fan of complaining. But I'm all about being resourceful. So your patio isn't big enough. Or maybe you just overplanted your spacious veggie beds. And just before snap pea season! Either way, there's still hope. Beyond saving space, growing veggies vertically has many advantages. In addition to using less square footage, plants grown vertically benefit from much better air circulation which can result in fewer pests and less disease.
I saw you look over at your big blank fence. Nothing going on there. You're thinking about it, aren't you? With sturdy 8- or 10-gauge wire and some eye hooks, you can get anything from grapes to blackberries to transform that otherwise strictly utilitarian space. Pick a wire size that is strong but flexible enough for your own hand strength. Feeling like putting down roots? That big strong arbor over your back deck looks pretty bare.
If wrangling with rolls of wire is not your thing, you can try hog panels. Also known as cattle panels or feedlot panels. No matter what you call them, don't let the uninspiring terms dissuade you. Attach a few of these 5' x 7' wire sections to your fence and watch the (insert skyward climbing plant here) take off! If properly secured, these panels will provide plenty of support for just about any plant. Or perhaps you're not looking for a permanent installation. In that case, a roll of garden twine will come in handy. Lightly tap in a few nails at the top and bottom of the fence, spaced six to twelve inches apart, then run regular old garden twine up and down between the two rows of nails. Beans, peas and cucumbers will grow skyward for easy harvesting.
If you garden in containers, there is no shortage of compact trellis options that will fit perfectly inside a pot. From fancy wrought iron to practical, inexpensive wooden lattice, your local nursery will have something for all your vertically-growing veggies. Or you can go minimalist with a few bamboo stakes and some twine.
From lightweight beans and peas to the heavyweight class (sorry, the Olympics are on after all) --wisteria, grapes, kiwi and climbing roses—growing plants vertically is a sure way to add height, color and even privacy to your garden.
So no more whining about your lack of space. Grow up already!
by UC Master Gardener Cayce Hill
This article first appeared in the August 16 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.
Take a look at your landscape. It looks peaceful and serene, doesn't it? The truth is, it's a battlefield. Each plant is fighting its neighbor for food, water and sunlight. Weeds, in particular, are survivors. Unlike many garden and landscape plants, weeds often thrive in any soil, with minimal water and limited food. They grow fast, shading out desirable plants, stealing water and nutrients as they grow. They tend to go to seed faster than everything else. Generally, weeds take away from the overall appearance and performance of a landscape.
So, what are weeds? Very often, weeds are the plants that survive after we try to kill them. They seem to thrive everywhere and they provide no benefit in the form of food or beauty. They can also create fire hazards that threaten life and property.
Sustainable Weed Control
Many people use herbicides to rid their yard of weeds because it is fast and easy. This is a short term view. Regularly applying herbicides to the same area can develop resistant varieties. This means the next weed generation cannot be killed with the same herbicide. Sooner or later, you will run out of herbicides to choose from. Herbicides can also threaten your landscape and garden plants through run-off and wind distribution. If chemical herbicides are used to eliminate weeds, it is extremely important that the correct herbicide is used, and that package directions are followed exactly.
Most weeds can be controlled by hand weeding, good garden design, mulching, and keeping garden plants healthy enough to defend themselves. A 4” layer of mulch can significantly reduce the number of weeds. Mulch also stabilizes soil temperature and reduces evaporation of irrigation water.
Good garden design incorporates proper site preparation for each plant, choosing plants suited to the Morgan Hill climate, and installing "smart" irrigation. In areas without plantings, porous ground covers, such as permeable pavers, can allow the soil below to breath and receive rain water. These practices work together to reduce weeds and to conserve water.
Watering a garden or landscape is necessary to keep it healthy. Smart irrigation means improving watering efficiency and distribution to ensure the water goes where it is needed and not to the weeds. Drip irrigation, “smart” irrigation controllers and rotor heads, and soaker hoses can significantly reduce water waste. Plants that use a lot of water during the summer, such as roses, can be watered with plastic jugs buried in the ground. Simply cut the bottom off a 1-liter plastic bottle. Dig a hole a little deeper than the bottle and fill the bottom 1-2” of the hole with gravel or rocks. Place the bottle so that only the small opening on top is above the soil line. When it is time to water, use a hose to fill the bottle. This prevents watering weeds and it gets the water to the root system, where it will provide the most benefit.
If a system is already in place, be sure to check for leaks. A leaky sprinkler system can drown precious plants, help weeds to thrive, and can even kill sections of soil. Putting water where it will do the most good, in a way that reduces evaporation and run-off, will ensure that Morgan Hill gardens will have the water they need.
You can learn more about weed management from UC IPM. You can also contact your UCCE Master Gardener Hotline by calling 408-282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday or submit questions online.
by UC Master Gardener Kate Russell
This article first appeared in the July 26 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.
Check out any of your local nurseries, and you'll find lots of choices right now for colorful perennials that bloom in summer. There are some great options for Morgan Hill gardens that are low water users once established.
Here are two resources to help you decide which plants will work best in your garden.
UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars includes 100 plants that are recommended by the horticultural staff of UC Davis Arboretum. They were selected because they thrive in California's Mediterranean climate and are tough, low-maintenance, and attractive for most of the year.
The UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County Water Wise Garden, located at the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, includes native and non-native ornamental plants that thrive in our summer-dry climate and clay soil without a lot of extra work. Many of the plants on the following list have been grown in the Water Wise Garden. Check out their favorite plants in the Drought Information section. You can learn about specific sun/shade requirements and other useful information to help make your plant selections.
Many varieties of African Daisy bloom during the summer. Some of my current favorites include Arctotis ‘Pumpkin Pie' for a bright orange pop, or Arctotis ‘Pink Sugar' with its pale, shell pink blooms. The soft grey leaves look good even when the plants are not in bloom.
There are a number of cultivars of the California native Epilobium, and all of them are hummingbird magnets. The Water Wise Garden is growing Epilobium ‘Select Matteole'; it's a compact grower and doesn't spread. In my own garden, I've planted Epilobium ‘Everett's Choice'.
Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP' is a very reliable, long-blooming California native. It was selected as a UC Davis All-Star because it does well in average garden conditions.
Mimulus is a California native with a wide range of colors including white, yellow, orange, red and maroon. Hummingbirds are frequent visitors. I'm a fan of Mimulus ‘Curious Orange', the yellow Mimulus ‘Pamela', and Mimulus bifidus ‘White'. There are many new cultivars on the market. It's tough to choose just one.
Red Hot Poker
Kniphofias are great for a vertical accent in the garden. I'm partial to the smaller varieties and am currently growing Kniphofia ‘Creamsicle', with orange and creamy yellow flower spikes.
Achillea ‘Moonshine' is a bright yellow, reliable mid-summer bloomer. Yarrow is a visited by both butterflies and beneficial insects, which is a great reason to plant it. California natives Achillea ‘Island Pink' or the white flowering Achillea ‘Sonoma Coast' are also good options.
Be smart about watering your new plants. At the water-wise demonstration garden, new plants are hand-watered once a week for the first year, then every two weeks the following year. Once plants are established (about three years), they are watered once every three weeks in late spring, summer and fall using a drip irrigation system.
Even in drought conditions, you can have a beautiful garden. UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County are your resource for learning how to do that. Check out our website for ongoing updates, attend our classes, and learn from and with us about how to help your garden thrive.
by UC Master Gardener Janet Enright
This article first appeared in the June 6 issue of the Morgan Hill Times./h4>