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UC Food and Agriculture Blogs

Mosquitoes in Garden Centers

Culex mosquito larvae. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)

This article was written for the UC IPM Retail Nursery and Garden Center News, a publication directed at retail nursery store employees. With the recent confirmed human West Nile virus deaths in California, it's important to understand how...

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 2:17 PM

Tips to prepare, plant, and grow a fall vegetable garden

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The transition of fall is upon us and gardeners are busy tending to late summer harvests, pruning back perennials, prepping for slower plant growth and more. But fall doesn't have to be all about wrapping up the growing season. In fact, life is sprouting and new garden plants are growing with the promise of fall, winter and early spring harvests. 

Are you looking to join the cool-season gardening craze? The UC Master Gardener Program has engaging workshops to  inform and inspire this fall. Bay Area residents can check out Growing Garlic and Onions in San Jose or Top 10 Vegetables for your Winter Garden in Campbell, both hosted by the UC Master Gardener Program of Santa Clara County. Another great resource is Saving the Harvest, a gardening and preserving guide and 2019 calendar created by the UC Master Gardener and UC Master Food Preserver Programs in Sacramento County. Check out the local offerings in your area at UC Master Gardener Program events.

An alternative from planting from seeds is to buy vegetables that have already been started at a local nursery.

Wherever you are in your gardening journey, here is a checklist of September activities for your garden:

Early September                 

  • Maintain your warm-season garden with regular checks and harvesting. Prune new growth, flowers and any small or very immature fruits from tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. This practice encourages the plants to put energy into ripening fruit that has already set.
  • Harvest and store seeds for next year's warm-season garden. To save and use seeds in the future, make sure you have a dry, cool location for seed storage. Don't forget to label and organize seeds to make preparation and planting easier in the spring.
  • Remove and compost plants that have reached the natural end of lives or fruitfulness. 
  • Enjoy regular harvest of late-season-bearing cane berries like raspberries and blackberries. Check vines regularly for ripe fruit and pick before the birds steal away the fruit.
  • Check and harvest edible landscape plants as well. Pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana, is a fantastic landscape shrub that has the added bonus of producing a tropical fruit. When pineapple guava fruit fall to the ground they are ripe, collect the fruits and wash, slice and eat the white fruit on the inside (like you would eat a kiwi).  

Late September

By the end of the month it's time to start planting a cool-season garden. Try radishes and lettuces for harvest in late fall. They mature quickly and pair beautifully with roasted vegetables, cheese and nuts for a harvest-themed dinner salad.  Broccoli and cauliflower are a great addition to your garden for winter harvest. Try roasting or making a creamy soup for a warm dinner on a cold night. Finally, onions and shallots are a must for your cool-season garden. They are slower to mature and will be ready for harvest in early spring to brighten your dishes and usher in a change in the seasons.

  • Plant radishes, turnips, beets, onions and kale from seed.
  • Pick up vegetable starts for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuces at your local garden center.  
  • Keep soil moist while young plants send roots out into your garden bed. 
  • Provide shade to cool-season vegetables if needed to protect them from hot afternoon sun.  
The UC Master Gardener Program has classes and events across the state to teach communities about about how to grow and harvest food from their home gardens and landscapes.

Connect with us

The UC Master Gardener volunteers are eager to help with all of your gardening needs. The UC Master Gardener Program can work with teachers and community volunteers to provide gardening information and consultation in the support of school gardens. With local programs based in more than 50 counties across California, there is sure to be a workshop or class near you. Visit our website to find your local UC Master Gardener Program, mg.ucanr.edu.

Missy Gable, Director of the UC Master Gardener Program shares tips for keeping a fall vegetable garden producing.
Missy Gable, Director of the UC Master Gardener Program shares tips for keeping a fall vegetable garden producing.

Missy Gable, Director of the UC Master Gardener Program shares tips for keeping a fall vegetable garden producing.

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 1:19 PM

Backyard Helpers

Adult mantis. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)

Praying mantids are well-known predators we often see lurking around gardens, landscapes, and sometimes near porch lights, waiting for a tasty meal to arrive. Praying mantid adults are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) long and are usually yellowish, green, or...

Adult mantis. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)
Adult mantis. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)

Adult mantis. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 11:23 AM

Leafhoppers on plants

Adult leafhopper. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)

You may see leafhoppers in your garden or landscape this time of year as they hop about feeding on a variety of plants. You can distinguish these small, wedge-shaped insects from other pests by their tendency to quickly jump or crawl rapidly sideways...

Adult leafhopper. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)
Adult leafhopper. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)

Adult leafhopper. (Credit: Jack Kelly Clark)

Posted on Monday, September 3, 2018 at 8:00 PM

Let them eat cherries: Planning a U-Pick operation on your farm

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Farmers work long hours under the open sky, struggling to finish each day's planting, cultivating, pruning or picking before the sun sets. It's hard sometimes to imagine, while engaged in this day-to-day pressure, but city people often welcome the chance to pay for an hour or two on that farm, especially if they can pick their own fresh fruit or vegetables. For many urban people, just getting out of town to a farm is a delicious pleasure.

Strawberries! - Pacific Star Gardens
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), a statewide program of UC ANR, has just published online a useful guide for farmers considering starting a U-Pick operation on a California farm. Planning a U-Pick Operation on Your California Farm can be downloaded free. The guide is part of a larger project, funded by the USDA's Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), called "Growing California Agritourism Communities." 

U-Pick farming has a long tradition. Fifty years ago it was common for families to spend an afternoon picking bushels of produce to take home for canning or drying or storing for use in the winter. As more women joined the workforce full-time, the practice of preserving food became less common and U-Pick farms shifted their focus.

Visiting a farm became an enjoyable family experience, designed to build lasting memories, often with an underlying goal for farm visitors of teaching children where their food comes from. With the current popularity of local food and culinary adventures, U-Pick farming operations are growing in popularity and attracting new customers.

Full sack of fresh beans - R. Kelley Farm
When customers pick their own, the farmer does not have to pick or pay someone else to pick, and doesn't have to sort, pack or truck the produce to market. They get retail price (or close to it), and get to see the happy faces of satisfied customers heading home from "their" farm.

However, U-Pick farming comes with risks. Customers need welcoming and caring for, and they tend to break branches, wander where they are asked not to, and not show up when the weather is bad, even if the crops are ripe and ready. Farmers considering a U-Pick operation need to understand their liability and food safety responsibilities, budget and set prices carefully, and train staff in customer service skills.

UC SAREP staff developed the guide with the help of several California U-Pick farm operators who were willing to share their experience and advice with other farmers. The guide also includes advice provided by farmers and Extension educators from other states. Topics include:

  • Crop Diversity and Packaging
  • Location and Layout
  • Communications and Promotion
  • Permitting and regulatory compliance
  • Financial Planning and Budgeting
  • Staffing considerations
  • Food safety & Risk Management
  • Pricing
  • Complementary products & attractions

After careful consideration, farmers may decide that a U-Pick operation is not for them, or they may decide to move forward with building lifelong connections with a community of grateful customers.

To find a farm to visit (including U-Pick farms) visit the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar, www.calagtour.org.

For more agritourism resources for farmers, visit the UC SAREP website, or contact Penny Leff, agritourism coordinator, paleff@ucdavis.edu

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 11:20 AM

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