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Elinor Teague

Welcome Elinor Teague

Elinor Teague
A note from Elinor Teague to the readers:  After writing gardening columns for the Fresno Bee for 18 years, it is a pleasure to be able to continue to offer readers gardening advice and tips here on the Fresno County Master Gardeners’ website. 

Catch her on KYNO for the "Master Gardener Minute" on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:40am, 1:40pm, and 5:40pm. 

Readers’ questions and comments are always welcome. 

Our Garden Helpline is working remotely by e-mail only.

 Questions? Send an email to mgfresno@ucanr.edu 

Including photos is helpful.  We are looking forward to hearing from you!


  • Planning for possible drought and heat spikes

    Feb 2, 2024

    As of the writing of this blog at the end of January, the Fresno/Clovis/Madera region has received only 2.79 inches of rain so far this water season, less that 25 percent of the yearly average of 11.01 inches. Unless the Central Valley receives heavy rainfall this spring, we will once again be experiencing severe drought conditions. NOAA scientists have recognized a correlation between drought periods and heat spikes. As the soil in the Valley dries out and warm dry air rises, high pressure domes form over our area, which causes temperatures to rise to extreme levels. We can anticipate that the Central Valley will also experience heat spikes along with the drought this year. 

    Our efforts to conserve water and also maintain the health and vigor of trees and plants in our gardens should begin in earnest this month.

    There are quite a few types of irrigation devices easily available to home gardeners. Lawn sprinklers include both overhead and pop-up types. Up to 60 percent of the water applied by overhead sprinklers can be lost to evaporation, runoff and overly deep irrigation. Using pop-up or ground level sprinklers can minimize water loss somewhat. During drought periods and especially during heat spikes, irrigation of lawn grasses should be stopped or at least reduced to a bare minimum. 

    Drip irrigation can reduce water usage by 50 percent. Systems include soaker hoses (also called porous pipe drip irrigation), pre-installed drip emitter lines, punch-in drip emitters and drip tapes. Soaker hoses are fairly pliable making them excellent for deep slow irrigation of trees and bushes when placed around the outer edges of the leaf canopies. Pre-installed drip emitter lines are less prone to clogging problems than other types of drip irrigation but the spacing of the emitters doesn't always match the spacing of the plants. They're very good for row plantings. Punch-in emitters can be adapted to irregular spacing in a garden which wastes less water. Drip tapes have pre-installed holes and can be buried a few inches deep in the soil, which reduces weed growth and water loss.  

    The amount of water and the irrigation pattern applied by emitters varies by emitter type. Choosing the right rate flow for each plant size and species and the best watering pattern is a very important part of irrigation design. 

    All types of irrigation systems should be on timers and those timers should be adjusted often to maintain soil moisture levels to the minimum needed to keep plants alive. When heat spikes are predicted, trees and plants should be deep irrigated before the spikes occur. Smart timers that are connected to the internet as well as local weather stations can be programmed and controlled by phone apps. Digital hose end timers can be programmed to turn on several times a day on a seven-day schedule with a rain mode option. There are simpler and cheaper hose end timer models as well. The old-school manually programmable timers as well as more advanced models that are wired to an electrical source are still available.


    California Agriculture magazine, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

    Garden irrigation, UC Master Gardener statewide program 

  • Winter in the Central Valley garden

    Jan 2, 2024

    A few observations on a rainy day when there's time to check on the winter garden.

    Many varieties of citrus and other fruit trees have set a bumper crop of small fruit this season. Alternate bearing or the setting of fewer fruit every other year or two is normal for fruiting trees, but this year's bounty of mini fruit is unusual. The cause could be last season's long, cool, wet spring weather that delayed blossom set and pollination. Or it could be that the immature heavy crop of fruit should have been thinned early. The fruit is juicy and sweet. Just remember that the best way to store citrus fruit is to leave it on the tree until it falls off.

    Rose leaves are still bright green and firmly attached to most bushes. Roses will set flowers all winter long if temperatures don't drop to freezing levels. In the Central Valley with its mild, short winters, rose lovers usually strip browning leaves from their bushes in mid-November to force dormancy by using water from a hose to blast off the dead and dying leaves. But you might need to hand strip green leaves from roses this winter. Do it after you've pruned to minimize the work.

    Weed seeds germinate quickly when the soil temperature warms above 50 degrees. That often happens during winter warm spells like those we had during December. As you are using a wiggle hoe to cut down tiny weeds, you'll notice that it's much easier to till of the soil in areas that have been kept covered with a three- to four-inch layer of mulch. Those of us who have begun spreading the fall leaves into planting beds instead of raking them up are seeing that the leaf mulch does reduce weed germination, but because we haven't had much rain yet this winter, the dry fall leaves have barely begun to decompose. Rake or blow the leaves to turn them and encourage faster decomposition.

Read Elinor's past articles