master gardener

Master Gardener tips, 2006-12

UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County
Tips and Happenings

This month is good for giving yourself a little rest from the garden
and enjoying the holiday season. There's not a lot of rapid growth
occurring at this time, so nature's giving us a little break. Take
advantage if you can.

We've already had a few frosty nights and the upper leaves of my
pepper plants are brown. On cool clear nights, go spend a few minutes
before bedtime protecting your sensitive plants. Containers can be
moved under the eaves or indoors, and other plants can be covered
with something like an old sheet. If you use plastic sheeting, make
sure that it is not in direct contact with the foliage. Uncover
plants during the day to give them fresh air and sunshine. It's best
to wait until spring to prune out any damaged foliage so as not to
expose new areas to frost damage.

If you haven't already turned off your automatic lawn sprinkler
system, you can do so now. With the winter rains, regular watering
isn't necessary. We've probably all seen sprinklers operating while
it's raining and thought about the wasting of water. If we have a
long spell without rain or your lawn starts to look stressed, the
sprinklers can be run for an individual session.

Speaking of using water wisely, take the lid off your compost bin for
a few hours while it's raining. Your compost pile should have the
moistness of a wrung out sponge, and why not water it from the sky
instead of from the hose.

Try not to mow or generally walk over the ground if it's very wet to
avoid compacting the soil. Your plants' roots need oxygen, nutrients,
and space to grow.

Autumn leaves are still falling, so keep on top of the cleanup so as
not to harbor overwintering pests. The leaves make great "brown"
material for your compost pile.

We're coming into peak citrus season, and we know just what to do
with all your fruit. Pick up a copy of our newly revised "Crazy for
Citrus" cookbook in our hotline office at 1555 Berger Drive in San
Jose. Our very own Master Gardeners developed and tested many recipes
in the categories of Drinks, Soups & Starters, Salads, Mains & Sides,
Quick Breads, Sauces, Marinades & Relishes and Desserts. The book
includes many tips for growing and preparing citrus. The $15.00 price
includes tax. While picking up a copy for yourself, be sure to
remember those on your Christmas list.

If you're still harvesting this year's chile crop, there's another
way to dry chiles in addition to the standard practices of spreading
them out on trays or screens in a warm dry place. You can hang the
entire plant upside down to dry. Our farm advisor said that can
contribute to higher carbohydrates in the fruit. I currently have a
Thai chile plant with about 250 bright red chiles hanging upside down
in my dining room, roots and all. The red and green colors make it
double as a Christmas decoration.

You can sign up now for the next series of classes at Campbell Adult
Ed, "Back to Basics and Beyond". The class meets six Tuesday
evenings, January 23 - February 27 and will cover soil preparation,
composting, mulching, weed control, pest management, watering,
fertilizing, propagation and basic garden design. The fee is $ 60 and
registration is directly through the Campbell Community Center at

"Healthier Plants. Healthier Environment. Healthier Gardeners.
Healthier Community"

Soon to be a Master Gardener


Mid-September, I attended the introduction meeting for the Master Gardeners program of Santa Clara County. I've been gardening in the back yard ever since Chris Doyle tore up the concrete and I dumped 12 cubic yards of compost on the spot five years ago, and container gardening for years and years before that. Mom had a lot to do with my green thumbs, though I'm sure she takes no credit for the bitter zucchini incident.

Speaking of bitter zucchini, during my MG interview, which is part of the application process, I mentioned I heard of the MG program through the local co-op, which I contacted at Mom's suggestion when I had the bitter zucchini in the yard. One of the women interviewing turned to me and asked me when the incident happened. When I answered two summers ago, she grinned in delight, then exclaimed I was famous, everyone knew the bitter zucchini story in the office. Everyone!

Great! Not the way I really want to be famous, but I guess it's better than, say, Mrs. Smith going in and saying, yeah, she's the one who was poisoned by the bitter zucchini.

After finally processing that ginormous stack of mail, I found the envelope with the letter of acceptance into the program. I'm very excited. I'll finally learn the "right" way to plant a garden and (my trees will like this) prune a tree.

Megan asked if she needs to address me as Master now. I giggled and said no, but I get to put an "M.G." after my name when I'm done.

Master Gardening

Book page

Master Gardening resources

Master Gardeners introduction


Choices can sometimes be funny things. You make the best choice you can at any given moment, weighing all the options and possible outcomes, and choose. Sometimes the choices can be hard, sometimes they can be easy, but it seems like you always need to make a choice. As the Rush song goes, "Even if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

Take today, for instance.

Today was the second of two introductory meetings for the Santa Clara County Master Gardeners program. The program accepts around 65 applicants every two years, from around 150 applicants. Attendance at one of the two meetings is mandatory, so I had to choose between attending last Friday's morning meeting at 10 am or this afternoon at 1:00 pm.

Last week, Mike was stressed about a project and the timing of some house inspections, so said going to the Friday morning meeting would be less desirable than today's Tuesday afternoon meeting. Okay, no problem.

Until flights were cancelled, inspections postponed, project delayed and work wasn't done. Push came to shove and, what do you know, the Friday morning demo that prevented me from going to the first intro meeting is scheduled for this afternoon. What? I'm still going to the meeting?

On the drive over to the meeting, I couldn't help but think that the choices for immediate gratification are so often not the best choices to make. The worry of the moment became a non-worry as the demo was postponed.

Perhaps it would be better to schedule the inflexible events that can't/won't change than to try to hit a moving target. But, even then which choice is better is unclear because each one happens during a local stress maximum.

The only thought I could think was, the best choice would be to do what needs to be done, as soon as it can be done, instead of postponing it.

How many times during school would I have benefitted from that advice? The answer would surely boggle the mind.

Master Gardener tips, September 2006

Master Gardener Tips & Happenings - September 2006

We've been busy working in our gardens instead of sitting at the computer
writing monthly tips. We hope you’ve been enjoying your gardens too.

If you're reading this, you survived this summer's unusual heat wave.
Perhaps you've had some casualties in your gardens. Sunburned fruit and
crispy leaves were immediate results, and other effects can take awhile to
show up. A stressed plant often doesn't show symptoms until weeks later. As
common as drying out, many plants were probably overwatered as the
naturally tendency during heat is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Our clay
soils tend to hold water well and can easily get waterlogged below the
surface, leading to root rot and ultimately the demise of plants. An
inexpensive ($5-$8) water meter purchased from a nursery can easily tell
you the moisture level below the surface.

Most trees (not native oaks) benefit from some summer watering - between
bi-weekly and bi-monthly, depending on the age of the tree and the extent
of the root system. They usually prefer to be watered deeply and
infrequently. Lawn sprinklers tend to keep the water in the top few inches,
never reaching the deeper tree roots.

Keep harvesting your vegetables so that the plants will keep producing. An
annual plant's main purpose is to reproduce itself, and once it has
completed its mission it can stop putting out so much energy. If you keep
harvesting before seeds mature, it will keep trying to produce for as long
as conditions permit. It will eventually stop producing when it no longer
has sufficient temperatures or daylight hours, but production can be
maximized during peak season by regular harvesting.

We're fortunate to have a great climate for growing vegetables year-round!
It's time to start getting your cool season vegetables in. There’s still
time to start carrots, beets, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce,
spinach, and other greens from seeds or transplants. If there's room in the
garden they can be planted directly while the soil's still warm. Or they
can be started in containers for transplanting after the summer crops are
taken out and when they're strong enough to resist the pests that feed on
young tender growth. And don't forget the peas!

Now is the right time to prune apricots. While most fruit trees get pruned
during the dormant season, apricots can succumb to a disease called Eutypa
dieback if they have open cuts when it rains. More information on this is
available on the UC IPM (Integrated Pest
Management) website .

A new pest, the Diaprepes Root Weevil, is posing a threat to agriculture
and landscaping in our area. It affects 270 plants including citrus,
hibiscus, avocado, peach, guava, loquat, and oak. The Department of
Agriculture has mailed postcards to many residents of Santa Clara County
and we have posted a picture and other information on our website
. People who think they've seen a
Diaprepes Root Weevil should capture it in a jar and call 1-800-491-1899.

Visit our booth at the Santa Clara Home and Garden Show September 8, 9, 10
at the Santa Clara Convention Center and listen to our speakers

Have you seen our Palo Alto Demo Garden at Eleanor Pardee Park, 851 Center
Drive, Palo Alto? It includes a waterwise gardening, fruit trees for a
small space, cut flowers, and ethnic beds, and provides a wonderful example
of how a garden can be delicious and beautiful at the same time. A good
time to visit would be Saturday, September 9, 1:00-3:00, for our workshop
"Less Work, More Food - A Cool Season Garden". This from our flyer: "Find
out how simple it can be to have fresh vegetables coming from your garden
throughout the cool season when nature does the watering for you and bugs
and weeds are off duty!"

The Tomato Tasting on Saturday, August 19, was a big hit. Attendees learned
a lot from our speakers: Gary Ibsen from Carmel TomatoFest, Cynthia
Sandberg from Love Apple Farm, and Laramie Trevino from Master Gardeners.
And thanks to all who filled out tasting ballots letting us know your
favorites. This helps us to select which varieties to grow for our annual
Spring Garden Market in early April. The top vote-getters were Ed’s
Millenium, Brandywine from Croatia, Black Pearl, Sun Sugar, and Paul

Chile Tasting Sunday, September 17, 12:00-3:00 at Prusch Park at Story and
King in San Jose. Come sample 75+ varieties of chile peppers of all sizes,
shapes, colors, flavors, and sweetness and heat levels. Learn about
growing, harvesting, and using chiles. Free.

Fun for families is available at the Chinese Moon Festival at Overfelt
Park, McKee Road and Educational Park Drive, San Jose on Sunday, September
17, 2006, 1:00 to 5:00. The Master Gardeners will have activities for

Our sweet potato tasting at McClellan Ranch in Cupertino has been postponed
to later in the fall, due to nature. We’ll send the new date in the next

Sign up now for the Edible Gardening series taught by Master Gardeners at
the Campbell Community Center, Tuesday evenings beginning October 10. Call
Campbell directly at 408-866-2105 to register.

For more gardening information, call our Hotline at 408-282-3105,
Monday-Friday, 9:30-12:30 or visit our website at

MG Native bee habitat

Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2006 23:42:25 -0700
From: "Strata R. Chalup"
To: Sunnyvale_Sustainable_Gardening
Subject: [SSG] garden plantings: consider native bee habitat

I was reading an article in OnEarth today about the decline in native bee
populations due to habitat loss. I found a link to a local botanist who lists
annuals and perennials that provide interest and habitat for native bees (e.g.,
non-honeybees). [1]

If there's room in the planting list for native-bee-friendly plantings, that
would be of great benefit to the garden. It's been demonstrated that native
bees provide pollination that is equal to, and in many cases, in exceeds, that
of honeybees. [7] Habitat for wood-nesting or ground-nesting bees is easy to
create (bundles of twigs, drilled blocks, grass tussocks on a well-drained
mound). [6]

Suggested Plants for Native Bees [2]

The following plants attract pollen bees. Native bees, unlike honeybees, do not
fly great distances from their nests to forage. Plantings for native bees should
be within 200 yards of the target crop. Some of these plants are also good for
attracting beneficial insects.

Shrubs & Trees
Blackberry (Rubus) Red maple (Acer rubrum)
Dogwood (Cornus) Raspberry (Rubus)
Fruit trees (apple, cherry, plum) Sumac (Rhus)
Juneberry (Amalanchier) Willows (Salix)
Flowers & Herbs
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) Goldenrod (Solidago)
Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum) Goldfields (Lasthenia chrysostoma)
Asters (Aster) Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) (single varieties)
Beard tongue (Penstemon) Impatiens (Impatiens)
Bee balm (Monarda) Milkvetch (Astragalus)
Birds-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) Milkweed (Asclepias)
Borage (Borago officianalis) Mints (Mentha, Saliva)
Buttercup (Ranunculus) Marjoram (Origanum)
Calendula (Calendula) (single varieties) Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum)
Coneflower (Echinacea) Oilseed rape (Brassica napus)
Chrysanthemum (Dendranthema) Pincushion (Chaenactis)
Crown-beard (Verbesina) Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
Daisies Scorpion weed (Phacelia)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Sunflowers (Helianthus)
Evening primrose (Oenothera) Tickseed (Coreopsis)
Forget-me-not (Myosotis) Wild mustard (Brassica)
Fuchsia (Fuchsia) Vervain (Verbena)
Gilia (Gilia) Wild buckwheat (Eriogonum)
Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea)