Gardening Tips Blog
Each of these is native to California and attracts California thrashers, western bluebirds, American robins, northern flickers, Nuttall's woodpeckers, mockingbirds, cedar waxwings. scrub jays, northern flickers, yellow-rumped warblers and game birds such as wild turkey, pheasant, California quail and grouse. The blue elderberry on this list can be enjoyed by both people and birds! I have seen all of these bird species except grouse and pheasant in my yard; they are part of our area.
Holly-leaved cherry - Tall, dense shrub
Manzanitas - Multiple species of shrubs or trees
Toyon (Christmas berry, California holly) - Mounding form to 8 feet
Wax myrtle - Mounding form to 30 feet
California coffeeberry (buckthorn) - Dense shrub that is easily pruned
Blue elderberry -
California wild rose - Mounding form
California grapes - Climber or woody ground cover
Fuchsiaflower gooseberry - Mounding growth, has scarlet flowers and thorns
Poison oak too! - Let the birds plant their own or control it if you prefer
Birds and the plants they like: http://theodorepayne.org/mediawiki/index.php?title=Birds
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In light of all the terrible news about wildfires this week, I would like to share some websites which can help you make your home and surroundings as safe as possible.
What you can do for you
UCANR has a Homeowner's Fire Mitigation Guide that includes a lot of information about how to fire-proof your home and surroundings. Take a look at the toolbar on the left side of the webpage. Under “Additional Information” there are several useful checklists including Quick Fixes, Pre-Fire Readiness, and a Pre-Evacuation Checklist.
This blog post has a list of UCANR fire experts (with contact info) who can answer questions related to fire prevention, impacts, and general wildfire science.
UCANR has a Center for Fire Information and Outreach. Of interest is their Fire Information Toolkit, which contains information for homeowners including a Homeowner Wildfire Assessment and after-fire resources for when it's time to go back to your property and start rebuilding.
CAL FIRE has up-to-date information on all the active fires in California. The site also has evacuation information, including video instruction for evacuation pre-planning.
What you can do for others
I read a news article that stated that the average age of fire victims so far is about 80. If you have some elderly neighbors, check in with them to see that they have the resources they need to be safe.
I'm sure there are a lot of great organizations out there collecting donations of goods and funds to help people displaced by fire. I'll list a couple here and feel free to add more in the comments. As always, you need to make sure that an organizations values and priorities are aligned with yours before making a donation. Redwood Credit Union is collecting donations for North Bay Fire Relief. 100% of your donation goes to victims of the fires and you can designate a county for your funds or have the funds equally distributed among all the counties affected by fire. Nature's Select, a Northern California pet food company, is offering a buy one-get one deal where if you purchase a bag of dog or cat food, they will match it with a second bag. The company is delivering the pet food to families affected by fire.
If you suspect you have fungus gnats, yellow sticky traps placed on the surface of the plant soil will trap the adults. Larvae can be monitored by placing chunks of raw potato in your plants, with the cut side down on the soil. The larvae will enter the potato, at which point you can throw it away and replace it with fresh chunks.
If you determine that you have a fungus gnat problem, there are a couple of biological control agents that will control them in pots and container soil mixes. These include Steinernema nematodes, Hypoaspis predatory mites, and the biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis (Bti). Bti is readily available in retail nurseries so it may be the easiest agent to acquire. Bti doesn't persist or reproduce indoors, so you may have to do repeated applications at about 5 day intervals to provide control. Nematodes and mites can be mail-ordered but are live and perishable, so must be applied immediately upon receipt. Nematodes can reproduce and provide longer term control of fungus gnats. If your fungus gnats are an outdoor problem, several natural predators will help manage the population, including predatory hunter flies. Avoid broad spectrum insecticides to conserve these and other natural enemies.
For more information, take a look at the UCANR literature on fungus gnats here and here. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries!
Last weekend I went out to my back porch to water and deadhead my container garden and came across some damage to my cosmos. The petals of most of the flowers had multiple small holes. I looked more carefully and noticed that the tomato plant next to the cosmos also had small holes in the leaves and in the fruit. Now I was curious! What was causing this damage to my plants? As I started turning over leaves and rotating tomato fruits, I spotted what looked like a yellow ladybug. A-ha! A potential pest! But who was this spotted critter?
As is indicated in the common name, Western spotted cucumber beetles and cucumber beetles in general are common on cucurbits, that is melons and cucumbers. But they also will feed on other tender succulent portions of garden plants, including the flowers and leaves. The life cycle includes several generations a year, with eggs laid at the base of plants or in soil cracks, larvae which burrow into the soil and eat plant roots, and adult beetles that attack the aboveground portions of plants. Adult beetles are shiny with black heads, long antennae, and yellowish bodies with black spots. There's also a related striped cucumber beetle that has stripes rather than spots, but does pretty similar damage in the garden.
For more information, check out the UCANR Integrated Pest Management information here and here. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries!
If you've been wanting to start a garden but feel a little overwhelmed by the task, why not a container garden? You can start simply with just a pot or two and expand as you build your confidence. Why a container garden?
- You can grow a great variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers in containers
- You don't have to do nearly as much soil prep as you do for an in-ground garden
- Containers can be squeezed into small spaces where a larger garden won't work, for example, on a balcony or small porch.
Location, Location, Location
Choose your garden container location based on the cultural needs of the plant you plan to put in the container. Most vegetables need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, as do a lot of annual and perennial flowers. Some varieties of flowers and foliage don't need as much sun or prefer it to be filtered through trees. If you aren't certain, read about the plant's needs before you choose the location.
- Anchorage and support
- Storage and supply of water
- Supply of air
- Storage and supply of nutrients
Make sure the pot will not damage anything when water drains out of it. It's better not to use a saucer if you don't need it. Why? Because irrigation water with fertilizer in it will leave soluble salts in the soil. If you don't leech these salts out of the pot by adding enough irrigation water so some water drips from the bottom of the pot, the salts will build up in the soil and could cause problems for your plants.
There's always a saturated zone at the bottom of the pot after the water drains out. The height of the saturation zone depends on particle size. The finer the particles in the soil, the more saturation occurs. That's important because if the soil is too saturated the plant will have difficulty taking up air through the roots. And although it seems hard to believe, adding gravel at the bottom of the pot only shifts the saturated zone up, leaving less unsaturated soil for the plant to grow in. So don't put a lot of gravel in the bottom of your pots, just a few broken shards to keep your potting mix from falling out the holes in the bottom of your pot. If you have poorly draining soil in your pots, here are a few solutions:
- Improve soil by changing it to a coarser mix
- Practice over-potting if necessary (use a larger pot than you need)
- Increase plant spacing to increase evapotranspiration (the water loss occurring from processes of evaporation and transpiration. Evaporation is when the water on the soil or the plant surfaces turns to water vapor. Transpiration is the loss of water through the leaves of the plant.)
- Irrigate at mid-morning when evapotranspiration is high
The rule for fertilizer is weakly, weekly. That is, frequent but low doses of fertilizer are best for container plants. Using a water-soluble fertilzer is an easy way to control the amount of fertilizer your plants get, because you can apply it when you water your plants, dissolved into your irrigation water.
Visit here and here for additional reading. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries!