Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County
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Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: Gardening

Top 10 pests in gardens and landscapes and how to control them

Download the free booklet at the bottom of the page!

1. Ants

Most people deal with ants around their home at some point. Because most ants live outdoors, focus efforts on keeping ants from entering buildings by caulking entryways. Follow good sanitation practices to make your home less attractive to ants. Spraying ants inside the home will not prevent more ants from entering. Use baits to control the ant colony. Pesticide baits work by attracting worker ants who then take the poison back to the nest where the entire colony, including queens, can be killed. In the landscape, ants protect honeydew-producing pest insects from predators, so use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to keep ants out of trees and shrubs.

 

2. Aphids

Aphids can curl leaves and produce sticky honeydew, but they rarely kill plants and you usually can wash them off with water. When aphid numbers get high, natural enemies such as lady beetles (lady bugs), lacewings, syrphid fly larvae, soldier beetles and others frequently feed on them, eliminating the need for pesticides. Protect these good bugs by avoiding the use of insecticides that can be toxic to a broad variety of insects. Ants protect aphids from these natural enemies, so keep ants away from your garden as well. When pesticides are necessary, use less toxic products such as insecticidal soaps and oils.

 

3. Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing disease

The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly bacterial disease it spreads, Huanglongbing (HLB), threaten citrus trees in backyards and on farms. There is no cure or effective control method for HLB disease.  All types of citrus—including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and mandarins—are affected as well as a few closely related ornamentals. ACP and HLB have already devastated the Florida citrus industry, and now that it is in the Western U.S. it is threatening the California citrus industry as well.

 

4. Gophers

Gophers are small burrowing rodents that feed on roots of many types of plants. A single gopher can ruin a garden in a short time, and gopher gnawing can damage irrigation lines and sprinkler systems. In lawns, their mounds are unsightly and interfere with mowing. Early detection is critical to prevent damage. Use both traps and underground fencing to manage gopher problems. Toxic baits are available but can pose threats to wildlife, pets, and children, especially in backyard situations.

 

5. Leaf-feeding caterpillars

Caterpillars, which are the larvae of butterflies and moths, damage plants by chewing on leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruit. Caterpillars in fruit or wood can be difficult to manage because they are hidden most of their life and can cause serious damage even when numbers are low. However, many plants, especially perennials, can tolerate substantial leaf damage, so a few leaf-feeding caterpillars often aren't a concern. Handpicking and beneficial predators and parasites often provide sufficient control. Look for feeding holes, excrement, webbed or rolled leaves, caterpillars, eggs, and good bugs.

 

6. Peach leaf curl

Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that affects only peach and nectarine trees. Distorted, reddened foliage in the spring is a distinctive symptom. New leaves and shoots thicken and pucker and later may die and fall off. An infection that continues untreated for several years can lead to a tree's decline. To prevent peach leaf curl, treat peach and nectarine trees with a copper fungicide every year after leaves fall. After symptoms appear in the spring, any treatment will not be effective. When planting new trees, consider buying peach tree varieties that are resistant to the disease.

 

7. Rats

Rats eat and contaminate food, garden produce, and fruit, and transmit diseases to humans and pets. Manage rats by removing food and shelter, eliminating entryways into buildings, and trapping. Snap traps are the safest, most effective, and most economical way to trap rats. For Norway rats, place traps close to walls, behind objects, in dark corners, and in places where you have found rat droppings. For roof rats, place traps in off-the-ground locations such as ledges, shelves, branches, fences, pipes, or overhead beams. Ensure traps are out of reach of children and pets.

 

8. Scales

Scale insects suck plant juices and are pests of many trees and shrubs. Infestations can cause yellowing or premature dropping of leaves, sticky honeydew, and blackish sooty mold. Plant parts can distort or die back, depending on the species and abundance of scales. Most plants tolerate low to moderate numbers of scales. Provide plants with proper cultural care, especially irrigation. Encourage scale predators such as lady beetles or lacewings and look for parasite emergence holes in scale covers. Use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to selectively control scale-tending ants. Consider replacing problem-prone plants because most scales are highly specific to certain plants.

 

9. Snails and slugs

These slimy mollusks emerge from hiding at night and chew holes in leaves and flowers of many succulent garden plants and fruit. Management requires a vigilant and integrated approach that includes eliminating moisture and hiding spots, trapping, setting up barriers, and handpicking. Regularly remove snails from shelters you can't eliminate such as low ledges on fences, undersides of decks, and meter boxes. Place traps in your garden and dispose of trapped snails and slugs daily. Reduce moist surfaces by switching to drip irrigation or watering in the morning rather than later in the day. Consider snail-proof plants such as impatiens, geraniums, begonias, lantana, nasturtiums, and many plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage such as sage, rosemary, and lavender.

 

10. Weeds in landscapes

Prevent weed invasions in new beds with good site preparation. Keep weeds out with an integrated program that includes competitive plants, mulches, and hand removal. Be particularly vigilant about removing aggressive perennial weeds. You rarely should need herbicides in established landscape plantings. Mulches prevent weed seed germination by blocking sunlight. Remove small weeds by hand before they flower and set seed. Use shallow cultivation or hoeing to remove annual weeds from ornamental plantings. Only use herbicides for special-problem situations before establishing new plantings or for difficult-to-control perennial weeds.

 

To see all of the University of California's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's information on home, garden, and landscape pests, visit http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html

For other short pest “Quick Tips” like the ten above, see http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/

 To read even more in-depth, peer-reviewed information on many other common home and landscape pests in California, see the Pest Notes series at http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/index.html

Download your free UC IPM Quick Tips Booklet of the Top Ten Pests in Gardens and Landscapes and How to Control Them with the link below! 

Posted on Friday, June 10, 2016 at 12:30 PM
  • Author: Tyler Ash

Six steps to a sustainable landscape

Water-saving succulants mimic an underwater seascape.


Does a beautiful, low-maintenance, cost-saving landscape that actually improves the environment sound like a dream? If so, wake up, and welcome to the world of sustainable landscaping. Sustainable landscaping combines planning and maintenance practices for a low-waste, low-environmental impact garden space. Sustainable Landscaping in California: How to Conserve Resources and Beautify your Home Landscape, a new free publication by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) demonstrates how creating a sustainable landscape is attainable. 

Sustainable Landscaping, by Janet Hartin, Pam Geisel, Ali Harivandi, and Rachel Elkins
Below are six easy steps, drawn from the recommendations in the 21-page publication, to illustrate the core practices in building the landscape of your dreams.  

  1. Choose the right plant
    Selecting appropriate landscaping plants for your climate zone is the first step in practicing sustainable landscaping. If you live in the California desert growing tropical plants is probably not the most practical choice for your landscape needs. Visit the California Garden Web to learn more about your climate zone, and find resources for choosing the right plants for your garden.

  2. Water wisely
    A typical California household uses one-third to one-half of its water intake in outdoor irrigation. How can a homeowner reduce water use? The answer is simple – water less. Overwatering an established landscape is more common than underwatering. Well-established plants should not be watered every day, reduce water use with a deeper, less frequent irrigation method. 

  3. Prevent pests (safely)
    Put down the pesticide! Integrated Pest Management (IPM) offers solutions for managing insects, diseases, weeds and other organisms. IPM techniques include eliminating pest habitats, encouraging natural enemies (for example, ladybugs for an aphid infestation), hand-weeding and applying mulch to your landscape. Only use pesticides after all other options have been explored and in the smallest quantities possible.

  4. Get to know (and love) your soil
    Understanding what type of soil you have, its strengths and limitations is the first step toward a sustainable home landscape you can be proud of.  Take steps to show your soil love and improve it with compost, mulch, and aeration as needed. To amend soil mix with compost evenly and deeply to avoid a layered effect that inhibits proper plant growth.

  5. Welcome wildlife
    For a landscape to be truly sustainable it should provide a balanced ecosystem for a variety of plants and wildlife. Roll out the welcome mat in your landscape for birds, butterflies and other wildlife by providing access to food, water, and shelter.  

  6. Conserve energy
    Conserving energy in your landscape is easy. Retire power-tools and use hands tools like a shovel, rake or broom. Install light-emitting diodes (LED) lighting, which requires less energy to operate and lasts longer than traditional bulbs. Reduce energy use in your home by planting a shade tree which helps keep the home cooler during hot summer months.

The University of California Master Gardener Program extends to the public UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping and pest management. In exchange for the training and materials received from the University of California, Master Gardeners perform volunteer services in a myriad of venues. If you are interested in becoming a certified UC Master Gardener contact a local UC Cooperative Extension office in your county.

Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Ten tips for vegetable gardening during a drought

Asparagus, chard, eggplant, mustard greens, peppers, roma tomatoes, and California native strawberries are water-efficient edibles. (Photo credit: Jennifer Baumbach, UCCE Master Gardener Coordinator, Solano County)

Is it possible to grow a vegetable garden when water resources are scarce and water rationing could be imposed?  Water responsibly, plant carefully, and select fruit and vegetable varieties that are drought tolerant. All of these sustainable gardening practices require less water – and help ensure your family has access to a variety of nutrient rich foods.

Ten simple drought tips to reduce water use in your backyard garden

  1. Planting time
    Plant earlier in spring and later in fall. Planting earlier in the spring season takes advantage of the warm weather and reduces exposure to high mid-summer temperatures. Planting later in the fall minimizes the use of supplemental water and takes advantage of seasonal rains to establish plants. For example, tomatoes and other nightshade crops such as peppers and eggplants, should not be planted until soil temperatures reach 55 degrees. With a warm spring this could be as early as mid-April.  Remember to always use a soil thermometer for accurate soil temperature readings.
     
  2. Mulch, mulch, mulch!
    A 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch can reduce watering needs by as much as 50 percent. Mulch reduces water evaporation and keeps soil temperatures down during hot summer months.  Grass clippings, dried leaves, pine needles, straw and shredded bark are all examples of natural mulches which can be used to cover the soil. Hay is not recommended because it contains seeds, which yields weeds and can become a problematic option.

    Raised garden beds help retain water better than gardens planted in open soil.
  3. Enclosed spaces 
    Gardens planted in enclosed spaces, for example a raised garden bed, retain water better than gardens planted in open soil.  Plant seeds and transplants in a hexagonal "off-set" pattern rather than in straight rows.  A hexagonal arrangement groups plants closer together, which provides shade from leaves, keeping soil cool and water from evaporating.

  4. Companion planting
    Companion planting is the practice of grouping crops together for mutual benefit. The Native American “three sisters” approach of planting corn, beans and squash together are the perfect example of companion planting. Tall cornstalks provide a structural support for the climbing beans, the beans return nitrogen back into the soil, and the squash spreads across the soil acting as a mulch and keeping the soil cool. 

  5. Watering times
    The best time to water your garden is in the late evening and early morning hours, typically between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The cooler morning temperature and limited wind reduced water evaporation rates.

  6. Water efficiently
    Overhead watering with a sprinkler system is not as efficient as drip irrigation. Compared to overhead sprinklers - drip systems can reduce water usage by up to half. Install a drip irrigation system, grouping plants with similar water needs together on one drip irrigation line. Drip irrigation systems are relatively easy to install for most do-it-yourself homeowners.  The UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources book Drip Irrigation in the Home Landscape is a great reference on the materials, design and installation of a drip system.
    Select the correct size garden for your family, to reduce waste from overproduction.
  7. Control Weeds! 
    Pesky weeds compete for valuable water, sunshine and soil nutrients in your garden. Remove weeds before they have an opportunity to flower or spread. Visit the UC Integrated Pest Management website for tips on controlling weeds to identify recommendations for specific weed species.

  8. Drought Resistant Crops
    Purchase varieties of fruits and vegetable that do well in hot and dry climates. Many heirloom varieties from Mediterranean regions are prized for being drought tolerant. Smaller varieties bred for containers often produce a more bountiful yield per plant than standard varieties. Avoid water hogs! Some favorite water-efficient edibles from UCCE Master Gardeners include: asparagus, chard, eggplant, mustard greens, peppers, roma tomatoes, and California native strawberries. Check with a local UCCE Master Gardener Program about which varieties are recommended for your zone.

  9. Peak water times
    Fruit and vegetables have critical periods for increased water demands. For most plants once they become established watering times and amounts can be reduced until the flowering or fruit setting process begins. An increased amount of water should be reintroduced during this time. After this initial period of fruit set water can slowly be reduced again. In some cases, reducing water can improve the flavors of your harvest (think, dry-farmed tomatoes)!

  10. Garden size
    Determine the amount of fruits and vegetables needed to feed your family, does your family have two, four, or eight members? If you overproduced and wasted crops last year - decrease the amount of plants this year. Set up a garden exchange in your neighborhood so everyone grows less but still has a great variety!

The University of California Master Gardener Program extends to the public free UC research-based information about home horticulture and pest management. In exchange for the training and materials received from the University of California, Master Gardeners perform volunteer services in a myriad of venues. If you are interested in becoming a certified UC Master Gardener contact your local UC Cooperative Extension office.  

Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 11:43 AM
  • Author: Melissa G. Womack
  • Author: Nancy Grove, UCCE Master Gardener of San Mateo and San Francisco counties
Tags: Drought (36), Gardening (17), Master Gardener (10), Planting (1), UCCE (3), Vegetables (4)

How does your garden grow? In a drought, consider drip

Manual irrigation valve. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
--English nursery rhyme

How will your garden grow during California’s drought emergency? Gov. Jerry Brown says the state is facing the worst drought in its recorded history

We urban gardeners may turn quite contrary if our gardens don't grow.

Alternative: Consider installing a drip irrigation system.

Why a drip system? It’s target watering. It’s uniform watering. It’s non-wasteful watering. You don’t want to water the leaves, the space between the plants, or worse, water the sidewalk or let the water gush into the gutter.  

Drip irrigation is better for plant health. Plants thrive with drip because it waters them slow and deep where the roots are. You’ll likely minimize weed growth. In comparison to overhead sprinklers, the smaller, targeted area means that weeds will have less opportunity to spring up and try to take over your garden, Gangnam Style. And by not watering the leaves of your plants or allow them to collect standing water, you can reduce diseases. 

Drip irrigation is simply a network of pipes, tubing, valves and emitters. Water “drips” or “trickles” directly to the roots.  

The concept is not new. Back in the first century, Fan Sheng-Chih Shu wrote about what we now consider a “primitive” drip irrigation system, but one that definitely worked well: Farmers buried perforated unglazed clay pots and filled them with water. They refilled them as needed. 

Today’s modern drip irrigation system for urban gardeners includes an irrigation controller with automatic valves or a manual system (shown). If it's automatic, a timer controls the valves and waters the plants while you do something else -  like enjoying a glass of lemonade on the back porch, watching your favorite movie, or vacationing in Hawaii. Note: It's a good idea to set your timer for early in the morning, before 8. There's less evaporation.

Of course, there can be disadvantages to the drip system. The key disadvantages are the initial cost of the equipment and labor. Then, too, you must closely monitor the system to ensure the emitters aren’t clogged, or thirsty rodents aren’t gnawing through your plastic pipes. 

Find more about drip irrigation on the Sonoma County Master Gardeners website.

Bottom line: A drip irrigation system is often a better alternative to overhead sprinklers or the hand-watering method. Expect to conserve water, save on your water bill, grow healthy plants with fewer weeds and diseases, and save time and effort in doing so.

An artichoke in the drip grid. This area is ready for planting. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
An artichoke in the drip grid. This area is ready for planting. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

An artichoke in the drip grid. This area is ready for planting. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A newly planted peach tree among the drip lines. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A newly planted peach tree among the drip lines. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A newly planted peach tree among the drip lines. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Corners of the drip grid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Corners of the drip grid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Corners of the drip grid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Growing more than veggies in California school gardens

Lately, I’ve seen the familiar signs of back-to-school. The school bus noisily pulls away from my neighbor’s house before the sun has fully risen. The neighborhood kids are inside a bit earlier in the evening (probably to finish that pesky homework), and I see throngs of students walk down the street with heavy backpacks slung low over their shoulders. But there are a few new signs in my neighborhood that school is back in session; kids with dirty jeans, mud stained at the knees from time spent in the school garden. 

Interest in school gardens in California is high, and institutions are working to provide the resources to make school garden development a success. The UC Davis Children’s Garden Program, in collaboration with Life Lab Science Program and the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County, has been working for over a decade to train those who wish to start school gardens that can provide positive experiences for students, but can also serve to enhance academics in the classroom. The workshops are intended to give communities the capacity to start their own school gardens while focusing on long term efforts to keep the gardens alive and thriving.

The Creating and Sustaining Your School Garden workshops teach the nuts and bolts of starting a garden, but also provide trainees with curriculum designed to bring many state-mandated education requirements into the garden. Beyond just a site for planting and harvest, the garden can be used, for example, as a space for young children to practice math skills like measuring, for middle school students to study civilizations of the world and for high school students to work on culinary arts, agricultural skills and entrepreneurship. 

Between 2012 and 2014, the workshops aim to train approximately 700 school educators from throughout California. Additional “Train the Trainer” workshops seek to widen the circle further, providing mini-grants to organizations and schools interested in providing their own trainings on starting gardens.

Carol Hillhouse, director of the UC Davis Children’s Garden Program, housed at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, has been creating and teaching garden-based learning since 1992.    

“School gardens really should be regionally mentored,” says Hillhouse. “California is so geographically diverse. The way that we garden in the Central Valley is different from how we garden in the Imperial Valley or the Sierra foothills. So training new regional trainers has meant really effective mentors in different parts of the state. And our training materials provide a really simple way to get information out there that is easy for new trainers to use.” 

Between 2007 and 2008, the workshops trained 180 trainers, who went on to train an additional 664 people in the practice of starting a school garden. The participants in those workshops represented nearly 300 schools, with a school population of 93,879.  Participation in this year’s workshops is expected to yield similar results.  

The sustained level of interest in these workshops and in school gardens in general over the years has been impressive. 

”School gardens have held their own even in a very difficult economic climate and that says a lot and frankly has surprised me because I know how hard it is in schools these days," Hillhouse said. "The response now is as strong, if not stronger than it was when we first started these workshops in 2007. And at that point, through state legislation, schools were getting reasonable grants to develop their school gardens. There are not those same grants for these programs today, yet the interest is there.” 

School budget cuts, threats to school programs and teacher salaries are a grim reality in California. But in the face of those challenges, school garden interest seems to grow. Still, gardens are not yet institutionalized within school budgets, and so their success depends on staff members, community and parent volunteers. Hillhouse advocates for gardens becoming more than expendable extras within schools.

“We still need additional research in this area but I know they can be very impactful.  Over the long term they provide experiences for children that develop into a richly-scaffolded understanding of agriculture and food," she said.

“There’s a real power in gardening. Whenever you’re gardening, people want to see what’s happening and get their hands dirty. They get excited and want to start gardens in  their own schools; this is a tangible way they can make their schools a better place. If we help hone that attitude from ‘we can put a garden here’ to ‘we can put a garden here, and it can help support our science curriculum, and it can help kids understand what to eat in the cafeteria, and it can even produce roses that we can put on the principals desk,’ then we have a viable program. Not just a garden, but a program that enriches a school in many ways”

Creating and Sustaining Your School Garden workshops along with workshops in other topics will be offered several more times around the state between now and June of 2014. Visit the UC Davis Children’s Garden Program website for information on dates and locations as they are scheduled and links to workshop registration.   

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8:03 AM
  • Author: Aubrey White
Tags: gardening (17), school garden (3)

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