Archive for the ‘Gardening in California’ Category

This is a bit late, but if you live in or around Irvine you’re going to want to come by the South Coast Research & Extension Center (SCREC) this morning for the 4th Annual Residential Demonstration Landscape Open House & Vendor Fair (phew – doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue does it?).

Today from 9 am to 2 pm there will be garden industry vendors and water agencies showing the latest methods to reduce landscape water usage. Master Gardeners will be speaking about composting, small space gardening, pest control, and edible landscaping. Plus, best of all, there will be a plant sale (cash or check only).

You’ll also marvel at SCREC, a beautiful rural oasis in our busy suburban/urban environment. Most folks have no idea what a treasure we have here in Irvine. I often do my Master Gardener volunteer hours there pruning in citrus, persimmon, pluot and cherimoya groves. They also have 3 residential landscapes demonstrating different levels of water conservation through landscaping and planting.

I’ll be there as a “seed planter/floater.” So come by and say hi. I guarantee you’ll learn something to improve your home garden.

Event is today 9am to 2 pm at SCREC 7601 Irvine Boulevard, Irvine CA 92618. All lectures and demonstrations are free. Plant sales are by cash or check only – no charges. Click here for more info and a list of speakers, demonstrations and vendors.



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Irvine, California

Pink Coneflower



Durango, Colorado

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Another in a series of posts to bring you interesting garden-related stories. This week we have links to a few articles we think you’ll like and news about events in Southern California.

A Plan to Turn Brooklyn’s Unused Acres Green: This article is about a truly great idea that a group of Brooklyn gardeners called 596 Acres (the total of unused public acres in Brooklyn) had to find and cultivate all the unused lots that dot the city. LOVE this idea!

Humans aren’t the only ones making things grow. Apparently the male Bowerbird, who builds elaborate bowers to attract a mate, is responsible for a lot of new plant life.

Here’s a lovely tribute to a lovely woman and an amazing gardener, Bea Grow. I had the pleasure of meeting her and visiting her beautiful garden a couple of years ago. Bea died last December and is sorely missed by the O.C. gardening community.

Click the link for a round-up of all the O.C. garden tours. Should have gotten this link to you sooner for all the April tours, but there are plenty on the list for May. One I highly recommend is the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour. It’s free (donations encouraged) and it’s fabulous — this weekend, May 5 – 6.

There will be a workshop on Edible Gardening in Small Spaces by my fellow Master Gardeners at the Orange County Great Park this Saturday. Here’s the description: Limited space? Master Gardeners are here to show you the ins and outs of getting a great yield from little places. Choose your favorite vegetables and learn how to make the most of them.

And finally a few words about a great event that I was a part of last weekend at the Orange County Great Park; the Artisan Food and Arts Festival. It was an all-day celebration of artisan food, sustainable gardening and art.

Chef Linda Elbert (of The Basement Table) and I collaborated on Seed to Plate: Cooking from the Garden, a presentation about growing your own vegetables and preparing them. I really enjoyed sharing organic growing tips with our audience.

Afterwards, I was able to spend time taking in the other chefs’ demos, the restaurant booths, sampling the food from the food trucks and seeing the art exhibits. Some of the art is still up. I highly recommend that you go see Tom Lamb’s exhibit of aerial photography called Marks on the Land: The View From Here.

The entire event was so much fun — kudos to my friend Maya Dunn and the Great Park staff for a fabulous job of pulling it off in grand style. Let’s hope that it comes back next year!

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Durango, Colorado

Irvine, California

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I just finished a two-day marathon of transplanting, pruning, and garden cleanup. Still to go are mulching, freshening up some containers, and planting some bulbs and shrubs. That’s going to have to wait a day or two to give my aching muscles a chance to recover.

Gardening is hard work and the older you get, the more of a toll it takes on your body. Much as Mary Beth and I would like to power through, denial in full force, we simply can’t ignore how tired and sore all that lifting, squatting, bending, and digging makes us. No matter what age you are, if you’re in the garden all day you’ll feel it later on.

And I was really feeling it last night. So into the hot water I went and as I was soaking it occurred to me that we should share some of our best tips for pampering our aching bones. So here are a few things that will help you recover faster:

  1. Soak your bones. Get into a nice hot bath to which you’ve added some epsom salts (good for the garden and the gardener) or sea salts. Add a few drops of lavender for a relaxing, healing soak.
  2. Drink some tea. Yogi Tea has two products that really do seem to speed recovery and make us feel less achy after a long day of planting — Joint Comfort and Green Tea Muscle Recovery (which I’m sipping right now).
  3. Rub your pain away. Rub those aching muscles with some Arnica gel. It will reduce the swelling and tenderness. It’s great for bruises too. Another great product that I just discovered it Joint Rescue by Peaceful Mountain in Boulder. It’s a soothing organic and wild-crafted herbal gel that helps relieve pain and swelling in arthritic joints.
  4. Stretch it out. Gentle stretching is a good way to relax your tight muscles. Here are a few yoga stretches that will really help.
  5. Meditate. Studies have shown that meditation really can relieve pain. One study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found ” … a big effect – about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent.” Pretty amazing!
Do any or all of these and you should be feeling better soon. It’s important not to push too hard and to take care of yourself. Be kind not just to others, but to you too.

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Fall is here, there’s no denying it, and to tell the truth we are loving it. There’s a certain sense of relief and a feeling that we can FINALLY catch up on all the things that were running just ahead of us in the garden all summer.

It’s time to catch up and clean up (click here for our fall cleanup tips). It’s also time to make adjustments to your watering schedules.

Durango Area

Those of you who garden in this region know that fall and winter watering can be very tricky. It all depends on how dry it is. When there is less atmospheric moisture you’ll need to water enough replace what the plants transpire. Unlike SoCal where the local water utility provides good guidelines for seasonal watering, Durango seems to either not have the information available or to have it buried so deeply in their website that it is not findable.

So we went to the Colorado State University Extension site for info. Here’s a link to Watering Basics  that you may already know — water early in the day, don’t over water, etc., but watering in fall and winter in this semi-arid climate can be a challenge so here are some quick facts to help your plants make it through the next few months:

  • Water trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials during prolonged dry fall and winter periods to prevent root damage.
  • Water only when the air and soil temperature are above 40 degrees F with no snow cover.
  • Established large trees have a root spread equal to or greater than the height of the tree. Apply water to the most critical part of the root zone within the dripline.
  • Newly planted trees and shrubs will required more water than established ones. Water deeply and slowly.
There’s a lot more great information so click here to read the very thorough Fall and Winter Watering Basics from the Extension.

Coastal Southern California

At this point in the season plants are transpiring less water and so their needs are not as great as they were a few weeks ago. This is true even if it’s hot in the daytime because the days are shorter, nighttime temps are a lot cooler, and many plants are entering a dormant phase. Plant water needs drop by almost 30% in September so cut back your watering accordingly.

The one exception to this rule is when the Santa Ana winds are blowing. When that happens the air is extremely dry and you should give your plants supplemental water. This is especially true for container plants that may need to be watered twice a day when the hot winds are blowing. (Hint: misting them mid-afternoon will cool them down and help them make it through the most brutal Santa Ana conditions.)

The Irvine Ranch Water District does a really nice job of helping home gardeners figure out how to adjust their irrigation schedule and cycles. Click here for handy chart with suggested weekly watering schedules. You may have to make adjustments for your landscape, but this is a very good starting point.

And while we’re at it here are some good general tips for conserving water in either region and for preventing runoff — which in SoCal ends up in our ocean carrying all manner of nasty pollutants with it.

  • Water only when necessary – saves 1,100 gallons per irrigation cycle.
  • Water in the early morning, before 8 a.m., to reduce evaporation and interference from the wind – saves 25 gallons per day.
  • Check sprinkler system for leaks, overspray and broken sprinkler heads – saves 500 gallons per month.
  • Turn off hoses run when not in use and use a water-saving hose nozzle instead – saves up to 7,500 gallons per year.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks – saves 150 gallons each time.
  • Install a “smart” sprinkler controller – saves 40 gallons per irrigation cycle.
  • Place organic mulch throughout garden to reduce evaporation, even soil temperatures and inhibit weed growth – save hundreds of gallons per year.
  • Replace thirsty plants with California Friendly drought-resistant varieties – saves hundreds of gallons each year per plant.
BTW: Local university extensions are always great resources for any kind of gardening and farming questions you might have. And don’t be shy, if you can’t find it on the website, call them. They are happy to help.

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Why are we startled? Really!? Fall comes every year at the same time, yet we always seem to be caught off guard when those first cool mornings hit. For most it means the end of the growing season and a welcome respite from our garden chores. But not so fast buckaroo! There’s still the Fall Cleanup to do.

There are actually two sets of chores in the garden now. One is cleaning up your garden, which we will look at today. The other is tool cleanup and storage which will be our post next week.

#1 Take stock.

Go out into your garden with your garden journal (You are keeping one, right?) making note of what worked and what didn’t. If a plant didn’t thrive, was bug infested, or disease ridden, it just might be time to “shovel prune” the thing to make a space for something that’s more suited to your climate/micro climate. You’ll have all winter to ask around and see what worked for your neighbors, or to talk to the folks at your local nursery about more suitable plants.

Bring your camera along and take a few photos to have when you’re looking at garden catalogues in the dead of winter. Not only will it cheer you up, but you’ll have a better idea of what new plants to order and where they should go.

#2 Final harvests.

Keep an eye on the weather reports. Harvest the last of your veggies just before that first frost hits. Or, put up some hoops and floating row covers to protect your crops for the early light frosts extending your growing season by a few weeks. Mary Beth did this in June, but you can still install them as a weekend project if you hurry.

#3 Clean, clean, clean.

Remove dead and dying plant material from your garden beds to prevent diseases from overwintering. Be especially vigilant in your rose beds — leave not even one fungus-infected leaf behind! Here’s a link to a great video on the Annie’s Annuals (amazingly great source for plants) website that shows how Annie “tears up” the garden in November to get it ready for spring. (Thanks for Dirt Du Jour for posting this.)

#4 Dig up dahlia tubers.

Yes, we know you hate this chore, but do it! You’ll be patting yourself on the back when these beauties are in full bloom next year. Click here for MB’s great “how to.” In coastal California you don’t have to dig up dahlias. You can just cut them back to the ground in November.

#5 Plant spring-flowering bulbs and wildflower seeds.

In Southern California this is the perfect time for putting in some spring-flowering bulbs. Click here for a list of bulbs that will do well in our warmer temps and for some good sources. You might want to consider filling in some early spring blank spots with native wildflowers. Planting time for wildflower seeds is mid-November through mid-March, but get your seeds now. Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano has nine mixes formulated specifically for California gardens using only native plant seeds.

#6 Cool Season Crops for Southern California.

Here in So Cal we really don’t get much of a break from gardening, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your energy level any given day. Regardless, fresh, homegrown veggies on your dinner table make it all worthwhile. You can grow arugula, beets, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, mache, escarole, favas, green onion, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mesclun, mustard, parsnips, radicchio, radish, snap peas, spinach and turnips.

Seeds should have gone in mid-September and you can probably get away with planting most of them if you do it right away, otherwise buy some starts and you’ll be right on schedule.

Ok. That’s enough for now. Next week we’ll talk tools.

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