From the UC Blogosphere...
Reporters sought UC Cooperative Extension expertise for recent articles about unusual farming efforts in two parts of California.
Fresno Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez covered the story of sisters in their early 20s who have settled on their dad's Laton alfalfa farm after he suffered complications from a black widow bite. The young women purchased chickens on a whim and began producing specialty eggs under the brand name "Just Got Laid."
Rodriguez spoke to Shermain Hardesty, UCCE specialist in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis, about trends in cottage farming.
"The timing is right for operators who can make a connection with consumers," Hardesty said. "People will support that."
Sacramento Bee reporter Edward Ortiz wrote about a return to dry-land farming in the Central Valley, with examples of farmers opting out of irrigation in producing particularly tasty apricots, wine grapes and tomatoes.
UC experts, however, commented on the difficulties associated with dry-land production in the valley.
"Dry farming would be a hard life because you're at the whim of the rains," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. "It would have to be a fairly small-scale farm, and in some cases, it would be a good road to poverty."
Duncan said wine grape growers might withhold irrigation early in the growing season to control leaf growth and improve fruit quality, but water is still needed later on. He noted that the valley in the 19th century was widely planted with wheat that relied on rainfall. The boom ended when irrigation allowed diverse fruits, vegetables and other crops to be grown.
Managing Animal Pests in Your Garden
By Steve McDermott Master Gardener
In San Luis Obispo County, our suburban homes rub up against the wilder, normal habitats of our native animal neighbors. Sometimes we interrupt their natural patterns of survival, and often times add attractive alternatives to their food choices. Colorful flowers, nubile sprouts, and fresh fruit often become more attractive to native creatures than their normal faire of wild grasses and scarce foliage. But for the home gardener, the animals may be considered wildlife “pests” that damage pretty plants, edible fruits and tasty vegetables.
How to manage this inherent conflict is challenging, but not impossible. Here are a few tips for the backyard gardener.
Most wild animals feed at night or in the early morning and late evening, so they are not easily seen. This is especially true of large animals such as deer, raccoons, opossums, and rabbits. The most general advice that can be given about controlling these prowlers is to provide barriers. The largest and most pastoral looking animal, a deer, requires the most effort to block from your garden. Physical barriers, such as 8-foot fences are required to keep them out of large gardens. Tall, wire-mesh fencing may be used around smaller areas and trees. Besides physical barriers, there are odor repellants available on the market, although some have limited effects. Check with your local nursery about deer resistant plants such as Digitalis, Euphoria, Narcissus, Tulipa, Nepeta, and ornamental grasses. Roses and other thorny plants are not resistant to deer.
Rabbits, skunks, opossums and raccoons are also pests in local gardens. They, too, need barriers. Those that climb need tall fences with 11/2 foot unsupported wire above fencepost tops so the animals fall off. A large dog will generally be a helpful deterrent, as will odor repellents. Random lighting and sprinkler systems will confuse them and cause them to look for easier places to forage. In all cases, garbage should be carefully stowed away in a container with a tight fitting lid so as to not provide an attractive dining area. Overgrown vines and ground covers should be trimmed since they are favorite habitats.
The San Luis Obispo County Master Gardeners are having their first Spring Plant Sale. So come and join us in the Garden Of The Seven Sisters for the afternoon on Saturday June 22 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. See you there!
Click link below for flyer!
I was recently shown this youtube video of Dr. Mark Hoddle of UCR on a collecting trip for red palm weevil. Like a train wreck - you know what is going to happen but you still watch.
First steps in setting up an irrigation system
By Christina Muller UC Master Gardener
What should I know before setting up an irrigation system for my garden? Katie in SLO
Living as we do in a Mediterranean climate, water is a valuable resource and for some people it may be the largest annual expenditure in the garden. It makes sense to conserve and apply water as judiciously as possible. A well-planned irrigation system can accomplish this.
It is important to first study the site. Consider your soil type since water will infiltrate at varying rates. For instance, sandy soils hold less water than clay and need more frequent irrigation. Know which plants are drought tolerant as they may be able to survive on seasonal rains, thus requiring no additional irrigation. Take into account the root depth of plants; annuals may not need to be watered as deeply as those with longer roots. Steep sites may benefit from terracing to slow water enough that it soaks into the soil instead of running downhill. Finally, know that sun, shade, temperature, humidity, and wind impact the amount of water that plants require.
A common concern for gardeners is how to effectively irrigate their lawns. A well-designed sprinkler system will water evenly without overspray onto sidewalks or driveways. The “Lawn Watering Guide for California” is a free UC publication athttp://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8044.pdf . Gardeners can use this to determine the output of their sprinklers and learn the suggested frequency and duration to water each month of the year.
Another helpful resource is the San Luis Obispo County Water-Wise Landscaping site athttp://www.slowaterwiselandscaping.com/Garden-Resources/ . In addition to information on irrigation systems, gardeners can learn more about water conservation by mulching and grouping plants with similar needs.
To learn more about setting up a system and to see a demonstration with various irrigation components, attend the Advice to Grow By seminar at the Garden of the Seven Sisters, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, on Saturday, May 18 from 10 am to noon.