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Latest Statewide Master Gardener News

Garden Gold: Changing Waste Into Resource

Compost is a great way to recycle organic matter back into your garden
This time of year finds us cleaning up the garden and throwing away the trimmings without ceremony or thought. This predilection we humans have of creating waste and then wanting it to “going away” has had dire consequences for our planet. Everything comes from and goes somewhere; the trick is to use this fact to our advantage.

Defining waste is tricky, but you could think of it the same way as weeds, which are basically plants where you don't want them; like weed management, reducing garden waste comes down to re-thinking and altering your cultural practices:

Plan ahead: Shopping at a nursery without a plan is like going to the grocery store hungry; impulse buys are inevitable! Measure your space, research climate-appropriate plants, and call nurseries for availability. Try to favor evergreen (non-deciduous) species, limit herbaceous perennials and annuals, and provide all plants adequate space for their natural size and shape. Constant shearing is a waste of time, and planting too densely often means you are tearing out plants within a couple of years, a waste of the water and other resources that went into growing those plants.

Irrigate and fertilize appropriately to avoid the feedback loop of wasteful inputs: too much water and high N-P-K fertilizers create lush growth, which is more attractive to pests, requiring herbicides and more irrigation to keep up with all that growth. Potent fertilizers often leach below the root zone or out of the soil via irrigation run-off, polluting rivers and groundwater, and wasting your money. Organic fertilizers with low N-P-K numbers provide a slow release of nutrients, which can be taken up more effectively by soil microbes and plants.

Composting is the best way to recycle myriad forms of plant matter, both from your yard and the kitchen, into a source of bio-available nutrients. Compost also helps improve soil structure (a definite plus for those of plagued with adobe) and increases the biodiversity of your soil, a way of protecting your plants from pathogens.

Grasscycling: Recycling grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn reduces fertilizer needs by 20% and returns valuable organic matter to the soil. It's easier on your back, too! Problems associated with grasscycling often result from improper practices; see the resource section below for help.

Avoid invasive species: Some plants have aggressive growth and produce a lot of waste when they need trimming. Examples of invasive species include English ivy and Vinca major. Some invasives can re-root in a compost bin, so they end up in the landfill. for examples of invasive plants and alternatives, see the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal IPC) website.

Resources:
Fertilizing:   sjmastergardeners.ucdavis.edu/files/154369.pdf
Composting and Grasscycling:   sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/Composting_/
Cal IPC:  www.cal-ipc.org/landscaping/dpp/

Posted on Monday, August 10, 2015 at 5:10 AM
  • Author: Nadia Zane

What Do You Know About Neonics?

What do you know about neonicotinoids, aka neonics?

A worker bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

An educational opportunity to learn more about them--the truths and the myths--will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 9 at the University of Caifornia, Davis, and you're invited. It's open to the public.

The conference, themed “Truth or Myth: Neonicotinoids and Their Impact on Pollinators: What Is the Science-Based Research?” will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the UC Davis Conference Center, 550 Alumni Lane.

UC Davis researchers and state officials will address the crowd, announced conference coordinator Dave Fujino, director of the UC Davis-based California Center for Urban Horticulture.

“We are pleased to have such a knowledgeable lineup of UC Davis researchers who will clarify the issue of impact of neonicotinoid impacts on pollinators by summarizing and presenting the past and current science-based research,” Fujino said. “We are also fortunate to have additional presentations on the regulation guidelines on neonicotinoids and their role in controlling invasive pests in California, and a diverse group of stakeholders participating in a panel discussion on the neonicotinoid issue.”

Neonicotinoids, recently implicated in the worldwide die-off of pollinators, including honey bees, are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. Considered important in the control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests, they target the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. “Neonics,” as they're called, are commonly used on farms, and around homes, schools, and city landscapes.

Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, will provide an overview of the current use of neonicotinoids and the role of honey bees in California agriculture. Six other speakers are scheduled, along with a panel discussion.

The speakers include:

  • Brian Leahy, director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, who will discuss “California Pesticide Regulation of Neonicotinoids” 

  • Nick Condos, director of the Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services Division, California Department of Food and Agriculture, “Neonicotinoid Risks Associated with Invasive Species Management” 

  • Karen Jetter, associate project economist, UC Agricultural Issues Center, “Trends in Neonicotinoid Usage in California Agriculture and the Control of Invasive Species”

  • Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, a doctoral candidate who studies with major professors Neal Williams and Ed Lewis of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, “Past Neonicotinoid and Bee Research”

  • Elina Lastro Niño, Extension apiculturist based at the Harry H. Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, “Current Neonicotinoid and Bee Research.”

The California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) will co-host the event with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Sponsors include California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC), a trade organization founded in 1911 to promote and protect the California nursery industry; Four Winds Growers, based in Winters, Calif.; Scotts Miracle-Gro, a company headquartered in Marysville, Ohio, and known as the world's largest marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products; and Monrovia, a horticultural craftsmen company headquartered in Azusa, Calif.

At the close of the conference, Fujino will preside over a panel discussion on neonicotinoid issues and concerns. Questions and answers from the audience will follow. The panel is to include a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, and representatives from the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers, Home Depot, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bayer CropScience and the American Beekeeping Federation.

The registration fee of $50 will include lunch, as well as the post-conference social hour. To register, access the CCHU website at http://ccuh.ucdavis.edu/public/copy_of_public/neonicotinoid-pollinator-conference-2015/neonic or contact CCUH representative Kate Lincoln at kmlincoln@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-6642.

The European Union recently adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that by January 2016, it will ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the 150 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Posted on Friday, August 7, 2015 at 10:17 PM
  • Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Creating a Pollinator Garden

When you look at a flower, how often do you consider the importance of these unsung heroes? Pollinators help produce beautiful landscapes and the bounty of fruits, nuts and vegetables we all enjoy.

Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and bats help plants reproduce by carrying pollen from one flower to another.

Right now, honey bee and other pollinator populations are being threatened by a number of factors including disease, mites, and loss of habitat and food sources.

Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on pollinators, and those pollinators need your help!

  • Have you seen bees and other pollinators in your own neighborhood?
  • Are there flowering plants in your garden, park, school or community? 
  • Did you know that many pollinators are essential for the production of most of the fruits and vegetables you eat every day?

If you answered no to any of the questions above, click here to see how you can help!

Things to Consider for your Garden:

 

  1. A variety of plants will be ideal for providing diverse sources of nectar and pollen. Choose at least 20 different plant types, or fewer if the types of plants are highly attractive to pollinators. Don't forget that night-blooming flowers will support moths and bats.
  2. Help pollinators find and use your garden by planting in clumps, rather than just single plants. Think about "landing zones."
  3. Include plants native to your region. Natives are adapted to your local climate, soil and native pollinators. If you want to see some locals, plant some natives!
  4. Overlap flowering times between seasons and use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall.Pollinators are in a constant search for new resources. Choosing plants with overlapping flowering times from February to October will allow bees and pollinators to continually forage in your garden.
  5. Consider plant climate zones. Plant for success! A plant's native climate range is important in determining if it will be attractive to bees visiting your garden (and if your plant will grow well in your garden or not!).
  6. Design a garden that has structure. The arrangement of plants in your garden will influence your ability to observe and enjoy pollinators. Plant the tallest plants in the back with the smaller ones in the front.
  7. Plant in the sun. Bees prefer to visit flowers in the sun, so avoid planting your pollinator-attracting plants in the shadier parts of your garden.
  8. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape, or incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control. If you use pesticides, use them sparingly and responsibly. Pesticides can kill bad insects as well as beneficial insects like bees, ladybugs and other predators of garden pests.
  9. Don't' forget about nesting bees! Not all bees have a hive. Make sure to leave some areas for bees to build their nests (either in bare ground or in prefabricated cavities in wood). It's ok to leave part of your garden un-mulched for ground-nesting insects to discover. 
  10. Leave dead tree trunks and branches in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles. By leaving dead trees, or at least an occasional dead limb, you provide essential nesting sites for native bees, but make sure these are not a safety hazard for people walking below. You can also build a bee condo by drilling holes of varying diameter about 3 to 5 inches deep in a piece of scrap lumber mounted to a post or under eaves.
  11. Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl, or birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches. 
  12. Create a damp salt lick for butterflies and bees. Use a dripping hose, drip irrigation line, or place your birdbath on bare soil to create a damp area. Mix a small bit of salt or wood ashes into the mud. 
  13. Provide a hummingbird feeder and add to nectar resources. To make artificial nectar, use four parts water to one part table sugar. Never use artificial sweeteners, honey, or fruit juices. Place something red on the feeder. Clean your feeder with hot soapy water at least twice a week to keep it free of mold.

The content for this blog was taken from the UC ANR Pollen Nation website.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 8:12 AM

Pollen Nation Photo Contest!

In honor of National Pollinator Week (June 15 - 21), UC ANR will be awarding a copy of California Bees & Blooms to the winner of their social media photo contest!

  • Simply take a photo of one of your local pollinators.
  • Upload your photo to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the #PollenNation hashtag. 
  • At the end of the week we will round up your photos and select a winner. The contest ends Sunday 6/21 and the winner will be announced on Monday 6/22! 
  • By uploading your photo to #PollenNation, you are hereby agreeing to their contest rules
  • For more information about pollinators and pollen nation, visit their website.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 8:05 AM

Soap Sprays as Insecticides

By Scott Oneto, Farm Advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

Soaps have been used to control insects and combat pests for hundreds of years, but their effectiveness as pesticides has been scientifically established only recently. Recently, there has been increased interest in and use of these products. This change is due to a better understanding of how to use soaps most effectively and a desire to try insecticides that are easier and safer to use than many currently available alternatives.

Photo courtesy: www.todayshomeowner.com

How soaps and detergents kill insects is still poorly understood. Researchers have been studying how soaps work in combating pests. Some soaps simply wash off the outer waxy coating of the insect's cuticle, destroying its watertight quality and causing the insect to dry up and die. Other soaps have additional insecticidal properties that may affect the nervous system. These soaps appear to have toxic effect only against plant-eating insects and thus may spare beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles (ladybugs), lacewings, and predatory mites. In addition, high pressure sprays may wash some insects off the plant and other insects may be immobilized in soapy water, making them easier to rinse off the plants.

Soaps will kill many insect pests, including aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, spittlebugs, rose slugs, and soft scale on most houseplants, ornamentals, and fruit trees. But because soaps have little or no residual action, sprays should be applied at regular intervals until the population is controlled or eliminated.

Soaps act strictly as contact insecticides, with no residual effect. To be effective, sprays must be applied directly to and thoroughly cover the insect. Several insecticidal soaps are available over-the-counter for control of insects and mites. Available under a variety of trade names, the active ingredient of all is potassium salt of fatty acids. Insecticidal soaps are chemically similar to many household liquid hand soaps. However, there are many features of commercial insecticidal soap products that distinguish them from the dish washing liquids or liquid hand soaps that are sometimes substituted.

Insecticidal soaps sold for control of insects:

  • are selected to control insects
  • are selected to minimize potential plant injury
  • are of consistent manufacture

Some household soap also makes effective insecticides. In particular, certain brands of hand soaps and liquid dishwashing detergents can be effective for this purpose. They are also substantially less expensive. However, there is increased risk of plant injury with these products. They are not designed for use on plants. Dry dish soaps and all clothes-washing detergents are too harsh to be used on plants. Also, many soaps and detergents are poor insecticides. Identifying safe and effective soap-detergent combinations for insect control requires experimentation. Regardless of what product is used, soap-detergent sprays are always applied diluted with water, typically at a concentration of around2 to 3 percent. (Table 1)

One of the most serious potential drawbacks to the use of Household soap-detergent sprays is their potential to cause plant injury –their phytotoxicity. Certain plants are sensitive to these sprays and may be seriously injured. For example, most commercial insecticidal soaps list plants such as hawthorn, sweet pea, cherries and plum as being sensitive to soaps. Certain tomato varieties are also sometimes damaged by insecticidal soaps. The risk of plant damage is greater with homemade preparations of household soaps or detergents. When in doubt, test soap-detergent sprays for phytotoxicity problems on a small area a day or two before an extensive area is treated.

Plant injury can be reduced by using sprays that are diluted more than the 2 to 3 percent suggested on label instructions. To reduce leaf injury, wash plants with in a couple of hours after the application. Limiting the number of soap applications can also be important, as leaf damage can accumulate with repeated exposure.

However, because of the short residual action, repeat applications may be needed at relatively short intervals (four to seven days) to control certain pests, such as spider mites and scale crawlers. Also, application must be thorough and completely wet the pest. This usually means spraying undersides of leaves and other protected sites. Insects that cannot be completely wetted, such as aphids within curled leaves, will not be controlled.

Environmental factors also can affect use of soaps. In particular, soaps (but not synthetic detergents) are affected by the presence of minerals found in hard water, which results in chemical changes producing insoluble soaps (soap scum). Control decreases if hard-water sources are used. Insecticidal soaps may also be more effective if drying is not overly rapid, such as early or late in the day.

Soaps and detergents can offer a relatively safe and easy means to control many insect pests. As with all pesticides, however, there are limitations and hazards associated with their use. Understand these limitations, and carefully follow all label instructions.

Information for this article was adapted from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
and Colorado State University Extension.
 
For more information on pesticides and pesticide alternatives, visit the UC IPM website
 

 

 

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 6:30 AM
  • Author: Scott Oneto

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