Sunday, January 28, 2007

January garden crappiness with tiny hints of color

Successive frosts and freezes and a rainfall deficit means the garden is looking pretty ragged right now. I'm not cutting anything back till frost danger has passed... except my roses, which I should have already pruned but... haven't. If I do it in the next couple days, the rose police won't have anything on me.

If you won't pet me and scratch my head... I guess this shrub will have to suffice.

Fine. Be that way.

'Tropicanna' canna is looking more like 'Freezorama' canna

Persian shield looooves heat and haaaaates cold.

Violas looking cute but not growing much

Orchid cactus looking surprisingly unmushy. I think it's in a lucky little microclimate.

These pansies and tulips are loving being tucked up against a stucco wall on the southwest corner of the property.

Ooh... Mexican bush sage, lavender and sedum looking fabulously awful.

Succulents in foreground doing ok, but hibiscus in background looking pretty crispy.


Impulse purchase from awhile back doing ok up against a west-facing wall

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Vanishing fermented grape glut

Wine industry lifts glasses to vanishing glut

By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer

Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, January 25, 2007
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1

Happy to have done my part as an Amercan cizen... hiccup... an Amer-i-can Ciz-it-en... hiccup!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

EcoForms Biodegradable Pots

A friend and I saw... and fondled... these gorgeous new biodegradable EcoForms pots at Emigh Hardware the other day. They're really cool and I'm going to get some. They're made from rice hulls!

Check out their FAQ's.

How long will EcoForms™ last?

Under normal conditions, an EcoForms™ pot will last five years.

What are EcoForms™ made of?

Grain husks (primarily rice hulls) and natural binding agents (a combination of starch based, water soluble binders and biodegradable additives).

Can I plant EcoForms™ in the ground?

No, EcoForms™ are meant to be used and reused above ground only. They will degrade in the landfill.

What colors do they come in?

We currently list 6 colors: Natural, Avocado, Harvest, Sand, Mocha and Ebony.

Can they handle freezing conditions?

Yes, EcoForms™ show no damage when exposed to freezing or thawing conditions.

Are EcoForms™ organic?

Although they are not certified organic, they are ideal for organic production. They contain non-polluting, earth-friendly ingredients.

Where can I buy them?

Call John Hoffman at (530) 320-6829 or Sweetwater Nursery at (707) 566-8133. You may also send e-mail to

Monday, January 22, 2007

Plant Defender redesign, website and online ordering

Just wanted to let folks know that Jim Cockcroft, who designed and manufactures Plant Defender cages, has refined the design and now has a website offering online ordering. You may remember my snail and slug battles last spring and how thrilled I was to find something that would help my basil and pepper seedlings survive the slimy onslaught. In fact, the Plant Defender was exactly what I had been hoping someone had invented... and someone had!

As a recycle-minded organic/IPM gardener who much prefers pest barriers over pesticides, I thought about using soda bottles or berry baskets, but soda bottles weren't well ventilated or wide enough, and berry baskets were too small. The Plant Defender is really clever because it takes the ventilation of a berry basket and combines it with the size needed to cover a plant from seedling to maturity. I left my cages on all season.

I first ordered Plant Defender cages through Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. After losing seedling after seedling to slugs and snails, it was great to finally see my plants mature enough to tolerate snail attacks. Is there anything more heartbreaking than rushing out in the morning to check on your newly planted seedlings only to find that they're gone? Not just injured, but gone... vaporized. Ok, so there probably are greater heartbreaks, but it still hurts.

Thanks to the Plant Defender, I won the battle and last summer's veggie and herb garden turned out great. I would like to try the Plant Defender on bean seedlings too. A cage around each bamboo pole of my bean teepee might do the trick. Snails find tender, heart-shaped bean seedlings to be quite delish. I had to place a second seed order with Renee's after losing nearly all of the first batch of seeds I planted. Some snails even had the nerve to stick around long enough for me to catch them in the act. But did I kill them? Of course not. I simply moved them to a less tasty part of the garden. Moving literally at a snail's pace, I knew it'd take the little gluttons for...ever to get back to my seedlings. Mwa... ha ha ha haaaaa.

The cages are really easy to use. You simply place them over your seedlings, firming the base against the soil surface. In my blog entries, I mentioned that the copper-painted rim on the old design didn't seem to be repelling slugs and snails. I solved that problem by adding copper tape around the base of the cage. That worked beautifully, but it was a pricy solution. Jim replaced the copper with a moat and I'm very anxious to try the redesigned Plant Defender in the spring/summer garden. Break out the beer! I'll try water too and see which works best.

I haven't had problems with larger varmints like deer, birds, or squirrels, but Plant Defenders are supposed to deter them too. My biggest pests have been snails, slugs and earwigs. Hey, I wonder if the moat deters earwigs...

Additionally, a new removable lid now means you no longer have to cut off the top of the cage once plants reach the top and makes the cages very reusable. So your $3.99 investment (divided over several seasons) pays off considering how many trips back to the nursery you won't be making.

Oh, and they're not just for veggies. Use Plant Defenders on your prized ornamentals too. I use them on my Annie's Annuals splurges.

In addition to the Plant Defender, Garden Products, Etc. also sells The Sprinkler Mate and Row Markers.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Have you seen this moth? Do you like beer?

Find a moth, win a beer with an entomologist
San Francisco Chronicle
Ron Sullivan, Joe Eaton
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

NEW River-Friendly Landscape Guidelines Book

There's an excellent new guide available from the Sacramento Stormwater Quality Partnership teaching river-friendly landscape practices. River-Friendly Landscape Guidelines goes beyond urging water efficiency by incorporating the following objectives:

Landscaping in harmony with the natural conditions of the Sacramento River watershed.

-- Reducing waste and recycling materials.
-- Nurturing healthy soils while reducing fertilizer use.
-- Conserving water, energy and topsoil.
-- Using integrated pest management to minimize chemical use.
-- Reducing stormwater runoff.
-- Creating wildlife habitat.

The guide includes river-friendly checklists, plant lists, photos, diagrams, quotes from local environmental and landscape leaders, and a wealth of printed and online resources. There's even a guide for hiring a river-friendly landscaper. Don't be dissuaded by the "... for the Landscape Professional" part of the title. If you do your own landscaping and landscape maintenance, this guide's for you. If you don't... make sure your landscaper has a copy or visits the website.

If you want your garden to become a healthy refuge for people and wildlife while reducing waste and eliminating pollutants, River-Friendly Landscape Guidelines will show you the steps you need to take.

Click HERE to order your free copy of River-Friendly Landscape Guidelines and Choosing a Landscape Professional.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cold takes toll on California citrus, avocados and strawberries

Huge crop loss in state freeze
Citrus, avocados, strawberries are hit hard by cold snap in south state, San Joaquin Valley.
By Deb Kollars - Bee Staff Writer
Last Updated 12:43 am PST Tuesday, January 16, 2007Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1

California's $1.3 billion citrus industry is facing massive losses after three nights of freezing temperatures up and down the state.

"The growers know there is damage, and they expect it to be significant," said Dave Kranz, manager of media services for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

As much as 70 percent of the state's orange crop has been destroyed, according to state officials and farmers.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

I had an opportunity for an overnight trip to Santa Cruz and Capitola this week. Made sure to stop at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, since I'd never been there. It was mid day, windy and winter, but I still managed to snap a few pics. I'd like to go back in Spring/Summer. The cute gift shop sells succulents and other plants and garden accessories. Didn't have time to shop, but ... Aaa'll be back.

Peering into the greenhouse

Succulent heaven...

Aloe arborescens

Plaques and plants for sale near the gift shop

The gift shop

100 buckaroonies! I need to go into the succulent planter business!

Free plants! How cool is that?

This looks to be some sort of a propagation area near the offices.

Grevillea 'Superb' or 'Mason's Hybrid'

Banksia ericifolia

Eucalyptus erythrocorys



Isopogon cuneatus

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

City of Sacramento Front Yard Landscaping Code Meeting

I don't live in Sacramento city proper, but used to, have friends and family who do, and very much want to help preserve their right to grow whatever plants they please, be they edible or ornamental.

A friend just forwarded this:

"... the issue regarding possible changes tothe City of Sacramento's code language regarding front yard landscaping andthe possibility of growing fruits and vegetables is going in front of the Planning Commission tomorrow, Thursday, January 11. The meeting will be inthe Old/Historic City Hall (915 I Street), second floor and starts at 5:30, however the issue will be heard toward the end of the agenda, so we don'texpect it to be heard before 6:00. We really need as much support as we can- and public input at the meeting as possible - so please pass on this information and let as many people know as possible about the meeting."

Show up tomorrow to demonstrate your support for edible, ornamental front yard gardens!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wanna become a Sacramento Master Gardener?

Here's the skinny from UC Cooperative Extension, Sacramento County.

Applications are currently being accepted for UC Master Gardener Volunteers.

The UC Master Gardener Volunteer Program is seeking applicants for the 2007 training program. Do you want to learn more about gardening? Do you have time to share your knowledge with the community? Are you a resident of Sacramenot County? If yes, the Master Gardener training program could be for you.

When and how do I apply to the program?

Sacramento County UC Master Gardeners will be holding training beginning Wednesday, March 7, 2007.

Deadline to submit an application is Thursday, January 18, 2007.

Application forms and training details are available by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope (63¢) to Master Gardener Training, Cooperative Extension, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827-3898.

How long does the training last?

Four-hour classes will be conducted one afternoon each week from March 7, 2007 to June 27, 2007, plus one Saturday field trip. Attendance is mandatory at all classes and field trips. Classes are held in the UCCE Auditorium located at 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827. The day of the week that classes are conducted is the same through out the training and will be included in the application packet.

Who teaches the classes and what will I learn?

All classes are taught by University specialists, Horticulture Advisors, and community experts. Topics include: introduction to horticulture; soil; water and fertilizer management; ornamentals and drought tolerant plants; turf management; landscape trees: planting and maintenance; introduction to insects; integrated pest management; home vegetable gardening; plant disease diagnosis; weed identification and management; home orchards; fruit and nut trees; small fruits and grapevines; identification and control of household pests; understanding pesticides volunteerism; diagnosing garden and landscape problems.

How do I qualify to be a Sacramento County Master Gardener trainee?

Applicants must be residents of Sacramento County. This Master Gardener program is administered by the Sacramento County Cooperative Extension office. If you are not a Sacramento County resident, contact your local Cooperative Extension office for training information.

A past history of volunteering in the community is the main qualification we look for in applicants. The past volunteer activities do not need to be horticulture related. Prior horticulture training and/or experience is preferred but not required.

Is a fee charged for the training classes?

A fee to cover training and resource materials is charged for the training. The fee will be stated in the application packet.

What happens after I graduate and become a Master Gardener?

After attending all class sessions, and all the weekly quizzes and final exam are completed, trainees receive a graduation certificate. New Master Gardeners are required to contribute fifty hours of community volunteer work during the next twelve months. Every year thereafter, twenty-five hours of volunteer activity is required. UCCE approved volunteer opportunities are available for Master Gardeners to extend University research based information to the gardening community in Sacramento County. Each year twelve hours of continuing education is also required.

Where in the Sacramento area can I obtain horticulture education?

A variety of classes are offered at American River College, Cosumnes River College, Sierra College, Folsom Community College, UC Davis, numerous local garden and plant organizations such as Sacramento Tree Foundation, Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and garden clubs.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

In the garden...

-- I vow to stop leaving clippings all over the damn place. For someone who owns every garden receptacle known to man, I sure have a nasty habit of dropping clippings wherever wind and gravity take them.

Maybe these new Garden Pop-Up Bags
icon from Gardener's Supply will inspire me. God, they're cute. Won't they look purty surrounded by clippings?


-- I vow to find a 'Lime Rickey' Heuchera and buy it. When I held a pricey 1-gallon specimen in my hot little hands several months ago but put it down hoping to find it cheaper elsewhere, I had no idea the plant would be so elusive. You're worth it, Rickey... Rick... my darling.

(Photo from Terra Nova Nurseries website)

I vow to visit at least two California nurseries and two California public gardens I've never seen in person. Maybe one of each in So Cal and Nor Cal. Suggestions?

-- I vow to try growing one new squash variety.

-- I vow to maybe not plant so many tomatoes. I mean really. C'mon, Angela.

-- I vow to think about joining a 12-step program for garden tool abusers.

-- I vow to cook from the garden more. Salsa was a snap. Pesto is from the gods. Yep, more culinary creations from the garden.

In general...

I vow to eat right and exercise, of course.

-- I vow to find beauty wherever I can.

-- I vow to keep a much closer eye on my new camera equipment (ahem) and to take a gazillion pictures.

-- I vow to pay it forward in little ways whenever I can.

-- I vow to enjoy the journey, the moment, go for the gusto, and seize the day. Tick tock!