Sow There! Thanks for the garden memories, Facebook 5-19-2016

Wild viola spreads into empty areas when they get a little rain in the winter.

Wild viola spreads into empty areas when they get a little rain in the winter. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

I have a selective memory.

If I select to remember something, I have several options. I can write things down, and then try to remember where I placed the notes. I can review my innermost thoughts by reading my journal. Sometimes my sister takes it upon herself to remind me of things I might just assume forget.

So far, my selective memory and I have survived just fine, thank you very much.

Recently, Facebook has decided to give me friendly reminders from my past. For the most part, this is mildly enjoyable. I understand the social media giant is trying to keep it real, keep it lively and find new ways to sneak advertisements into my daily life. But really?

This week I received a collage from four years ago that reminded me that I looked a lot better when I was 10 pounds lighter. Facebook also sent me several images of my garden from before the drought. Is there a correlation? Did I buy fewer boxes of Girl Scout cookies when I was busy working in my beautiful garden.

In one series of images the very thin Heather is in Las Vegas with Uncle Bob and Auntie Joanne. We posed in front of the dessert buffet at the El Dorado. We posed with the rubber chicken in front of the “Pawn Stars” storefront.

My takeaway from all of this is that I really need to send Uncle Bob and Aunt Joanne a long, soulful correspondence. Maybe I’ll bake them some cookies.

Yet, what if the Facebook algorithm had provided a flashback to a time better forgotten? What if I suddenly had doubts about my career path, questioned my sanity or relived personal trauma? Could I call in sick and tell the boss I was suffering from Facebook-flashback-itis?

I’ll try not to worry too much about any of this. Before we know it, Facebook will have moved on to the next new thing.

GARDEN MEMORIES

Thank you Facebook, for reminding me why I love gardening and how much I have missed it.

Two years ago I left the little home and garden where I had lived for two decades. My new house is directly next door.

Over that time, the empty places in the yard have grown, due to drought and the fact that the new renters are not gardeners.

Those flashback Facebook photos reminded me that with a lot of work, the world can be beautiful again.

After just one season of nearly-normal rainfall, the sage is blooming in that yard next door, as are the roses. Wild viola is already moving in to areas where other plants have died.

I’m tempted to dig up some plants from the yard. Yet, last time I tried that I was caught.

The jasmine next door also bloomed as if it had been restrained for the past four years.

SHARED JASMINE

This reminded me that the jasmine is actually on both sides of our yards.

Last year I tried to take cuttings. I found a long list of instructions, some of which I followed. This included buying and using rooting hormones.

Nothing happened. The cuttings died.

Now I’m trying again. Instead of actually cutting the plants, I’m taking a long tendril that looks like it was going to grow roots on its own. I placed the portion of the plant with the mini roots into a pot filled with soil. This portion of the jasmine vine is still connected to the mother plant.

Once there are more roots, I’ll snip the connection of baby to mother.

We’ll see. I’ve had good luck with this method for Dusty Miller.

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Its easy to forget that privet is evil an invasive 1-28-16

Privet ...

Privet … Photo courtesy of University of California

If you live long enough, you might end up taking back some strongly stated opinions.

You may eat crow, swallow those words and see pigs fly.

I can’t remember if it was my mother, my sister or both who noted that I had allowed privet to grow in pots.

“What are you doing?”

These were not small, accidental springs or even a partially hidden volunteers.

As the plants in my pots have died, privet has taken over and I have continued to water the evil and invasive plants.

“I thought you said no one should ever, ever grow privet” the close family member reminded me.

She was absolutely correct. I’ve spent far too many precious moments ranting and raving about privet, yanking it out by the roots and adding it to the list of least wanted.

Most neighborhoods have one or more evil weeds that would take over all the soil if given a chance.

Mimosa trees, for example, are known to be take-over artists. In just a few short years you could have a yard with nothing but two-foot tall lacy mimosa shrubs.

My sister’s friend Debbie bought an older home in the Bay Area. The selling agent must have visited the home half an hour before potential buyers arrived.

When Debbie bought the home she learned the yard was so infested with ailanthus (Chinese tree of heaven). Shoots from the plant came up from the wooden deck, growing four feet each week. If you know this tree, you know this isn’t an exaggeration. Unfortunately, evil and invasive weed infestation is not one of the disclosures required in the real estate industry.

In Chico neighborhoods, people often battle Velcro weed, wild garlic, Johnson grass and wild grape.

NOW BACK TO PRIVET

In case you aren’t familiar with privet, its a hardy, quick-growing plant from the Ligustrum family, often used to form a hedge. You may be familiar with plant from films. If the character lives in a huge, New England manor, the mile-long driveways are often flanked with privet.

(This privacy factor is why I was considering putting some of those sprouts along my wire fence).

The plant can be a bush, if whacked back, or can disguise itself as a tree.

Underneath the bush or tree, you’ll see a pile of slightly purple, black berries.

After the birds gobble those berries, they drop their bird poop on light-colored cars.

My boyfriend’s car was so splattered it looked as if the clan of Duck Dynasty had decided to chew wads of tobacco and use my boyfriend’s car as a spitting target.

With the help of the birds, seeds are distributed throughout the neighborhood.

It’s no surprise the seeds made it to the empty pots near my front door.

“What’s the deal?” my family member asked?

I guess I wasn’t thinking.

It was easy to refresh my memory through an online search for information. I typed in “privet” and “invasive.”

LEMON TIPS

We have not had a hard freeze in the valley, which means people still have plenty of lemons to share. Laura, my friend at work, shared her trick for easy lemon zest.

She keeps a lemon in the freezer. When she needs a little bit of lemon zest, she pulls out the frozen ball and grates enough for that meal or beverage.

You can also juice several lemons right now and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Most recipes, including my favorite lemon bars, require just a small amount of lemon juice.

Before discarding the lemon peel and remaining pulp, some people like to rub the citrus all over their sinks in the kitchen and bathroom. You can also grind up the fragrant fruit in the garbage disposal to freshen up the pipes.

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Rain is a good reminder of how tired we are of drought gardening 1-21-16

A old wheelbarrow planted for drought.

A old wheelbarrow planted for drought. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

This drought has been tough for garden columnists.

I’m sure I’m not alone. Other writers in California, Nevada and parts of Oregon must also be weary of drought-tolerant topics, drip irrigation checklists and the multitudinous benefits of mulch.

We’ve yammered on cheerfully about lawn conversion projects and the joys of houseplants. We’ve yanked cactus spines from tender skin, watered hardy bushes with dishwater and waited to wash clothes until we had a full load.

However, rain clouds have parked it over my house. El Niño may really be here.

There is still time to go buy cute rain boots. These are necessary because there are actual puddles in my gravel driveway.

Hurray.

Now what? I rattled off a quick note to Kay Perkins, one of my go-to gals for garden advice. Kay has been down and dirty establishing the drought-tolerant garden at the Patrick Ranch, along with those diligent volunteers from Butte County Master Gardeners.

“Here’s what I’m thinkin’,” I told Kay via email. “If we plant drought-tolerant plants now, in the wet season, will they have enough time to build up a good root system? When summer comes along, will these drought-tolerant plants be able to make it without extra water?”

I was hoping for encouragement to load up a cart at the local nursery.

The answer, of course, is that it is not that simple.

Kay checked with Eve Werner, of Eve’s Garden Design. Eve agreed now is a good time to plant native and summer dry plants.

“As soon as it starts to warm up, they will begin root development that will help them be drought ready in the summer,” Eve replied. She also noted its important for native and Mediterranean plants to have the root ball slightly higher than the surrounding soil.

“If the roots are not well formed or if the root ball falls apart during planting, lightly prune to reduce, but not eliminate, top growth,” Eve said. “Sages, lavenders, rosemary and buckwheats should be planted without a ‘berm’ around the plant so that water drains away from the plant stem,” Eve advised.

Another native plant expert, Cindy Weiner, adds that it “takes natives a couple of summers to become fully established. Until that time, they will need supplemental irrigation during the dry season. Typically, that means once a week the first summer and twice a month during the second.

“After a couple of years many natives will no longer need any further irrigation, but some will do better with continued irrigation. A lot depends on the habitat to which the plant is native. A plant native to redwood forests of the north coast, riparian areas, or higher elevations in the mountains is likely to need ongoing irrigation,” Cindy stated.

EASY DROUGHT MISTAKES

Some people have terrible luck with drought plants because they think the plants need zero water. Those first two years, the plants definitely need water to become established.

After that, some people will kill their plants by loving them too much — continuing to water them when they do not need water.

Part of the bad luck is that certain fungi can kill dry-loving plants, and the fungi only grows when its wet.

I’ve heard it suggested that people put all their drought-tolerant plants in one place. This way they can take care of them in the same way, in this case, watering at first and neglect later.

Kay also provided a link to this very thorough guide to native plants from Native Again Landscape,http://www.native-again-landscape.com.

SEEKING LEMON RECIPES

We’re still in the middle of the winter citrus season, and some folks are swimming in lemons.

What ways can we use lemons to help us maintain this winter weight gain?

Do you have a very cool citrus recipe to share or any other tips on using or storing lemons?

Please share.

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Timely tips on growing tomatoes 4-14-2016

Celebrity tomatoes from last September.
Celebrity tomatoes from last September. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

The older I get the more I’m convinced that almost no one cares that I have become wise. If I’m going to look the part — crow’s feet and wisps of gray — it would be nice if it seemed like society appreciated that there was some learnin’ that took place before I became this way.

You can’t blame the younger generation for not caring what elders know and think. We were exactly the same way.

I was intent on learning things my own way, thank you very much, which more often than not was the hard way.

My parents would share a thought or two. Yet, the gesture of offering advice was proof to my young self that they clearly did not understand me. Even now, I’m more likely to take their thoughts into consideration rather than taking their word for it.

How did I get rolling down this glum road? For starters, it’s my birth month.

Also, my family is still reeling from the death of my mother’s partner. He was one of those guys who built his own airplane, knew electrical wiring and used many machines that started with the word “skill”.

I won’t say that all of this knowledge is “lost.” I’m sure he was mentor to more than a few along the way. However, he’s no longer here to share his expertise.

Perhaps the best thing my generation can do is disguise our knowledge in forms where the next generation will actually seek answers.

This means people with gray hair should be creating blog posts, writing Facebook self-help quizzes and creating YouTube how-to videos.

TIME FOR TOMATOES

This brings me to the topic of tomatoes. I’ve had the pleasure of asking local nursery legend Jerry Mendon, of Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise, for advice. He’s an advocate of waiting just a bit longer before putting warm-season vegetables in the ground. The reason is that a cold snap could cause plants to go back into a slumber. He prefers to plant them in early May.

The problem is that there are great sales on tomatoes and other vegetables starting in early April. They’re cheap. Buy just one.

In my experience, it’s more fun to take three shopping trips and buy plants three separate times. This way, if you plant too early, you’re only stunting the growth of one or a few plants.

MORE TOMATO TIPS

While I’m on a roll, I might as well make myself feel useful and share more tomato tips I have amassed.

• Tickling tomatoes works: We think bees are needed for tomatoes. Bees help, but tomato flowers have both male and female parts. When the temperatures are right, and the humidity is right, and there is a breeze, the pollen will shift around and do the job.

We can help if we tickle the flowers gently in the morning while it is still about 60 degrees. In larger greenhouses, people are known to use electric toothbrushes. I like to tickle about 3-4 inches below the blossoms, giving the stems a gentle jiggle. You can read a more scientific description from the University of California:http://tinyurl.com/gp98pwa

BURY DEEP

Tomatoes actually benefit by being transplanted more deeply than the original container. If you look at plants you buy in the store, sometimes they are lanky. If you bury some or even most of the stem, the tomato plant will send out new roots from the main stem.

You can also propagate new tomato plants from a cutting from an existing plant. You can try this with sucker stems, and simply place the stem in a glass of water. After the stem creates roots, you have a new plant.

A tomato how-to from Bonnie Plants recommends putting the plant 2/3 under the ground, with only 1/3 of the foliage above the soil, http://tinyurl.com/hypamzw. This seems so extreme, however I think I’ll try it this year, if only to put someone else’s knowledge to good use.

Some folks will also lay the plant on its side, burying the majority of the plan and allowing just the top above the soil.

GOOD, OLD ADVICE

While looking online for fresh tomato tips, I came across one of my own articles from 2009,http://tinyurl.com/gv48rzl. I was quoting Jerry Mendon again back then, who reminded us that tomatoes actually perform less if they are given too much fertilizer. He recommended a 5-5-5 fertilizer, which provides just a mild dose of what tomatoes need.

SOMETHING NEW

Here’s another gem from the Santa Clara Master Gardeners, https://mastergardeners.org/growing-great-tomatoes: Don’t be shy to trim back your tomato plants. If they grow more than a foot over the cage, snip off that extra growth so the leaves don’t flop over and shade the rest of the plant.

But wait, I realize that I know even more about growing tomatoes, but have run out of room in this column. Isn’t that just like life, we learn all that we learn, and then run out of time or space.

Contact reporter Heather Hacking at 896-7758.

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Wildflowers come and go quickly 3-31-2016

Poppies don't always know their place and sometimes grow in places where they are most needed.
Poppies don’t always know their place and sometimes grow in places where they are most needed.Heather Hacking-Enterprise-Record

The past two weeks have been rough for my family after my mother’s boyfriend died. There’s never a good time to lose someone important, and “suddenly” is one of the worst times.

Mom did not usually bring her beau when she visited Chico, so I only met John a few dozen times. He was always kind and often witty. When they first started dating my mother was like a teenage girl; it was hard to have a conversation without hearing about some cute thing John had said or done.

This was so adorable for a woman in her 60s that I would egg her on when we talked on the phone … “Tell me Mom, what cute thing did John say or do today?”

Death is never timely. However, what makes this even more heart-breaking is that Mom recently retired. She and John had places to go and things to see. They had planned to do these things together.

The day after we heard the news, my niece sent me a note on Facebook. “Happy one-year anniversary of being cancer-free,” she wrote.

I had not intended to celebrate the anniversary of my uterine cancer surgery. Yet, being alive at this moment is something for which I should give more than just a passing nod. I also recognized that my niece was reaching out the way that death sometimes compels us to do.

When we don’t know what else to do or say, we can reach for the hands of the ones who are still living.

My mother has been incredibly brave. She cries a lot but she also says she is grateful to have had John in her life for many years.

Analogies

The garden lends itself to analogies, many of them applicable to lessons we learn in life and love. Beauty in the yard can be fleeting. Plants need to be nurtured. Sometimes what we work so hard to protect is snatched away when we aren’t looking.

For years now I have planted poppy seeds in the cracks in the alley.

I’m also known to carry a plastic bag of poppy seeds when I take a walk in the neighborhood or at a neighborhood park.

Scattering poppies is easy in the fall. The seeds sprout and receive winter rains.

I’ve also learned the hard way that seeds placed in unpredictable locations can fall victim to folks with good intentions.

When the city first built the roundabouts on Eighth Avenue, I took it upon myself to plant poppies in the fresh, bare earth.

City workers took it upon themselves to clear this area of all vegetation. I can’t blame them. They didn’t know the difference between a weed and a wildflower.

As for my alley, several times this winter I spent time picking vetch from the cracks in the concrete, carefully allowing the poppy plants to remain. Common groundsel also bullies its way between the lacy leaves of our state flower.

Right about now it’s poppy showtime. The field at Sierra Nevada Brewery off 20th Street is currently spotted with golden blossoms. You’ll also note poppies at the end of freeway offramps. I may have even planted those flowers by tossing seeds out of the car window.

Yet, something happened to the poppies growing in the cracks of the alley. My beloved neighbor asked his son to help knock down some weeds in a chemical way.

I was glad, because the son caught the weeds just in time, before they had a chance to set seed.

I wish the son had continued toward the other end of the alley and zapped the privet growing over the side of another neighbor’s fence.

It takes several days for glyphosate to do its job. The weeds start to fade before they turn yellow.

I thought the poppies in the alley looked a bit dim. But maybe they were fading as the weather warmed.

Yet, my Handsome Woodsman said he was fairly certain the son had continued spraying down the alley.

The son was just doing his best and didn’t recognize that something beautiful was about to happen.

What’s a bummer is that the poppies were just about the bloom. They would have been fabulous just about now. Now they are gone.

Contact reporter Heather Hacking at 896-7758.

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2-25-2-16 How to build a backyard bee hotel

People built bee hotels Wednesday at the first in a series of gardening workshops put on by the Chico State Organic Vegetable Project at the Chico State University Farm Greenhouse Classroom.

People built bee hotels Wednesday at the first in a series of gardening workshops put on by the Chico State Organic Vegetable Project at the Chico State University Farm Greenhouse Classroom.Emily Bertolino — Enterprise-Record
A bee hotel framework was made of fence boards and placed inside Wednesday were branch cuttings of a variety of sizes during a workshop at the Chico State University Farm Greenhouse Classroom in Chico.A bee hotel framework was made of fence boards and placed inside Wednesday were branch cuttings of a variety of sizes during a workshop at the Chico State University Farm Greenhouse Classroom in Chico.Emily Bertolino — Enterprise-Record

Bees are pretty darn important and they’re having a hard time.

Many news articles have informed the public about hives that collapse, bees in short supply and people who steal bees. That’s all true.

Yet, we often forget to talk about the other bees — those solitary bees that dig holes in raw dirt and make homes in forgotten piles of waste wood.

Solitary bees like to feel the wind in their hair, don’t ask for directions and answer to no one.

This week about 60 people crowded into a classroom at the Chico State University Farm for a workshop on building bee hotels.

Our bee helpers were Natasha Aybar and Lee Altier.

When we think bees we think “social bees.” These live in hives or are attached to Winnie the Pooh’s head. Social bees are also used extensively in agriculture, including the almonds being pollinated right now.

Yet, only about 10 percent of the world’s bees are social.

Of the estimated 1,600 types of bees in California, about 70 percent live in holes in the ground. Another large portion live in holes in wood or stone.

Solitary bees, unlike honey bees, do not die after stinging. However, they are also less likely to sting because they are not protecting a colony.

CONSTRUCTION

Before the workshop Wednesday, Lee and Natasha had built wooden frames from untreated fence boards.

With the frames in place, they cut chunks of tree limbs into sections 3-6 inches long and one to six inches in diameter.

Next they drilled holes into the chunks of wood. This is where the bees will build a nest.

In nature, solitary bees might find a hole made by a beetle. Certain bees also make their own holes.

When you get busy with the drill, make the holes anywhere from 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch wide and 3-6 inches deep. The holes also need to be smooth. If they’re scratchy or have splinters, the bee will choose another condo, Natasha explained.

Next, arrange the pieces of wood into the bee frame.

You can keep it simple, or provide a variety of different shapes and sizes.

Other material could include bundles of reeds, or even small plastic piping (with holes 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch wide).

Material gathered for the project this week included kiwi prunings and grape vines.

Some people will also drill holes into adobe bricks.

For some simple examples, check this website: http://tinyurl.com/jdo43k2

Note that the individual holes/homes may be close to each other, but these are still solitary bees. The house will be like a big-city tenement house, with individual residents passing each other but not saying hello.

When completed, the best place to park the hotels is where they will receive morning sun.

It’s also best to put them a few feet off the ground where they won’t be jostled by critters or children.

A few websites note that the holes could be inhabited by other critters, such as hornets or even bee predators. That’s part of nature.

The workshop this week was put on by Cultivating Community, North Valley.

ANOTHER WORKSHOP TUESDAY

If you missed the workshop last week, another one is planned Tuesday, at the Chico Grange Hall, 2775 Old Nord Ave. A potluck starts at 6 p.m., with a talk immediately after.

Another way to help bees is to plant things that they like. For more, eheck out Xerces.org Among the resources online is a list of what to grow to make bees happy.

LOCAL NURSERY CRAWL

You’re in luck. The Local Nursery Crawl is today and Saturday.

Nurseries on the crawl are expecting more visitors and will provide extra surprises including sales, plant workshops and raffles.

If you collect stickers from six nurseries, you get a Nursery Crawl tote bag, while supplies last.

The whole point is to visit new places and learn what they offer.

Most nurseries have specialties and staff prepared to answer questions about these special plants.

To print out the list of locations: http://www.localnurserycrawl.com.

 Other contacts @HeatherHacking on Twitter and Facebook.

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Weeds are overdue for whacking, 3-19-15

By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record
POSTED: 03/19/15, 6:24 PM PDT | 0 COMMENTS

Three-cornered leek, pretty now, eyesore later. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
Yes, I have a “Most Dreaded” weed list, and right now most of those weeds are in bloom.
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It’s early spring and weeds are like that. They bloom early and they bloom when you’re not looking. They throw out their seeds when you’re still wearing sweaters and before you’ve had time to find your garden spade in the shed.

In fact, if this was a normal year, it might still be raining. We’d be indoors daydreaming about wasting water, while weeds grew and flowered.

Studies still need to be done, yet I hypothesize that weeds may be biologically attuned to the sound of our car engines. When weeds sense our cars have pulled out of the driveway, especially for a long trip, they quickly flower and seeds are strewn.
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NEW, OLD FOES

Some people spend a lot of money on the right weed killer for the right type of weed, but it’s much easier to simply yank the weeds before they produce seeds.three

I know, I know. Some weeds send out underground shoots or have bulbs and require digging.

Digging can be considered a form of exercise and exercise is recommended by doctors.

I never put weeds in my compost pile, but use the green waste container so any potential seeds are someone else’s problem.

Even starting early and looking often, weeds can be tricky.

They literally hide under other plants. The flowers are sometimes so small they can easily be mistaken for a dab of lint. Some of the flowers are even green.

Other weeds have pretty flowers, which can trick a gardener into keeping them around. I learned the hard way with wild garlic, also known as three-cornered leek. The flowers are delightful right now, and look a bit like Lily of the Valley, only totally different.

This plant reproduces by bulb and by seed. The main plant dies right after flowering and leaves a brown spot for the next 10 months.

The best advice is to have yanked this plant two months ago. If you want some delicate, pretty blooms, buy some cut flowers at Trader Joe’s.

THE MOST-HATED WEED

As much as I dislike three-cornered leak, the plant I hate the most is the one I call “velcro weed.” This plant is sticky and grabs onto the bottom of your shoes, your socks, the hairs on your legs.

The plant also fights back: If I yank a bunch of this weed without gloves, I end up with welts up and down my forearms.

Look closely, because the plant is blooming now. The flowers are green — tiny and green.

The University of California calls this weed “catchweed bedstraw.” Apparently, people would shove the plants into a sack to make mattress. Likely the plant is found everywhere because seeds traveled in people’s hair.

See more details at the University of California Integrated Pest Management website: goo.gl/iILIwE
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One good thing about this plant being clingy is that it is pulled up easily. If you use a hoe, you can do a circular motion and most of the plants will stick to one another in to a big, weedy mess. The plant also has a single taproot, which is a cinch to yank.

My problem is that my neighbor Bob has a formidable mound of velcro plant growing on the other side of a locked fence. The plant is literally sticking its flowering head over into my yard.

Perhaps I’ll hop the fence one night and fix the problem for both of us.

OTHER CHALLENGES

Another common weed in my yard, in the cracks in the ally and in soil in strip malls everywhere, is a weed called groundsel, http://goo.gl/JxIaen. This plant grows over the winter, and flowers right about now. The blooms are yellow and are pretty for about 10 minutes, before turning into a cotton-like wad of seeds.

It’s pretty easy to yank these out of the ground before they flower.

Some weeds I do enjoy, if only for nostalgic reasons.
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I’m fairly partial to Bermuda buttercup, the yellow member of the oxalis family.

I grew up calling this plant “sour grass.” If you chew on the succulent stems (but don’t swallow) the taste is sour, http://goo.gl/nbEIPH

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Life may be a bowl full of cherries infested with bugs Jan. 14, 2016

Spotted wing drosophila
Spotted wing drosophila Photo courtesy University of California

It’s bare-root season, when local nurseries have dormant trees and plants for sale.

These are usually less expensive than plants sold in large tubs filled with soil. Roses are among the popular bare-root sellers.

The cool season is a good time to plant trees and shrubs because the roots will benefit from winter rains and have a chance to expand into the soil.

When digging a hole for a new plant, try to dig several days after it rains.

If you dig when the soil is muddy, you’re likely to compact the soil.

Last week I chatted up Bob Scoville, a patient and knowledgable volunteer with the Glenn County Master Gardener Program.

He said he recently learned some pretty interesting things about cherry tree pests, and was eager to share the news with others.

That’s how these Master Gardeners are. They learn something new, they want to tell us all about it.

The critter is the spotted wing drosophila, and its prime targets are cherries and berries.

You can read all about it here: http://goo.gl/L0wuFC

The critter is among what Scoville refers to as “vinegar flies,” or flies that find their way to rotting fruit.

What is especially alarming about drosophila is that it lays eggs in healthy fruit as well as fruit that has already dropped to the ground. The buggers’ favorite treats are soft-skinned fruit including cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. They’re also known to go after boysenberries and nectarines.

How it works is the adult fly lays her eggs just under the skin of your otherwise perfectly good cherry. The eggs become maggots, and the maggots nibble their way to adulthood.

The University of California Integrated Pest Management website notes that after the otherwise perfectly healthy fruit starts to get nasty, other common vinegar flies will come along and lay their eggs in that same fruit.

The maggot eventually gets full, grows to full-grown, exits the fruit and immediately begins to find a way to procreate. The mating begins about mid May, or when temperatures reach 68 degrees. Things slow down when its hotter than 86 degrees.

Ten generations of the flies may occur each year.

The pests were originally from Japan and are relatively new to California.

Before planting a cherry tree, Bob suggested a homeowner wait until spring and test to see whether the drosophila are in your neighborhood.

SETTING A TRAP

In early May, grab a one-quart plastic yogurt container and drill 10-16 holes, about 3/16 of an inch in diameter around the upper side of the container.

It was funny that Bob was so specific about the dimensions of the holes, but there must be a reason, so I just ran with it.

Then add about 1-2 inches of pure apple cider vinegar to the container. (Flavored cider doesn’t work, Bob said knowingly).

Then, here’s the real trick, add a drop of unscented dish soap.

The soap stays on the surface of the liquid, providing a layer that coats the surface tension.

The bugs are attracted to the cider, find themselves in the liquid, fall under the surface of the liquid and can’t break the surface.

The drosophila can be distinguished from regular vinegar flies because the males have spots on their wings, thus the name.

Oh yes, their size is 1/16th to 1/8 of an inch long, thus the importance of the six of the holes in the yogurt container.

BUG CONTROL

The best first step is to prevent the future life cycles by keeping the area clean under the tree, clearing away any fallen fruit.

Don’t compost the fruit, but place it in plastic bags.

If the pest is in your neighborhood, it might be better not to plant cherries, berries and strawberries.

If you already have these plants, Bob suggested providing a protective layer of netting.

Harvesting the fruit early also reduces exposure to the pest, he said.

Chemical controls include Spinosad, an insecticide used to control olive fruit fly.

A Spinosad product is Monterey Garden Insect Spray, he advised, http://goo.gl/xT9POU

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Sow There! 12-17-15, How to accidentally grow zygo cactus


Zygo cactus. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
Blooms of a Zygo cactus (right) are stunning on cold days. On the left is a jade plant.Heather Hacking —Enterprise-Record

A week until Christmas and I am feeling calm and collected.

After one more big shopping trip to the Saturday farmers market, I’ll be done with the holiday hunting and gathering.

This weekend, others will be stuck in traffic along 20th Street. People will drive around in circles, hoping for a parking spot within view of the mall.

Some will wait in line, others will cut in line.

People will ruin their sense of smell by sniffing 150 types of perfume, all which smell exactly the same. How am I able avoid this madness?

I started shopping in October.

When my sister and I attended the Native Ways event in Oroville, we gobbled Indian bread and I bought a jar of the batter mix.

On Sierra Oro Farm Trail, my friend liked the garlic and jalapeno olive oil at Butte View. I bought two bottles, one for me and one for the gift box.

Downtown Chico Christmas Preview, gifts, gifts.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens gift shop, Fort Bragg fFiremen’s bazaar and Farm City bus tour, more gifts.

My sister is so kind. She knows how much I hate shopping, so she handed me a list of things she wanted from her favorite online vegan store.

Mom and I shopped in October. She tried on a Renaissance-style corset at a local clothing boutique. The moment she left my house, I raced back to the store and bagged it.

OUTDOOR FOOD BOUTIQUE

To fill in the gift gaps, I’ll drop a few coins at the farmers market  Saturday. I can’t think of better treats than bags of granola, flavored nuts, red walnuts, dried apricots, kiwis, farmstead cheese and even chicken feet (if they have them). I could also splurge on artisan bread, fragrant soap, pottery, bees wax candles, winter squash, winter caps, almond butter, jam … If I am able to visit my family in the Bay Area this year, they love it when I bring a box of apples from Noble Orchards. You just can’t buy apples like that in a big city.

PLANT SURPRISES

I love plants and people often give me plants as gifts.

Way back when, Elaine Gray bought me a blooming zygo cactus during the holidays.

That was 15 years ago, or more. The plant was still alive but I had not changed the soil all that time

The cactus never bloomed again, and who could blame it. That soil probably contained as much nutrients as a handful of styrofoam packing peanuts.

When I had uterine cancer surgery last spring, I brought all my plants from work to my home.

The zygo cactus sat outside for a while, and complained by dropping many of its “leaves.”

(Zygo cactus does not like too much sun).

Eventually I gave it a new pot and some new soil, and stashed the plant in the shade.

One day I heard that it might freeze overnight, so I pulled a few succulents inside, including the zygo.

This week it bloomed.

I’ve heard that plants sometimes bloom when they are tortured. Some genetic trigger is sprung and the plant “thinks” it would be best to procreate now rather than never.

Just for fun, I looked up the care instructions for zygo cactus. As it turns out, a few of the things I did this year may have actually encouraged the plant to bloom.

AUniversity of California pamphlet says to give the plants about 12 hours of darkness each day to encourage the buds to form. This was accomplished by putting the plant in the living room in winter.

Also, the plant needs to be relatively cool when the buds are forming.

I didn’t know it at the time, but placing the plant near the door (and the chilly outdoors) may have lead to the lovely pink flowers.

The lesson here is to appreciate unexpected blooms, and not to blame yourself if your gift cactus never blooms again.

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Sow There! Freeze and thaw, the winter cycle of cold-hardy spinach, Jan. 7, 2016

For the twenty-plus years I have been gardening, lettuce has been elusive.

Early on, I learned that lettuce planted in the warmth of spring will soon bolt, go to seed and die.

Later, the plants were literally yanked from my yard.

I clearly recall the day I was admiring a lanky, flowering lettuce clump when suddenly the plant began to shake. As I watched, wide-eyed and aghast, three-quarters of the greenery slipped into the ground.

Before I could return to the yard with a witness, the rest of the plant had disappeared into the underworld.

Fifteen years later, I thought I had built a gopher-proof raised bed.

With a sense of calm, I planted two six-packs of mixed greens purchased from Sherri Scott of Grub Grown.

The plants quickly grew to twice or three times their original six-pack size.

What happened next, I will never be sure. My guess is that an otherwise underground critter came out of a nearby hole and climbed into my raised bed.

From there, he ate an average of one head of young lettuce every two days until all that remained in the raised bed was lost hope.

Years passed. I grew basil in pots and bought spinach in bags.

Then came the kale craze, and I had good luck growing Tuscan baby leaf kale, from reneesgarden.com. To avoid the gophers, I planted seeds in 15-gallon pots.

For the most part, I could have forgotten that gophers and moles still lurked beneath the soil surface. However, my cat reminded me by bringing three lifeless rodents as gifts.

This year we discovered that a black, plastic truck bed liner will keep out the gophers.

We filled about half the bed with clean soil, compost and steer manure purchased in bags. Rather than add holes to the bottom of the bed liner, one side is raised onto a railroad tie. Water drains away on a slight incline.

Rodents? No thank you.

Life was good. Not only did I grow kale and spinach, but loose leaf lettuce in colors of red and green.

Just as the plants were finally coming into their own, a cold snap arrived. The temps dipped to 26 and 27.

One frigid morning my beau padded out to the yard to start my car before I left for work. He shook his head with bad news and said the lettuce and spinach were covered in a frost.

This was a grayish color and as thick as the frost that made it difficult to open the car door.

The greens looked like Han Solo when he was frozen in carbonite.

Yet, each frost came and went and the plants did fine.

Kale, I learned, can snap back after a night as cold as 10 degrees. Spinach will survive nights to 20 degrees and lettuce should be OK on night as cool as 25.

Our recent cold nights were down to 27-28 degrees.

Naturally, this makes me want to plant more greens.

Alyse Pendo lives in Orland and volunteers as a Glenn County Master Gardener.

Some veggies, she explained, actually taste better when they are “frost kissed.” This is due to sugars the plants produce for protection. Artichokes, Alyse said, will often be rejected by shoppers when they are a bit brown at the tips. However, this is when the plants are their most tasty.

Others on the frost-kissed list include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and turnips.

Alyse was understanding as I ranted about gophers of Christmas past.

Now that the gophers were finally blocked out, we talked about planting more seed.

It doesn’t hurt to put seeds in the ground. Spinach germinates at temperatures between 40 and 70 F. This means seeds sown in pots indoors should do just fine. I can place the little pots on top of the fridge or in the spot where the kitty likes to lay in front of the heater, Alyse suggested. I happen to have a seedling heating mat, however I’m fairly certain the cat would make this her new warming station.

 

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