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UC Agriculture & Natural Resources News

UC Master Gardener program arrives in Stanislaus County

UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County is launching its first UC Master Gardener program to extend research-based gardening assistance and information to county residents, reported John Holland in the Modesto Bee.

“Our goal is to encourage healthy environments (and improve the appearance of our community) with sustainable landscaping and gardening, green waste reduction and water conservation,” said Roger Duncan, UCCE county director.

Since the UC Master Gardener program's inception, more than 5 million hours of volunteer service have been donated.

Gardening enthusiasts may apply for the first round of training until Sept. 28. Weekly training sessions will be from Jan. 30 to June 5, 2019. Tuition is $180. After certification, Master Gardeners volunteer 50 hours of service in the first 12 months, then 25 hours per year after that.

The training will be held in Stockton this year, along with UC Cooperative Extension in San Joaquin County.

"They are joining our regular training to help get their program up and running," said Marcy Sousa, the UC Master Gardener program coordinator in San Joaquin County.

The volunteers do not need to start out with detailed knowledge of gardening, said Kari Arnold, the UCCE farm advisor overseeing the program. That will come from experts tapping into university research on the various topics.

For more information and to apply, visit the Stanislaus County Master Gardeners website.

UC Master Gardener program, launched in California in 1981, now serves more than 50 California counties with 6,116 actives volunteers. 

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 10:13 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Valley Carpenter Bees: Drama in the Garden

Don't bug me, I'm trying to wake up. This female Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, peers over a blue spike salvia (Salvia uliginosa) blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Some folks call them "bumble bees," but they're not. In size, the female Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) resembles a bumble bee, but certainly not in color. The female Valley carpenter is solid black with metallic wings. The male of the species is a green-eyed blond, fondly known as...

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 6:17 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment Yard & Garden

Farm Preparation for Wildfire and Other Emercencies

Farm country stay alert! Green sign

According to many state fire officials, we no longer have simply a ‘Fire Season' but a ‘Fire Year'. In winter drought conditions, some parts of our region do not receive enough rain to mitigate fire danger.  It is more important than ever to constantly assess your farm for fire safety and be prepared for any emergency.

The following information will assist you in thinking through four important areas of disaster preparedness for your farm: Paperwork & Plans, Farm Map & Layout, Tools & Machinery, and Operations & Training.

Paperwork & Plans:

  1. Conduct a fire risk assessment and record your findings. Assess brush clearance, road access, evacuation routes, defensible space, topography (fire climbs hills quickly), and water sources. If needed, make a plan to address any critical issues.
  2. Evaluate current insurance coverage to ensure adequate coverage for farm assets. Consider livestock, crops, buildings, and equipment.
  3. Keep up-to-date production, marketing, and financial records. Check the Foothill Farming website resources on risk management and business planning tools for templates. Scan or store them on a USB flash drive or external hard drive.
  1. Make a farm communication plan. What happens if you are not home during a disaster situation? Do you have phone numbers and good relationships with neighbors? Are the phone numbers written down for your family members and employees as well?
  2. Create a farm emergency plan, use the following free online templates or use them as a guide to create one more suitable for your own farm.

Developing a farm emergency plan before a disaster can help you respond more rapidly and objectively.

Farm Map & Layout:

  1. A farm map should be part of your emergency plan. Create a map including symbols and a key for the following:
    1. Homes, barns, and outbuildings.
    2. Utility shutoffs.
    3. Power and utility lines.
    4. Fuel and chemical storage.
    5. Roads and bridges (including weight limitations).
    6. Water sources and delivery systems.
    7. Gates (including combinations).
    8. Fuel breaks.
    9. Any other possible farm hazards.

You may include brief general guidance for emergency responders on the map as well.

 

Example Farm Map

  1. A well-maintained and accessible water source is critical. If possible, consider a water source for fire trucks. An accessible source includes:
    1. Defensible space.
    2. Gravel road access within 12 feet of water source.
    3. Minimum 45-foot radius turnaround close by.
    4. Post permanent signs indicating water source location.
  1. Farm design should incorporate these principles, especially around structures. Create at least 100 feet of defensible space by:
    1. Removing flammable objects from around barns or dwellings (e.g. flammable vegetation, feed bags, cardboard boxes, plant debris, fuel, etc.).
    2. Breaking up fuel continuity by separating plants from each other in gardens and landscape design.
    3. Taking care in selecting, locating, and maintaining trees.
    4. Post a clearly visible sign with property name and number at the entrance.

Tools & Machinery:

  1. Carry fire extinguishers and fire tools, especially in off-road vehicles. (e.g. trucks and tractors), CalFire requires a 5-gallon water supply and a fire tool be carried in wildland settings – consider adding this equipment to your tool box!
  2. Conduct frequent inspections of farm machinery for debris removal. Pay attention to hazards associated with exhaust systems and catalytic converters.
  3. All farms should have proper personal firefighting equipment such as shovels, hoes, and fire extinguishers that all farm employees can carry.
  4. Use rodent deterrents as they can chew through electrical insulation.
  5. Limit or postpone machinery use on high fire danger days. If use is unavoidable, plan for competing tasks before 10:00 AM.
  6. Stay 30 minutes after machinery use is shut off to monitor fire risk.

Operations & Training:

  1. Conduct an annual fire plan and equipment “refresher” for all farm personnel. Consider labeling safety equipment and fire tools on your map, with signs for your employees and family. Train folks on how to use this equipment.
  2. Have a routine for “red flag days” such as delaying mowing or machinery use.
  3. Although California law requires all electric fences to have low-impedance chargers, check frequently to ensure wires are free of materials that may cause the fence to arc. Always operate according to manufacturer directions.
  4. Restrict or clearly designate smoking areas.
  5. Include fire danger mitigation and forest management in annual planning.

Fire prevention should be a year-round activity in our fire-prone region. Be sure to consider the needs of both family and farm personnel in any emergency situation. Proper planning now will help mitigate the inevitable stress involved in farm emergencies. We would love to hear your thoughts, plans, and ideas related to disaster preparedness. Please feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 3:39 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Natural Resources

Common purslane: weed it and eat it

Common purslane leaves and flowers (Photo by Joe DiTomaso)

This has been a big year for purslane at the UC Davis farm. Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a succulent summer annual weed with fleshy leaves and rubbery-looking stems. Native to Eurasia, or maybe Africa, purslane arrived in the Americas with the first Europeans to settle here. It is a...

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 2:02 PM
Tags: agricultural weed (6), weeds (63)

Tips to prepare, plant, and grow a fall vegetable garden

The transition of fall is upon us and gardeners are busy tending to late summer harvests, pruning back perennials, prepping for slower plant growth and more. But fall doesn't have to be all about wrapping up the growing season. In fact, life is sprouting and new garden plants are growing with the promise of fall, winter and early spring harvests. 

Are you looking to join the cool-season gardening craze? The UC Master Gardener Program has engaging workshops to  inform and inspire this fall. Bay Area residents can check out Growing Garlic and Onions in San Jose or Top 10 Vegetables for your Winter Garden in Campbell, both hosted by the UC Master Gardener Program of Santa Clara County. Another great resource is Saving the Harvest, a gardening and preserving guide and 2019 calendar created by the UC Master Gardener and UC Master Food Preserver Programs in Sacramento County. Check out the local offerings in your area at UC Master Gardener Program events.

An alternative from planting from seeds is to buy vegetables that have already been started at a local nursery.

Wherever you are in your gardening journey, here is a checklist of September activities for your garden:

Early September                 

  • Maintain your warm-season garden with regular checks and harvesting. Prune new growth, flowers and any small or very immature fruits from tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. This practice encourages the plants to put energy into ripening fruit that has already set.
  • Harvest and store seeds for next year's warm-season garden. To save and use seeds in the future, make sure you have a dry, cool location for seed storage. Don't forget to label and organize seeds to make preparation and planting easier in the spring.
  • Remove and compost plants that have reached the natural end of lives or fruitfulness. 
  • Enjoy regular harvest of late-season-bearing cane berries like raspberries and blackberries. Check vines regularly for ripe fruit and pick before the birds steal away the fruit.
  • Check and harvest edible landscape plants as well. Pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana, is a fantastic landscape shrub that has the added bonus of producing a tropical fruit. When pineapple guava fruit fall to the ground they are ripe, collect the fruits and wash, slice and eat the white fruit on the inside (like you would eat a kiwi).  

Late September

By the end of the month it's time to start planting a cool-season garden. Try radishes and lettuces for harvest in late fall. They mature quickly and pair beautifully with roasted vegetables, cheese and nuts for a harvest-themed dinner salad.  Broccoli and cauliflower are a great addition to your garden for winter harvest. Try roasting or making a creamy soup for a warm dinner on a cold night. Finally, onions and shallots are a must for your cool-season garden. They are slower to mature and will be ready for harvest in early spring to brighten your dishes and usher in a change in the seasons.

  • Plant radishes, turnips, beets, onions and kale from seed.
  • Pick up vegetable starts for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuces at your local garden center.  
  • Keep soil moist while young plants send roots out into your garden bed. 
  • Provide shade to cool-season vegetables if needed to protect them from hot afternoon sun.  
The UC Master Gardener Program has classes and events across the state to teach communities about about how to grow and harvest food from their home gardens and landscapes.

Connect with us

The UC Master Gardener volunteers are eager to help with all of your gardening needs. The UC Master Gardener Program can work with teachers and community volunteers to provide gardening information and consultation in the support of school gardens. With local programs based in more than 50 counties across California, there is sure to be a workshop or class near you. Visit our website to find your local UC Master Gardener Program, mg.ucanr.edu.

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 1:19 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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