Blog - Alameda County Over The Fence
How to Tell What’s Digging and Eating in Your Garden
I recall years ago when we put in a new lawn, the next morning about 20 percent of the sod was neatly rolled up again! I rolled it back out. This pattern repeated again for many days! Who was playing a joke on us? As it turned out… raccoons, looking for insect snacks!
Fast forward several years, we wondered what happened to our lettuce plants, which were dying and lifted ever so easily from the raised bed, with shriveled roots! (Moles that time).
And which culprit was taking one bite of our ripe Santa Rosa plums and cherry tomatoes and unceremoniously tossing the otherwise good fruit? (Tree squirrels).
Learn how to identify home garden damage done by squirrels, gophers, moles and raccoons, and the various methods to control them. Read more...
DIY Plant Doctoring
DIY Plant-doctoring in your own garden can be an interesting and addictive activity or it can be one where you think you might need a “lifeline” to solve your plant pest problem. The Master Gardeners can be that lifeline. Learn more here
Using Recycled Water – What You Should Know
Thirsty Plants in Time of Drought
Residential water restrictions during drought times require gardeners to know how to keep their plants alive. Learn more through examples from one Albany, Ca-based gardener... read more
Soldiers in Our Garden
Spring at Last, But Those WEEDS
It’s wonderful to see spring bulbs and flowers beginning to emerge. But whether you have a garden in pots or in the ground, you may also be wondering how to get rid of the weeds coming up at the same time! Read more...
Mistakes Were Made
Planning your Spring Garden Now Will Pay Dividends Later
Selecting, Planting, and Caring for Street Trees
Why Are Mushrooms Popping Up in My Yard?
This winter, there seems to be no avoidance in spotting a multitude of mushrooms growing in yards, park trails, and occasionally in houseplants. Are we being invaded by UFOs (unidentified fungal objects) more than last year? It seems like it. Why? Are these mushrooms harmful to people and pets? Should I get rid of them and how can I dispose of them in a safe manner? Read more...
Planting California Natives
Plants that are native to California are becoming more and more popular, as part of existing garden beds or to replace a lawn. Here’s a rundown on why and how to plant them, together with resources to dig deeper. Read more...
Enchanting Plants or Garden Thugs?
Beneficial Garden Creatures Aglow at Lake Merritt Festival of Lights 2021
8 Water Wise Tips That You Can Start Today!
San Francisco Bay Area Cool Weather Gardening
“Citizen Scientists” Can Help Monarchs Survive at the Lake Merritt Trials Garden
Your Food Garden During Drought
When facing a serious drought, we can be water-wise and successful in growing a food garden. Here are some things to consider when planning a food garden during a drought and some suggestions for optimizing water usage. Read more...
Growing Vegetables in Small Space - 6 Tips You can Use Today
The Artist’s Color Palette in the Garden
Peach Leaf Curl - Red Blistered, Twisted Leaves … A Common and Very Treatable Disease
By Jim Farr
Every spring and summer Peach Leaf Curl with its highly curled, reddened leaves causes great concern with gardeners. However, some straightforward steps can be taken to control the disease. Read more...
A Shady or Foggy Garden? – You Can Grow Tomatoes!
By Diane Allen
If you have a shady or foggy yard, there are tomato varieties that will grow well! The key to growing tomatoes in cooler climates is to grow varieties that have a relatively short number of days to maturity or that produce a harvest in cooler temperatures. Fortunately, there are now a number of these tomato varieties, and with some experimentation, you will likely find one that works for you. For best results, plant your tomatoes in the area of your yard that received the most hours of sun. This may be an area in your yard or even in containers on your patio... read more
Worms, Worms, Worms
Judy Matthew, Class of 2010
by Judy Quan
Why soil test?
Healthy soil is essential to thriving gardens. If you are just getting your garden started, or you have an established garden that isn’t thriving, soil testing can provide an understanding of the “ingredients” of your soil, so you can use the right recipe to amend, improve and treat for what your soil and plants need.
Soil tests can:
- Help us find out why plants are not growing well.
- Tell us about nutrient levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus as well as the soil’s pH level which measures whether the soil is neutral, acidic, or alkaline.
- Alert us to the presence of heavy metals including lead; so we can take appropriate precautions.
- Commercial testing can also test for organic matter or other micro nutrients.
Where to start to get your soil tested? read more...
Protecting Seedlings and Seeds from Wildlife
by Elaine Richards
My own garden plays host to a family of four enormous raccoons, at least one pungent skunk, an unknown and mysterious number of possums, and enough squirrels to make a conga line to the moon. Over the years, I've tried a variety of methods to thwart the animals and a lot of them do not work. For example, read more...
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
By Kate Cummings, class of 2020
And, those rewards keep coming. Cutting the central stalk stimulates side shoots to sprout. Harvesting the mature side shoots stimulates yet more sprouting. Voila - the more you harvest, the more you get.
So what’s required? Read more...
By Kate Cummings, class of 2020
Sweet, fine-grained ‘Scarlett Nantes’ heirloom carrots are small to medium-sized and cylindrical in shape - so they’ll do well in containers and in less-than-perfect soil. They originally hail from Nantes France, a coastal city with a mild Mediterranean climate similar to our own. And ‘Nantes’ are not usually grown commercially, so they’re a good choice for the home garden.
Purslane, Weed It or Eat It
By Sandy Wood 2014
It is considered quite nutritious because it is unusually high in omega-3 fatty acids and contains significant amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium and antioxidants. Read More
Squirrel Resistant Beans?
Gardening in the Time of COVID-19
Keeping a Garden Journal
by Elaine Richards
While not as historically interesting as Samuel Pepy's diary or as deliciously literary as Anais Nin's dairy, my garden diary serves as a source of information, comfort and catharsis that cannot be provided in any other way. Sure, the books and websites and planting have all sorts of information, but it will not tell you about your own garden... read more.
How to Create a Monarch Butterfly Habitat
You can create a monarch habitat by planting the milkweed and nectar plants listed below.
CALIFORNIA NATIVE MILKWEEDS TO
TRY IN YOUR GARDEN
- Asclepias eriocarpa(Woollypod/Indian Milkweed)**
- Asclepias fascicularis (Narrowleaf Milkweed)
- Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)
- Asclepias cordifolia (Heartleaf Milkweed)**
- Asclepias californica (California Milkweed)**
**Especially desirable early emerging species
Many of us awoke this winter to the devastating news that only 28,429 monarchs were counted this winter in their overwintering colonies along the coast of California, down from approximately 4.5 million butterflies in the 1980s and a historic population of about 10 million. So here it is: extinction on our doorstep... we are not going down without a fight.
Yacon - What is it?
Citrus Gardening in Alameda County
Choosing best citrus for our area: Citrus is a subtropical plant – it has no chill requirement, but is frost sensitive and requires summer heat to produce sugar. Learn more with our quick citrus guide created for a talk at Lake Merritt Trials Garden.
Get To Know Your Soil
Get to Know Your Soil
An important part of gardening is understanding your soil. Simple tests can be done that will reveal the type of soil in your landscape. Learn how to test and improve your soil!
We are in our fourth year of drought and everyone is trying to save water. It’s relatively easy to replace a lawn, a perennial, or a rose bush that has succumb to the drought.
But it can be very expensive in time and money to replace a mature tree. Trees should be a top priority as you make decisions about where to apply what little water you have for your landscape. Learn more about helping your trees through drought from our Alameda County Master Gardener Help Desk!
The help desk frequently gets questions regarding cats in the vegetable garden. “My cat is using my vegetable garden as a litter box. Can I still eat the vegetables?” “How can I keep the neighborhood cats out of my garden?” Learn more about dealing with cats in the garden and food safety from our Alameda County Master Gardener Help Desk!
In the current drought all gardeners in California are trying to maximize water in their gardens. Are you considering graywater? Read on for some things to consider in your decision-making. What water sources are safe? What systems work? Learn more about using graywater from our Alameda County Master Gardener Help Desk!
Tips for Managing Oxalis
There are two types of yellow flowering oxalis that are common weeds in Bay Area gardens. The first is quite showy in the spring with bright lemon yellow flowers that grow on tall thin stems. It’s commonly known as Bermuda Buttercup or Sourgrass (Oxalis pes_caprae). The other, Creeping Woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata), grows low, hugging the ground, has small yellow flowers and is frequently a problem in lawns. Learn more about managing oxalis from our Alameda County Master Gardener Help Desk!
Potatoes are a great winter-early spring crop and at this time of the year you will
find seed potatoes available in local garden centers and on-line. And there’s a
potato planting solution for any sized garden! They can be planted in the ground
in rows or in mounds, in containers, in potato bags, or in potato towers. Learn more about growing potatoes in your garden from our Alameda County Master Gardener Help Desk!
Does your home citrus tree suffer from....SOME sort of mysterious problem? This article can help you diagnose and solve the problem so you can have a healthy, productive tree again. Check it out!
Are you having to let your lawn go brown and let your landscape plants suffer or die because of the water cutbacks encouraged or required of all of us? One strategy for using less water and maintaining some beauty in your landscape is to use more California native plants, especially those plants that are adapted to this region of dry summers. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 4/2014)
The holiday season is here! We, in California, are so lucky to be surrounded by evergreens and berries that are perfect to use in decorating for the holidays. Truly, if you can wait to decorate your home for the holidays until the last minute and want to save money as well, go outside! There in your yard is the answer to a beautiful holiday home. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 12/2013)
Fall is definitely here: the hips are getting fat and turning color, the winds are starting to blow, and your roses have put out a spurt of fall flowers to greet the season. But soon it will be full winter and the roses need to go dormant. They need to slow down and rest before starting all over again in the spring. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 10/2013)
It all started with the following email from a neighbor: Can you please provide me with some Master Gardener's advice? I've replaced the Redbuds on the south side of my property twice. The most recent tree I added seems to be stressed. Shari went to one of the ANR publications, Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs (available to the public through their website) to search out the culprit. And there it was, that all-time nasty fungus, verticillium wilt! (Published in Oakland Tribune, 9/13/2013)
It began modestly in July of 2010 as a project of the Asbury United Methodist Church. Named “The Garden of Grace,” an organic garden was built on sustainable agricultural techniques. Initially, various crops were tested--based on their yield, nutrition level, ease of growth, and value as ingredients in the local soup kitchen “Open Heart Kitchen” menu. A little over two years later the summer 2012 harvest figures for the Garden are impressive with a measured total of about 8,000 pounds of vegetables shared with the Open Heart Kitchen and other area food pantries. This total includes (in rounded numbers): 2,600 pounds of tomatoes, 2,400 pounds of squash, over 1,000 pounds of cucumbers, 700 lbs of peppers and 520 pounds of warm season cabbage, kale and collards. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 2/14/2013)
One of the handiest garden tips I learned from Mom was to grow potatoes in a large pot (or two or three) on my back porch. The idea was to have early spring potatoes for the Easter Holiday. Potatoes don't ask for much care - and they can be easily grown by anyone with a large pot, some potting soil, lots of shredded newspaper or straw for mulch, and some patience. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 1/12/2013)
I love picking a vine-ripened tomato from my garden for a luncheon salad. But I also love living indoors with greenery. A lovely philodendron hanging over the stove, a weeping fig of 20 plus years decorating the corner or a beautiful African violet brightening the bathroom helps make a house a home. Keeping these houseplants thriving does require special care. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 12/08/2012)
Succulents are an amazing addition to a garden. Their shapes, colors, flowers and textures provide variety in a planting bed or containers. They are forgiving plants. However, even though they are durable and tough, they still need some attention once or twice a year. They don’t come from deserts; they come from semi-arid regions with irregular rainfall—that’s what makes them great in Bay Area gardens and what to keep in mind as you maintain your plants. This article will teach you more about caring for succulents in your garden. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 11/10/2012)
Fall is a great time to get started making compost. You can have the finished product ready for your spring garden. Compost is a wonderful lovely crumbly dark additive for your soil– no matter what condition your garden is in. Got clay? Add compost. Got sand? Add compost. Does your garden need to be “pepped up”? Add compost! The organic materials in compost add pore spaces to the soil that either retain water for a while or drain water from soggy soil.
Good compost piles are made in layers of “browns” which add carbon to your pile and “greens” which add nitrogen. Stockpile the “brown” materials now while you can. Learn much more about composting in this article. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 10/13/2012)
When Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association called requesting the services of a Master Gardener who would be willing to help local wineries in need of “curb appeal,” Shari Wentz was happy to help. Inspired by what she had seen in New Zealand, Shari worked with Livermore’s wine makers and the Livermore Drought Resistant Garden Trail was conceptualized. Two years later the trail is ready for your visits. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 9/2012)
When the summer food garden is at its peak and the harvest is coming in fast and furious, it is difficult to use or give away all of this produce before it spoils, so many gardeners would like a way of preserving it. Also, the gardener may want to eat home grown green beans in January or pickled beets in September. Furthermore, the gardener may want to create unique, home-made gifts to give to friends and family. All of these are reasons to try home canning. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 8/10/2012)
Vertical gardening, or trellising, has much to offer the garden designer: it can screen eyesores such as trash barrels, compost piles, or air conditioners; create garden rooms; or offer privacy screens. For the vegetable gardener, trellises save garden space, keep plants and their fruits off the ground, and improve vegetable production by exposing more flowers and fruits to the sun. There are many options for making or acquiring vertical supports for plants; the trick is building ones that meet the needs of your particular plants. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 7/7/2012)
With summer just around the corner, gardeners are either starting to set out plants in the garden, or already have small tomato plants in the ground. Tomato gardeners must prepare themselves for a litany of disorders and pests that could potentially afflict their plants. The problems can be either physiological disorders (not caused by pest organisms) or pest problems (caused by viruses, fungi, insects, etc.). In this article, we discuss common physiological disorders. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 5/26/2012)
Spring has arrived, some rain has come and it is time to think about our gardens. Gardeners today are looking at plants differently and so are today’s plant breeders. Most everyone loves color; many gardeners want to use plants that attract birds and butterflies and bees. Plants that met those requirements in the past often were too large or too picky to be in our flower beds. Today new plants are available that are not only better behaved than their parents; they can take more heat, they become drought tolerant when established, and they fit into our smaller gardens or even a container. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 4/14/2012) Photo: Penstemon 'Red Riding Hood' courtesy Pacific Plug and Liner
It might be hard to believe, but it is time to plan your summer vegetable garden, and even do some planting. In fact, if you have space to grow plants indoors, you could have started a few weeks ago. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 3/10/2012)
Just as Dorothy faced the fear of lions, tigers, and bears on her trip to Oz, we often face our gardens with fear that we might encounter earwigs, snails, and slugs. While the earwig is an insect, with prominent, fierce-looking tail-end pincers, snails and slugs are mollusks that travel along on a slimy “foot.” Although they are different creatures, not at all similar in appearance, the damage these three pests do and the methods of control for them are similar. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 2/11/2012)
How to Start a Vegetable Garden
by Brgitt Evans
December is a great time to plan and plant your spring vegetable garden. Most home vegetable gardeners grow only warm-season crops like tomatoes and squash, and the thought of gardening in the winter might seem unusual; however, it is rewarding, nutritious, and economical. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 10/7/2011)
Fall is the best time to plant bulbs for spring flowering. Bulbs need time underground in the cool winter so they can develop and push out the roots that will bring stability to the newly developing stems and leaves of the plant. Choosing and planting bulbs is easy - read more to find out how to get bulbs started in your garden! (Published in Oakland Tribune, 10/7/2011)
As the end of the warm season approaches, vegetable gardeners are busy finishing the harvest and perhaps thinking about what new varieties to try for the next crop. Many will attempt a cool-season garden; however it is probably correct to say that most gardeners will allow their vegetable beds to sit dormant over the winter. Such beds could benefit from a cool-season cover crop. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 9/10/2011)
These days, many of us have noticed in our gardens a greenish yellow beetle with twelve black spots on its back. Some may also have noticed damage to vegetable leaves, scaring on fruits, or girdling of stems of plants. You are probably seeing the western spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), a common pest in vegetable gardens. Although there is a western striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma trivittata), it is not prevalent in our area. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 8/13/2011)
Weedy Quarry Lakes land turning environmentally sustainable.
Although the garden was originally conceived to introduce the community to the use of plants that tolerate our dry summers with little or no additional water, our approach necessarily broadened to creating an environmentally sustainable garden. This includes soil building and composting, planting to attract beneficial insects, planting for wildlife, demonstrating the beauty of many non-thirsty plants, as well as saving water. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 7/23/2011)
We have the luxury of irrigating our gardens during our dry California summers, and in turn we have the responsibility to use this water carefully according to the needs of our plants rather than the date on the calendar. Before the hot weather finally arrives, take some time now to think about when and how you use water in your garden. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 6/27/2011)
Sweet corn is a popular summer garden staple for many home gardeners - learn more about corn and how to grow it in your garden. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 5/14/2011)
You will see aphids start appearing as the spring weather causes faster growth in succulent stems and leaves. They can often be found in thick groups clustered at the tips of the soft new growth. They do not move quickly and are very easy to wash off with a strong jet of water from the garden hose. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 4/09/2011)
Master Gardeners volunteer to take an active part their communities. This volunteer work takes many forms, including garden assistance at the GROW program of a San Leandro juvenile detention camp. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 3/25/2011)
In most areas of the country, February is a time to read seed catalogs and plan a dream vegetable garden for the coming year. Not so in our Mediterranean climate. Despite what many people think, February is a busy month in the food garden. If a fall crop was planted, vegetables like bok choy, chard, collards, fava beans, garlic, kale, lettuce, peas, shallots, and spinach are now undergoing active growth and require routine pest management and fertilization. Much of the fall crop can now be harvested. In colder, inland areas, or in any area that received a lot of chilling in the last few weeks, there is a risk of bolting (flowering) in several of these cool-season vegetables. If there are indications that the plants are starting to elongate and form flower buds then harvest the plants quickly as the quality of the product will diminish upon bolting... (Published in Oakland Tribune, 2/12/2011)
The Australians by Birgitt Evans
Plants from Australia’s Mediterranean regions, located in Western Australia around Perth and South Australia around Adelaide, are well suited for California gardens. They have been making their way here for more than 40 years. The first wave in the 1960s included bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) and the next wave in the late 1980s brought us Grevilleas and the ubiquitous kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos spp.). We are in the midst of the third wave of introductions and nurserymen are bringing us a panoply of new plants such as Correas, Westringias and Lomandras. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 1/22/2011)
It is probably safe to say that all gardeners in the bay area will at some point be confronted with the weed known as oxalis. There are two species of oxalis that are common weeds in the Bay Area: Oxalis pes-caprae (Bermuda Buttercup) and Oxalis corniculata (Creeping Woodsorrel). Both species are naturalized nonnative species that are very difficult to control. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 12/11/2010)
Fall has arrived and many gardeners will soon be thinking about planting shrubs and trees. Fall is a great time to consider planting a young fruit tree. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 10/22/2010)
Our gardens can be quite bountiful, providing so much that we can't eat all of the fruits and vegetables fresh picked. How do we preserve this food for later enjoyment? (Published in Oakland Tribune, 9/24/2010)
Horticultural oils can be used to safely prevent or stop outbreaks of some insects. Learn how and why they work. This clear, helpful article is shared with permission of the author, Emma Connery, one of our Master Gardener colleagues in Contra Costa County. (Published in Contra Costa Times, 8/1/2010)
Music In The Gardens Event at Lake Merritt including Alameda County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden and activities. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 5/28/2010)
A Master Gardener describes the history and beauty of the Earth Friendly Demonstration Garden in Livermore, open to the public to enjoy and ask gardening questions. (Published in Contra Costa Times, 4/23/2010)
Master Gardeners assist with an irrigation project at the Sorensdale Recreation Center. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 2/10/2010)
Teaching community members about gardening, in this case starting their own vegetables from seed, is an important job of the Alameda County Master Gardeners. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 1/22/2010)
At the Lake Merritt Trials garden, we test different varieties of vegetables and more to learn which perform well in our climate. (Published in Oakland Tribune, 11/20/2009)
Archived Articles by Season
It's Spring - Visit Our Garden!, by Sharon Wentz
Great Herbs, by Jacqueline Bruhn
Success with Containers, by Eleanor Brown
I Love Trees, by Jacqueline Bruhn
Less Toxic Lawn Care, Laura Bryon-DiDonato
Attracting Bees to your Garden, Diane Dovholuk
Snails in the Garden, B.J. May
School Gardens, by Laura Bryon DiDonato
Green Manure Cover Crops, by David Blood
How to Prepare a Planting Site, by Joyce Bringhurst
Planting the Right Plant in the Right Place, by Joyce Bringhurst
Brr it's Cold - Frost Damage, Jacqueline Bruhn
Pruning Roses, Jolene Adams
Tomatoes from Seeds, David Blood
Decorating with Holiday Greens, by Sharon Wentz
Putting Your Roses to Bed, by Jolene Adams
Holiday Cactus, by B.J. May
Container Gardening, by Eleanor Brown