User-friendly Weed Identification Tool

If you have been out and about in the garden you have probably noticed lush, green, thriving… WEEDS! Knowing what kind of weed you have plays an important role in

Figure 1. Weed Photo Gallery home page.

managing them. The UC IPM Web site contains many useful features to help identify pests and problems in the garden and home. One such feature is the Weed Gallery, which contains images and identification tips for more than 150 common weeds.

If you think you know the name of your weed, the gallery allows you to quickly access photos using common or scientific names to confirm identification. Just use the “List of All Weeds” link from the main weed gallery page.

If you don’t know what the weed is, the gallery will help you identify the plant using visual characteristics. First, narrow your search by selecting the weed category—broadleaf, grass, sedge, or aquatic plant (Figure 1). You will then see a collection of photos in that category.

Select the appropriate plant characteristic (Figure 2) to see another sub-menu of weeds that exhibit the traits of your weed. Scrolling over a thumbnail image on this sub-menu will bring up several photos of the weed—as a seedling, as a mature plant, its flower, and its seeds—to further aid in identification (Figure 3).

Once you think you’ve identified the weed, click on the link of the weed’s name, which will take you to a photo gallery page where you can read about the weed’s habitat, growth characteristics, and life stages (Figure 4). For many weeds, there is a link to a Pest Note that provides information about management, both chemical and nonchemical. In addition, each page in the gallery links to the Calflora Web site to show where the weed grows in California.

Figure 2. Plant characteristics page.


The gallery contains other features as well:

  • Want to know more about plants and their parts? Illustrated tutorials distinguish among broadleaf, grass, and sedge plants and define plant parts used in characterizing certain plant species.
  • Want to identify common weeds found in lawns or turf? The broadleaf and grass categories link to a dichotomous key, where users can pinpoint common turf (and landscape) weeds.
  • Didn’t find your weed? See the weed identification tool under “More information” to search the UC Weed Research & Information Center (WRIC) technical weed key.

You can access the weed gallery page from the left-hand column on any page on the UC IPM web site or from the many weed-related pages at To access the weed gallery directly, visit

Figure 4. Photo gallery page.


Figure 3. Sub-menu with thumbnail images and links to more details.

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.

This post was originally published on February 5, 2015.




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Preventing the Spread of West Nile Virus

Adult Culex tarsalis

Mosquitoes are often associated with summer, but recent warm weather has started mosquito season early. The itchy bites and annoying buzzing are usually all that concerns us, but mosquitoes can also transmit harmful pathogens to humans, domestic pets, and birds. Fortunately there are steps we can take to reduce their numbers and our risk of disease exposure.

In order to propagate, mosquitoes need water. Depending on the species, they may lay their eggs on standing water or on soil that will eventually be inundated. Eggs can be single or in “rafts” of 100 or more. Eggs laid on water will usually hatch within a few days; eggs on soil can stay viable for several years, waiting for a time when water floods the area, creating a favorable environment for the larvae to grow in.

When mosquito eggs hatch, they go through 3 larval stages. After the fourth molting they become pupae; they emerge from the final molt as adults. The process from hatching to adult is rapid, taking as little as 7 days. Males emerge and start mating whereas females, who are typically the bloodsuckers of the mosquito family, search for blood and the protein it provides for egg production.

California has over 50 species of mosquito, most of which do not bother humans. There are several genera, however, that carry harmful diseases:

Culex spp: vector for West Nile Virus (see below)

Anopheles spp: carrier for human malaria, vector for canine heartworm

Aedes spp: carrier of Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Japanese encephalitis, others

West Nile Virus (WNV) has been a major concern since its arrival in New York in 1999, and subsequent spread westward to cover the entire continental United States. Culex spp act as vectors, transmitng WNV between birds, humans, and domestic animals. Roughly 80% of people infected with WNV develop mild symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, or skin rash. However, about 1 in 150 of infected people develop severe neurological symptoms, which can lead to death.

One of the best ways to deal with WNV is to eliminate mosquito breeding habitat by dumping out standing water:

• Birdbaths should be emptied at lease once a week.

• Unused planting saucers should be stored upside-down; those in use should be dumped on a regular basis.

• Roof gutters can become clogged with debris, so clean a couple of times a year to keep water running smoothly.

• Pools are great places for mosquitoes. Chlorine does not kill mosquitoes, so maintain water quality and keep covered. Do not let water collect on top of the cover.

• Poorly drained areas such as low spots in your lawn or on hard surfaces can collect water. Install drainage or fill in areas as necessary.

Taking personal precautions will also help to prevent bites. Avoid being outside when mosquitoes are most active. For Culex spp this is typically at dawn and dusk. If you must be outside, wear long sleeves, pants, and a hat. Use mosquito repellant containing DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Prevent mosquitoes from entering your home by maintaining screens on windows and doors.

Biological controls at the larval stage (larvicides) are the most selective method, meaning they target the mosquitoes while being safe for other wildlife, humans, and domestic animals. Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. israelensis) is a commonly used bacteria in water features without flowing water (moving water suffocates mosquito eggs and larvae). The mosquito larvae eat the bacteria, which kills them before they can grow into adults. It comes in solid and liquid forms.

Another biological control agent is the use of mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) in ponds or unused pools. These little minnows will eat mosquito larvae and are available free from the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District. In favorable conditions they can become established and provide long-term mosquito control.

There are also pesticides to kill mosquitoes at the adult stage, though these tend to be short-term solutions. Before using any product, always read and carefully follow all precautions and safety recommendations given on the container label.

Wild birds act as a reservoir of WNV, so the California Department of Public Health has set up a hotline to report suspicious dead birds and squirrels. Be sure to collect information on the location of the animal, a description (color, size, type), when you found it, and condition of the animal when found (intact, run over, etc). The hotline phone number is 1.877.968.2473, or visit the West Nile Virus and Dead Bird website at:

Other helpful resources are listed below:

UC Integrated Pest Management

SJ County Mosquito and Vector Control District (free mosquitofish)

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.





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Planning a Water-Efficient Landscape

A beautiful low-water shade garden in Sacramento

When we think about saving water in the garden, the first things that usually come to mind are irrigation systems and low-water plants. Another crucial factor is hydrozoning, or the grouping of plants by water and sun requirements; the ultimate goal is to place plants within these groups on the same irrigation schedule. Although creating hydrozones takes research and planning, it is essential for a healthy, water-efficient landscape.

Hydrozoning calls for you to step outside and make observations about your landscape. Even if you have lived in your home for many years, solidifying any vague conjectures about the various microclimates on your property will make planning more effective. There are three basic factors to consider when creating hydrozones:

1. How much sun is there?
Different plants have different metabolic processes; Each has an optimum light requirement to meet its needs for photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into food.

You can track available sunlight by watching when and how long the sun shines directly on various areas of your garden. Also note if there are extended periods when the sun disappears behind a tree or building before returning, and how the amount and intensity of light changes with the seasons as the sun is higher or lower in the sky.

2. How much water will your plants need?
Plants take up and lose water at different rates, as we all know, but other factors come into play as well. Moisture, temperature, and oxygen levels affect soil biology, a major component of plant health. Plants have various preferences, and while many species are quite tolerant of a wide range of environments, it’s a safe bet that mixing high and low water plants will result in someone being under- or over-watered.

Once you have divided your landscape into zones by sun exposure, you can decide whether these areas will be low, medium, or high water use. Watering issues account for a large proportion of plant problems, so designate water requirements before heading to the nursery.

Hydrozones designated by colored areas. Image courtesy of Mother Nature's Backyard


3. What plants do you want to keep?
This is really important if you have an established landscape and are looking to improve your water efficiency. First, look up at the established trees and shrubs that will form the foundation of your garden; these “keepers” will guide you when choosing other plant species to share that hydrozone.

You may have to make some difficult choices about what to keep, but in the long run, water-related problems will probably decrease once you organize your hydrozones. Plants that get their sun and water requirements met are more likely to reward you for your efforts.

Doing your research is essential to understanding what plants want. A great resource for determining the water needs of various plants is the Water Classification of Landscape Species tool (WUCOLS), a searchable database of plants that have been classified by water requirements according to the different climates of California:

To search for plants by function with a basic description of cultural requirements (and photographs), visit Water Wise Gardening in the Gold Country Region:

You can also create a plant list for your various hydrozones using this chart:

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.




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Spring Pruning in the California Native Garden

Manzanita pruned to reveal the beautiful bark and branching structure

Like most ornamentals grown in the garden, California native plants look better with a late winter or early spring clean-up. New growth is likely to be emerging soon with our unseasonably warm weather, so now is a good time to get out in the garden and perform some basic clean-up.

Before chopping away, the first thing you should do is ask, “why am I pruning?” Native plants are tough in some ways, but most cannot tolerate the same constant shearing or abusive amputations accepted by exotics such as Indian hawthorn or Viburnum. Pruning with prupose goes a long way toward the health of your natives.

Good reasons to prune include:
1. To remove dead or diseased growth
2. To remove crossing limbs
3. To improve air circulation and/or light penetration
4. Establish good branching structure, especially on young plants (1-3 years old)

Not-so-good reasons to prune:
1. Size control due to inappropriately placed plants (Choose the right plant for the right place whenever possible)
2. Topiary is resented by most natives. Leave this to boxwood and Dr. Seuss books.

For winter deciduous plants, dormancy provides an easy view of the branching structure so you can visualize what shape you want the plant to take and any dead branches to be removed. Avoid pruning during rainy periods to reduce infection. Native plants for dormant pruning include:

California buckeye (Aesculus californica)
Currant (Ribes spp)
Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp)
Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)
Pipestem clematis (Clematis lasiantha)
Spice bush (Calycanthus occidentalis)
Wild grape (Vitis californica)

Evergreen trees and shrubs generally like to be pruned soon after they have finished flowering. However, if you want the valuable seeds and berries your native garden produces, then do not prune every year, or prune lightly to retain wildlife value. Evergreens to prune in spring (after flowering) include:

California lilac (Ceanothus spp)
Coffeeberry (Frangula spp)
Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp)
Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus spp)

Perennials such as California fuchsia, Matilija poppy, and Lilac verbena can be coppiced to the ground now if you didn’t get to it in fall. Any leftover flower stalks on Penstemon, Red-flowering buckwheat, or Sulfur buckwheat should be deadheaded.

Rejuvenation of large shrubs that have become scraggly or sparse can be done now. Rejuvenation, which involves coppicing a plant down to the ground, should only be done every 10-20 years; it mimics the loss of above-ground growth due to wildfire or other natural disasters. Plants to rejuvenate in spring include:

Blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea)
Bush anemone (Carpenteria californica)
Coffeeberry (Frangula spp)
Coyote brush (Baccharis spp)
Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp)
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp)

For more details on when and how to prune California natives plants, check out the resources below:

 Basics of pruning natives:

Pruning calendar and techniques:

Care and Maintenance of Southern California Gardens (book)
By Bart O’Brien, Betsey Landis, and Ellen Mackey

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.







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Early Spring Tasks for Gardeners


Priscilla, a favorite Gladiolus beauty, Photo Courtesy of Lee Miller

It is technically not spring, but it is close enough with this warm weather to think ahead. California is not Iowa, so spring is early here. Valentine’s Day is coming and, before it gets here, it is important to spray your peach trees for peach leaf curl with a copper based fungicide. It will prevent your trees from a fungus melt-down if we should be so lucky as to have a wet spring.  If there is any left-over fungicide, I always hit the roses with some too. After Valentine’s Day the peaches and nectarines begin blooming and it is too late to spray when the trees are no longer dormant. Of course all your fruit trees should be pruned by now which means less effort to spray.

In the vegetable garden, it’s time for planting perennials like strawberries, rhubarb and artichokes which are now available at Lockhart’s and other nurseries. It is not too late to plant bare-root roses, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and fruit trees as well, but bare root season will soon be over, so better get going.  You can’t reap what you don’t plant. Seed potatoes are in as well and time to buy them for a late February or early March planting.

In the flower department it is time to plant gladiolus for summer blooms and they can be planted about every ten days up until mid-April to keep blooms coming. Plant them about 6 inches deep and about 5 inches apart.  Planting them deep helps prevent lodging. They will provide some spectacular, gorgeous flowers in 75-90 days.

In the greenhouse or on your favorite south facing window, it is time to plant peppers, eggplants and tomatoes to enjoy this summer. Some folks germinate seeds on the top of the refrigerator where warmth comes from the condenser coils. I use a greenhouse and provide heat with a heat mat beneath the plants to get both good germination and good early growth. I plant tomato seeds in half gallon milk cartons with the side removed and the seeds are usually up in 5-6 days. Peppers and eggplant take a little longer to emerge.  You will also need to provide 14 hours of artificial light using florescent fixtures to keep them growing without becoming wimpy. February days are too short for adequate growth of these subtropical plants. Of course you can buy plants later and avoid the tedious growing, but can you buy the heirlooms you want at the nurseries?

I transplant the small plants to 4 inch pots where the roots have lots of room to grow. The greenhouse gets warmer and days are longer in March so the heating mats and lights are not needed. I also like to start leeks in the greenhouse rather than direct sowing in the garden as they are a crop that takes over 100 days to mature. If you like leek and potato soup like I do, this is a good vegetable to combine with the home grown potatoes.

It is too early to plant Dahlias tubers in the ground and I see lots of them for sale now in the big box stores. They are best planted when soil has warmed to 60 degrees when tomato transplanting time is also here. Plant too early and they will rot. You can plant Dahlias in pots in the greenhouse until danger of frost is past. I order mine online from Swan Island Dahlias and they will be shipped a little closer to planting time, but if they come too soon, I will either pot them in the greenhouse or store them where it is cool until the soil warms. You still have time to make selections from the many beautiful Dahlias in online catalogues. If you have Dahlias, early spring is a good time to dig and divide tubers to share with friends or to multiply the beauty in your garden. If you are a Dahlia lover, more is always better.

It is time to start herbs too as most of them are not frost hardy or need a long growing season. The last frost date here is about the first week in April. So start parsley, oregano, garlic and onion chives at 10-12 weeks indoors before the last frost. Savory, basil, sage, thyme, chervil, coriander and lemon balm can be started 6-10 weeks before the last frost. Check information on seed packets for best growing conditions and timing.  Flowers too can be jump started in the greenhouse. Cosmos, Coleus, Echinacea (purple coneflower) marigolds, Zinnias, sunflowers and many others can be started in the greenhouse and will give you blooms much earlier than when direct seeded in the garden. Happy Gardening.

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A Rose Garden Lesson

Carl, pulling up landscape fabric from rose garden. Photo courtesy Lee Miller

Rose bud union is covered with soil and weeds; which is not good.

A Rose Garden Lesson

One of my rose gardens has been in slow decline and this year I had to come to grips with why. I am telling this story to help other rose lovers to avoid some of the several errors I made with this garden.  My rose garden is not in an ideal spot, because it gets afternoon shade. Hence, I have wondered if the lack of vigor is due to less than ideal sun exposure. However, years ago I decided to put down some plastic landscape fabric to control weeds. I put wood chips on top of the landscape fabric and of course over the years the wood chips decomposed into some nice humus-rich soil. I didn’t remove this built up soil which I should have, and voila– the weeds show up again.

Last year one of my UC Master Gardener, rosarian friends, Susan Price, suggested I pull out half of the landscape cloth and see if that would improve conditions for the roses which were a sickly lot in comparison to my other rose garden where some are 8 ft. tall.  I neglected her advice and instead compounded my error by putting down another layer of wood chip mulch, thinking it would help control weeds. One principle of rose planting is to not bury the bud union.  I managed to do just that by piling more material on the rose bed instead of removing it over the years.

So I decided to remove all the fabric and the 4-7 inches of mulch, soil, violets, weeds and invasive shrub roots tangled in it. If I had not had the help of my young, strong, nephew, Carl, I would still be out in the rose garden pulling and tugging.  It was one horrific mess to deal with, but I am convinced that it was a major mistake to install that material, although I am still unsure how to adequately deal with future weeds, but I will try mulch sans fabric.

Genevieve Schmidt is a landscape designer and owns a landscape maintenance company in Arcata.  Here is what she has to say about landscape fabric after years of experience. “After ten years, you pull up the landscape fabric, and that soil is dead. Like – dead, dead. Soil that started out cool, crumbly, loose – a soil that plants could stretch, wiggle their toes, and relax into – becomes hard, dusty, and impossible to dig with your hands. There’s no organic matter left, water runs off the surface, and it’s hard to dig new planting holes. I don’t know what’s going on under a microscope, but what you can see with your bare eyes is a big soil FAIL.”  She also makes the point that earthworms cannot thrive under fabric as they do stick their heads out when it rains.  In googling this subject I found other professional landscapers with similar views:

Here is what Mike, another landscaper had to say, “I’ve landscaped well over 500 homes. Many of those were re-landscapes. In way too many cases when we arrived to re-landscape a home the very first thing that we had to deal with was weed barrier cloth that was practically welded to the ground because there were so many weeds growing through the fabric that removing the weed barrier fabric was a nightmare of a job.”  Yes, Mike, I can relate.

I didn’t notice any earthworms beneath the fabric, but I did have several gopher tunnels and some more excavation mounds right at the base of the roses, again piling dirt over the bud union. I keep gophers in check with trapping, but of course there is no way to trap gophers with landscape fabric, but now I can, if they should return.

Unfortunately, I have used landscape fabric in other places, but with more careful monitoring and mulch removal and replacement, I hope that I can avoid the rose bed mess. One thing the landscape fabric does initially do is keep the weeds down to a dull roar and especially bind weed and oxalis.  However, it does not work well at controlling mint. Mint will creep under the fabric until finding an overlapping seam and up it pops. You yank it out and then you get to repeat that task ad infinitum. I tried to eliminate the mint before installing the fabric, but I obviously was unsuccessful. The lesson from this is to avoid landscape fabric.

I planted several new roses to replace those in decline. I added copious amounts of compost to get life back in the soil.  I also cleaned up all the bud unions to make sure they are above ground.  I will report later on whether the renewed rose garden thrives this summer despite some afternoon shade.  Hope does spring eternal for gardeners.

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Feb. 8 Is UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day: Six Open Houses

Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Visitors enjoying the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory (Photos by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

DAVIS–It’s like Super Science Day! Six rolled into one.

UC Davis’s fourth annual Biodiversity Museum Day, to take place Sunday, Feb. 8 from 12 noon to 4 p.m., will feature an open house at six museums: Bohart Museum of Entomology, Center for Plant Diversity, the Botanical Conservatory, the Paleontology Collection, the Anthropology Collection, and the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.

“Each museum’s impressive research/teaching collection documents the biodiversity of life in California and throughout the world, whether it be plants, fossils, human culture, insects or birds,” said co-coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum.

All participating museums have active education and outreach programs, but the collections are not always accessible to the public.

Madgascar hissing cockroach crawls on arm of youngster at Bohart Museum of Entomology (Photos by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Biodiversity Museum Day is billed as a special day to go behind-the-scenes to learn how scientists conduct research; gain first-hand educational experience; and to see some of the curators’ favorite pieces. Visitors are invited to explore displays, talk to scientists and students, and participate in fun activities.

There is no admission and no parking fees. Visitors are encouraged to stroll or bike around the UC Davis campus and visit all six collections. All collections are located indoors.

Maps, signs and guides will be available at all the locations on the main UC Davis campus.

The locations:

The locations:

Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of Academic Surge, Crocker Lane (off LaRue Road)

Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, 1394 Academic Surge, Crocker Lane

UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, Kleiber Hall Drive

Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive, near Briggs Hall

Anthropology Collections, Young Hall, off A Street

Geology Collections, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, across from Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane

This is the skull of an Asian Elephant, Elephas maximus, displayed byt he Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology in the Academic Surge Building

For more information visit the Facebook page: For further information, contact Ernesto Sandoval at or call the Botanical Conservatory at (530) 752-0569.

Click to download map.

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Keeping Your Backyard Poultry Healthy

You may have heard that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic (HPAI) H5N8 avian influenzain a commercial turkey flock in Stanislaus County, California.

Avian influenza — commonly called “bird flu” — is a disease found in a wide variety of domesticated and wild birds. Once introduced into an area, infection can spread through bird-to-bird contact or through contact with contaminated clothing, shoes, hands, feed, water or equipment. Because waterfowl are reservoirs for avian influenza strains that can be fatal to domestic poultry (yet often show little to no signs in waterfowl), backyard and commercial chickens raised near areas commonly used by migrating waterfowl are at risk of transmission.

“Due to normal waterfowl migration along the Pacific Flyway, during the winter there are approximately eight times the number of waterfowl in California than what we will see three months from now,” said Maurice Pitesky, a poultry specialist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “There are lots of birds that winter and establish roosting and feeding habitat in California wetlands and agricultural crops. If you are a poultry owner — either backyard or commercial — and live in proximity to waterfowl and their habitat, your birds are at risk.”  This is the first finding of HPAI in commercial poultry during the ongoing disease incident in the Pacific Flyway. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally, and there continues to be no public health concern.

Many residents of San Joaquin County have backyard birds. Although your typical backyard flock is not the same scale as a commercial poultry operation, it is important to keep your birds safe and healthy. If you or someone you know have backyard flocks make sure that they remain confined for the remainder of the winter and do not go onto the premises of anyone else who has birds.  This is spread primarily through wild birds coming into contact with domestic.

6 Ways To Prevent Poultry Diseases

Keep Your Distance: Restrict access to your property and your birds. Consider fencing off the area where you keep your birds and make a barrier area if possible. Allow only people who take care of your birds to come into contact with them. If visitors have birds of their own, do not let them near your birds. Game birds and migratory waterfowl should not have contact with your flock because they can carry germs and diseases.

Keep It Clean: Wear clean clothes, scrub your shoes with disinfectant, and wash your hands thoroughly before entering your bird a rea. Clean cages and change food and water daily. Clean and disinfect equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings, including cages and tools. Remove manure before disinfecting. Properly dispose of dead birds.

Don’t Haul Disease Home: If you have been near other birds or bird owners, such as at a feed store, clean and disinfect car and truck tires, poultry cages, and equipment before going home. Have your birds been to a fair or exhibition? Keep them separated from the rest of your flock for at least 2 weeks after the event. New birds should be kept separate from your flock for at least 30 days.

Don’t Borrow Disease From Your Neighbor: Do not share lawn and garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies with your neighbors or other bird owners. If you do bring these items home, clean and disinfect them before they reach your property.

 Know the Warning Signs of Infectious Bird Diseases:

  • Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock
  • Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing, and nasal discharge
  • Watery and green diarrhea
  • Lack of energy and poor appetite
  • Drop in egg production or soft- or thin-shelled misshapen eggs
  • Swelling around the eyes, neck, and head • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs (AI)
  • Tremors, drooping wings, circling,twisting of the head and neck, or lack of movement (END) Early detection is important to prevent the spread of disease.

Report Sick Birds: Don’t wait. Owners of backyard chickens who observe illness or increased mortality in their birds should call their veterinarian, local Agricultural Commissioners Office at 209-953-6000.  or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-2473.

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through your state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.  Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at

The University of CA has a great website for Backyard Poultry including basic care, coop design and disease information.

Click here to watch a video full of helpful tips on keeping your backyard flock safe and healthy.


If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.

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Carrots Make a Delicious Addition to Your Garden

Carrots come in many colors

Carrots, or Daucus carota, are a familiar and versatile vegetable. They are thought to be native to southwest Asia, though the exact location depends on who you ask. Biennial by nature, they would complete their life cycle in two growing seasons if left to their own devices, but are usually grown as an annual in the home garden. The most commonly consumed part is the taproot, a prominent root with few side branches used as food storage by the plant.

There are many different kinds of carrots. The standard market varieties require loamy, well-drained soil free of clumps and rocks to allow the roots to grow long and straight. For heavy soil, a raised bed or container should be employed, and short or medium varieties chosen to avoid forked or stubbed roots. For a list of carrot varieties, see the Sacramento Master Gardener webpage: <>

Carrots are cool-season crops, meaning they can handle light frosts and grow best when temperatures are in the 55°-75°F range. Seeds can be sown between February and September in the Central Valley. Choose a site in full sun, and amend the soil with compost and an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer. Avoid high nitrogen products to encourage plants to direct energy toward root development rather than excess foliage.

It is best to start carrots and other root vegetables from seed, as they tend to dislike being transplanted. It helps to mix the tiny seeds with cornmeal or sand to help them disperse more evenly. When seedlings reach 1-2 inches tall, thin to 2 inches apart and keep them consistently moist. Maturity takes 70-90 days; when the shoulders of the root are exposed, gently cultivate the surrounding soil before attempting to harvest to prevent broken carrots.

The carrot’s versatility in the kitchen comes from its mildy sweet flavor, which complements almost any dish. They can be used in anything from salads to muffins, though purple varieties are best used raw or roasted to avoid murky soups. Here is one of my favorite carrot soup recipes, courtesy of Crepes of Wrath:

Carrot, Potato, and Leek Soup
Serves 4

1 lb baby Dutch potatoes, unpeeled
4-5 medium-sized carrots, peeled
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
¼ C olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of sugar
8 C vegetable or chicken stock
1 carrot, grated, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven.

2. Cut potatoes and carrots into large chunks of similar size for even roasting. Cut leeks in half and rinse, then cut into 1-inch lengths. Toss vegetables, unpeeled garlic cloves, spices, and olive oil in a large bowl. Spread vegetables on a sheet pan in a single layer (use two pans if they are small).

3. Roast vegetables until fork-tender and lightly caramelized on the edges, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Peel the garlic. Puree vegetables with stock in a blender, doing it in batches for smaller blenders. Transfer to a large pot. Alternatively, place roasted vegetables and stock in a large pot and use an immersion blender to puree.

5. Heat blended soup to a simmer. Season to taste with salt. Adding a cup of milk, half and half, or homemade nut milk improves the texture, but isn’t necessary. Garnish with grated carrots. Serve hot.

For more tips on carrot cultivation, see the UC Integrated Pest Management webpage at <>. If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.






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A Growing Movement

Monarch nectaring on Mule's ears (Wyethia spp)

“A plant that has fed nothing has not done its job.”
        -D.W. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home

This past September I had an opportunity to volunteer at the California Native Plant Society’s fall sale in Sacramento. Having arrived early to help set up, I felt that the plethora of volunteers made my presence unnecessary….until the sale began. The flood gates opened and customers came surging in, washing away almost the entire stock of plants in a matter of hours!

The surprising success that day reflected a growing awareness of our ecological impact and a desire for change, starting with the home landscape. I hesitate to call it a “trend”, which implies an ephemeral whim of fancy. Rather, the movement toward sustainable landscaping is based on sound scientific evidence and an obvious need to alter our relationship with nature.

As we continue to deepen our understanding of ecosystems and their fragility, it becomes apparent that our gardens filled with alien plants serve form, but not function. Yes, that privet can be kept in a 3’ x 3’ meatball-shape all year (form), but what does that do for wildlife (function)? Not a whole lot, and here is why:

1. Alien plants are not palatable to native insects. This is a function of evolution; insects co-evolved with native plants and developed ways of digesting them via enzymes or helpful bacteria living in their guts. Alien plants touted as being pest-free are as useful to insects as patio furniture (i.e. not at all). This may sound like a good thing to those who “hate bugs”, but it leads me to my next point…

2. Insects are essential to our survival. Insects can live without humans, but we wouldn’t last long without them. While pesticide manufacturers benefit from the ideal of a bug-free garden, it is far from healthy for anyone. Whether insects break down organic matter to be recycled into new life, or prey on other insects to keep populations in balance, we need them. Period.

3. Birds need insects. Birds can eat berries of some alien plants, but insects are an important part of their diet as well. As natural habitats have given way to agriculture, suburbs, and shopping malls, birds have become more dependent on the home gardener. A garden filled with alien plants cannot feed enough insects to support insectivorous birds, whereas native plants can create a veritable buffet, not to mention good habitat for nesting and berries for additional forage.

4. Butterflies and moths are host specific. Caterpillars are the most particular about their food. The plight of the monarch has been traced, in part, to the disappearance of milkweed (Asclepias spp), the caterpillar’s host plant. Almost everyone has a soft spot for butterfies and their graceful beauty. A butterfly garden can be a great starting starting point for the amateur native plant enthusiast, especially children.

My experience at the plant sale showed that people do care; not only that, they want to take action. Although native plant gardening has not yet taken off in San Joaquin County, there are great resources out there from organizations who are way ahead of us, providing support and leading the way forward:

California Native Plant Society, Sacramento chapter

Las Pilitas Nursery

Theodore Payne Foundation

Xerces Society: California region

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.

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  • Blog Authors

    Lee Miller

    Lee Miller is a University of Delaware graduate and retired fisheries biologist, he gardens on 10 acres and makes wine each year with the help of a cadre of friends. However, his first love is gardening and he grows various fruit trees, heirloom ... Read Full

    Marcy Sousa

    Marcy Sousa is the San Joaquin County UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator. She is a Stockton native and enjoys teaching others about gardening. She has her bachelors from Stanislaus State in Permaculture. She has been with the program since 2007. Read Full

    Nadia Zane

    Nadia Zane is a UC Master Gardener, a landscape designer and Stockton native. She has a fondness for California native plants and sustainable landscaping, which she utilizes in her work for Native Beauty Garden Design. She is a member of the CA ... Read Full
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