Annuals, Biennials, Perennials: What’s the Difference?

Mixed perennial planting at the Elk Grove Rain Garden Plaza

A plant’s ultimate goal is to self-perpetuate in some way by making more of itself. Their life cycle, be it short or long, consists of building up vegetative growth, which in turn supports seed development and other methods of self-propagation (runners, bulblets, etc).

Plant life cycles fall into three broad categories: annual, biennial, and perennial. Words that often accompany these terms are “herbaceous” or “woody”, a reference to stem characteristics. Woody stems have hard, fibrous growth whereas herbaceous stems do not.

Annuals
Annuals complete their life cycle in one growing season. Most are small and best used in borders or to fill in spaces around permanent plants. Although annual wildflowers can re-seed, if you want your nursery six-pack of annuals to self-sow, make sure it isn’t a sterile hybrid. Some annuals will not always come true from seed and need to be purchased as plants if you want a certain variety.

Biennials
Biennials complete their life cycle in two growing seasons, often going dormant in the winter, then sending up new vegetative growth and flowers the second year before dying. The most famous examples are cole crops such as broccoli and cabbage, which we often treat as annuals in the garden.

Perennials
This category of plants lives for many years, varying greatly in how long it takes to produce their first flowers/seeds and reach senescence (old age). Below are some of the major types of perennials:

Evergreens support foliage year-round, although they will shed leaves sporadically. Examples of evergreens include conifers, photinia, boxwood, and California natives such as Coffeeberry, Toyon, and Buckwheats. These should form the backbone of your garden, as they provide the basic structure around which your shorter-lived annuals and perennials are planted.

Deciduous perennials shed all their leaves when they go into winter dormancy. Examples include Crape myrtle, stone and pome fruit trees, and Valley oak. Plants that retain a branching, woody structure in dormancy add an architectural element to the winter garden.

Herbaceous perennials are a sub-set of deciduous perennials whose stems lack hard, fibrous growth. They die to the ground during dormancy, surviving underground as roots or bulbs. This can happen in winter (e.g. Peony, Coneflower) or in summer (e.g. Amaryllis, Blue-eyed grass). These plants are cut to the ground once the foliage has died back to keep the garden tidy. These tend to be the most showy plants (after annuals), but they are “blank” in dormancy so it’s good to be sparing with them in the garden.

Semi-deciduous plants lose some of their leaves in either winter or summer. In California, many plants have adapted to the long dry season by dropping foliage to conserve water.

It’s important to point out that plants can behave differently, depending on what climate they are being grown in. For instance, tomatoes are annuals in the Central Valley but are perennials in their native land (Mexico). When reading plant descriptions, make sure to note the zone being used. If there are not specific descriptions for various zones, try doing more research using a different source. Sunset is a great source, as are other books written specifically for California gardens.

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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Falling into Autumn Planting

 

California fuchsia 'Sierra Salmon'

One of the best things about living in California is our ability to plant in spring and fall. For garden geeks like me, it’s like two holiday seasons a year! Spring planting is necessary for some species, especially certain edibles, but fall is a great time for water-wise ornamentals.

Why plant in the fall?
This time of year offers good conditions for planting; the heat of summer has abated, putting less stress on new plants that have enough of a shock at transplanting time. Cooler weather also reduces water loss from the soil and the plant itself (evapotranspiration), reducing the need for irrigation. Winter rains refresh and soak the soil, allowing you to leave the sprinklers off (unless there is an extended period without rain).

What to plant
Plants that like to be dry in the summer, such as many California natives and other Mediterranean species, are best planted in the fall. Some great natives to plant now are listed below:

Perennials: Buckwheats, California fuchsia, Coral bells, Douglas iris, Grasses, Monkey flower, Penstemon, Sages, Yarrow
Shrubs: Ceanothus, Currant, Coffeeberry, Manzanita, Redbud, Toyon
Trees: California bay, Mountain mahogany, Valley oak

This list is not all-inclusive, and many non-natives can also be planted at this time of year. Check out the UC Davis Arboretum’s list of All-Stars for some great plants, both native and non-native, that do well in the Central Valley.

General transplanting tips
If you are planning on making major changes, I would suggest making a planting plan before doing anything else. Perennial beds should have irrigation installed and be free of weeds before planting to avoid root competition and damaging new plants as you yank out unwanted ones.

Most water-wise native plants do not need ammendments as they come from dry habitats where soils tend to be low in organic matter. For instructions on planting natives, see the Redbud chapter of the California Native Plant Society’s newsletter from fall 2013, pages 4-5:
<http://www.redbud-cnps.org/newslets.htm>

The only addition you need is a 2”-3” layer of mulch on top of the soil (not mixed in). This helps to keep soil cool and moist while adding organic matter as it is decomposed by soil microfauna. Mulching materials such as bark chips, leaves, or shredded redwood are great for most plants. Inorganic gravel mulch is good for desert species.

If you stopped watering the area you want to plant in over the summer, make sure it is irrigated before planting. Waiting until after the first rain but before sogginess sets in to plant allows the ground to soak up rainwater, which plants love. Windy and unseasonably warm days can dry out plants, so try to plant on cool, cloudy days if possible, and always water well after transplanting.

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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Soldier Beetles

This article is copied from the fall issue of Garden Notes, The San Joaquin County Master Gardener Newsletter which can be subscribed to here. 

Beneficial Insects: Soldier Beetles-Kathy Ikeda

This has been a difficult fall season for many gardens, with the stress of severe drought added to the customary stresses of heat and pests. However, there is one insect we can enlist for future help in our ongoing battle against plant-draining aphids and crop-eating caterpillars.

Soldier beetles—also known as “leather-winged beetles” or Cantharids, after the Cantharidae family to which they belong—have sharp-looking uniforms: brightly colored heads and abdomens (red, orange, or yellow) with wing covers in shades of black, gray, or dark brown. Most of these beetles are about ½ inch long, with slender abdomens, long antennae, and shiny black eyes. California is host to approximately 100 different species.

As their name implies, soldier beetles will fight to keep your garden in order. Adult soldier beetles move quickly from plant to plant by either crawling or flying, and they feed voraciously on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Adult beetles also feed on pollen of brightly colored flowers (favoring yarrow, cosmos, and goldenrod), and they are nearly as valuable as bees in their role as beneficial pollinators. The ground-dwelling soldier beetle larvae are also beneficial, since they feed on caterpillars, mites, and the eggs and larvae of other insects such as grasshoppers and moths. Neither the adult beetles nor their larvae are harmful to humans; they are not poisonous and do not bite or sting.

Soldier beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, and their life cycle begins when the eggs hatch in the fall. The young larvae feed and grow during the warm months, then overwinter in damp ground or in piles of leaves. If you happen to disturb any larvae (see photo below) during your winter garden clean-up activities, return them to a protected location where they can safely transform into pupae then adult beetles when the weather warms in the spring.

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Stockton Beautiful

This article is copied from the fall issue of Garden Notes, The San Joaquin County Master Gardener Newsletter which can be subscribed to here.

Stockton Beautiful: Civic Pride in Action – Julie Schardt, Master Gardener

 

Stockton Beautiful: Civic Pride in Action – Julie Schardt, Master Gardener

As gardeners, we spend a lot of time planning, cultivating, and enjoying our yards. We feel admiration or, sometimes, consternation when looking at what our neighbors create with their own landscaping. But how observant are we when it comes to the public spaces in our communities?

Stockton Beautiful is an organization unknown to many Stocktonians. Their efforts, however, have been improving neighborhoods and public spaces in the area since 1993. The mission of the organization is to encourage the citizens of Stockton to show civic pride by beautifying and maintaining their neighborhoods. Started as a grass roots organization with only 30 members, it focused initially on simple projects such as planting Valley Oak trees in a few areas or giving landscape assistance to local schools and organizations. Like the native oak trees it planted, though, Stockton Beautiful has grown to be a mighty presence in our community. The oak trees planted by the group now number over 3000. The group’s other projects are many and varied.

The Gerry Dunlap Rose Garden (named for the late Stockton Beautiful founding member Gerry Dunlap) at Victory Park is a highlight of Stockton Beautiful’s efforts. The rose garden was funded, planned, and planted by the organization. Dedicated in 2007, it features dozens of varieties of roses as well as graceful architectural structures that draw attention to the garden, inviting people to step closer and appreciate the unique beauty of this place. Stockton Beautiful is also in charge of upkeep for the garden, assisted annually by volunteers who show up every January (date to be announced soon) with gloves and pruning shears in hand to main-tain the roses. In addition to the rose garden, the planter area immediately in front of the Haggin Museum at Victory Park is cared for by Stockton Beautiful volunteers.

Another huge undertaking by Stockton Beautiful, in collaboration with the University of the Pacific (UOP) and the City of Stockton, is the Pacific Avenue Median Improvement along Stockton’s Miracle Mile. The iron grillwork suggests a music staff and reflects the influence of nearby UOP as well as the nascent music scene further south along the Miracle Mile. Particular care was given to the plantings along the median. Drought-tolerant Mediterranean and California native plants are among the shrubs, flowers, and trees that seem to flow along the median. At night, lights can be seen twinkling among some of the trees, giving a warm welcome to those driving by.

In a quiet, central Stockton neighborhood, the historic Yosemite Street Trolley Stop included a barren circle in a public space. Notified and encouraged by Stockton Beautiful, many neighbors in the area turned out to work with the organization’s volunteers to install irrigation and to plant low-care, drought-tolerant catmint (Nepeta) and roses in the circle. This ongoing effort will soon see the nearby benches colorfully painted and its decades-old wooden flagpole enhanced at night by solar lighting.

Stockton Beautiful’s other successful projects include the Annual Home Awards which recognize homeowners within a specific residential neighborhood who maintain their property in a way that reflects the goals of Stockton Beautiful. In addition, some of the highway off-ramps leading into the city have been invitingly landscaped to welcome incoming residents and visitors. Trees have been planted along Weber Avenue and around the Stockton Ballpark. A recently completed landscape project can be seen at the Community Center for the Blind.

The Cesar Chavez Central Library will be the beneficiary of Stockton Beautiful’s attention next year. The library entry courtyard will be renovated with new landscaping and irrigation. Like all the projects undertaken by the organization, this $20,000 effort will be underwritten by donations and volunteers will provide the design and implementation.

The success of each project undertaken by Stockton Beautiful is the result of careful thought and planning. The best practices of good gardening are among the guiding principles for Stockton Beautiful. Landscape architect Jeff Gamboni, vice-president of the organization, emphasizes wise water use and ongoing maintenance when they take on a project. Plants such as the colorful, easy-care catmint (Nepeta) bloom throughout most of the year and grow well beneath the low-water roses used in many of the gardens. Mediterranean grasses are often used for the contrast of texture and movement they offer among the other plants.

Maintaining a garden in a public space can be a challenge. Gamboni says another important consideration for Stockton Beautiful is collaboration with other groups to insure a broader buy-in for each project. When neighborhoods and organizations are brought into the design and planning process, it is more likely the public garden spaces will be cared for as well as enjoyed.

Stockton has been positively impacted by the hard work, dedication, and commitment of Stockton Beautiful. Like many civic organizations though, their efforts must be sustained by the community that benefits from their work. Becky Potten, the group’s president, says the group always needs volunteers for their hands-on projects. And to make sure Stockton Beautiful regains its place in the public’s awareness, they are in special need of someone to update and maintain their website and news-letter.

Consider what Stockton Beautiful has given to our community. If you, or someone you know, can give some time and talent to this worthwhile organization, contact Becky Potten at (209) 948-4914 or Jeff Gamboni at jeffgamboni@sbcglobal.net.  Then take a drive to admire some of the work done by Stockton 

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Time for Garlic Planting

Garlic curing

I am a holiday gardener. By that I mean I often do my seasonal chores relative to Holidays. For example, I always plant my Brassicas about July 4th for the fall garden, spray for peach leaf curl before Valentine’s Day, and prune roses at New Years. Well October is here and it is time to get garlic planted before Columbus Day. I love to have lots of garlic on hand for friends through the post-harvest season. In the fall, garlic begins to sprout as it knows the season for planting is here too. Some of my residual garlics, hanging where they cured in my garden shed, will soon be planted for a new crop. Our climate is well suited to growing garlic.

I have several varieties that I like: Kazakhstan Pink, Lorz Italian, Sonoran, Russian Red, and Spanish Rojas. These are all hard-neck types and I plan to add a soft-neck variety, Late Pink, to this year’s planting, Soft-necks supposedly store longer and my wife is unappreciative of fall sprouting garlics for cooking.  However, one additional thing that hard neck varieties supply in the spring is garlic scapes which, if harvested while tender, make a good steamed and buttered vegetable dish. They need to be removed anyway so more energy goes to the bulb.

It is always good to buy seed garlic that is disease free. There is a garlic disease called pink root that you want to avoid bringing to your garden, Downey mildew and powdery mildew can be a problem on foliage. More information on pests and disease of garlic can be found here.

It is fun to grow different types of garlic although I can’t taste much in the way of differences, but then I am not a supertaster and they can tell differences in pungency and flavor. Seed garlic can be purchased locally at Lockharts, from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, or Filaree Farms. The return on garlic planted varies from 4-12 times the amount planted. A pound of garlic should return enough for most families.

Several years ago I began to repurpose newspapers in the garden by planting garlic through about 3-4 layers of the newspaper as a mulch. This will keep weeds at bay for most of the winter and greatly reduces the chore of weeding. To keep your newspaper from blowing away, be sure to pile soil on the edges.  

It is important to know the cultural requirements for garlic. They need moist, fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. Loamy soils are best and adding compost or aged manure for fertility and more friable soil is good. Last June, a fellow gardener showed me some garlic that did not make bulbs. It turned out that his garlic was in a shady area that did not receive a full 6 hours of sun, the minimum for most vegetables. I often get questions like that. Why didn’t my tomatoes produce or Irises bloom?  It often turns out that too much shade is the problem. So find a sunny spot for your garlic. Garlic can be grown in containers which you can keep moving to a sunny location through the winter and spring. Garlic should be ready to harvest in June.

I use a dibble to punch holes through the newspaper and plant the cloves. Break the heads open for the cloves as you plant but leave the skin intact. The flat side goes down, pointed side up and plant about 1 inch or more deep so the top is just barely showing.  They should be spaced about 4-5 inches apart in the row and I plant double rows straddling each drip tape about 6 inches apart. I use a drip tape under the paper for irrigation. Water lightly after planting and in a week or so green shoots will be popping up in your garlic patch. Keep soil moist but discontinue watering when winter rains come. Early planting in October will assure that the plants are well established before cold weather sets in. Next June, you will be rewarded with large luscious heads to enjoy in your kitchen for several months.

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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Autumn Bulbs=Spring Flowers

King Alfred type Daffodils-Photo by Lee Miller

I was going to write a blog on this subject when I remembered that Susan Price had already done a piece for Garden Notes, our Master Gardener Newsletter of which she is editor in chief. So here is what she recommends. You can subscribe to Garden Notes here.

 

 

How do I select and plant flower bulbs for spring blooms? Susan Price, Master Gardener

Fall is the perfect time to be thinking about planting bulbs. Come spring, you can have a dazzling display. Tulips, Narcissus (daffodils, jonquils, etc.) and hyacinth—all true bulbs — are just some of the possibilities. For best selection, choose plump, firm bulbs that feel heavy for their size; these tend to produce big-ger and more abundant blooms. Avoid shriveled, soft or damaged bulbs.

Choose bulbs that grow well in your area and purchase as soon as they become available. If you can’t plant right away, store in a cool, dark and dry place. Bulbs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks but be sure to keep them away from fruits, especially apples, whose chemical reaction can damage bulbs. Local nurseries carry only the most popular bulb varieties. For a more extensive selection, purchase from reputable mail-order nurseries. Many specialize in bulbs, or even a single bulb variety.

Plant your bulbs in soil with good drainage in full sun. After bloom, dappled shade is desirable in hot inland areas. This can be easily achieved by planting underneath high branching deciduous trees. If your soil has poor drainage, amend with compost or other rich organic matter before planting. Pre-moisten the soil prior to planting for good root development. Bulbs should be planted in a hole roughly 3 times their width, with the pointed end up and their root scars down. Typically, large bulbs (2” or more) are planted about 6-8” deep and 6-8” apart; smaller-size bulbs (approximately 1”) are planted about 3-5” deep, 2-4” apart. Planting depths do vary so be sure to follow the specific planting instructions for the bulbs you’ve chosen. You can dig a trench for a planting bed or use a trowel or a bulb planter to make individual holes. Gently cover with soil, tamp down gently, and top with more soil. Top-dress with mulch to keep soil moist. Bulbs need water while they’re actively growing, so provide irrigation until winter rains kick in. Make sure to water deep enough to penetrate the root zone.

There is some debate about the need for fertilizers at planting time, especially those added to the bottom of the planting hole. The International Bulb Society offers this guidance: If you’re planting bulbs for only one year’s blooms (as annuals) there is no need to fertilize. Bulbs already carry a season’s supply of food stores. For bulbs that you intend to naturalize (“perennialize”) for years to come, you have the following options: 1) Add a good organic compost or well-rotted cow manure worked into the soil when planting, and a mulch of this material; 2) add a slow release bulb food; or 3) add a combination of bone meal and an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 (NPK), fast-release soluble fertilizer (about one tablespoon per square foot). If you choose to add bulb formulas or other fertilizers to the planting hole, be sure to dig them into the soil, well under the root zone prior to planting as they can burn the new roots.

Plant your flowering bulbs in groups, either in small clusters or drifts, for the most eye-catching display. Lay a bulb down here and there or scatter and mix, large with small, for a spontaneous, natural look. Flowering bulbs look wonderful in containers, either by themselves or partnered with annuals. Tulips and pansies make great companions. You can plant as few as 6 or as many as 40 bulbs in a 16” wide pot for a knock-out display. You can mix and match or simply switch out pots as one group fades and another is in full bloom. To prolong the flower show, vary varieties to include early, mid- and late-season bloomers. Pay attention to plant heights as well. To maximize visual impact, place taller bloomers to the back or center and shorter ones to the front or outside.

Naturalizing bulbs such as daffodils, California native iris, Muscari (grape hyacinth), and “species” tulips, will give you many years of repeat blooms as long as you allow plants to die back naturally. This ensures that bulbs have sufficient stored nutrients to support next year’s flowers. That means not removing your flowering bulbs’ dead leaves and stems until they are completely dried out. Withered leaves can be easily hidden with strategically placed late spring and summer bloomers. The emerging foliage of annuals and perennials destined for late spring or summer bloom is enough to keep the garden in green splendor. Cat-mint, coneflowers, Veronica, daylilies and yarrow are just some of the plants that can take over the show, keeping your garden beautiful season after bulb-blooming season.

 

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Sighting swarming termites?

Western drywood termites.

After the subterranean termite, the western drywood termite, Incisitermes minor, is California’s second most important termite pest.

Drywood termites are difficult to detect. They live deep inside wood and except during periods when they swarm or when repair work is being done on infested homes, they are seldom seen. The most common sighting of drywood termites is when flying adults (or “swarmers”) are seen during daytime hours in summer and fall. Dampwood termites also can swarm during summer and fall, but they can be differentiated from the western drywood termite based on their larger size and attraction to lights at dark.

Because of the difficulty in detecting drywood termites and determining the extent of the damage, do-it-yourself treatments are not recommended. In addition, the products needed for controlling these pests are not available for homeowner use. Except for wood removal, homeowners should seek help for infestations of drywood termites from pest control professionals.

The revised Pest Note: Drywood Termites by Vernard Lewis, UC Berkeley, Andrew Sutherland, UC IPM SF Bay Area, and Michael Haverty, UC Berkeley, will help provide homeowners with sufficient background information so they can better discuss treatment options with their pest control professional.

If you are interested in becoming a San Joaquin Master Gardener please visit our website to download an application. Applications are due by November 5th, 2014.

If you have a gardening question, give us a call! Master Gardeners are available Monday-Thursday 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at 209-953-6112.

Originally posted on  Pests in the Urban Landscape blog

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Scale Insects: Recognizing and Managing

People sometimes don’t recognize scales as insects, but understanding scale types and signs of their presence will enable you to best manage them if encountered on your plants.

Greedy scale colony.

Scale insects are circular, elongate, or oval insects that often resemble discolored or raised areas on bark, leaves, or fruit. Scales are small and mostly immobile and damage many types of trees and shrubs by sucking out plant juices with their tiny, strawlike mouthparts. Infestations can cause yellowing or premature dropping of leaves, sticky honeydew, and blackish sooty mold. Plant parts can distort or die back, depending on the species and abundance of scales.

Although most plants can tolerate low to moderate numbers of scales, successful management involves correct identification and a combination of factors including proper plant care, conserving natural enemies, controlling ants, and applying low-toxicity insecticides when needed.

For more information and photos about many common scales in California landscapes, see the newly revised Scales Pest Note by John Kabashima, UCCE Orange and Los Angeles Counties, and Steve Dreistadt, UC Statewide IPM Program.

If you are interested in becoming a San Joaquin Master Gardener please visit our website to download an application. Applications are due by November 5th, 2014.

If you have a gardening question, give us a call! Master Gardeners are available Monday-Thursday 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at 209-953-6112.

Originally posted on  Pests in the Urban Landscape blog

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Do You Have a Little Land to Spare for the Bee Buffer Project?

Honey bee heading for lupine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Do you have a little land to spare, such as a quarter of an acre or up to three acres? For honey bee habitat?

The Pollinator Partnership, as part of its U.S. Bee Buffer Project, wants to partner with California farmers, ranchers, foresters, and managers and owners to participate in a honey bee forage habitat enhancement effort. It’s called the U.S. Bee Buffer Project and the goal is to “borrow” 6000 acres to plant honey bee seed mix.

It will create a foraging habitat of pollen and nectar, essential to honey bee health. And there’s no charge for the seed mix.

What a great project to help the beleaguered honey bees!

“Beekeepers struggle to find foraging areas to feed their bees when they are not in a pollination contract,” said “idea generator” Kathy Kellison of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, a strong advocate of keeping bees healthy.  “Lack of foraging habitat puts stress on the bees and cropping systems honey bees pollinate. The U.S. Bee Buffer Project will develop a network of honey bee forage habitats in agricultural areas to support honey bee health and our own food systems. We are looking for cooperators with land they are willing to set aside as Bee Buffers.”

Kellison points out:

  • Honey bees provide pollination services for 90 crops nationwide.
  • A leading cause for over-winter mortality of honey bee colonies given by beekeepers surveyed is starvation. The nationwide winter loss for 2012/2013 was 31.3 percent.

The requirements, she said, are minimal:

  • Access to an active farm, ranch, forest, easement, set-aside, or landscape
  • Ability to plant 0.25 to 3 acres with the U.S. Bee Buffer seed mix
  • Commitment to keep the Bee Buffer in place
  • Allow beekeepers and researchers on-site

Of course, the benefits to the participants include free seeds and planting information; supplemental pollination of flowering plants; and leadership participation in the beginnings of a nationwide effort to support honey bees. Then there’s the potential for enriched soil, reduction in invasive plant species, and enhanced wildlife habitat.

And, we made add, a sense of accomplishment as bees forage on your thriving plants.

Those interested in participating in this nationwide effort and hosting a Bee Buffer, can visit  http://www.pollinator.org/beebuffer.htm to fill out a brief eligibility questionnaire. More information is available from Mary Byrne at the Pollinator Partnership at (415) 362-1137 or mb@pollinator.org.

Go, bees!

If you are interested in becoming a San Joaquin Master Gardener please visit our website to download an application. Applications are due by November 5th, 2014.

If you have a gardening question, give us a call! Master Gardeners are available Monday-Thursday 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at 209-953-6112.

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Fall is for Fertilizing

A drop fertilizer spreader. [Photo by Steven Lock]Fall is just around the corner so it’s time to start thinking about fertilizing your lawn. All types of lawns are actively growing during the fall months. Fertilizer applied at this time will help ensure that turfgrass is vigorous enough to outcompete weeds and resist other potential pest problems.

For best growth, most lawns need to be fertilized two to three times a year, at least once in fall and once in spring. Nitrogen is the only nutrient that turfgrass needs on a regular basis. However, it may be beneficial to apply a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium at least once a year.

Many retail nurseries and garden centers carry both quick-release and slow-release fertilizers. Although more expensive, slow-release fertilizers have several advantages over quick-release products. They release nitrogen over a period of 8 to 10 or more weeks, thus feeding the lawn for a longer period and making it unlikely they’ll burn the turf even if accidentally over-applied in some areas. They are also less likely to leach or run off with rain or irrigation.

Examples of slow-release products include sulfur-coated urea, urea formaldehyde, isobutylidene diurea (IBDU), and organic fertilizers such as composted manure. Quick-release products include ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, and urea.

It is very important to apply the right amount of fertilizer, which varies according to turf species. Visit the UC IPM page on fertilizing lawns for help in determining the correct amount of fertilizer to apply. The site includes a calculator that allows you to customize your turf species and location to find out how much fertilizer to apply and when to apply it.

Be sure you have the correct type of spreader and that you know how to calibrate it properly. Drop spreaders are the best choice for assuring even fertilizer distribution.

As with all fertilizer and pesticide products (including weed killers), instructions on the label should be read, understood, and followed explicitly.

 If you are interested in becoming a San Joaquin Master Gardener please visit our website to download an application. Applications are due by November 5th, 2014.

If you have a gardening question, give us a call! Master Gardeners are available Monday-Thursday 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at 209-953-6112.

Modified slightly from the September 2012 issue of the Retail Nursery and Garden Center IPM News http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/RETAIL/retail-newsletter.html.

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    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

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