Archive for September, 2010


Budding Garden Thoughts

September 30, 2010 Registered & Protected  


“It does me good, sometimes, to be alone

To break away from mosaic pieces of my life

To find repose again.”





Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


October Garden Tasks

September 29, 2010

Please note:  What I write in this space are lessons learned through trial and error, research, and from other gardeners and professionals. I garden in zone 9, but share garden experiences that I believe are relevant to most zones within a reasonable time frame and planting conditions.


MaintenanceTake a walk around the outside of your house and the grounds. Note what tasks need attention. Some may include removal or replacement of tree stakes, weeds pulled, mulch added, struggling plants relocated or removed, gutters and downspouts cleaned, leaky faucets repaired, timers adjusted to the changing weather, old hoses replaced, portable lawn sprinklers and tools picked up and put away, chemicals properly disposed of or safely locked up, drip lines and drip heads replaced or unclogged.

If you don’t keep bird feeders filled during winter months, clean and store them until spring.

In the vegetable garden:  Keep critters away and eliminate pests and disease by removing debris from under fruit trees. Toss fallen, rotten fruit in the compost pile or feed them to your farm animals.

Sow seeds of  carrots, mustard, turnips, radishes, beets, peas, and parsnips.

Direct seed or transplant fava beans, Swiss chard, spinach, shallots, onions, lettuce, collards, cilantro, bok choy (or pak choi), rutabaga.

Other transplants include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery (cooking variety will grow year-round), beets, kohirabi, and leeks, Brussels sprouts, chives, parsley.

In the landscapeFall is the best time of year to plant most any type of tree, shrub, groundcover, and vine. This is the season to shop for autumn hues, and bargains.

Keep ponds and birdbaths clean of fallen leaves. Rake and remove leaves from lawns and beds.

Lay sod or sow seed for new lawns. Bare patches on old turfs can be seeded or filled in with sod.

Plant bulbs:  daffodils, tulips, narcissus, crocus, freesias, irises.

Keep dead-heading roses and perennials. Divide and replant perennials such as daylilies, lamb’s ears, Shasta daisies, yarrow.

For cool-season annual colors transplant Iceland poppies, primroses, sweet peas, snapdragons, annual stock, pansies, violas, sweet Alyssum, forget-me-nots, bachelor buttons, Johnny-jump-ups, calendulas, dianthus, lobelia, larkspur. From seed, sow California poppies.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Insect Verdict

September 28, 2010

Dr. Gillian W. Watson, California Pest Prevention Service’s Entomology Lab, emailed the results regarding the plant sample that I mailed last week for scale identification.  Dr. Watson recognized the scale on my “Stairway to Heaven Jacob’s Ladder” (Polemonium reptans) plants as Coccus hesperidum, Common name Soft Brown Scale, C rated (native insect).

Dr. Watson also wrote, “Unfortunately, as an identification lab we cannot advise you on how to control them. Your County Agricultural Commissioner’s office can help you in that way or perhaps your local Nursery.”

Instead of contacting the suggested services, I turned to my Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs book for a quick read. Fortunately, Soft Brown Scale seldom causes serious damage. One recommendation is to treat with horticultural oil during dormant season or in spring when crawlers are active. The text also suggested removing heavily infested branches. Unfortunately, most of the stems and leaves on my plants were extremely infested. As I shared before (see September 22 post.), I opted to pull them out.

Although I lost two of my favorite plants, I view this backyard experience as a learning tutorial:  Examine my plants closely at the first sign of trouble, and send a sample for insect identification ASAP.


October Events

September 27, 2010

October calendar of events has been posted. Click on ‘Events’ under Pages on the sidebar. I hope you find something fun and educational in your area.


Budding Garden Thoughts

September 24, 2010 Registered & Protected


“Step outdoors.

Inhale fresh oxygen,

deep and soulful

and the earth is yours.”



Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


How to Prepare and Submit Data for Plant Diagnosis

September 23, 2010

For insect and disease diagnosis, yesterday’s article mentioned two referrals:  California Pest Prevention Services and your local Master Gardeners Association. It’s important that you give as much information as possible when seeking their assistance. Below is an overview of what type of questions you can expect to answer.

The current form at the California Pest Prevention Services office asks for the following information:

  • Plant distribution (limited, scattered or widespread)
  • Plant parts affected, such as bark blossoms, seeds, tubers, etc. (seventeen choices given)
  • Plant symptoms 

Basic questions your local Master Gardeners may ask.

  • Description of problem
  • Name of problematic plant/tree*
  • Watering method (how frequent and duration)
  • Location (north, south, east, west)
  • Applications of fertilizer, pesticides, amendments, etc.
  • A description of the surrounding area of the plant/tree, i.e. neighboring vegetation, slopes, animals, drainage.

Further information that Master Gardeners may need could include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Perennial, evergreen, annual or deciduous
  • Age of plant/tree
  • Number of plants affected with same problem
  • Planted in the ground or a container (what type of container and duration)
  • Sun/shade exposure (how many hours, morning or afternoon)

Of course, both organizations will need your name, location, and county. The environment, conditions, and care involving a plant are important factors in diagnosing a problem. So be ready to give as much information as possible.

As stated below, provide a good sample. The sample should be fresh, placed between two sheets of newspaper or paper towels in a baggie.


*If you don’t know the name, they can help identify the plant. Provide a good sample (leaf, stem, and flower) and a photo of the plant/tree.





Battle of the Scales

September 22, 2010

Several weeks ago, I noticed that the leaves on two “Stairway to Heaven Jacob’s Ladder” (Polemonium reptans) were sticky. Thinking aphids had infected them, I hosed both plants (above photo ) off after each watering. I did this for two or three weeks. It was only when the lower, underneath leaves turned yellow that a serious problem became clear.

Spreading the plants apart for a slower look, I saw hundreds of insects feasting on the stems and leaves. I took a sample to the Amador Master Gardener’s office and learned that the insect was scales. Scales are so small they are difficult to spot in the beginning. Still, if I had paid attention, looked deeper, taken more interest maybe the scales could have been controllable. Now, there’s a chance scales will infect neighboring potted plants.

Here’s what I found in my Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs book on scales:

The newly hatched scale nymphs, called crawlers, emerge and walk along branches or are spread by the wind or inadvertently by people or animals. Scale crawlers are usually pale yellow to orange and about the size of the period. Within 1 to a few days, crawlers settle and insert their strawlike mouthparts to feed on plant juices. After settling, armored scales secrete a waxy covering and remain on the same plant part for the rest of their lives; nymphs of soft scale species can move a little, usually from foliage to bark before leaves drop in the fall.”

Considering how infested the plants were and that scales live on the plant(s) for a lifetime, and can easily spread, I pulled them out and placed them in a tightly sealed bag for the incinerator. Before doing this, I saved a sample to submit to the State of California Pest Prevention Services in Sacramento. Identifying what type of scale may help eliminate or control any future spread of this insect.

For information on how you can submit samples troubled with disease or insects to the California Pest Prevention Services, call 1-919-262-1100. Forms and submission information is not available online. However, their website is worth viewing.

If you have an insect from the United States or Canada, and want it identified, you can upload images at (If you misplace the web address, you can find it here, under Helpful Resources.) This is an amazing sight, from which the family can benefit.

Your local master gardeners can also help identify insects and disease, and offer possible solutions.


The Unexpected

September 21, 2010

I didn’t expect fog yesterday morning. The mist surprised me as I watched the reduced visibility across the land. Flirtation of heavy drizzle dampened the earth and the leaves beneath my shoes. Peaceful as it felt, I’m not ready for the movements of change.


“Farmer Fred” Hoffman

September 20, 2010

Finally, I met “Farmer Fred” Hoffman. Farmer Fred is a lifetime master gardener—a celebrity around these parts—who shares his colossal horticulture knowledge as host of the “KFBK Garden Show” on NewsTalk 1530 KFBK in Sacramento, California, Sunday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., followed by “Get Growing” on Talk 650 KSTE in Sacramento, 10 a.m. to Noon.  

On the occasion when I met Farmer Fred, he was the guest speaker for a small group of Clements Garden Club members. It was a casual affair in the backyard of one of the members, only two miles from my house. Garbed in sunglasses and a Kellogg’s cap, Farmer Fred shared tips, and answered questions with zeal and a bit of humor. Here are some of his helpful gardening hints:

  • Plants need water, air, fertilizer, and drainage.
  • All plants growing in pots need drainage holes.
  • Elevate pots so air can circulate. [Place trimmed scrap wood under pots.]
  • Raised beds are a good solution for poor soil and other issues.
  • Put gardens in an open area. Clear a 15-foot surrounding area. Voles won’t cross an open area for fear of predators.
  • Fill raised bed with 50 percent garden blend/50 percent mushroom compost; both available at most gravel and rock businesses.
  • Soil pH should be 6.2 to 7.3. Over 7 is very alkaline.
  • Steer manure should be kept in a pile for six months before use.
  • Never use lawn clippings treated with weed and feed in your vegetable beds for mulch.
  • Row cover material is for winter vegetables. Most cool season vegetables don’t need protection from frost [but they do need protection from wind].
  • Trees and shrubs do better when native soil is used doing planting or transplanting.

When I asked Farmer Fred about sunscald on pepper plants (Betty with question was for you.), he said he’s learned to live with it. “There’s nothing wrong with them.” Farmer Fred spaces his pepper plants 18 inches apart.

Farmer Fred also commented that voles are smart. They quickly learn how to avoid traps. “There’s really nothing you can do about them,” Fred said. “Voles are cyclical.” He wasn’t in favor of poisons because of secondary infection to pets and other animals.

Farmer Fred’s favorite cherry tomatoes include sweet million, sweet gold, and sun gold.


Yellow Flower

September 17, 2010 Registered & Protected

To my readers, a flower, and a wish for a wonderful weekend:

“Small as a dandelion, prettier than gold

Yellow flower you cause me to smile.

What’s your name?

No matter. Here in a photo, your image I share,

To those who love pretty yellow flowers . . .

Prettier than gold.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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