Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wasps saved her gardens


Wasps saved her geraniums

10/18/2014 12:00 AM

Read more here:

A reader had a complaint regarding tiny green caterpillars in her geranium plants. The answer is to get rid of the white moth that lays an egg in each geranium bud. The caterpillar egg hatches out in a few days and the tiny worm eats the inside of the bud. Hence, there’s no flower or a damaged one.
The secret to my hedge rows of beautiful full-blooming geraniums is a black wasp that buzzes in and out of the bushes and leaves them thoroughly devoid of eggs and caterpillars. The wasps come to my garden uninvited. Where they come from, I do not know. They just solved a bad situation.
Margaret Tucher, Davis

You are fortunate that a beneficial insect – a parasitic wasp – is limiting pests on your geraniums, said UC master gardener Lorraine Van Kekerix.

The wasps break the life cycle of a common moth that lays eggs in several common flowering plants including petunias and geraniums, one of the moth’s preferred host plants. The adult moth does not eat the plant.

The moth’s wings are about 1 1/2 inches across; the color ranges from light green to brownish with lighter colored bars across the wings. It’s not the familiar white cabbage moth but another pest, the geranium or tobacco budworm moth.

When the moth eggs hatch, geranium budworm larvae emerge. The larvae eat the plants and do the damage. Specifically, geranium budworms eat the developing flower buds so the buds do not open. Severely affected plants may not produce flowers at all.

The geranium budworms eat flower petals as well as the buds. If the infestation is particularly large, they may eat leaves as well. While this pest prefers geraniums, petunias and tobacco (including flowering tobacco), it will also attack other flowers and plants.

What you describe in your rows of geraniums is a beneficial insect, a parasitic wasp. A parasite feeds on a host organism. Most parasites are smaller than the host and often are the larval stages of an insect. Specialized flies and wasps are the most common types of parasitic insects, and there are several types of parasitic wasps that can attack geranium budworms.

Most of these wasps are tiny and do not sting people. Parasitic wasps lay eggs in or on the geranium budworm. When the wasp larvae emerge, they develop by feeding on and killing the worm. Parasitic wasps can lay hundreds of eggs a day.

A beneficial insect is part of the natural cycle of checks and balances when it destroys or reduces a rapid increase in the pest population. We benefit as we no longer need to deal with the pest. There are many ways to protect and increase the population of these naturally occurring beneficial insects in our gardens.

Start by reducing use of broad-spectrum pesticides (that kill a wide range of insects) in the garden. Broad-spectrum pesticides often kill the beneficial insects in higher proportions than the pests. Many pesticide residues persist in the garden, and those residues can reduce the reproduction of these beneficial insects or kill them long after the pesticide was originally applied.

If a pesticide is needed, spare the beneficials by choosing a less persistent pesticide or one that kills only specific pests. For example, Bacillus thuringensis affects only caterpillars including geranium budworms, hornworms and cabbage worms.

To maintain a population of beneficial insects, design your garden to provide the food and habitat they need. These insects need nectar, pollen and shelter throughout the growing season so the population is large enough to control the pests.

Gardens with a wide variety of plants that bloom at different times throughout the seasons can provide these good guys the food and shelter they need at all life stages.

For more information on beneficial insects, visit the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management website and obtain Pest Note 74140, “Biological Control and Natural Enemies.” You can find it at

The IPM website also features a picture gallery of natural enemies, which includes beneficial insects.
The gallery is very useful in identifying beneficial insects. It’s likely you’ll recognize several that are already helping to control the pests in your garden.

Read more here:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hope in a Changing Climate - trailer

Hope in a Changing Climate places the restoration of ecosystems at the centre of global discussions on climate change, poverty and sustainable agriculture.

This documentary entitled Hope in a Changing Climate highlights that fertile, life-sustaining environments can come out of degraded ecosystems. It shows projects in China, Ethiopa and Rwanda where large areas of decimated ecosystems that were able to be restored through the efforts of local people, enabling them to break free from poverty.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our Bees, Ourselves - Bees and Colony Collapse

Our Bees, Ourselves
Bees and Colony Collapse

MARK WINSTON     JULY 14, 2014

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — AROUND the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade. For bees and the plants they pollinate — as well as for beekeepers, farmers, honey lovers and everyone else who appreciates this marvelous social insect — this is a catastrophe.

But in the midst of crisis can come learning. Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.

Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause, but rather a thousand little cuts. The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops.

The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interactions among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.

These findings provide the most sophisticated data set available for any species about synergies among pesticides, and between pesticides and disease. The only human equivalent is research into pharmaceutical interactions, with many prescription drugs showing harmful or fatal side effects when used together, particularly in patients who already are disease-compromised. Pesticides have medical impacts as potent as pharmaceuticals do, yet we know virtually nothing about their synergistic impacts on our health, or their interplay with human diseases.

Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message: We must demand that our regulatory authorities require studies on how exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals may affect human health before approving compounds.

Bees also provide some clues to how we may build a more collaborative relationship with the services that ecosystems can provide. Beyond honeybees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer some of the pollination service needed for agriculture. Yet feral bees — that is, bees not kept by beekeepers — also are threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees: heavy pesticide use, destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and a lack of diverse nectar and pollen sources thanks to highly effective weed killers, which decimate the unmanaged plants that bees depend on for nutrition.

Recently, my laboratory at Simon Fraser University conducted a study on farms that produce canola oil that illustrated the profound value of wild bees. We discovered that crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators.

A variety of wild plants means a healthier, more diverse bee population, which will then move to the planted fields next door in larger and more active numbers. Indeed, farmers who planted their entire field would earn about $27,000 in profit per farm, whereas those who left a third unplanted for bees to nest and forage in would earn $65,000 on a farm of similar size.

Such logic goes against conventional wisdom that fields and bees alike can be uniformly micromanaged. The current challenges faced by managed honeybees and wild bees remind us that we can manage too much. Excessive cultivation, chemical use and habitat destruction eventually destroy the very organisms that could be our partners.

And this insight goes beyond mere agricultural economics. There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees.

Mark Winston, a biologist and the director of the Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, is the author of the forthcoming book “Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 15, 2014, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Our Bees, Ourselves.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New Study Shows Plants Talk to Each Other Through the Soil

New Study Shows Plants Talk to Each Other Through the Soil
by Tafline Laylin

Image via Shutterstock

A new study conducted by Dr. David Johnson at the University of Aberdeen found that plants actually communicate with one another through the soil. The study shows that when vegetables are infected with certain diseases, they alert other nearby plants to activate genes to ward off the disease when it heads their way. The key to this communication is a soil fungus that acts as a messenger.

Image via Shutterstock

Soil fungus and certain plants have a symbiotic relationship, according to the research team, who shared their findings with The Economist. The plants deliver food and the fungus delivers minerals. But now it turns out the fungal hyphae, which creates a network in the soil that connects the various plants, plays another essential role as a messenger.

Related: Glowing Bioluminescent Plants for Lighting Nature’s Way

In 2010, a team of Chinese researchers found that when a tomato plant became infected with a leaf blight, it was able to somehow alert nearby tomato plants, which then prepared their defense. Dr. David Johnson and his team sought to find out by which mechanism the plants were able to communicate this information with Broad Bean plants.

To prove that the plants were communicating through the soil, the team set up a series of “mesocosms” of five bean stalks each. Beans are often attacked by aphids. When this happens, they release a chemical that attracts wasps that then come around and annihilate the aphids.

Related: 3 Houseplants to Feng Shui Your Home

“Five weeks after the experiment began, all the plants were covered by bags that allowed carbon dioxide, oxygen and water vapour in and out, but stopped the passage of larger molecules, of the sort a beanstalk might use for signalling. Then, four days from the end, one of the 40-micron meshes in each mesocosm was rotated to sever any hyphae that had penetrated it, and the central plant was then infested with aphids.”

You can read more about the experiment at The Economist, but the controls demonstrated that indeed the bean plants communicated to each other through the soil when it was found that one of them had been attacked by aphids!

Via The Economist


Thursday, April 24, 2014

No-till farming's Johnny Appleseed


No-till farming’s Johnny Appleseed — in a grimy Prius
17 Apr 2014
Let’s start with Jeff Mitchell’s car. From the outside, it looks like a regular, if slightly dinged-up, white Prius. But inside it’s so messy that it’s hard for me to describe it without sounding like I’m exaggerating.


When I say the back seat is packed solidly with papers, I mean that literally: It’s as if Mitchell had pulled up alongside a set of filing cabinets and transferred everything that could fit into the back, carefully filling the leg space until it was high enough to be incorporated into the stack on the seats. The papers are wedged solidly together, three-quarters of the way up to the headrests.

There’s some PVC pipe back there too, some metal tools, a power cord, and some luggage. But that’s just what I could see on the surface. On the front dash there’s another layer of files, and a layer of dirt. And again, when I say dirt, I’m not overstating it. It’s not just a patina of dust; there are big clots of mud clinging to the face of the radio.

“What can I say?” Mitchell said when I asked about the state of his vehicle. “I’m embarrassed. People say I could just scatter seeds in here and they’d grow.”

I was never able to get a straight answer out of Mitchell as to why his car was so squalid, but it’s easy enough to guess. He has spent years driving up and down California’s long Central Valley, from one field to another, asking farmers to sign up to try new conservation techniques. He estimates that the car has driven 600,000 miles, though he can’t say for sure: The odometer stopped at 299,999. The car really does have to function as a high-speed file cabinet, as well as a mobile tool shed and soil-sample transporter.

“So, is this basically your life?” I asked, after about an hour driving down highway 99. I was expecting a good-natured gripe about him becoming permanently welded to the driver’s seat. But instead he said:

“You know, I’ve been truly fortunate. I’ve been doing this long enough that wherever I go I’ll look out and see a field and think, ‘That’s where we did that one trial, how’s that coming along?’ And there have been some big changes. It’s gratifying. There’s a soil scientist at Berkeley, Garrison Sposito, who says it may be just once or twice in a century that agriculture has an opportunity to re-create itself in a revolutionary way. Now, it may sound way over the top, but I think that’s what’s happening with conservation agriculture. It’s energizing for me to wake up to that every day.”

His official title is Associate Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist, but since the early 1990s Mitchell has really been a Johnny Appleseed for conservation, leading an ever-growing band of farmers toward sustainability. The idea driving Mitchell’s work is to develop farm systems that are closer to proven natural systems. That main idea breaks down into four tenets: Don’t disturb the soil; maximize the diversity of plants, insects, fungi, and microbiota; keep living roots in the soil; and keep the ground covered with plant residues. Since 1999, a team working with Mitchell has been demonstrating that it’s possible to do all that profitably.

After another hour on the road we reached the University of California West Side Extension and Research Center. Behind a handful of one-story buildings lay a collection of plots that workers have farmed continuously with conservation techniques. Mitchell took me to a field where they had been experimenting with a tomato-and-cotton rotation since 1999: “These beds have not moved, they have not been worked, in 15 years.” This 15-year study suggests that there are real, sustained benefits to the methods that the UC researchers have pioneered.

Mitchell waded into the shoulder-high cover crops of one bed. There’s a bed nearby of cleanly plowed soil. The contrast couldn’t be more different. Mitchell knelt in the cover crop, pushing aside the plants. The earth was covered in a layer of duff (dead leaves and twigs). It looked a lot like — well, like any bit of ground that humans haven’t recently scraped.

“There’s more organic material going into the soil, more carbon and more nitrogen. There’s more capture of water, and the shade and residue reduces soil water evaporation.”

These kind of innovations might seem obvious, but the journey to no-till cotton has been exasperatingly hard. Cotton requires coddling: It has a large seed, but it’s not a vigorous seedling, so often a farmer will knock off a layer of dry soil, drop the seeds onto moist earth, then cover it up. All this requires tilling the field. So Mitchell’s team decided to fine tune a planter to bury the seeds at just the right depth: Too close to the surface and they’d dry out, too deep and they’d never make it up. But when they ran the planter over the field it bounced over dry tomato stalks and dropped seeds higgledy-piggledy.

That first year the crop came up patchy. So they started trying residue managers, to push debris out of the way of each seed line, then brush it back into place. Mitchell went to Georgia to see what they were using there. They tried different timing and amounts of irrigation. If they tried to plant while the field was too wet the tractor would turn everything into a muddy mess. If they waited until it dried, the seed wouldn’t get enough moisture. If they irrigated after planting, the soil might form a hard crust that the seed couldn’t penetrate. They made pass after pass, making minute adjustments to the equipment until tempers frayed.

“I’m not an argumentative guy, but some of the things have been so trying,” Mitchell remembered. At the end of one of those days, one of Mitchell’s collaborators threw up his hands and said, “This will never work!” But then, in 2004, after years of disappointments, they finally hit on just the right combination of techniques — specific levels of irrigation, fine-tuned equipment, special disk and finger attachments for the planter — and got a beautiful cotton crop.

When all the pieces came together, the cotton began producing reliably. And Mitchell also noticed an added benefit: As the years passed, the soil improved, and all this got easier. Instead of the farm equipment needing to break up clots of compacted soil, the researchers found they were planting into soft, fine-grained earth, continuously tilled by worms and roots and microorganisms.

Mitchell’s work looks like a clear winner on paper: The yields are now the same as in the plowed beds, and the no-till beds take less work, sequester more carbon, suck up less water, and require less tractor fuel. And yet few farmers have taken up these methods.

“When I had the results showing that you can save 16 percent of irrigation water with residues and no till, I thought it would really change things in the Valley,” Mitchell mused. “But it hasn’t seemed to be that relevant.”

There are farmers successfully using these methods, but the percentage is still very low. And Mitchell can understand why people are skeptical. The cost savings — for fuel and labor (water prices are too variable to estimate) — are just $70 an acre, which isn’t terribly significant for a cotton farmer. And, as Mitchell knows, there are lots of things that can go wrong when a farmer starts trying new things.

That reluctance to change doesn’t slow Mitchell down for long. He knows that surmounting the technological challenges is less than half the battle. The bulk of the work is in teaching people how to do the same thing, and — even more importantly — convincing them that it’s worth their time.

And so he gets in the dirty Prius again, year in and year out, adding mile after uncounted mile, and carrying his Johnny Appleseed act across California.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Victory in Vermont!!!

Victory in Vermont - in time to Celebrate on Earth Day!

Earth Day is coming up next Tuesday. This year, Mother Earth has at least one thing to celebrate—the beginning of the end of Monsanto’s evil empire.

Yesterday, Vermont passed H.112, this country’s first no-strings-attached law requiring the mandatory labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and outlawing the practice of labeling GMO-contaminated foods as “natural” or “all-natural.”

With the passage of the Vermont GMO labeling law, after 20 years of struggle, it’s time to celebrate our common victory. But as we all know, the battle for a new food and farming system, and a sustainable future has just begun.

Monsanto will likely sue Vermont. And lose. And the Gene and Junk Food Giants will still try to pass a federal law intended to strip Vermont, and every other state, of the right to pass GMO labeling laws.

But we will fight back. And we will win.

Read Ronnie’s essay

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Worms Produce Another Kind of Gold for Growers

Worms Produce Another Kind of Gold for Growers

Published: December 31, 2012

SONOMA, Calif. — Under rows of old chicken sheds, Jack Chambers has built an empire of huge metal boxes filled with cattle manure and millions of wriggling red worms.

“My buddies all had planes and boats,” said Mr. Chambers, 60, a former airline pilot. “I have a worm farm.”

Mr. Chambers’s two decades of investment in what he calls an “underground movement” may be paying off. New research suggests that the product whose manufacture he helped pioneer, a worm-created soil additive called vermicompost, offers an array of benefits for plants — helping them grow with more vigor, and making them more resistant to disease and insects, than those grown with other types of composts and fertilizers.

The earthworm’s digestive process, it turns out, “is a really nice incubator for microorganisms,” said Norman Q. Arancon, an assistant professor of horticulture at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

And these microbes, which multiply rapidly when they are excreted, alter the ecosystem of the soil. Some make nitrogen more available to plant roots, accounting for the increased growth. The high diversity and numbers of microbes outperform those in the soil that cause disease.

By contrast, Dr. Arancon said, soil that has been heavily exposed to synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides lacks microbial richness and diversity, qualities that can be restored naturally by adding the microbes from worms.

Some experts and entrepreneurs hope earthworms can also help with another problem: the growing piles of animal waste from dairy farms and other agricultural operations.

Worm Power, a company in Avon, N.Y., transforms 10 million pounds of manure from a single dairy herd each year — about 40 percent of the cattle’s output — into 2.5 million pounds of vermicompost. Tom Herlihy, a former municipal waste engineer who founded the company in 2003, says it has raised more than $6 million in venture capital and $2 million in grants for research, much of it at Cornell University.

Here in Northern California, Mr. Chambers’s Sonoma Valley Worm Farm produces about half a million pounds of similar compost, an amount he plans to increase in the spring. He loads a long metal bin with cow manure and 300,000 to 400,000 Eisenia fetida, or red wigglers — weighing 300 to 400 pounds. In their wake, the worms leave cattle waste that has been processed into rich and crumbly castings that look like fine peat moss.

It takes six months for a vermicompost bed to become fully mature, by which time a million worms roam the manure. Mr. Chambers continues to add two yards of manure and harvest one yard of worm compost weekly. The finished product is shaved, an inch at a time, off the bottom of the bin. An established bed can go on this way for years.

Both operations pre-compost their manure before they fork it over to the worms. That means piling it up and allowing it to get naturally hot enough to kill unwanted seeds and pathogens like E. coli.

The properties of worm compost are different from fertilizer or manure. “It’s interesting and complicated,” said Rhonda Sherman, an extension specialist at North Carolina State University who has taught vermicomposting around the world for more than 30 years and who holds an annual conference on the subject.

“Certain plants might react well to vermicompost from dairy manure,” she said, “and other plants might react better to food-waste vermicompost.” That has led to “boutique composting,” with different blends for different kinds of plants.

A West Coast company, California Soils, uses worms to break down cardboard waste fibers that are too short to be recycled. The glue used to bind the paper serves as an important source of nitrogen for the worms. “It’s a really good product for nut farmers and stone fruit farmers,” Mitch Davis, a company spokesman, said of the compost, adding that it also helps control nutgall, a fungal disease that afflicts walnut trees.

Worms were said to be Darwin’s favorite organism, and for good reason: it seems they can break down most anything. Studies have shown they can detoxify soil with cadmium, lead and other heavy metals.

Another product made from worm waste is a concentrate, sometimes called tea, that Mr. Chambers extracts using an aerator. Dr. Arancon said even a 1 percent solution of the extract had the same properties as vermicompost.

At Cornell, Eric Nelson, a plant pathologist, is studying how compost suppresses disease. Worm Power’s product, he says, does a better job than traditional compost, perhaps because the worm compost is highly uniform. “The key is understanding why these microbes do what they do,” Dr. Nelson said. Then, perhaps, the mechanism can be enhanced, he said.

The worm compost is considered valuable enough to fetch almost 10 times the price of other composts.

Still, the industry suffers from image problems. “It’s hard to bring it out of the ‘It’s cute to have a worm box in my backyard’ approach and put it on par with other strategies for waste management,” said Allison Jack, who earned her doctorate by studying vermicompost at Cornell and is now teaching at Prescott College in Arizona.

The quality of products varies widely, and because there are no industry standards, anyone can call a product vermicompost.

For a time, the worm business was a haven for swindlers. Companies would sell worms to growers, who were told they could raise more worms and produce vermicompost, which they could then sell back. Some of these offers turned out to be Ponzi schemes.

Still, the properties of vermicompost have long been recognized by growers. Jeff Dawson, the curator of gardens at the Round Pond Estate winery in the Napa Valley, swears by Mr. Chambers’s castings, which he has used for more than a decade.

“A cup or half a cup in the hole as we plant each vine increases the vine’s ability to establish itself at a much faster pace,” Mr. Dawson said. “And it creates a healthier plant.”

This being California, some of Mr. Chambers’s customers are medical marijuana growers, and he likes the way growers do business. “They hand you cash,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 1, 2013, on page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: Worms Produce Another Kind of Gold for Growers.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cash for Grass Program in Sacramento!

Sacramento council votes to launch ‘cash for grass’ program to save water
By Ryan Lillis
Sacramento Bee
Mar. 4, 2014

The city of Sacramento wants to pay you to rip out your water-guzzling lawn.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to launch a “cash for grass” program that will provide rebates to homeowners who replace their grass lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping. Demand for the rebates is expected to be high; city utilities officials said they already had a waiting list for the program before the spending plan was approved.
“I think this will really help our residents make a difference in saving water,” said Councilman Kevin McCarty, who proposed the program. “I think it’s time that as a city, we help incentivize action in conservation.”
The rebate plan has not been finalized, but could involve homeowners receiving 50 cents per square foot of lawn, up to 1,000 feet. The city has set aside $100,000 for the program and plans to start issuing rebates in April.
Sacramento has launched intense water conservation efforts in recent weeks, as the region and Northern California grapple with a historic drought that has led to low levels in area reservoirs and rivers.
In January, the council voted to enact a mandatory 20 percent reduction on citywide water usage and to beef up enforcement of residents watering lawns during the week, a violation of winter watering rules.
Utilities officials told the council that the city is off to a good start in its water conservation. Total water use in Sacramento was down 12 percent in January, compared with the average total of the past two years. That’s a reduction of 8 million gallons per day.
Residents have also responded to calls by the city to report water waste.
The city received 110 calls through the first two months of last year from residents reporting illegal water use. Over the same time this year, residents made 2,200 of those calls.
That has led to a sharp increase in the number of warnings the city has issued to homeowners, from 14 last year to 205 this year. Only a handful of fines have been issued.
Recent rainfall has helped, but has not erased the region’s drought concerns.
“I want to emphasize that the drought does persist,” said Dave Brent, city utilities director. “There really is no end in sight.”
Utilities officials said the city would continue its water conservation plans. Billboards will begin appearing around the city and on buses next week urging residents to take shorter showers and “brush every other tooth.”
Brent said the city would also ask for money for the lawn program in next year’s budget.
“If you need more, come back,” said Councilman Steve Hansen.
Roseville has the oldest “cash for grass” program in the region. Lisa Brown, a water conservation administrator in Roseville, said the city has granted about 500 rebates since 2008. More than 350,000 square feet of grass lawn has been replaced over that time, she said.
Roseville pays $1 per square foot for its program. Demand was so high this year that the city has already run out of money and will have to wait until the next fiscal year to begin issuing rebates again, Brown said.
Chris Brown, a water consultant and the former executive director of California Urban Water Conservation Council, applauded Sacramento’s rebate plan.
“It’s time for Sacramento to be a leader in the Central Valley,” he said.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


This is a very creative, informative and cute video.  This short video shares information about  how plants problem solve, communicate with other plant life, and work together in groups to survive. Hope you enjoy it! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014



A mature tree is defined as a tree with trunk whose diameter measures more than 16 inches around at the height of your chest.

Mature trees vary widely in their need for water, depending on size, age, species, and if there is irrigated lawn around it. Mature trees that are accustomed to regular lawn watering will continue to require some water during this time of drought.

Check the moisture of the soil (6 - 8 inches down) around the tree's dripline (area under the outermost leaves of the tree - see diagram). If the soil is dry and crumbly, apply water slowly so it seeps deeply into the soil.

Watering slowly is important. An easy way to cut back on watering, but still ensure your tree is getting enough, is to place an inch high can (tuna fish or cat food can) beneath your tree, turn on your sprinklers and then turn off the water when the can is filled. Quitting tree watering “cold turkey” will be hard on your tree.

Don't rely on a clock or a calendar, water the tree when the soil moisture is low.

The best way to be proactive and conserve water is to position a soaker hose in a spiral pattern starting a few feet away from the trunk and moving out to the dripline. (If possible remove the grass in this area and cover the hose with mulch.) Monitor the hose for run off and keep track of how long it takes to the water to penetrate 6 - 8 inches down so that you can repeat this technique when the soil becomes dry.

Hire a Certified Arborist who is knowledgeable about the needs of trees and educated and equipped to provide proper diagnostic and treatment services. Follow our guidelines to find and hire an ISA Certified Arborist.

(Great tip sheet from Sacramento Tree Foundation)