Summer 2010
Summer 2010 #139
Getting Along with Gophers
—Sue Tarjan, MG06
While out walking my dogs one fine spring day not too
long ago, I stopped to chat with a neighbor, an avid gardener.
I complimented her as I always do on her lovely yard, paying
particular homage to her spring blooms, only to receive an
earful in exchange about all the damage the gophers had
been doing lately and what she was going to do about it.
Turns out that the latest addition to her all-out-war-ongophers arsenal is a chemical weapon (oops, I mean spray
repellent) containing castor oil. Apparently, she‘s buying it
in bulk and saturating her yard with it.
While I wish her every success with her garden, I‘m
afraid that the gophers are unlikely to be repelled by the
castor oil—a tasteless, odorless substance that they probably
won‘t associate with any laxative effects it might cause. If
the point is to get rid of the gophers, she‘d be better off
(although I don‘t recommend it) with castor beans (seeds,
technically), which contain ricin, a deadly poisonous protein
classified as a weapon of mass destruction by our government and others. Its toxicity varies widely by species: four
seeds kill a rabbit (Elmer J. Fudd, take note) while four to
eight seeds kill a human, but it takes 11 to kill a dog and an
unbelievable 80 to kill a duck.
Unfortunately, I haven‘t yet been able to ascertain how
many castor plant seeds would be required to kill a gopher;
however, based upon my observations of gophers sucking
down whole tomato plants (poisonous nightshades) with no
ill effects and gopher communities coexisting happily under
and around castor bean plants in Southern California, where
the plants (arguably the most toxic on Earth) have naturalized, I‘d bet that one‘s children, pets, and lots of other
unlucky wildlife would breathe their last long before the
gophers succumbed
Okay, so if castor oil is out, what else might work? A lot
of otherwise (seemingly) rational people believe that gophers
are hemophiliacs like the Hapsburgs so that theoretically all
you‘d have to do to bring on the demise of THEIR empire
underground would be to sprinkle razor blades, glass shards,
and suchlike sharp objects in and around their tunnels for
the whole species to just conveniently bleed to death. Well,
all I can say is if you fall for this one, you haven‘t grasped
Darwin‘s concept of survival of the fittest yet and need to
bone up on the theory of evolution. I suspect that this
optimistic belief stems from witnessing the results of
eradication methods using anticoagulant rodenticides, but
that‘s just my guess.
So is all hope lost when it comes to controlling gophers?
Well, no, not entirely. But before we get to that, let‘s try to
get a handle on these furry little nemesi. Not to change the
 Getting Along with Gophers—1  Welcome 2010 Master Gardener Graduates—4
 2010 Masters Garden Tour—5  Vegetable Gardening in Containers—9  IPM and Late Blight—12
 Carrots—Cooked or Raw, They Do a Body Good—13  How Master Gardeners Do It—15
 More Herbs in Containers—17  Dahlias—18  Book Review: Landscape Plants for California Gardens—21
 Relevant Internet Miscellany—23  Confessions of a Reluctant Gardener—23
Summer 2010
subject, but you‘ve probably heard the line from Milton‘s
Paradise Lost, a famous poem about some other serious control issues in one of our earliest known gardens, Eden: ―The
mind is its own place, and in itself/Can make a Heaven of
Hell, a Hell of Heaven.‖ (In the interest of full disclosure, I
confess that the line is uttered by Satan, but it‘s still true.)
In that same hopeful and upbeat spirit, I suggest we do a
thought experiment in which we try to shift our perspectives a little and let go of our preconceived notions about
gophers for a while, get acquainted a little bit, and maybe
even see if we can find any—well, yes—GOOD in them.
Before you start to lose it—foaming at the mouth and
screaming that those malicious demon-rodents who
torment us like pitchfork wielding fiends should be
bombed back to the ninth circle of hell where they come
from because here we were, good, conscientious, hardworking citizens, minding our own business, trying to
make the world a better, more beautiful place with
sustainable gardening practices in harmony with nature,
etc., etc., etc., until THEY showed up—just hold on a
minute. Back up. Take a deep breath. Aren‘t gophers part
of nature? Aren‘t they, in fact, NATIVE inhabitants of
California‘s ecosystems—who were here long before we
Natural History
The word gopher comes from the French gaufre, meaning
corrugated or honeycombed, which refers to their complicated system of burrows. Endemic to the western hemisphere only, gopher species range widely throughout open
woodland, prairie, and desert habitats from southern Canada to northwestern Columbia in South America except in
the highest elevations and in the northeastern United
States (kinda makes you wonder . . .). Their complete common name, pocket gopher, comes from two roomy fur-lined
cheek pouches external to the mouth used to convey food
and nesting material. Pocket gophers are in fact closely
related to pocket mice, kangaroo mice, and kangaroo rats.
Pocket gophers are stocky, medium sized (six to eight
inches long) rodents with very small eyes and ears, short,
mostly hairless tails, and powerful shoulders and forelegs
with enlarged forefeet tipped with long, sharp claws, all
perfect for their burrowing lifestyle. Their long incisors,
used for digging as well as for gnawing on plants, wear
down quickly but are constantly regrown at the rate of
almost a foot a year. The gopher‘s small eyes and ears and a
furry membrane between the incisors and mouth keep the
dirt out very effectively.
Gophers spend most of their lives underground, coming out at night only to forage on nearby plants and push
excavated soil out of their burrows. Burrow systems must
be large enough to encompass their food needs, ranging
from 200 square feet for young animals to 2000 square feet
for established females, whose burrows must also support
their young. Gophers are solitary except during the mating
season (and, thankfully, aren‘t as prolific as some of their
relatives like pocket mice) but may have one to four litters
of between two to 12 young during the breeding season,
late winter to summer. (Be warned that breeding season is
prolonged where plants are irrigated.) The pups are forced
out after weaning and must quickly find or establish burrows to survive. Gophers don‘t hibernate or slow down at
any time and may live up to three years.
Botta‘s pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae) is the species
found in our area and much of the West north to Oregon,
southern Idaho, and western Colorado and south to Baja. A
highly variable species in size and color, it is generally medium brown but can be black, beige, or yellow—tending to
match the color of the soil pushed from its burrow, no
doubt an adaptation that helps it elude detection by predators. Gophers prefer light, loamy soils but may reside in
clay if the location otherwise suits them.
What suits them best is an area rich in continuously
growing root systems—they favor roots, bulbs, and tender
bases of flourishing, actively growing plants. Farmers claim
they are especially partial to crops like alfalfa, potatoes,
sugar beets, and carrots. In tropical areas, they go for bananas and sugar cane. They may also munch on stems and
leaves of forbs (broad leaved herbs) growing near tunnel
entrances. As an interesting aside to anyone living in our
region on property with serpentine soil, gophers in such
areas subsist in the wild almost exclusively on the corms of
a small lily (Brodiasea spp.).
Beneficial Roles in the Environment
In agricultural and grazing areas, overzealous predator
control is mostly to blame for the destructively high population densities of gophers we see today. In wild ecosystems where their numbers are kept in check by predators,
gophers are extremely beneficial—believe it or not. Aside
from nourishing coyotes, foxes, badgers, weasels, snakes,
and predatory birds like owls, hawks, and herons, gophers
aerate tons of soil each year, raise soil fertility by increasing
buried organic matter, increase soil formation rates by
bringing fresh earth to the surface, and reduce water runoff
by providing for water infiltration and storage in their burrow systems. In addition, they help to propagate plants by
inadvertently spreading plant seeds and other plant material, leading to a net increase in biomass. Furthermore,
their cool, moist burrows provide shelter for other creatures, including many endangered amphibians, especially
when vernal pools dry up in the summer.
Getting Along with Gophers
Unfortunately, in our agricultural fields and gardens,
where their natural foods have been plowed under, poisoned, or weed whacked and their predators killed, they
can and do cause serious harm. For a start, we can stop
poisoning their predators. But what else works? (Just for
the record, bombs, flamethrowers, vibrators, and gushing
hoses do not.)
Summer 2010
In Latin America, some folks consider gophers a
delicacy, so that‘s one possibility. I‘m sure recipes are out
there waiting to be Googled. All kidding aside, though,
encouraging predation is one strategy that can help control
gophers. Build owl boxes; adopt a feral cat; let your dog dig
up your yard. Or trap them yourself. Thomas Wittman of
Gophers Limited, our local gopher guru, suggests using
cinch traps. His website is a rich resource on the subject of
gopher control that I highly recommend you consult.
To his credit, Mr. Wittman also advocates kinder,
gentler means of control. I‘ve attended two of his lectures
over the years where he‘s said that the most effective
control method is to construct gopher-proof barriers. Some
farmers build concrete, cinder block, or wire barriers
around fields. You can do the same thing in your own
garden. You can also construct simple planting boxes with
wire bottoms—my husband built me two four-by-eight
boxes that perform beautifully year after year. You can also
plant in pots or use perforated plastic containers, gopher
baskets, or wire-mesh-lined holes in the ground to protect
new plants until their root systems are big and tough
enough to withstand some chomping. I‘d given up on
galvanized baskets because they rust out so quickly up on
Ben Lomond mountain where we get so much rain, but I‘ve
just discovered stainless steel baskets for sale on the
Gophers Limited website, so I may check them out the
next time I plant.
Another strategy is to make your yard inhospitable.
That‘s what many farmers do. I‘m sure you‘ve seen
orchards, for example, where every green thing except the
fruit trees has been eradicated; even the tree trunks may be
securely wrapped. Although it goes against my eco nature,
I have to admit that it makes some sense. If there‘s nothing
for the gophers (and voles and rabbits) to eat, chances are
they‘ll go elsewhere. That approach may not suit your
aesthetics unless you like the formal, concreted, bricked,
clipped look. But it has the advantage of permanently
protecting prized fruit trees, rose bushes, or bulbs that can
be combined with a more natural look further away from
your house.
I like a woodsier, more relaxed yard, and I live
surrounded by gopher (vole, rabbit, deer) habitat, so I‘ve
decided to take advantage of Satan‘s insight: I choose to
make a heaven of hell and not a hell of heaven. I want a
thriving ecosystem of plants AND animals more than
I want a picture-perfect garden, so I‘m learning to protect
the plants that I really can‘t bear to lose and accept the loss
of others. I‘m also remembering which plant species get
eaten and which don‘t and planting more of the latter.
Meanwhile, my native shrubs, rhododendrons, and Japanese maples are thriving; and my dogs, Audrey and Lizzy,
get lots of exercise digging up gopher tunnels. Life is good
in the garden!
For Further Information
Gophers Limited:
UC IPM Pocket Gophers Management Guidelines: http:// 
Meet the neighbors:
Mazama pocket gopher, above, Wikipedia
Northern pocket gopher, below, Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife
Valley pocket gopher, page 1, Science @ Berkeley Lab
Poison Baits
Another way to get rid of gophers is to poison
them. Predators of gophers, including your
dogs and cats, and other wildlife can also be
poisoned if they dig up and eat the carcasses
or the uneaten bait. In addition, poisons may
persist in the environment, concentrating as
they move up the food chain. Therefore,
poisons should never be your first choice.
The next issue of Gardening on the Edge will
have an overview of rodenticides and other
poisons. Until then, if you choose to use poison
baits, refer to Pest Notes for more information:
Summer 2010
Welcome 2010 Master Gardener Graduates
The graduation ceremony for the 2010 Master Gardener class was held June 5 in the newly restored Youth
Garden. We welcomed 5 newly certified MGs and 32 interns into the MBMG organization.
The 2010 class has shown a great deal of enthusiasm
and ingenuity and will bring many new skills and fresh
ideas to our organization. As part of their training, they
were required to perform a propagation project and spend
6 hours in the youth garden. This was in addition to the 3
hotline sessions and 50 volunteer hours required for
The graduation ceremony was a fun event with approximately 80 persons in attendance. The garden was
nicely decorated and some great food was provided by
members of the class. In addition, there was entertainment
provided by the Women of Whimsy, an improvisation
group. The class presented its gift of two Japanese maples
to be planted in the garden and the UCCE courtyard.
We look forward to working with our new members
in upcoming projects. Many are already participating in
the Masters Tour and other ongoing projects. There is also
a great deal of interest in participation in school and community garden projects.
Joan, Carri, and I are pleased that we had the opportunity to be involved with the 2010 class. We thank all the
proctors who helped in the administration of the class.
I think it was five months well spent. We had the opportunity to meet some really nice people and establish new
friendships. Now, let‘s get down and dig in the dirt. 
~~Simon Stapleton, President
Dear Friends,
I am writing to thank you for your fine work in promoting school gardens in our community and throughout the Monterey Bay area.
Long before the current First Lady, Michelle Obama, began promoting gardening, it was clear to many of us that gardens should be
playing more of a role in all of our lives. School gardens, which teach young people about the importance of small-scale, organic
agriculture to our civilization in terms of not only nutrition, but also meaningful recreational activities which can unite young people
and seniors with other members of our community, have become increasingly important in our community. Through working in gardens,
young people learn not only agricultural skills, but also important life skills such as patience, teamwork, and a new appreciation for the
cycles of life.
More importantly, perhaps, through gardening, young people learn that the central needs of our lives do not just appear on supermarket
shelves, but, rather, have to be produced by human beings in interaction with nature. I have been on several school field trips in recent
years with elementary students who are shocked to learn, for example, that milk and vegetables do not get produced in factories which
turn them out in cartons and baskets, but rather that they are natural products. Given the contemporary crisis in school and local government funding, many schools can no longer afford field trips to farms. School gardens provide an important opportunity to our youth
to understand the natural cycles of life and, in particular, the realities of food and flower production. It also helps prepare them better to
understand some of the current controversies concerning how we deal with pesticides and petro-chemical-based fertilizers.
So, this is just to say that, on behalf of my constituents in the City of Santa Cruz, I really appreciate your work, and I hope that you not
only are able to continue it in the future, but to expand the support for school gardens that you have been providing in our community.
Mike Rotkin, Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz
Summer 2010
Summer 2010
Meet the Gardens on the
2010 Masters Tour
—Cynthia Jordan, MG94
Carol Griffith, Santa Cruz
Four and a half years ago this garden was the epitome of
low maintenance, granite chunks with a half dozen
plants. The owners (she a Master Gardner, he an architect) have transformed it into the ultimate indoor/
outdoor living space. Walking through the incredibly
beautiful front gate is your first hint that something
special awaits: a series of patios, rooms for outdoor living, each with its own special décor. Architectural
elements adorn the walls and water features abound,
including a magical tile-paved fountain. The apple,
orange and pineapple guava trees create a sense of purposeful gardening in this deep city lot. Not only does
this garden provide nourishment for the soul, the veggie
garden is ready to please the palette with a harvest of
organically grown crops. (Left)
Cynthia Jordan, Santa Cruz
Fifty years ago this garden was the center of a working dairy farm. Only six years ago it was home to over 300 roses.
Today it is a test lab for all things drought tolerant. This is a garden of layers. When you walk through it, look up. Plants
that normally grow three to four feet tall are six and seven feet tall here, thanks to the aforementioned dairy cows. A
collection of birdhouses and garden art weave in and out of plant groupings. Succulents are everywhere, even on birdhouse rooftops. The patio is huge,
inviting one to sit a spell and try to
count the hummingbirds. Finally,
there is a mini-farm, the playground
of the owner‘s grandson. Raised
beds are made of rice bales and
eucalyptus saplings – examples of
how to build beds without spending hundreds of dollars for wood. A
chicken coop of recycled material
brings this garden full circle, back
to the original old farm.
Special events: Café, Market Place,
Book Shoppe and Artist Gallery.
Mark your calendar!
September 25th
Summer 2010
Gail Williamson,
Santa Cruz
The moment you step into
this garden you know it is
special, something akin to an
arboretum. You sense another time and place – a
transformation from the
mundane to the mysterious.
You are not surprised to learn
that it began about 100 years
ago with trees that were
brought from the 1915 San
Francisco World‘s Fair. The
present owner has been expanding it since 1985. This
collection of outstanding
specimen plants surrounds
two large pools of water fed
by underground streams from
the UCSC campus. Unusual
plants from around the world
await your close inspection; the pièce de résistance: a Chiranthodendron pentadactylon, monkey‘s hand tree. Originally from
the mountains of Oaxaca, it was used medicinally by the Aztecs. This tree is believed to be the largest of its kind in North
America. Is but one of many extraordinary plant marvels in this horticulturalist‘s haven.  Special Events: Succulent
lecture and sale. (Above left)
Richard Josephson, Santa Cruz
Victorian England set amidst the isles of Hawaii. Subtropical plants bloom in an Edwardian greenhouse. This melding of
the old and new worlds began 35 years ago. Arriving at the front porch, one is struck by the unlikely selection of plants;
palms and banana trees and bamboo are not the usual plants for a Queen Anne gingerbread house. Nevertheless, they are
extremely happy in their setting. A few steps more and it is clear that this garden is not about the usual. While any other
garden might have a water feature in the back yard, here the water feature is the backyard. Having walked the length of
this slice of paradise, the transformation is complete.
We are ready to shed our garden gloves for sunscreen
and a light torch in this tropical oasis. Let the luau
begin! (Above right)
Darcy Horton, Capitola
This is the quintessential beach cottage garden. Located on an unusually large lot in the heart of Depot
Hill, an amazing Cotoneaster hedge surrounds the cottage on two sides, and its living arches welcome you
into the property. Island-inspired grounds, including
queen palms, cannas, bamboo, ferns, orchids, passion
vines, and ginger mixed easily with raised, stonecovered vegetable beds, edible landscaping, and a variety of fruit trees create a true slice of paradise. The
house is remodeled in the arts & crafts tradition. The
owner believes there is real value to keeping one‘s lifestyle small, functional and beautiful with a larger outdoor space for entertaining, gardening and playing. She has achieved success with this jewel. Sit a while in front of the
tiled fountain and drink in the beauty and serenity of this ―simple‖ garden. Special Events: Raffle and lecture on Veggies
and Herbs. (Above)
Summer 2010
Gene Millburn, La Selva Beach
This garden is a marriage of country and
seaside, cottage and city dweller. Located a
tomato‘s throw from the beach, the ornamental hardscaped front and side gardens
do not prepare one for the cornucopia of
food and flowers in the backyard. There is
a pristine vegetable garden that generates
an enormous amount of produce. The
―farm‖ includes a composting site, a propagation station, and well-composted and
manicured raised beds. The chicken coop
and run were engineered to withstand all
furry intruders and seismic events. The
garden is filled with creative ideas for using what Mother Nature has provided:
fence posts are made from tree branches,
the gate hinges are made from leather
straps, eucalyptus trees have been felled to
create more workable land. Here you will
find the perfect union of city-slick and
country-wild. Special Events: Plant Sale
and lectures on Chickens and Compost/
Vermiculture (Left)
Rock Lerum/Sandi Rechenmacher, Santa Cruz
If you‘ve ever longed for the summer-time experience of ―goin‘ to Grandma‘s farm,‖ your wish is about to come true. This
is urban agriculture in a state of perfection. The dozen steps from the sunflower-filled front yard to the unexpected backyard will transport you to a place of incredible bounty; row after perfect row of every kind of veggie you can imagine lives
here—you have stumbled into the food basket of the world. These city farmers have used many venues for growing crops:
perfectly aligned mounds of soil, half barrels, table tops. Old and new fruit trees are interspersed the entire length of this
massive city lot. Head towards the back of the farm and listen to the humming of the bees in their hives. This will be your
inspiration for carving out a
slice of your own garden to create ―Grandma‘s farm.‖ Special
Events: lecture on Bees. (Right)
$20 IN
$25 ON THE
Summer 2010
Vegetable Gardening in
—Glenn Lattig, MG10
When our newly built house in Morgan Hill was being
landscaped, I told the contractor that I wanted a garden
plot separate from the other landscaping in the backyard.
He obliged by creating a small plot that is about 30 feet by
5 feet, complete with its own sprinkler system. The soil in
my Morgan Hill yard is a rich, dense clay loam. For years I
have tilled in my composted grass clippings, along with a
generous supply of coffee grounds from Starbuck‘s, to
create a rich soil that has produced excellent crops
of vegetables.
Unfortunately, all the saplings planted by our
neighbors during their landscaping years ago have grown
into huge trees whose shade now limit the sun exposure to
my small garden plot. I needed to garden differently if I
expected to get a reasonable harvest of vegetables from the
Last June I attended the ―Sunset‖ Magazine Weekend
in Menlo Park. Among the demonstrations I sat in on was
one conducted by the Gardening Editor. She was a Master
Gardener, and the subject of her demonstration was vegetable gardening in containers.
She came out with bags of potting soil and nursery
containers of plants, and tools, and a number of other
daunting supplies. Her first order of business was to
reassure the audience that, while all these supplies were
necessary to set up a container garden, the process was so
simple that any child could do it. In fact, she asked for a
volunteer from the audience, and an 8-year old boy come
on stage and completely set up the container, using only
guidance from the demo leader.
The demo leader used an EarthBox kit
( The kit contains everything one needs
to set up a one-container garden. It even has wheels
should you need to move it around. The design is earthfriendly, limiting the use of fertilizers, water, and pesticides. It also comes with a guide of recommended
vegetables and the quantities of each for a box setup. The
easiest way to describe its design and ease of use is to walk
through the setting up of a container vegetable garden. I
purchased 10 of these for my garden which I am using to
grow tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini.
The basic box is 29‖ long, 14‖ wide, and 10.5‖ deep. It
has an aeration screen (with two corners cut out) that goes
in the bottom and covers the irrigation reservoir. The box
cannot be over-watered; there is an overflow from the box
at about 3‖ from the bottom. A fill tube is mounted vertically in one corner of the box. Let‘s get started.
I installed the screen into the bottom of the box, and
then inserted the fill tube in the screen. This is in one of
the corners of the box. Next, I filled the two cut out
corners in the box bottom with moist potting soil. In
California, what is sold as potting soil is really potting mix:
a blend of composts and other organic matter. It does not
contain any ―soil.‖ This is essential as the means of water
transport from the reservoir through the box is by the
capillary action of the potting soil absorbing the water and
feeding the roots.
I now added potting soil to the box on top of the grill.
I watered the potting soil as I added it, and patted it down
to remove any air spaces. As the level of the potting soil
approached the top of the box, I added in the bag of dolomite (hydrated lime) provided in the EarthBox kit, mixing
Summer 2010
this into the soil. I finished adding the potting soil until the
box was full. The EarthBox holds approximately 1-3/4 cubic
feet of potting soil. I planned for a 2 cubic foot bag for
each box.
Also included in the EarthBox kit is a bag of 7-7-7
fertilizer, enough for the growing season. While the kit
instructions said to make a slight mound in the center of
the soil down the length of the box, and then create a small
trough in the mound for the fertilizer, I used the method I
saw demonstrated. At the demo, the leader added hers
diagonally, since she was planting tomatoes (2 plants per
box), and left the fertilizer exposed. This method allowed
her more room at each end of the box on each side of the
fertilizer strip for the plants.
I‘m ready to plant my vegetables. For each of the
vegetables I am planting, the recommended number of
plants per box is 2. I make a 3-inch ―X‖ cut in the cover
where I want to place my plants, being careful NOT to cut
over the fertilizer strip. Now I simply take my vegetable
transplants and insert them through the ―X‖ into the
potting mix in the soil. I‘m done!
For irrigation, I replaced two of the sprinkler heads in
my garden plot with 8-port ¼‖ distribution manifolds. To
these I ran ¼‖ tubing to the fill tubes of each EarthBox.
With my sprinkler system on automatic, each box will be
watered at the desired frequency for the desired amount of
time. I determined the time by watching how long it took
for water to emerge from the overflow port on a box.
I now have an EarthBox filled with moist potting soil
with dolomite mixed into the top few inches of the box,
and a strip of 7-7-7 fertilizer in a trough at the very top of
the box. Next comes the cover. The kit comes with a
―shower cap‖ that fits over the box. The cover assists in
keeping out water, weed seeds, insects, etc. The covers
have elastic to fit over the box and hold them in place.
There is a hole for the fill tube as well. The covers have a
black side and a white side. The white side is used only in
very hot climates. For Morgan Hill, I am keeping the black
side up. Each kit contains two of these covers.
Summer 2010
My last problem concerned my tomatoes. EarthBox
sells a trellis system, but it is a little pricey. Instead, I
purchased a few concrete reinforcing mats and painted
them with Rustoleum to prevent corrosion. I then bent
and wired these to fit around an EarthBox. In essence, I created my own tomato cages to adequately support the
plants. One cage fits over one EarthBox and contains two
chambers, each about 15‖ square.
The best thing about vegetable gardening this way is
that I still have my garden, I use less space, which is great
since much of the original garden is shaded by oak trees,
and I use less water, less fertilizer, and fewer pesticides
than I have in all the years previously. Additionally, there is
no weeding.
If you have limited space or sunlight, or just want to
cut down on watering, weeding, pesticides, and fertilizers,
I highly recommend container gardening.
POST SCRIPT: The container vegetable garden pictured above was planted on April 30th. As I write this, it is
June 4th, a mere 5 weeks later. The initial planting was
with seedlings I propagated from seeds. Four weeks after
planting, I harvested my first zucchini. I have harvested
others since, and more are currently growing. The next
picture shows what the garden currently looks like.
The cool spring, particularly at night, has affected
plant growth, especially the eggplant. While there are
flowers on the tomatoes, the nights have not been warm
enough for fruit set yet. I have only had one minor problem
– a curious squirrel clawing into the container cover. Overall, the experiment has been a great success. There are no
weeds. With ¼‖ irrigation lines, water use is a very small
fraction of previous years when the garden was in the
ground. I have used no other fertilizers other than what
came in the EarthBox kit. I have used no pesticides. I think
this is a great way to garden. 
Summer 2010
IPM and Late Blight
—Patricia Nicely, MG03
Anyone who loves fresh tomatoes will put a lot of
work into ensuring a successful crop. In a climate like ours,
with relatively cool summers, we wait patiently for spring
to wane, commit our carefully selected varieties to their
new home in the sunniest part of the garden, provide support, nutrients, and just enough water, and are usually amply rewarded for our efforts. About five years ago, something went horribly wrong with my tomatoes—all of the
plants started turning brown, and one by one collapsed
into a limp pile of nondescript organic matter. I never got
a definitive diagnosis, but a local ag expert thought my
plants had succumbed to late blight.
Late blight
Photo: Oregon State,
It was one of those moments in gardening when I felt
really helpless. Who knew there was a disease that could
melt your tomatoes quicker than you can say Phytophthora
infestans? This organism was also responsible for the infamous Irish potato famine of the 1800‘s (suddenly, my handful of wilted tomatoes didn‘t seem like that big a deal).
Last year, a serious outbreak of late blight caused massive
losses of potato and tomato crops in the Northeast US, and
was attributable to a combination of favorable weather
conditions and infected retail plants.
Other species in the genus Phytophthora are well known
for gracing our gardens with root and crown rots and ravaging our wild lands with Sudden Oak Death. Phytophthora
species look and act a bit like fungi, so they are often
lumped in with fungi in the context of disease management, but they are actually ―water molds.‖ According to
the UC Berkeley website, water molds (Division Oomycota) are classified under Kingdom Chromista. Downy
mildews are also water molds.
As with many other fungi or fungus-like organisms,
control of late blight involves breaking the disease triangle.
In order for a disease to occur, you need a susceptible host,
the right conditions, and the disease-causing organism. In
the case of late blight, it seems that there are some partially
resistant plant varieties available and more are being developed. Avoid overhead watering, and be mindful of the risky
combination of damp and cool conditions that most fungi
seem to love. Removing all tomato-family plant material
after the growing season and discarding volunteer plants
can help eliminate sources of the organism. Purchase certified seed potatoes, and shop for tomato starts from reputable local nurseries (or grow your own). Fungicides can be
a part of a comprehensive IPM approach to disease control,
and might offer some suppression of late blight. Many
people thin indeterminate tomato varieties so as to
promote better air circulation and larger fruiting, but
I wonder about the effect this has on promoting the
infiltration of pathogens into plant tissues.
In my last IPM article, I briefly mentioned that bacteria can act as beneficials in the garden. Since I regularly
browse the pest control aisle of my favorite hardware
stores (to see what kind of IPM stuff they sell), I was
thrilled when a bright red bottle of Serenade caught my
eye. Serenade contains a patented strain of Bacillus subtilis,
a bacterium that can suppress late blight and other pathogens. The UC IPM website mentions Serenade as one option for managing several fungi and fungus-like organisms.
Sonata is a similar product formulated with Bacillus pumilis.
These products are reportedly safe around beneficials, and
are listed for organic farming use by OMRI.
I‘ve applied Serenade to my tomatoes three times
already this year. So far so good, but be warned that the
formulation has a very strong smell (kind of bitter), so
don‘t apply it anywhere that you don‘t want to smell it for
a few days afterward. 
References and Resources
UC Museum of Paleontology:
Organic Materials Research Institute:
Cornell University:
Cornell University:
Cornell University:
California Master Gardener Handbook, UC ANR, 2002
University of Vermont Extension:
Summer 2010
is an ecologically-based approach to managing
pests that tries to prevent problems through a
combination of methods and uses pesticides only
as a last resort. IPM programs can be applied
against insects, weeds, plant diseases, rodents, or
other pests.
Carrots—Cooked or Raw,
They Do a Body Good
—Kathleen Sonntag, MG06
With IPM, you‘ll have a safer home and environment and you‘ll have fewer pest problems.
Remember these IPM steps as you try to solve
your pest problems:
Correctly identify the pest
Determine if it is a problem you can‘t tolerate.
Identify the conditions in your home or garden that are causing the pest to thrive or invade and change them to the extent possible.
If this isn‘t enough, consider other methods
such as cultural, mechanical, physical or biological controls, or use least-toxic pesticides
as a last resort.
Carrots are in the Umbelliferae family along with
parsnips, fennel, caraway, cumin and dill; they all have the
umbrella-like flower clusters that characterize this family
of plants. Wild carrots are called Queen Anne‘s lace. Their
fibrous root smells like a carrot when cut. Its medicinal
properties are mostly related to use as a contraceptive.
Growing Carrots
If you have a vegetable garden, you probably plant
carrot seeds in the spring. It takes about 90 days for carrots to grow large enough to harvest, but baby carrots are
wonderful when you get impatient.
Growing carrots is not difficult: they need loose, nutrient-rich soil, good drainage and full sun. The important
things are to dig deep enough to loosen the soil for the carrot to grow easily and allow enough space between plants
so they can grow without touching. Lots of information is
available online. Here is a website with all you need to
kn ow : h t tp://w ww. he i rloom - orga n /guid e/va/
Summer 2010
Carrots have been cultivated for thousands of years.
The earliest were grown in the Middle East and south
Asian countries. Those carrots were purple, as dark as eggplant, and more fibrous. In Afghanistan a yellow carrot was
cultivated; this was the precursor of the carrot that we
grow and eat in the United States today. Both the purple
and yellow/orange carrot varieties gained popularity in the
Mediterranean where they were used medicinally.
During the Renaissance people in Europe began eating
the tough, fibrous carrots. New cultivars were developed
and we have the bright orange, sweet vegetable that we
know and love. The purple carrots are still grown in
southern Asia and North Africa. Everything you want to
know about carrots can be found here:
Health Benefits
Carrots are the best food source of Vitamin A (beta
carotene). Carotoderma, or yellow/orange skin color,
results from overeating carrots. Some people have tried
carrot diets for quick weight loss and had the added result
of yellow-tinged skin. Many studies show that including
carrots in a healthy diet has proven benefits. Healthy heart,
lungs, eyes and colon are all attributed to eating carrots.
Vitamin A helps prevent macular degeneration and
Buying and Storing Carrots
If you purchase carrots with the tops on, remove them
and either compost, feed to your chickens (or budgies!!) or
use in salads and soups. The tops taste somewhat like
parsley, but bitter. They make a good garnish. Carrots keep
for a long time if stored in a plastic bag in a cool place away
from apples, pears and potatoes that produce
ethylene gas.
Eating Carrots
Carrots make a great snack raw with or without a
sauce to dip them in. Since we can purchase them ―ready to
eat‖ in bite-size pieces, eating carrots frequently is easy.
Those same little carrots are great added to stews or
sauces or cut lengthwise in julienne strips, sautéed in
butter and sprinkled with a little salt and dill just before
serving. Cooking carrots does not destroy the beta
carotene; it just breaks down the fibers and releases the
sugars. Lately I‘ve been shredding carrots to make a salad
that also can be eaten as a pita bread filling. It is a more
sophisticated version of the traditional carrot and raisin
salad I remember eating as a child.
Carrot Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette
This salad can be prepared for one or for a dozen
people. Adjust the amount of each ingredient for the
amount of salad you are making.
Shred the peeled, washed carrots with a coarse grater.
Place in a bowl large enough to add other ingredients. Add
everything on the list below or use your own favorites:
chives or green onions
currants or raisins or both
raw sunflower seeds or walnuts
For the vinaigrette:
lemon juice
olive oil or canola oil
grated ginger
crushed garlic
sugar or honey (just a little)
thyme leaves (dried or fresh)
Lemon juice replaces vinegar in this dressing. Use
1 part lemon juice to 2 parts oil. I blend the lemon juice
with the ginger, garlic, salt and sugar before adding the oil.
Adjust the amount of each flavor to taste. Thyme goes in
after blending the other ingredients.
Serve on lettuce as a salad or line pita bread with
lettuce or spinach leaves and add the carrot salad. The
sunflower seeds are an excellent source of protein for
Avocado slices make a nice garnish on top of the salad
whether it is in the pita or on a plate.
An alternative dressing is balsamic vinaigrette: omit
the ginger and lemon juice and use a good balsamic vinegar
instead. Add garlic and salt to taste.
Tuscan Carrot Top and Rice Soup
A recipe for soup using carrots and their tops can be
found on the chef2chef website:
Potatoes can be substituted for the rice. 
Summer 2010
How Master Gardeners Do It
—Compiled by Sharon Ettinger, MG00
Of the hundreds available, which one
variety would old-time veggie gardeners
recommend to beginners for each of these
categories: lettuce, tomato, pepper,
herb, potato, carrot, bean, melon, squash,
corn, and berry?
Karen Bernard, MG08
Start with beans or potatoes – any varieties.
Ellen Wright, MG99
We live in Prunedale where our summers are cool and
foggy. These are our tried-and-true varieties. I experiment
with some new ones each year but end up back with the
ones that produce well. Don‘t forget beets, chard and kale!
They grow well here and pack a big nutritional punch.
Lettuce: ‗Red Romaine‘ – great for plucking outer
leaves for salad. Doesn‘t bolt, has long season and is sweet
and crunchy.
Tomato: ‗San Marzano‘ grows well in our coastal climate and is both a fine canner and delicious salad tomato.
If you live right on the coast, ‗San Francisco Fog‘ does well
if well mulched and grown near a south-facing wall.
Pepper: ‗Serranos‘ do well in my garden. I love that
they‘re spicy but not lethal. Bells don‘t do well in Prunedale because it‘s too cool.
Herbs: marjoram, thyme, fennel and rosemary grow
well in our cool-summer garden. If I could only grow one it
would be thyme.
Potato: ‗Yukon Gold‘ is prolific and healthy but we
have to make wired beds to protect against gophers. I grow
the red, blue and gold fingerling potatoes (from Costco!) in
barrels and get big crops.
Carrot: ‗Nantes‘ when I grow them. Gophers love
Snap bean: ‗Kentucky Wonder‘ and ‗Blue Lake‘ pole
beans are prolific, delicious and healthy.
Drying bean: ‗Aztec‘, a high-altitude cool-weather bean
that is huge, white, delicious and fast cooking.
Melon: Are you kidding? Melons hate foggy days!
Squash: ‗Yellow Papaya‘ summer squash takes up a
fairly big amount of space (9‘ x 12‘ for 2 plants) but it is
very tasty and VERY prolific.
Last night we had three small zucchini for
dinner that were grown within fifty feet
of our back door.
I estimate they cost somewhere in the
neighborhood of $371.49 each.
- Andy Rooney
Corn: I don‘t bother taking up space for sweet corn.
We grow a high-altitude Guatemalan flint corn to grind
for polenta and corn meal. I‘m trying an Inca black corn
this year…figure it tolerates cool weather too.
Berry: Haven‘t grown berries yet.
Beets: ‗Detroit Dark Red‘ and ‗Chioggia‘ together make
for a nice long beet season.
Kale: ‗Lacinato‘ aka Dinosaur Kale. You can grow 6
plants in a 4‘ x 6‘ space.
Chard: ‗Rainbow‘ mixture. You can grow 6 plants in a
4‘ x 6‘ space.
Dee Dee Hanania, MG99
With all the micro climates in mind...zucchini of
course as the squash. ‗Cut and Come Again‘ for the lettuce
and basil for the herb.
Darcy Horton, MG06
Tomato: ‗Early Girl.‘
Squash: any zucchini.
Herb: basil.
Candice McLaren, MG01
I live a block and a half from the bay and the summers are usually too cool, foggy and sometimes windy to
grow peppers, corn and melons.
My favorites for first time and long time gardeners are
suited for the coast.
Lettuce: Renee's Garden Baby Mesclun ‗Cut and Come
Again‘. Easy to start from seed and grows almost year
round except in the warm/hot fall.
Summer 2010
Tomatoes: ‗Sungold‘ as it does not take a long time to
produce fruit (and I don't get a lot of hot days).
Potatoes: any fingerling variety.
Squash: any variety of zucchini, green or yellow.
Bean: Renee's Garden ‗Tri-Color‘ pole beans, a mixture of ‗Blue Lake‘, ‗Yellow Pole Wax‘, and ‗Purple Peacock‘. A lot of color and a lot of beans! Build a trellis of
wood or string and get 6' of growth from 1 plant.
Carrot: Renee's Garden ‗Round Romeo‘. I have raised
beds so small, short carrots grow best.
Chard: ‗Bright Lights‘ from a 6 pack. Great colors in
the garden and on the table.
Radishes: a quick crop grown between pole beans.
‗Early Scarlet‘ or ‗White Globe‘ and my all time favorite…
Renee's ‗Easter Egg‘ radishes (they are pastel and fun!)
This year I put in a new pole bean that I ordered from
Territorial Seed Company. It‘s a ‗Red Noodle‘ yard-long
bean, 90 days to harvest. I'll have to wait a while to know
if it likes the coast.
Brenda Wood, MG06
The one tomato that is "tried and true" for this area is
‗Early Girl‘. I have tried a lot of varieties and ‗Early Girl‘ is
the best one for our climate's cold nights. Most big tomatoes need warm nights.... so the big ones do not do well for
me in our cool night climate. I would love to grow a big
beefsteak but haven't found one that performs here.
Patty Nicely, MG03
I have had great yields from ‗Sungold‘ cherry tomatoes,
‗Jalapeno‘ peppers, flat-leaf parsley, ‗Little Finger‘ carrots,
Italian pole beans, and yellow patty pan squash (I think
the variety is ‗Sunburst‘).
Melita Israel, MG95
Lettuce: ‗Bibb.‘
Tomatoes are tricky, depends on climate. I use ‗Early
Girl‘ and ‗Stupis,‘ a heritage tomato.
Melons are chancy. Must start early and keep a heat
cap on to get warmth. They tend to be small varieties.
Peppers: lots of varieties. I prefer the mild ones fully
ripe, not green.
Herbs: plant what you will use. Perennial ones I use
are French not Russian tarragon with chicken. Trailing
rosemary for cooking and ground cover, requires no watering and lives at least 40 years on my sandy soil and bees
love it and no weeds grow in it. Lemon verbena is 5 ft. tall
and can be trained like a tree. Sage and thyme. Many others such as the gray and green santolina and lavender are
useful garden hedges or edging plants.
Annuals: basil is a must….prefer the common type and
Potato: have trouble growing these. ‗German Fingerlings‘ are tasty.
Carrot: ‗Danvers Half Long‘.
Bean: snap beans ‗Kentucky‘ and ‗Roma‘ bush types.
Replant for late harvest.
Squash: zucchini (one plant, bush type) and two dried
winter squash. ‗Delicata‘ is a small bush vine, ‗Butternut‘ is
a large 5 ft. vine and is edible for a long time in storage.
There is a bush variety.
Corn: old time ‗Bantum‘ must be planted in blocks to
pollinate OK. Takes up lots of space and grocery stores
have good tasting corn.
Berries: raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.
Blueberries were tried but the fruit ripens sporadically so
lots of plants are needed and they need acid soil. Protection from birds is needed for all berries. No names as raspberries and strawberries were given to me. I am trying the
thornless blackberries. Mine are sparse in fruiting next to
the thorn ones. The thorn ones ripen all at once. Thornless
ones take time to fill out for lots of fruit. Sure nice not to
get stuck.
Bonnie Pond, MG00
Lettuce: ‗Mesclun Mix‘.
Tomato: ‗San Francisco Fog‘, ‗Yellow Pear‘.
Pepper: ‗Tapas‘.
Herbs: rosemary, cilantro, pesto.
Potato: ‗Yukon Gold‘.
Bean: purple, green, yellow wax.
Squash: patty pan, zucchini.
Leeks: any.
Peas: snow.
Chard: ‗Bright Lights.‘
Cukes: lemon.
Sometimes more than one variety is better. 
More vegetable gardening info:
UC ANR: Vegetables (website)
Vegetable Gardening at a Glance from UC recommended planting dates, general planting
requirements, amount to plant for family of four,
etc (pdf)
Vegetable Gardening Basics from UC (pdf)
Summer 2010
More Herbs in Containers
—Christina Kriedt, MG06
I love basil. I love the smell of basil in my house and on
my hands. I love basil pesto. You can have basil in your
eggs, your pasta, and your salads; on sourdough bread with
mozzarella…. Life is better because of basil. Ocimum basilicum hails from central Africa and Southeast Asia. Hybrids
and cultivars come in all manner of flavors (lemon, lime,
cinnamon, licorice…) and colors (green, purple, magenta…).
Basil is generally grown as an annual but can be a shortlived perennial in our mild climate. It is seriously easy to
grow in pots, even indoors on a bright windowsill. It roots
in water, or in soil from stem cuttings, and is easy from
seed. You can also grow it year round under lights.
Basil loves to be watered. It also loves a lot of hot sunshine. Toss in a little fertilizer once a month and basil will
be happy. Stagger plantings to extend the harvest season.
Basil likes to be picked at; pinch off leaves for use until it‘s
about to bloom, then cut entire branches. Remove flowers
to encourage branching. Freeze leaves in ice trays of water
to season a future winter soup; freeze whole leaves on
trays, then store in freezer containers. Mash leaves into
good olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays. Or just chop it
up and throw it into everything you cook. In my outdoor
containers and in the garden where we grow it with tomatoes, it has never been nibbled by any pests, just me.
My newest herb is Asian lemon grass, Cymbopogon citratus. For years I purchased stalks to make tea with ginger
and lemon juice—great for warming up on a cold day.
Then I read how easy it is to grow. It is. This past year it
wintered perfectly in a weather-exposed half-barrel area.
You can even buy stalks that have a few roots from the grocery store, pull off anything dead and place them in a cup
of shallow water on the windowsill; they‘ll probably grow
more roots and you can plant them outside. Your clump of
lemon grass will grow wider and wider and eventually fill a
container; propagate by division. It‘s a true grass so you
can just treat it the way you do bamboo or other large
To make my famous tea: crush and then chop the bottom halves of two lemon grass stalks after removing the
tough outer leaves; add about two tablespoons of minced
fresh ginger; pour a half gallon of boiling water over ginger
and lemon grass in a pot. Let steep for about an hour or
until cool. Strain the tea, pour a cup, add fresh lemon juice
and honey as desired and enjoy. Keep refrigerated.
Cilantro = coriander = Chinese parsley = Coriander sativum. At a glance, one might confuse parsley with cilantro.
But one whiff of a crushed leaf reveals the truth. They are
both members of the aromatic Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)
family; they have compound leaves and flowers in umbels.
Other edible Umbelliferaes include: carrots, celery, dill,
parsley, parsnips, anise, and cumin. It is high in Vitamin A
and lutein. Cilantro prefers light soil, not too much water
or too much nitrogen. If there is insufficient water provided at the seedling stage, the plant‘s life might be cut
short and it will bloom too early. It is reputed to grow well
with dill and chervil, neither of which I grow. There are
cilantro-lovers and cilantro-haters. I read that to some it
tastes like soap but to me it tastes wonderful. In my garden
it will grow like a weed, self-seeding all over the place.
Parsley, Petroselinum crispum, is high in C and A. It has a
more subtle flavor than cilantro; during the season I use
fresh parsley on top of just about everything. It adds color
to the appearance of food and brightness to its flavor. Although it‘s able to grow just about anywhere, parsley likes
fertile soil, regular water and lots of sun. It‘s a little tricky
to grow from seed, so just buy six-packs.
Both parsley and cilantro are easy to grow in pots.
They like sun and a little fertilizer. Parsley is a biennial
(lives two years, usually blooming in the second year); cilantro is an annual. They grow together peacefully. Keep
the flowers trimmed off.
Chives are lovely and essential in the kitchen. You can
grow a pot on a sunny windowsill. Allium schoenoprasum
grows easily from seed and will continue to provide you
with yumminess for years. Divide clumps in the spring.
Harvest leaves by cutting down to ½ inch from the soil.
Use it fresh, snipped with scissors, or dried. The flowers
are charming and also edible.
Thyme is one herb I‘ve grown for many years, and I
love it in my cooking. It is a Mediterranean member of the
mint family. One source claims: The general rule of using
herbs in cooking is—when in doubt, use thyme (http:// I use it in savory dishes,
particularly with meats. Dried Thymus vulgaris will keep up
to two years in a cool dry place.
Herbs are indispensible in the kitchen and beautiful in
the garden—food for the belly and the spirit. 
Summer 2010
—Cynthia Jordan, MG95
Dahlias are to the garden what exotic coral reefs are to
the ocean: a shocking mix of color, size, and structure.
There are 50,000 choices of dahlias on the market today.
While some might find a flower the size of a twelve-inch
dinner plate a bit ‗over the top,‘ the majority of people
stop and stare in awe when approached by a dahlia.
Early History…
The history of the dahlia is one of long journeys and
rediscovery. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, the flower
was a staple of the Aztec garden and countryside. Early
16th century written reports from the Spanish Conquistadors describe the dahlia as growing wild in rock formations in addition to cultivated spaces. This is not the
dahlia we know today but a simpler version, one with
eight petals.
The Aztecs used the dahlia for practical and medicinal
purposes. The long hollow stems of the flowers, noted in
some accounts to be up to 35 feet, were used as pipes and
to transport water over long distances. The stems were
ground with other plant extracts and used for the treatment of ―closed urinary meatus.‖ (The meatus is the external opening of the urethra.)
The Aztecs were not the only consumers of the dahlia
plant. They are an important food source for the Lepidoptera, a large order of insects which includes moths and
A Journey to the New World…
An interesting tidbit that hits close to home, as reported by Professor Paul Sorensen of Northern Illinois
University: The Spanish established institutions of higher
learning in the New World to improve the education of
Aztec boys. In 1536, the College of Santa Cruz was constructed in the ancient city of Mexico. Two young students of the college, Juannes Badianus and Martinus de la
Cruz, authored the first book about medicinal plants in
the New World. Badianus became fluent in Latin and was
well schooled in the plants of the Aztec world. Martinus
was trained in medicinal practices of the Aztecs. Together
they wrote The Badianus Manuscript, An Aztec Herbal of 1552. It
contained what is thought to be the earliest illustration of
the dahlia. (The book was carried back to the Old World
where it remained untouched until it was rediscovered in
the Vatican Library in 1931.)
Fast forward to 1789, Europe and the botanist Andreas
Dahl. So began the cultivation of the extravagant garden
dahlias we know today. There‘s an interesting sidebar on
the naming of the dahlia. In 1802, the dahlia reached Berlin. An error in the fourth edition of Linnaeus‘ Species Plantarum introduced the dahlia under a new name, Georgina,
after the Russian naturalist Johann Gottlieb Georgi. To
this day, countries east of the Rhine still refer to the dahlia
as ―Georgina.‖ (Thank you, Professor Sorensen.)
Today on Monterey Bay…
The dahlia may be the national flower of Mexico but
by all accounts, Monterey Bay is dahlia heaven. My query
to Master Gardeners for ―words of wisdom‖ about growing dahlias was answered with obvious affection for the
flower by all who provided input. Easy to grow, forgiving
of novice gardeners (but not of gophers and early-stage
snails), striking in their beauty, a joyful strong energy …
just a few of the praises sung about the dahlia.
Mary Alice Davis, wife of Tom Davis, MG01, has been
growing dahlias for 40 YEARS! A few of her words of wisdom: amend, amend, amend (compost) the soil and use
gopher baskets. She calls herself a ―lazy gardener‖ when it
comes to fertilizing but recommends a truck load of composted chicken manure from Glaum Ranch in the winter.
(Glaum chicken manure comes up again and again from
dahlia growers.) Mary Alice says to dig up the plants each
year. If you don‘t, the plants get smaller and smaller and
produce fewer flowers. When you do finally dig them up,
Summer 2010
the basketball-sized tuber ball requires an ax to separate
the tubers.
Tina Grubbe, MG04, strongly advises to cut the flowers frequently or stake them. Wait till they are in full
bloom to cut because buds do not open in the vase.
Carole King, MG10, also says to cut when in full
bloom. ―They last a good week, sometimes two if I change
the water and cut the stems.‖ She says to plant them in
the back of the garden as they will tower over and cover
up other flowers if put in the front row.
Melita Israel, MG95, uses old tomato baskets to prop
up the big dahlias.
spread all across a page of the newspaper, was a picture of
Al‘s dahlias, in bloom, peeking over the fence.
We are fortunate to have a ―Dahlia Man‖ in our midst,
one who can be found at the Saturday Cabrillo Farmers
Market. Ozzie Parnianfar, once the owner of the Cheese
Factory restaurant in Santa Cruz, has been growing dahlias since 1992. He used the land around the parking lot to
grow dahlias. They were customer magnets. People
stopped smack in the intersection when they noticed the
plants in his parking lot. It wasn‘t long before the Dahlia
Society was using the ―Dahlia Room‖ in the restaurant for
their regular meetings.
Here‘s a lovely story from Al Derrick, MG95, who
planted his first dahlias in Watsonville in 1954! He accepted a gift of dahlias from a fellow worker – enough to
plant along 50 feet behind a four-foot high white picket
fence at the front of his house (which he had just purchased with a down payment of $1000!). He amended the
clay soil with mushroom compost. And when they grew
to their full size, they were as large as dinner plates and
rose well above the four-foot fence. The local newspaper
had just upgraded their press to print in color. One day,
Ozzie retired from the restaurant business and went
straight into career number two – dahlias. He tends the
grounds of four private gardens. In his spare time he
raises dahlias and cymbidium orchids in a 3000 square
foot greenhouse in Watsonville. He brings these jewels to
sell at the Saturday Farmers Market. When I asked Ozzie
which of the 50,000 dahlias was his favorite, he didn‘t
hesitate to reply ―Kenora Jubilee,‖ a semi-cactus dahlia.
Check it out on line.
Summer 2010
Now that you, too, have become a fool for dahlias,
here‘s a basic recipe for success:
Dahlias love heat and lots of sun.
Dahlias will not tolerate water-logged conditions. If
planted in the ground, select a well-drained location
and water by heavy soaking 2 times a week.
Do not water the leaves as they are susceptible to
powdery mildew.
Most important growing secret: the soil. All respondents mentioned this. Amend, amend, amend the soil.
A number of gardeners recommended Glaum Ranch
chicken manure and/or they planted their tubers in
pots using potting soil.
If you dig up your tubers each year, winter them over
in the garage or laundry room. Most respondents did
not dig up the tubers.
Snails will destroy young shoots, so take precautions.
Gophers are addicted to them. Plant in wire baskets.
Plant tubers in April/May, when the soil is warm and
there‘s no danger of another frost. June/July are still
good months for planting.
Fertilize with slow release fertilizer; although, many
gardeners report they never remembered to fertilize
and still had a good harvest. flowers and keep them
Sources for Dahlias…
Buying local was highly recommended by all respondents. The following are a few sources:
Cabrillo College Mother‘s Day Plant Sale
Dahlia Society Plant Sale at Deer Park in Aptos
Ozzie, the Dahlia Man, every Saturday at the Cabrillo
Farmers Market We have our very own dahlia society,
complete with meetings and show. Check it out at 
Photos by Mary Alice Davis
Summer 2010
Book Review
—Sue Tarjan, MG06
Landscape Plants for California Gardens:
An Illustrated Reference of Plants for California Landscapes
Bob Perry
Land Design Publishing
If you‘ve never had the pleasure of perusing one of Bob
Perry‘s fine plant reference works, you‘re in for a treat. My
husband and I discovered Perry and his work when we
bought our first house during a several-year drought in Los
Angeles in the 1980s that motivated us to find out what we
could about growing drought-tolerant plants. Perry‘s first
book, Trees and Shrubs for Dry California Landscapes (1980),
was among the first in our ever-growing plant reference
library and still holds an honored if worn and tattered
place. In 1992, he published Landscape Plants for Western Regions, another great reference, and now he‘s published a
third, Landscape Plants for California Gardeners (2010).
Perry has been a licensed landscape architect since
1972 and is Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture
at Cal Poly Pomona. He also taught at UCLA and USC and
has long been associated with Rancho Santa Ana Botanical
Gardens in Claremont, California. His landscaping passion
has always been to work with rather than against the
natural limits of the garden site wherever it is. We‘ve been
blessed this year with an ample rainy season, but we know
better than to count on it every year. That‘s why this
book‘s focus on the water needs of landscape plants suitable to California as they vary according to climate zone
and season couldn‘t be timelier.
Like Sunset‘s garden books, this one starts off with a
section on California climate zones, as is sensible, but
doesn‘t stop there. Perry goes on to provide a very
educational subsection that clearly and simply explains
how and why plants use water and how to estimate water
needs of individual plants depending on type of plant,
which zone it‘s planted in, and which season it is. For example, a Japanese maple planted in San Jose will doubtless
need more water year-round than one planted in the city of
Santa Cruz or San Francisco, but how much more? This
book will tell you so that you can judge whether Japanese
maples will be successful in your yard over time even if
you‘re faced with mandatory rationing—it even uses case
studies to walk you step-by-step through the calculations
necessary to estimate water use. It sounds dry and
technical but isn‘t.
Section Two is divided into three subsections. The first
subsection, ―Aggregated Lists,‖ includes lists of California
native, Mediterranean, Southwestern, subtropical, woodland, Asian, coastal, and, yes, even invasive garden plants.
Each list is further grouped by type of plant (trees, shrubs,
vines, perennials, grasses, ground covers, etc.). Each aggregated list starts with a brief overview of the general plant
ecosystem and describes each individual plant‘s general
irrigation needs.
The second subsection, ―Plant Types,‖ is divided into
lists of flowering trees; flowering shrubs; vines; ground
covers; flowering perennials; palms, cycads, and ferns;
bamboo, grasses, and sedges; and agave, aloes, cacti, and
succulents. All these lists also provide irrigation information. In addition, the first three lists—flowering trees,
flowering shrubs, and vines—tell you what color the
flowers are, and the groundcovers list tells you how much
planting area you‘ll need for each plant.
The third subsection, ―Plant Functions and
Aesthetics,‖ is divided as follows: street trees, trees for
parkways and medians, monumental scale trees, courtyard
and patio trees, plants with special interest and character,
hedges and screening, fragrant flowers and foliage, olive to
silver foliage color, red to purple foliage color, fall foliage
color, variegated foliage, bold foliage, soft foliage, butterfly
plants, hummingbird plants, bioswale plants (for areas
that flood), shade plants, and container plants. Whew! For
the street trees and patio trees, they‘re rated small,
medium, or large, as are the hedges. The foliage color of
each foliage color plant is, as you might have guessed,
specified. Wait, it gets better! For the butterfly plants,
whether it‘s a nectar plant, larval host plant, or both is
likewise specified! For shade plants, moderate or heavy
shade preference is noted. This man doesn‘t skimp on the
Section Three, ―Plant Palettes,‖ is divided into two
subsections: plants that require regular watering throughout the summer or plants that are happy with reduced
summer water once established. The regular water subsection is divided into ―Woodland Palettes‖ and ―Subtropical
Palettes.‖ Under ―Woodland Palettes‖ come six sample
landscapes with lots of illustrations that revolve around
Summer 2010
crape myrtle, Eastern redbud, Japanese black pine,
Japanese maple, Southern magnolia, or trees and turf grass.
Subtropical palettes‘ sample landscapes feature giant bird
of paradise, jacaranda, natal coral tree, queen palm, or
trumpet tree.
The reduced summer water subsection is likewise
divided into two: ―Mediterranean Palettes‖ and
―Southwestern Palettes.‖ The sample Mediterranean landscapes are based on Canary Island palm, coast live oak,
Italian cypress and stone pine, lemon-scented gum, New
Zealand Christmas tree, oak, olive, prickly paperbark,
pomegranate, sugar gum, Torrey pine, or Western
sycamore. The Southwestern landscape mainstays are
California fan palm, palo verde, Southwestern chaparral, or
thornless mesquite.
Section Four is an opulent, 478-page illustrated compendium of 2,100 plants in alphabetical order—Sunset on
steroids. Perry gives you a brief lowdown on each plant,
gorgeous pictures—close-up and personal AND mature in
a landscape setting—and the vital statistics on zones and
irrigation requirements once again. I‘m impressed. And, of
course, it hardly needs saying but I‘ll say it anyway: there‘s
an extensive bibliography and excellent index.
With 2,100 plants, 3,100 photographs, 650 full-color
pages, a fully illustrated plant compendium, and water
usage charts for each plant and landscape grouping, the
book doesn‘t come cheap—around $80. Fortunately,
despite their limited budget, the Santa Cruz Public Library
has wisely prioritized this book and ordered three copies,
so it should be available there soon. For ordering information if you‘re feeling flush and for more on the book and
Bob Perry, see the Land Design Publishing website
( where you can even
download a PDF of the first three sections for a free
It must be obvious that I adore this book as much as
the author most obviously does—it is a labor of love, combining an artistic sensibility with a lifetime of experience
and enormous expertise into one gorgeously designed
package that both informs and delights. I just drooled over
it all day and hope you do, too—Christmas is only six
months away! 
Summer 2010
Relevant Internet Miscellany
—Christina Kriedt, MG06
Purchase EarthBoxes (pg. 9) for about $55-60 each at:
235 River St., Santa Cruz
Scarborough Gardens
33 El Pueblo Rd, Scotts Valley
Mountain Feed &Farm Supply
9550 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond 
Gopher troubles? A picture worth a thousand words:
Speaking of sweet furry animals: A pair of breeding cats
can have two or more litters per year, exponentially producing 420,000 offspring over a seven-year period! Adopt
a feral cat. Visit Project Purr: 
The World‘s Longest Carrot recorded in 2007 was 19
feet 1 7/8 inches, grown by Joe Atherton, UK. The World‘s
Heaviest Carrot was recorded in 1998 at 18.985 lb (single
root mass), grown by John V. R. Evans, USA. And the average person will consume 10,866 carrots in a lifetime. 
Field-grown dahlias at Swan Island Dahlias, Canby, Oregon 
Confessions of a Reluctant
—Christina Kriedt, again
I must confess that I have been gardening. Not, you
know, seriously, but just fiddling around in the yard. It‘s
hard to put my finger on it, but I think I‘ve been inspired
by the abundant growth that our healthy rainy season
encouraged. I want to keep up the good work but I‘ll try
to keep it down: don‘t want to jeopardize my reputation.
My little redwood tree, an 18-year old volunteer in a
pot of begonias (they died), has become quite respectablelooking. It has a lot of new growth including suckers at
the base; it‘s starting to look like a miniature grove. I
added worm compost during the spring; I‘ll bet that has
something to do with all the thriving that‘s going on. I did
mention in the spring issue (Growing Woody Herbs in
Containers, page 3,
/newsletters/GOTE138.pdf) that I have actually been using my
earthy vermi-compost, working it into the top 2‖ of soil in
my pots. I do believe it‘s working. And I now have, oh,
maybe a kazillion worms.
Seedlings of the neighbor‘s Pittosporum undulatum,
native daphne, are coming up here and there and really
need to be eliminated. I love the fragrance of the blossoms
in early spring, but one large tree that drops truckloads of
seeds is enough, especially when the germination rate is so
high. The bunny-rabbits of the plant world. I believe I can
find my loppers.
The houseplant Radermachera sinica, China doll, that I
placed outdoors one summer and never brought back in, is
becoming quite a sturdy little tree. It has tolerated several
years of winter temperatures and actually seems happier
out there than in here. No doubt all the rainwater was
good for it too. Although the trunk only has a DBH
(technical acronym for diameter at breast height) of 1‖, I‘m
still proud.
The Vancouveria bed along my northish foundation is
especially luxuriant and the little fuchsia (of unknown
variety that is resistant to fuchsia gall mites) poking up
through the Vancouveria, looks real. Just real.
There have been some notable exceptions vis-à-vis the
rain. My old pots of bamboo (I think they‘re Phyllostachys
aurea, golden bamboo) are looking sad—probably because
all the nutrients have leached out. Since they haven‘t been
repotted in years, come to think of it, there might be little
or no soil left at all. I feel a little guilty. I could try topping
with vermi-compost.... Also, the wisteria that covers the
carport had the worst flowering season ever. It was pitiful.
I have no idea why.
Bijou, my three-year old granddaughter who lives in
the house in front of mine, helped me plant seeds a few
weeks ago. She was delighted with the seedlings and
today we‘re going to transplant them. Now that is real
gardening. 
Summer 2010
Journal of the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners
EDITOR Christina Kriedt
ASSISTANT EDITORS Sharon Ettinger & Kathleen Sonntag
DESIGN/LAYOUT Christina Kriedt
Amy Savage S
Bonnie Pond S
Christina Kriedt C,S
Darcy Horton S
Cynthia Jordan C,S
Denise Weatherwax S
Glenn Lattig C
Kari Olsen S
Kathleen Sonntag C,S
Patricia Nicely C,S
Paul McCollum S
Sharon Ettinger C,S
Simon Stapleton C,S
Sue Tarjan C,S
The Monterey Bay Master Gardeners extends
research-based horticultural information;
creates and promotes educational and
recreational gardening activities in Monterey
and Santa Cruz counties; and supports the
educational program of the University of
California’s Cooperative Extension.
Board of Directors
Simon Stapleton, President
Denise Weatherwax, Vice President
Gigi Tacheny, Treasurer
Bonnie Pond
Barbara Gordon
Barbara Olsen
Betsy Shea
Denise Weatherwax
Liz Burns
Maryann McCormick
Page Fox
Patricia Nicely
Sheryl McEwan
A 501 (c) (3) Corporation
Post Office Box 1786
Capitola, CA 95010
HOTLINE 831-763-8007
Many thanks to all the dedicated
Monterey Bay Master Gardeners who readily
share their knowledge, expertise and advice.
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