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Posts Tagged: garden

A home garden can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions

A UC Santa Barbara study concluded that planting a home garden can cut carbon emissions to the atmosphere. However, if gardening isn't done right, it could actually contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, reported Nathanael Johnson on

The article looked at five factors that impacted greenhouse gas emissions in home gardens:

  1. Reduction of lawn area due to replacement by the garden
  2. Reduction of vegetables purchased from the grocery store
  3. Reduction in the amount of greywater sent to treatment facilities due to diversion to irrigate the garden
  4. Reduction in amount of household organic waste exported to treatment facilities due to home composting
  5. Organic household waste is composted for use in the garden

The abstract of the research article, written by David Cleveland, sustainable food systems professor in the Department of Geography, said:

"We found that (gardens) could reduce emissions by over 2 kg CO2e kg−1 vegetable, but that results were sensitive to the range of values for the key variables of yield and alternative methods for processing household organic waste."

In his Grist story, Johnson provided key points from the research that can help ensure the home garden is climate smart:

  • The main reduction from gardening comes from diverting food waste from the landfill, where it rots and emits methane and nitrous oxide. Food waste must be properly composted to prevent the emissions.
  • Planting a garden then forgetting about it ends up emitting more greenhouse gases than if you never started.

The article suggests that Californians contact their local UC Master Gardener program for assistance in properly managing a home vegetable garden. Johnson spoke to Kerrie Reid, the UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County.

"Reid doesn't abandon her plants midway through summer, and she doesn't over-plant and then end up throwing out dozens of thigh-thick zucchinis," Johnson wrote. "Sure, when the cucumbers peak, there are more than she and her husband can eat, she confesses, but they share with their neighbors. The neighbors also come over to harvest herbs from the sidewalk."

The article said readers can find their own version of Reid by looking up a local UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program.

UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County conduct sustainable gardening and hands-on workshops for the public.
Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 4:03 PM
Tags: climate change (89), garden (66), greenhouse gas (8)

Top 10 pests in gardens and landscapes and how to control them

Download the free booklet at the bottom of the page!

1. Ants

Most people deal with ants around their home at some point. Because most ants live outdoors, focus efforts on keeping ants from entering buildings by caulking entryways. Follow good sanitation practices to make your home less attractive to ants. Spraying ants inside the home will not prevent more ants from entering. Use baits to control the ant colony. Pesticide baits work by attracting worker ants who then take the poison back to the nest where the entire colony, including queens, can be killed. In the landscape, ants protect honeydew-producing pest insects from predators, so use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to keep ants out of trees and shrubs.


2. Aphids

Aphids can curl leaves and produce sticky honeydew, but they rarely kill plants and you usually can wash them off with water. When aphid numbers get high, natural enemies such as lady beetles (lady bugs), lacewings, syrphid fly larvae, soldier beetles and others frequently feed on them, eliminating the need for pesticides. Protect these good bugs by avoiding the use of insecticides that can be toxic to a broad variety of insects. Ants protect aphids from these natural enemies, so keep ants away from your garden as well. When pesticides are necessary, use less toxic products such as insecticidal soaps and oils.


3. Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing disease

The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly bacterial disease it spreads, Huanglongbing (HLB), threaten citrus trees in backyards and on farms. There is no cure or effective control method for HLB disease.  All types of citrus—including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and mandarins—are affected as well as a few closely related ornamentals. ACP and HLB have already devastated the Florida citrus industry, and now that it is in the Western U.S. it is threatening the California citrus industry as well.


4. Gophers

Gophers are small burrowing rodents that feed on roots of many types of plants. A single gopher can ruin a garden in a short time, and gopher gnawing can damage irrigation lines and sprinkler systems. In lawns, their mounds are unsightly and interfere with mowing. Early detection is critical to prevent damage. Use both traps and underground fencing to manage gopher problems. Toxic baits are available but can pose threats to wildlife, pets, and children, especially in backyard situations.


5. Leaf-feeding caterpillars

Caterpillars, which are the larvae of butterflies and moths, damage plants by chewing on leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruit. Caterpillars in fruit or wood can be difficult to manage because they are hidden most of their life and can cause serious damage even when numbers are low. However, many plants, especially perennials, can tolerate substantial leaf damage, so a few leaf-feeding caterpillars often aren't a concern. Handpicking and beneficial predators and parasites often provide sufficient control. Look for feeding holes, excrement, webbed or rolled leaves, caterpillars, eggs, and good bugs.


6. Peach leaf curl

Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that affects only peach and nectarine trees. Distorted, reddened foliage in the spring is a distinctive symptom. New leaves and shoots thicken and pucker and later may die and fall off. An infection that continues untreated for several years can lead to a tree's decline. To prevent peach leaf curl, treat peach and nectarine trees with a copper fungicide every year after leaves fall. After symptoms appear in the spring, any treatment will not be effective. When planting new trees, consider buying peach tree varieties that are resistant to the disease.


7. Rats

Rats eat and contaminate food, garden produce, and fruit, and transmit diseases to humans and pets. Manage rats by removing food and shelter, eliminating entryways into buildings, and trapping. Snap traps are the safest, most effective, and most economical way to trap rats. For Norway rats, place traps close to walls, behind objects, in dark corners, and in places where you have found rat droppings. For roof rats, place traps in off-the-ground locations such as ledges, shelves, branches, fences, pipes, or overhead beams. Ensure traps are out of reach of children and pets.


8. Scales

Scale insects suck plant juices and are pests of many trees and shrubs. Infestations can cause yellowing or premature dropping of leaves, sticky honeydew, and blackish sooty mold. Plant parts can distort or die back, depending on the species and abundance of scales. Most plants tolerate low to moderate numbers of scales. Provide plants with proper cultural care, especially irrigation. Encourage scale predators such as lady beetles or lacewings and look for parasite emergence holes in scale covers. Use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to selectively control scale-tending ants. Consider replacing problem-prone plants because most scales are highly specific to certain plants.


9. Snails and slugs

These slimy mollusks emerge from hiding at night and chew holes in leaves and flowers of many succulent garden plants and fruit. Management requires a vigilant and integrated approach that includes eliminating moisture and hiding spots, trapping, setting up barriers, and handpicking. Regularly remove snails from shelters you can't eliminate such as low ledges on fences, undersides of decks, and meter boxes. Place traps in your garden and dispose of trapped snails and slugs daily. Reduce moist surfaces by switching to drip irrigation or watering in the morning rather than later in the day. Consider snail-proof plants such as impatiens, geraniums, begonias, lantana, nasturtiums, and many plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage such as sage, rosemary, and lavender.


10. Weeds in landscapes

Prevent weed invasions in new beds with good site preparation. Keep weeds out with an integrated program that includes competitive plants, mulches, and hand removal. Be particularly vigilant about removing aggressive perennial weeds. You rarely should need herbicides in established landscape plantings. Mulches prevent weed seed germination by blocking sunlight. Remove small weeds by hand before they flower and set seed. Use shallow cultivation or hoeing to remove annual weeds from ornamental plantings. Only use herbicides for special-problem situations before establishing new plantings or for difficult-to-control perennial weeds.


To see all of the University of California's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's information on home, garden, and landscape pests, visit

For other short pest “Quick Tips” like the ten above, see

 To read even more in-depth, peer-reviewed information on many other common home and landscape pests in California, see the Pest Notes series at

Download your free UC IPM Quick Tips Booklet of the Top Ten Pests in Gardens and Landscapes and How to Control Them with the link below! 

Posted on Friday, June 10, 2016 at 12:30 PM
  • Author: Tyler Ash

Lacewings! Lacewings! Lacewings!

A green lacewing lands on an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

There it was. A beautiful green lacewing, family Chrysopidae, resting on a yellow Iceland poppy in our bee garden. It literally glowed. Nice to have...

A green lacewing lands on an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A green lacewing lands on an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A green lacewing lands on an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Membranous wings of the green lacewing. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Membranous wings of the green lacewing. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Membranous wings of the green lacewing. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This lacewing was checking its surroundings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This lacewing was checking its surroundings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This lacewing was checking its surroundings.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 5:36 PM
Tags: Chrysopidae (2), garden (66), green lacewings (2), lacewings (3), UC IPM (40)

Turn a 'victory garden' into a 'vitamin garden'

UC Cooperative Extension's Yvonne Savio suggests home gardeners check their vitamin gardens every other day to harvest at optimum maturity.
Many Americans fall short of the daily recommended doses of vitamins needed for optimal health. Bottled supplements can help, but it's better to fill the gap with a vitamin garden, reported Suzanne Sproul in the Los Angeles Daily News.

"In Southern California, we can indeed turn gardens into vitamin patches," said Kari Walker, a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer in LA County. "It is not hard and you don't need a lot of space for a garden."

A registered dietician quoted in the story says fruit and vegetables' vitamin levels will be at their highest when eaten raw immediately after harvest.

"Nothing beats fruits and vegetables for digestion, sources of fiber and good nutrition," she said. "Mom is always right."

For a sidebar, Sproul turned to the coordinator of the UCCE Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles County, Yvonne Savio.

Savio suggested Southern California residents plant lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplants and other heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuces, melons, okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, summer and winter squash, and tomatoes before the end of June.

Add more vitamins to the garden with herbs and spices. Savio suggested lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme in sunny, dry areas. Basil, chives, coriander and parsley prefer richer soil with more frequent watering.

More details about planting, irrigating, feeding and harvesting a home garden in Southern California are on the LA County Master Gardeners website.


Posted on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Tags: garden (66), Yvonne Savio (10)

A Mockingbird Can Change Your Tune

Until last year, the noisy Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) irritated me. Flitting from limb to fence to rooftop, this shrill impersonator of other birds’ song and sounds was not welcomed in my garden. But that was before a family of 10 moved into the neighborhood right across the street from my house and brought with them four felines that roam free 24-7. Needless to say, these cats prowl my front, side and backyard for birds. Within days, the seed feeders I had tacked atop fence posts and the bird baths I'd placed in the flowerbeds sat empty. No Towhees, Gold Finches or Robins. No Quail or Doves. Not even a Blue Jay or House Sparrow.

Now when I sat at my kitchen table sipping my morning coffee, I look out the window at cats slinking along the header of the wooden fence. Instead of enjoying the daily ritual of birds scratching the soil and sifting through leaves for insects, I see cats hiding behind bushes hunting for a feathered meal. Four uninvited cats licking their chops and leaving behind their business.  Needless to say I'm one unhappy gardener. Yet what  bothers me most is that I miss the twitter and squawk, the chatter and the chirp of bird song.

Until yesterday, I thought my days of listening to cheeps, coos and trills are history. Then out of the blue, a “many-tongued mimic” flitted into my backyard. Guess what?  I was so excited to see a Mockingbird that I vowed never again to grouse about its mating call, even it woke me up at 2 a.m. This weekend I plan to rummage through the garage for paint to construct a small garden sign that reads:

 ALL feathered friends welcomed here — even Mockers, Mimics and Misfits

Here are a couple of tidbits you might find interesting about the Mockingbird.

• The Latin name (Mimus polyglottos) really does mean “many-tongued mimic.” Recognized calls of the Mockingbird are:  Hew call used to warn of nest predators and interaction between mates. Chat (used year-round when disturbed) or chat burst (specific to fall and used in territorial defense). Nest relief call and the begging call (used only by males).
• An omnivore that forages through vegetation and on the ground. Both male and female look alike, nest build, and are socially monogamous. 
• The State bird of five states, known for its ability to recognize previous threats and intruders (including humans) and to return to prior breeding grounds. Today more Northern Mockingbirds live in urban habitats than rural areas and are considered a positive species.

For me, the very presence of this fascinating intelligent bird triggers an age-old in-depth conversation. Personally, I am at a loss for words, a good thing lest I write something naughty about the neighbors. Certainly, the Mockingbird’s reappearance in my yard is helping me change my tune about this amazing bird. But I can’t say the same about the cats. As a former “responsible” cat lover-owner who appreciates pets, I must be honest about these neighborhood free roamers. Seems to me that gardeners have little voice on the block to truly convey the environmental, emotional and spiritual impact of losing the sweet simple melody of their garden.

Yet maybe, in time, with enough cats as mentors, Mockingbirds will learn to meow. Now that’s a thought to ponder. I mean, can you imagine a 2 a.m. repertoire of screeching feline frenzy?

Mimus polyglottos (courtesy of
Mimus polyglottos (courtesy of

Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 3:54 PM
Tags: cats (3), garden (66), intruders (1), many-tongued (1), mimics (1), mockingbird (1)

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