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UC Master Gardeners ‘Garden Walks’ conserves millions of gallons of water annually in Marin

The Marin Municipal Water District has saved nearly 30 million gallons of water since it initiated a partnership with UC Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program in Marin to teach residents how to conserve water.

The program, Garden Walks, was established in 2008 to help Marin conserve water in a district with limited supply. MMWD purchases about 75% of its water from reservoirs on Mt. Tamalpais and in west Marin, and the rest from Sonoma County's Russian River water system.

Garden Walks provides personalized information and advice to water district customers focused on improving their irrigation practices to conserve water. The part-time coordinator sets up about 150 appointments a year for UC Master Gardener volunteers to visit the homes of Marin County residents and teach them how to manage their outdoor water usage with conservation in mind.

“When we finish our visits, I hope that the client is more confident about being proactive in their garden,” said Pam Polite Fisco, the program coordinator. “We hope they will be saving water, will use natives and will encourage wildlife in their gardens.”

Overwatering the landscape and leaks in irrigation systems are the two most common water-wasting mistakes identified by the Garden Walks program. (Photo: Pixabay)

The volunteers, dispatched in pairs, spend about an hour at the homes. They walk the garden and talk with residents about grouping plants with similar water requirements, adding mulch to the soil surface and composting clippings, leaves and other green waste so it stays on the property.

The UC Master Gardeners teach the residents how to check their water meters and use the meter to help determine whether there are leaks in the system. They provide advice on water-conserving plants, such as natives or other drought-tolerant plants. They ask the residents to run their sprinklers and other irrigation systems to ensure they know how to manage the controls.

The majority of the water savings realized by the program stems from repairing leaks and cutting back on overwatering, said Steven Swain, UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor and the technical advisor to the Marin County Master Gardener program.

As part of their agreement with UC Cooperative Extension, the Marin Water District monitors changes in water usage and reports them annually on their website, allowing Swain to determine the program's impact.

The majority of water savings during the life of the program is attributable to just one quarter of the houses Master Gardeners visited; three quarters of participants were managing water sustainably.

“Sometimes, our volunteers just give the residents a pat on the back and compliment them for a job well done,” Swain said.

About 6% of the clients visited have hidden water leaks in their irrigation systems. These leaks can waste huge amounts of water if not caught, and account for a large portion of the water savings.  Another 18% of clients are overwatering, which accounts for much of the rest of the savings.

Considering the value of the water conserved by the Garden Walks program, the $40,000 annual cost to hire the coordinator is more than offset by the reducing amount of water the district must provide.

This program has received a number of awards, including the Marin Conservation League's Ted Wellman Water Award in 2010. In 2011, it received first place in the UC Master Gardener's Search For Excellence awards and the Community Outreach Award at the National Extension Master Gardener Coordinating Conference. Marin County residents have also praised the program.

“The Master Gardener team was friendly, professional and helpful and shared their positive attitude to their garden and their outreach,” said Fairfax resident ‘Julie' in a follow-up survey

‘Jean' of San Rafael said, “I'm a beginning gardener. They helped me figure out how to start off right.”

A number of California counties were inspired by the success of the Marin County Garden Walks program and have adopted similar efforts to visit homeowners and assess irrigation efficiency.

View a video about the Marin Garden Walks porgram:

Posted on Monday, April 5, 2021 at 11:35 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Meet Emily Meineke, New UC Davis Urban Landscape Entomologist

These redhumped caterpillars, to become  moths, Schizura concinna, family Notodontidae, are dining on the leaf of a  Western redbud, (Cercis occidentalis) in Vacaville, Calif. Emily Meineke, newest faculty member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, studies how climate change and urban development affect insects, plants, and how they interact with one another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

While you're sheltering in place due to the coronavirus pandemic precautions, not too many people are aware of a new faculty member in the UC Davis...

These redhumped caterpillars, to become  moths, Schizura concinna, family Notodontidae, are dining on the leaf of a  Western redbud, (Cercis occidentalis) in Vacaville, Calif. Emily Meineke, newest faculty member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, studies how climate change and urban development affect insects, plants, and how they interact with one another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
These redhumped caterpillars, to become moths, Schizura concinna, family Notodontidae, are dining on the leaf of a Western redbud, (Cercis occidentalis) in Vacaville, Calif. Emily Meineke, newest faculty member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, studies how climate change and urban development affect insects, plants, and how they interact with one another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

These redhumped caterpillars, to become moths, Schizura concinna, family Notodontidae, are dining on the leaf of a Western redbud, (Cercis occidentalis) in Vacaville, Calif. Emily Meineke, newest faculty member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, studies how climate change and urban development affect insects, plants, and how they interact with one another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 4:29 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Economic Development, Environment, Innovation, Natural Resources, Pest Management, Yard & Garden

Architectural Structure of Collapsed Feral Bee Colony Saved for UC Davis Public Display

The collapsed feral honey bee colony as it looked on Oct. 4 before it was cut and removed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The architectural structure of a collapsed feral honey bee colony in a hollowed-out Eucalyptus tree in a secluded area near the Nut Tree Airport,...

The collapsed feral honey bee colony as it looked on Oct. 4 before it was cut and removed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The collapsed feral honey bee colony as it looked on Oct. 4 before it was cut and removed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The collapsed feral honey bee colony as it looked on Oct. 4 before it was cut and removed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company prepares to save the collapsed colony for display in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company prepares to save the collapsed colony for display in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company prepares to save the collapsed colony for display in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

With part of the tree cut, the feral honey bee colony is ready to be saved. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
With part of the tree cut, the feral honey bee colony is ready to be saved. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

With part of the tree cut, the feral honey bee colony is ready to be saved. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company lowers the tree limb section. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company lowers the tree limb section. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company lowers the tree limb section. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Robert Arndt of the Nut Tree Airport hefts the tree section from Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Co. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Robert Arndt of the Nut Tree Airport hefts the tree section from Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Co. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Robert Arndt of the Nut Tree Airport hefts the tree section from Jose Garcia of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Co. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Showcasing the collapsed feral honey bee colony are (from left) Karen Cometta Shepard of Vacaville; Robert Arndt of the Nut Tree Airport; and Jose Garcia and Dennis Stark of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Showcasing the collapsed feral honey bee colony are (from left) Karen Cometta Shepard of Vacaville; Robert Arndt of the Nut Tree Airport; and Jose Garcia and Dennis Stark of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Showcasing the collapsed feral honey bee colony are (from left) Karen Cometta Shepard of Vacaville; Robert Arndt of the Nut Tree Airport; and Jose Garcia and Dennis Stark of the Atlas Tree and Landscape Company. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

With the collapsed feral honey bee colony in the foreground, the crew salvages the honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
With the collapsed feral honey bee colony in the foreground, the crew salvages the honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

With the collapsed feral honey bee colony in the foreground, the crew salvages the honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A taste of honey: Honey comb in the hollow of the tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A taste of honey: Honey comb in the hollow of the tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A taste of honey: Honey comb in the hollow of the tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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 http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html

For other short pest “Quick Tips” like the ten above, see http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/

 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 http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/index.html

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

What’s attacking your landscape? Read all about it in the newly released book from UC ANR

What do Asian citrus psyllids, Bagrada bugs, brown marmorated stink bugs, palm weevils, and polyphagous shothole borers have in common? Not only are they invasive pests relatively new to California, but they have also been added to the newly revised ANR publication, Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs.

Now in its third edition, this integrated pest management (IPM) how-to guide is a comprehensive resource for arborists, home gardeners, landscapers, parks and ground managers, and retail nurseries. It contains solutions for hundreds of insects, mites, nematodes, plant disorders and diseases, and weeds that can damage California landscapes.

Dozens of pests new to this edition include those affecting azaleas, camellias, camphor, eucalyptus, hibiscus, liquidambar, maples, oaks, olive, palms, pines, roses and sycamores.

A very important part of pest management is designing a pest-tolerant landscape, choosing the right plants for the location, and maintaining the landscape with appropriate irrigation, fertilizer, and other cultural practices to keep plants healthy.

These practices are featured along with information on how to:

  • prevent pest problems and plant damage
  • monitor for pests efficiently
  • conserve natural enemies to provide biological control, and
  • selectively use pesticides in ways that minimize adverse impacts

A sampling of pages in Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs.
Presenting the practical experience and research-based advice of more than 100 University of California experts and landscape professionals, this 437-page book includes more than 600 high-quality color photographs and line drawings to help you recognize important pests and key natural enemies, causes and symptoms of plant damage, and pest biology and control techniques.

Problem-Solving Tables include the specific pests for each of over 200 genera of trees and shrubs, referring to the pages with their photographs and management solutions.

Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs: An Integrated Pest Management Guide, Third Edition, can be ordered through the ANR catalog. For more information, see the UC IPM website.  

Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 2:49 PM

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