UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County

General Gardening

Backyard Bees

Beekeeping is a fun, fascinating and rewarding hobby. Within the pages of our quarterly publication, The Garden Beet, is a 4-part article on how to set up and maintain your own backyard bee hive.

Garden Beet Winter 2016 - Part I - Backyard Beekeeping (pages 1-2)

Garden Beet Spring 2017 - Part II - Backyard Beekeeping (pages 4-5)

Garden Beet Summer 2017 - Part III - Backyard Beekeeping (pages 6-7)

Garden Beet Fall 2017 - Part IV Backyard Beekeeping (pages 8-9)

Bees and beekeepers

honeybee on lavender
Some ways gardeners can help protect honey bees: An article by Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist


If honeybees establish a beehive or you see a large number of bees swarming somewhere on your property, you may want to read about Removing Honey Bee Swarms and Established Hives.

But you needn’t contact a bee removal service immediately when you find a bee swarm or colony.  When bees swarm, they are looking for a new home and they are very docile because they are loaded with honey. If they are hanging on a tree limb, they're just tired. Give them their space and they will usually leave within a day or two after they've had their rest. 

If they don’t leave after a few days, or if they have taken up residence inside a structure, you will probably want to contact a beekeeper for bee removal services.  Bee removal services to homeowners and commercial sites are part of a beekeeper’s business, so you should expect to pay a fee to have a swarm removed. Do give the bees every chance, since bees are an important resource and shouldn’t be needlessly exterminated. 
Here are some local Orange County beekeepers who perform bee removals, generally without extermination:

Lynne Gallaugher, Beekeeper
Phone: (714) 408-0018
Email:  justpeachybees@hotmail.com

Kelly or Janet
Phone: (800) 476-6105
Email: rescue@backyardbees.net
Website: http://www.backyardbees.net/

Guerilla Beekeepers
Phone: (949) 939-3296 or 855-LUV-BEES (855-588-2337)
Website: http://www.guerillabeekeepers.com/

The Bee Guys
Phone: (714) 960-7856
Email: info@thebeeguys.com
Website: http://www.orangecountybeeguys.com/index.html

If you need other bee-related services, you can check a national website for beekeeping and products.  Click on ‘Swarm Removal’ and be sure to ask whomever you contact whether bees are relocated or exterminated.  Note that not all of our local beekeepers are listed on this site. 


Companion Planting

Companion Planting

Companion Planting refers to the practice of planting two or more different species of plants with the purpose of providing some benefit to one or more of the plant “companions.”  The term companion planting can mean different things to different people.  The term is generally applied to vegetable gardens, but it can be applied to general landscapes.  Some forms of companion planting have been proven effective; others are mostly folk-lore, unsupported by science.  Some of the practices that have been labeled as companion planting are shown below.  

•    Placing plants with similar water needs together is known as hydrozoning and is a recommended practice to produce healthy plants without wasting water.

•    Using tall plants to shade shorter plants that don’t need as much sun is known as interplanting and works well in the garden.  For example, lettuce can be planted in the shade of tomatoes or broccoli to extend the lettuce season.  

•    Flowers can be planted between vegetables to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects for crops that need them.  It also adds color to the vegetable garden.

•    Trap crops, such as radishes, can be used to cut down on insect damage to main crops by providing harmful insects with an alternative food source.  A trap crop must be carefully managed so it doesn’t end up increasing the population of unwanted insects.  This means spraying the trap crop when the pests gather there.  To be effective, trap crops must be planted like a fence, not sprinkled here and there in the garden.  

•    Strongly scented plants scattered between vegetables can make it harder for pests to find their host plant.  Basil, onion, garlic and mint can be used.  Note that if you put mint in the garden, keep it in a pot to prevent it from overtaking your entire bed.  

•    Cover crops can replace nutrients in the soil.  A cover crop is planted for the purpose of improving soil quality and nutrition, and/or for attracting beneficial insects. A cover crop that is planted in the fall and tilled under in the spring is often referred to as a “green manure” crop.  

•    The “Three Sister” garden is often used as an example of companion planting.  Corn is planted first to provide support for pole beans and a few squash or pumpkins are planted in the area to provide shade for the roots.  Beans do not provide nitrogen for the corn as it grows; bean plant roots release nitrogen as they break down at the end of the growing season.  

The following companion planting practices are not supported by research:
•    Placing certain vegetables near each other to improve flavor or vigor of the plant.
•    Scattering marigolds throughout the garden to reduce certain root knot nematodes.  To be effective, French marigolds should be planted as a solid planting for an entire season.  The nematode population will increase again when susceptible crops are planted.
•    Carrots “love” tomatoes and beans “dislike” fennel are not supported by science, nor are the companion planting charts found on many internet sites.
Feel free to experiment in your own garden to see what works for you.   


Crop Rotation

Crop rotation simply means planting vegetables in different garden locations every 2-3 years, that is, rotating their location in the garden. It's really helpful to have a sketch or diagram of your vegetable garden each year, indicating where each type of vegetable was planted that year. Then, when planning for the following season, you know where to plant the vegetables.

Pests and diseases can build up in the soil over time. Rotating crops moves plant hosts to a new location which helps prevent the spread of diseases. Moving plants also means soil-borne insect pests have a harder time finding plant hosts.

Members of the same vegetable family can be susceptible to the same pests and diseases, so members of the same family follow the same rules. This means, for example, that you should relocate any of the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes) in the garden each year or two. Also, for example, don't plant peppers in the same location as tomatoes  were planted the previous year.

Plant Families

Aster family - Artichoke, endive, escarole, lettuce, raddichio, jerusalem artichokes
Beet family - Beets, chard, spinach, quinoa
Cabbage family - Arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapini, turnip
Carrot family - Anise, carrot, celery, cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley
Gourd family - Cucumber, melons, pumpkin, squash, watermelon
Grass family - Corn, barley, rice, rye, wheat
Legume family - Beans, peas, peanuts, fava beans, soybeans, lentils
Nightshade family - Tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato
Onion family - Chives, garlic, leek, onion, shallot 

A simple example of crop rotation in a garden that is divided into 4 sections.


espalier fig tree

Espalier is the art of training shrubs and trees, usually fruit trees, to grow flat against a wall, on a trellis, or between support wires.

Training trees on a sturdy trellis can provide a fruiting wall in a narrow space, either free standing with space on both sides (preferable) or against a fence or house. Apples, pears, and Asian pears are especially well adapted to espalier training, but other species may work with extra effort. There are many ways to train the branches, including fan shapes, but typically three to four horizontal wires are spaced about 1½ - 2 feet apart vertically, and the lateral shoots are tied (trained) along the wire running in either direction. For best results, shoots can be initially trained upward at about a 45° angle on a bamboo stake to keep them growing vigorously. Once they reach the desired length, shoots can be lowered to the wire. Vigorous shoots should be cut back during the growing season to encourage spur growth. Lateral growth from the branches should be kept short to prevent shading of lower branches. If shoot growth is excessive, provide more space by extending the trellis outward or upward.


Citrus Espalier

By selective pruning, the branches of citrus trees can be espaliered, that is, trained to grow flat against a wall or a framework, allowing you to grow fruit in a confined space such as a narrow bed or side yard. According to the Sunset book Citrus (1996), some of the best choices for espalier are Eureka lemon, Nagami kumquat, Eustis limequat, Tarocco blood orange, and Chandler pummelo.

Start with a young tree because it will be easier to train. You can design an informal espalier in which you plant the tree directly in front of a structure, allow it to branch naturally, and prune (cut away) any branches that stick out too far. Or you can design a formal espalier in which you train the tree into a precise geometric pattern (see diagram).

espalier design citrus




For a beginner, the informal design is easiest. In a climate at the edge of ideal for growing citrus, citrus espalier may have a distinct advantage. Training a citrus tree against a sunny, south-facing wall may supply enough heat that fruit ripening and winter tree survival will be more likely.


Fall garden planning

August and September are the best months to sow winter vegetable seeds, such as beet, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrot, cauliflower, celery, endive, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leek, head and leaf lettuce, onion, pea, radish, spinach, Swiss chard and turnip.

Just about any of these can be put in as transplants later in September or October.

Review our Edible Plants pages for more information on individual plants, and also review the information at the Vegetable Research & Information Center.

Fertilizing transplants

Do you fertilize transplants when you first plant them?

We recommend you wait about 1 week after planting transplants of vegetables or ornamentals before fertilizing to allow them to establish themselves in the new environment.

Green Lacewings

Green lacewing
Green lacewing adults are small, graceful insects with wings that look like membranes and green bodies that are commonly found in the garden.
Green lacewing larva
Larvae are pale with striped markings and large jaws; they look like tiny alligators, only about 3 to 20 mm long. Adults and larva prey upon a wide variety of small insects including mealybugs, psyllids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, aphids, small caterpillars, leafhoppers, and insect eggs.

Lacewings can overwinter in our mild climate, and both larva and adults are found in the garden year-round. Green lacewings are available commercially and are among the most commonly released predators.

Brown lacewing
A related species but much less common is the brown lacewing. Brown lacewings look similar to green lacewings except they are about half the size and brown in color. The larva of both species look very similar. Brown lacewing adults and larva are also general predators, and prey on a large variety of small insects. Brown lacewings are not commercially available.

Growing from seed

Here are 2 new articles that help you be successful growing seeds.

Understanding Seeds - This informative articles gives you information on history, family characteristics, and how to make seeds grow.

Seed Buying 201 - Seed questions answered - This article answers questions about topics such as heirloom seeds and hybrid seeds, open pollinated seeds, and mush more.

For more information and more articles, go to the Home Garden Seed Association website.

Hay Bale Garden

hay bay
Have you ever seen a garden made from hay or straw bales?

Using hay or straw bales is a great way to have a raised garden bed without the cost or hassle of building frames and filling with soil and amendments.  You don’t have to dig or amend the soil, and weeds are not a problem.  It is inexpensive, simple to do, and best of all, at the end of a season or two, the remains of the hay or straw bale and what was planted become compost to use in building a new one.  If it turns out you don’t like the location of your hay bale bed, it is easy to plant the next one in a better, maybe sunnier location.  Plants love it.  The main concern will be keeping it moist as the hay or straw bale bed tends to dry out more quickly than if plants are directly in the ground.Our example below uses 5 hay or straw bales, but you can use fewer or more depending on the available space. Arrange the bales in a convenient configuration, depending on the number of bales that you use.

What You Need
-5 bales of hay or straw (straw bales are usually cheaper than hay bales)
-A soaker hose (or a drip system)
-Landscape cloth for underneath if gophers or other burrowing animals are a problem
-Consider fencing the perimeter of the bed if rabbits are a problem Potting soil (one bag per bale)
-Compost (one bag per bale)
-Transplants of whatever you like to eat and want to grow. Seeds do not work as well as transplants, so if you want to start with seeds, grow them to transplant size first

Building the Bed and Readying It for Planting
-Arrange 4 of the bales in a square, leaving the center open It’s recommended that the bales sit so that the twine (made of plastic or metal) is on the top and bottom of the bale and the hay or straw lies horizontally.  This way the water will soak through the bale rather than running quickly through to the ground underneath
-Break open the 5th bale and put the loose hay or straw in the open center, but make sure that it is packed in so it will hold the transplants.  This is where you will place root plants such as potatoes, carrots, beets, or onions
-Spread a layer of potting soil on top of all of the bales, to a thickness of 2-3 inches
-Spread some fertilizer on top of the soil, at the rate recommended on the package
-Spread a layer of compost on top of all, to a thickness of 2-3 inches
-Water thoroughly, and continue watering for 5-10 days, giving enough time for the compost and straw to “cook.”  Then let sit for 1-2 weeks to cool off.  Warm is okay, but you don’t want to “cook” the roots of the plants

When and How to Plant
-Choose what you want to plant, based on the season, what you will eat and how much of a harvest you expect to get.  Anything that grows in the ground or in a raised bed will grow in the hay/straw bale
-Plan to support any plant that would need support if grown in the ground, for example, tomatoes or peas
-Consider letting some plants that like to “ramble” grow over and down the sides of the bales, for example, cucumbers, squash or melons
-Plants that grow taller should be planted on the north side of the bed, while shorter growing plants, such as herbs, should be placed on the south side, in front
-Consider an organized plan for your plantings, including flowering ornamentals, especially along the sides of the bales
-Grow beets, carrots, onions, and potatoes in the middle section
-Consider the following capacity per bale (you have 4 bales to plant)
   Up to 6 cucumber plants, trailing over the edge, or…
   3 squash, zucchini or melon plants, again trailing, or…
   4 pepper plants, or…
   12 - 15 bush bean or pea plants, or…
   2-3 tomato plants
-You have 4 bales plus the center part to work with, so consider the combinations based on what you like to eat and how much you want These are just rough ideas about how many plants per bale, but you can plant other things as well, like herbs.  Consider the mature size of each plant compared to the guidelines above when planting
-Other plants that grow well in a hay bale include lettuces of all kinds, cabbages, broccoli, spinach, chard, bok choy, kale.  Avoid invasive herbs like mints

-Water frequently, depending on the weather, but probably daily.  The risk of the bales drying out is a concern.  They do dry out more quickly than anything planted in the ground or in a traditional raised bed
-You can put a soaker hose on a timer so you don’t need to worry about watering
-Feed your plants using a balanced fertilizer intended for vegetables.  Follow the guide on the package for amount and frequency of feeding
-You can add compost and soil if the bed sinks too much and you want to keep it going.  You can even add new plants without totally starting over
-When the plants are finished growing and producing, simply let the entire bed become compost; or break it up and add it to your compost pile


How to find a good arborist

Trees are valuable resources and deserve to have professional care. To find a certified arborist, you can visit the following website: www.treesaregood.org. This site allows you to search for certified arborists in your area. The site also contains a lot of information on tree care.

Most established local tree service companies have arborists on their staff. Some of the larger nurseries in Orange County have ISA-certified arborists on staff. You can verify that an arborist is certified by visiting the above site.

We encourage you to comment here on any positive experiences you have with an individual arborist or tree service company.  This will help us to be of even greater assistance to the gardening public in Orange County

How to have a pest or plant disease identified

How to have a pest or plant disease identified

Do not drop off diseased plant material or insects at South Coast Research and Extension Center.  The Orange County Extension Office does not take samples for identification.


The Orange County Agricultural Commissioner can help with identifying plant diseases and plant pests.  Their website has instructions for preparing a specimen.

Lab Services and Specimen Identification

Specimens can be dropped off at:

Agricultural Commissioner's Office
Orange County
222 E. Bristol Lane
Orange, CA 92865-2714
Telephone (714) 955-0100
Fax (714) 921-2713


The Agricultural Commissioner's office no longer has a resident entomologist.  Pest samples submitted to this office are now being sent up to Sacramento for identification, so the response time may increase significantly.  Once the disease or pest is identified, you will receive a letter in the U.S. mail from Sacramento. The local office is no longer able to answer phone questions about the status of a pest submittal. 

 Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control can identify insects samples (no live specimens).

Their website has instructions for insect identification. 

Insect Identification (OC Mosquito and Vector Control)

Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District
13001 Garden Grove Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Main line: (714) 971-2421 or (949) 654-2421
Fax (714) 971-3940


How to have your soil tested

To determine the exact components of your soil, you can do any of the following three things:

You can purchase a soil test kit at many retail garden centers and do the testing yourself
Soil test kits range in cost from $10 to $50 for multiple tests.  A Technology & Product Report from the American Society of Horticultural Science assessed the accuracy of commercially available soil test kits, as compared to test results from an analytical laboratory:
       #1. La Motte Soil Test Kit (La Motte Co., Chesteron, MD)   94%
       #2. Rapidtest® (Luster Leaf Products, Woodstock, IL)    92%
       #3. Quick Soiltest (Hanna, Woonsocket, RI)      64%

Source: HortTechnology 17:358-362 (2007) 

Or you can send a soil sample to a testing laboratory
Testing laboratories charge for soil analysis.  We suggest that you call the selected laboratory prior to submitting samples. Quite often samples must be taken, packaged, and sent in a particular manner in order to obtain the best possible diagnosis.  Soil testing laboratories in Southern California are:
1. Associated Labs, Orange (714-771-6900)
2. Soil and Plant Laboratory, Inc., Orange (714-282-8777)
3. Wallace Laboratories, El Segundo (800-473-3699)
4. The PACE Turfgrass Research facility in Oceanside (760-272-9897) maintains a list of soil analytical laboratories.

Or you can visit Orange County Farm Supply in Orange and drop off a sample; be sure to call them at (714) 978-6500 first to find out how to take a sample. 

Click here for an introduction to amending soils from Colorado State University.

Irrigation Tips

Teaching plant roots to grow deeply for water will lessen irrigation needs during hot weather. The weather and the texture of your soil will determine the amount and frequency of irrigation to apply to your garden. Heavy clay soils require less frequent irrigation than sandy loam soils. During long periods of hot weather plants need more frequent irrigation than during periods with more moderate temperatures. However, excess irrigation that keeps the soil soggy will increase root rot problems.

Mulching the soil with a 4-5 inch layer of organic matter such as leaves, straw or grass clippings will temper the drying and heating effects of sun and heat, allowing irrigation to be more effective with less frequency and quantity. Mulch also deters weed seed germination, and will break down gradually to provide constant nutrition to plant roots.

To test how deeply your irrigation water is penetrating, water for the usual length of time, then push a trowel into the soil its full length. Push the soil clump to one side, or lift it out completely, and look at both the depth of the roots and the water line in the soil - it'll be dark where it's moist and lighter where it's dry. The water line should be just past the longest roots. If it hasn't gotten this far down, replace the clump, water again, and test another spot until the water line is below the roots. Adding all these irrigation times together gives you the correct amount of time for each watering - at least during that part of the season.

Don't water again until two-thirds of the root length is again dry. This may mean that you can double the time between waterings, and the plant roots will not suffer during the really hot part of the summer.

With permission from Yvonne Savio, UCCE MG LA County

Lady Beetles

Convergent lady beetle
Adult lady beetles are easily recognized by their shiny, half-dome shape and bright colors and black spots. Larvae are red and black striped, active, have long legs, and resemble tiny alligators.
Larva of lady beetle

Both adults and larvae feed primarily on aphids and occasionally on whiteflies. In California, many lady beetle species overwinter in large aggregations in the Sierra Nevada. In the spring, adults fly down from the mountains to coastal and valley areas. Lady beetles are extremely important natural enemies of aphids.

They are also available commercially, and if used in sufficient numbers and properly handled, lady beetles can effectively control aphids in a limited area. Release lady beetles at dusk or early evening onto plants that have been misted so they are slightly wet. Place them at the base of plants on lower branches. They will crawl up looking for aphids. Make sure the plants have not been sprayed with any insecticides. Expect that most of the lady beetles will fly away within a few days; if aphids return, you will have to release more lady beetles.


Mealybug Destroyer

Mealybugs are soft, flat insects that live in colonies and suck sap from plants. If the population is large, they can reduce plant vigor and cause fruit drop on citrus. They also excrete honeydew, which attracts ants and sooty mold - a general nuisance. 

Mealybug destroyer
Natural predators generally keep mealybug populations under control, and one of these predators is the Mealybug Destroyer. The adult mealybug destroyer is a small dark brown beetle with a light brown head.
Mealybug destroyer larva
The larvae look like a large mealybug but are more active. Adults and larvae also prey on other similar soft-bodied insects.

The Mealybug Destroyer is available commercially in the early spring, and used for citrus and in greenhouses.

Native bees

Many types of urban residential gardens provide floral and nesting resources for the reproduction and survival of bees, especially a diversity of native bees. Habitat gardening for bees, using targeted ornamental plants, can predictably increase bee diversity and abundance, and provide clear pollination benefits.

Read more about how you can encourage and attract native bees and about the benefits of having these pollinators in your garden.


Planting Chart

There are many vegetables to choose from and it is important to plant them at the right time of year. Here's a useful Planting Chart that lists most vegetables, which months of the year are best, and which are acceptable, to plant them.

Praying Mantis

Praying mantis
Praying mantis adults are easily identified in the garden by their long bodies and grasping forelegs. They have a habit of holding their forelegs up while waiting for prey. They are general predators, eating any insects they can catch.  The egg cases, which are hard and grayish, are available commercially.

Raised bed gardens

raised bed at Farm & Food Lab, Great Park
If you intend to put the raised bed garden on top of lawn, it is best to have a barrier to prevent grass and weeds from growing up into the garden. Landscape cloth is best for placing under a raised bed garden on the lawn.

Plywood would rot and may have chemicals from the glue which could leach into your soil. Plastic would prevent water from penetrating through the raised bed to the soil beneath, causing your soil to stay too wet. Landscape cloth will prevent weeds and grass from growing into the raised bed garden while allowing water to penetrate into the underlying soil. Landscape cloth can be purchased at nurseries, hardware or big box stores.

If you intend to put the raised bed garden on concrete, landscape cloth is also a good idea. It will help retain the soil while allowing water to drain.

If you intend to put the raised bed garden on top of soil that is weed-free, you can break up the surface of the existing soil and then add the soil mixture for the raised bed directly on top. If the existing soil is not weed-free, covering it first with landscape cloth can help prevent weeds from growing through to the garden.

Raised bed gardens, soil

What kind of soil should be used in a raised bed garden?

Different types of soils can be successfully used for raised bed gardens. Since most people used raised beds to avoid problems with their own soil, using garden soil is generally not recommended. 

A mixture of good quality topsoil plus organic matter such as compost plus pumice, vermiculite or perlite, in a ratio of about one-third each by volume makes a satisfactory soil mix for the raised bed garden.

Soil in containers

The soil in containers does need to be changed. 

It is recommended that all the soil in containers used to grow tomatoes be replaced with fresh soil every year. For other vegetables, it is recommended that about one-third of the soil in containers be replaced each time you replant the container. Be sure to mix the new and old soil well, and amend the soil with fertilizer in both cases.

Soil of established fruit trees or shrubs in containers should be refreshed about every 5 years.

Soil in containers

Topsoil is not recommended for use in containers. Any potting soil available from local nurseries would be good for containers as long as it drains freely.

Spoiled rotten?

All those fruits and vegetables won't do our bodies any good if they spoil before we actually eat them. While produce picked fresh from the garden is best in taste and nutrients, we can't always eat that ?close to the soil.? Whether homegrown or purchased at the market, we often need to store veggies and fruits before eating.

But according to Vegetarian Times, Americans end up tossing about a quarter of the produce they buy, wasting not only money but nutrients in their diets. That's why Vegetarian Times has compiled a handy on-line guide that tells the best ways to store fruits and vegetables to maintain their good eating quality. Did you know apples release ethylene, a gas that speeds ripening? If you put your spinach or kale in the same refrigerator bin with apples, the greens will go limp and yellow in just a few days.

And while refrigeration helps extend the life of much produce, sealing it in airtight bags suffocates it and promotes decay, according to Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University.

For once-a-week, weekend shoppers, there is even a helpful listing of what to eat first to make it to the next market day without waste. For example, on Sunday through Tuesday, eat your bananas, broccoli, and strawberries; Wednesday through Friday serve up eggplant, grapes, and pineapples; and save keepers like bell peppers, cauliflower and oranges until the following weekend.

To read more about how to store fruits and vegetables, go to Vegetarian Times.
From the National Gardening Association

Summer garden care

Feeding and watering established plants enables them to produce all those food and flowers that we want. Here are some specific techniques.

Feed all plants with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer containing micronutrients in addition to the basic nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash/potassium (N-P-K). Well-nourished plants not only develop into stronger plants and produce flowers and fruits and vegetables longer, they are better protected against insects and diseases and better able to withstand heat and water stress.

Water the garden deeply every week or two, depending on how consistently hot the weather has been and whether plant roots have grown deep into the soil. Tomatoes and other large plants in clay loam soil use about one inch of water in three days of hot, dry weather. Some wilting of foliage at the end of a hot, dry day is to be expected, but wilting through to the following morning indicates the immediate need for a deep watering to the roots and a gentle sprinkling of the foliage.

Refrain from overhead watering when the evenings remain warm, especially when leaves can't dry off by sunset. Fungal diseases thrive when air temperatures remain between 70 and 90 degrees, and they need only two to four hours of moist, warm conditions to develop.

Build donut-shaped water basins around trees and plants. Start the inner wall of the basin about two inches from the plant stem, or a foot away from a tree trunk. Form the outer wall of the basin just beyond the plant's or tree's dripline. Fill the area between the two walls with irrigation water. The walls hold in the water, letting it soak slowly and deeply into the root zone. Keeping the water away from the stem or trunk prevents rot from too much moisture at the base. Also, keep mulch the same distance away from the stem or trunk to allow sufficient air circulation for the roots.

Keep adding to mulches throughout the summer to conserve water, keep roots cool, and foil weeds. Remember to water well before applying the mulch, or you'll insulate dry soil rather than moist soil. Pile mulch two to six inches deep under shrubs, trees, vines,  and in flower and vegetable beds. Let grass clippings dry out a bit before piling them (or just spread them thinly), or they'll clump into a mat that's impervious to later watering.

With permission from Yvonne Savio, UCCE MG LA County

Vegetables for the season

There are many tasty vegetables that can be planted in the warm season (about March through September) and in the cool season (about October through February) in California.  Click here for a planting guide which lists the vegetables and the recommended planting dates. 

There is also a very useful site for vegetables, Vegetable Research and Information Center (VRIC). This site gives detailed information about varieties, cultivation, problems and management for many different vegetables for the home garden. Click on the name of a vegetable and then look for the link to 'Home Garden' on that page.

Vegetables in containers

Many people live in small spaces and garden in patios or on balconies.  Even if your garden space is small, you should have room for at least one large container. And with that one container you can grow many vegetables.

There are a few basics for gardening in containers that vary a bit from in-ground gardening. The main difference is that the soil can be depleted of nutrients more quickly, since the frequent watering flushes out nutrients. However, that is easily managed by combining watering and fertilizing.

Here are the basics:
Sun – a minimum of six hours daily
Soil – a good potting soil is best
Water – be diligent when watering your containers, since the only source of water is what you provide
Mulch – generally not needed in a container, since generally there is not a weed problem
Fertilizer – use a complete, balanced fertilizer (one that contains nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium in approximately equal proportions); a liquid fertilizer can be added to your irrigation water
Support – very useful for saving space – many plants can be encouraged to grow up onto a support system, leaving space in the container for other plants
Containers – generally the bigger the better, because they don’t dry out as quickly as smaller containers do, but most any size will do if you are careful about watering. Match the size of the container with the plant.  Root vegetables and deeply rooted vegetables (carrots, beets, tomatoes) require larger, deeper containers than leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, chard). Also, it is critical to have drainage holes in the bottom of any container.

What vegetables will grow in a container?  The answer is, almost any.

Here’s a short list. And if the vegetable you like is not on the list, you can always try it and see if it grows.

      Warm Season           Cool Season     
cucumber Asian greens
eggplant beets
peppers lettuce
snap beans peas
squash radish
tomatoes spinach


Top of page

If you can’t find the answer on the site, don’t despair! We also have the capacity to personally assist you through our hotline.  Just contact us by email or by phone (voicemail) at 949 809-9760 and we will respond to your inquiry.
UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County, California

Weeds/PestsOrnamental PlantsEdible PlantsSoils/Fertilizers/CompostGeneral Gardening | Contact Us
MG Sign-in

Webmaster Email: remusser@ucanr.edu