KCET "In-Ground Gardens" blog.
The UC Master Gardener Program trains volunteers to extend research-based information to the public about home horticulture and pest management.
In the KCET story, a few UCCE Master Gardeners of Los Angeles County share their tips for excellent garden gifts.
- Master Gardener Denise Friese suggested rain barrels, which collect water when it rains so it can be used between storms for irrigation. "Plus, there is a new rebate for rain barrels from the Metropolitan Water District," she said.
- Master Gardener Elizabeth Ostrom recommended moisture meters. "It's an excellent tool that lets you know if you are under/over watering. And over time, it acts as a teaching tool," she said.
- Master Gardener Jane Auerbach suggested a gift membership to a garden club, which offers abundant inspiration and, often, free classes with membership.
- Auerbach also recommended Felco pruners, "the gold standard" in gardening equipment.
- Yvonne Savio, the Master Gardener coordinator in LA County, recommended the California Master Gardener Handbook. Written by UC academics, the 700-page handbook is a gardening encyclopedia.
Do you know that the Sacramento Valley produces about 25 percent of the world’s hybrid planting sunflower seeds? We grow some 47,000 acres of this crop, valued at about $70 million (2012 County Crop Reports).
Even better news is that the hybrid sunflower seed production industry is growing, sparked by the demand for our high quality seed and the increased interest in sunflower oil worldwide. In 2007, for example, the value of California’s sunflower seed crop totaled $22 million on 27,000 acres. Fast forward to today and we see a 70 percent increase in acreage and more than a three-fold increase in value. Additionally, the industry reports millions of dollars in seed sales to markets around the world including the Midwestern states as well as the four largest producers of sunflower oil: Ukraine, Russia, European Union, and Argentina.
The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is native to North America; the Native American Indians prized it as an important, high-energy food source. Indeed, sunflower oil is a healthy choice; it is light in taste, supplies more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil, and delivers low levels of saturated fat. Sunflower oil is also stable at high cooking temperatures, rendering it favorable to the food processing industry.
Production of hybrid sunflower seeds involves planting male and female (male sterile) lines in the same fields, usually alternating with six rows of females and two rows of males. Males generally possess multiple flowers on a stock, compared to the single composite female flower. Honey bees, usually two colonies per acre, move the pollen from the male to female lines. Native solitary bees (especially sunflower bees) are also important in sunflower seed production, not only because of their pollination but because their presence increases honey bee activity, causing greater dispersement between male and female lines.
After pollination, when the seeds are set, growers remove the male rows to prevent contamination with female rows. After the sunflower stocks naturally dry down, the hybrid planting seed is harvested with yields averaging 1,400 pounds per acre and 40-45 percent percent oil content, depending on the variety.
Compared to open pollinated varieties, hybrid planting seed from controlled crosses of male and female lines result in higher yields and oil content. The plants also display better disease resistance, a high degree of self-compatibility (reducing the need for bee cross-pollination), and more uniformity in height and moisture content at maturity, which facilitates harvest.
It’s crucial to maintain field isolation between different hybrid sunflower varieties so that the seed produced remains pure to the desired cross. As a result, growers plant different sunflower seed varieties at least 1-1/4 miles apart or they separate fields in time so that they bloom at different times in the season, thus preventing pollen drift. volunteer sunflowers from the previous year, wild sunflowers, and sunflower varieties blooming in backyard gardens pose risks to hybrid sunflower seed production. Roguing prior to bloom is important when nearby production fields are blooming.
Do you know that sunflower seed production has few pest or disease problems? Sunflower head moth, a native caterpillar pest, can attack the seed heads as well as occasional flocks of birds (starlings, blackbirds, and finches) triggering yield and quality losses.
As the result of industry and research efforts, along with our near perfect weather for seed production with hot, dry summers and cool nights, the Sacramento Valley is known throughout the world as a premier location for sunflower breeding, variety development, and seed production.
In the summertime, the brilliant golden colors turn fields in the Sacramento Valley into Vincent Van Gogh-like paintings. Sunflowers are also fun to watch because in the bud stage they track the movement of the sun across the horizon. Once the flower opens it faces east toward the morning sun, which may help prevent the sun-scalding of seeds.
So, whether you like to cook with sunflower oil, snack on sunflower seeds, use them as a salad garnish, or watch your favorite baseball players crack them between innings, sunflowers pack a major economic agricultural wallop that begins right here in the Sacramento Valley. Who knew? Now you do.
When I was in elementary school, an upcoming field trip meant we were selling candy bars. Around the holidays, it was not uncommon to have your pick from five dozen cupcakes at the school party. Now that I am in nutrition education, my eyes grow wide when I think back to all of the high-sugar, high-fat foods we brought into the classroom.
With that in mind, I take a lot of pride in the fact that the UC Calfresh Nutrition Education Program in Fresno County is creating healthier school environments.
A healthy school environment includes:
- Nutrition education for students and their parents
- Physical activity
- Healthy lunches
- School wellness policies that support healthy fundraisers and celebrations
- An environment that promotes the benefits of healthy choices
The list can go on and on!
In addition to supporting all of the above, UC CalFresh has been working with school administrators, teachers and food service staff to "brand" the cafeteria and classrooms as healthy spaces. This is accomplished through distributing nutrition corners.
Nutrition corners are essentially the materials to create nutrition bulletin boards in school cafeterias. They are updated regularly with nutrition and physical activity information for students, teachers and parents. Information on seasonal produce, recipes, student work and MyPlate decorate the corners.
Nutrition corners are also posted in classrooms, school libraries, teacher lounges and common areas.
Here are a few of the most recently added corners:
Did I mention students love reading nutrition corners?
A healthy environment that supports nutrition and physical activity is key to the health of the families in the Central Valley. For more information on the way we are creating healthier school environments, visit the UC CalFresh Fresno County blog.
Warm weather seems to be keeping SOD out of the Salinas Valley, but it is having a deadly effect on the surrounding forests.
“The organism has a really significant impact on our forests,” said Matteo Garbelotto, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. He said that adult tanoaks – an evergreen species closely related to oaks – are almost entirely wiped out in some areas.
To help prevent the spread of sudden oak death, people visiting invested areas should not remove leaves or branches and should clean dirt from their shoes before leaving.
Wild Campus organization two years ago to conserve wildlife in the greater UC Davis area.
Working with campus experts (such as faculty and staff in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology) and local environmental and conservation organizations, the volunteer students are improving the habitats for local wildlife and engaging the public in hands-on activities.
This is an extraordinary program that gives the students real-world environmental management skills, along with leadership opportunities and communications experience. Professor John Eadie, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at UC Davis, said of the Wild Campus program, “Hands-on activity is a huge part of the educational experience.”
Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, the students are establishing wildlife habitat areas and monitoring populations of amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals, and reptiles. They will record the changes over the course of time. Recent work in the riparian reserve (aka “the living classroom”) has included planting native oak seedlings, and installing tule plants to provide protection for the Western Pond Turtle, a species of concern.
A past project — Build a Wild Home Day — involved working with the UC Davis Arboretum on a successful public outreach program to build bird and bat boxes for installation on campus. (Great photos of this program are on the group’s Facebook page.)
The Wild Campus organization has a large cadre of eager and dedicated students who are improvising and making the most of limited resources. However, they are in need of donated field equipment (used equipment is fine) and financial contributions.
Visit the Wild Campus website and Facebook page for a feel-good look at what these ambitious students are doing to improve the environment, along with ways you can help them succeed.