With spring approaching, the UC Master Gardeners hosted a class at the Lodi Public Library on Monday about the best practices gardeners should use to yield crops for the summer and fall.
The workshop brought out both novice and experienced gardeners that were keen on learning how to boost their summer gardens.
“Knowing your district and your zones is important when it comes to planting because it lets you know what you can grow successfully,” UC Master Gardener Trish Tremayne said.
The U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture divides the United States into 11 separate hardiness zones by average winter temperature. Sunset Western Garden Book offers up a similar system, using 24 climate zones.
San Joaquin County is part of zone 9b, and its Sunset zone is 14. The hardiness zone determines the types of plants that can withstand the Valley’s average minimum temperature.
“The Sunset zone is indicative of the San Joaquin County latitude, elevation, ocean influence, continental air, mountains, and local terrain. We are lucky to be in a climate that offers many different terrain types, which makes growing in the region easier,” Tremayne said.
In order for vegetables to grow well in a garden they should be planted in rows that run from east to west so that they are in alignment with the sun’s movement, and to ensure they get as much exposure to the sun as possible.
“They should get 6 to 8 hours, and depending on what you are growing they should be set up in rows that have the tallest plants in the back to prevent shade,” Tremayne said.
She also encouraged gardeners to monitor the growth of their gardens in a journal. She believes the most important things that need to be in the journal are planting dates, harvest dates, weather and photos that can monitor the plant growth.
“If something is not growing where it was planted it is good to note the location of the garden they were, so you know not to plant a variety of seeds in that same area,” Tremayne said.
Knowing how deep to plant your seed as well as watering needs is also important to successfully grow a garden. Most of the information describing what a seedling needs can be found on the seed packet, but most people do not read them, which is why their seeds don’t sprout, Tremayne stated.
Another reason plants don’t grow is because there is not enough nitrogen in the fertilizer that is being used.
“The best thing you can do for our garden is compost. By doing that you control the soil type, and you don’t run the risk of releasing pollutants into your soil,” Tremayne said.
Once seeds start to germinate it is best to protect the bud with a strawberry basket, or a milk container.
“You want to create a miniature greenhouse for them so they are protected from bugs,” Tremayne said.
Although plants do need bugs to pollinate, there are certain bugs that are good for gardens like ladybugs, and hazardous bugs like aphids that eat through spuds.
Tremayne advises against the use of pesticides in a garden because they can kill the beneficial insects in a garden and can seep into the soil and kill the plants.
As a Master Gardener Tremayne has spent 50 hours devoted to studying topics from an introduction to horticulture, soil and fertilizer management to learning how to diagnose plant problems.
The UC Master Gardener Program is taught under the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. The Master Gardener Program came from the partnership between the University of California and passionate volunteers.
In exchange for training from the University, UC Master Gardeners offer volunteer services and outreach to the general public in more than 50 California counties.
In order to be a UC Master Gardener volunteers must receive a minimum of 50 hours of training over the course of 16 weeks.
The program is a county-based volunteer program, which branched from the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE). The UCCE has been extending its research-based information about home horticulture and pest management to the public since 1981.
UC Master Gardeners must complete 16 to 50 hours of community service, which is why the group has hosted workshops at the library.
For more information about the UC Master Gardeners classes and workshops, you can visit their website at http:/ ucanr.edu/sjmg. The classes are held at the Lodi Public Library are free and open to the public.