The Digging Fork

A Davis Garden Newsletter
May – June 2007 May Planting
see Plant notes Warm season vegetables: eggplant, sweet and chile peppers, tomatillo, sweet potato slips, tomato, basil Warm season annuals: coleus, petunia, moss rose and more Perennials: all, but especially frost tender plants Warm season bulbs: many Warm season vegetables: These crops are best direct seeded in gardenbeans (dry, snap, lima, yard long), cucumber, corn (all kinds), melon, okra, pumpkin, soybeans, summer/winter squash, watermelon Warm season annuals sunflowers, Mexican sunflower, scarlet runner bean, cosmos and more Citrus, lawns and roses as needed Young fruit trees

Warm season annuals: many Perennials: many Can still plant, but need to keep plants well watered until established.

Anise-scented sage

Rose leaf sage

Warm season vegetables beans (dry, snap), corn (sweet and baby), okra, melons, pumpkin, summer/winter squash Warm season annuals: see May

see Plant notes


Lawns as needed Young fruit trees Look for nutrient deficiencies – especially iron and nitrogen.
Snails, slugs and earwigs damage –use baits or traps. Aphids. Can spray off with water and watch for ladybugs

Pest & Disease Control

Snails, slugs and earwigs damage –use baits or traps. Emerging seedlings and transplants are the most vulnerable! Aphids. Can spray off with water and watch for ladybugs

see Plant notes

Some frost damaged plants are still recovering and will be ready to prune – watch for new growth Prune deciduous shrubs and vines after they flower. They will start setting buds for next spring soon. Spring garden cleanup begins. Cut back spring blooming perennials, pull out cool season annuals, cut bulb foliage when yellowing. Good time to dig and mulch. Thin stone fruits, cover cherry trees -- bird control Weed control continues Place tomato cages Lift ranunculus-leave dirt on them and store in cool place in open container Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep roots!!

Spring garden cleanup continues (see May) Stake dahlias and other tall plants that need support Weed control continues Tall, fall bloomers like mums, asters, perennial sunflowers, etc. can be cut to 12” in late June to encourage branching and reduce plant height. This may delay the bloom time.


This is the month of the highest water needs due to rapid plant growth and warmer temperatures. Water as needed. Deep water trees and shrubs.

May and June are ideal times to plant salvias, the chance of frost is over and interesting varieties can be found in nurseries. Usually perennials can be planted in the fall as well as in the spring, but many varieties of salvia are frost sensitive and if planted in fall they will not be established enough to overcome a hard frost. We are lucky in Davis because most salvias can be enjoyed in the garden. There are hundreds of salvias available to be tried in all size ranges, flower and foliage color, sun and maintenance requirements. It is important to know the type or growth habits of the plant for planting, maintenance and pruning purposes. Frost sensitive salvias, from tropical climates, need to be planted in spring and pruned in spring after danger of frost is past. Often these salvias are labeled ‘tender’. If an early frost occurs, the blooms may not happen. When pruning, watch for new growth coming from the ground or existing woody stalks. Examples of such salvias are pineapple sage, roseleaf sage, Buchanan’s sage and forsythia sage. Herbaceous salvias die down completely in the dormant season and new growth emerges from the ground in spring. Pruning of old growth and planting is best done in fall or winter (except frost sensitive species). Examples are anise-scented sage and bog sage that both bloom in spring. Woody salvias can either be evergreen or deciduous types. Maintenance consists largely of pruning to shape and size by cutting to new growth. Autumn sage is a popular example. Basal-leaf types of salvia have rosettes of leaves close to the ground, that require only cleaning up the dead leaves and cutting down dead flower stalks. Salvia nemerosa are drought tolerant and easy to grow in any garden. Annual salvias, such as annual clary is a cool season plant in our climate and seeds are sown in fall or very early spring.
The list of salvias to be tried in the garden is numerous. For more information, Betsy Clebsch’s book The New Book of Salvias is highly recommended. Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville has a great selection of salvias.

Calendar layout thanks to Lyle Wilen

Weeds, Water and Mulch
Spring is here and most of us have a bed in our garden where the weeds have gotten out of hand. Ugh! If a weed goes to seed and is dispersed, you can count on an average of 7 years to get many weed species under control. So the take home message is to get annual weeds when they are small and before they set seed and perennial weeds before they set down a large root system. This isn’t always easy as many annual weeds flower when very small. Methods of weed control include, pulling or digging them out, spraying with various herbicides, burning and mulching. See for help. Weeds germinate with spring rains and summer watering that is absolutely necessary in Davis. However, plants require less water than most people give them. If plants are watered infrequently and deeply, starting when they are young (or even starting in the spring), then the roots will go deeper looking for water. It is very possible to water the garden every week to 10 days, even during August. Watering deeply means a good inch of water is applied. Tuna or cat food cans can be used to determine how much water you are applying each week. If 1/8 inch is applied with a short sprinkling each day, the roots will remain on the surface of the soil as they have no reason to go deep. All it takes is a hot spell, missed watering, broken irrigation pipe/ timer or clogged drip emitter and the plant becomes stressed or dead without the steady water supply. Lastly, a good layer of organic mulch will help with both weeds and watering. A 2-4 inch layer of mulch applied on top of the soil will hinder weed germination. Those weeds that do germinate in the mulch will be very easy to pull. The mulch also helps insulate roots from temperature changes, conserves water, helps prevent crusting of the clay soil, helps slow compaction from overhead watering, improves soils structure as it decomposes and mixes with the soil and also makes the whole garden look good. Wow— why wouldn’t you mulch? Examples of organic mulches include compost/humus (purchased or homemade), wood chips from tree services, dry grass clippings and shavings/manure from horse barns. These are all available in our area. Deep, infrequent watering together with a good layer of mulch, will lower water needs and help with weed control. Sources for mulch products:
CL Smith Trucking Woodland 662-2633 Compost Davis Ace Lumber 758-8000 Humus/compost (not 50-50) Dumars Landscaping Woodland 666-5045 Compost Horse stables are glad to have you come and pick up discarded horse stall padding. Some will load pickup. Tree service companies Some sell wood chips and some give away free.

Marlene & Patricia’s Garden Workshops
Workshops are held in Patricia’s one acre country garden in Davis. There is time to explore and ask lots of questions. Cost of workshop $25. If you bring a friend or spouse the cost is $20 per person. Class size is limited.

Spring Garden Cleanup and Planting
Saturday, May 19 9:00 am – 12:30 pm (note time change)

Problems, problems, problems!!
Sunday, June 24 Fall -- date TBA

(weeds, pests, fertilizer, plant spacing, timing of planting, healthy soil, watering, etc.)

5:00 – 8:30 pm

Vegetables for Cool Season Fall Garden Cleanup and Planting
Fall -- date TBA To register for workshops:
Call Marlene (530) 400-7010 or Patricia (530) 753-0607 or email

Forsythia sage

Pineapple sage

More local classes and workshops
Master Gardener Workshops:
Celebration of Roses Tours, propagation, rose care, arranging and more May 5, 1- 5 pm at Woodland College gardens Low Maintenance Gardening May 19, 1- 3 pm at Norton Hall Backyard orchard – Summer Pruning and Irrigation May 19 9 - 11am at Woodland College gardens Compost and Worm Composting May 26 9 - 11 am at Woodland College gardens
Information (530) 666-8143

UCD Project Compost Workshops:
Workshops held during Whole Earth Festival on the UCD quad. Backyard Composting Saturday May 12, 11 am Worm Composting Sunday May 13, 11 am
For information: (530) 754-8227

Davis Central Park Gardens
The gardens are being renovated! See the web site for plans, workshops and events.


Plant notes!
Here is more information about some plants mentioned in this newsletter.

Salvias anise-scented sage Salvia guaranitica

A native of S. America with flowers ranging from light to dark blue. Varieties include ‘Black and Blue’ and ‘Costa Rica Blue’. Sun to part sun, herbaceous. 4-5 ft. Blooms late spring to frost. annual clary Salvia viridis or S. hormium From the Mediterranean region. Cool season annual with showy bracts of violet, pink or white. Full sun, 2 ft. autumn sage Salvia greggii Woody salvia from SW Texas and Mexico. Varieties include ‘Dark Dancer’, ‘Raspberry’, ‘Alba’. Full sun. Prune to shape. 2-3 ft. bog sage Salvia uliginosa Native to lowlands of S. America. Light blue flowers summer throught frost. Spreads by underground runners. Full sun and loves water, herbaceous. 3-6 ft. Buchanan’s sage Salvia buchananii Frost sensitive probably from Mexico that needs afternoon shade. Showy, fuzzy magenta flowers mainly in summer-fall. Mostly evergreen. 1-2 ft forsythia sage Salvia madrensis Frost sensitive native of Mexico. Wonderful leaves, yellow flowers late fall until frost, herbaceous 4-7’. pineapple sage Salvia elegans Frost sensitive native of S. Mexico and Guatemala. Foliage smells like pineapple, red flowers are edible. Full sun, blooms late summer to frost. Mostly herbaceous. 2-5 ft. roseleaf sage Salvia involucrata From E. Mexico, deep pink flowers bloom late summer to hard frost. Sun, herbaceous. 5 ft. Salvia nemorosa Native of E. Europe to central Asia. Varieties include shades of purple ‘Ostfriesland’ (‘East Friesland’), ‘Caradonna’. Full sun, blooms early summer to fall. 1-2 ft.

Ranunculus in spring

Short-lived Dianthus

Spring Garden Clean-up and Composting
Sometime in May or June the garden needs a little cleaning --cutting back spring blooming perennials, shrubs and vines and pulling out cool season annuals. And it is finally time to get rid of all the bulb foliage that looks so awful. Hopefully, all this wonderful plant material isn’t going to end up in a trashcan. Except for very big branches and weeds with seeds, it should all end up in a compost bin. We need all the compost/humus we can get to improve the structure of our Davis clay soil! There are many ways to make compost. The easiest is to pile up garden waste, water occasionally and let the decomposition process happen. There are also many types of compost bins, barrels, etc. that work very well.

flowering maple Abutilon hybrids Evergreen or semi-deciduous
depending on the winter cold. Varieties ranging from 1 to 10 ft. in many colors. This plant attracts hummingbirds and can grow in that difficult spot with northern exposure that sometimes gets blasted with hot, afternoon summer sun. pinks Dianthus Many varieties, some short-lived A favorite is D. caryophyllus ‘Cinnamon Red Hots’ that is 18” tall and long-lived. milkweed Asclepias Many species. A. fascinularis, narrow leaf milkweed, is the most attractive to monarch butterflies but is somewhat invasive with runners and not a pretty plant (2 ft.). A. tuberosa, butterfly weed, comes in orange and yellow flowers (3-4 ft). A. physocarpa, swan plant, has tiny white flowers and 2”puffy green seed pods (5-6 ft.). Sun.

Warm season annuals:
coleus Solenostemon scutellarioides or Coleus x hybridus Grown
for amazing foliage colors. Needs afternoon shade. 2-3 ft.

A few of Patricia’s many compost bins and a pile of horse barn shavings/manure

cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus Easily seeded in garden. Flowers in
various shades of pink to white. Varieties range from 2-8 ft. Mexican sunflower Tithonia rotundifolia Large orange flowers. Blooms summer to frost. 6 ft. Perennial grown in Davis as annual. moss rose Portulaca grandiflora Succulent and low growing. Great for hanging pots or cascading over walls. Takes a lot of sun. Flowers are showy and bright. Petunia Heavily scented flowers. ‘Wave’ series blooms without deadheading and weave among other flowers. 1ft. scarlet runner bean Phaseolus coccineus Dark, green edible seed pods form after showy scarlet flowers. Fast climbing vine for full sun. Perennial grown as annual. Edible sweet flowers attract hummingbirds. sunflower Helianthus x hybridus Pollenless sunflower with varieties that include yellow ‘Valentine’. Helianthus annuus include the edible types and multi-branching varieties. All are good cut flowers.

Cool season bulb:
Ranunculus To avoid summer rotting, tubers are dug up each spring
after flowering and stored in an open container. Cut the stems to about 6 “ and leave dirt on tuber to help protect them. These tubers are soaked a few hours, divided and replanted with prongs down in Sept.-Oct.

Warm season vegetables:
peanuts Arachis hypogaea Plant shelled, raw peanuts when you
plant tomatoes. After flowering, a “peg” grows down into the ground where the peanut forms. These are harvested in fall –pull whole plant and hang 2-3 weeks to cure. Get peanuts to plant at the grocery store.

A neat and relatively inexpensive bin is made by Presto. The black plastic rectangles with holes are hooked together to make a 3 ft. diameter ring. Since these are floppy when set on the ground, it is helpful to know a few tips for keeping them round and upright. When putting in the first bit of garden waste, push it toward the outside of the bin, making the bin into a circle. As more material is added, make sure it is pushed to the outside so the circle doesn’t become an oval. Getting close to the top of the bin, it is important that all plant material is within the ring of the bin and no sticks poke through the holes –as this causes the sides to bend inward as material decomposes. Adding water as you add plant material is important to speed up decomposition. A few days after the bin is filled, the materials will have sunk down, leaving more room for garden waste. This continues until one day it is time to turn the compost pile --when you have time or the material doesn’t seem to be settling as fast. This is easily achieved by pulling up on the bin to remove it,


setting it in a new spot and filling it from the top of the pile, watering as needed. After a few turnings, you are likely to find finished compost at the bottom and center of the pile that goes into the garden. To have a healthy compost pile, the decomposing microorganisms and insects (worms, sow bugs, centipedes and beetles) need air and moisture. This is why watering and turning the compost piles speeds up decomposition. The microorganisms use the brown materials (containing carbon) for food and need the green materials (with nitrogen) for growth and reproduction. What to add to the compost pile: brown materials (dead plants, leaves, sticks, torn newspaper) and green materials (plants, grass clippings, kitchen waste). What not to add: meat, dairy products, pet feces, weed seeds, and Bermuda grass. To receive a free compost bin from Davis Public Works, all you need to do is read a short booklet and complete a take-home a quiz. For more information 757-5686. Amazingly, there are no nurseries in Davis carrying Presto Compost Bins. OSH – Orchard Supply Hardware in Woodland is a reliable source (662-1162) $17.99 and Peaceful Valley in Grass Valley ( $13.99.

Peanuts grow underground on pegs. These were just harvested.

More gardening tips!
Don’t mulch penstemon in late spring/summer because plants are often lost. If mulched in fall/winter, plants layer to make more plants.

Food For Thought Yolo-Solano Master Gardener newsletter

Summer planting. As summer approaches it becomes more and more difficult to plant. Plants will need a week or two of monitoring and extra water since most irrigation systems are set up for established plants. Place irrigation flags by new plants as a reminder. Direct seeding is very successful at this time since roots go down adapting to available water. Some vegetables are best direct seeded (see calendar) since they germinate easily. The risk of transplant damage and water stress is lessened. Tomato cages can be made out of concrete (welded) wire with 6” x 6” openings, allowing room to reach in and pullout a tomato. Buy 5 foot wide wire and have cut to 6 ft. lengths. If purchased at Hibbert Lumber in Davis, let them do the cuts as it is well worth the $1 per cut charge. The 6 ft. length is wired together to make about 22” diameter cage that is 5 ft high. These can be set on the ground or the bottom horizontal pieces can be cut out to produce spikes to push into the ground, making a 4 ½ ft high cage. Cages should be staked for added insurance as large tomato plants get top heavy and sometime fall over. Trellis can also be used to grow beans, cucumbers and peas or sweet peas in winter.

Monarch chrysalis and larva on narrow leaf milkweed. A butterfly is about to emerge (upper right)

Abutilon ‘Moonshine’

Plant sales and events
UCD Arboretum Plant Sales
May 19 9 am – 1 pm Last sale of spring! For information Pence Garden Tour (College Park area) May 6 12 noon to 5 pm. For information 758-3370
Peas in winter

Newsletter created by:
Marlene Simon -- UCD graduate in Horticulture Patricia Carpenter -- Garden Design and Education, with 30 years of Davis gardening experience. The bi-monthly newsletter is free if received by email. If mailed, the cost is $6 per year. To be added to the subscription list or to unsubscribe, contact us at:
Updated 6-1-07

Davis Library Book Sale
June 8, 12 noon continuing to June 10. For information 757-5593
Build up your garden library with books from used book stores and the Friends of the Davis Library book sales. Many gardening books for $1-3. On Sunday, a large brown shopping bag full of books cost $3. A great deal.