UC Master Gardeners of Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties
University of California
UC Master Gardeners of Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties

Home Gardening Tips

A Bird in the Hand?

Handsome rooster. Photo: © Leora Worthington.
So it turns out there is a lot more than the desire for fresh eggs to consider when deciding to become a chicken owner. Our very own Master Gardener Candice McLaren will be giving a FREE class on chickens entitled “Chix in the City, Hens in the Hood” at two locations: Boulder Creek Library on January 16th and Coastanoa Commons on February 25th! In the meantime, read on for some basic information and plan to attend one of our free classes to find out much, much more!

Before you buy!

  • Does your city allow chickens? Better find out!
  • Set up a brooder or home for the chicks.
  • Set up a coop and fence it off.
  • Purchase feed for chicks or chickens.
  • Have a secure storage container for feed.
  • Read as much as you can about chickens. Knowledge is power!
  • Find a veterinarian that treats chickens.

Cute Li'l Chicks

A personable Buff Orpington at the 2016 Smart Gardening Fair.
From 4-8 weeks the chicks will live in a brooder, most often a big box with high sides, lined with some type of litter. You will need a heat source for the chicks, as well as a water source and a feeder with chick feed. Usually people put their brooders in a laundry room or garage, somewhere protected, well-ventilated, and temperature-controlled.

Coop-ward Bound

When chicks are 6-8 weeks old they are ready to live outside in a coop. A well designed coop and living area contains:

  • Fencing to prevent unwelcome animals from getting in and to prevent chickens from getting out. 
  • Shelter area, such as a coop, which protects the chickens from extreme weather.
  • Nest box – this is where hens lay their eggs.
  • Scratch area – chickens like to peck and scratch with their feet.
  • Perch – Remember, chickens are birds and birds like to perch off the ground.
  • Food and water area with room for all the birds to access both

There are many other considerations for keeping happy and healthy chickens. To find out about the particulars of chicken care, different breeds, what kinds of coop maintenance to perform and when, as well as much more, attend one of our FREE classes "Chix in the City, Hens in the Hood" at Boulder Creek Library on January 16th or Coastanoa Commons on February 25th. We hope to see you there!


4-H students showing chicks to children.
UCCE 2016 Eggsercise Book (see PDF below).

UCANR Food Blog Chickens, Chickens Everywhere

UC Cooperative Extension Backyard Poultry Resources

 Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries! 

Attached Files


Posted on Sunday, January 14, 2018 at 3:00 PM
Tags: backyard chickens (1), chickens (1), eggs (1)

Grasp the thorn!

"But he who dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose." 

                                                                                                                         -- Anne Bronte


Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Well, duh! It would still be a rose, even if it was called a nwliduwldkg! But ‘rose' is much easier to say, so we're lucky that way. If you've been dreaming of roses but haven't yet gotten up the nerve to give them a try, this post and our FREE Class on Jan 13th are for you. Sources for more detailed information are found at the end of the post.

As with other types of plants, roses can be temperamental or they can be easy to grow, depending on the variety that you choose. There are two main types of roses, garden roses and landscape roses. Garden roses include hybrid teas, floribundas, glandifloras, and climbers and are grown mostly for their flowers.

  • Hybrid tea roses
    • most common roses in home gardens today
    • form a shrub 3-5' tall
    • large, single flowers
  • Floribundas
    • form a shrub 2-4' tall
    • small flowers borne in clusters
    • higher bloom production than hybrid teas
  • Grandifloras
    • intermediate between hybrid teas and floribundas
    • large flowers with increased bloom production
    • form a shrub 5-8' tall
  • climbers
    • flexible stems to 20' long
    • need support on a wall, fence, etc.

Landscape or shrub roses are varieties developed for use as general landscape plants. They offer several advantages over garden roses:

  • possess glossy green leaves
  • have few thorns
  • require little pruning
  • require little disease and pest control
  • well suited for low maintenance landscapes
  • do not require deadheading
  • flower throughout the year with greatest bloom in mid-spring and early autumn

Rose cultivation involves multiple factors, many of which are influenced by microclimate. In general, roses require:

  • protection from wind
  • lots of sun (full sun all day near coast, afternoon shade in hot inland areas)
  • space with good air movement to prevent diseases
  • well draining soil that still retains water
  • light fertilization before each flush of growth
  • watering by flooding basin around the plant with 1-2” water or using drip irrigation when the soil is dry to 1”
  • avoidance of frequent wetting of leaves to reduce diseases
  • when washing leaves to dislodge pests such as spider mites and aphids, do it in the morning so leaves are dry by nightfall



If you'd like to learn basics of rose care, be sure to sign up for our FREE class "The Basics of Rose Care" on January 13th at 10am here! Information in this post was taken from this Garden Information Series flyer. The UC IPM website has lots of information about pests and disorders of roses here and information about cultural practices and pest control here. For information on abiotic disorders and diseases, go here. And for information on rose insect and mite pests and beneficials, visit this page.

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries! 

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Tags: rose care (1), roses (1)

Gardening during a La Niña

Happy New Year from the UC Master Gardeners of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties! 

LaNina Wintertime Pattern. From https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/elnino/what-is-la-nina.
Although it's winter we haven't seen much rain so far this year. Let's talk about the culprit, shall we? Are you familiar with La Niña? She's the “little girl” to El Niño's “little boy,” part of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern, a periodic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. Cooling in the eastern Pacific causes the jet stream to be pushed north, which affects rainfall in the southwestern US. What that means for us is above average rain and below average temperatures in the Pacific Northwest east to the northern Great Plains, upper Mississippi valley and Great Lakes and below average rain and above average temperatures in the southeast, gulf coast, central and southern Great Plains, southwest and much of California. According to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, these conditions are likely to persist through the winter of 2017-2018, with a return to ENSO-neutral conditions in the mid to late spring.

So where does that leave our gardens and landscapes? Dry, dry, dry.

Evergreen plants are often the hardest hit by La Niña because they continue to use water for photosynthesis. Deciduous trees and shrubs require less moisture, but will benefit from some irrigation during periods of little to no rain. Remember, infrequent deep irrigation is better than frequent shallow irrigation. Don't forget to water your container plants as well.

Mulch conserves moisture around landscape plants.
Although many of our plants are in a resting period right now, they aren't totally shut down, and their roots still need moisture to stay hydrated and keep living plant tissue functioning. Without rain, roots can desiccate and die. And the little rain we've had has encouraged the weed seeds to start germinating, which further uses up what little moisture is in the soil. Pulling weeds and mulching around your plants will help to conserve water and keep plants stronger. Organic mulches such as bark or wood chips are best because they add organic matter to the soil as they decompose.

Warmer temperatures sometimes cause shrubs to start putting out leaves early and while there's not much to do about that, be on guard for cold snaps that will freeze tender new growth. Before a freeze, water your plants, as soil moisture and hydrated roots will improve their cold hardiness.

In summary, La Niña has put us back in drought conditions. Unfortunately, we've had a lot of experience with drought here in central California.

For La Niña forecast information, visit the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center. For reminders on gardening in a drought, visit the UC California Garden Web. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries. 

Posted on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Care of Potted Citrus

Lemon tree
Fall and winter are the times of year when the average outdoor garden plants take a little breather, but not citrus! If your potted Meyer lemon or Bearss lime trees are like mine, they are flowering and fruiting, even as the rest of my garden rests. Thus the care of potted citrus can be a little bit different than other garden plants.

First of all, fertilize!

Citrus is a heavy feeder, particularly on nitrogen. Fertilizers are generally labeled with numeric ratios such as 3-1-1. Those numbers reflect the ratio of nitrogen (N) to phosphorus (P) to potassium (K), or N-P-K. Because citrus likes a lot of nitrogen, you want to purchase a fertilizer with at least a 2-1-1 ratio, or twice as much nitrogen as phosphorus and potassium. Citrus also requires trace minerals, which may be present in the fertilizer you purchase. If not, supplement with trace minerals such as a foliar kelp-based application. Feed according to the directions on the packaging.


According to the Four Winds Growers website, citrus can be pruned any time of year, except in the winter for outdoor trees. If you will be overwintering your citrus tree indoors, you can prune now to reduce legginess and suckering. If your trees stay outside like mine, save the pruning for spring. Visit the Four Winds Growers website for more information on pruning.


Lime harvest
Citrus prefers to be watered deeply and less frequently. Citrus likes moist, but never soggy, soil. Even if the surface of your potted citrus is dry, be sure to check the soil moisture at the roots to determine if it is time to water. A wilted tree that doesn't perk up after watering may indicate soggy roots and excessive watering. Keep an eye on leaves, too. Yellow, cupped leaves may also indicate too much water. For a potted citrus, watering deeply once to twice a week is usually adequate.

Protect from Cold Temperatures

Citrus trees vary in the amount of cold they can tolerate. Lemon and lime trees are the most cold-tolerant, probably one reason why there are so many of them around the central coast. But all varieties of citrus need some protection from frost and/or freezing. A quick and short-lived plunge in temperature won't be as damaging as a prolonged exposure to cold. If you hear that a cold front is coming, get ready:

  • Water all garden plants thoroughly before a freeze, since freezing soil will pull moisture from the plant roots
  • Put old fashioned heat producing Christmas lights on your trees or landscape lights under your trees. Be careful that the hot bulbs don't come into direct contact with leaves as the leaves may scorch.
  • Use frost cover blankets draped over your trees and attached to the ground to trap daytime heat. Be careful if using plastic covers because the trees could overheat during the day.
  • If you have the space, you could also overwinter your citrus tree indoors to avoid frost. Move the tree gradually to avoid shocking it. It's also best to let the roots get a bit dry to ease the transition and prevent the roots from staying too wet through the winter. Ensure the tree gets at least 6 hours of sun per day, or supplement with grow lights. Once danger of frost has passed, gradually move the tree back to full sun in your yard.

The gift giving season is nearly upon us. Consider a potted citrus for yourself or a loved one! They'll repay you with evergreen foliage, sweet-smelling blossoms, and tasty fruit for years to come! For much more information on citrus, visit the Four Winds Growers website. There is also an abundance of information on citrus on the UCANR website (search for citrus). And visit our earlier blog post on how to prepare your citrus for winter here. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries. 


Posted on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 9:46 AM

For the birds: California native berries that birds love

California quail. Image credit: H. Vannoy Davis © California Academy of Sciences.
People love berries and so do the birds! 

Each of these is native to California and attracts California thrashers, western bluebirds, American robins, northern flickers, Nuttall's woodpeckers, mockingbirds, cedar waxwings. scrub jays, northern flickers, yellow-rumped warblers and game birds such as wild turkey, pheasant, California quail and grouse. The blue elderberry on this list can be enjoyed by both people and birds! I have seen all of these bird species except grouse and pheasant in my yard; they are part of our area.


Holly-leaved cherry - Tall, dense shrub 

Manzanitas - Multiple species of shrubs or trees   

Toyon (Christmas berry, California holly) - Mounding form to 8 feet 

Wax myrtle - Mounding form to 30 feet 

California coffeeberry (buckthorn)Dense shrub that is easily pruned 


Blue elderberry -

Hollyleaf cherry. Image credit: Beatrice F. Howitt © California Academy of Sciences.
This is edible by humans as well. Has profuse berry clusters and grows quickly to a 15 foot tree 

California wild rose - Mounding form   

California grapes - Climber or woody ground cover 

Fuchsiaflower gooseberry - Mounding growth, has scarlet flowers and thorns 

Poison oak too! - Let the birds plant their own or control it if you prefer

Additional references:

Toyon. Image credit: J. E.(Jed) and Bonnie McClellan © California Academy of Sciences.
California Native Plants that attract birds: http://www.laspilitas.com/bird.htm

Birds and the plants they like: http://theodorepayne.org/mediawiki/index.php?title=Birds

Our own blog: Wildlife Friendly Gardens Part I and II

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog so that you receive an email notification when a new post goes up. If you have questions, contact us online, by phone or in person to get answers to your gardening quandaries! 


American Robin. Image credit: Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences.


Fuchsia flowering gooseberry. Image credit: William R. Hewlett © California Academy of Sciences.
Posted on Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 9:46 AM

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