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A quick guide to identifying some pigweed species found in California

According to the CalFlora website (http://www.calflora.org/), 21 species of amaranths occur (to some extent) in California. While many are non-native, a few, including prostrate pigweed (Amaranthus blitoides) and Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), are...

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Stinknet is new to me

stinknet flower and leaf

I recently attended a Santa Ana River - Orange County Weed Management Area (SAROCWMA) meeting and there was the opportunity for participants to update the group about new invasive plants as well as give an update on management of these and others. During...

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2018 at 10:51 AM

Summer—it’s a time for swimming, BBQs, camping, and eating invasive species

blackberry

Last week during California Invasive Species Action Week (June 2 – June 10), we highlighted several pests, but there are many more invasive species out there. Now that you know about them, share your knowledge of invasive species with others. And...

Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 12:21 PM

Reduce food waste to combat world hunger and slow global climate change

One-third of the world's food is spoiled or tossed rather than eaten, a fact that is tragic when nearly one billion people go hungry. The injustice of food waste is worsened by the fact that food decomposing in landfills emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The conventional management of municipal waste in landfills places discarded food and plant matter into an anaerobic environment, initiating a chemical reaction that turns biomass into biogas – specifically methane, a greenhouse gas that's 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The UC Cooperative Extension Compost Education Program facility at Martial Cottle Park in San Jose.

Reducing the volume of the California waste stream and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are objectives that have spurred state lawmakers to enact regulations, such as Assembly Bill 939, which in 1985 mandated a 50 percent diversion of solid waste away from landfills. A 1989 update to the law also required municipalities to reach out to residents with training on greenwaste etiquette and waste diversion.

UC Cooperative Extension is working closely with the cities and county of Santa Clara in a far-reaching program to divert organic matter – food and green waste – from landfills by composting and using the product to enrich soil in the home garden.

UC Master Composter Don Krafft, right, presents information on composting during the class in Palo Alto.

In early June, UC Master Composter Don Krafft conducted a class on composting in a Palo Alto community center, one of 22 sessions to be offered in the spring and summer of 2018. A retired telecommunications professional, Krafft's interest in composting stemmed from his work as a Master Gardener for UC Cooperative Extension.

“I live in a townhouse, so I do worm composting. The No. 1 reason,” Krafft said, “is because it's fun.”

The composting workshops are just one component of the UC Cooperative Extension's composting efforts in Santa Clara County, led by UCCE staff research associate Cole Smith. The Environmental Protection Agency has a food recovery hierarchy, he said, which has source reduction at the top, followed by feeding the hungry, feeding animals, industrial uses, then composting, and finally delivery to a landfill.

“By diverting and recycling at the source, we reduce the diesel footprint for hauling,” Smith said. “We want to tighten the nutrient loop and the backyard is the closest place.”

Coordinator of the UCCE composting program in Santa Clara County, Cole Smith, stands with a bicycle-powered compost turning tool at the demonstration site.

The classic composting technique involves layering “browns” – dry leaves, sawdust, woody cuttings, straw, shredded newspaper and cardboard – with “greens” – grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, green plant cuttings and manure.

“Start and end with browns to keep the fruit flies down,” Krafft said. “It's like making lasagna.”

Certain foods should not be added to the home compost heap – including meat, whole eggs and dairy products.

The mix of greens and browns should be maintained evenly moist, but not soaked, and turned at regular intervals, the more often, the faster the materials decompose.

“Maintenance is completely adaptable. You can do a lot or a little and it gets easier with time,” Krafft assured the audience.

The compost is ready when the components are no longer recognizable and the pile is cold. Once composted, the former waste becomes a stable soil amendment with a pleasant earthy smell. It's then ready to be applied in the garden.

Compost bins at the UC Compost Education Program demonstration site.

UCCE Santa Clara has also developed a three-acre composting demonstration site at Martial Cottle Park in San Jose, where volunteers are composting animal waste generated by the 4-H animal program in a project made possible by a grant from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The facility includes a variety of commercial and homemade compost containers, including one built by a volunteer that employs bicycle power to mix compost.

The issue of food waste is capturing significant attention not only in Santa Clara County and not only in the garden. Food waste reaches across multiple disciplines, including agriculture, environment, and public health, key areas of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' efforts.

“Food waste is a symptom of our food systems and food practices going astray,” said Wendi Gosliner, a project scientist in the UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute, co-founder of California Food Waste Prevention Week, which was held for the first time in March 2018.

“Addressing the issue requires researchers, practitioners, policy makers, communities and individuals to innovate and develop new solutions,” Gosliner said.

UC ANR programs that have a hand in food waste prevention include:

“UC ANR translates research to practice in helping communities manage food resources, learn to preserve food and compost – all parts of the food waste solution,” Gosliner said. “Thinking about these and other UC ANR activities under the umbrella of food waste prevention can help to better nourish people, protect the environment and conserve human, natural and financial resources.

A commercial home compost bin, left, and a bin improvised by cutting holes and the bottom out of an ordinary plastic trash can.
Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 8:34 AM

National Pollinator Week: Open house at UC Davis Bee Garden

June 18-24 is National Pollinator Week.

Do you know where your pollinators are? Think bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

And think flies. Especially syrphid flies, also known as "flower flies" and "hover flies."

The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is hosting an open house during National Pollinator Week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.

Here's what you can expect to see or do:

  • learn how to catch and observe bees up close
  • see honey bees at work in an observation beehive
  • learn about bee diversity and identification
  • learn about what and how to plant for bees
  • learn about growing and good pollination in home fruit gardens
  • see easy-to-grow bee plants and solitary bee houses available for a donation to the garden.

The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, installed in the fall of 2009 and located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road, is a half-acre garden devoted to bee pollinator conservation and education. It was founded and sprang to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project. Kimsey was singled out for her work when the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America honored her and four others – "The Bee Team"– with the 2013 outstanding team award. 

A Sausalito team – landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki – won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture; David Fujino, executive director, California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Others with a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, founded and directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long worker bee sculpture, the work of Billick, anchors the garden. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.

Why are pollinators so crucial? Take it from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:

"Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. The United States alone grows more than 100 crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced diseases."

So, on Saturday, June 23, you won't see any red-backed voles or grizzly bears. But you'll see bees, butterflies, birds and beetles.

And flies. Syprhid flies.

For more information on the open house, access https://hhbhgarden.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Pollinator-week-flyer-2018-1.pdf

A honey bee foraging on a blanket flower, Gallardia, in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

 

A male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, nectaring on a California native, foothill penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulis, was a frequent visitor to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven during the early years. Note the spider lurking beneath the zinnia blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This sculpture of a six-foot long worker bee, titled "Miss Bee Haven," anchors the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick (pictured) of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A syprhid fly, aka "flower fly" or "hover fly," foraging on Echium wildpretii, the "tower of jewels." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at 2:29 PM

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