Four colors of labradoodles from left to right, cafe, chocolate, red, and cream. Beautiful!
We, who own labradoodles in Cambria, are very proud of our doodles. There are several of us that own them in this town and when we get the chance, we try to get them together in our gardens. We have fun, the dogs have fun, we eat, drink a little wine from local vineyards, and laugh at the pups’ antics.
We had one of our “doodle play dates” the day after the fourth of July. We were all a bit weary after the holiday and the thought of sitting back, enjoying the sun and cool breeze off the ocean, sounded really delightful.
Mattie and Tillie, daughter and mother labradoodles.
All the doodles in attendance are dogs that originally came from Paso Robles’ “Country Labradoodles”. They are Australian Labradoodles, with parentage from Australia, bred to be service and therapy dogs. The dogs got along amazingly well. Unfortunately, our little black labradoodle Madelyn was not in attendance. She had been bred that morning and was home relaxing.
Coreopsis act as a “decoy” attracting beetle away from crops.
Besides having to water our entire half-acre by hand due to watering restrictions, I’m having a war with the back and green “ladybug” commonly known as the Western spotted cucumber beetle or Diabrotica. This bug is downright evil. The adults attack asparagus, beans, eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, squash, corn, cucumbers, and melons. Even worse for home gardeners, it attacks blooms like roses, poppies, and dahlias. It especially likes the color yellow. Not only do they destroy the flowers and fruit, their larvae eat the roots of plants.
The cucumber beetle carries bacteria in their intestines that is spread from plant to plant. Symptoms of these diseases are wilting, browning of leaves and stems, and eventually the plant will die.
Cucumber beetles love my yellow roses.
When I wrote about the dreaded cucumber beetle a few years ago, I thought they had no natural predators. Even my hens would not eat them. Since then, I’ve discovered that the Tachnid fly lays her eggs in the body of insects that are her hosts. One of them is the cucumber beetle. Soldier beetles, parasitic nematodes, and braconid wasps also are enemies to the cucumber beetle. Lacewings and ladybugs eat their eggs and bats swoop down at twilight, and catch the flying cucumber beetle as it searches for a place to spend the night.
Some plants actually repel the cucumber beetle. It helps to place these plants throughout your garden: calendula, catnip, goldenrod, tansy, and nasturtiums.
I don’t use toxic sprays in our garden or on flowers (we have honey bees that we like to keep around) and I’m attached to them. But there are a few “home remedies” that have worked for me in discouraging the damage caused by the spotted cucumber beetle.
Wood ashes can be put in 3” trench around plants to discourage the growth of larvae.
Mulch deeply to smother the emerging larvae. Spread onion skins on the soil around plants.
Put squares of aluminum foil under plants. The pest becomes confused by the reflection and doesn’t which way is up.
A reader suggested putting nematodes in the soil around plants to destroy the larvae. In research, this has been found to be affective in research, but I haven’t myself tried it.
Another reader asked about using neem oil on the ground around infested plants. I have not tried this but new tests are coming out that show neem oil is not only a repellant but may destroy larvae in the soil.
Plant coreopsis around your garden. Cucumber beetles migrate to these pretty yellow flowers. Go around each morning and knock them into a bucket of soapy water. You’ll be surprised how this will reduce the numbers in your garden.
Peppers and garlic soak in water overnight.
I am now using a “home-made” concoction that was suggested to me by a reader. I’ve been spraying plants at dusk, when bees are not present. I do not spray inside flowers that have pollen. It seems to be working and at least reducing the number of adults that are spending their days decimating my summer blooms. Let me know if you have found another “cure” for this most destructive and annoying critter. Whatever you do, don’t endanger our beneficial insects. They are in your garden (whether or not we see them) doing their job. We need to protect them.
Recipe for Cucumber Beetle Spray
CUCUMBER BEETLE SPRAY-Kills and Repels
3-6 garlic cloves
6 small hot peppers or 1 Tbls. red pepper flakes
1 cup hot water
Soak overnight then mix in blender. Put through a sieve. Dilute with 3 more cups water and put in spray bottle. This is very strong! Be careful!
Wine barrels were placed in a location on a slight slope.
I wasn’t going to plant any produce this year due to the severe drought, but I just can’t say no to TOMATOES! A neighbor brought me six tomato plants of dubious ancestry. He’d started from seed. And my husband, who I’d ask to buy me ONE “Sweet 100s” tomato plant because they produce so well here, bought me a six-pack because they “cost less than a single plant”. I had 12 tomatoes that I didn’t really want but would eventually find a place for.
We decided to try growing tomatoes in some old wine barrels that had once held cymbidium orchids. We placed the three wine barrels on a slight slope. As we were moving them, the bottom of one of the barrels had roted, and it fell out. Oh, well, who needs a bottom. Gardeners need to improvise occasionally.
Small green tomatoes are beginning to form.
I concocted a soil mixture that I thought would have good drainage, last the entire growing season and not be too expensive. The recipe for the soil mixture is as follows:
5 parts pine bark (as fine as you can find)
2 parts sphagnum peat moss
1 part perlite
1/2 cup dolomite lime
1/4 cut controlled release fertilizer like Osmocote
1 lbs of worm compost or other compost
I wanted a soil mixture that would hold moisture but still provide good drainage. I’ve used Miracle Grow moisture control potting mix from Costco in the past and it has been too moist. The tomato plants actually shriveled and did not thrive.
After eight weeks, my tomato plants in wine barrels are growing nicely. Here in Cambria, due to the cool climate, we seldom get ripe tomatoes until August. It looks like this year, I’ll get an early crop!
Spider web built overnight in a dormant plum tree.
We have quite a few spiders in our garden since I don’t use pesticides on my plants. They are natural preditors keeping the pest population down. Even when they get into the house, I’m very tolerant of these creepy critters. When they get underfoot, however, I gently return them to the garden where they can munch on flying and crawling insects to their heart’s content.
Certain times of year the webs are covered with pine pollen and can be clearly seen in the morning light. I love looking at the designs each spider variety creates. In the spring, they show off their new abodes. I’m going to start carrying my camera with me when I go out in the morning to see what patterns I can find.
Spiders here along the coast are really quite harmless to humans. The only ones that will bite are the black widow spider. I find them in woodpiles and water valve boxes. I alway wear gloves when I reach into these a damp, dark, widow territories. Their bite is more like a “sting” than a bite, but still to be avoided.
Should you let spiders live and occupy your garden? Yes, yes, yes. They are your friends and allies. The more spiders you have in your garden, the healthier it will be.
We had four Australian labradoodles in our garden last week. They are such joyous dogs. Running through the garden, smelling all the animal scents left behind by native visitors. They stood staring through the fencing at the chickens. Yes, I kept the hens locked in. Then they collapsed in exhausting on the deck where we were enjoying a late afternoon glass of wine.
There are a few Australian labradoodles in Cambria from our breeder Elizabeth Ferris in Paso Robles, owner of Country Labradoodles. These are exceptional dogs and are often chosen as service or therapy dogs due to their calm temperament. Our two girls, Tillie and Maddie are bright, easy to train, and exceptional companions. Tillie is a “cafe” chocolate, almost what they call “lavender” and about 45 pounds. Maddie is a black medium-sized at about 35 pounds. They have had beautiful puppies all of them non-shedding.
From left to right: Mattie (at 16 weeks), Chloe, Tillie, and Maddie. All Australian Labradoodles.
One of the puppies, “Mattie”, a medium chocolate girl, was sold to a couple here in Cambria. She is a only 16 weeks old, a reddish brown with a white blaze on her chest. At last I get to see one of our puppies grow up here. While I’ve stayed in touch with many of the owners of our puppies, none have actually stayed locally. I’m having such fun seeing one actually growing and thriving.
In the pictures below, “Chloe”, a beautiful standard-sized labradoodle was included for the afternoon. What a gentle, fun girl. Chloe vacations regularly in Cambria from Southern California.
Learn more about our Australian Labradoodles here.
Four Australian Labradoodles resting after a playing in the garden.
After 6 years, vines are covering the henhouse and run. These will have to cut back soon.
I found some pictures that may help you with designing a chicken coop that looks good in a garden setting. The chicken coop my husband built six years ago is not perfect but it has served our hens well. It was a little too small for our original six hens but is just about perfect for four. Right now it is housing three healthy hens.
The henhouse has nests that can be accessed from the outside
I say it is not perfect because, after using it for six years, we know what we’d do differently. First of all, the tiny henhouse is only 4′x 5′. The two nest boxes (14″d x 17w x 15h”) are accessed from the inside and the outside which I like. It’s easy for the grandkids to collect eggs and I don’t have to go inside to gather them.
Building the henhouse.
The inside of the coop with nest boxes on the left.
We thought the small henhouse would be large enough since we live in a temperate climate where the food and water can be outdoors. What we didn’t take into account was the fact that rats come into the run at night and steal the food. We have to cover the food dispenser to keep them away at night. Also, sparrows and tohees help themselves all day long. I just consider it cheap wild birdfood.
Sliding door for chickens allowing them access to run during the day. It is closed at night.
The roost was only 4′ across for six hens. A tight squeeze but they like cuddling. It also would be nicer to have space for a hen to have chicks. If I had a few more feet, in the back, I could have put in a nestbox and area on the ground for chicks and a mama hen, or a brooder if I wanted to do it myself.
There is a long, narrow, window above the nest boxes that has hardware wire covering it to keep out raccoons. It doesn’t have a cover. Just open to the air. Great ventilation in this mild climate where it seldom gets below 40 degrees at night, even in the winter. There is an old stained-glassed window on the other side opposite the nests that can be opened if needed.
Pullets discovering their new sliding door to outside.
The run, where the hens spend their days is about 8′ x 16′ and more space than what is needed. Giving the hens more space keeps problems in check. They can dustbathe, pick at a bale of alfalfa, sun themselves and eat and drink all day. It has partial sun and shade from an old coastal oak tree. The pen has hardware wire on the lower parts of the sides that go into the ground about 12″. If I were to do it again, I’d put hardware wire up all the way on the sides and top. That would eliminate the rats and wild birds. We covered the wire on the top with lucite panels to keep out the rain.
So many of you have expressed interest in our coop. It certainly looks different than it did when we built it. It’s nearly covered with vines. We’ll be cutting them back soon. I like that it “fits into” the garden but I don’t want it to disappear. It’s much too cute!
First night on their roost before the interior was painted.
I’ve subscribed to Sunset Magazine since my young “alternative living” days. Long hair, long dresses, a little farm in the hills of the magnificent Marin County. Heavenly…… I still subscribe to Sunset magazine but my lifestyle has changed (a little). There are still chickens running around in the yard but I don’t wear long skirts. Sunset magazine is still practical and down to earth, and it still inspires me to get out and do it. Whatever “it” is.
When we moved from Marin to Cambria 12 years ago Sunset switched my issues from the Northern to the Southern California region. Guess it was the change in zip code. It just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t familiar with the Los Angeles to San Diego area, and not that interested in getting to know it. In addition, the gardening in cool Cambria was actually more similar to San Francisco than Southern California and it was there that I’d become a Master Gardener. I asked Sunset Magazine if I might receive the Northern California edition and they were happy to oblige.
Now Sunset Magazine has discovered our little corner of paradise. So far I’ve missed “Savor the Central Coast” at Santa Margarita Ranch, but hope to go in the coming year. It will be held September 25 – 28, 2014. Exact dates still to be announced.
Avocados are one of my favorite fruits. The “pear shaped” seed with surrounding “meat” has been nicknamed the “alligator pear” because of the leather-like appearance of its skin. Originally from Mexico and Central America, it grows on the Persea Americana tree that thrives along the central California coast. When picked, avocados can weigh 5 oz. – 2 lbs.
Storing avocados for any length of time can be nearly impossible. When you buy avocados they can be very firm. It may take a week for them to ripen at room temperature in your kitchen. Then whammy! They are too ripe and have turned dark and become bitter in taste. I have found a solution for storing ripened avocados so that you can eat them in daily salads or save them for guacamole when you have the urge.
Ripe avocado wrapped in plastic wrap.
Avocados are ripe when they “give” to slight pressure from your fingers. To prepare ripe avocados for storage tear off a piece of plastic wrap about 12” x 12” in size. Wrap the avocados in the wrap.
As you use the avocado, cut sections and peel off the skin. Try to peel it so that the dark green part of the avocado next to skin remains. This contains beneficial nutrients. To store the unused portion, leave the seed in place and put the two halves together. Wrap as you did when the avocado was intact.
Wrapped avocados will last in the refrigerator for about 1-2 weeks. I am no longer hesitant to buy more than one avocado at a time or to take advantage of bulk pricing. Hope this works for you!
When partially use, put pieces together and cover with plastic wrap.
Dear Friends. I’m in the process of combining my two websites. I’ve been moving pictures and posts from Backyard Hencam to Central Coast Gardening. It will be much easier to put both gardening posts and chicken blogs on one website and I’ll be able to keep them updated more easily.
Please be patient with me as I dive into this technology. You will notice that I have many things to fix as I limp along.
We. in Cambria, a little village on the ocean between S.F. and L.A. are experiencing a severe drought. Our water district board, the Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) has prohibited the use of potable (treated) water on our landscapes. Here is the notice we received:
“Effective immediately the CCSD is implementing the following mandatory conservation measures: RESTRICTIONS ON USE OF POTABLE WATER:
1) Outdoor watering of landscaping and gardens with potable water is prohibited. “This prohibition applies regardless of whether or not a particular customer uses less than the monthly use allotment.”(SEE BELOW FOR INFORMATION REAGRDING THE MONTHLY ALLOTMENT) Non-potable water is available free of charge from the CCSD. Customers are welcome to use this non-potable water to water their landscaping. Please contact the CCSD if you are interested in information on rebates for non-potable water tanks.
2) Guests in hotels, motels and other commercial lodging establishments shall be provided the option of not laundering towels and linens daily. The CCSD will provide lodging establishments with free notices to advise guests with this option. Businesses interested in receiving these notices should contact the CCSD immediately at (805) 927-6223 or stop by our office to receive these announcements.
3) Washing of vehicles, boats and trailers with potable water is prohibited. Please note that the car wash in Cambria uses reclaimed water.
4) Washing down sidewalks, driveways, streets, walkways, parking lots, windows, buildings, porches, or patios and all other hard surfaced areas by direct hosing or pressure washers with potable water is prohibited.
5) Emptying and refilling swimming pools and commercial spas is prohibited except to prevent structural damage and/or to provide for the public health and safety.
6) Effective February 3, 2014 the public restrooms will be closed until further notice. Our office will provide portable restrooms at both the Cornwall and Center St location.Effective March 1, 2014 the CCSD is also implementing the following mandatory conservation measures:
Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency Condition has been implemented. This resolution establishes that each residential customer account is allotted 2 units per month (4 units a billing period).
Customers who do not meet the permanent resident requirements are allocated 4 units a billing period.
Each residential customer account is allotted two units per month. Customers may request an increase in the allotment of units by completing a Permanent Resident Certification form. This form is enclosed for your convenience, and is also available on our website. (Example…a household of 2 permanent residents will be allocated 8 units per billing period.)
A five hundred (500) percent surcharge (first violation) shall apply to all water use in excess of customer’s unit allotment.
Sweet Pea Bush
A one thousand (1000) percent surcharge (second violation) shall apply to all water use in excess of customer’s unit allotment.
Subsequent violations shall be subject to a one thousand (1000) percent surcharge and a discontinuance of service.
For reference: 1 unit (100 cubic feet) equals 748 gallons. Customers that own a licensed vacation rental may contact the CCSD to request free notices, advising guests of the enhanced water restrictions and provide conservation tips.
The CCSD Board of Directors and staff thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have any questions we encourage you to contact the Administrative Office at (805) 927-6223.”
Gads, there goes my gardening plans for the coming year. And, without water, there goes my garden!