The plant doctor, Dr Heather Vallier, addressing The Cambria Garden Club
Heather Vallier, PhD, spoke with the Cambria Garden Club at their monthly meeting in February regarding fertilization of garden plants. Dr. Vallier is a plant pathologist, business owner, and graduate of Cal Poly. She consults with businesses and homeowners on plant diseases and plant health. She shared her favorite “brew”, or liquid fertilizer, with us. Dr. Vallier is in the process of making a YouTube video showing how to make the brew. Watch for it.
Here is a simple recipe for a homemade liquid fertilize given to the Cambria Garden Club members by Dr. Vallier. She recommends the mixture be made with overripe bananas (potassium) and used with flowering plants like roses, geraniums, and begonias. For perennials shrubs and vines, leave out the bananas.
Direction for making your own plant brew:
The secret ingredient of the homemade fertilizer mixture: ripe bananas.
Liquify 2 very ripe bananas with a cup of water in a blender or NutriBullet
Add 2 tsp. Miracle Grow crystals
Add 1 capful Super Thrive plant vitamins
Add 2 oz. or 2 capfuls of Organic Kelp or Seaweed concentrate. I used a seaweed/fish emulsion mixture that I had it on hand, instead of just seaweed. Sorry, Heather, for altering your recipe. I do that.
Mix thoroughly. Add to watering can with 1-gallon water, stir, and apply to soil. It’s a good idea to cultivate and water the soil around the plant beforehand to allow for better absorption.
It is recommended that you fertilizer plants every 6-8 weeks during the growing season
Heather’s recipe did not say to dilute with 1-gallon water but I think it is implied.
Ingredients for homemade liquid fertilizer.
I love mixing and inventing concoctions like this. I should have been a science teacher! I also love experimenting and documenting results. A garden is like a great big science project! I’m trying this on my Shasta Daisies now. I’ll let you in on the outcome.
Thank you to: Dr. Heather Vallier
The Crop Doctor Laboratory – Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
Members of the Newcomers Garden Club viewing our garden.
A group of ladies in Cambria came over to take a look at my garden. They were members of the Cambria Newcomers Garden Club. The garden was pretty neglected at the time. We still had a litter of labradoodles. Most of the puppies were reserved, some were even spoken for before they were born. The only pressure we were feeling was, “keep them healthy, give them lots of love and a little basic training. Every day, all day”. And anyone who has ever had puppies knows that there is a lot of clean-up to be done with six-week-old pups. They are little “poop-factories”.
Pink rockrose blooms in late winter and is drought tolerant.
The garden was certainly not free of weeds but many trees and shrubs were beginning to bloom in my garden and gardens around Cambria. You can’t miss the blossoms on trees like crabapple, dogwood, magnolia, redbud, flowering cherry and plum, and on shrubs such as azalea, viburnum, and cassia. Drought-tolerant ceanothus, jasmine, lavender, rockrose, rosemary, and salvia are doing well in drought conditions. Climbers that are showing off in our early spring are clematis, blue hibiscus, Hardenbergia (purple vine violet), climbing roses and wisteria.
The Newcomers Garden Club members talked about the gopher problem and what I found to be the best fertilizer. We discussed solutions to the drought problem. None of us had the answers. All of us have cut back on planting.
I love having visitors to the garden. They give me lots of ideas and I see things through their eyes. I no longer struggle with perfection. I work on one area at a time. “Good is good enough!”
Newcomers smile at the mama labradoodles as Tillie and Maddie come out to say “Hello”.
Our 4-week-old puppies have been moved from our bedroom into our more spacious garden room. I’ve had no time to post pictures of Tillie’s new labradoodle puppies. December was a busy month for us. We met our new grandson, visiting from Alexandria Virginia. We had a wonderful month full of people, Scandinavian food, and puppies. I enjoyed decorating the house with candles, a Christmas tree, and boughs taken from branches of our redwood trees. Finally, some rain arrived to our drought-troubled village and things turned a vibrant green. Everyone was in a holiday spirit.
On 12/11 in the wee hours of the morning, Tillie’s third, and last litter of puppies began to arrive. The vet’s ultrasound in November showed seven puppies, and by noon, all seven had arrived. It was too late to dress up and go to a garden club party that I had looked forward to. I desparately needed some rest. Don and I had layed down for a short nap. When we awoke, we counted the puppies and one more little chocolate girl (we named her Pippa) was nestled with her brothers and sisters. Eight little puppies had been delivered safely, four boys and four girls, four creams, and four chocolates. This will be Tillie’s last litter and she will join her sister “in retirement”. Don and I will be available to take the “girls” for daily walks on Fiscallini Ranch and rides in the car. Cambria dogs are the luckiest dogs in the world!
These puppies will be sold by breeder Liz Ferris whose kennel is located in Paso Robles. Several have been promised already. The puppies are really delightful. They seem to have Tillie’s steady disposition and Charlie’s happy personality. They will make wonderful non-shedding companion dogs and service dogs.
Update as of 5-6-2015: All puppy have adjusted to their new homes, several have graduated from obedience training. One puppy went to Utah, one went to Wyoming, the rest have settled in California.
Our Australian Labradoodle Madelyn “Maddie” gave birth to six puppies on Monday, September 1. We stayed up all night with her as she paced and panted. This is her second litter and we’ll have her spayed in a few months so this will be her last litter.
Maddie is one of our two breeding dogs. We co-own Maddie and Tillie with Liz Ferris of “Country Labradoodles” in Paso Robles. She sells beautiful labradoodles that are in a line of dogs from Australia and bred for service dogs and therapy dogs for people with allergies. After owning Labrador retrievers, I was looking for dog with the same happy disposition but having non-shedding coats. I found this in the labradoodle.
The new puppies are three days old now. We are already starting to handle them. Madelyn watches us as we carefully lift them, snuggle them, and set them down. She needs to trust us with her babies. Within a day or two, we will begin the Bio-Sensor Program or “Super Dog” stimulation each day with each pup.
Early neurological stimulation will have important and lasting effects on puppies. Please see the article published by Dr. Carmen Battaglia, report on research by the U.S. Military program called “BioSensor” or “Super Dog” on the website “Breeding Better Dogs“.
A “pile of labradoodle puppies” at 3 days.
Week 1 and 2: Puppies are born helpless and completely dependent on their moms. They respond to the warmth, touch, and the smell of her. The puppies crawl in a circle moving their heads from side to side when trying to find their mother for food or warmth. Their eyes and ears are closed. There is some vocalizations at this stage, especially if hungry, cold or in distress. A good mother is quick to respond to vocalization.
Week 3 and 4: The puppies’ eyes will open. There is a rapid development of motor skills. Focused vision begins at 18-21 days. They begin getting their teeth. The puppies begin to walk more and leave the nest to eliminate. Yeahhhh!
We increase individual attention, and add toys and other visual objects to their whelping bed and play area. The mother will start to spend short times away from the puppies. Puppies will begin using all of their senses. They need a stable environment and the influence from their mom. Puppies will soon begin play fighting, barking increases. They begin to eat real food, but the mother will continue nursing them. Whenever we feed the puppies, we use the opportunity to teach the command “sit”. You’d be surprised how quickly they learn this command in order to get their bowl of food.
During this period we introduce a variety of new noises: T.V, radio, vacuums, hair dryer, slamming doors. We even have a tape of “city noises”. We also introduce new areas of the house. We invite our company to visit and cuddle the puppies as long as they take off their shoes and wash their hands before entering the dog area.
Week 5 and 6: During these weeks. play behavior becomes much more sophisticated, including growling, chasing, and “kill” games (shaking and holding down the toy). They are eating well now, and will start to be weaned. There is much research supporting the conclusion that puppies raised in an environment lacking challenges are more likely to develop into fearful, less successful adults. Home-raised puppies get so much more exposure to everyday challenges.
Many new objects are introduced, steps, tunnels, blocks of wood, cardboard boxes and anything else we have around. The puppies are encouraged to follow our voice and spend time outside with us. Handling continues making eye contact and talking to the puppies several times a day, including play interactions such as fetching toys.
Week 7 and 8: During this time, more time is spent individually with each puppy, adding new objects for challenge: a maze of objects to run around, larger items to climb over and manipulate. Each puppy is separated for short periods of time from the rest of the litter, teaching more independence and preventing separation anxiety problems later in life. This also encourages bonding and acceptance of humans. And it’s fun to have them alone for a while.
Puppies will experience a trip to the vet for a puppy check-up, meet new people, go for rides in the car, be introduced to walking on a leash and learning to navigate stairs. They will continue to be introduced to new toys, objects, sights, and sounds. Crate training begins. All of this will ensure that all of our puppies make a smooth transition into their new homes with as little stress as possible.
After week 8: Dogs with proper stimuli and socialization will learn quickly and not develop self-destructive behaviors like coat chewing, licking, etc.
Puppies continue to need to be exposed to a wide array of smells, textures, surfaces, sounds, vibrations, tastes, sights, and a variety of people, especially children. The more chances a puppy has to be exposed to something new during the critical socialization periods, the less bothered it will be throughout the rest of its life when confronted by new or frightening things.
Weaning should be complete after 8 weeks, however the mom will continue to play with and teach the puppies. The puppies are very curious. They have very little sense of fear now and will approach and investigate anything and everything.
House breaking begins and the pups learn to eliminate outdoors. Puppies learn to be enjoy grooming and are bathed.
At some time, during the eight weeks we have our puppies in our home, I write a paragraph regarding the personality of each individual puppy. Labradoodles, and in fact all puppies, have specific temperaments at a very early age. Knowing them can help make a perfect match between puppy and owner. Most puppies will be placed in their new homes between 8 and 10 weeks. Learning how to live in a family will be an exciting process. I’ve enjoyed getting pictures and little videos of progress from “forever” families. Raising puppies is very rewarding. I love playing a part in what can be a most exciting part of peoples’ lives.
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.