40th anniversary logo for 2020
May Tips & Events for Santa Clara County
“You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.” ~Author Unknown
Want to Become a Master Gardener?
Master Gardeners
Ever think about  becoming a Master Gardener ? If you love gardening, are interested in science-based horticulture, and would enjoy sharing your knowledge with the public, this may be for you! UC Master Gardeners are trained to give talks and classes, staff a help desk, work in demonstration gardens, answer questions at events, and much more. Training will begin in January 2021.  Sign up by July 31  to receive more information.
COVID-19 Update
As of May 1 our office is still closed but we’re working remotely to answer gardening questions. The best way to contact us is using our website to submit a question . We’re also checking voice messages although response times are generally slower.

All in-person events through May 31 have been canceled and our demonstration gardens are currently closed. These cancellations and closures may be extended. See our website for the latest information.
Chinese Chives Photo by Aziz Baameur
Herbs
Many herbs can be grown both indoors and out, in pots or in the ground. Rosemary grows large and needs to be in the ground or a big pot. If you use basil to make pesto, you may want a row of it in the garden. Yet most herbs tend to be used in small quantities for seasoning and so they can be grown in small containers. They can be on the kitchen counter or a windowsill for ease of use in cooking. They can be on a patio if you are in an apartment or condo. And they are well suited to container gardening outdoors. Woody herbs can be grown from cuttings, lemongrass can be started from stalks from the store, and most others can be started from seed. After harvesting, many can be dried as well as used fresh.

More Information: Growing Herbs

Photo: Chinese Chives, by Aziz Baameur
High Yield Vegetables
There are many considerations for choosing which edibles to plant in your garden. A particularly important one this year may be high yield. The more the plants produce, the more food you will have right on your property. Zucchini naturally comes to mind first. You may need to research additional recipes, and your neighbors may be more amenable this summer to having bags of zucchini dropped on their doorsteps during the night. Other plants that produce a lot are tomatoes and eggplant. Green beans need to be picked almost daily so they will give you an ongoing source of vegetables for a couple months. Certain cucumbers like Persian cucumbers are eaten small and produce prolifically, enabling you to eat cucumbers more often than if you were waiting for full-size varieties. Vining plants, e.g., melons, will give you more to eat if grown on vertical supports rather than having the produce lie on the ground where it can be more readily eaten by pests.

More Information: Home Garden Productivity

Photo: Fresh Eggplant, Zucchini, and Yellow Squash
Water Budgeting
In spite of some late rains this spring, we still need to use water wisely. Sometimes it is necessary to stop and think about your landscape and prioritize water use. Trees are a long-term investment, yet mature trees may have extensive root systems enabling them to find enough water on their own. Fruit trees may need watering approximately monthly during the summer in order to produce good fruit. Vegetables should always be given adequate water in order to fulfill their purpose in the garden; otherwise the little bit of water you used will have been wasted if the garden is not feeding you well. It’s helpful to understand that home-grown vegetables use much less water overall than ones purchased at the store. Established flowering shrubs, especially California natives, tend to need less water than annual flowers and may be a more water-efficient way to have color and beauty in your garden. Lastly, keep the weeds under control so that they don’t rob water from the plants that you actually want.


Photo: Drip irrigation, newly installed before applying mulch, by Jack Kelly Clark
Seed Viability
Seed packets have a “packed for” date on the back. Yet seeds can still be viable for years beyond that date if stored correctly. Ideal storage conditions are cool and dry. The older the seeds are, the lower the germination rate will be. So plant more of the older seeds than the number of plants you ultimately want. You can do a germination test by putting seeds on a damp paper towel and enclosing them in plastic to keep them uniformly moist. Do this right before planting time so you can transplant the ones that successfully germinate. Or you can take your chances and just plant them directly and see what comes up. If you are saving your own seeds, make sure to choose seeds from the healthiest plants.

It may be hard to get flower seedlings right now, so if you have some old flower seed packets, go ahead and scatter the seeds randomly in a section of your yard and enjoy whatever flowers.

More Information: Vegetable Seed Viability

Photo: Seed Germination, by Alena Kravchenko
Field Bindweed
One hundred years ago, field bindweed was declared “the worst weed in California.” And we’re still battling it. The only chance of controlling this invasive weed is to stay right on top of it and remove it as soon as you see any of it peeking up out of the ground. The roots can go as deep as twenty feet (yes, 20). Every time it starts growing above ground and photosynthesizing, it is storing energy in the roots. This allows it to put out new shoots, but if you remove them quickly the roots will eventually exhaust their energy stores. Carefully dig out as much of the root as possible. And do not put any part of it in the compost because it can regenerate from even a small section of root. See our UC pest note for more information about controlling this weed. The white morningglory style flowers may be pretty, but don’t let them stick around to admire them because they produce seeds that can be viable for 60 years!

More Information: Field Bindweed

Photo: Field bindweed, by Bob Johnson
Upcoming Events
We offer free or low-cost gardening talks, workshops, and courses all over the county, as well as hosting information tables at many community events. Please join us and bring your questions!

Sat, May 02, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., VIRTUAL Going Native Garden Tour , Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, Santa Clara cities

Sun, May 03, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., VIRTUAL Going Native Garden Tour , Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, Santa Clara cities

Tue, May 12, 4:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m.,  VIRTUAL Gardening in Containers Zoom Presentation

Due to changing COVID-19 restrictions, please  refer to our website  for up-to-date event information.
Visit the UC Master Gardener Program website  for additional information including an up-to-date list of events and classes .

Have a gardening question? Contact our Help Desk (for Santa Clara County residents). Start by reviewing our plant  problem diagnosis tips .
  • Mon-Fri 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., 408-282-3105
  • Fri ONLY 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m., 650-329-1356 (Closed Dec. & Jan.)
  • Or send us your question online

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Santa Clara County Master Gardener Program volunteers are trained under the auspices of the UCCE. Our mission is to promote sustainable gardening practices by providing up-to-date, research-based horticultural information to home gardeners.

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