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November Tips & Events for Santa Clara County
“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.” — Elizabeth Lawrence
A monarch butterfly on a showy milkweed plant
Beautiful monarch butterflies coevolved with milkweed. This allows them to feed on it without being affected by the plant's natural toxins which provide protection for both the milkweed and the monarchs. At the same time, it makes them dependent on this source for food, habitat, and reproduction. However, not all types of milkweed are appropriate for the monarchs. Tropical milkweeds can provide food all year long, disrupting normal breeding and migration behavior. Also, repeatedly breeding on the same plant can increase infection by the OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) parasite. Native California milkweed naturally goes dormant in the winter and is the preferred host for the monarch butterfly. Cut back tropical varieties now to protect the natural life cycle of the butterfly. Cutting them back a few times during the year to promote new clean growth and reduce OE spores is also a good idea.

Photo: M onarch butterfly on a native showy milkweed plant, USFWS
No Standing Water
Now that we’re getting into the rainy season, remember to turn over pots, buckets, and other containers that can collect and hold rain water. If the trays under your container plants collect water, tip them over or remove the water with a turkey baster set aside only for that purpose. Standing water becomes breeding ground for mosquitoes which spread West Nile Virus. And with container plants, the standing water in the trays can evaporate, leaving behind a higher concentration of salts and minerals which can damage the plants.

Photo: The mosquito life cycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult, by Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District
King Albert Trumpet Daffodil
Photo by Jack Kelly Clark
Planting Bulbs
Now is the time to plan ahead for spring beauty. Fall is ideal for putting in spring-flowering bulbs, and that includes other underground parts that we tend to lump together with bulbs, like corms, rhizomes, and tubers. Choose a sunny or partly sunny location with good drainage. If you can't see the spot with the right conditions from your house or sitting area, you can treat it as a cutting garden and bring those flowers indoors to enjoy. Plant the bulbs at a depth about twice the size of the bulb, pointy side up, and add compost, a little water, and a light fertilizer to the planting hole. You’ll know spring is coming when you see crocuses and daffodils start poking up.

More Information: Planting Bulbs

Photo: King Albert Trumpet Daffodil, Photo by Jack Kelly Clark
BMSB Feeding on Various Hosts
Photo by Jesus Lara Mr
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
The brown marmorated stink bug is native to Asia and has been in California for a little over a decade. It only recently appeared in Santa Clara County. Some features to distinguish these bugs from other stink bugs are white stripes on the antennae, a blunt head shape, and smooth shoulder margins. They feed and reproduce on a variety of plants and are particularly damaging to fruit. You can cut cosmetic damage off fruit and still eat the rest of the fruit. To keep out stink bugs, cover vegetable plants with row covers. You can pick the bugs off plants and squish them (with gloves) or knock them off into soapy water. They are attracted to light and can get into homes where if vacuumed up, they can stink up your vacuum bag.

Photo: BMSB Feeding on Various Hosts, by Jesus Lara
The various stages of green lacewings
Good Bugs
Destructive bugs get much of the press, but there are plenty of good guys out there. They are collectively referred to as beneficial insects or natural enemies. They are the ones that pollinate flowers some of which lead to the fruit we enjoy so much and help control pest populations. Lady beetles, especially in the larval stage, eat soft-bodied insects. Parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside aphids and when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their way out. And assassin bugs inject their prey with venom. Learn to recognize good bugs in all their stages, and don’t just squish anything that crawls.

More Information: Natural Enemies Gallery

Photo: Various Life Stages of Green Lacewings, UC IPM images by Jack Kelly Clark
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Library presentation by Tuan Hoang
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, Nov 02, 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., Fall/Winter Cover Crops , Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, 851 Center Dr., Palo Alto

Sat, Nov 02, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m., Blueberries in Abundance , Program Room, Sunnyvale Public Library, 665 W Olive Ave, Sunnyvale

Mon, Nov 04, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Winter Fruit Tree Care and Selection , Morgan Hill Library, 60 West Main Ave, Morgan Hill

Tue, Nov 05, 7:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m., Blueberries in Abundance , Saratoga Public Library, 13650 Saratoga Ave, Saratoga

Wed, Nov 06, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Growing Winter Vegetables in Containers , Gilroy Library, 350 W. 6th St., Gilroy

Sat, Nov 09, 10:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m., Composting with Worms , The Forge Garden, 1051 Sherman Street, Santa Clara

Sat, Nov 09, 10:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m., Planting Bulbs for Spring Blooms , St. Louise Hospital Teaching & Demonstration Garden, 9400 No Name Uno Way, Gilroy

Sat, Nov 16, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m., Succulent Sale , Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Ave, San Jose

Sat, Nov 16, 1:00 p.m.–2:30 p.m., Culinary Herbs , Mission Branch Library, 1098 Lexington St, Santa Clara

Wed, Jan 08, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Winter Care of Roses , Cupertino Library, 10800 Torre Ave, Cupertino

Tue, Jan 14, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Winter Fruit Tree Pruning , Campbell Library, 77 Harrison Ave, Campbell
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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