Communities all over the world have love and pride for where they live and Californians are no different. There are places here for everyone: mountains and coastlines, grasslands and forests, even a backyard garden or a city park. No matter the landscape one connects with, we can all direct our love and thanks to the same thing: the soil.
Alameda’s garden soil may be tops for cultivating and planting in, but it does have a significant drawback: it harbors oak root fungus Armillaria mellea. Do not confuse this with “sudden oak death” Phytopthora ramorum.
Armillaria is a serious forest pathogen common throughout California, having evolved to live where native oaks have grown. It is a long-lived, parasitic fungus that survives off dead root material, eventually killing a susceptible host. It does not affect oaks unless they are already stressed by disease or overly-watered lawns underneath the canopy.
The days are shorter now; the nights are cooler. Only one more educational program in the Alameda Backyard Growers’ (ABG) calendar will take place in November on stopping food waste over the holidays. Some apples and persimmons remain to be to picked, but for ABG volunteers, the year is winding to a close.
In response to the November 2018 New York Times article entitled “The Insect Apocalypse is Here,” which reported sharp declines in insect numbers, many gardeners set out to remedy the problem by planting bee- and butterfly-friendly gardens. But some plants in these gardens may not actually help.
“Hey — how are your tomatoes doing this year?” Alamedans have probably used this question as a late-summer greeting since the advent of kitchen gardens in the 1870s. With 2018’s never-ending gloom in mind, Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) decided to survey gardeners around town about 2019’s backyard crops. Survey participants represented Central Alameda, the Bronze Coast, Bay Farm and the East End. Gretchen Doering, Seed-to-Table Director for Italo’s Garden at the Alameda Boys & Girls Club (ABGC) answered for the West End.
It’s August. The weather is warm and the kids are playing in the pool. So that makes this the perfect time to think about the fall garden, right? Right! In order to take advantage of the long growing season in Alameda, this is the time to plant seeds either directly in the garden or in flats for September transplant to ensure harvests late into the fall.
Because Alameda has a summer-dry climate, the vast majority of plants grown here need extra water during the non-rainy months in order to survive. Even drought-tolerant plants like succulents likely need irrigation for their first summer or two. But when, how, how much and how often to water? Different plants have different needs, but there are some common rules.
Should developers be required to provide space and other necessities for community gardens in new projects? That is a question for cities to consider as neighborhoods of single-family residences give way to multi-family housing.
Since the growing season in Alameda is 365 days long, it is possible to grow something tasty during every season of the year. Although most Alamedans have small spaces in which to cultivate, practicing succession planting (replacing harvested crops with a new edible) and interplanting (growing compatible plants together) takes advantage of the Island City’s frost-free winters to maximize use of the growing area available.
Regular applications of compost and organic fertilizer will keep a small yard working hard to produce delicious food.
Many people don’t think too often about the dirt beneath their feet, but the dirt that covers most of the Earth’s dry land makes growing things possible. For those of us who want to have healthy and happy gardens, the composition of that dirt — usually called “soil,” in this context — is vitally important.