- (Public Value) UCANR: Protecting California's natural resources
By Barbara Dawson (on behalf of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Drought Committee)
Landscape irrigation in California accounts for 1/3 to 1/2 of all residential water use. Due to the current drought and impacts of urban heat islands, planting drought and heat resistant, environmentally friendly landscape plants is important. Currently sixty-six percent of the state is now considered to be in a severe drought (drought.gov) with droughts expected to be more common and frequent over the coming decades.
Planning ahead is important! Let's reconsider the grassy cool-season lawn (tall fescue, bluegrass, ryegrass). While all living plants cools urban heat islands as they grow (through transpiration), cool season lawns require about 30% more water than warm season lawns (Bermudagrass, buffalograss) and many types of drought-resistant groundcovers. Also, since sprinkler irrigation is not as efficient as drip irrigation and much of the water applied never reaches the rootzone of the plants, even more water is often wasted. (Please remember that artificial grass, asphalt, and dark colored mulch super-heat our urban heat islands and should be avoided in inland and desert areas!)
If it makes sense in your specific situation to remove your lawn and replace it with lower maintenance plants that save time and money, what steps do you need to take to be successful? First and foremost, plan ahead.
Once there is a plan it is time to get rid of the grass. This is no fun but keep the end goal in mind. There are several options: let the grass die (by not watering it), use a sod removal machine, or cover the grass with old carpeting or newspaper covered with mulch. Using a sod removal machine will gain the quickest results. The other options may take one to six months. Once the grass is gone check the remaining soil for sod netting although this doesn't necessarily need to be all gone before planting begins. When planting, group plants with like watering needs together (hydrozone). Check the plant tags for the height and width they'll reach when mature and make sure there's adequate space as well as their drought and heat tolerance. Consider this when planting. There will be some bald areas between the plantings at the start. Allow plenty of space if you're planning on adding trees! They should not be crowded out. Before adding new plants wait until the first ones fill out. It's ok to have a few plants that need moderate water but make sure they are in their own hydrozone.
Water regularly (once or more per week) until the plants are established (a season or two) and then go longer between waterings to let the roots dry down some and avoid root rot. Adding organic matter (such as compost) to planting sites that will not be used for trees may be useful since it helps retain water in sandy soils and enhances drainage in heavier clay soils. Check the soil to determine how often to water. Sandy soils require watering much more often than clay soils. Many natives and succulents require a fast draining soil. Continue to pull out weeds and grass clumps. After one year reassess the garden. Do you want to add more plants, take out those that are not working, add more rocks? Consider this a work in progress until you're satisfied.
One last comment. Like most gardens this will take work. But, in the end, your yard will attract pollinators and beneficial insects and you will save many gallons of water (which will result in a savings on the water bill). Southern California is an arid zone so let's create a more fitting space.
- Author: Chris McDonald
Stinknet (Oncosiphon pilulifer) is a relatively new weed to North America and has been moving quickly and spreading in San Bernardino County. Gardeners may have noticed this unusual yellow-flowered plant growing in their yard this year, even though we are in a significant drought. This is a sign of how invasive this weed can be. It would be very wise to remove this plant from your yard and ensure it does not grow in your community.
Stinknet was first discovered in North America in Riverside County in the early 1980's and began to spread shortly thereafter. In the 1990's, it began to spread much more quickly and within 20 years of its discovery, it was found in multiple locations in Riverside and San Diego Counties as well as in central Arizona. Stinknet is a winter annual germinating with the fall and winter rains, blooming in the spring, and usually dying in the summer. However, stinknet seeds in the soil can germinate multiple times a year creating multiple cohorts and making it that much more difficult to remove.
Identification of stinknet:
There are four characteristics you can use to help identify stinknet. Each one by itself may or may not be helpful, and when combined they will help you correctly identify stinknet.
First, and easiest to identify, is the inflorescence is bright yellow and round, almost globe shaped. The bright flowers dry to a dark brown color and tend to hold on to their seeds for many months after the plants die into the summer.
Second stinknet, like the common name suggests, stinks. It has a strong odor which many people find unpleasant, a strong resin, turpentine, pungent pine-like odor. Similar weeds which have a round inflorescence do not have an unpleasant odor (pineapple weed has a pleasant pineapple-like odor).
Third, the leaves of stinknet are finely divided. They are doubly pinnate (bipinnate), meaning the leaves are divided at least two times into smaller divisions. While many plants have this characteristic, this can be useful if your unknown plant is not flowering, has doubly divided leaves and you can smell it.
Last, stinknet germinates in the fall and winter rains, grows as a small rosette through the winter and then starts to bolt and flower in the late winter through spring. In places that receive irrigation or in moist soils, stinknet can flower even longer from the early spring through the summer.
While size can be helpful for some plants, the size of stinknet can be highly variable. Stinknet growing in poor conditions can grow to be only 6 inches tall with a few flowers. In good condition it grows to be almost 3 feet tall with hundreds of flowers and appears almost shrub like.
San Bernardino County so far has very few large stinknet infestations, but many scattered infestations. However, this year I've noticed more and more individuals and patches of stinknet in San Bernardino County, many of which will eventually become large infestations, if left to spread.
There are very large infestations in parts of Riverside (see below) and San Diego Counties and Phoenix where stinknet has been invading the longest. In these areas, stinknet covers entire fields and roadsides, covering dozens to hundreds of acres in large patches. There have been very few places in Southern California where stinknet has not continued to spread when left unchecked.
Stinknet is a generalist and can grow in many different types of habitats including wildlands, gardens, suburban landscapes, disturbed areas such as adjacent to roadsides and parking lots, and on hiking trails. It is spreading in San Bernardino County and should thrive in the desert, inland, and at least to 4,000 ft. in elevation in the mountains, and possibly higher. If you do find this plant, report it in the iNaturalist or CalFlora apps.
Stinknet grows very well in Phoenix where winter rainfall is less than what we receive in the San Bernardino County deserts. Unfortunately, stinknet flowers every year in Southern California, even when we are in serious drought conditions, allowing it to spread farther each year.
Stinknet is one good example of why gardeners should be wary of new plants showing up in their garden. If you didn't plant it, it is likely a weed. Unfortunately, it will take at least 3 years of weeding to remove stinknet from an established site, so keep up the work and you can rid this plant from your garden and neighborhood.
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
Are you ready to transform your yard into a more sustainable landscape but don't know the first thing about irrigation systems? Our very own UC San Bernardino County Master Gardener Anita Matlock really knows her “stuff” when it comes to irrigation! She has enough experience and in-depth knowledge about irrigation to teach anyone how easy it is to transition their landscape from spray sprinklers to a drip irrigation system. She has provided numerous in-depth presentations and hands-on workshops that helped attendees increase their knowledge of beneficial irrigation concepts and decrease water usage in the garden.
As a Master Gardener, Anita has been our “de facto” trainer on irrigation systems since 2003. She says, “there are still many people who are unaware of how much water and money they could save by simply swapping out standard sprays and rotors for those with integrated pressure regulation. Communities everywhere continue to face the problem of high water pressure. High water pressure causes irrigation systems to experience a higher water flow rate, which results in wasted water, higher water bills, and damaged system components.”
Before retiring, Anita's professional background since 1991 had been in the irrigation industry. She was familiar with the irrigation concepts related to the "plant, water, soil relationship," but she was not familiar with growing plants. In 2003, she was inspired to join the Master Gardener program because she wanted to learn how to prune grapes and rose bushes. Through the Master Gardener program, Anita learned about growing roses and developed enough expertise and knowledge to teach a rose pruning workshop in January 2020.
Anita says that if you enjoy gardening and want to give back to your community, consider joining the Master Gardener program. You will experience many hours of pleasure spent in your garden while also teaching others about the many joys and benefits of gardening. She also wants to remind everyone to consider joining the UC San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers program if you enjoy growing edible gardens, especially if you grow many fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You will gain a lot of satisfaction from growing your own food, preserving it for your family, and giving your preserved foods as gifts! Joining the Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs will open opportunities for you to develop your interests in many different directions and make life-long friends with similar interests and passions.
Anita has used her expertise in irrigation to lead several Master Gardener landscape renovation projects. Her most recent project was in the summer of 2018, at Micah House in Redlands. Along with fellow UC Master Gardeners Betty Richardson, Trisha Fitzgerald, and other volunteers, she participated in transforming a grassy area in the front yard of Micah House into a lovely drought-tolerant garden. Master Gardeners removed the existing lawns and replaced them with drought-tolerant plants watered by a new drip irrigation system. The project was made possible through a grant from the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD).
In 2018, Anita donated irrigation equipment to a research project that measured the impacts of gardening on 82 first and second-grade students at Norton Space and Aeronautical Academy, a charter school in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in San Bernardino. It was a team effort with Master Gardeners Loleta Cruse, Jackie Brooks, Robert Simpson, and other community volunteers. The study found that students participating in planting and caring for the garden had greater concentration and group cohesiveness than students participating in other group activities. These positive outcomes corroborated research from several other studies worldwide, linking enhanced mood, feelings of self-worth, improved cooperation with others, and even higher standardized test scores and grades to school gardening.
Anita's previous career in marketing and consulting sales presenting to customers and potential customers, and becoming a Toastmasters member helped her develop the confidence to speak in front of groups. She has presented at Master Gardener events too numerous to list in this article. In 2018, she presented SoCal Landscape Transformation – The Hunt for Water Savings, a workshop at Western Municipal Water District (WMWD).
In April 2020, she presented at a free webinar on DIY water-efficient landscape irrigation hosted by IERCD in partnership with the (San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD.) She led attendees through the ins and outs of retrofitting and drip irrigation to increase their knowledge of effective irrigation practices and help decrease their water usage.
If you are interested in presenting as a Master Gardener but are hesitant to take that first step, you don't need years of public speaking experience like Anita has. She has some great tips to get anyone started. The first step is to study and understand the subject you are presenting. Prepare an outline for your presentation and practice it in front of your family and friends. Here is a great tip that worked for Anita when preparing to present a new topic to her fellow Toastmasters. She would introduce a shorter version to get feedback and gain the confidence to fine-tune her final presentation. Try it yourself and see how it works for you! Don't hesitate to ask your fellow Master Gardeners for help by giving you feedback on practice presentations or co-presenting with you on your favorite gardening topic.
Anita's latest gardening project reflects her interest in vertical gardening. If you have not already “dipped your gardening toes” into this fascinating and fun gardening activity, I highly recommend trying it! I think you will be inspired to try your hand at vertical gardening when you read about Anita's vertical herb and vegetable garden.
In 2003, Anita (and her husband Tony) decided they wanted something more visually appealing to look at while enjoying their patio than a bare wall separating their property from their neighbors. They also wanted herbs to use for cooking that they had grown themselves, so they built a vertical herb and vegetable garden made of wood. After 7 years, the wood had deteriorated. They recently created a new vertical system made of HDPE drainpipe to replace the old wooden system. Be creative and start your own vertical garden using unique and fun materials.
You never know where the path of being a Master Gardener will lead you. In 2003, Anita and her husband Tony started a hobby in home wine making. Anita also decided to join the Master Gardeners program in 2003 because she wanted to learn how to prune grapes (and roses.) Fast forward to 2018, when Anita and Tony decided to take their years as home winemakers to turn their hobby into an encore career to establish their commercial winery. Anita is now an award-winning winemaker and serves as a Board Member of the Yucaipa Valley Wine Alliance. She has provided hands-on training at many workshops on growing grapes and wine making.
UC San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are thankful to Anita Matlock for enthusiastically sharing her extensive knowledge of irrigation concepts that decrease water usage. She is a wonderfully approachable presenter, and we are proud to name her as this month's Spotlight Master Gardener!
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
I recently enjoyed taking a “virtual garden walk” with UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Betty Richards (class of 2016) while chatting on a Zoom call with her.
I came away from our meeting with the distinct impression that the gardening world is a better place with Betty in it. She has always had a deep interest in our environment and what individuals can do to protect it and make it a better place to thrive.
With increased awareness of the importance of native plants to birds, bees, butterflies, and our environment, Betty has become more active in promoting California native plants in home gardens. With her science background (she is a retired physician), coupled with a passion for sustainable gardening and protecting the environment, she has a winning combination for success.
Betty not only believes in the UC Master Gardener mission of sustainable gardening but exhibits her beliefs through her actions and participation in numerous volunteer activities. Volunteering for various Master Gardener activities has allowed Betty to meet people and find out about other projects that interest her. She has successfully and tirelessly led many Master Gardener projects.
Betty and fellow Master Gardeners designed the native plants demonstration garden at the historic Asistencia on Barton Road in West Redlands. The Asistencia was acquired by the Redlands Conservancy to teach about the history of Redlands, the history of native Californians, and as a place to demonstrate the importance of incorporating native plants in neighborhood landscapes. In November 2019, Betty worked with a large group of volunteers from the UC Master Gardeners and the local community to plant the demonstration garden. She continues to be involved in the Asistencia project by educating the staff about caring for the native plants. She is currently working with fellow Master Gardeners Heather Ross and Heather Nichol on designing and implementing the main front garden area and a cactus/succulent garden at the Asistencia. We look forward to seeing the changes that Betty and the UC Master Gardeners team and other community volunteers make to the Asistencia gardens.
Betty is the main organizer of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners' presence at the Redlands Farmers' Market. She coordinates volunteers, makes sure the Master Gardener information table is set up, and that printed gardening materials are available to give out to people who stop by. Betty says it is fun to talk to the folks who visit. Working at the Farmers' Market is an excellent opportunity to get to know fellow master gardeners working at the table and trade gardening tips. Betty is looking forward to COVID restrictions being lifted so the Master Gardeners can get back to providing research-based answers to gardening questions!
In early 2020, Betty started organizing a quarterly series of talks by Master Gardeners at the Redlands Community Center on Lugonia Avenue. This was begun, as an educational activity for gardeners from the city's community gardens and attracted many community members. Betty hopes to continue these well-attended talks when COVID restrictions are lifted and the community center reopens.
Last spring, UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners Betty Richards, Linda Richards (no relation to Betty), and Brenda Spoelstra got together with the California Native Plant Society's local chapter and planned a tour of their local native gardens. Each of the three yards was in different lawn replacement stages with low water-use plants – Brenda Spoelstra's new drought-tolerant space, Betty Richards' maturing (3-5 years) garden, and Linda Richards' mature garden. When the COVID 19 pandemic made the tour impossible, they made virtual tours of the gardens and posted them online https://ifnaturecouldtalk.com/youre-invited-to-virtually-visit-three-california-gardens.
Gardens such as the three featured in the native plants video take time and care. The transition of Betty's lawn to a native plants garden has evolved over the past 3-5 years, and continues to evolve. In 2015, she decided she would begin the process of transitioning the water-thirsty lawn at her home to California natives and other low water use plants. She started the process by learning all she could about which native plants to grow in her garden. She took a class on how to grow native plants at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden (now California Botanical Garden) in Claremont, California. The 86 acres garden is a non-profit organization dedicated to California native plants. Events and classes are offered throughout the year.
Betty also researched native plants on the California Native Plant Society Calscape website https://calscape.org/. She recommends the website to anyone interested in making the transition to a native plants garden. It is an excellent source of information about which plants are native to any location in the state. It helps people figure out which plants to use, where to buy the plants and how to grow them.
When Betty started to work on the transition, she decided to leave a group of existing White Alder trees that thrived in the well-watered lawn space. She added an extension to a pre-existing drip irrigation line to continue to give the trees the irrigation they needed. After putting in a path of decomposed granite she planted a group of three desert willows and added other low-water-requiring native shrubs and perennials. Every year she adds a few more plants and throws out some wildflower seeds before the first winter rains.
She has recently added a birdbath to encourage birds to stop by and visit the garden. Over the years, she has seen an increase in native bees, butterflies, and birds. Her water bill has even decreased significantly! The evolution of Betty's garden continues with plans to add keystone species of plants to the landscape. Keystone plants for our local area such as live oaks, ceanothus, coyote brush, and black sage are especially important in supporting a diversity of life.
For the past year, Betty has been working as a volunteer at Caroline Park in Redlands. The City of Redlands 16+ acres park is planted with California native plants. On Tuesday mornings, a small, dedicated crew works to remove invasive non-native plants, prune, and maintain the plants and trails. If you have the opportunity, take a walk in Caroline Park to see which California native plants are blooming. The park is primarily a great example of the dwindling Coastal Sage, although it also showcases several habitats, including woodlands and various chaparral plants. Betty would love readers to view the beautifully produced video she made to spread the word about this local native plants gem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7FQAb0AuOI. She hopes that the video will inspire people to plant some natives in their home landscape. I have viewed the video several times and am always touched by the “visual poem” created by Betty to the park.
In the summer of 2018, Betty and fellow UC Master Gardeners Anita Matlock and Trisha Fitzgerald participated in transforming a grassy area in the front yard of Micah House into a lovely drought-tolerant garden. Micah House in North Redlands is an after-school educational program for children and youth from 1st through 12th grades. It provides homework help, tutoring, literacy education and character-building themes and extracurricular activities, including gardening, art, music, and bike restoration.
Master Gardeners removed the existing lawns and replaced them with drought-tolerant plants watered by a new drip irrigation system. They partnered with Micah House staff, families of their after-school program, and the community. On planting the day, they worked with volunteers from Trinity Church and children and staff from the Micah House program to put the finishing touches on the water-wise garden. The project was made possible through a grant from the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD). (Betty also serves as an advisory committee member for the IERCD/UCCE Master Gardener partnership which helps UCCE programs reach over 35,000 county residents each year.)
Betty has always been interested in outdoor activities such as gardening, birding, hiking, and camping. She has done some vegetable gardening in raised beds and some planting of “this and that about the yard.” So, when she heard about the UC Master Gardener program through a friend who was applying to Riverside County's class, she applied to the UC San Bernardino County course. The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are thankful that Betty took that step and joined.
Betty says that what she likes best about the Master Gardener program is meeting new friends who love to garden and share their gardening knowledge. She encourages anyone interested in becoming a Master gardener to apply. “There are many opportunities to try different gardening areas. It doesn't matter whether you are a very experienced gardener, an enthusiastic beginner, an introvert, an extrovert, no matter your age or abilities. You can start a community garden, present at gardening events, or even help provide research-based information to people calling in on the Master Gardener Helpline. There are many opportunities to utilize your current skills and strengths and develop new ones and develop confidence.” Working on the Micah House project gave Betty the confidence to jump into designing the Asistencia project.
Through the Master Gardener program, Betty has become more aware of the many ways people in our communities are working toward a sustainable future for our region and our planet.
Here is some "food for thought" that I came away with from my time spent chatting with Betty. Birds are an excellent indicator of the health of the environment. 29% of the population of birds in the United States and Canada have disappeared since the 1970s. Many songbirds require insects to feed to their young. Caterpillars are especially important to birds. Betty is a natural teacher, illustrating concepts through storytelling that non-gardeners and gardeners can understand. “Think of a caterpillar as a little sausage full of good nutrition for a baby bird. Most caterpillars (not just the Monarch butterfly caterpillars) require particular native plants. As we lose our wild areas to development, we are losing our birds and butterflies. This is because the ornamental plants we have used in our gardens for so many years do very little to support them. We can do something about this by planting native plants and avoiding the use of pesticides. We don't have to have 100 % of natives to make a difference."
GALLERY OF SOME OF THE NATIVE PLANTS IN BETTY'S GARDEN.