- (Focus Area) Yard & Garden
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Nothing is better!
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollinator Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute, is actually the "queen bee" of this organization but she's also a worker bee. She's scheduled two mead workshops in February, and a series of three honey exploration classes--exploring honey in California, United States and the world--in February, March and April.
Whew! At last we are getting some serious rain in the North State this season. We all agree that rainwater is precious—so why do we try so hard to move it off our property? On city and suburban lots, we channel rainwater from roof gutter downspout to street gutter storm drain as directly as possible. We don't want rainwater pooling around our foundations or settling into muddy sumps in our gardens, so modern houses and driveways are engineered to clear the runoff. But why not capture that precious rainwater in the soil? “Slow it, spread it, sink it” is the rallying cry of this permaculture principle of rain capture, and with some fairly simple landscaping—small berms, swales, and basins that direct, detain, and filter water—we can invigorate our soil ecology, enhance our yard's aesthetic and habitat value, filter pollutants, and help relieve over-tasked city storm drains.
The goal of on-site rain capture is to allow water to percolate into the soil rather than to create holding ponds, which require more complex engineering (and can foster mosquito breeding). Any effective rain garden landscaping should discourage standing water and allow flow to infiltrate the soil within a day or two. This can be as simple as a gravel-lined trench (often called a French drain) leading from a downspout to a grassy meadow or planting bed. A more complicated retention basin might entail layers of soil, gravel, and sand designed for slow seepage. For the purposes of this brief introduction, let's focus on a versatile and relatively simple structure, the swale.
A swale is a shallow channel, bermed a bit on both sides, that lets gravity do the work of moving rainwater along a gently sloping course. The swale directs water away from structures and through a straight or meandering depression lined with river rock, grasses, or other vegetation that can tolerate periods of winter wet and summer dry (regional native plants generally fit the bill). A grassy, vegetative swale might be lined with cool-season native meadow grasses such as sedges (Carex species) or rushes (Juncus species) that thrive with winter moisture and go dormant over the dry summer. A rock-lined swale resembling a dry creek bed holds visual interest throughout the seasons. Water-loving plants can be sited closer to the flow, while more water-averse selections can keep their feet dry further up the banks.
In general, your rainwater collection surface should slope downward from the water source, or you can create a minimum 2% slope. Steep slopes can create erosion, so avoid orienting your swale down slope in such areas.
Locate your swale:
- At least five feet away from structures without a basement, or ten feet from structures with a basement.
- Away from septic systems and leach fields
- Away from a tree's crown or major root zone to avoid root rot
- In full or partial sunlight to support plantings
Anchor your artificial creek bed with larger stones, boulders, and deep-rooted plants such as deer grass (Muhenbergia rigens) and fescues (Festuca species). If space permits, larger shrubs can create a more dramatically varied look. Vegetation should be planted and at least partly established before the winter storms, so be prepared to irrigate in dry periods and through at least the first summer. Once well established, deep-rooted native plants will enjoy the cool season storm water and survive the summer heat.
The illustrations here depict a professionally-designed creek bed along the driveway of a family home in Chico near lower Bidwell Park. A DIY project could be smaller in length, width, and overall scale while still employing some of the elements that make this feature so delightful.
From a simple gravel channel to a dry creek to a more elaborate retention pond, the hardscape elements of a rain garden project may seem daunting without step-by-step instruction. “Coastal California Rain Gardens” published by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR), offers detailed information about planning, building, and maintaining a rain garden, along with plant suggestions and resource listings.
UC Master Gardeners of Butte County are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system. To learn more about us and our upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit our website. If you have a gardening question or problem, email the Hotline at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a phone message on our Hotline at (530) 538-7201. To speak to a Master Gardener about a gardening issue, or to drop by the MG office during Hotline hours, see the most current information on our Ask Us Hotline webpage.
All photographs by Alicia Springer. Additional information and plant names used in photos:
Plants that tolerate winter moisture and summer drought line the banks of the swale. Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) and California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) are seen. A redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is on a raised bank so rainwater can irrigate but not saturate the root area. The redwood will require summer watering to stay healthy in the Butte County climate unless it's near a perennial stream.
A dry creek rain swale in a suburban garden landscape. The swale, roughly 50 feet long x 10 feet wide, runs along a sloping driveway. Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), St. Catherine's Lace (a buckwheat, Eriogonum giganteum), Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) and California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) are among the native species seen.
Boulders and deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) stabilize the slope and provide pleasing visual variety. Larger native plant selections screen the property. These include toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), deer grass, and redbud (Cercis occidentalis).
A decorative rain chain at the ‘headwaters' of the creek bed directs flow from the roof gutter. Note that the creek bed is directed away from the base of the redwood, which is on a higher bank.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
CSBA paid tribute to the late Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Carnes Mussen (1944-2022) at a memorial luncheon during its 2022 convention, held in Reno, and also awarded its seventh annual Eric Mussen Distinguished Service Award, launched when he retired in 2014.
"The Eric Mussen Memorial Luncheon was a wonderful celebration of someone that was so key to the beekeeping industry," said CSBA associate director Brooke Palmer. "I was never fortunate enough to meet Eric, but witnessing how much love and appreciation there was for him at that lunch, anyone would be able to understand the impact he made on the people in this industry. We were so glad to be able to honor Eric and will continue to honor him with our Eric Mussen Distinguished Service Award that is given out every year at convention."
An estimated 150 attended the luncheon, which Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and emcee Gene Brandi of Los Banos helped coordinate with Palmer. An image of Mussen centerpieced each table. Brandi, who served with Mussen for 37 of his 39 years on the CSBA Board of Directors, shared his presentation that he delivered on the Life and Legacy of Eric Mussen, held Aug. 28 in the Putah Creek Lodge. (See YouTube). Brandi, current chair of the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Inc., is a past president of American Beekeeping Federation and former chair of the California Apiary Board and National Honey Board.
John Miller of Miller Honey Farms, addressed the crowd, offering memories of Eric and his expertise, and read a note from Mussen's widow, Helen. The family, including Helen and sons Chris and Tim, participated via Zoom.
Mussen joined the UC Davis entomology department in 1976. Although he retired in 2014, he continued his many activities until a few weeks prior to his death. For nearly four decades, he drew praise as “the honey bee guru,” “the pulse of the bee industry" and as "the go-to person" when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media sought answers about honey bees. Colleagues described him as the “premier authority on bees and pollination in California, and one of the top beekeeping authorities nationwide,” “a treasure to the beekeeping industry," and "a walking encyclopedia when it comes to honey bees.”
"Thank you for coming together to honor Eric with this memorial luncheon at Convention 2022," Helen wrote in her address read by Miller. She related that she met Eric in 1966 at the University of Massachusetts. Initially, he wanted to become an insect ecologist, but "decided to learn about bees instead. It was a great choice for Eric who soon got over his dislike of being stung and learned about bee diseases and Minnesota beekeeping."
"Moving to California in 1976 for his first job in the beekeeping world was again a major adjustment," Helen recalled. "He listened and learned and cared, so soon he was taken into the 'fold' to educate each other. It was a perfect match for Eric as he wanted to help the bees and the beekeepers any way he could. He was a natural teacher and scientist and he found his niche with so many diverse folks eager to learn and work together with him to solve the many bee problems."
"Over the nearly 40 years of working together his CSBA clients became his friends and like family," Helen noted. "We all will miss him in so many ways but I hope you will keep the stories alive and remember and talk about him for many years to come. Thank you for all you've done to be a friend and care for Eric while also caring for the bees together. "
In tribute to his work, CSBA launched its annual Eric Mussen Distinguished Service Award when he retired in 2014.
The recipients to date:
2015: Gordon Wardell, Ph.D
2016: Ila Hohmann
2017: Patti Johnson
2018: Troy Bunch
2019: Bob Brandi
2021: Jackie Park-Burris
2022: Ann Quinn
In a June 2022 tribute to Mussen, Jackie Park-Burris of Jackie Park-Burris Queens, Inc., Palo Cedro, a leader in the queen bee breeding and beekeeping industries, said she met Eric more than 40 years ago “and from day one he was mentoring me. He was the bee guy for the entire country! Eric was the bee industry's connection to the scientific world. Eric understood both camps and he connected them. Eric had incredible integrity that I have never seen matched. Because of that integrity, beekeepers felt confident in sharing their problems with him, knowing their secrets were safe. Eric always voiced the opinion he felt was right, even if it wasn't the most popular.”
“Eric told me that he looked at the bee industry as his family,” said Park-Burris, a past president of CSBA, the first woman president of the California Bee Breeders Association, and the first woman chair of the California State Apiary Board. “When my son attended UC Davis, he and Helen made sure Ryan knew he could contact them if he needed anything. Eric even came to a function on campus that my son was in charge of to show support. Eric supported the California State Beekeepers Association and the California Bee Breeders wholeheartedly! He did an incredible job as our Extension guy from UC Davis. We loved him. What a sad loss for us all.”
After receiving the 2021 Eric Mussen Distinguished Service Award, Park-Burris said that "Eric sent me an email, congratulating me and told me he could not think of a more qualified person to receive it. It bought a tear to my eye back then, now I will treasure that email even more.” A photo of an early-career Mussen appears on her website.
Palmer said nominations for the Eric Mussen Distinguished Service Award "may be presented to any person who has given time and professional talent to help further the goals of the beekeeping industry and the CSBA. This person need not be a CSBA member. We take award nominations all year and if anyone has an award nomination they can send it to me at email@example.com)."
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
Soil quality is critical to healthy plants and is a vital part of our living ecosystem. Soil is alive with organisms; their populations change depending on what is added, how the soil is used, and environmental conditions. Soil health, much like our own, is best improved gradually over time so focusing on regular or constant improvement helps achieve and sustain soil health. Do you have a soil problem in your garden? Below are some of the most common soil problems and how to fix them.
First, it is important to know what type of soil you have. According to the UC Master Gardener Handbook, good soil is 25% Air, 25% Water, 5% Organic Matter and 45% Mineral Matter. Soils are classified by the size of soil particles. Soil Particles range from large or “Sandy” to medium or “Loamy” to very fine or “Clay” with Loam being considered the best for growing plants. Get to know your soil and soil type with tips from the UC Master Gardener Program of Marin County.
Common home garden soil problems:
- Over-watering –Check your soil, is it soggy? If yes, you may be overwatering your plants. Heavy watering can drown plants when the soil becomes too saturated and forces out vital oxygen. Once you know your soil type, you can test your soil moisture to see if it is above capacity using the “Estimating soil water by feel” table.
- Over fertilizing – Plants primarily get their nutrients from soil and from added amendments (such as finished compost.) Some nutrients might also come from water. Most ornamental plants get what they need for healthy growth on their own, so gardeners should watch plants for signs they need to be fertilized instead of automatically applying based on a schedule. Food gardens on the other hand can benefit from regular application of Nitrogen.
Signs of over fertilizing:
- Crust of fertilizer on top of soil
- Brown leaf tips
- Yellow, wilting lower leaves
- Brown or black roots
- Slow or no growth
- Leaves falling off
- Poor soil tilth – Soil tilth refers to a soil's texture, structure, and organic matter content. Good soil tilth supports healthy root growth, water movement through the soil, introduction of air into the soil, and beneficial microorganisms. Poor soil tilth lacks these things and appears quite lifeless. Maintain good soil tilth by avoiding soil compaction, aerating soil, avoiding tilling, using green-waste as a garden top-dressing for your soil, and mulching.
- Nematodes and soil-borne diseases– Nematodes are microscopic, eel-like round worms. The first sign of a nematode infestation will include wilting during the hottest part of the day, even with adequate soil moisture. Infected plants might lose their vigor and have yellowing leaves, will grow more slowly, produce fewer and smaller leaves and fruit, and may die.Soil contains many other living organisms, including plant pathogens and diseases that attack plants. If you suspect a soil-borne pest or disease UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a wonderful resource to help identify and get information on next steps.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program
Growing and supporting soil health is something all of us can contribute to whether we have a full landscape to work in, a small patio, or a community garden plot. For gardening help and local county resources, click here to Find a Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE about your gardening zone, pests, composting, and the soil in your area.
Follow us all week on Facebook or Twitter, or by using the hashtags #HealthySoilsWeek2022 and #HSW2022. For more UC ANR information about healthy soils for a healthy California visit: ucanr.edu/sites/soils.
- California Garden Web: https://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Vegetables/?uid=26&ds=462
- UC Master Gardeners of Marin County, Soils Basics: https://marinmg.ucanr.edu/BASICS/SOIL_813/
- UC Master Gardeners of Tulare & Kings Counties, Nematodes in the Garden: https://ucanr.edu/datastoreFiles/268-861.pdf
|Estimating soil water by feel|
|Coarse (sand, loamy sand)||Moderately coarse (sandy or silt loam)||Medium (loam, clay loam, silty clay loam, silt, sandy clay)||Fine (clay. silty clay or light clay)|
|At field capacity contains:
(mm available moisture per meter of soil)
|SOIL MOISTURE CONTENT|
|Above field capacity||Water appears when soil is bounced in hand.||Water released when soil is kneaded.||Can squeeze out of water.||Puddles and water form on surface.|
|Field capacity||Upon squeezing no free water appears on soil but wet outline of ball is left on hand.|
|75-100% available moisture||Tends to stick together slightly. Sometimes forms a weak ball under pressure.||Forms weak ball, breaks easily, will not slick.||Forms a ball and is very pliable, slicks readily if relatively high in clay.||Easily forms a ribbon between fingers, has a slicky feeling.|
|50-75% available moisture||Appears to be dry, will not form a ball under pressure.||Tends to ball under pressure but seldom hold together.||Forms a ball, somewhat plastic, sometimes slicks slightly with pressure.||Forms a ball, ribbons out between thumb and forefinger.|
|25-50% available moisture||Appears to be dry, will not form a ball under pressure.||Appears to be dry, will not form a ball under pressure.||Somewhat crumbly, but forms a ball.||Somewhat pliable. Will form a ball under pressure.|
|0-25% available moisture||Dry, loose single-grained. Flows through fingers.||Dry, loose. Flows through fingers.||Powdery, dry, sometimes slightly crusted, but easily broken down into powder.||Looks moist but will not quite form a ball.|
|Source: Irrigation Practice and Water Management (1984)|
UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardeners Rhonda Allen and Denise Godbout-Avant are looking forward to sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge about monarch butterflies with you!
Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Time: 9:00 am – 10:30 am
Link: you'll be sent a link to log in with before the class.