- Author: Cindy Weiner
A short drive around Chico's various neighborhoods will convince you that people love their front lawns. They must, because the lawn is the most prominent landscape feature for the vast majority of homes. And yet, we seldom see people outside actually using their front lawn spaces. Maintaining a lawn just to view through your front picture window wastes time, energy, water and money. According to a 2011 study sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources (the “California Single Family Water Use Efficiency Study”), the average household in the state uses 360 gallons of water per day, around 50% of which is used outdoors. Replacing the lawn with waterwise landscaping can reduce outdoor water use by 30-70%. In addition, lawns need to be frequently mowed, fertilized and weeded, thus racking up additional costs. So replacing or significantly reducing lawn can result in considerable savings.
Start your design with hardscaping. Hardscaping can include walkways, gravel paths, small patios or decks, dry creek beds and retaining walls. These provide visual interest and also reduce the area that needs to be irrigated. Plan a pleasing and obvious way to get to your front door. You can edge the walkway with plantings in the ground or in urns at intervals along the way. Meandering gravel paths provide a functional and low cost way to move about the garden to observe plantings more closely. A small patio allows you to relax and enjoy a cup of tea in the yard. Dry creek beds and small retaining walls are features that separate planting areas and provide elevation changes in the yard. You can also use an edging of stone or brick to separate planting areas.
The New Sunset Western Garden Book and Calscape (the California Native Plant Society's online database of native plants) are good sources of horticultural information about waterwise plants. If your yard will be irrigated with an automatic system, it makes sense to group together plants with similar water needs. The UC Cooperative Extension WUCOLS database allows you to estimate the water needs of thousands of garden plants grown in the Chico area. This database is a valuable tool for grouping plants into zones based on their water needs.
Mulching the bare spots will help to conserve moisture by reducing evaporation and controlling weeds. You can use organic mulch (like shredded bark) or inorganic mulch (like gravel or small rocks). Keep organic mulch a few inches away from the trunks of trees and plants. Excessive moisture that is trapped by mulch too close to the trunk can lead to fungal diseases in the plant. Inorganic mulch can itself become a design element, for example by using different sizes or colors of rocks in different areas.
To learn more about UC Butte County Master Gardeners and their upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit our website. If you have a gardening question or problem, call our Hotline at (530) 538-7201 or email email@example.com.
- Author: Kim Schwind
What is a moon garden? It is a garden that incorporates reflective surfaces, light-colored flowers, fragrant plants, and peaceful sounds, all meant to be enjoyed by the light of the moon. It is the perfect garden spot for busy professionals who don't have time during the day to enjoy their gardens.
A moon garden can include trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials and annuals. It is usually created as a summer garden, but by adding deciduous shrubs and trees with interesting architectural form, a moon garden can be enjoyed year round.
Plants that have light green or gray foliage will also reflect can add another layer of interest as the moonlight reflects off the leaves. Possibilities include lamb's ears, silver mound Artemisia, hosta, blue fescue and lavender.
Once you have created your romantic, whimsical garden, don't forget to take some time to enjoy it. Once outside, allow at least ten minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. As you gaze on the garden and begin to notice reflections from the moonlight, you will see that the flowers and leaves appear to be floating. Take in the sounds of your water feature or wind chimes. Breathe in the fragrance of the night-blooming flowers. Relax and enjoy.
For more inspiration: The UC Davis Arboretum has a moon garden, the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden and Gazebo. You can learn about it here.
If you have a gardening question or problem, call the Master Gardener Hotline at (530) 538-7201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The UC Master Gardeners of Butte County are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system, serving our community in a variety of ways, including 4H, farm advisors, and nutrition and physical activity programs. Our mission is to enhance local quality of life by bringing practical, scientifically-based knowledge directly to our community. To learn more about UCCE Butte County Master Gardeners and their upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/.
- Author: Kim Schwind
Every gardener knows that weeds are just plants in the wrong place. Webster's dictionary defines a weed as “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially: one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.”
In nature, weeds play an important role. They can resist conditions like drought, acidic soil, lack of humus, and mineral deficiencies. Weeds protect our topsoil from eroding away in heavy rains and strong wind. They provide a cover and shade for soil microbes and insects.
Many years ago various weeds were used for food and pharmaceutical products. Currently, foraging for wild foods and mushrooms has made a comeback. Weeds in the legume family fix nitrogen in the soil and are often used as a cover crop to help enrich the soil over winter. Weeds have also been used to help indicate the presence of ground water. Curly dock is a weed that's typically found in wet saturated soils.
The primary value of weeds, wrote the eminent U.S. botanist Frederick Clements in 1920, is to “reveal information about the health and pH of our soils.” For example, certain species are confined to acidic soils and others to alkaline.
The use of weeds as soil indicators is not a new idea. Many early North American immigrants to the eastern United States chose land for their farms according to the weeds, plants, and trees that it supported. Conifers were characteristic of sandy, acidic soils that had little agricultural value. Birch, beech, maple, and hemlock indicated fertile soil. They learned that the tall-grass prairies were suitable for cereals, hay, and orchards. The bunch grass regions were better suited to wheat and grass.
If we look at our own gardens we can use our weeds to tell us what we can do to improve our soil. For instance, if our lawn is being taken over by clover we can note that clover thrives with low levels of nitrogen in the soil. We can remedy the problem by applying a nitrogen fertilizer (a 16-16-16 fertilizer is a good balance for turfgrass).
Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer, a European scientist and student of Rudolf Steiner, wrote an entire book on this subject in the 1950's: “Weeds and What They Tell Us” (still in print). According to Pfeiffer, sorrel, plantain, horsetail, and knotweed are found in acidic soils. Dry soils with very little humus might support mustard, thistle, broom, and St. John's wort.
Sandy soils will have goldenrod, aster and toad flax. Alkaline soils support chicory, spotted spurge, sagebrush and woody aster. In heavy clay or compacted soil you might see morning glory, plantain, Bermuda grass, chickweed, and dandelion. Dandelions also indicate low calcium in the soil.
When you learn the type of soil some of these common weeds prefer you may be able to make corrections in the soil based on the information some weeds are giving you. If you really want to know, a soil analysis or at least a pH test by a local agricultural laboratory will provide factual information to accurately guide the use of soil amendments. Sometimes, improving drainage by adding well-balanced compost, organic manure, or employing cultural practices may be all that is required to improve your soil's tilth and nutrition.
Identifying the weeds in your garden can be fun! In some cases knowing what their presence indicates may help you manage your soil. Controlling weeds by hand weeding or with herbicide before they seed will reduce future populations if done consistently from year to year. One year's uncontrolled weeds can produce seven years seeds! You may even develop a new appreciation for weeds.
For more information about weeds or help identifying them see:
UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Weeds
UC IMP Weed Photo Gallery
UC Weed Research & Information Center
Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer, Weeds and What They Tell Us.
If you have a gardening question or problem, call the Master Gardener Hotline at (530) 538-7201 or email email@example.com.
The UC Master Gardeners of Butte County are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system, serving our community in a variety of ways, including 4H, farm advisors, and nutrition and physical activity programs. Our mission is to enhance local quality of life by bringing practical, scientifically-based knowledge directly to our community. To learn more about UCCE Butte County Master Gardeners and their upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/.
- Author: Mike Flanner
Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) is a common sight throughout our hot dry Butte County summers.
This non-native weed arrived in Texas in the 1830s and by the late 19th century was recognized as a problem in the North Valley and throughout California's agricultural fields.
The Butte County UC Master Gardeners are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system, serving our community in a variety of ways, including 4H, farm advisors, and nutrition and physical activity programs. Our mission is to enhance local quality of life by bringing practical, scientifically-based knowledge directly to our community. For more information on UCCE Butte County Master Gardeners and their upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/. If you have a gardening question or problem, call our Hotline at (530) 538-7201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Author: Jeanette Alosi
Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) is an attractive green plant with small yellow flowers commonly seen growing prostrate along the side of the road.
Unfortunately, there are is no easy way to control this noxious weed. For most homeowners, the mechanical control methods of hand removal or cutting the plant off at the taproot are most effective. Any seeds left on the ground must be removed by raking or sweeping. Use heavy gloves to protect hands from the spiky seedpods. Of course, as with any weed, it's best to remove it before it flowers and sets seeds. This is especially important for puncturevine, as seeds are viable for years, and can be spread by shoes or the wheels of lawn mowers or carts.
Biological control using several species of weevils have been tried but are not always effective. Chemical control of puncturevine in the home garden is often unnecessary. However, in heavily infested areas, or when hand removal is difficult, herbicide may be an option.