- 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: Laura Lukes
Why are wine bottles tall and narrow? That distinctive shape contributes to the happy marriage between cork and a bottle made tall enough to lie on its side so the wine can “breathe” through the cork as it matures. Lying on its side while stored in cool, dry cellars ensures that the liquid within the bottle will marinate the cork end just enough to keep it from drying out and crumbling.
What do wine, wax, and wrinkles have to do with local trees? In 1904, a cork oak grove was planted in Lower Bidwell Park near the Nature Center on East 8th Street. The grove was located within a 29-acre tract of land that John Bidwell donated in 1888 to the newly created State Board of Forestry for use as a woody plant nursery and demonstration plantation.
The species can reach about 66 feet in height, but is usually smaller than that in its native habitat. There are two notable exceptions: In Portugal, the Sobreiro Monumental (Monumental Cork Oak), is 234 years old and 52 feet tall, with a trunk so large in circumference that it takes up to five people with outstretched arms to encircle it. It is listed as a National Monument, and cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest and oldest cork oak in the world. Closer to home, a Quercus suber in Napa is registered as a California Big Tree. It is 89 feet tall, with a trunk circumference of 20 feet, and a crown spread of 81 feet.
What makes the cork bark commercially viable is its unique cell structure and its ability to regenerate. A cubic centimeter of cork bark is teeming with air cells (up to 40 million!) and those cells are waterproofed by the waxy suberin. Cork oak bark is durable, light, and bouncy, and once cut, has a suction-cup effect that helps it adhere to the neck of a bottle. There is a long list of uses for cork that's left over after the stoppers have been cut out: flooring, cricket ball cores, insulation panels, sound-proofing materials, fishing rod handles, even devices for the space industry. In Portuguese towns and cities, it is common to see shops selling backpacks, handbags, and even shoes made out of cork.
In the harvesting process, the bark is peeled from the tree by hand, using only an axe to strip the bark from around the tree. Absolutely no machinery is employed. It can take up to five people to harvest the bark of each tree. Because expertise and finesse is required to peel off the bark without damaging the trunk's cambium layer, harvesters train for about 8 years.
Our cork oaks in Lower Bidwell Park were also harvested periodically; scars from a stripping performed in 1940 and again more recently are visible even now. Click here for a photo taken in 1941 of the local cork oak trees.
In addition to providing cork bark, cork oak groves in Portugal and Spain support another form of agriculture: their acorns provide sustenance to sheep, cattle, and especially hogs. A superior type of ham with a distinctive sought-after flavor is obtained from the Iberian pigs that feed on the fallen acorns.
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 email@example.com.
Cork oak acorns - Bellotas de alcornoque (Quercus suber), Ceuta, España. Xemenendura - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29528312
Cork oak stripping - Nederlands: Kurkschillen in Santa Margarida da Serra. By Nocampo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23045407
Trunk of a Cork oak - Stamm einer Korkeiche (Quercus suber). By Claus Ableiter - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2170249
Cork Oaks Southern Portugal. By KirjavaKinkytail - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79311214
- Author: Brent McGhie
By Brent McGhie, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, May 31, 2019
The University of California recommends the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control garden pests. The goal of IPM is to use the least harmful control method(s) that will be effective in managing a particular pest. Depending on the pest, these methods include one or more of the following: cultural controls, biological controls, mechanical and physical controls and chemical controls (pesticides). When using IPM, it is recommended that gardeners resort to the use of pesticides only as a last resort, after other control methods have been tried and found wanting.
Once the decision to use a pesticide has been made, the next step is to choose the right pesticide. The University of California Pest Notes series is a good source of information for identifying the least toxic pesticides appropriate for a specific pest. Low toxicity pesticides include insecticidal oils and soaps as well as the microbial insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, which is effective against many caterpillars, but nontoxic to other animal life. Pest Notes are available from your local UC Master Gardener program (based at the UC Cooperative Extension Office) and online at the UC Statewide IPM Program website.
Whenever a pesticide is used, all instructions should be read and carefully followed. Especially critical are instructions concerning proper application and safety precautions (for example, the use of protective clothing and eyewear).
The only legal way to dispose of pesticides is to take them to a local hazardous waste disposal facility. Do not pour unused or excess material down the drain, onto the soil, into waterways, into gutters, or into the trash. However, in California it is legal for homeowners to dispose of empty pesticide containers in the trash. Before disposing, containers should be triple rinsed and the rinse water used as part of the last application. To find the location of the closest hazardous waste disposal site, call the California Environmental Hotline (1-800-253-2687), or visit the “Earth911” website.
Information in this article is based on “Pesticides: Safe and Effective Use in the Home and Landscape” from the UC IPM website (Pest Note #74126).
For more information on gardening in our area, visit the UC Master Gardener of Butte County webpage at: http://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: Laura Lukes
By Laura Lukes, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, May 17, 2019
A beautiful tree sits on the north side of Little Chico Creek, shading the picnic table at site #34 in Lower Bidwell Park. Its thick, smooth lower branches are perfect for climbing, and its form is both rounder and more symmetrical than its relatives at higher elevations. And its occurrence at our low altitude (elevation 197 feet) is rare.
Captain George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy commanded a voyage of exploration and diplomacy from 1791 to 1795 which circumnavigated the globe and made contact with five continents. Madrone's species name honors the Scottish surgeon, botanist and naturalist, Archibald Menzies, who noted this tree during Vancouver's voyage of exploration. Menzies, who spent many years at sea serving with the Royal Navy and on private merchant ships, recognized its similarity to the European arbutus, A. unedo, which today is a popular landscape tree in Chico. Its red fruits are shaped like strawberries, and in fact the Spanish word madroño translates as “strawberry tree.” Other common names include madroa, madroo, madroña, and bearberry.
The madrone has evolved an effective method of seed regeneration: each berry contains between three and 30 seeds, and when the berries dry they develop hooked barbs that can latch onto the fur and skin of passing mammals, hitching a ride to colonize new locations.
The Pacific madrone ranges in height from about 33 to 82 feet but can reach up to 100 feet or more in ideal conditions. In those perfect conditions, it can reach a thickness of 5 to 8 feet at the trunk, much like an oak tree. Ideal conditions include a sunny site such as a south or west facing slope with soil that is well drained and lime free.
The largest known specimen of Pacific madrone lived in Joshua Creek Canyon Ecological Reserve on the Big Sur Coast. At least 125 feet tall and more than 25 feet in circumference, and listed on the American Forests National Big Tree list, it sadly was severely burned in the 2016 Soberanes Fire.
A massive, wide-spreading root system increases its ability to withstand summer drought. In fact, the tree prefers dry, well-draining soils and does not tolerate direct watering during the summer months. Once established, Pacific madrone is windfirm, drought enduring, and somewhat tolerant of wet, freezing conditions.
Pacific madrone is a particularly beautiful tree, with its reddish curved trunks supporting a broad, spreading crown of deep green leaves. It is most often seen as a single specimen tree displaying its finery among the more common Douglas fir and tanoak. It is currently declining throughout most of its range, unfortunately due to 100 years of forest fire control and urban development in its native habitat. We are lucky to have our lovely, rare specimen in Lower Bidwell Park.
For more information on gardening in our area, visit the UC Butte County Master Gardener webpage at: http://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/. If you have a gardening question or problem, call our Hotline at (530) 538-7201 or email email@example.com.