- Author: Laura Lukes
Educating the public about the best gardening practices for our region is the primary mission of the UC Master Gardeners of Butte County. A terrific example of our educational outreach was on tap at the first offering of our Fall 2019 Public Workshop series. This 90-minute workshop focused on getting the most out of our Gardening Guide and Three-Year Garden Journal, a publication full of useful information, seasonal tips, and regional plant wisdom specific to Butte County.
Designed with journaling and record keeping in mind, the interactive part of the Guide follows the seasonal introductions. Each of the thirteen weeks of the season is given a two-page layout which features three lined columns, each to be headed by the month and year of use, and filled in by the user as they wish. On the left side of each two-page layout is a short, pertinent article. Helpful tips and items of interest appear on the lower right.
All-in-all this Gardening Guide is a handy resource for gardeners of all abilities and preferences. But lecturing about what's in the Guide is one thing – getting us into it hands-on is another, and as a good teacher, Hill knew how important it was to engage us in this educational material. To that end, she had prepared a series of garden-, plant-, and climate-related questions, each of which was printed out and pasted onto colored construction paper. Colors were coded by season, and workshop participants were grouped by season/color to locate the answer to each question within the Guide.
About two-thirds of the workshop participants had brought their own dog-eared (or hardly used) Garden Guides with them – the others were able to purchase them on site before we began. Within our groups, we began to leaf through our Guides – the cleverly formulated questions directed us variously to the table of contents, planting guides, pest tables, and task lists.
A former community college instructor myself, I valued group work as an educational tool, and learned to gauge the success of an exercise by the level of noisy interaction occurring in each group. Judging by that criterion, Hill's color-coded questions were a success – we were discovering, learning, and helping each other. Better yet, we were using the Guide as it was intended.
A second benefit of group work is when each team shares the outcome of its investigation. And here is where even more learning occurs – individuals share experiences and knowledge – all of us tapping into expertise that would not have been available in a traditional lecture-oriented class.
The Garden Guide and Three-Year Garden Journal is currently available in Chico at Magnolia Gift and Garden, the Patrick Ranch Gift Store, the Butte County Cooperative Extension Office in Oroville and all Master Gardener workshops.
To learn more about UC Butte County Master Gardeners and our upcoming workshops and 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: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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 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: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.