The Real Dirt Blog

  • Colorful perennials and shrubs by Cindy Weiner
    Improve your Home’s Curb Appeal by Removing the Lawn

    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...

  • California bush anemone by Cindy Weiner
    Conjure Up A Moon Garden

    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. When designing a moon garden you need to select a site that is easy to access at night or can be viewed through a window. It must, of course, be a location that is touched by moonlight. A moon garden can be as simple as a small cluster of potted plants and flowers on a deck or patio, or as elaborate as a carefully-designed area in the landscape. If possible, find a quiet corner away from road...

  • Clover thrives in soil with low nitrogen by Jack Kelly Clark, UC Statewide IPM Program
    What Weeds Can Tell Us

    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. Some weeds, those with large root systems or a taproot, penetrate deep into subsoil, breaking up compaction, which helps drainage and new growth....

  • Johnsongrass mature plant, UC ANR
    Managing Johnsongrass, a Legendary Weed!

    Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) is a common sight throughout our hot dry Butte County summers. It is also considered to be one of the world's most noxious perennial weeds. Johnsongrass forms dense showy bunches of vegetation three to six feet tall along pathways, in and around orchards and gardens, in open fields, and near waterways. In California, Johnsongrass is found in the Central Valley, Cascade Range foothills, Western California, and the Sierra Nevada foothills to about 2600 feet. Under certain conditions, its leaves produce a toxic acid which is poisonous to livestock. This non-native weed arrived in Texas in the 1830s and by the late 19th century was recognized as a problem in...

  • Puncturevine flowers, J Alosi
    Ouch! It’s Puncturevine!

    Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) is an attractive green plant with small yellow flowers commonly seen growing prostrate along the side of the road. A native to Southern Europe, it's also referred to as “goathead.” However, underneath its foliage lies danger: spiky seedpods with needle-point spikes. If puncturevine is stepped on, it is painful to bare feet and dogs' paws; it will pierce and flatten bicycle tires. Because of its spiky seedpods puncturevine is also referred to as “caltrop,” after the spiked metal devices thrown on the roadway to stop vehicles. Caltrops have four projecting spikes with one spike always pointed up; just in the right position to puncture...

  • Trunk of a cork oak by Claus Ableiter
    Local Trees: The Cork Oak

    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. That cork stopper sealing a delicious bottle of wine has been harvested from Quercus suber, an oak species whose bark contains high amounts of suberin, a waxy substance that is waterproof. Apparently the Latin word “suber” was derived from the Greek syphar,or “wrinkled...

Gardening Questions?

Visit or Call the Hotline

Wednesday 9-12pm
Thursday 1-4pm

Call 530-538-7201

Or, drop by the Butte County Cooperative Extension Office
2279-B Del Oro Avenue 
Oroville, CA 95965

Catch us in person at local Farmers’ Markets or at one of our informational booths. Check out where we'll be on the Events page.

Email Us at Include a description and photos of the problem. See "Help Us Help You" below for what to include.

Help Us Help You

You never can tell what's at the root of the problem. Below are some questions we may ask when you call:

  • Name of plant
  • Age of plant
  • Soil type (loam, sandy, clay)
  • Current watering methods (drip, sprinkler, hand)
  • Frequency of watering
  • Sun exposure
  • Evidence of insects or other damage – check on both sides of leaves
  • Recent changes that may effect the plant (watering, fertilizing)

Samples and photos related to your question are strongly encouraged. Drop them by the office any time, or email them to: