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The Real Dirt Blog

  • Potassium deficiency in olive leaves, UC Regents
    Understanding Fertilizers and Amendments

    What do those numbers on bags and boxes of fertilizer and soil amendments really mean?  And what is the difference between a fertilizer and an amendment? Whether a material is considered an...

  • Keep birdbaths clean, Laura Lukes
    Drought Triage: Keeping Plants Alive When Water is Scarce

    While you might not be able to save them all, you can take precautions in your garden that will save the plants it makes sense to save, define your gardening priorities, and plan for continuing...

  • Allison's sunflowers in Paradise, Debi Durham
    Replanting Paradise

    It may not seem like it to those just traveling though, but Paradise is not only rebuilding, it's replanting. Homeowners, as well as people who have not yet broken ground, are tending their...

  • Cottonwwood and seeds pods, April Mangino
    Wildtending Walk #3: Seed Collection and Keystone Species

    April's Wildtending Walk at Verbena Fields marked the third of this year-long monthly series. Each month, we discover changes that have taken place and learn the stages of a plant's growth (e.g....

  • Straw mulch on growing garlic, Jeanette Alosi
    Vegetable Gardening During Drought

    As we enter another summer of drought, conserving water is essential.  Luckily, there are a number of ways you can significantly reduce water use in your vegetable garden. Before planting a...

  • Ladybug eggs, Jeanette Alosi
    Ladybugs are Good for Your Garden

    At this time of the year, aphids can be a serious problem in the garden.  But salvation can arrive in the form of ladybugs. Ladybugs are actually beetles, not bugs.  And while they are...

  • Damage caused by plum leaf curl aphid, Jack Kelly Clark, UC IPM
    Recognizing and Dealing with Plum Leaf Curl

    Plum leaf curl is a malady indicated by tightly curled and deformed leaves which are usually near the ends of new plum shoots in the spring. Unlike leaf curl in peaches and nectarines, which is...

  • Out of clay and ashes, the hellebore thrives, Laura Lukes
    Adaptation: A local nursery weathers changes wrought by fire in the foothills

    This is a story of adaptation, by both plants and their people. It's set in the fire-prone foothills of eastern Butte County, where in 1994 David and Cathy Walther purchased a home on 1.5 acres. The...

  • California poppy grows in just about anything, Janeva Sorenson
    Learning from Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK): Verbena Fields Wildtending Walk #2

    Almost thirty participants strolled through Verbena Fields on March 30 for the second of a year-long series of Wildtending Walks. This month's leaders, Raphael DiGenova and Janeva Sorenson, shared...

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Mr. Jesus Lara, UC Regents.
    Watch out for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

    As our weather warms, be on the lookout for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). It's important to be able to recognize this voracious pest in order to prevent its spread. There are a large number...

  • Adjustable bubblers in raised bed, J. Alosi
    Drip Irrigation

    With a second year of below-normal rainfall, California is sliding into another drought cycle.  Here in the North Valley, total rainfall for the current Water Year (October 2020 through March...

  • Black-tailed Bumble bee (B. melanopygus) on lupine, John Whittlesey
    Bumble Bees in the Garden

    One of the amusements a garden can provide is watching the birds, bees, butterflies and other critters drawn to it. Most of us have seen honeybees flying from flower to flower, sipping nectar or...

  • Shopping for plants at the Saturday Farmers Market, Debi Durham
    Children in the Garden

    There are many benefits in sharing a love for gardening with a child. Gardening is an enjoyable and healthy way to connect with children, whether they're your own, a friend's, or a neighbor's. ...

  • TEK Wildtending at Verbena Fields (campfirerestorationproject.org)
    Plant Walks at Verbena Fields Focus on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Wildtending

    Do you want to learn more about incorporating native plants in your garden? Are you curious about the healing properties of native plants? Ever wondered how Native Americans managed wild spaces?...

  • Shears and loppers, J. Alosi
    Garden Tools

    People new to gardening often ask what tools are needed to maintain their gardens. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the scope and variety of garden tools available in stores, online, and in garden...

  • Tools needing cleaning and sharpening, J. Alosi
    Maintaining Your Garden Tools

    Spring is just around the corner, and it's time to make sure your garden tools are in peak condition.  Good maintenance not only prolongs the life and usefulness of garden tools; it also...

  • Hope and plants grow in the Paradise Community Gardens after the Camp Fire
    Rebuilding Paradise Community Gardens

    One of the many tragedies of the Camp Fire was the destruction of the Norton Buffalo Hall, which not only provided a meeting place and concert venue for the community and beyond, but was also the...

  • Save Our Seeds Summer 2020 Seed Packet Butternut Squash
    Seeding our Survival: The Butte County Local Food Network

    Our survival begins, and ends, with seeds. Making sure there is sufficient diversity and supply of viable seeds, people to grow them, and a supply of the nourishing food they produce is a core...

  • Douglas iris, Copyright UC Regents, Joseph DiTommaso
    Landscaping Under Trees

    Northstate residents prize large trees for their beauty and the shade they provide.  There are other environmental benefits to mature trees as well.  They encourage biodiversity, offset...

  • Amaryllis belladonna, Laura Lukes
    Summer-Blooming Bulbs

    Most bulbs, including most native plant bulbs, are planted in the fall, but February is an ideal time to plant several summer-blooming bulbs.   Summer-blooming “bulbs” that...

Visit the Real Dirt archive for additional articles.

Got Gardening Questions?

Volunteers for our Hotline are working via email to respond to your gardening questions. All responses to your questions will be conducted via email.

Email Us at mgbutte@ucanr.edu (preferred).

Call: 530-538-7201 (leave a message)

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: