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The Real Dirt Blog

  • Select the largest cloves to plant, Jeanette Alosi
    Growing Garlic

    Fall is the best time to plant garlic for a summer harvest.  Both the softneck and hardneck types of garlic can be planted now.  The softneck varieties are found in most grocery...

  • Tools that need cleaning, J.C. Lawrence
    Garden Jobs for Fall and Winter

    As days shorten and temperatures cool, the pace of gardening slows along with plant growth.  But there is still plenty to be done during the fall and winter months.  In fact, much of what...

  • Old man cacti, Jack Kelly Clark, courtesy UC IPM Program
    Cacti as Landscape Plants

    With our long, hot summers and drought seemingly becoming the norm, many home gardeners are on the lookout for water-efficient plants.  Although often overlooked, the cacti found in North and...

  • Bark pealed away to reveal oak root fungus, J. Alosi
    Oak Root Fungus - Armillaria mellea

    The fungal disease “oak root rot” (Armillaria mellea) has evolved with California oaks and other native plants.  It is parasitic on oaks and other plant species, but if these plants...

  • John Whittlesey sage (salviz x) in the Demonstration Garden, Brent McGhie
    Sage Advice: Welcome Salvias into Your Garden

    If you are starting a list of plants to put in the ground this fall, you might want to add a salvia or two. With just under 1000 varieties, Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family...

  • Buckeye in upper Bidwell Park, J. Alosi
    What Makes a Plant Drought Tolerant?

    You've seen these terms often: “drought tolerant” and “water-wise.”  For water conservation and sustainable gardening, Master Gardeners recommend plants that are adapted...

  • CA Native Plant Garden at Demo Garden, Salvia 'Bee's Bliss,' Brent McGhie
    Native vs. Non-Native Plants

    “Native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours. I want Texas to look like Texas and Vermont to look like Vermont.” — Lady Bird Johnson (First...

  • Chickens, Joyce Hill
    Master Gardener Fall 2021 Workshop Series About to Begin

    This Fall we are offering over a dozen workshops.  We have quite a few new topics on tap, as well as a timely four-part series on Landscaping with Fire. Most workshops will be held in-person at...

  • Ceanothus, Concha, J. Alosi
    Tips for a Drought-Tolerant Garden

    The on-going drought is leading many gardeners in our area to include drought-tolerant plants in their gardens, or even design wholly drought-tolerant landscapes.  Here are some tips for...

  • Phacelia and poppies, Cindy Weiner

    Imagine a garden designed to focus on creating natural wildlife habitat. Why not eliminate turf grass from your own garden and replace it with trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals that benefit...

  • Zephyranthes candida - rain lilies by J.C. Lawrence
    Consider Late-Summer-Blooming Lilies

    Lilies are monocotyledons, plants which have flower parts in multiples of three, parallel leaf veins and fibrous, branching roots. They often have strap-like leaves in a clump at the base of the...

  • Blue oaks are thick along Dye Creek and atop Campo Seco,  Laura Lukes
    The Blue Oaks in Our Foothills Have a Strategy for Drought

    You may have noticed that blue oaks are turning brown in the foothills right now.  They aren't dying – they are utilizing an adaptive strategy that they have evolved over time to thrive in...

  • Vole, Jack Kelly Clark, UC IPM
    Serious Garden Pests: Voles, Moles, and Gophers

    It's an exasperating experience. You go to the nursery, pick out a flowering plant, shrub, or tree and bring it home only to have some critter damage or destroy it within the first week. Pests cause...

  • Atmospheric river, NASA 12-11-2014
    Gardening Within Our Means

    What does a careful analysis of our Mediterranean climate, historic climate patterns, and water supply reveal about our future here in Butte County?  Specifically, what does the historical...

  • Water meter dial, John Smith
    Reading Your Water Meter -- What Does It Mean?

    On Thursday, July 8, Governor Gavin Newsom asked California residents to cut back their water usage by 15%.  Butte County is among the 50 California counties (out of a total of 58 counties) now...

  • Lady beetle munching on aphids, J. Alosi
    How to Get an Army of Beneficial Insects to Protect Your Garden

    Are caterpillars chewing on your cabbage?  Aphids browsing your Brussels sprouts?  Cucumber beetles snacking on your squash?  Keeping insect pests from attacking your garden veggies...

  • Svastra sunflower bee, Jeanette Alosi
    Why Attract Native Bees?

    It's important to protect our bee populations because their survival and reproduction provides pollination benefits for agricultural, urban, and wildland environments. This is especially evident here...

  • Wildtending tools include collecting bags, loppers, and water, Janeva Sorenson
    Wildtending Walk #4: This Knowledge is Not Everywhere

    Two quotes from the leaders of the May 25 Wildtending Walk at Verbena Fields in Chico are pertinent here. Toward the end of the walk Ali Meders-Knight, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)...

  • 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...

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: