Back in the early 1990’s, I was but a young lad doing grunt work at Hubbard’s West Side Gardens in Chico for the trusted old time garden guru, Herb Hubbard. One of my memories (though not the fondest) was the hundreds and hundreds of roses we would receive bare root every year which we would pot up, organize and sell like hot cakes in the spring. After months of working with roses we would all have battle scars all over our arms from working with the thorny beasts. Read More
If a curiously spotted dome of tangerine orange and golden yellow rising over the wall of the nursery has recently arrested your eye as you approached East Avenue on Mariposa, then let us put your mind at rest. No, the Mothership hasn’t landed. The giant metal mushroom that has arrived on our grounds is a piece of California history. Read More
To our customers: Effective March 1, 2011, Magnolia Gift & Garden will no longer carry Bayer yard care products. Over the past decade, international research has accumulated extensive data to suggest that neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to honeybees. Read More
If you ever visit Magnolia, and find co-owner Chris Hunter in a somewhat petulant mood, don’t take it personally. It just means the north wind has been blowing. Sited as we are on the outskirts of Chico, the nursery frequently takes the brunt of the incoming weather, and in particular, the monotonous weeks of driving wind that often attend Spring and Summer in the Northstate. Read More
- Do not plant in the heat of the day. Early morning or late evenings are best. If you do buy plants when its hot, put them in the shade for a day and drench the entire plant with water.
- Make sure the plant is acclimated to the climate and amount of sun you will give it. This is not the time of year to be testing the sun tolerance of plants grown in the shade.
- Do mulch. Using composted mulch around your new plantings to ensure that your plants will maintain moisture even during the hottest days.
- Plant in small groups. By planting in mass, plants can help each other out by shading each others roots, and protecting from dry winds.
- Water, water, water. Even drought tolerant plants are used to being watered everyday (sometimes twice) in the nursery. We encourage you to continue this practice through summer.
It is a seemingly harmless interposition of terms, but it carries a weighty implication. Never ask a gardener how their dirt is. Healthy soil is arguably worth its weight in gold. Perhaps the most crucial component of vigorous gardens and vibrant ecosystems, this oft under-appreciated substrate is responsible for anchoring, nourishing, hydrating and allowing atmospheric gasses to enter and leave the plant. It follows that establishing or supporting a healthy garden starts with sound soil management.
Here in the North Valley, the land is often high in Magnesium, a byproduct of decomposing mineral serpentine in the surrounding foothills. Though it is an essential micronutrient for plants, large quantities of this element can actually have a toxic effect. Where it is prevalent in the soil, the chemical receptors in the root tissue of plants will indiscriminately collect high concentrations of Magnesium instead of the reactively similar Calcium ions, which are a macronutrient in much greater demand. In proportion to plant needs, Calcium levels in native soils are much lower than those of Magnesium. While traditional horticultural wisdom would recommend applications of Agricultural Lime—Calcium Carbonate—in such instances, this will raise the pH, or make the soil more alkaline. All nutrients are available to the plant within a finite pH range, and as our flatland soils tend toward alkalinity anyway, this approach can create new problems.
Alternately, we suggest intensive applications of Gypsum, or Calcium Sulfate. By elevating Calcium levels in the soil, plants have ready access to the nutrient and are less likely to accumulate Magnesium instead, leading directly to increased vegetative health. Fruit quality issues, such as end rot in tomatoes, are often symptomatic of Calcium deficiencies and will be markedly reduced or eliminated come harvest time. Additionally, Sulfate has a mild acidifying effect, helping to maintain a lower pH—one more conducive to absorption of other nutrients.
Buffering of pH allows the soil itself to feel the real benefits of Calcium addition—deflocculation—without the detrimental effects on plants that Lime would produce. Deflocculation simply means that the Calcium ions break up the very dense, clumping soil structure indicative of clay content, allowing increased aeration, drainage, and leaching salts out of the soil. Or, as our Sof’n-Soil© bags read, Gypsum “works like millions of tiny hoes.” So if your garden gnomes just can’t seem to get it together, here’s a low-cost solution that is good for the gardener and the earth. Come in soon, and get a jump start on building rich, loose soil for a fantastic year in the yard!