How to outsmart a gopher

The Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 3, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Dominic Carrillo
Miles DaPrato
Irene Loy
Sarah Gaffney
Ric Murphy

Summary of the Day
It always feels great to put the finishing touches on a restoration project, and that was just the plan for our third and final field day at CLBL Headquarters at The Maples. We had planted 205 plants on our first two field days, installing protective tubing and a thick layer of native straw mulch around each plant to finish it off. Since our first field days, native grass seeds had been spread on either side of the pollinator hedgerow.

Our first task on this day was spreading straw over the seeded area. This was tricky – we had to spread the straw thick enough to provide moisture retention benefits, but thin enough to allow sunlight to pass through! As we were working, one of our volunteers with a background in the arts remarked that they had “never worked in this medium before”, and I found this a lovely juxtaposition of science and art.

Once we finished spreading the straw, we headed to the stormwater retention basin, where last season Woodland High School installed native hedgerows, grasses, and forbs. We found that the milkweed that had been planted didn’t do well here – likely due to a very active gopher population! To combat this, this time we planted milkweed rhizomes in “gopher baskets”, small metal baskets buried underground meant to protect the plant’s roots from pests. We planted about 100 showy milkweed rhizomes in these baskets, along with 100 narrowleaf milkweed plugs. Hopefully we have better luck this time around establishing a milkweed population – and therefore creating breeding habitat for monarch butterflies!

A zero-waste way of mulching

Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 26, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Sherri Wood – Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Beth DelReal
Thomas Steensland
Josh McCabe
Cody Hamer
Jen Knudsen
Lars Knudsen
Anna Tolle
Stuart

Summary of the Day
When I visited Patchwork Farms last summer for a meeting with landowner Sherri Wood and Yolo County RCD Project Manager Joanne Heraty, Sherri showed us a big pile of lavender stems she kept from her harvest and asked if we could use it as mulch around the hedgerow project we were planning. “Why not, it’s worth a try!” was Joanne’s reply, which brings me to our second (and third! Another double day) field day at Patchwork Farms.

I will say, this was the best-smelling SLEWS Field Day I have ever experienced – the spent lavender clippings were still incredibly fragrant. Our volunteer crew had a little aromatherapy bonus to go along with the hard work! The other bonus was this was a great way to use up Sherri’s lavender waste while providing our native hedgerow with weed prevention and increased water retention.

Our two shifts of volunteers mulched around two lines of plants, 342 plants in all. We had great weather all day, with rain beginning only as I unloaded gear at the end of the day. This rain turned into the HUGE storm we all remember in late January, with power out and damage done throughout the Sacramento Valley. With the addition of mulch, hopefully our plants can enjoy that water for a few weeks to come!

The second phase of hedgerows at the Maples

The Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 9, 2020

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Miles DaPrato
Sara Bernal
Joel Jorgensen
MJ Farruggia
Katie Wrightson
Ric Murphy
Chris Jadallah
Joel Jorgensen
Corey Shake
Kendra Just
Bri Grosskopf
Ric Murphy
Dominic Carrillo

Summary of the Day
For our first “double header” SLEWS day (two field days in one!), we were at Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples. As you may recall, Woodland High School students participated in a SLEWS project here last year, installing a native plant hedgerow and grasses in the stormwater basin (see the blog posts here: https://landbasedlearning.org/blog/category/slews-program/the-maples/). This year’s project would be somewhat of a continuation of that project, a hedgerow and native grassland perpendicular to that site and extending around an adjacent ag field.

We began the day by installing an irrigation system, working as a team to lay out the irrigation line and install emitters. We followed by planting 205 native plants in the very dry soil – we had to use pickaxes in order to loosen the ground enough to plant! Many of these plants were planted in metal baskets to protect the roots from pesky gophers. We also installed a protective tube around each plant to protect it from wind, herbicides, and pests. The morning volunteer crew got through about two thirds of the planting before the afternoon crew arrived to finish up. Then we began on the next task – mulching! Yolo County RCD had strategically placed native grass straw bales along the hedgerow, and we applied a thick layer of mulch around each plant to assist with moisture retention and prevent weed growth. Finally, to prepare for the native grass seeding to come in a few weeks, we cleared a bunch of cobblestones from an area they had been discarded. Looking forward to watching this hedgerow mature right outside our office doors!