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After losing 75 trees to storms, UC Davis plants for future

Lost trees will be replaced by climate-ready alternatives

The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden encompasses the entire campus. It is known for its variety of well-cared-for trees, as shown in this photo from 2020. New plantings to replace fallen ones will be chosen based on adaptability to climate change.

The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden encompasses the entire campus. It is known for its variety of well-cared-for trees, as shown in this photo from 2020. New plantings to replace fallen ones will be chosen based on adaptability to climate change.

Kathy Morrison

Four weeks since wicked winds brutally whipped our urban forest, we’re still cleaning up. Work crews are still tackling fallen trees and limbs. The sound of chainsaws drowns out traffic and birdsong.

Many parks and landmarks lost numerous trees. That includes the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

By its own count, the arboretum – which encompasses the whole UC Davis campus – lost 75 mature trees on New Year’s Eve and during the subsequent storms.

“Considering our campus urban forest tree population is close to 20,000, the losses might have been much worse,” wrote Katie Hetrick, the arboretum’s communications manager, on its website.

It wasn’t just downed trees, but limbs and other debris. The result was quite a mess.

“The cleanup effort undertaken by all of the teams in the Arboretum and Public Garden – Grounds and Landscape Services, Putah Creek Riparian Reserve and the Arboretum – is massive, includes outside contractors, and will take months to recover from,” Hetrick wrote.

Helping to prevent worse losses was the arboretum’s continuous tree stewardship. Because they’re part of an arboretum, all trees (as well as shrubs, perennials and other plants) are carefully tracked and monitored from the day they’re planted. Problems are tackled before they have a chance to create havoc.

Because of that constant care, the arboretum’s trees are especially healthy. That’s what makes this recent devastation particularly shocking. One possible reason: A shift in wind direction. Local trees have decades of resistance to southern winds; these gusts hit from the east.

The recovery will include replanting, but not necessarily the same trees.

“While the weather-related havoc wrought across campus is disheartening, it is also important to understand that our campus is not just reacting, we planned for this uncertain future and are already taking action,” Hetrick said.

New trees will not only add beauty and shade, but more climate resiliency. UC Davis’ Campus Tree Renewal Program plans to create a legacy of trees that will last 100 years or more.

As part of this effort, students trialed about 45 tree species in test sites on campus. The top performers earned permanent spots for their species in UC Davis’ future.

That group includes a lot of familiar oaks – valley oaks, live oaks and cork oaks – plus drought-resistant Texas red oak. The success of the Texas red oak prompted students to test more Texas natives.

As crews continue the clean-up, the arboretum is now raising funds to support its tree-planting efforts. (See the links on the arboretum website.)

Hetrick noted, “We are devastated by the loss, but our current efforts to transition our landscapes to be climate-ready offer hope.”

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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