Dan Vierria

Gardening Columnist

About This Author

As a senior writer for The Sacramento Bee, Dan Vierria covered media, food, restaurants, pop culture/trends and home & garden. Currently, he is a freelance writer, social media page administrator and certified University of California Master Gardener for Sacramento County.

Articles by this author

Bad Seeds

Comfy bed pillow, cherished hoodie, coffee with a splash of cream are creature comforts. Familiarity and habits are not demanding. Change is the boogeyman that can stir anxiety and uncertainty.

Perhaps your Sacramento landscape has evolved into a relic, a ’65 Rambler in a Tesla world. Maybe it’s time for change?

Our beloved city enters another season of gardening, signaling renewal and an opportunity to plan for a modern landscape. Increasing cost, scarcity of water and changes in weather patterns make it obvious things aren’t the same.

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Parking Lot To Paradise

Buried beneath a parking lot, compressed and denied sunlight and water for decades, this dirt presents a gardening horror story to send chills down a rake handle.

In the 1930s, Sutter Memorial Hospital was constructed at 5151 F St. The buildings were demolished in 2016, the land redeveloped and christened Sutter Park.

Cecily and Jim Hastings purchased a quarter acre lot and built a spectacular contemporary home where the hospital’s paved, overflow parking lot once existed. The home was designed by their friend and former neighbor Tyler Babcock, AIA.

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Creature Discomfort

Navel oranges, plump, juicy and begging to be plucked, are ripening in Sacramento. Anticipating a morning harvest, it’s not uncommon to discover hollowed-out orange peels clinging to the tree or scattered underneath. The nocturnal spoiler is probably a rat.

Desperate and unhappy home gardeners often pose this question to UC Master Gardeners and nursery folks: “What is eating all my (fill in the blank).” Few urban gardeners are spared the carnage of critters snacking on fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Rats, squirrels and birds are common suspects. We are spared, for the most part, by more voracious garden pests—deer, gophers, moles and rabbits.

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Seeing Red

Poinsettias, America’s most popular potted flowering plant, are revered holiday guests. They produce a festive show during their annual visit, then pass on to that Great Heavenly Garden shortly after New Year’s Day.

The descent on nurseries, florist shops, supermarkets and box stores in search of poinsettias begins around Thanksgiving. Poinsettia mania breaks out and so begins the challenge of keeping them alive and beautiful for 4–8 weeks.

About 70 million are sold each year during the holiday season. Why are we infatuated with poinsettias?

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Beat The Climate

Challenging weather patterns amplified the wailing and woes heard during my UC Master Gardener stints at the California State Fair and Harvest Day at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center.

Ailing perennials, struggling annuals, disappointing veggie yields and low morale affected many Sacramento gardeners this summer.

Among the most common lament was, “What’s wrong with my tomatoes?”

I can relate. This was the first year my annual planting of the heirloom tomato Cherokee Purple didn’t produce a single tomato. Each morning, I inspected the plant with hopes of discovering a tiny green orb.

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