Courtesy of the California Redwood Association

Home and garden checklist

Published: Saturday, Mar. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 7CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 - 10:20 am


Some classics never go out of style. Real redwood is regaining popularity in decks and other uses, particularly in California. Besides, it's cool – literally.

The natural wood does not retain heat as do composites, which are mostly polymers and about 10 percent recycled wood products. In a recent demonstration at the Sacramento Home and Garden Show, a heat lamp on two planks – one redwood, one composite – warmed the redwood to about 120 degrees, but the composite sizzled at close to 200 degrees – definitely too hot for bare feet or pet paws.

"Redwood has a lot of advantages," said Larry Stonum of the California Redwood Association. "There's good and bad points about all decking; there's no perfect product. But Sacramento is a great market for redwood. Redwood is recyclable, it's sustainable, it's cheaper (than composites), it stays cooler in summer, and it's California grown."

Interest in locally farmed products has helped boost renewed interest in redwood, said Stonum, who lives in Sacramento.

"The California connection is huge," he said. "Everybody likes to buy local. We have 900,000 acres of redwood used for lumber in California. It's all privately owned family businesses, too."

That acreage is primarily in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. About 2 million seedlings are planted each year to replenish the state's redwood supply.

All old-growth trees are permanently protected, Stonum noted. Only second- or third-generation trees are harvested.

With a high level of tannin, redwood naturally resists mildew and pest damage such as termites without chemical treatment.

Unstained, the natural wood gradually grays to a silver patina. Unlike composites, redwood also can be restained and restored. Its original red color can be restored with wood brighteners.

"If you spill some grease on redwood, you can sand out the stain and touch it up," Stonum said. "It's forgiving."

A typical redwood deck in Sacramento lasts 15 to 20 years, Stonum said. That longevity depends on exposure to sun and weather. Some decks can last 25 to 30 years with proper maintenance.

And old redwood can be recycled, Stonum noted. "It won't end up in a landfill."

"(A new redwood deck) also looks so pretty," Stonum said. "The environmental issues have helped our industry, but redwood's beauty almost sells itself."

For more information, project plans and maintenance tips, click on


• Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after they bloom.

• Feed camellias and citrus. This is their growing season and they can use a boost.

• Cut back and fertilizeperennial herbs to encourage new growth.

• Watch for signs of powdery mildew on roses, grapes and ornamentals, particularly on new leaves. A small outbreak can explode into a big problem. The spores can go through their entire life cycle in 72 hours.

Powdery mildew hates water, but loves new growth and warm weather – 68 to 77 degrees is ideal. That's typical late-March weather in Sacramento.

Watering plants in the morning – including a spray on new leaves – can thwart spores, but may not be enough if an outbreak has already occurred.

Sulfur and potassium bicarbonate sprays are both effective in protecting young shoots. Garlic is naturally high in sulfur. To make your own spray, process a few cloves of garlic with 1 quart water in a blender or food processor, then spray leaves and shoots.

Or try this formula: Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner's Castile soap or Ivory Liquid) and 1 quart water in a spray container. Shake well. Make sure to spray the underside of leaves as well as the tops.

– Debbie Arrington

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