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From the UC Blogosphere...

Orchid and Rose Growing Home Garden Workshop in August


The Master Gardeners of Ventura County will host one of their seasonal home-garden workshops in August.  This workshop will focus on "Growing Enviable Orchids and Roses," and will include a continental breakfast, snacks and a docent-guided tour of the Faulkner home.

Gardening experts will guide orchid and rose enthusiasts with techniques to turn their blooms into showcase beauties.

The Master Gardeners love to share their expertise and love of gardening.  Workshops are held on Saturdays so more members of the public can participate.

Date:  Saturday, August 16, 2014
Time:  8:00 am - 12:00 noon
     Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center
     14292 W. Telegraph Rd.
     Santa Paula, CA
     General Public - $20
     Master Gardeners - $10

For more information see this flyer; link here to register.

Posted on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Daily Life For Master Gardeners

The Lady is a Peach

By Andrea Peck


Most peach trees are country bumpkins that sit out in the field in the sweltering heat. They have a patch of rambunctious grass around them and funny, lopsided leaves that tilt in a wayward manner. They do not stand tall and exult like an oak. They do not curve over industriously like an apple tree. They are not lush and thick like an orange tree. They drop fruit so juicy that it seems a crime in this dry state that they are allowed to exist at all. They are bright and yellow, a little flushed. They are my favorite fruit.

But, let me tell you, my tree is no happy-go-lucky country peach. This lady is a stalker all the way.

She keeps her distance during the winter. Her leaves have fallen; she is skeletal like a 1980's fashion model. I look out my kitchen window and I have to remind myself that she is there. But, trust me, she is there.

During the spring, she gathers herself up like gloved hands on a Victorian dress and begins her advance. She is impertinent. Her branches, feathered in green, stretch closer and I wonder if she is coming in. On days when I've had too many cups of coffee, a sideways glance in that direction makes me think she has breached the window.

Soon, as summer hits full boar, she will begin throwing peaches at the family. Why pick them? She will let us know when she wants us to have them. We concede to her. One minute the peach will not come off the branch. The next it falls cleanly with a solid thump. Temperamental.

The one thing I can say about my peach tree is that she is productive and easy to care for. She is a lady through and through. My kids and I are bloated and sticky as we roll down the street looking as if we have been ruffled by a green-leaved grandmother.

We are happy.

For more information on the lovely green goddess, the peach tree, click here:

Posted on Monday, July 28, 2014 at 11:34 AM

New advisors build of the scientific work of predecessors

Carol Frate, left, and Michelle Le Strange.
When new UC Cooperative Extension advisors come on the job, they aren't starting their programs from scratch. "We are a science-based organization," said Jim Sullins, county director for Tulare UCCE. Academic advisors document their work in reports and papers. "The next advisor can build on their (predecessors') experience, their results and observations."

Sullins was quoted in an article by Luiz Hernandez in the Visalia Time-Delta that focused on the retirements of two long-time Tulare County farm advisors, Michelle Le Strange and Carol Frate, who together represent nearly 70 years of service to farmers, landscape professionals and the public.

"Both Carol and Michelle have been very dedicated advisors, committed to their clientele, and driven to help resolve grower's problems, and helping the general public make informed decisions, based on science," Sullins said. "It will take a lot of adjustment with them not on staff.

Hernandez contacted Frate by phone from vacation in Olympia, Wash. A 36-year UCCE veteran, she commented on a research trial conducted in the 1980s in which she sought to determine how much damage an alfalfa crop sustained if irrigation stopped in the summertime.

"It has come in handy in drought" Frate said. "We showed alfalfa could withstand, survive" a water stoppage.

Le Strange, who completed 31 years with UCCE, said she became interested in food production following a trip to Mexico and Guatemala. She went to college at UC Davis and accepted her position in the San Joaquin Valley.

"We are here to help find solutions for local agriculture problems," she said. "I am proud of all the research I have done."

Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Dry Farming

Photo by Jutta Thoerner


Dry Farming

By Jutta Thoerner   UCCE Master Gardener


I have heard about dry farming crops in agriculture, could I save water in my garden with the same method?  Susan, Paso Robles


Dry farming is a technique that has been used for thousands of years in the Mediterranean regions for farming olives, grapes and grains. How does it work? Using a tillage technique, the farmer/gardener starts to work the soil as soon as possible after the last rain of the season.  By disking (two passes) and using a roller, the goal is to have three to four inches of dry, even soil when cultivation is done. This is often called dust mulch or dust blanket and it traps the moisture in the soil.

In order for this technique to work, several key elements have to be present. The soil must have good water holding capability, which excludes sandy soils or heavily fractured soils. This technique requires a minimum of 10-12 inches of rain during the rainy season. If the crop is a permanent crop, such as grapes or tree crops, sufficient spacing between the plants is required to avoid competition for water and nutrients. Planting the appropriate rootstock for permanent crops is essential for dry farming in an orchard or vineyard.  Under the right conditions, the following vegetables, fruits and nuts can be successfully dry farmed in California: tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, winter squash, olives, grapes, garbanzos, apricots, plums, pears, apples, various grains, potatoes, almonds and walnuts.

The farmer/gardener has to be content with lower yields, often 1/3 of the yield expected from irrigated crops. Fruit and nut crops are often too small for produce buyers from large grocery stores and markets, even though they are generally sweeter, denser and store better than commercial grown products.

Here are some interesting water saving facts from a UC Davis cost study.  If not irrigated, these crops would save the following amounts of water: two feet per acre for potatoes (Klamath basin), three feet per acre for apples (Sierra Foothills) and 16,000 gallons/acre for lightly irrigated grapes (Napa Valley). While dry farming is not for every grower or for every region in California, it could be a promising alternative system in times of uncertain water supply.

Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Volunteer Insurance Coverage for Master Gardeners


Reappointment is now complete - along with digitally signing the appropriate documents to continue as a University of California Master Gardener you may have also heard about a fee for insurance.

Hartford Accident and Injury insurance acts as a secondary insurance and covers up to $10,000 of personal expenses tied to an injury sustained while serving as a Master Gardener. For example, if injured while serving as a volunteer, you would first allow your primary insurance to take effect and file a claim with Hartford for any out-of-pocket expenses, such as a co-pay. In the event that an injury is sustained by a volunteer who does not have primary medical insurance, a Hartford claim may be filed but the policy limit remains at $10,000.

Hartford insurance is for personal injury only and does not cover property damage, liability, or injury to any non-volunteer parties.

A separate Automobile Liability insurance covers volunteers acting in official capacity. Volunteers must confirm through an annual agreement that they meet UC minimum insurance requirements, commonly referred to as “50/100/50” and have a valid driver's license in order to qualify for this coverage.

This is often confusing for volunteers as fees for the Hartford Accident and Injury insurance are collected at reappointment time when volunteers identify whether they will drive on behalf of the University and are asked specifically about their vehicle insurance coverage. By opting not to drive for the University , volunteers are not exempt from needing Hartford Accident and Injury coverage.

Whether you are asked to pay the fee individually or the county program finances the fee for the group at large, every UC Master Gardener volunteer must be covered under the Hartford Accident and Injury Insurance.

For more information about Hartford insurance or to download a claim form click here.

Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 9:50 AM
  • Author: Aubrey Bray

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