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From the UC Blogosphere...

After 34 years of Service, Mary Lou Retires

Dear Master Gardeners, 

As many of you know, I retired at the end of June.  During my 34 years with the University of California division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), many of my most rewarding moments have been spent with Master Gardeners.  I am constantly amazed by the enthusiasm, energy, creativity and knowledge of Master Gardeners. What an incredible service they provide for UC and the California public!

I was hired to create Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs for agriculture, but my interest in Master Gardeners started early.  I remember attending the California State Fair in the early 1980's and being somewhat horrified to find the UC Master Gardeners answering questions using the Ortho Problem Solver and the Rodale Guide to Organic Gardening.  I was told that they relied on these books because UC provided very little garden pest management information.   This motivated me to write Pests of the Garden and Small Farm and later to hire Steve Dreistadt to compile Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs.  From there we moved on to the Pest Notes, Quick Tips, UC IPM web site, UC IPM kiosk, our YouTube channel, blog and Twitter. Master Gardeners embraced and promoted all these products and now UCIPM is as well known for its home and garden information as for agricultural IPM.

I have loved teaching Master Gardener volunteers.  They are the most enthusiastic students ever.  I learn something every single time I go out and teach a class—and I've taught thousands of them.  UC Master Gardeners inspire so much of what we do.

For example, it was Master Gardeners who stimulated our research on convergent lady
beetle releases for aphid control.  All the published literature said releases weren't useful, but Master Gardeners challenged this idea. Over a 3-year study, Steve Dreistadt and I found that they were right, and we published several journal articles documenting the results. 

Last but not least, thank you to all of you Master Gardener Coordinators. Each of you does an incredible job gently guiding and informing your enthusiastic volunteers.  I have watched you in action and you do something special every day.


Posted on Friday, July 11, 2014 at 8:07 AM

El Niño unlikely to be California drought savior

During droughts, farmers and cities rely more heavily on groundwater, which must be recharged to get through subsequent droughts.
Rather than pinning hopes on a possible El Niño in the Pacific Ocean to alleviate the California drought, a UC expert suggested the state's residents should continue to prepare for the worst, reported Inside Climate News.

Reporter Amy Nordrum noted in the story that El Niño conditions only bring heavy rain one-third of the time. It would take an exceptional El Niño, the type that only happens 15 percent of the time, to return California water levels to normal.

"I think we really need to be prepared for more drought," said Doug Parker, director of the UC California Institute for Water Resources. "There's a pattern of dry years happening so there's a higher probability that next year will be a dry one."

Parker said he is primarily concerned with replacing the water that Californians are using.

"The key is that a lot of our drought management comes from the groundwater and that's a great resource during the drought, but you have to put that water back in the ground," said Parker. "It's how we're going to get through the next drought."

Posted on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Watering During Drought


Watering During Drought

By Lee Oliphant  UCCE Master Gardener


Q. We have a water shortage in our area. How much water do my plants really need to survive? Pat M., Cambria


Water is essential for plants processes such as photosynthesis, nutrient uptake and transpiration, all of which directly affect a plant's growth and development. During drought conditions when soil moisture is lacking, a plant's growth and development are negatively affected.


Most garden plants need supplemental water when the rains have not sufficiently supplied adequate soil moisture. This is where you, the gardener, come in. Here are a few tips to keep your plants alive during a drought.


  • An individual garden plant needs about 1” of water each week. Then, delve deeper into various watering guides to determine how much water your larger plants and trees need. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could count on rainfall to provide it? But, alas, as custodians of our gardens we must provide for their minimal needs.


  • Water only when the soil is dry. Use your hands or a trowel to check for moisture. When soil looks or feels dry 2-3 inches down, it's time to water shallow-rooted annuals. However, if you're caring for larger perennial plants or trees, dig deeper to evaluate the available soil moisture as these plants are deeper rooted than flowering annuals.


  • Different plants have different water requirements. Shallow-rooted annuals, perennials, vegetables and newly planted landscapes will have different watering needs than larger, more established plantings.  Trees and shrubs that are suited to our climate may need only occasional deep watering. The type of soil you have will dictate how often to water. For example, sandy soil dries out more quickly than clay.


  • Water in the morning to give plants a chance to dry before dark. You'll lose less moisture to evaporation and discourage fungal diseases.


  • Lastly, be sure to follow any local ordinances or recommendations for landscape water use.


For more information on water-wise gardening, visit the University of California Garden Web - -

or the landscape watering guide for San Luis Obispo County -


Posted on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 6:56 PM

New UC advisor is already making a positive impact

Virginia Bolshakova
Virginia Bolshakova, a UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor for less than a year, has received praise from a farm bureau director for her contributions to local agriculture, reported Julia Hollister in Capital Press.

“She brings enthusiasm, high energy, intelligence and a passion for agriculture to her job," said Bill Gass, executive director of the San Mateo County Farm Bureau.

No day is average for Bolshakova, who is also the county director for San Mateo-San Francisco counties UCCE and the director of Elkus Ranch, a place for hands-on learning experiences for Bay Area children.

One morning she is working with concerned citizens about beekeeping policies, collaborating with scientists at UC Berkeley about eradicating aphids in gardens, and in the afternoon herding students around Elkus Ranch teaching about rangeland, the story said.

“I think the biggest challenge facing San Mateo County agriculture is urban-rural interface, and that goes in both directions,” she said. “I work with many youth who never thought about plants or planting a seed and watching it grow. I worry that people are becoming disconnected to their food and where it originates.”

Bolshakova was born and raised on a 450-acre pig and crop farm in southwestern Michigan where her parents still work the land. Her childhood experiences nurtured a passion for the environment and a keen awareness of the interdependency between people and nature.

Bolshakova has a bachelor's degree in biology from State University of New York, Buffalo, a master's degree from the University of Toledo, and a Ph.D. in ecology from Utah State University.

Posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 11:04 AM

2014 UC Master Gardener Conference - Sold Out!

The highly anticipated 2014 UC Master Gardener conference has officially sold out. With nearly 700 attendees and registered guests this year's conference is the largest in the program's history.

Are you interested in being put on the wait-list for future registration openings? Click here and fill out the online survey and be place in line for registration openings, openings are filled in the order the survey is completed.  

It's not too late for you (and your guests) to sign up for conference tours! Don't wait to register for one of many exciting conference tours still available: 

Campfire and Train Ride 

All Aboard! An exciting four mile railroad excursion at Yosemite Park's South gate on Highway 41.  Ride into history where powerful locomotives once hauled massive log trains through the Sierra Mountains and where mighty lumberjacks felled the timber and flumes carried the lumber to the distant valley below. 

The Sierra National Forest's majestic woods provide the backdrop for this narrow gauge journey back in time.  Peer into the past! A New York steak, chicken or vegetarian dinner with all the fixins' is included in the price, and a no host bar is available. Enjoy a campfire under the stars while you listen to a local guide tell stories of times past.

Loofa Farm & Mount Bullion Vineyard

The loofa is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. Contrary to popular belief, loofas grow on a vine, not in the ocean.  Located in the Yosemite foothills, this tour of a working loofa farm is scheduled one week prior to harvest!  Handmade crèmes, lotions, soaps and loofahs are available for purchase, and of course, all products are grown and crafted on site.

Following the loofa farm tour you will travel to Mt. Bullion Vineyard, where grapes are grown, fermented, barreled, aged, bottled and cellared.  A visit to the winery is by appointment only. Lunch will be provided at the winery.   The tour also includes transportation to and from Tenaya Lodge.

Gardens of the Central Valley

Clovis Botanical Garden is the only botanical garden in the San Joaquin Valley. It is a one-acre water-wise demonstration garden that showcases beautiful plants and landscapes appropriate for the hot summers and cool winters of California's Central Valley. While strolling through the garden learn about the “Sensational 70”, plants friendly to Central Valley landscapes which are attractive, water-wise, and non-invasive.  Enjoy lunch at the home and garden of one of our own Master Gardeners of Fresno County. This lovely garden demonstrates a diversity of plant materials utilizing sustainable practices, and other unique features. 

The Forestiere Underground Gardens is a Fresno City and county historical site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore the underground maze of rooms, courtyards, and passageways reminiscent of the ancient catacombs, all hand-carved out of hard-pan. See unique fruit-producing trees, shrubs, and vines growing underground – some over 90 years old. Water, wine and snacks on the return trip to the Tenaya Lodge.  Arrive back at the Lodge in time for the Cowboy Dinner, Train Ride, and Campfire. 

Posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 9:28 AM

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