“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” Mohandas K. Gandhi, World leader, political ethicist, lawyer
"May our heart's garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.” Thich Nhat Hanh, global spiritual leader and activist “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher
"The importance of encouraging our children in outdoor work with living plants is now recognized. It benefits the health, broadens the education, and gives a valuable training in industry and thrift. The great garden movement is sweeping over all America, and our present problem is to direct it and make it most profitable to the children in our schools and homes. — Van Evrie Kilpatrick, 1918, in “The Child's Food Garden”
As the above quotes so beautifully proclaim, interacting with nature, whether passively (viewing plants) or actively (gardening, etc.) offers many positive benefits. In fact, the link between horticulture and health and well-being has been scientifically documented for centuries. In 1812, psychiatrist, professor, and Declaration of Independence signer Dr. Benjamin Rush reported that patients participating in gardening activities had better mental health outcomes than non-gardening counterparts.
Many additional papers were published throughout the 1800's documenting benefits of active participation in gardening. More recently, positive links between simply viewing plants through a window or even on a television, movie, or exercise apparatus screen have been reported in peer-review journals. A groundbreaking study in this area was published in 1984 by environmental psychologist Robert Ulrich (Ulrich, 1984) who compared post-operative patients recovering from gall bladder surgery who had views of landscape plants to recovering patients who had the same surgery in the same facility with views of a brick wall. Patients with landscape views had fewer surgical complications, shorter hospital stays, required fewer analgesics, had better moods, and even fewer derogatory remarks by medical staff in their daily records.
Since 1984, dozens of other studies have documented similar positive outcomes resulting from both passive and active engagement with nature and plants. These include improved physical, mental and emotional health; environmental benefits; and community and societal benefits. Recent literature reviews that summarize these findings include:
- An overview of 77 peer-reviewed journal articles (Howarth, et. al., 2020) identified 35 positive outcomes linking physical and mental health and well-being to active and passive horticultural interactions. doi: https://10.1136/bmjopen-2020-036923
-A meta-analysis (Soga, 2016) of 22 studies identified several positive mental health outcomes related to gardening including mood, group cohesiveness, cooperation, pride, well-being, and more. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007 -
An overview of 45 peer-review studies (Shepley, et. al., 2019) identified links between properly designed and maintained urban green spaces and crime, gun violence, and the overall safety and cohesiveness of low-wealth urban neighborhoods. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16245119
- A review of 120 papers (Crus-Piedrahita, et. al., 2020) reported public health benefits from urban horticulture activities in the global North. Thirty-two papers had a specific focus on social cohesion and/or social capital. https://doi:10.1016/j.glt.2020.10.001
-Alizadeh (2019) synthesized research regarding the environmental benefits of urban plants, highlighting their vital roles in combating climate change, cooling urban heat islands, providing habitat, removing air and water pollutants, enhancing soil health, and more. https://www.researchgate.net/deref/https%3A%2F%2Fdoi.org%2F10.1108%2FIJCCSM-10-2017-0179
Enjoy your garden! Enjoy a day in nature.
It's only right that our University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardener ‘Trees for Tomorrow' team of volunteers are our featured ‘Spotlight' Master Gardeners for September, 2021. They provided vital education to Redlands residents receiving gratis trees through a multi-partnership grant obtained by Inland Empire Resource Conservation District Manager Mandy Parkes.
It's an honor and privilege to recognize UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Project Leader Debbie LeDoux and her dedicated team of 'Trees for Tomorrow' volunteers: Zhibo (Sandy) Anderson; Consuelo (Connie) Davis (pictured); Pam O'Connell; Gail Sefl; and Husam Yousef. These dedicated Master Gardeners were tasked with helping residents select, plant and care for drought, heat, and pest tolerant trees. (Species including Chilopsis linearis 'Bubba', and Pistacia x 'Red Push' were selected due to their excellent performance in our University of California/United States Forest Service research project as 'climate-ready' trees able to withstand harsh conditions related to our changing climate.) Working with a team of California Climate Action Corps volunteers, civic leaders, Common Vision Coalition, and other groups, nearly 100 trees were planted in yards and parks lacking the preferred 25% tree canopy cover.
Trees can cool urban heat islands by 50 degrees Fahrenheit or more during spring and summer, creating welcome oases in hot inland communities. With spring 2021 temperatures so high they broke previous records on multiple dates, the project is especially timely and necessary.
In addition to proper tree selection, trees require the right long-term care. Master Gardeners will continue to provide advice on irrigation, pruning, fertilizing and pest control to residents receiving trees long after the trees are planted. This is critical since an average urban tree lives less than 20% of its potential lifespan due largely to poor care. The long-term engagement of Master Gardeners with residents is as important as is selecting the right species.
UCCE Master Gardeners are all volunteers, giving of their time and talents to enhance the quality of life for individuals and families who call San Bernardino County their home. Each Master Gardener is required to complete a rigorous 18-week training class complete with exams, class projects, and lots of participation! Due to COVID-19, volunteers had to master key horticultural concepts during the first ever all on-line training class. Only recently have they been able to meet fellow Master Gardener graduates and, in some cases, the Redlands residents they mentored through the tree canopy enhancement project. They truly exemplify community spirit and all it takes to successfully work together under adverse conditions. Kudos to each and every one of you from Master Gardener Coordinator Maggie O'Neil and myself! You are creating a cooler, greener and healthier environment for our children's children.
I asked the honored Master Gardeners their thoughts on the project. Here's what they had to say:
“The Redlands tree canopy project was the best volunteer project ever. In the midst of Covid-19, horrific politics and way too many good byes, it was a truly joyous experience. The legacy of being a part of the group that promoted healthy sustainable trees, knowledge of how to plant and care for them, tips on maintaining their health and beauty was the absolute best. For me as a Master Gardener, it was so much fun. I loved the site walks and getting to help our participants select the perfect sustainable trees for their properties. What started as a one-on-one visit often expanded to an enlarged group of neighbors and extended family. I got to give out many handouts and publications and promote our excellent Master Gardener program. I got to share our helpline email and phone numbers. I love the fact that I have been asked to revisit sites to see how great they are doing (once to make sure the tree did not look funny!). I receive emails every now and then asking me questions and showing me pictures of "Our Trees.” So much fun, Janet. Thank you. By far the coolest project ever! Pam O'Connell
There are a few things that really made an impact on me.1) It was rewarding to attend the Zoom presentation you developed that provided education to various professionals on the importance of planting sustainable trees. I found it to be open and inclusive allowing for good interchange of ideas and concerns.2) There are many beautiful trees that are sustainable.3) Reaching out to the community to offer beautiful, sustainable trees was a worthwhile way to show how various organizations can work together to benefit the community while trying to improve our environment.4) When dealing with homeowners that belong to an HOA, additional time and communication may be needed to assist them in obtaining approval for trees from their HOA's. Connie Davis
"I see tree planting efforts similar to what a trend of the future is to combat climate change and increase awareness of the importance of trees and tree canopies in our neighborhoods. Not only that but I see this project expanded to other cities in the county of San Bernardino. The continuity of this project is so valuable so that we can see the positive impact on the environment and the well-being of San Bernardino residents in the coming decades. I see this important work being organized and well-coordinated by involving the appropriate stakeholders at all stages of the planning project. It is about time to give back what we have taken for tens of years!" Husam Yousef
It was rewarding to see local homeowners excited about planting trees and grateful for the program providing them. Gail Sefl
THANK YOU ALL! Janet Hartin and Maggie O'Neill
I've been interested in surface temperatures of various living and non-living surfaces in our inland Southern California cities with increasingly hot urban heat islands for some time. Results are in! Use of dark asphalt, synthetic turf,
What can you do?
Take care of your trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and lawns, which cool the environment substantially. In the same experiment, the coolest scenario was the surface temperature of a lawn growing in the shade of a mature tree. Remember that, through transpiration, living plants cool the environment while non-living surfaces do not.
If you're tired of your high maintenance lawn, think about alternative groundcovers that have similar effects (see suggestions below). While cool season lawns like tall fescue and ryes are high water-requiring plants, warm season lawns like Bermuda, zoysia, and buffalograss are more drought-resistant. Our studies have found that it's not the lawns and groundcovers that waste the water, it's the uneven coverage (low distribution uniformity) of most sprinkler systems, coupled with not applying the right amount of water at the right time. This holds true for even the most drought-resistant native and non-native groundcovers irrigated via sprinklers, as well.
Plant drought-tolerant groundcovers
There are dozens of groundcover species that are both drought and heat-tolerant suitable for California gardens.
Here are just two examples:
Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyhllum) They are both drought resistant and do well in the heat. Fragrant flowers add a special touch to a meandering path to a secret backyard garden (below left).
Rosemary (Rosmarinus prostratus) Some rosemary species are low-growing groundcovers. It is great for rock gardens, growing to only 6 inches tall. It produces purple flowers in the summer and attracts pollinators and can be used for culinary purpose (below right).
• Your trees come first! If there just isn't enough water to go around, your lawn and flowers should be sacrificed instead. Trees are our most valuable landscape resource and take years to maximize their benefits (shade, cooling, habitat/ecosystem enhancement, carbon dioxide storage, etc.).
• Spread and maintain 2-4” of mulch around garden plants and trees (3-4” for wood chips, 2” for pebbles, decomposed gravel, etc.) keeping it a few inches away from tree trunks.
• Water early in the morning when soil evaporation is minimal.
• Control weeds. They compete with other plants for water.
• Avoid fertilizing. Nitrogen increases growth and the need for more water.
• Don't plant new plants during the summer when temperatures are highest. Even drought-resistant native and non-native plants need regular watering their first season.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation on Friday, June 4 ("Big Dig Day" or anytime!) to support the efforts of our 220 UC Cooperative Extension San Bernardino County Master Gardener volunteers.These highly trained, dedicated, and passionate volunteers help over 35,000 county residents each year grow food in home, school, and community gardens; cool urban heat islands through the proper selection and care of drought-efficient landscape plants; and, enhance their quality of life through participating in outdoor activities. Even during COVID, the Master Gardener volunteers provided education at more than 150 educational activities, adapting in-person training to online opportunities. These volunteers provide over $260,000 of services each year!
Options for 'on the spot' donating include making a one-time gift, a recurring (monthly gift) or cherishing the memory of a loved one through a tribute gift.
Share your support for the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program on social media by including #BigDigDay and #giveback in your posts.
Other ways to give: (information provided by Kelly Scott, major gifts officer, UC ANR)
There are a variety of planned gift options that will allow you to meet your philanthropic and financial goals. You can make a significant impact by supporting the UC Master Gardener Program through your estate plans, for instance by making a bequest. Donors may also establish income-producing gifts such as charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts, which benefit them during their lifetimes with up-front income tax savings and often at a higher return. (Please contact Kelly Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 750-1307 for more information on this option.)
Stock and Appreciated Securities
Avoid capital gains tax and claim a federal tax charitable deduction for the full appreciated value of long-term (held more than 1 year) securities (stocks, bonds, mutual fund shares). In order to qualify, gifts must be transferred directly from your brokerage account to the Regents of the University of California. (Please contact Kelly Scott at email@example.com or (530) 750-1307 for more information on this option.)
Real Estate/Personal Property
Gifts of tangible property or other assets that represent value may offer you tax benefits while also enabling you to support our program. Examples include real estate, equipment, collections, and artwork. If you have a gift of this kind. (Please contact Kelly Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 750-1307 for more information on this option.)
Please help us spread the word and share this blog with others who have benefited from the help of a Master Gardener volunteer.
We hope you will join us on June 4!
Thank you in advance for your generosity./span>