Doug Arnold is 100% home-grown and has been a UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardener in the High Desert since 1997. Doug and his wife have lived in the High Desert since 1982. He enjoys DIY projects, such as building raised bed gardens. For reading material, he enjoys reading the UCCE Master Gardener handbook. Doug is typical of a humble volunteer, being a man “of few words." The spotlight is not always a place he feels entirely comfortable in. However, he and his wife Sara, a UCCE Master Food Preserver, have been fixtures in the High Desert extending objective information on gardening and food preservation and safety for many years. I guess you could say that Doug is the ‘glue' for the UCCE High Desert Master Gardener community, supported and augmented by Sara's volunteer work!
Under Doug's leadership, the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver booth at the High Desert Home and Garden Show (Home Show) has run seamlessly over the past several years. He and fellow Master Gardener Jim Pettigrew have worked together at the Home Show at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville, California, every year. The Home Show holds two home improvement expos a year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. The Home Show in Spring tends to be especially busy. Attendees can meet and talk with over 150 vendors representing diverse areas like landscaping, patio, gardening, and building contractors. There are always people stopping by the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver booth with gardening questions. The Hesperia Garden Club also participates in the Home Show. Doug is hopeful he can get back to doing the home shows soon!
Doug and his friend Jim also participate in the annual plant sale at the Victor Valley College (VVC) Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. This year's spring sale has been postponed for now, but the plant sale has been at the college for several years. They have a wide assortment of plants for sale. Doug has bought many of his plants from the sale.
Doug's wife Sara became a Master Food Preserver in 2017. They are very active working together at local Farmers Markets. They enjoy working at the Farmer's Markets, saying, "it's a lot of fun." He and Sara are "an institution" at the Phelan Farmers Market the first and third Monday of every week. They enjoy working with the public, and people ask him and Sara a lot of questions about gardening, food preservation, and the Master Gardeners program. People who regularly visit the Phelan Farmers Market know that if they have questions about gardening or food preservation, Doug and Sara are the sources to go to! Doug says if he doesn't know the answer to a problem when presenting at Master Gardener events, he refers the person to the UCCE San Bernardino County helpline. "It's convenient!" They also worked for a few years in the past at the Farmers Market in Wrightwood, California. He and Sara are looking forward to working at the Phelan Farmers Market again when COVID 19 restrictions are lifted.
When Doug and his wife moved to Piñon Hills, they lived on 2 and ½ acres off a dirt road. He said there really wasn't much out there at the time and that they were "out here totally on our lonesome." Piñon Hills is in San Bernardino County, California, near the Los Angeles County line. It is located near the Pearblossom Highway, 28 miles east of Palmdale, and 15 miles west of the Cajon Pass, where Pearblossom Highway meets Interstate 15. The town lies within 25 miles of Hesperia and Victorville. Piñon Hills is in a tri-community that consists of Piñon Hills, Phelan, and Wrightwood.
Doug and Sara have a 20 X 30-foot vegetable garden, growing tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and jalapenos as well as many other types of vegetables. Sara preserves most of what they produce. They have a 30-year old apple tree and get enough apples for Sara to make lots of applesauce. They have to cover the tree to "keep the critters off it."
Doug has had to adopt a uniquely different approach to gardening due to the weather challenges in the High Desert, where they live at 4,000 feet. A lot of plants and vegetables won't grow because of the extremes in temperature fluctuations. Summers in the High Desert are generally hot and dry. Winters are relatively cold, with much of the annual rainfall occurring in the winter. The success of crops depends on winter rainfall, which varies from year to year. The temperatures can rise over 100 degrees in the summer, and can then quickly drop to below freezing around September/October. They might have a beautiful Spring or Fall one year. Still, the temperature and climate may be completely different in other years. One time it was 0 degrees for six days in a row.
The weather is usually dry, but they had a rainy spring this year, which was unusual. Vegetables haven't been growing as well as they typically do. They have partial tree shade in some of the property where they can keep the plants from getting burned by the sun. Doug experiments with 40% shade cloth, which also helps keep the sun from burning the vegetables. He sometimes sets up windbreaks to help reduce the effects of strong winds. Doug says he is always experimenting because "sometimes you don't need the shade or to block the wind!" He uses a drip irrigation system to water his garden.
Doug and Sara don't make their own compost because of the dry climate and expensive water rates. I experienced Doug's wonderfully dry sense of humor when he told me a story about some compost that they recently ordered from a nursery in Hesperia. While delivering the compost, the man's truck lost a transmission. Doug laughingly told me that their compost was somewhere between his and Sara's house and Hesperia! But it finally arrived at Doug and Sara's house.
Doug has gardened from an early age, inheriting his green thumb from his mother. She was an active gardener in Ontario, California, when the area was still undeveloped, and citrus tree groves were everywhere. She grew many types of vegetables, including rhubarb, strawberries, and tomatoes. Doug helped in her garden a lot, including pulling a lot of weeds!
The Southern California High Desert encompasses the Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, and the Morongo Basin. It extends as far north as Barstow and includes Victorville. Doug says the broad area makes it challenging to get together with his fellow Master Gardeners in the High Desert. He told me that Master Gardeners in Barstow, Twenty Nine Palms, Joshua Tree, and Yucca Valley are becoming more active. He also likes the Zoom meetings because of his interactions with people he wouldn't usually talk with.
Doug had a lot of fun working as the Real Estate and Special Sections Editor for 30 years before he retired from the Ontario Daily Bulletin. Doug met Janet Hartin, UCCE San Bernardino County Area Environmental Horticulture Advisor, and County Co-Director while working at the paper. He always very generously published weekly UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener articles in the Home and Garden section.
Doug retired due to having a major stroke. It took him a few years to relearn physical skills such as how to walk and talk. As Doug recovered and became more active, he and Sara attended the Farmers Market in Phelan. They met a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener who interested him in finding out more about joining the program. He remembered working with Janet Hartin from the time he published her horticulture articles and upcoming Master Gardener events in the Daily Bulletin. He contacted her for more information regarding becoming a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener. She helped him sign up for the classes, and get into the program.
Doug also keeps track of the local rainfall for the National Weather Service. The Weather Service has a rain gauge that measures moisture in hundredths of an inch. Doug records the information in a log and emails it to the National Weather Service group in Colorado.
Doug said what he likes most about the Master Gardener program is the people. He enjoys the people probably as much as he enjoys gardening. The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are very thankful to Doug and Sara for their years of service! Their extensive gardening knowledge helps other gardeners become successful. An added gift to all of us is Doug's sense of humor, wisdom, intelligence, and kindness! We thank you, Doug!
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
As spring draws to a close and I begin to accept that summer is truly on its way, I have a mix of emotions. I find spring to be exhilarating and there is such a sense of endless possibility! Maybe this year the tomato crop will be huge?! Maybe my apricots will ripen before they fall or get pecked by birds…..maybe I will get my act together and have the huge veggie garden that I always dream of……maybe this year I will plant my Anaheim chilies and make my first homemade chili rellenos!? Then the end of May and beginning of June starts creeping up and I realize that if I haven't started my tomato from seeds it is probably waaaayyy to late; if I haven't planted those new natives it is not a great time to do it; if I haven't thinned my apricots it might be too late and I feel like it might be another year where all of my dreams and plans might not come to fruition. Now don't get me wrong there are some great things about summer, like the long days …..and….well….this year it might not include summer trips or gatherings pool side and BBQ parties like it does in other years…but those long days are still going to be here and that means more time to garden right?!?!
Keeping your trees healthy throughout the summer will help them last for years and generations to come. I learned this the hard way with some of my older citrus trees last year, after losing them to insufficient and inconsistent watering. Proper and consistent water is so important, and something our Master Gardeners can help you out with. One of the most common garden questions we get is about watering, and this is even more important in the summer! There are several factors that go into the decision of how often to water, including what the soil type is, what type of plant it is, how well the plant is established and more, so don't be shy about reaching out to our Master Gardener helpline, or joining our online “Ask a Master Gardener” times and we can help you out with your individual watering needs.
So, what can you do to keep your garden healthy during the summer? Here is a short list of things that can make a world of difference in your garden:
· Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch around your trees and plants, keeping it at least a few inches away from the trunk or stem, avoiding mulch that has been artificially dyed.
· Water properly and consistently: Keep you plants on a good watering schedule and keep up to speed on upcoming weather so that if a hot spell is coming so you can make sure they are well watered ahead of time (a farmers favorite conversation starter is going to be something about the weather, and there's a reason for that!).
· Ollas can be a fun and creative way to add extra moisture protection for your plants. There are a wide variety of olla styles and filling methods, so join us on our upcoming Olla making class to learn more.
· Shade cloth can be a great way to help protect your fruits and veggies from the hot afternoon sun, and you can set it up so that it only shades your plants from the sun at the hottest time of day, ensuring they are still getting enough sunlight to grow and produce fruits.
· Back to water: Setting up an irrigation system will be a big help in the summer, especially if you are working or away from home for much of the day. While hand watering can be fun in the spring and the fall it is not very efficient, often gets water on leaves that can lead to things like powdery mildew and more and is a lot less fun when it's a “do or die” activity for your plants. It is also hard to water trees and larger shrubs enough by hand before run off occurs, so an irrigation system is a great, water efficient way to go! Watering in the early morning is a good time to water to reduce evaporation and make sure your plants are not sitting overnight with moisture on the leaves.
· Native plants that have been planted this spring are probably not well enough established to be on their own this first summer, so they will need supplemental water this summer.
· Don't fertilize a dry plant, if your plant is dry (and therefore stressed) then you need to get it back on track with regular water before you fertilize.
· Don't forget to protect yourself in the summer garden too! Be mindful of sun, drink lots of water, and be sure to take breaks! There are often lots of chores that can be done in the shade or early in the morning so plan ahead and keep yourself healthy out there too!
With these tips and the help of our Master Gardeners you can have a garden that thrives even in the summer heat. We will be offering classes in June about protecting your garden from summer's heat, and on a wide variety of topics so check those out and as always, we are here to help, just a phone call, zoom click or email away!
UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardeners Jillian Kowalczuk and Adam Wagner's passion and enthusiasm for gardening, agriculture, and the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program made for a lively and fascinating interview recently! They want people to know that the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program can benefit anyone. There are so many opportunities to try different areas of gardening that the hard part is deciding which one you want to pursue! Whatever your skills and strengths, you can utilize them in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program.
There are also opportunities to develop new skills and strengths. As long as the criteria meet the mission of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, there is support for creating new ideas. You can pursue gardening interests in any direction you want from working with your local community gardens to presenting at workshops to helping out on the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Helpline!
Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has opened up a lot of different doors and avenues of perception for Adam and Jillian. People from all areas of life, age groups, and experiences become UCCE Master Gardeners. Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, Adam and Jillian have realized that there are many different ways of approaching the same gardening ideas. Ideas from UCCE Master Gardeners from different geographic areas are shared with the gardening community. UCCE Master Gardener members learn that gardening practices work differently in different parts of the world.
Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has helped enhance and sharpen skills not just for employment, but for all areas of life. It has helped them learn public speaking, formulating new ideas, communicating and working well with others, and how to use technology applications like VMS.
Adam and Jillian's pet project as part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program is the Yucaipa seed library that they started as a satellite of the Chino Basin Water Conservation District seed library. They are proud of what they have accomplished through the seed library and have enjoyed making it the success that it has become. Though the seed library is temporarily shut down due to COVID 19 restrictions, they are ensuring that the work they started at the Yucaipa seed library continues through the support of the local community. Jillian received permission from the UCCE to donate the seeds to a group that she and Adam started called Seeds of Yucaipa. Seeds of Yucaipa was started with the Oasis Botanical Sanctuary in Yucaipa and Unity Church of Yucaipa to help facilitate getting the donated seeds out to the local community With COVID 19 restrictions currently in place, they believe people need access to gardening resources such as seeds, soil, and pots now more than ever.
Adam and Jillian also inspire and help other UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener to achieve their goals. UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Whitney Coker liked what they were doing with the Seeds of Yucaipa Project. She asked them for advice on how to start a similar project in Rialto. Jillian was able to get some seeds for the Rialto project. With so many UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener learning tools and presentations currently available online, people can learn from home, get the seeds and supplies from the Seeds of Yucaipa project and start their own garden!
The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program offers opportunities that you don't get elsewhere. Jillian and Adam have participated in educational opportunities that they feel would not have been available to them had they not been part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program. They participated in the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaping (QWEL) for the Chino Basin Water Conservation District, a major partner of UCCE. The QWEL program is an affordable, local training providing 20 hours of education on principles of proper plant selection for the local climate, irrigation system design and maintenance, and irrigation system programming and operation to landscape professionals.
Adam and Jillian also had the opportunity through the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program to go to South Coast Research and Extension Center (South Coast REC) for integrated pest management (IPM). South Coast REC is one of nine UC ANR Research and Extension Centers. It was established by the University of California in 1956 as a representative site for agricultural and horticultural research in California's south coastal plain-temperate climatic zone. South Coast REC programs focus on a variety of agriculture and natural resource topics, including crop and landscape pest management, irrigation management, plant disease, rootstock development, and alternative weed control methods.
In 2019, Adam and Jillian contributed their gardening skills to a kitchen garden project at the Asistencia community garden project, 26930 Barton Road in Redlands, California. The kitchen garden is a small garden at the Asistencia used for growing edibles such as herbs and small vegetables. They worked on the Asistencia kitchen garden through Rotten Apple Farms, a ‘hobby' farm they founded in Yucaipa, California, to provide farm-fresh produce to the public while preventing waste. They participated in the project by installing the irrigation and planting trees. As UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners, they contributed their gardening expertise and advice to the project. More than 50 volunteers from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, the Redlands Conservancy, the University of Redlands, and the Redlands High School AVID program also contributed to the project. They helped dig holes, pick-ax the adobe clay soil, prep new soil, remove old pipes, build water wells, and plant 110 plants in the 900 square foot area. Jillian and Adam agreed that it was a great learning experience to participate in a historical landmark garden project!
Building sustainable gardening communities and educating the public are two of Adam's and Jillian's greatest passions. They participated as UCCE San Bernardino Master Gardeners in the planning and development meetings for Huerta del Valle's “New Farmer Training Program.” The mission of Huerta del Valle is to cultivate an organization of community members to grow their own organic crops. Building lasting skills and developing strong relationships within the region are just a few of the goals of Huerta del Valle. Sixty-two 20' x 10' family plots are available to rent for one year. Huerta del Valle provides seeds, tools, water, compost, and small plants if available for the plots. The participating gardeners receive the support of experienced gardeners to help them succeed in producing a lot of food to consume or share as they please. They also taught gardening classes at Huerta del Valle.
Arthur Levine, left, programs manager for Huerta del Valle, leads an Inland Empire Resource Conservation District farmers' workshop in Chino Sept. 20, 2019. In the front row are Adam Wagner and Jillian Kowalczuk of Rotten Apple Farms. (Photo by Crystal Valenzuela, Inland Empire Resource Conservation District)
Most of Adam and Jillian's activities together revolve around gardening, farming, and agriculture. Through their different gardening experiences, they have learned from each other. Jillian started getting involved in gardening about 5 years ago with succulents. After that, she dove right into different kinds of gardening, developing an interest in sustainable gardening along the way.
Adam has a diverse background, having enjoyed gardening for most of his life. Living in different areas of the United States, he observed how nature worked around agriculture. His gardening experiences while living in Nebraska were much different than his gardening experiences in the Coachella Valley. He said that in Nebraska, you could just throw out seeds, and they grew, however, Coachella Valley desert gardening was much different. It was a culture shock to him that cultivation in Nebraska did not require irrigation. Coachella Valley desert gardening was much more labor-intensive. Through a change in perception, Adam worked on developing more efficient ways of growing. He developed gardening processes which enabled him to focus on areas of gardening that he really enjoyed.
Adam's gardening experience has evolved over many years. Learning about one area of gardening that interested him naturally led to learning about other areas of gardening that interested him. Working for a hydroponics company, he learned about indoor gardening and how climates can be controlled. Learning about indoor gardening evolved into an interest in greenhouse growing. Working at a local garden nursery, he learned about planter beds, compost teas, bacteria, fungus, and how everything all works together.
One of Jillian's most memorable gardening experiences was attending Armed to Farm, a week-long intensive training event in Davis, California. Offered through the National Center for Appropriate Technology, NCAT has partnered with several sustainable agriculture organizations to train military veterans interested in sustainable agriculture careers. Some of the goals of Armed to Farm are to train veterans and their partners to operate sustainable crop and livestock enterprises and to provide technical assistance to participants as they start and improve their farming operations.
Jillian has always been interested in Agriculture and related subjects. When she saw a trend that Viticulture was expanding in the Yucaipa area, she thought it would be an exciting subject to learn more about. She enrolled in a 2-year Applied Associate of Science program for Viticulture. Jillian's training as part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program gave her an excellent framework for her Viticulture classes. Her study of soils in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has helped in her study of Viticulture soils. Jillian is looking forward to getting her degree in Viticulture. She also has a keen interest in getting ISA Arborist certification. Her goal is to eventually be certified to work in vineyards and orchards.
In November 2019, Jillian was awarded the honor of being picked out of a list of 21 applicants to serve on the American Viticulture Area Planning Committee (AVAPC) for the City of Yucaipa. The AVAPC was established to assist in the planning effort regarding the American Viticultural Area in Yucaipa. Jillian was chosen as one of three members at large "as she is pursuing a degree in viticulture, and that would be a great benefit to the committee," said Yucaipa Mayor Pro Tem Allen. Yucaipa Councilmember Riddell ended with, "I'd like to say that we really had a large and outstanding group of well-qualified candidates too."
Adam and Jillian's advice to anyone hesitant to get started in gardening is to take classes in whatever gardening area you're interested in, become a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener, take courses and learn from each other! If you're a gardener, you're going to make some mistakes. Don't feel intimidated because making gardening mistakes are a great learning experience for the future!
In the two short years since they graduated from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener training program, Jillian and Adam have become involved in nearly every aspect of the UCCE Master Gardener program. Wherever they see a need, their enthusiasm compels them to jump in and help. They are great presenters, and regularly present at UCCE Master Gardener events. I asked them how they got the courage to do their first gardening presentation. They told me they had not even graduated from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program yet, but presenters were needed to do County presentations. They saw that their help was needed and decided to just go for it!
Jillian shared with me that even though she had been a recruiter and instructor in the military, she does experience some anxiety before presenting. She stressed that giving presentations is more comfortable when she is offering a topic that she is passionate about, and that co-presenting with Adam gives her courage. Becoming involved in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, sharing gardening activities and interests with Adam and serving the community inspires and motivates her to take action.
Jillian and Adam presenting together at UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener class, "Healthy Soils."
Adam and Jillian teaching "Basics of Building Irrigation" at the Huerta del Valle New Farmer Training program.
Jillian and Adam are passionate and enthusiastic enough about gardening to do whatever it takes to achieve the mission and goals of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener. They stressed that having the support of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program as well as local community members who donate seeds to the Yucaipa seed library enables them to accomplish their goals. Gloriselda Garcia, manager of the Green Valley Senior Village Apartments, has been incredibly supportive of them. She has allowed them to run the community garden, facilitate the Yucaipa Community Garden Club, and set up the Yucaipa seed library at the site.
Thanks to the City of Yucaipa's donation of a plot at the Yucaipa Community Garden to Adam and Jillian, they have been able to conduct gardening classes and demonstrations on-site. They also regularly give gardening presentations at the City of Yucaipa Library and are grateful that the library allows the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs the use of their conference room for presentations. They're looking forward to being able to hold more classes and demonstrations when COVID 19 restrictions are lifted.
Yucaipa Community Garden at the Green Valley Village Senior Apartments, 34955 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa.
Adam and Jillian have a love of collecting seeds and sharing them with the public. Recently, they made a donation to the Yucaipa Community Foundation, who has joined with That's My Brick!® to raise money for the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center. Personalized pavers will be located on the pathway along the Uptown Park in front of the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center next to Yucaipa Boulevard.
Jillian and Adam's support will help enhance the quality of life for their community by investing in the education, development, and presentation of excellence in art. It seems fitting that their personalized paver will say, “Adam and Jillian - Love Starts with a Seed.”
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
This year, while only three months in, has been a rough one in so many ways….and with that, the promise of spring and all its hopes are even more important. I think that childhood is in so many ways like spring, just like a newly budded flower or a tiny leaf peeking out from a branch, it is a time when one is approaching the world with fresh eyes ready to see what life is all about. A gift we can give our children, to prepare them for all that life has to offer, giving them the never-ending joy of working with your hands to create beauty and food, is gardening. We can teach them how to sow a seed, how to check the soil to see if it needs water, how to use their eyes to look for signs of pests or check plant health. In the garden they can also learn about loss and understand that we can't control everything when those darn squirrels eat their delicious tomatoes or pumpkins. They learn about wonder when they plant a pea seed that is hard as a rock and it seems impossible that it contains life, then it sprouts, grows, and gives them food! Parents and teachers can teach children about the cyclical nature of it all when they teach kiddos about letting plants go to seed, saving the seeds and having them to replant for years to come.
We are so fortunate to have produce in the stores throughout the year no matter the season and are not dependent on what we grow in our local gardens to have food on our table. This lack of need has meant that we, as a society, are losing the skills that were once commonplace knowledge. When I was a kid my grandparents, parents and auntie taught me so much about gardening, really all I knew about it, until I took the Master Gardener course. While the access to this bounty in the stores has made life easier for us it has also meant that less and less grandparents and parents are teaching these valuable skills to the youth.
-Just remember to keep on eye on the kiddos, they are still learning, and remind them to ask before they taste if they are trying something new!
Editor's note: Back in 2018 Maggie helped a group of Master Gardeners and teachers attend a workshop with Project Learning Tree, an environmental education project co-sponsored by UCANR and the US Forest Service. PLT's K-12 lessons are aligned with California Standards and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). If COVID-19 has you or someone you know in the role of home science teacher, PLT has some great lessons available online: https://www.plt.org/educator-tips/activities-to-do-with-children-at-home
I recently spent a delightful morning with UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardener Vikki Gerdes, chatting in her light-filled kitchen over coffee and cookies about why she loves gardening and the UCCE Master Gardener program. As a Master Gardener, her focus in the program has always been water-wise gardening. She believes that "with over 60% of water use occurring outdoors, it is essential for residents to learn how to use water efficiently in their landscapes."
Vikki graduated from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener class of 2003/2004. She feels lucky to have had the opportunity to take part in the training, especially since she almost missed the application deadline. Luckily for the program, she faxed in her application the last day of acceptance and, due to her background and enthusiasm, was welcomed into the program.
Her Master Gardener's final project was to introduce her classmates to the Maloof Foundation Gardens. Beverly Maloof had conceived of a water-wise garden on the site that would be in harmony with the Southern California climate and respectful of California's limited water supply. She received a Metropolitan Water District Water Wise Grant in 2003. Community members, including Vikki who led a team of volunteers including Master Gardeners, assisted with the plantings. Master Gardeners also created botanical listings of all the plants.
In 2014, Vikki was honored to be named as Featured Homeowner Grand Prize winner of the Cucamonga Valley Water District's (CVWD) 7th annual Water Savvy Landscape Contest. Open to all CVWD customers, the Water Savvy Landscape Contest promotes water efficiency by recognizing residents who have installed beautiful, water-saving landscapes. Each landscape is evaluated based on a set of criteria which includes overall water efficiency, appearance, selection of plant material, and irrigation design. Vikki and other Master Gardener volunteers and homeowners educate participants during the Garden Tour on what plants and design elements work well in California's inland climate. Participants take a self-guided tour through each garden to learn how to make their yards more water-efficient.
Vikki entered the Water Savvy Landscape Contest as a result of a complete overhaul of her landscape that included selecting appropriate water-wise plants and installation of a new irrigation system that fit the needs of her water-wise plants. Taking workshops and using the knowledge she gained through the Master Gardener program helped her in this daunting project. Vikki and her husband put a lot of hard work into their landscape to reduce their water use by 65% on their ½ acre lot. Since they wanted a water-wise garden that would blend in with their neighborhood, Vikki decided on a Water Wise Moonlight Garden, named for the water-wise plants that bloom with white blossoms.
Converting an all-turf yard into a more water-wise landscape on such a large lot was no easy feat, taking several years to complete. Attending workshops taught by UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener (and then Water Conservation Specialist at Chino Basin Water Conservation District) Debby Figoni as well as other Master Gardeners helped her gain the knowledge and motivation to see the project through to its completion.
Vikki is inspired to make a difference as a resident of the Cucamonga Valley Water District service area. Utilizing her experience and knowledge as a UCCE Master Gardener, she has been very involved with the Cucamonga Valley Water District Annual Garden Tour for several years. Recently, she has served as a judge for the Garden Tour and considers the overall design, level of involvement by the homeowner, use of water-wise plants, and appropriate irrigation system design for a successful water-wise garden in her selections. In 2019, she was recognized as a Garden Tour judge for her continuing commitment to the community and to water conservation.
CVWD greatly appreciates the UCCE Master Gardener program and values its contributions to the community. (The contest and tour for this year have been canceled as a result of the COVID-19 virus.) Vikki asked me to let everyone know that the CVWD offers many landscape programs to assist customers in doing their part to save water, including landscape workshops, the free sprinkler nozzles program, educational resources, and more. For more information about these opportunities, please visit www.cvwdwater.comor call (909) 987-2591.
Like most UCCE Master Gardeners, Vikki has had a life-long passion for gardening. Her parents had a vegetable garden and Vikki's job as a child was to pick up rocks in the garden. Master Gardeners' passion for gardening sometimes “runs in the family” going back many generations, as is the case with Vikki. She developed a love for flowers from seeds and bulbs from her grandmother, who grew many different types. Through research, she was able to find out that her great-great-great-grandfather earned his degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Edinburgh in 1865. After emigrating from Scotland to America, he settled in Detroit, Michigan, where he actively participated in the landscape design of Grand Boulevard, an 11-mile long thoroughfare running east to west in some places and north to south in others. It is recognized as a major civic attraction and its entire length is decorated with trees, shrubbery, and flowerbeds. Vikki's grandfather was also invited to participate in the landscape design of Belle Isle Park, known as Belle Isle, a 982-acre island park in Detroit developed in the late 19th century.
After coffee, Vikki treated me to a tour of her prize-winning water-wise garden. Each plant was specially chosen and planted by Vikki for viability in a water-wise garden. Vikki made an eloquent comment: “Wherever blooms are, people will be initially attracted to that part of the garden.” As Vikki tells me about each plant, the love and care that she has put into the garden are evident. From the story about the California bluebell that she planted by the curb (which then decided it liked a different location better and reseeded itself accordingly) to the three different species of oak trees that she hand-planted from acorns 18 years ago (more about these below!), her attention to the concept of ‘right plant right place' is clearly evident.
People may think that a water-wise garden means a garden with just cacti and agave. Vikki wants people to know that you have other choices (unless, of course, that is what you want.) She has planted a wide variety of water-wise flowers, shrubs, and trees in her garden. The extensive list of plants includes white California poppies (one of my favorites), Chinese redbud and western redbud trees, and a white crepe myrtle tree. There is a beautiful ‘Stellar Ruby' magnolia tree, which buds when there are no leaves. After the buds drop, the leaves start growing. And, of course, her beautiful oak trees!
Vikki attended a presentation several years ago by the Mystic Lake Iris Garden (famous for their award-winning irises). where each attendee received one complimentary iris. That one bearded iris Vikki received many years ago has since been divided by her to number at least 100 beautiful irises!
While we were touring the garden, I spotted several bees pollinating the California bluebells. Vikki told me that her garden attracts many pollinators, including the hummingbird moth, a brown moth that approaches flowers exhibiting the same pattern of flying as hummingbirds. Vikki described this moth so eloquently that I was intrigued enough to find out more information. The US Forest Service says it is “perhaps one of the most delightful insect visitors to your garden is the hummingbird moth. They fly and move just like hummingbirds. They can remain suspended in the air in front of a flower while they unfurl their long tongues and insert them in flowers to sip their nectar. They even emit an audible hum like hummingbirds. Often inexperienced garden visitors notice what they think is a tiny hummingbird fleeting among flowers such as bee balm (Monarda).”
She showed me the three varieties of oak trees (cork oak and a beautiful coastal oak in the front yard and a holly oak in the back yard) that she planted from those acorns about 18 years ago and shared with me how to tell if collected acorns are viable and will grow. After soaking in water overnight, viable acorns will sink rather than float. She suggested that when planting acorns, plant them sideways, and a seedling will start to appear in a few months.
One of Vikki's water-conserving successes was to install a drip irrigation system with low flow sprinklers. The entire property gets watered for no more than10 minutes three times a week including summer. I was surprised to learn that approximately ½ of the front garden area is not irrigated. Vikki explained to me that once plants in the area got established, they were able to sustain themselves. I have to admit that all the plants looked healthy and thriving! Plants in that area include coast rosemary, trailing lantana, drought-tolerant red fescue, two rock rose plants, and white sage (one of Vikki's favorites) used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes.
Vikki also has a vegetable garden where she grows beautiful purple artichokes as well as other vegetables like green onion and lettuce. She finds that the purple artichokes are more flavorful than the Globe variety we buy in our local supermarkets. After discussions with Northern California artichoke growers and through her independent research, she was able to find purple artichoke seeds from an online distributor in Italy.
Vikki has found the UCCE Master Gardener program to be very rewarding. Near the end of the garden tour, she proudly told me that she has 1000 hours of volunteer time as a Master Gardener volunteer and is looking forward to receiving her Master Gardener Gold Badge, a rare and highly acclaimed accomplishment in the program! She encourages anyone interested in joining the Master Gardener program to apply, stating that “the Master Gardener program is a great place to meet people, make friends, and learn a lot about sustainable gardening." The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are fortunate to have Vikki Gerdes as a member of our community. Her dedication and many years of volunteer service to the program are much appreciated!