Are you ready to transform your yard into a more sustainable landscape but don't know the first thing about irrigation systems? Our very own UC San Bernardino County Master Gardener Anita Matlock really knows her “stuff” when it comes to irrigation! She has enough experience and in-depth knowledge about irrigation to teach anyone how easy it is to transition their landscape from spray sprinklers to a drip irrigation system. She has provided numerous in-depth presentations and hands-on workshops that helped attendees increase their knowledge of beneficial irrigation concepts and decrease water usage in the garden.
As a Master Gardener, Anita has been our “de facto” trainer on irrigation systems since 2003. She says, “there are still many people who are unaware of how much water and money they could save by simply swapping out standard sprays and rotors for those with integrated pressure regulation. Communities everywhere continue to face the problem of high water pressure. High water pressure causes irrigation systems to experience a higher water flow rate, which results in wasted water, higher water bills, and damaged system components.”
Before retiring, Anita's professional background since 1991 had been in the irrigation industry. She was familiar with the irrigation concepts related to the "plant, water, soil relationship," but she was not familiar with growing plants. In 2003, she was inspired to join the Master Gardener program because she wanted to learn how to prune grapes and rose bushes. Through the Master Gardener program, Anita learned about growing roses and developed enough expertise and knowledge to teach a rose pruning workshop in January 2020.
Anita says that if you enjoy gardening and want to give back to your community, consider joining the Master Gardener program. You will experience many hours of pleasure spent in your garden while also teaching others about the many joys and benefits of gardening. She also wants to remind everyone to consider joining the UC San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers program if you enjoy growing edible gardens, especially if you grow many fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You will gain a lot of satisfaction from growing your own food, preserving it for your family, and giving your preserved foods as gifts! Joining the Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs will open opportunities for you to develop your interests in many different directions and make life-long friends with similar interests and passions.
Anita has used her expertise in irrigation to lead several Master Gardener landscape renovation projects. Her most recent project was in the summer of 2018, at Micah House in Redlands. Along with fellow UC Master Gardeners Betty Richardson, Trisha Fitzgerald, and other volunteers, she participated in transforming a grassy area in the front yard of Micah House into a lovely drought-tolerant garden. Master Gardeners removed the existing lawns and replaced them with drought-tolerant plants watered by a new drip irrigation system. The project was made possible through a grant from the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD).
In 2018, Anita donated irrigation equipment to a research project that measured the impacts of gardening on 82 first and second-grade students at Norton Space and Aeronautical Academy, a charter school in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in San Bernardino. It was a team effort with Master Gardeners Loleta Cruse, Jackie Brooks, Robert Simpson, and other community volunteers. The study found that students participating in planting and caring for the garden had greater concentration and group cohesiveness than students participating in other group activities. These positive outcomes corroborated research from several other studies worldwide, linking enhanced mood, feelings of self-worth, improved cooperation with others, and even higher standardized test scores and grades to school gardening.
Anita's previous career in marketing and consulting sales presenting to customers and potential customers, and becoming a Toastmasters member helped her develop the confidence to speak in front of groups. She has presented at Master Gardener events too numerous to list in this article. In 2018, she presented SoCal Landscape Transformation – The Hunt for Water Savings, a workshop at Western Municipal Water District (WMWD).
In April 2020, she presented at a free webinar on DIY water-efficient landscape irrigation hosted by IERCD in partnership with the (San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD.) She led attendees through the ins and outs of retrofitting and drip irrigation to increase their knowledge of effective irrigation practices and help decrease their water usage.
If you are interested in presenting as a Master Gardener but are hesitant to take that first step, you don't need years of public speaking experience like Anita has. She has some great tips to get anyone started. The first step is to study and understand the subject you are presenting. Prepare an outline for your presentation and practice it in front of your family and friends. Here is a great tip that worked for Anita when preparing to present a new topic to her fellow Toastmasters. She would introduce a shorter version to get feedback and gain the confidence to fine-tune her final presentation. Try it yourself and see how it works for you! Don't hesitate to ask your fellow Master Gardeners for help by giving you feedback on practice presentations or co-presenting with you on your favorite gardening topic.
Anita's latest gardening project reflects her interest in vertical gardening. If you have not already “dipped your gardening toes” into this fascinating and fun gardening activity, I highly recommend trying it! I think you will be inspired to try your hand at vertical gardening when you read about Anita's vertical herb and vegetable garden.
In 2003, Anita (and her husband Tony) decided they wanted something more visually appealing to look at while enjoying their patio than a bare wall separating their property from their neighbors. They also wanted herbs to use for cooking that they had grown themselves, so they built a vertical herb and vegetable garden made of wood. After 7 years, the wood had deteriorated. They recently created a new vertical system made of HDPE drainpipe to replace the old wooden system. Be creative and start your own vertical garden using unique and fun materials.
You never know where the path of being a Master Gardener will lead you. In 2003, Anita and her husband Tony started a hobby in home wine making. Anita also decided to join the Master Gardeners program in 2003 because she wanted to learn how to prune grapes (and roses.) Fast forward to 2018, when Anita and Tony decided to take their years as home winemakers to turn their hobby into an encore career to establish their commercial winery. Anita is now an award-winning winemaker and serves as a Board Member of the Yucaipa Valley Wine Alliance. She has provided hands-on training at many workshops on growing grapes and wine making.
UC San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are thankful to Anita Matlock for enthusiastically sharing her extensive knowledge of irrigation concepts that decrease water usage. She is a wonderfully approachable presenter, and we are proud to name her as this month's Spotlight Master Gardener!
Sometimes you meet people that energize you with their enthusiasm and friendly, approachable manner. I recently had this experience when I interviewed Kit Leung, this month's UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Spotlight Master Gardener. Kit became a Master Gardener in January of 2019 and has already made many valuable contributions to the Master Gardener program.
One of the many things that makes Kit so special is his generosity sharing his gardening knowledge with others. He believes that sometimes the world is changed by making a difference in just one person's life. He asks himself “what is my sphere of influence and how can I change the world in a meaningful way?” His generosity extends to creating opportunities to promote others. He is a star presenter who likes interacting with others and seeing the “light come on” in other people when he presents. It was a pleasure getting to know Kit. I hope you get the chance to meet him soon at a Master Gardener (online) event!
Kit is not only a great communicator through his presentations, but also through his writing. I interviewed him face-to-face via Zoom and a written questionnaire.
1. You are a great presenter, Kit! I have always enjoyed your Master Gardener presentations very much. Do you have any prior experience in public speaking and presenting? Do you have any tips for Master Gardeners interested in giving presentations but are hesitant to take that first step?
a. Thank you for your kind words. A lot of my work for my "day job" requires presenting virtually and, at times, in-person. I had to learn how to give presentations and speak effectively in front of groups through a Zoom/Webex call or an in-person workshop or presentation. It has taken me several years to become comfortable with presenting. More often than not, I still feel anxious and nervous before each presentation. For anyone interested in giving presentations, I would say some combination of the following could be helpful. Ultimately, it's up to each individual on what they would be comfortable doing, and it will take a little time to get comfortable with presenting:
i. Start off small by giving a short presentation on a topic before undertaking a larger endeavor, such as a full 1-hour workshop.
ii. Choose a topic that you are passionate about or that you are familiar with.
iii. Buddy up and co-present on a topic with another person.
iv. Prepare for each presentation and practice.
v. Solicit feedback after you present and make adjustments for future presentations.
vi. Don't be too hard on yourself. Learn from your missteps and move on.
2. What or who inspired you to join the Master Gardeners?
a. The Master Gardeners of Orange County, who were at the Farm + Food Lab at the Great Park in Irvine, inspired me to become a Master Gardener. I visited the Great Park to have an afternoon out in the early 2010s and came across the Farm + Food Lab. I spoke to a few Master Gardeners about composting and the apple trees they had planted and trained on espaliers. They made a positive impression on me because they were so friendly, knowledgeable, and encouraging. A few years later, when my son was born, I wanted to ensure he ate the most nutritious and freshest vegetables. So, I researched how to start a vegetable garden and recalled my positive experiences with the Master Gardeners of Orange County. I found out that all our local counties had Master Gardener programs, which encouraged me to research which Master Gardeners to join. I researched the local Master Gardener programs and found that the San Bernardino county program held training classes close to where I live. The county itself had many volunteer and service needs and opportunities.
3. What gardening experience did you have before joining the Master Gardeners?
a. I had roughly 5 years of gardening experience before joining the Master Gardeners. We had some unused space in our backyard where some small palm trees and unhealthy citrus trees grew. I converted this space into a vegetable garden to grow food for my family. I have had many years of mixed results but continue to love gardening in my backyard.
4. What is the most interesting gardening concept you have learned through being a member of the Master Gardener program?
a. There are so many. I learn something new every time I hear Maggie, Janet, fellow Master Gardeners, or people affiliated with Master Gardeners (faculty, industry experts, community partners, etc.) Integrated Pest Management stands out as an interesting gardening concept that I have learned about through the Master Gardening program. Knowing that we do not have to immediately spray for pests to manage them is very reassuring. I prefer to garden as naturally and organically as possible since my family and I eat the food we grow at home. Master Gardeners encourage the public to grow their own food!
5. The readers would love to hear about your volunteer activities with the Master Gardeners. Can you share your experiences with the readers?
a. I started off small and gradually eased my way into the volunteer role and increased my involvement over time. I really enjoy learning and trying different things, so my experiences have been all over the place.
i. Helpline: I started by taking Helpline shifts to familiarize myself with the types of questions we get from county residents and the public. This experience also helped me learn about the vast array of resources available to us as Master Gardeners and the public.
ii. Staffed event tables/info booths: I took shifts at various Master Gardeners information booths such as the Ontario Home Show and the San Bernardino County Museum October "Spooktacular."
iii. I worked with fellow Master Gardeners to develop information table materials and kids' activities related to worms and vermicomposting for the San Bernardino County Museum October “Spooktacular” Halloween event.
iv. Started a school garden: Converted an old unused gardening area into a usable garden for my son's elementary school (before the COVID shutdown).
v. Exam Grader: I worked with a fellow Master Gardener to help Maggie and Janet grade Master Gardener trainee midterms and finals.
vi. Online gardening presentations: I recently started working with Maggie to hold online workshops on various gardening topics like ‘Vermicomposting' and ‘Planning a Fall Garden'. vii. Vegetable planting calendar: Created San Bernardino county-specific planting calendar and monthly gardening task resource documents and handouts.
6. Have you done any gardening projects that you would like to tell the readers about? If yes, do you have any tips or advice for anyone who might want to do a similar gardening project?
a. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with Maggie on doing online presentations for our community members. This project has enabled our program to continue expanding the scope of our workshop offerings and educational opportunities despite the pandemic. It has set up the program to be even more successful at outreach to our communities. It has helped us become more agile in sharing information with the public and has expanded our reach during the pandemic.
7. What gardening activities are you most interested in?
a. I am really interested in sustainable landscaping, edible gardens, California natives, and vermicomposting.
8. Have you participated in any other community service or volunteer activities (besides Master Gardeners)?
a. Not really. I used to do annual volunteer activities through my company, like helping at food banks and Habitat for Humanity, but nothing formal recently.
9. Has your Master Gardener experience helped you participate in a gardening project or get chosen for a gardening project?
a. It has helped me to help start a school garden at my son's elementary school. My Master Gardener experience helped show some knowledge and credibility of gardening. It helped reassure the teachers and school administrators that the garden would be set up for success.
10. If someone is considering becoming a Master Gardener, what would you tell them about the program?
a. I would highly encourage them to become a Master Gardener. I would tell them that the experience is worth the time and effort, and our communities benefit so much from the work that we do. In these challenging times, volunteerism is so important to help support our community. Volunteering as Master Gardeners is a great way to promote growing your own food, sustainable landscaping, and healthy communities. Lastly, it is an excellent opportunity for personal development. As a Master Gardener, you have opportunities to improve your gardening skills and acquire new skills and experiences you can apply in other parts of your life. You will also meet other like-minded people and make new friends.
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
There are so many expressions that are oriented around seeds: “seeds of change,” “seeds of hope,” “planting a seed in one's mind”….and one of my favorites, a proverb from Mexico (but with many other iterations from around the world and through the ages): “Quisieron enterrarnos, pero se les olvido que somos semillas” which roughly translates to “They tried to bury us; they didn't know we were seeds.” I was even able to find a list of 75 expressions and proverbs that used seeds as their metaphor…..like the lesser known proverb from Japan “the miser and his persimmon seed (still trying to sort that one out).” What is it about seeds that speak to us so? I remember when we started our Master Gardener Seed Library at Chino Basin Water Conservation District linked to in-person classes on seeds with adults and families and I would talk about how to know if your seed was dry enough to store. I would use the pea seed as an example, telling people “you know that dried pea you get in the seed packets? Those dried peas you get in the store? That is how dry your seed needs to be!” It fascinated me that this little dried out ball, hard as a rock, still had life in it…..that you could plant it, and water it and from there would come food, and flowers and life. They represent hope, growth, life, food, change, regeneration and so much more.
While these proverbial seeds are a plenty, so are the seeds in your garden! When I took the time to look, I found them right under my nose! It is up to each individual to find the seeds of hope, change, happiness and growth in their lives, but I can help you find the seeds in your garden! Here are a few tips:
First and foremost, do not harvest seeds from the wild! Nature depends on these seeds to regenerate themselves and every time we have a fire, or unusually warm weather, or a late heavy freeze, nature dips into its seed bank to keep on going. Don't think you are the only one out there wanting to harvest wild seeds! You are not. If all of us actually did it we would make a dent in nature's seed bank that she cannot refill. Does that mean you can't seed save natives? No! There are lots of ways to save and grow native seeds. You can buy native plants from nurseries, or seed packets, and start your own native seed garden at your house. Fair warning: Nature doesn't make starting these seeds easy! That will actually be the topic of this month's seed saving class. If you are interested in the lengths you need to go to and the native plants that are easy to start join us using this link: http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/?calitem=492669&g=61974
- Some seeds are easier to harvest than others, some seeds are harder to start than others, and some seeds are harder to get to breed true than others (some resort to previous genetics and produce a different version than what you expected!). It is easy to get overwhelmed when you start seed saving and my advice is to start small…little by little. Pick one plant (a veggie, fruit, or flower) and learn about it. You can contact our Master Gardener helpline, join our online “Ask a Master Gardener” time or attend our free seed saving classes for help you with your questions.
- “Learn about that plant?” What does that mean? Ask these questions:
o Is this plant a hybrid or an open pollinated variety? Going back to school, when we learned about genetics and the purple and white pea, we need to know “are the parents of this plant the same variety or different varieties?” Many of the plants we have in our garden are hybrids to increase yield, hardiness, or disease resistance. While seeds can be saved from these hybrid plants, the only guarantee you will get is that there is no guarantee! You have no idea which genes will express themselves when you plant and grow them. Open pollinated seeds (when grown under the right pollination conditions) will give you reliable results and produce the plant that you are hoping for (breed true).
o Is this a plant I should seed save from? There are plants that we generally don't grow from seed, like succulents and fruit trees. With succulents we usually grow them from cuttings because they just do so well that way. There are several reasons we generally don't grow fruit trees from seed. One is that, due to all of the pollinators that visit those flowers and how easily they cross breed, you don't know what genetics you will get or if the tree will ever bear fruit. The other reason is that fruit trees are often grafted on a particular disease resistant root stock that will keep the plant healthy against common pests and diseases. When you plant a fruit tree from seed it gets none of the disease resistance you get from a grafted tree and it is common for them to die suddenly, even when cared for properly.
o How far does this plant need to be planted from others to “breed true” or does this plant need others to be properly pollinated (think “self-pollinated” vs needing “cross pollination”)? Some plants, like broccoli, need to be planted far apart from other plants in its family (Brassicas) to breed true. Other plants, like corn, need to be planted close, or in a zig zag pattern, to ensure proper pollination, but they also can be cross pollinated from other varieties of corn that are hundreds of feet away. One interesting way to handle spacing needs is to create “space” with time rather than distance. You can do that by spacing out the planting time of plants that might cross pollinate with negative results so that they are not flowering at the same time. This is one of tricky parts of seed saving and I recommend you start your journey with seeds that are self-pollinating and don't cross breed easily(or if they do, it has minimal impact on seeds) like tomatoes, peas and lettuce.
o Where do the seeds form on this plant? Seems obvious, out of the flower, but broccoli was a big surprise to me when I first started seed saving since seeds did not come from where I thought they were going to be coming from at all. Do a little research on that too, just so there are no surprises!
o How are the seeds naturally dispersed? There are five basic seed dispersal methods: wind, water, animals, ballistic (think: seeds shot through the air at high speed when the pod dries out enough!) and gravity. When we act as seed savers we are trying to step in just at the right moment in time: when the seeds are fully mature but before they fall (or are explosively shot!) to the earth. Ceanothus and lupine are examples of plants with seeds that are spread by explosive propulsion. Why does this matter to us? Because it will help us catch them at just the right time before they fly off into tiny seed space!
o When are the seeds ripe? On tomatoes it is when the fruit is ripe, but when we eat plants like cucumbers, or summer squash or peas we are eating immature fruits and those seeds are not viable yet. It is important to let seeds fully mature on the plant. There are some species that are viable before the seeds dry out (true of many weeds, unfortunately!) but for most plants the seeds need to fully form and at least begin to dry out on the plant.
o Was the plant that you want to seed save from diseased? The good news is that many diseases are not spread through seeds, but when in doubt don't save seeds from an unhealthy plant, or do some research to find out if the problem your plant has is transmissible through seeds.
o How do you clean them? Seeds fall into the category of “wet” or “dry” seeds. Seeds that are dry, plants like flowers, peas, and beans, need to have the chaff (plant material on the outside of the seed) removed. This helps keep the seeds mold and pest free and makes seeds easier to plant and store. Wet seeds come from plants like squashes, berries, tomatoes and cucumbers and the fleshy plant material needs to be removed from those seeds for storage. For some seeds it is just a matter or washing them off (like pumpkins) and for others, like tomatoes and cucumbers, they require a fermentation process to remove the gel like material on the outside. With “wet” seeds, make sure they are fully dry before you store them. I like to call it “snappable.” Think of how dry bean or tomato seeds are when you buy them in a packet at the nursery. That is how dry they should be, and it can take a few weeks, so be patient. Moisture is the enemy of successful seed storage and saving so taking the time to dry them will pay off. Both processes sound complicated but once you get the hang of it seed cleaning can be fun! It can be an engaging task to do with kids, and community, because you must get creative about how to get it done. You have to find the right size screen, or the setting on the fan that is just right to blow the chaff (plant material) away without blowing the seeds away. It is a great exercise in creative engineering!
- Store your seeds in a cool dry place. If they have any moisture inside them (which they probably will unless you dry them under climate-controlled conditions) they might crack if you put them in the freezer. Like a soda can blowing up, the shell of the seed can crack when the water inside expands. Storing them in the refrigerator is also not recommended. Store them in a cool dry place in your house and do not forget to label them! You might think you will never forget those special seeds you saved, but 7 months later you will wonder what in the world those are?!
- Have some great seeds? Don't save them for too many years! Plant them every year or every other year. Each year the chances that they will germinate decrease, so by planting them each year and growing new seeds to save you will keep that plant's genes alive and healthy.
- Don't give up! When I first learned about seed saving, I was so in love with the idea and philosophy behind it and wanted to learn all about it. Then, I started to learn all about it, and I freaked out! So many things to learn, each plant with their own set of needs, different sized seeds, different precautions to take to get them to breed true. I was overwhelmed and thought “how in the world can I do this on at home?!” Just like so many things in life, the answer was “little by little.” First, I learned about one plant (tomatoes) and then about another, and then about plant breeding, and little by little I am learning more each day. Every time I feel like it is too much, I think about how we, as humans, have been doing this for thousands of years and it is done every day around the world. This is an activity that we have been doing for generations and it's our job to keep on learning, keep on failing, keep on trying, and keep on teaching the next generation how to do it….and like always, Master Gardeners are here to help you with your journey! Call us on our helpline, send us an email, attend our free classes. You can become a part of our seed saving community so that you can create your own seed saving community at home, in your kiddo's school, your church, local farmers market, or community garden.
In these last few months, it is with that seed of hope that I carry on with optimism. The optimism that what I cannot see can still be in there; that despite all that is going on in our daily lives and around the world, a kind, safe and healthy world still lies beneath…just waiting for the right time to sprout.
Does seed saving speak to your soul, but still need more info on how to actually do it? Are you an avid seed saver but want to share with like-minded community members? Check out our free monthly Seed Saver Series classes! Right now, they are online, and they are always free. Each month we explore a topic related to seed saving and we would love to have you join us. If you are a beginning seed saver or seasoned seed saver, there is a place for you in our classes! Check out our website to find a list of upcoming classes and we hope to see(d) you there!
In closing, I would like to share a paragraph from a previous blog posting written by Master Gardener Debbie LeDoux that appeared in our May 2020 Master Gardener newsletter highlighting two of our ‘Seed Saver Experts' , Master Gardeners Jillian Kowalczuk and Adam Wagner. “Way to Go” Jillian and Adam!
“Adam and Jillian's pet project as part of theUCCE SanBernardino County Master Gardener program is theYucaipa 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 toCOVID 19 restrictions, they are ensuring that the work they started at theYucaipa seed library continues through the support of the local community. Jillian received permission from theUCCE to donate the seeds to a group that she and Adam started called Seeds ofYucaipa. Seeds ofYucaipa was started with the Oasis Botanical Sanctuary inYucaipa and Unity Church ofYucaipa to help facilitate getting the donated seeds out to the local community WithCOVID 19 restrictions currently in place, they believe people need access to gardening resources such as seeds, soil, and pots now more than ever.”
In today's world, we have too much information, too much pressure, and too much to do. Many people would like to contribute to their community. Still, they cannot find time in their busy schedules to volunteer. When UC San Bernardino County Master Gardener Michael Bains first became a Master Gardener in 2017, he wanted to volunteer. He was unsure how he could find the time while working full-time and raising two young children with his wife.
His love for gardening and passion for the UC Master Gardener program inspired him to find creative ways to manage his time to contribute to the Master Gardener program. He saw a need for volunteers to work on the UC San Bernardino County Master Gardener helpline and thought it would be interesting to learn more about it. Michael realized he could research callers' gardening questions and provide answers on his lunch hour or after hours while home with his family. So, he thought he would give it a try. That one small step evolved into Michael's providing consistent helpline support to the local community for several years.
Michael enjoys interacting with the people who contact the helpline. Everyone he has met through the helpline has been appreciative of the information provided by all the volunteers. He says it is a good feeling knowing that he has helped other gardeners. Callers realize the helpline's value delivering research-based and practical gardening and horticulture answers to their questions. San Bernardino County residents are invited to contact Michael and his fellow helpline colleagues with their gardening questions via telephone (909.387-2182) or email email@example.com. Please leave a message with your name and contact information along with specific information about your gardening or landscaping question(s).
Michael learned through the UC Master Gardener program how easy gardening can be. In the class on fruit trees, he learned about the variety of fruit trees grown in San Bernardino and that many trees can be espaliered. Michael had a property section at his house where he wanted to create more privacy from his neighbors. He decided that a couple of espaliered apple trees might multi-task as a privacy screen and provide fruit for his family's consumption. Michael says the process for espaliering trees is not complicated and that anyone can do it. His first step in the process was to embed three posts in the ground 8 feet apart. In step 2, he ran a metal wire across the posts at 18 inches and 36 inches above the ground. Step 3, he planted the apple trees between the posts. Step 4, he attached individual branches of each of the trees to the nearest wire. As each tree branch grows, he continues the process of connecting limbs to the closest wire. Michael enjoyed his first experience with espaliering trees so much that he is espaliering some peach and nectarine trees in his front yard. What Michael likes best about the UC Master Gardener program are the people he meets.
He says that gardeners are some of the nicest people he has ever met and that he has “never met a grumpy gardener.” UC Master Gardeners are just a further example of that! If you are interested in becoming a UC Master Gardener, Michael encourages you “to go for it!” The 3-month research-based UC Master Gardening training takes time; however, it is rewarding. You will learn a lot about home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices. (While the current class is full, if you are interested in next year's class, please leave your contact information with the MG helpline to receive information when the application process opens again).
Michael developed an interest in gardening when he took a vegetable class in 2015 at the Loma Linda Library. He learned a lot about vegetables and realized that he enjoyed gardening. At the time, he thought, "Hey, I can do this!" Taking the vegetable class helped him grow a vegetable garden in his side yard. His gardening interests have taken off from there.
Michael's Native Plants Garden
In learning about sustainable gardening and the importance of native and well-adapted non-native plants, Michael and his wife developed a strong desire to remove the lawn at their home and replace it with native plants. In 2017 he took out the family's front yard. I have heard many different approaches to taking out a lawn, from simple steps to more labor-intensive methods. Michael was so motivated to replace his yard with native plants that he removed it the old-fashioned way with a shovel and hours of backbreaking labor. Michael has been a member for several years of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG), now known as the California Botanic Garden in Claremont. He has always enjoyed and appreciated native plants but thinks people sometimes do not fully appreciate them. They see native plants in their natural, wild habitat during the hot summer months when their beauty might not be at their peak. Michael decided he wanted to demonstrate that native plants can be an attractive addition to gardens in all seasons with some TLC, and they are easy to grow. Michael did not need to use any soil amendments; “you just plop them in the ground” and let them grow. Michael posted an excellent article on the UC ANR website about using native plants https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24031.
He replaced one side of the yard with an olive tree and under plantings. He created a courtyard with native plants on the other side of the yard leading to the front door. Michael says it takes work (removal of whatever was there, adding irrigation, mulching) to start a native plant garden. Still, it is a good feeling of accomplishment! In April 2017, Michael decided to transition one of his raised bed vegetable gardens to a cut flower garden.
Michael's Cut Flower Garden
His decision to transition was because he fought a losing a battle with the “Squirrel Hoards of Chino Hills.” Michael found the transition easy because vegetable gardens and cut flower gardens require the same things - rich, loose soil, fertilizer, and regular watering. Be sure to read Michael's helpful article on the transition he made https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=25189.
Michael likes to use drip irrigation systems in his garden. He has converted nearly all his yard to it. Michael has practical advice to anyone interested in converting to a drip irrigation system. Use a drip line and prepare a grid system to cover the whole bed. Don't use a drip line that you will need to punch into and then add emitters. As the plants grow, you will need to move the individual emitters further from the plant. You will also have to go to the trouble of adding more emitters when you plant a new plant. They also seem to break more often. Michael enjoys container gardening as well as in-ground gardening. He likes to grow plants that do not do well in Chino Hills' heavy clay soil in containers. He has dahlias growing in containers this year with an underplanting of pansies, basil, mint, parsley, tea roses, and some clipped boxwood. Michael has a tip for gardeners who are interested in container gardening. The rabbits and squirrels eat those plants too, so be prepared to keep the critters out. They can reach higher than you think.
The UC San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are thankful for Michel's dedication to the helpline. He has extensive practical gardening knowledge that he shares with anyone who contacts the helpline. He also shows us how we can manage our time effectively to fit volunteer activities into our busy lives!
I recently enjoyed taking a “virtual garden walk” with UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Betty Richards (class of 2016) while chatting on a Zoom call with her.
I came away from our meeting with the distinct impression that the gardening world is a better place with Betty in it. She has always had a deep interest in our environment and what individuals can do to protect it and make it a better place to thrive.
With increased awareness of the importance of native plants to birds, bees, butterflies, and our environment, Betty has become more active in promoting California native plants in home gardens. With her science background (she is a retired physician), coupled with a passion for sustainable gardening and protecting the environment, she has a winning combination for success.
Betty not only believes in the UC Master Gardener mission of sustainable gardening but exhibits her beliefs through her actions and participation in numerous volunteer activities. Volunteering for various Master Gardener activities has allowed Betty to meet people and find out about other projects that interest her. She has successfully and tirelessly led many Master Gardener projects.
Betty and fellow Master Gardeners designed the native plants demonstration garden at the historic Asistencia on Barton Road in West Redlands. The Asistencia was acquired by the Redlands Conservancy to teach about the history of Redlands, the history of native Californians, and as a place to demonstrate the importance of incorporating native plants in neighborhood landscapes. In November 2019, Betty worked with a large group of volunteers from the UC Master Gardeners and the local community to plant the demonstration garden. She continues to be involved in the Asistencia project by educating the staff about caring for the native plants. She is currently working with fellow Master Gardeners Heather Ross and Heather Nichol on designing and implementing the main front garden area and a cactus/succulent garden at the Asistencia. We look forward to seeing the changes that Betty and the UC Master Gardeners team and other community volunteers make to the Asistencia gardens.
Betty is the main organizer of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners' presence at the Redlands Farmers' Market. She coordinates volunteers, makes sure the Master Gardener information table is set up, and that printed gardening materials are available to give out to people who stop by. Betty says it is fun to talk to the folks who visit. Working at the Farmers' Market is an excellent opportunity to get to know fellow master gardeners working at the table and trade gardening tips. Betty is looking forward to COVID restrictions being lifted so the Master Gardeners can get back to providing research-based answers to gardening questions!
In early 2020, Betty started organizing a quarterly series of talks by Master Gardeners at the Redlands Community Center on Lugonia Avenue. This was begun, as an educational activity for gardeners from the city's community gardens and attracted many community members. Betty hopes to continue these well-attended talks when COVID restrictions are lifted and the community center reopens.
Last spring, UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners Betty Richards, Linda Richards (no relation to Betty), and Brenda Spoelstra got together with the California Native Plant Society's local chapter and planned a tour of their local native gardens. Each of the three yards was in different lawn replacement stages with low water-use plants – Brenda Spoelstra's new drought-tolerant space, Betty Richards' maturing (3-5 years) garden, and Linda Richards' mature garden. When the COVID 19 pandemic made the tour impossible, they made virtual tours of the gardens and posted them online https://ifnaturecouldtalk.com/youre-invited-to-virtually-visit-three-california-gardens.
Gardens such as the three featured in the native plants video take time and care. The transition of Betty's lawn to a native plants garden has evolved over the past 3-5 years, and continues to evolve. In 2015, she decided she would begin the process of transitioning the water-thirsty lawn at her home to California natives and other low water use plants. She started the process by learning all she could about which native plants to grow in her garden. She took a class on how to grow native plants at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden (now California Botanical Garden) in Claremont, California. The 86 acres garden is a non-profit organization dedicated to California native plants. Events and classes are offered throughout the year.
Betty also researched native plants on the California Native Plant Society Calscape website https://calscape.org/. She recommends the website to anyone interested in making the transition to a native plants garden. It is an excellent source of information about which plants are native to any location in the state. It helps people figure out which plants to use, where to buy the plants and how to grow them.
When Betty started to work on the transition, she decided to leave a group of existing White Alder trees that thrived in the well-watered lawn space. She added an extension to a pre-existing drip irrigation line to continue to give the trees the irrigation they needed. After putting in a path of decomposed granite she planted a group of three desert willows and added other low-water-requiring native shrubs and perennials. Every year she adds a few more plants and throws out some wildflower seeds before the first winter rains.
She has recently added a birdbath to encourage birds to stop by and visit the garden. Over the years, she has seen an increase in native bees, butterflies, and birds. Her water bill has even decreased significantly! The evolution of Betty's garden continues with plans to add keystone species of plants to the landscape. Keystone plants for our local area such as live oaks, ceanothus, coyote brush, and black sage are especially important in supporting a diversity of life.
For the past year, Betty has been working as a volunteer at Caroline Park in Redlands. The City of Redlands 16+ acres park is planted with California native plants. On Tuesday mornings, a small, dedicated crew works to remove invasive non-native plants, prune, and maintain the plants and trails. If you have the opportunity, take a walk in Caroline Park to see which California native plants are blooming. The park is primarily a great example of the dwindling Coastal Sage, although it also showcases several habitats, including woodlands and various chaparral plants. Betty would love readers to view the beautifully produced video she made to spread the word about this local native plants gem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7FQAb0AuOI. She hopes that the video will inspire people to plant some natives in their home landscape. I have viewed the video several times and am always touched by the “visual poem” created by Betty to the park.
In the summer of 2018, Betty and fellow UC Master Gardeners Anita Matlock and Trisha Fitzgerald participated in transforming a grassy area in the front yard of Micah House into a lovely drought-tolerant garden. Micah House in North Redlands is an after-school educational program for children and youth from 1st through 12th grades. It provides homework help, tutoring, literacy education and character-building themes and extracurricular activities, including gardening, art, music, and bike restoration.
Master Gardeners removed the existing lawns and replaced them with drought-tolerant plants watered by a new drip irrigation system. They partnered with Micah House staff, families of their after-school program, and the community. On planting the day, they worked with volunteers from Trinity Church and children and staff from the Micah House program to put the finishing touches on the water-wise garden. The project was made possible through a grant from the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD). (Betty also serves as an advisory committee member for the IERCD/UCCE Master Gardener partnership which helps UCCE programs reach over 35,000 county residents each year.)
Betty has always been interested in outdoor activities such as gardening, birding, hiking, and camping. She has done some vegetable gardening in raised beds and some planting of “this and that about the yard.” So, when she heard about the UC Master Gardener program through a friend who was applying to Riverside County's class, she applied to the UC San Bernardino County course. The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are thankful that Betty took that step and joined.
Betty says that what she likes best about the Master Gardener program is meeting new friends who love to garden and share their gardening knowledge. She encourages anyone interested in becoming a Master gardener to apply. “There are many opportunities to try different gardening areas. It doesn't matter whether you are a very experienced gardener, an enthusiastic beginner, an introvert, an extrovert, no matter your age or abilities. You can start a community garden, present at gardening events, or even help provide research-based information to people calling in on the Master Gardener Helpline. There are many opportunities to utilize your current skills and strengths and develop new ones and develop confidence.” Working on the Micah House project gave Betty the confidence to jump into designing the Asistencia project.
Through the Master Gardener program, Betty has become more aware of the many ways people in our communities are working toward a sustainable future for our region and our planet.
Here is some "food for thought" that I came away with from my time spent chatting with Betty. Birds are an excellent indicator of the health of the environment. 29% of the population of birds in the United States and Canada have disappeared since the 1970s. Many songbirds require insects to feed to their young. Caterpillars are especially important to birds. Betty is a natural teacher, illustrating concepts through storytelling that non-gardeners and gardeners can understand. “Think of a caterpillar as a little sausage full of good nutrition for a baby bird. Most caterpillars (not just the Monarch butterfly caterpillars) require particular native plants. As we lose our wild areas to development, we are losing our birds and butterflies. This is because the ornamental plants we have used in our gardens for so many years do very little to support them. We can do something about this by planting native plants and avoiding the use of pesticides. We don't have to have 100 % of natives to make a difference."
GALLERY OF SOME OF THE NATIVE PLANTS IN BETTY'S GARDEN.