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.
Fall is upon us, and with the changing of seasons and weather getting cooler we also have an election and are still in the midst of COVID….one sometimes wonders where peace and solace can be found. Many of us have social media that is full of nature posts, plant groups and more, but being on social media can be a double-edged sword, and “reality” seems to seep in even if you to selectively curate your content. Today I just want to remind you of what you probably already know, that the garden is a great “neutral” go to place!
No matter what your political leanings the garden just “is.” There is no political bickering to be had in the garden, no statistics about daily infection rates in the garden…..just the plants….being, existing, and turning the power of the sun into leaves, flowers and fruits (which is pretty awesome if you ask me!!). This time of year, many of us reconnect with loved ones and family, even if it is online or in a modified way and conversation can be tricky, especially this year! My suggestion? Turn to gardening! Perhaps get together some interesting gardening facts, take some beautiful photos of your plants to share, or share resources with your family members who garden, or who are thinking about gardening (for example: did they know that each county and state has a Master Gardener program that can answer their plant questions?).
Does your garden look a little rough around the edges from the summers heat, fire ash and smoke? If so it can make your “happy place” seem a little sad. Not to worry, the summer is hard on the plants just like it is on us, and this is the time to get in there in rejuvenate it! Plant those natives (in So Cal this is the ideal time to do it!), get a compost pile started or get some worms for vermicomposting! Thinking of putting your garden to bed for the fall? Maybe plant a cool season veggie garden instead! Cool season veggies are some of the most nutritious plants we can grow, and they are also so much more flavorful when grown at home. Not sure where to start? Join our class on Nov 14th “From the Garden to the Table” to learn about growing cool season veggies, sustainable landscaping and pest management and also hear from our Master Food Preservers to learn about making freezer jams. Thinking of turning your inefficient yard into a water wise garden? There is info on how to do that on the 14th in the afternoon as well.
Elections and politicians come and go, this pandemic will as well, .but keeping our sanity through it all is key to survival and the garden, small or large, is here to help with that. If you have an older family member who might not be able to get outside, or do much bending, consider getting a tv tray or table and set potted plants up on a bench for them to “groom.” Kids can be great assets in the garden, looking for pests and finding beneficial insects. They can also get drawn in to planting and harvesting their own crops so send them out to plant some sugar snap peas today! Head racing with the “what if's” that come with “adulting?” The garden can help you unpack your fears, thoughts, and concerns by giving you some quite time: just you and the plants…plants that do not judge or confront. Consider them a canvas for your mind: focus on the plants, get into a grooming, planting, or pruning task and just let your mind go. You will find yourself thinking about this and that and the other thing, but your will also start to notice the different colors of green you see, maybe a pollinator flying by or a bug you've never seen before or a flower that is only 1cm wide, but is oh so beautiful, and all of these things will help your head and heart get centered again.
See the importance of gardening, but have questions? We are here to help answer your plant questions, from lawns to trees and peas to bees! Give us a call, or send us an email and unlike social media will stick to the plants and only the plants, giving you the tips and info you need to create and cultivate your own positive space!
Do you have citrus in your yard? This is the time of year that the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) is most active in San Bernardino County when trees are sending out their fall “flush” of new growth. Asian Citrus Psyllids (also called ACP) spread the bacteria that causes citrus greening disease (also called HLB, Hunaglongbing). While this bacterium does not harm people is deadly to citrus (all types from kumquats to grapefruit and everything in between).
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure available to the public for HLB spread by the ACP. The only way to control the disease is to reduce the spread of ACP and be vigilant about removing trees that are infected or near infected trees. Keeping ants out of your trees is a great first step to protecting your trees from ACP and other pests. Since ants protect pests that excrete sugar solution from beneficial predators like lady beetles, praying mantis and syrphid fly larvae, keeping them out gives these “good bugs” a chance to help keep ACP out. Another key step to preventing the spread of HLB and ACP is to remove all stems and leaves from citrus you are going to share and to wipe fruit off to keep ACP from hitching a ride on fruit or plant material. To learn more about the ACP/HLB complex, view a map of its spread, and watch a four-minute video visit: https://ucanr.edu/sites/ACP.
Thanks to a wide array of UC ANR scientists for sharing the following photos.
Symptoms: An early sign of infection are chlorotic (yellow) leaves.
Remember that yellow leaves may also be due to nutrient deficiencies and it is important to recognize the differences. While nutrient deficiencies result in a consistent yellowing pattern on both sides of the leaf, HLB causes blotchy yellow areas that are asymmetrical (different on the right and left side of the leaves), although these symptoms can take 9 months to several years to show up in an infected tree. The delay in visual symptoms is the reason it is very important not to share any citrus cuttings with friends and family. A healthy-looking tree can still be infected. There are clean sources of cuttings (budwood) available through the Citrus Colonial Protection Program (CCPP: https://ccpp.ucr.edu/)
Later Symptoms: Misshapen fruit, with an asymmetrical midline and discolored malformed seeds. These fruits, while not harmful to us, will be bitter and inedible.
An early sign of ACP infestation are leaves that have a “notch” (indicates ACP feeding) or larvae that create waxy tubules.
ACP life stages: The adult is about the size of a half a grain of rice and feeds at a 45-degree angle which is a distinguishing feature from other common citrus pests. The juvenile (nymph) phase is golden in color, with bright red eyes and can be found on the new growth (flush) of citrus leaves.
To learn more about the ACP/HLB complex, view a map of its spread, and watch a four-minute video visit: https://ucanr.edu/sites/ACP. Want to learn more or have questions? Attend our class on Nov 28th from 10:30 to 11:30 to learn more about this deadly pest. To register: http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/?calitem=494190
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.”
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
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!