- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Gardening is fun, and it is rewarding, but it also can be time consuming. For many who garden the “time consuming
Here are 10 quick tips to successfully have a garden on a busy schedule:
1) Keep an eye on it! Plant your plants somewhere you can see them! For me and my home herb garden it meant planting them in pots right next to where I park my car when I come home. It is the first thing I see before I go out, and when I come home. This encourages me to do a quick watering (if needed) and check on them before I go inside and get distracted by other things. You can also place your plants along your walkway, or by a front or side door you use often.
2) Keep it small, small can be fabulous! Sometimes I get big ideas and want to grow all of my own fruits and vegetables because I do have the space for that at my family home. That thinking often leads to failure because I am just too busy with life to keep up the pace and see it through. This year and last, I am keeping it small and keeping it all in one area While I'm not living up to my big dreams of growing all of my own produce (yet), by keeping it small and easier to manage I am more likely to succeed with the things I am growing.
4) Set yourself up for success by starting off with the right plants, in the right plant right place right time! Planting “warm season” plants for the summer and “cool season” plants in the winter will ensure that your plants are ready for the season they are being planted for. Check out our monthly online Master Gardenering classes (http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/) about what to plant each month in the garden to learn more! Short on time, have really hot summers in your area, or a short growing season like in the mountains? Find varieties of edibles that have words like “early harvest,” or “heat tolerant” (or “shade tolerant” if you have lots of shade in your area) in their name or description. Early harvest varieties will ripen in a shorter amount of time, meaning less time to care for them and less time for pests or heat to damage them. Heat tolerant varieties are suited to areas that are prone to hot spells and shade tolerant varieties do well in shaded yards. “Disease resistant” varieties (such as ‘VFN' tomatoes) can save frustration, time and disappointment. Herbs are another plant that can add spice and flavor to your life and kitchen and can also be low maintenance.
5) Check on your plants for 5 minutes each day, it is worth it! The best way to keep your plants healthy and happy is to find diseases, pests and weeds early. Spending five minutes can help you catch problems early before they take more time, money and resources to manage. Also, when time is tight, and your mind is full of tasks and responsibilities a short garden break can help refresh your mind and spirits and give you more energy and clarity to get back to your busy schedule! Science backs it up; time outside and with plants is good for your body and mind!!
6) Keep water handy (or set up an irrigation system)! Fruits and vegetables suffer in flavor, texture, and overall health when they are not properly watered. Unlike the case with ornamental non-food crops, allowing edibles to dry out too much induces stress, increasing their susceptibility to pests and diseases. Overwatering can lead to disease-forming pathogens by reducing available oxygen in the rootzone. A cycle of underwatering and overwatering can lead to poor production and flavor and many health issues. Planting your edibles in a location you tend to look at everyday increases your ability to keep your eye on them for drought stress and tackle irrigation issues in a timely way.
7) Hydrozone!Hydrozoning is the placement of plants with similar water needs together. The challenge begins when we plant flowers, shrubs and native plants around our edible gardens to bring in pollinators and beneficial insects. Many drought-resistant plants don't like much (or any) supplemental water once established. It's important to water edible plants on a separate schedule. Unless you're hand-watering, avoid adding a tomato plant to your drought-tolerant shrub-bed, as well.
8) Mulch! Mulch keeps weeds out and reduces water evaporation from soil. It should be applied 3-4 inches deep on top of the soil around your plants and works great for potted plants, as well. Light colored mulch also buffers soil temperatures. It also keeps slugs and snails away.
9) Start with a good foundation (your soil and pots)! If you are short on time, it's important to start off right! Edibles do best with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. You can improve soil drainage of heavy clay-based soils and water-holding capacity of lighter sand-based soils by mixing compost or other forms of organic matter (at least 40% by volume) to garden soil at least 6 inches deep.
10) Reach out to our MG helpline! Don't forget that our Master Gardeners are here to help answer all of your plant related questions! We love being plant detectives and solving mysteries. No question is too small or silly! Just email us at email@example.com
11) Ok, I'm going to throw one more tip in there!! HAVE FUN and don't be afraid of making mistakes! That's how we learn and after a few seasons of trying and growing (and reaching out to the Master Gardener Helpline, attending our free classes online and checking out the resources we share on our website, social media and at our presentations) you will be amazed at how much you have learned from even a small garden! You can do it!! Start small, and don't give up.! It's a journey that has life long rewards for your mind and body.
- Author: Chris McDonald
Stinknet (Oncosiphon pilulifer) is a relatively new weed to North America and has been moving quickly and spreading in San Bernardino County. Gardeners may have noticed this unusual yellow-flowered plant growing in their yard this year, even though we are in a significant drought. This is a sign of how invasive this weed can be. It would be very wise to remove this plant from your yard and ensure it does not grow in your community.
Stinknet was first discovered in North America in Riverside County in the early 1980's and began to spread shortly thereafter. In the 1990's, it began to spread much more quickly and within 20 years of its discovery, it was found in multiple locations in Riverside and San Diego Counties as well as in central Arizona. Stinknet is a winter annual germinating with the fall and winter rains, blooming in the spring, and usually dying in the summer. However, stinknet seeds in the soil can germinate multiple times a year creating multiple cohorts and making it that much more difficult to remove.
Identification of stinknet:
There are four characteristics you can use to help identify stinknet. Each one by itself may or may not be helpful, and when combined they will help you correctly identify stinknet.
First, and easiest to identify, is the inflorescence is bright yellow and round, almost globe shaped. The bright flowers dry to a dark brown color and tend to hold on to their seeds for many months after the plants die into the summer.
Second stinknet, like the common name suggests, stinks. It has a strong odor which many people find unpleasant, a strong resin, turpentine, pungent pine-like odor. Similar weeds which have a round inflorescence do not have an unpleasant odor (pineapple weed has a pleasant pineapple-like odor).
Third, the leaves of stinknet are finely divided. They are doubly pinnate (bipinnate), meaning the leaves are divided at least two times into smaller divisions. While many plants have this characteristic, this can be useful if your unknown plant is not flowering, has doubly divided leaves and you can smell it.
Last, stinknet germinates in the fall and winter rains, grows as a small rosette through the winter and then starts to bolt and flower in the late winter through spring. In places that receive irrigation or in moist soils, stinknet can flower even longer from the early spring through the summer.
While size can be helpful for some plants, the size of stinknet can be highly variable. Stinknet growing in poor conditions can grow to be only 6 inches tall with a few flowers. In good condition it grows to be almost 3 feet tall with hundreds of flowers and appears almost shrub like.
San Bernardino County so far has very few large stinknet infestations, but many scattered infestations. However, this year I've noticed more and more individuals and patches of stinknet in San Bernardino County, many of which will eventually become large infestations, if left to spread.
There are very large infestations in parts of Riverside (see below) and San Diego Counties and Phoenix where stinknet has been invading the longest. In these areas, stinknet covers entire fields and roadsides, covering dozens to hundreds of acres in large patches. There have been very few places in Southern California where stinknet has not continued to spread when left unchecked.
Stinknet is a generalist and can grow in many different types of habitats including wildlands, gardens, suburban landscapes, disturbed areas such as adjacent to roadsides and parking lots, and on hiking trails. It is spreading in San Bernardino County and should thrive in the desert, inland, and at least to 4,000 ft. in elevation in the mountains, and possibly higher. If you do find this plant, report it in the iNaturalist or CalFlora apps.
Stinknet grows very well in Phoenix where winter rainfall is less than what we receive in the San Bernardino County deserts. Unfortunately, stinknet flowers every year in Southern California, even when we are in serious drought conditions, allowing it to spread farther each year.
Stinknet is one good example of why gardeners should be wary of new plants showing up in their garden. If you didn't plant it, it is likely a weed. Unfortunately, it will take at least 3 years of weeding to remove stinknet from an established site, so keep up the work and you can rid this plant from your garden and neighborhood.
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener July 2021 Spotlight: Debbie Schnur
This month's UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Debbie Schnur was frustrated by the amount of organic waste she saw being thrown in the trash. She thought, "Rather than add to the landfill, why not turn it into compost for the garden? There's so much food waste being dumped in landfills when it could be used to enrich our soil. By reducing landfill waste, we can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Composting offers a way to promote sustainability in our food system and agriculture.
The Master Gardener Program provided the perfect opportunity for Debbie to turn her frustration into action. Since becoming a Master Gardener in March of last year, her main volunteer activity with the program has been coordinating a composting project for the Root 66 Community Garden in Rancho Cucamonga. She helped form a team that started the project in November, built the system in April, and created the first compost pile at the end of May. Creating a remarkable legacy, the team is now educating garden members about the benefits of composting and how to keep the process going! The Root 66 team is grateful to all the local businesses who donated tools and supplies to this effort.
Over several years Debbie saw Master Gardeners at farmers markets and other community activities. She wondered what the program was all about. She was a little intimidated to ask because she never considered herself an expert, even though she had many years of gardening experience.
She was inspired to finally become a Master Gardener last year after working with FoodCorps, (part of the AmeriCorps Service Network) at Phelan Elementary School. She managed the school garden and greenhouse, taught hands-on gardening and nutrition lessons to over 500 students, and started an after-school gardening club. One of the school staff member volunteers at the garden was a Master Gardener trainee and described the program to her. Debbie also learned another FoodCorps service member in the California cohort completed her Master Gardener training during the school year. Debbie wanted to increase her knowledge of horticulture, serve the community, and thought the Master Gardener program would be an excellent way to accomplish her goals. So, she applied to the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Program last fall.
She currently has a raised bed garden at the Root 66 Community Garden. She likes trying new recipes and harvesting fresh ingredients from her garden. She also participates in the Root 66 Community Garden FoodShare Project, where members share their produce.
Starting in July, Debbie will be working 8 hours a week as a Community Education Specialist under the supervision of Master Gardener Coordinator Maggie O'Neill. In this position, she will support Master Gardener activities in schools, including school gardens and environmental education.
Debbie is also working with fellow Master Gardener Elizabeth McSwain and the Caramel Connections Foundationto establish the new Seeds of Joy Community Garden in Anthony Munoz Park in Ontario, California. There will be a Little Free Library in the garden, and Debbie is helping to coordinate the Read in Color project with Girl Scout Troop 5574. This is a Cadette Silver Award project for the troop and will bring diverse books to families who utilize the garden.
Debbie volunteered for the San Andreas High School (San Bernardino) Growing Hope Project twice this year, packing lettuce for school lunches and filling planters with soil. San Andreas High School has the most extensive teaching greenhouse on the West Coast!
Debbie was accepted for the New Farmer Training Program (Agricultores del Valle) at the Huerta del Valle Community Garden upon completing her Master Gardener training. Learning about food justice, regenerative agriculture, cooperative business development, and farm management and production help her understand the role of local farms and gardens in creating a healthier and more equitable food system.
Debbie is currently experimenting with growing various uncommon herbs, including fenugreek, borage, and Moldavian dragon head balm. She would like to see what types of culinary and medicinal products she can make from these plants. Her goal is to apply to the Huerta del Valle Incubator Program to access land and assistance to start an herb farm.
Debbie even started a YouTube channel called "Ms. Debbie the Garden Lady” when she was a FoodCorps service member. Be sure to check out her Remote Garden Tour of the Rancho Cucamonga (Root 66) community garden when you get a chance. She would like to find some time to create more YouTube videos or try out TikTok. Debbie is a naturally engaging presenter! In June 2020, she was interviewed on the KVCR NPR radio program “Lifestyles with Lillian Vasquez” about her experience with FoodCorps.
Debbie Schnur passionately believes that food insecurity is one of our biggest global challenges. With a firm belief that “we can improve people's lives and reduce inequities,” she started a second career in Public Health. She wanted to “do something that fed her soul, something that she is passionate about.” UCCE Master Gardeners are thankful that Debbie has become a member of our community. Her drive to improve our world, her intelligence, kindness, and willingness to wholeheartedly embrace other perspectives are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for joining us, Debbie. You remind us of what is truly important!
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
A passion for gardening inspires many gardeners to want to learn more so they can become better gardeners. This desire to learn more leads many gardeners like Gretchen Heimlich-Villalta to the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardener program.
When she learned that the Master Gardener program provides trainees with a solid science-based foundation for growing plants sustainably as well as teaching their communities to do the same, she decided it would be a perfect fit to accomplish her goals. She applied and was accepted into the 18-week intensive training program, graduating in July 2014 as a UCCE Master Gardener.
Gretchen's training as a Master Gardener was also been a significant factor in her decision to pursue a degree in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) ucanr.edu/Integrated Pest Managment at Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) where she also teaches IPM classes. Master Gardener training also helped Gretchen make a career change to an arborist position at the Disneyland Resort. Currently, she is a Plant Pathology PhD student at UC Riverside.
Gretchen has had the opportunity to work on many exciting Master Gardener projects. For the past two years she has been teaching UCCE Master Gardener trainees about the Invasive Shot Hole Borer. She is also excited about a recent opportunity to write Integrated Pest Management (IPM) blogs for the UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County Newsletter. Gretchen is an accomplished and engaging writer, so it is no surprise that she was asked if she would be interested in writing blogs for the newsletter. Be sure to watch for her blogs in upcoming issues. I am sure you will find them interesting, well-written and informative!
Most Saturday mornings, you will find Gretchen and other volunteers working at the garden. They provide socially distanced, hands-on instruction in sustainable gardening practices to people interested in growing food in their own gardens. The volunteers and visitors help plant, manage pests and harvest food that is also consumed by them. Gretchen enjoys the social aspect of seeing people come together and eat the food they have helped produce at the garden.
Many events such as workshops, classes, Girl Scout events, food swaps, and potlucks, to name just a few, have been held at the garden.
Like many Master Gardeners, Gretchen has had an interesting gardening journey. Her love of gardening started when she tried growing vegetables in sections of her parent's yard. That was where she discovered root knot nematode. She says that pretty much everything she grew back then was eaten by beetles and slugs. She has certainly come a long way in her gardening knowledge!
Gretchen did not have any prior public speaking or presenting experience before becoming a UCCE Master Gardener. Although she is still getting comfortable with presenting, she enjoys it more as her presentation experience grows. She has discovered that attendees of her presentations are eager to learn about gardening. Their enthusiasm during her presentations inspires her to share her gardening and IPM knowledge with them. She connects with her audience in a way that makes her an engaging presenter. The realization that nearly everyone has had stage fright at some time helps her relax and enjoy presenting, something we can all relate to.
Master Gardeners continually learn new things to make them better sustainable gardening volunteer educators. For Gretchen, this happened when she attended a presentation by Yvonne Savio, retired Master Gardener Coordinator for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County after 21 years. During the presentation, Yvonne said, "You're going to be shocked by this..." as she pulled a vegetable out of its pot and began removing the roots that had begun circling the perimeter. Seeing a plant's roots being pruned was especially enlightening to Gretchen.
After years of working as an arborist and seeing trees fail because they were pot-bound before they were planted, Gretchen has learned to be bold when pruning a tree's roots at planting time. It took Gretchen a long time to accept that pruning a plant's roots can be as beneficial to it as pruning the canopy. She says this process “helps trees know that they are no longer in a pot—and that they frequently live to tell the tale, as well!”
Gretchen says one of the best things about being a Master Gardener is that it connects one to a network of people with similar values and passions. Her many accomplishments, dedication to sustainable gardening, and knowledge and love of science-based gardening inspires us all to be better gardeners and volunteer educators. The Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County are proud to have Gretchen as part of our growing Master Gardener community!
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Summer gardens are just around the corner and I am so here for it!! I can't wait to harvest some fresh home-grown tomatoes! I'm looking forward to some sweet, warmed by the sun, fresh off the tree apricots and peaches. I'm delighted to see my deciduous trees leaf out. (One benefit of the dry winter is less mildew on my crape myrtle tree and roses; I'm trying to look on the bright side!). I'm in the glow of spring and don't want it to end. But, long summer days are right around the corner and I am determined to be more prepared this year. Many people planted big quarantine gardens and now the temptation of vacation and the realities of transitioning away from working at home are on the horizon.
Here are some tips and ideas to help you keep those pandemic gardens healthy and happy as we all reenter the world:
1) Did you plant lots of seedlings this spring, or were you so great at getting them to survive and thrive that you have more than you know what to do with? Share with friends, family and neighbors! I always plan to start my own seeds but time gets away from me, so I always appreciate it when friends share their starts with me. I get to follow up on my dreams of summer veggies, and my friends have someone to give some extra plants to…win, win!
2) Heading back to work, or a more normal work schedule away from home? One mistake I made when I was working away from home every day was going to work in the morning when it was cool, underestimating how hot the afternoon had been and how dry my garden plants and trees had gotten while I was away during the day. I arrived home to stressed plants. I should have been more attentive to my morning watering, and watered them all deeply before I headed out. The general rule is to water during the morning, avoiding watering in the afternoon when evaporation rates are highest. Remember that, due to physiological wilt rather than a true water deficit, many plants wilt during hot afternoons because the roots simply can't take up water as fast as the plants lose water through transpiration. Most will perk up by evening. If they haven't they may need water. I love hand watering my plants, but during the summer it's easy to get behind. You might want to consider an irrigation system that can help you out, especially on those really hot days when you don't feel like venturing outside! Soaker hoses are great choices and can be easily connected to garden hoses.
3) Heading on vacation? I know many of us are eager to get out and see the world and family and friends again! While at home for the last year you may have started an amazing garden that now is going to miss you while you are gone! A few tips for traveling: Do you have a crop that will be ready to harvest while you are gone? Consider asking a friend, relative or neighbor to come over and harvest for you. While they are there, they can check on your irrigation system too, or maybe they can help water in exchange for enjoying you harvest. If you are going to set up an irrigation system to water your plants during your travels, you should set it up a few weeks ahead of time so that you can monitor it and make sure it's delivering the right amount of water, and the water is going where it's needed (in the root zone!). Also check the timing of your irrigation and make sure the water is not running off. If it is you may need to cycle your watering system so that it runs for a shorter period of time before its run again (and maybe even a third time) until your plants get the amount of water they need. When you water cycle, the idea is to water soon enough after the previous cycle that the soil has not completely dried out again.
4) You might want to have some shade cloth to prevent heat injury on sensitive plants on days that get above about 105°F, so you don't need to run out at the last minute. You can also use a light colored, light weight sheet in an emergency. Watch the angles of the sun and plan ahead where you might need to add shade cloth on those hot days. Just make sure you have a structure to support it so that it will not squash your plants. If you'll be traveling, spend some time before you leave with whoever is checking on your garden while you're out of town to go over how shade cloth should be used.
Here's a few other suggestions for success this summer that we could all use:
1) We are going into summer dry, dry, dry!! I have been amazed at just how dry (and in some cases almost hydrophobic) my soil is. We are in a drought and that means our trees are facing severe damage if not kept adequately watered. Be sure to water your trees deeply to get them through spring/summer. Under water restrictions, remember to prioritize your trees sand edibles. Your flowers and lawn are much easier to replace.
2) Water early in the morning when evapotranspiration rates are lowest.
3) Applying mulch to your trees and landscape can help keep soil temperatures down and also help keep moisture in and weeds out. In fire-prone areas, avoid organic mulches. Pebbles or rocks are a better idea. Keep mulch away from the base of your trees 3 to 4 inches deep (organic) and 2 inches deep (inorganic).
4) Some native plants, like sages and salvias, go summer dormant to help conserve moisture, but it doesn't mean they need more water if they are well established. When in doubt reach out to our Master Gardener helpline. Our volunteers can help you figure out if your native plant is going summer dormant or if it needs assistance from you.
5) Drink lots of water! Don't forget about your plants, and don't forget to take care of yourself in the heat too!
As always, Master Gardeners are here to help along the way! We will continue to offer our free classes online and look forward to returning to in-person events as COVID-allows. We provide education in the largest county in the continental USA, and travel distance and climate zones vary greatly across its 20,000+ square miles. We have found that offering classes via Zoom save time, energy, and connect people all over the county (and beyond!) with each other. But we also realize that conversing and being together in person is essential and we do look forward to seeing you soon! Our Master Gardener volunteers look forward to reconnecting in person with our many Farmers Market, community garden, and school partners later this summer. We will continue to ensure that our virtual and in-person classes are customized to the time of year, different climate zones in the valley, desert, and mountains and any unusual weather patterns we might have. This helps ensure that when you attend our classes you know you will learn something that will help you out that day, week or month. Check out our June free classes on our website @ http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/; we look forward to seeing you there!