- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
After years of thinking about it I decided to apply for the program in San Bernardino County, and I was accepted! Yeah!! Now what?! Can I do it? I was a little nervous about what I had gotten myself in to, did I have what it takes to be a Master Gardener?! I had worked several jobs….one as an insectary manager, another as a scuba dive guide on the small, but beautiful, island of Palau, where the people still fish and farm, living very close to the land. I also spent many years caring for my grandmother who lived on an old citrus grove…. what did these things have in common? Not a whole lot, I thought…an odd, but wonderful, assortment of life experiences…. but how would they help me become a Master Gardener!?
I remember the first day of class, when we started going around the room introducing ourselves and why we were inspired to take the Master Gardener program. The stories we so varied, people from all walks of life, with a wide variety of backgrounds….but I started to notice a theme…they all spoke with such a passion for what the garden had meant to them in their lives. How it had uplifted them; given them improved health, physically and mentally; been a place of healing; was a connection they had with their families and communities; connected them with the earth and guided them to steward the land; and how they loved sharing and teaching what they knew. That's when I realized the common thread was passion and belief in all that gardening gives back to us (aside from great tomatoes and beautiful flowers!). Over the next 18 weeks our passion became backed with knowledge…about all aspects of gardening, and about what the Master Gardener program was able to give back to the community. It was heartwarming and so inspiring. I begin to see how my own unique and diverse background experiences as an insectary manager with a fascination for entomology, as a dive guide living on a small island, where people still followed traditional farming practices and as a caregiver for my grandmother (who lived to 100, she said "thanks to gardening!") all helped me to become a better Master Gardener!
It's been several years since I first began the program, and two years into my job as the current Master Gardener coordinator for San Bernardino County, and I can say that my pride and passion for being a Master Gardener has just continued to grow every day. I love meeting our new trainees, and getting to know our seasoned volunteers better, seeing how their own unique and varied backgrounds all come together to make our program strong and multifaceted.
If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener in our county, we would love to have you join our next Master Gardener class and see what it's all about. Or if you just want to learn more from our great volunteers look for us at our many events, follow us on social media and check out our calendar of events on our website. If you would like to invite us to speak to or work with your clubs, organizations or communities we would love to do that too. With our passion for all things gardening and your knowledge of the needs of your community we can do great things in San Bernardino County together!
- Author: Debbie Ledoux
When Loleta first learned she had been chosen for the Monthly Master Gardener Spotlight for March, she said she didn't think there would be much of interest about her to put in the article. I soon came to the realization that this was Loleta's humility speaking. I found in talking with her that she has had many interesting life experiences, all while developing a huge knowledge base of gardening experience and training.
Loleta grew up in a small town in Illinois where she met her husband Pete. After she and Pete got married, life got very interesting for them! Pete was in the Air Force and they travelled around the world together for much of their lives. As Loleta and Pete traveled from place to place, she always had a garden wherever they lived. She would plant a garden knowing that she and Pete would move onto the next place within a few years and she would eventually leave her garden behind. Throughout their travels, Loleta learned a lot of gardening tips and tricks through her own research and good old-fashioned trial and error. She very generously and humorously shared with me some successes and failures that she learned in some of the many places she has traveled to and lived.
UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Loleta Cruse
One of the most important gardening lessons Loleta learned during her travels is that gardening in California is nothing like gardening in the Midwest where she grew up. While living in Sacramento, she learned that calendulas are easy to grow in Sacramento in the winter, but she never had any luck growing them elsewhere. Loleta was able to really indulge and further develop her interest in growing things when she and Pete moved to their current home in the San Bernardino area.
Loleta accepting Certificate of Appreciation from Master Gardener Coordinator Maggie O'Neill
Loleta has been a UCCE Master Gardener in San Bernardino County for over 25 years, and, as she says, “the rest is history.” One of the most interesting projects that Loleta participated in her early days as a UCCE Master Gardener was “YIMBY” otherwise known as the “Yes, in My Backyard” program that Janet Hartin, Area UCCE Horticulture Advisor, UCCE San Bernardino County Co-Director and Master Gardener Program Manager initiated with the support of several Master Gardeners including Loleta, who earned Master Composter status after completing additional training. These ‘doubly certified' Master Gardener/Master Composter volunteers mentored community members who were interested in backyard composting, even visiting their homes to get them started with their own composting projects. Due to safety concerns, the home visits were discontinued but the training in this area continues by many current Master Gardeners who share their extensive knowledge on soil health and composting with San Bernardino County gardeners.
Loleta also participated in a project with UCCE Master Gardeners Jackie Brooks, Robert Simpson, and other volunteers as part of a multidisciplinary research team 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 UCCE Master Gardener Anita Matlock donating the irrigation equipment for the project. Loleta's many years of experience as a schoolteacher and School Counselor were very helpful in guiding the students on planting vegetables and tending the garden. Some of the students came from gardening families, but many did not. Many of the children were very surprised that vegetables that came from the grocery store started out as tiny seeds! When the broccoli, greens, and peas matured, they loved harvesting and eating fresh produce right in the garden. During the summer, students, families and even some teachers and staff kept the garden weeded, watered, and properly cared for. The study found that students participating in planting and caring for the garden had greater levels of concentration and group cohesiveness compared to students participating in other group activities. These positive outcomes corroborate research from several other studies around the world linking enhanced mood, feelings of self-worth, enhanced cooperation with others, and even higher standardized test scores and grades to school gardening.
If you call the San Bernardino County UCCE Master Gardener phone helpline on Tuesdays from 9:00-11:00 AM, there is a very good chance that you will reach Loleta (Ann) Cruse. She thought it would be interesting to work on the helpline, so she gave it a try to see how she liked it. Lucky for callers, she liked it from the beginning and has been providing excellent research-based information to anyone who calls since! Loleta managed the helpline, which included developing a record-keeping system and recruiting Master Gardeners to address inquiries from gardeners throughout the county, for many years which has greatly contributed to making it the success that it is today. (More and more inquiries come directly into the e-helpline (firstname.lastname@example.org) since photos of garden woes can be attached.)
Loleta Hard at Work in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Helpline Office Providing a Caller with UC Research-Based Gardening Information
Loleta's most recent gardening project has been replacing her lawn with drought-tolerant mostly California native plants. She and Pete covered the lawn with cardboard, then added mulch on top of the cardboard in June and let it sit until November. After sitting under cardboard and organic mulch from June to November the grass died and they began putting in their mostly California native plants garden. They sunk unglazed terracotta flower pots about 18” away from each plant to serve as an olla. An olla is an old Spanish method of watering plants. Loleta thinks they probably may not have filled the ollas as often as should have. True to Loleta's spirit, challenges are opportunities for learning and everything turned out great with most of the plants now thriving. She is already planning ahead for her next gardening project which will be to plant drought-tolerant California native plants in a park strip with an existing large tree.
Loleta Preparing to Plant Her Drought-Tolerant Garden at Her Home
I was interested in learning more about Loleta's use of cardboard as a mulch in her lawn so I asked her how she learned that method. She told me that she attended talks given by Lisa Novick, Director of Outreach and K-12 Education for the Theodore Payne Foundation and learned about using cardboard as a mulch. As Loleta said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” and it was certainly true for Loleta in meeting Lisa.
Loleta's Drought-Tolerant Garden
Work of an Artist, Work of a Gardener.......Or Both?
Her love of gardening is interwoven with her many memories of travel to different places she has lived. Garden sights and scents are associated with her memories, each place a different gardening experience that she carried to the next place she and Pete were transferred to. When they lived in Japan, Loleta loved the beauty of the azaleas and scented camellias. When they returned to the United States from Japan, they were stationed in Sacramento. With the memory of the beautiful plants she saw in Japan still fresh in her mind, she planted a scented camellia. And four years later, when they moved onto the next place, the camellia was still thriving from Loleta's care.
To know Loleta is to know that she has a wonderful sense of humor and way of looking at the world. She told me that she learned the meaning of “grass roots” when she tried digging up Bermudagrass by back door to one of their homes. She also learned that lizards eat bugs, but there aren't enough lizards to eat all the bugs in the garden. While stationed in San Antonio she learned that it's really hard to grow plants in caliche soil which is a layer of soil cemented together by calcium carbonate that's almost like concrete. San Antonio was one of the few places that she was not successful in growing a lot of plants. However, as gardeners know, we learn as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes. And then there was Las Vegas! That was where she learned that even though it's blistering hot in the summer, it also freezes in the winter, creating some unique gardening challenges. She did have some success with roses in Las Vegas! The most painful lesson she learned, though, was if you ‘top' (an often preached sin in our Master Gardener class) beautiful 15 feet Yew tree down to 4 feet it will die . . . quickly.
I think all gardeners know the pain of losing a plant that you have lovingly cared for. Loleta said “The pain is even greater if you are the one who murdered the plant. However, you shouldn't give up on any plant until you have killed it at least 5 times.” I call that a gardener's loving persistence and Loleta's wonderful sense of humor! A yard in one of the first homes that Loleta and Pete bought was filled by the previous owner with a whole array of plants that were placed without much thought about their needs, mature size, or how they would look together. When Loleta and Pete looked at the house for the first time, the realtor asked, “Do you like gardening?” Loleta replied, “HA, of course!” As she shared with me, gardening is a puzzle to be solved and she has always liked solving puzzles. Even though gardening in that yard was a struggle with the array of mismatched plants, poor soil, the heat, and the bugs, Loleta never gave up trying to solve another gardening puzzle.
Her persistence and love of sharing what she has learned with others is one of the many virtues that make Loleta a Superstar Master Gardener! Loleta told me that in the gardening world, there are gardeners, and there are artists. And she said, “I'm a gardener”. Gardening can be considered both an art, concerned with arranging plants harmoniously in their surroundings, and as a science, encompassing the principles and techniques of plant cultivation. She sent me the following picture of the garden at her home. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Loleta's garden looks like a work of art backed by scientific gardening principles.
Loleta and Pete are life-long learning gardeners, regularly attending many gardening workshops and talks. They have attended talks at the East Valley Water District in Highland, the Waterwise Community Center at Chino Basin Water Conservation District, and a couple of weeks ago they attended a meeting of the Redlands Horticultural Improvement Society. They rarely miss a presentation on California Natives, and they always learn something new at each talk. Throughout her many years with the UCCE Master Gardener program, Loleta has participated in nearly every program activity, providing research-based knowledge to the public. She has shared her knowledge at myriad UCCE Master Gardener events including information tables, workshops and seminars. She has mentored numerous students and her fellow Master Gardeners in the joys of gardening.
Loleta sent the following photo to me with a message, “Not a great photo, but great photos of me are harder to find than unicorns.” I think you will agree that this is a great picture of Loleta looking happy in her garden. The UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County are thankful to Loleta for her many years of gardening knowledge that she so generously shares with us all, her persistence, patience, humility and wonderful sense of humor!
Loleta at Home in Her Drought-Tolerant Garden. I Think We've Found a Unicorn!
I met with Bob and Sharon Yocum recently on a beautiful, clear Southern California winter morning at the Crafton Hills College garden in Yucaipa, California. With the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains in the distance, it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning viewing the garden at the College that they have been instrumental in developing and helping to grow. I learned more about their mutual love of gardening and helping others, as well as their extensive knowledge of gardening. Bob is a 20-year Master Gardener. Sharon has extensive gardening knowledge also, and recently decided to “make it official” by becoming a Master Gardener trainee.
Like many Master Gardeners, Bob has a life-time love of growing things. He first learned about the benefits of having a vegetable garden from his grandmother and grandfather. Through working in his grandparent's garden, the necessity of growing one's own food became deeply ingrained in Bob. The family garden was not only a source of sustenance, but also of beauty that was shared with others. His grandmother had a flower garden and Bob shared the family's joy of gardening by taking flowers to his teachers.
When I met Bob, he told me, “when things are grown with love, they grow better.” I realized very quickly that those are words that Bob and Sharon live by. They have combined their mutual love of gardening and growing food with helping people from around the world. They have inspired others by teaching them about the benefits of sustainable gardening and feeding them nutritious food. Family vacations, free weekends and even Bob's birthday weekend were spent at Sommer Haven Ranch in Lancaster, California helping start a garden and teaching gardening classes. Their focus was to help the community learn about sustainable gardening practices, start their own gardens, and learn how to cook what they grew - a true Farm to Table experience. Gardening students from all over the world attended the classes to learn about sustainable gardening practices that they took back to their individual countries. The international attendees learned new gardening practices and techniques from Bob and Sharon. Bob is very quick to point out that he and Sharon also learned new gardening techniques from attendees who came from such places as Nigeria, the Philippines and Uganda. He is extremely generous in sharing his gardening knowledge with others so “they can be successful, come back and teach him new things”. Students had the opportunity to receive certificates after they completed the classes. One of the requirements to receive the certificate was for the student to start their own community garden, making the classes “the gift that keeps on giving”.
At Sommer Haven Ranch, gardeners always grew more than they needed, not just for themselves but to give away to others. They shared knowledge, resources and labor with one another. If a fellow gardener needed help, everyone pitched in to help with whatever was needed to ensure the success of the gardens and the community.
Master Gardeners reach people of varying levels of gardening experience and physical capabilities. Bob and Sharon learned about Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus which provides physical medicine and rehabilitation, among other specialties at the facility. Bob and other Master Gardeners helped with the design and building of a 4x8 table at the facility, that could be raised or lowered via a pulley system making it wheelchair accessible. The table made the gardening workspace easily accessible, proving Bob's belief “that everyone has something to contribute.”
Talking with Professor Janine Ledoux, I learned about food insecurity, the concept of not knowing when or where your next meal is coming from. For Janine, Bob and Sharon food insecurity is not a concept, it is a reality in today's world that they have decided to do something about. As volunteers of the Blessing Center when it was open in Redlands, they collected and distributed food donated by local organizations, as well as from local gardens to be given away to those in need. When the Blessing Center closed, they became involved in collecting donated food to be shared at monthly community dinners at the Family Services Association of Redlands.
Bob and Sharon instilled a love of gardening and helping feed those in need in their 4 children. Their family has become involved with a Central California organization called Gleanings for the Hungry, working as part of a team that makes and ships dried fruit and soup mix. Tons of California cull fruit is thrown away annually. Gleanings for the Hungry takes fruit such as peaches that may have gone unused, then dries and ships it all over the world helping feed the poor and needy.
I came away from my time spent with Bob and Sharon humbled by their philosophy that if you have a meal with, or wash dishes with someone after a meal, you find out a lot about them – what kind of person they are, the essence of who they are. I may not have washed dishes with Bob and Sharon, but through the few hours I spent with them, I got to know them better, and am proud to be part of the Master Gardener community with them.
Bob and Sharon have seen a lot of evolution in the Master Gardener program over the 20 years that Bob has been a Master Gardener. It is apparent that they are very proud to have been part of the program for so many years. The friendships they have developed with fellow Master Gardeners are deeply personal and important to them. They view their fellow Master Gardeners as family. As Bob told me, “Master Gardeners are there when you need them.”
Photographer: Sharon Yocum
Author: Debbie LeDoux, Master Gardener trainee.
- Author: Michele Martinez
From the outset, Christy was not shy about getting her hands dirty. In the training, she says, “I did my presentation on vermicomposting. Then I gave the worm presentation at the Herbivore Festival at Crafton Hills College.” With a strong interest in community gardening, Christy soon joined Highland's Giving Garden located at Highland Congregational Church. Founded in 2016 by Tracy Powell, the group includes Master Gardener, Jerry Poupard, and his wife, Robin. “Highland's Giving Garden has 24 raised beds," says Christy. “Twelve are rented by community members and 10% of our harvest must be donated to someone.” Produce from the other 12 beds goes to the food banks in Redlands and San Bernardino. "We also have a small orchard," Christy adds, "and all that produce also goes to the food banks.”
Through the online community, Christy got involved with a plant-trader's group. Connecting with Inland Empire Plant Traders on Facebook, Christy meets up with the group every other month. “People bring different plants to give away,” she says. “Some bring other things, like jam to trade. One lady brings eggs. We save our egg cartons for her.” Through this network, Christy's learned to grow sugar cane (”It grows year-round!”), and she's learning about new plants shared by members, like Asian Pennywort (Centella asiatica), originally from Vietnam. “The lady uses it in salads and green drinks.”
Learning is an important part of Christy's life as a gardener. This year she was accepted in Huerta del Valle's pilot New Farmer Training Program (NFTP). The seven-month course explores regenerative farming, food equity, community-building, and a full spectrum of urban farm management topics through presentations, field trips, and hands-on activities. Students who complete the training will be eligible to apply to Huerta's Farm Incubator Program, where they'll have the opportunity to receive subsidized access to land, equipment, and technical assistance as they launch projects under Huerta del Valle's supervision and mentorship.
Master Gardeners find opportunities to work with partnering organizations, like the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD), where we have dozens of shared projects. Christy explains, “I was in the first cohort of the Riverside Food Rescue & Waste Prevention Ambassador Program. We met five times and learned about various aspects of food rescue and waste prevention. At the end of the classes we had to do a community project and volunteer hours. I volunteered with Gleaners for Good. We collected citrus from community members and delivered it mostly to Feeding America Riverside/San Bernardino And I gave a vermicomposting talk at the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District (RCRCD)."
Whether you are new to Master Gardeners, or a seasoned veteran, you surely want to make a difference. Why not take a page from Christy Gray's playbook? Find the heart of community through its gardens - and the people who tend them. Below is a list of community garden projects across the County, compiled by Robin Rowe of Master Gardeners. Thanks Christy, for the inspiration.
Community Gardens in San Bernardino County (February, 2019)
Huerta del Valle, 831 Belmont St. Ontario 91761. Huerta del Valle Contact: (English) email@example.com or (Spanish) firstname.lastname@example.org (note that, in addition to the Huerta del Valle organization, there are several other non-profits that have plots at this site and sponsor programming).
Earth to Fork Garden (Caramel Connections Foundation) has a plot at Huerta del Valle. Grows produce to give to the community. Sponsors Saturday morning talks for the community on gardening, nutrition and cooking topics. Contact: Elizabeth McSwain (909) 697-9017, CCFevents2018@gmail.com
Montclair Community Garden, 9500-9574 Ramona Ave. Montclair 91763. Contact: City of Montclair 909-626-8571
Incredible Edibles, 740 W. 26th St., Upland. Contact: Mary Petit 909-262-1855
Rolling Ridge Elementary School, Chino Hills. Contact: Marissa_Lovato@chino.k12.ca.us, Stacy_Colby@chino.k12.ca.us , Anne_Whyte@chino.k12.ca.us. 909-628-9375.
Cucamonga Christian Fellowship, 11376 Fifth Street, Rancho Cucamonga. MG Contact: Michael Painter, email@example.com
***Community Garden at Anne Shirells Park in San Bernardino is being developed by the Akoma Unity Center partnering with the city Parks and Rec Dept. Contact: Micah@akomaunitycenter.org 909-217-7956 (MG Valerie Dobesh has been working with them).
***Benjamin E. Jones Community Resource Center, Located at 2972 California St. San Bernardino, CA. Contact: Pastor Paul Jones (909) 296-1233 www.BEJCRC.org is planning a community garden with raised beds to open this spring. (MG Valerie Dobesh has been working with them).
Riverside /San Bernardino County Indian Health Inc. has a Community Garden at 11980 Mt. Vernon Ave, Grand Terrace. Contact: Valerie Dobesh
San Bernardino Community Garden at 6th and Pedley St, San Bernardino
Veterans Exploration Garden, Speicher Memorial Park, 2501 Pacific Street, San Bernardino. Contact: Richard Valdez at DAVcal.org
City of Rialto Community Gardens. Contact: 909-421-7222 (MGs Tim and Lynn Brown Summers)
- At Grace Lutheran Church, 539 N. Acacia Ave., Rialto
- At Bud Bender Park, 235 N. Lilac Ave., Rialto
Highland's Giving Garden, 3606 Atlantic Ave. Highland, 92346. http://www.highlandsgivinggarden.org Contact:Tracey Powell, 909-518-5056 (MGs Jerry Poupard and Christy L. Gray)
City of Redlands 3 Gardens run by the Community Center:
Smiley Garden, 1210 W. Cypress, Redlands
Clement Garden, 501 E. Pennsylvania, Redlands
Lugonia Garden, East of Texas St between Lugonia and Pennsylvania
Yucaipa Community Garden, at the Green Valley Village Senior Apartments, 34955 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa. (MGs: Jillian Kowalczuk and Adam Wagner)
Loma Linda Community Garden on Van Leuven (largely vacant… needs someone to take an interest)
Victoria SDA Church, 1860 Mountain View Ave. Loma Linda. Contact: Tom 909-556-8801
Seeds of Hope School Garden, Redlands High School. Contact: MG Connie Kevari
Peggy Christian Memorial Garden, 1102 Chestnut Ave, Redlands. Contact Paul Dickau, Helping Hands Pantry, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phelan Community Center, Sheep Creek Road, MG Michelle Hannon. 760-912-5779
Physician Health Cooperative Corp. 16245 Desert Knoll Drive, Victorville. 760-955-9555. Contact: Kim Ammerman, MG Trainee and Administrator at PHCC.
School Garden at Desert Knolls Elementary School. Contact: Valerie Kimmel-Oliva
School Garden at Phelan Elementary School. (Doug Arnold knows of this)
Rim of the World Rec and Park District Community Garden at Mountain Communities Senior/Community Center, 675 Grandview Drive, Twin Peaks 909-337-7275
Big Bear Community Garden Project has 2 gardens:
“China Gardens” at 42050 Fox Farm Road, Beg Bear Lake
“The Ranch Community Garden” on Lakewood in Erwin Lake Contact: 909-866-9700 or bbvcgp.weebly.com
*** Gardens being built and to be finished spring 2019/span>
- Author: Michele Martinez
Commercially processed pumpkin seeds are shelled, so they are green, in color. Pepitas can be shelled after roasting, but we always ate them "shell-on". The white outer layer is thin, so it becomes crisp and tasty in the oven. Here is Dad's quick method for toasting pumpkin seeds:
- As you scoop out the pulp of the pumpkin, separate the seeds with your hands (kids enjoy this squishy job!)
- Place seeds in a bowl of very salty water (add as much salt as the water will hold).
- After a few minutes of soaking, remove the seeds from the water and clear away any remaining pulp.
- Place on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for about ten minutes, checking often to see that they do not burn. Seeds are ready when a hint of golden brown can be seen on the white husks. For additional flavor, try sprinkling chile powder or a dash of lime juice before baking.