- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
I am excited to share that I have just recently graduated as part of the 2021 cohort of UCCE San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers! Yay and congratulations to my fellow graduates! I'm so excited to try many of the new things I have learned, and the training has shown me many new possibilities for my home gardening food growing adventures, letting me take it to the next level. This year's six month class was held online, and, San Bernardino County residents in the program participated along with trainees from all over the state. Graduating Master Food Preservers will volunteer in their county of residence. Localized training and hands-on experience will occur as COVID-19 restrictions lighten. Completing my Master Food Preserver certification has been on my dream to do list for many years since I first heard about it during my own Master Gardener training. It was worth the wait!
I grew up gardening, cooking, and preserving the bounty from their gardens with my grandma and mom, so we could enjoy produce throughout the year. The Master Food Preserver slogan is “Preserve Today, Relish Tomorrow” and it is so true. As gardeners, we have either experienced firsthand, or seen the joy that comes from the first tomato or squash plucked from plants we've planted. It's such an exciting time and feeling of accomplishment. You planted that plant, you watered it properly, kept weeds and pests at bay, and gave it the TLC it needed. To see that first produce appear is exhilarating! Then the plant keeps producing and the feeling is like “Wow, I didn't know this plant could make so much produce!” Then it rolls over into “Oh my, what in the world am I going to do with all of this produce? The neighbors are hiding when they see me coming with more tomatoes!”
That moment when you begin running out of room on your counter and things are getting ripe faster than you can handle (I'm looking at you apricots: not ripe on Tuesday and falling on the ground on Thursday!) is when knowing some basic food preservation skills is a game changer. Food preservation techniques also allow you to take a smaller harvest of really special, hard to grow, or unique produce and save it to enjoy throughout the year. I love eating home-made apple sauce and apricots in the winter, and having home grown tomatoes throughout the year to grab from the freezer or cupboard and use in a recipe. It is also such a wonderful feeling to reach into the cupboard and pull out my own dried herbs that can be grown even in a small space, like an apartment patio (see last month's Coordinator Corner blog on the Three-Tiered Herb Garden).
You don't have to become a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver volunteer to learn these skills, however. Program coordinator Dee Denton and Master Food Preservers offer free classes online and one day soon again in person. For several years our Master Gardeners have offered a series of talks (currently online, but typically held in person at San Bernardino County libraries around the county) throughout the year called “From the Garden to the Table” where Master Gardeners teach attendees how to grow food seasonally and Master Food Preservers teach attendees how to preserve it using a variety of techniques that are safe and effective. (Food safety is an important part of food preservation.) We have also offered these classes together in schools through local Parent Engagement Centers for several years, having community members participate in planting activities, pickle, and freezer jam making, and more.
Join us the second Sunday of each month for our online “Ask a Master Gardeners and Master Food Preserver” time from 11am to 1pm. During that time, we also do short 15 to 30 minute talks and demonstrations for you to enjoy as well. One other place you might be able to find the Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers working together is at some of our local community gardens. Each month we have combined presentations at the Rialto Community Garden and the Seeds of Joy Community Garden in Ontario. For more information on those talks check out our monthly newsletter or our online calendar: http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/. We are slowly expanding these presentations to other community gardens. Look for us at a local garden near you or send an email to our helpline (email@example.com) or call them (909)387-2182 to see if we can come teach classes at your community garden too! Just like the Master Gardeners, the Master Food Preservers also have a helpline (firstname.lastname@example.org) where you can reach out and get all of your preservation and food safety questions answered and get some great, tested and approved resources and ideas! Also check out their website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/sbmfp/. On their website under resources, you can link to the statewide website that has many great recipes for all of your harvest.
Didn't have a bountiful harvest this summer? That doesn't mean that your preservation dreams are done for the year! I had a grrrrreat start to my tomatoes and then the spider mites also had a great start to their season and while I was not looking they took my plants down to the ground!! Arggggg!! While food preservation is a great way to deal with a huge harvest, you don't need tons of food to save a bit to enjoy throughout the year. You can also connect with other gardeners you might know online or in person. Look for a community garden near you (reach out to our Master Gardener helpline for more information on that), or check out the many local farmers markets that offer fresh and local produce from local farmers and community gardeners in your area.
Together, our University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs are here to help you grow a productive garden to safely preserve and enjoy your harvest for weeks and months to come!
Note from UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardener Management:
By Elizabeth McSwain
There is something magical that happens when you enter a garden. The stress of the day goes away as you take in the beauty of a flower or plant. When my son Troy III and I visited our first community garden in 2017 it felt euphoric. UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Valerie Dobesh was teaching a class on using herbs for medicinal purposes. We tasted the elderberry syrup she created, and I was hooked. Food can be medicine! After the workshop concluded I visited the info tables and that's when I met Master Gardener Program Coordinator Maggie O'Neill. I had so many questions and Maggie patiently answered many of them. I was intrigued by Maggie's professionalism, knowledge, and enthusiasm for the Master Gardener program. She inspired me to apply to the program and I am so very happy that I got accepted and that I get to interact with her throughout my gardening journey.
I didn't have a lot of gardening experience prior to becoming a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener in October 2020. Our “Caramel Connections” nonprofit had a plot at a local garden and several of our volunteers facilitated organic gardening workshops. However, I did not feel knowledgeable enough to teach classes. I was part of the first Riverside Food Waste Ambassador training cohort. As part of the training, I visited my first landfill/recycling plant. After that visit, I was determined to decrease the amount of waste that my family and nonprofit would create moving forward. The UCCE Master Gardener vermicomposting training was interesting to me because it reinforced my belief that if I mastered this concept, I could help the community divert food waste from landfills.
I am excited about the opportunities ahead of us, and I cannot wait to see the garden flourish! Elizabeth McSwain showing first harvest vegetables at Seeds of Joy Community Garden Since I was a little girl, my mother Laureen instilled a joy of making food for the soul. She would make dishes that were always filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Now alongside my husband, Troy II, our mutual passion for the culinary arts became a staple in our home as we raised our two sons, Alex and Troy III. It was in the kitchen while cooking and sharing meals together that our family bonded most - sparking unforgettable memories. Our love for food and serving the community compelled us to open Beola's Southern Cuisine in Ontario, CA.
Ultimately, we longed for families throughout the Inland Empire to experience the same joy for the culinary arts that we shared with our own family. In 2016, the McSwain's founded the Caramel Connections Foundation (CCF) to empower families throughout the Inland Empire to do just that. All CCF activities promote mental and physical wellness to help parents and their children discover the fun of healthy eating together. I began offering cooking classes and healthy beverage pairings at The San Bernardino Boys and Girls Club and Options House Transitional Homes. It was then that I quickly realized the needs of these families were much deeper.
Not only were they unaware of what healthy food options were available to them, but many of them also struggled with knowing where their next meal was coming from. I soon found that the health issues many parents and children were struggling with, such as high blood pressure and diabetes could be prevented if they knew how to make better food choices and where to access healthier options. Elizabeth
The Seeds of Joy Community Garden 1240 W. 4th Street, Ontario CA 91762, 909 697-9017, www.caramelconnections.org has conducted programs and held events to introduce Inland Empire families to a myriad of healthy activities, beverages, and meal options. CCF programs promote health, wellness, and education in the areas of physical fitness, mental wellness, literacy, organic gardening, nutrition, and combating health challenges such as
Other community service volunteer activities include:
• Abundant Living Family Church – Children's Ministry 2003-2007 • Healthy RC Steering & Compassionate Communities Committees 2015 – Present
• Caramel Connections Foundation 2016 – Present
• Black Chamber of Commerce Inland Empire
• Ontario Montclair YMCA (Board Member 2017 – 2020). The benefits of gardening stretch far beyond just the growing of food. Although growing your own food can help you eat healthier by forming the foundation of better food choices and thereby lead to a healthier lifestyle. We will be offering an extensive array of nutrition and cooking sessions here. But even deeper than that, the act of gardening offers physical activity which can lead to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, enhance mental well-being, and build self-confidence.
- Author: Lynsey Ruml, UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener
Roses have an unfair reputation as unsustainable, high-maintenance and disease-ridden, but resilient Earth-Kind certified roses defy this stereotype! Earth-Kind roses are selected and certified by Texas A&M University through their Earth-Kind research program at the AgriLife Center. To earn the certification, roses must past eight years of research and data collection, proving themselves as exceptionally resilient landscape performers by demonstrating heat tolerance, pest resistance and the ability to thrive in diverse soil types and PH levels.
Four of the eight years of research must include randomized and replicated trials supervised by a team of seven PhD level plant and soil scientists to ensure efficacy when designating new cultivars. These final four years are conducted in Texas climate zones 7-9 in locations with diverse soil conditions and alkalinity to demonstrate adaptability. University scientists across the county were so impressed by the results of the Earth-Kind trials, they adopted Earth-Kind research programs of their own. Seven universities currently test Earth-Kind roses, lending additional climate-specific information for gardeners!
Land-grant University Master Gardener volunteers across the country started replicating the research in their test gardens, even adding new ‘found rose' varieties to the Earth-Kind certification list! To ensure rose candidates are pest resistant and can grow sustainably, testers do not apply pesticides or herbicides-including organic! The roses receive only minimal watering and no fertilizer other than what's naturally released through mulching. This exciting, easy approach to growing roses is the perfect solution for every home gardener's wish of beautiful and lush, but environmentally responsible landscaping.
Thinking of adding Earth-Kind roses to your garden? Below are a few varieties recommended for coastal and inland climate zones in Southern California:
Belinda's Dream is an exceptionally heat-tolerant modern rose introduced in 1992, bred from Tiffany hybrid tea and Jersey Beauty. Continuous double blooms with over one-hundred petals have a long vase and bush life of up to a week-even in hot climates! Belinda's Dream has a five-by-five-foot, shrub-like growth habit and exceptionally healthy, aphid-resistant foliage.
Cecile Brunner is a French rose,introduced in 1881 and parented by Mignonette and Madame de Tartas. It has softer foliage and stems than other roses and small, forgiving thorns. It's small, pink blooms resemble miniature versions of hybrid tea blooms. At four-by-four feet, Cecile Brunner is perfect for the middle border. A climbing sport of Cecile Brunner exists, but hasn't completed Earth-Kind certification. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkindroses/cultivars/cecile-brunner/
New Dawn is the very first plant to receive a patent (1930), after it was discovered as a repeat flowering sport of the once-bloomer, Dr. Van Fleet. New Dawn has exceptionally large thorns, but prolific three-inch, light-pink double blooms. New Dawn can be grown as a climber, rambler, or left to form a giant shrub. This rose also tolerates some shade. When grown as a climber, New Dawn can reach heights of over twenty feet!
Mutabilis is a six-by-eight-foot China rose, introduced prior to 1894 (considered an ‘old rose'). It's unusual, fabric-like, silky blooms are impossible not to touch and gradually change from yellow to deep pink. Mutabilis blooms in successive flushes and won Earth-Kind's 2005 rose of the year! https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkindroses/cultivars/mutabilis/
Thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed learning about our favorite Earth-Kind cultivars and maybe even found a new rose for your garden! For additional information about Earth-Kind roses and the Texas A&M, Earth-Kind program check out the links below. Happy rose growing!
Resources: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkindroses/ https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkindroses/cultivars/ https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
When summer is here and the list of edible fruits and veggies that can be planted in Southern CA is at its shortest,
-It takes up very little room and it's portable. The stack of three pots can take up as little as 12 to 14” of space on your porch or growing area. This is great for areas where you don't have a lot of room to grow and it also makes it easy to find room right by your kitchen or porch door. That said, I have gone on to create larger versions of this and mini versions of this and all sorts of versions in between, but the basic set up below is a good place to start before you try different versions.
-Great for many varieties of herbs in a small planting area. The top tier of the herb garden is on the drier side and is great for growing herbs that like a drier soil. I like to put thyme or sage at the top. The middle tier is great for plants that need a little more water, but don't like to be too wet. Herbs like basil, marjoram, oregano, chives, and cilantro will do well on the middle tier of the herb garden. The bottom level is a little damper and is a great place to grow herbs like mint (planting the mint in a pot keeps it from taking over your garden too!), chives, parsley, basil and chervil. Rosemary and fennel do well in the three-tiered system but tend to get big, making them a better choice for a larger herb garden, or planting in beds. Lavender is susceptible to diseases at it's crown and do best planted in well-draining soil and given lots of space to grow.
-It's great for people who forget to water (that's me!!)! The top and middle tier pots have drainage holes so when you
-Great, easy to transport, gifts for people who love plants, and a fun way to get creative in the garden. I got started with one, and I have gone on to make big ones (with a half wine barrel as the bottom pot and then the middle and top pots being 14 and 8 inches across) that can grow a larger volume of herbs that I use a lot of in my kitchen. I have gifted several three-tiered herb gardens and they are always cute and fun gifts!
Follow these easy steps to plant your own three-tiered herb garden and send our Master Gardeners an email or give them a call if you have any questions, we are here to help!!
-3 pots of different sizes (for example a 14” pot, an 8” pot and a 4” pot) The top and middle pot should have drainage holes for maximum benefits of stacking. The bottom pot is best with drainage holes to ensure proper water, and prevent salt buildup, but it is less important for the plants that can handle soil that is more moist.
-Good potting mix or soil. You can mix some compost in as well. Herbs, like most fruits and veggies do best in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. They don't usually need as much fertilizer as other produce, but you can mix a
-Your herbs! You can plant transplants or seeds depending on what you prefer, and how much time you have. There are a wide variety of herbs you can plant, but here are a few ideas:
Top tier: sage, thyme or rosemary if you keep it small, or have a large set of pots
Middle tier: sage, thyme, chives (garlic or onion), marjoram, oregano, fennel (with a larger pot system), dill, green onions, chervil,
Bottom tier: Mint, basil, parsley, cilantro, marjoram, oregano, green onions
Step 1) starting with your bottom pot, fill it halfway with soil. Set your plants (I usually put about 4 or 6 plants on the bottom tier depending on how big your pots are) at an angle facing out a bit. Remember that your plants won't have a lot of room on the surface of the soil, but they will have lots of room for their roots to grow under the pots that are stacked on top. Add soil to your transplants as you would when you are doing your regular planting up to the previous soil line, but leave the level in the middle of the pot a little lower so you can set the second pot on top
Step 2) add your second pot (that has drainage holes) to the center of the first pot. Make sure it's level and sitting securely on top of the soil and begin
Step 3) add your last, top pot! Depending on how small the top pot is you may need to add a bit of soil to the pot before adding your top plant (usually just one plant), or if the pot is small enough it might not be needed. Just make sure the pot has enough room for your plant, and that you plant is high enough in the pot. Plant that plant as you would normally in the center of your pot, adding soil up the previous fill line.
If you are planting seeds on any of the levels you would follow the same steps above, but instead of planting the transplants you add soil to fill the pot (leaving a bit of a depression in the center for the pot above) and then plant the seeds as appropriate for the varieties you are planting.
When you want to refresh a level of your garden you can take the pots apart and repeat the steps above with new additions in empty spaces, or you can just dig down into your pots while they are stacked and replant. You can decide whether you are going to take them apart or not based on your personal preference or on how deep the roots are growing from one pot into the soil below.
In the heat of the summer starting herbs may be a little more challenging from seed, but it can be done if they are protected from too much direct sunlight. Being able to move the tower around easily is helpful if you are trying to start seeds, so you can put them in filtered light until they are a bit more established, then bring them back to your porch or full sun when they are several inches tall.
As we are experiencing severe, or worse, drought in California we need to use our water resources carefully. Many of our ornamental shrubs and grasses (is plants a better word here?) can safely have water reduced to conserve water without causing long term damage to them. Our trees, one of our most valuable resources, need to be protected as well, but they can also do ok with strategically reduced water. Growing fruits and veggies take a lot of water so it's important to grow those edibles responsibly. Improper watering, or not enough water, can very quickly lead to problems with fruit set, production and reduced quality and flavor. Herbs are often the same way, and while some types can do ok with reduced water (like rosemary and lavender) most need to be evenly watered to get good leaf production. So, with the drought on everyone's mind you must ask yourself: is growing food at home a good use of water? The answer is yes!! Growing food and herbs at home have many benefits to your mental and physical health! You are also reducing the distance your produce travels from harvest to your kitchen and that can save resources! You can grow the produce you like and engage the family in the activity, having freshly harvested produce right at your doorstep! There are lots of ways to use your water wisely even in your edible garden by using drip irrigation, adding mulch and compost and growing varieties that are suited for your area. The three-tiered herb garden is a great way to have herbs at your doorstep that are easy to care for and take up a small amount of space using minimal resources.
- Author: Debbie Schnur, UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener
Have you considered composting in your school or community garden, but don't know where to start? Based on my experience, I can tell you it's easier and more rewarding than you think! In November 2020, a team of San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and trainees embarked on a mission to develop a composting system for the Root 66 Community Garden in Rancho Cucamonga. Now, a little more than eight months later, the system is fully functional, the first compost pile is curing, and the second pile is growing larger by the week. Thanks to committed volunteers, local businesses, and the City of Rancho Cucamonga, the initial composting mission has been accomplished.
What is composting and why is it so important? Composting is a method of decomposing organic waste into a nutrient-rich, humus-like material. When used as a soil amendment, compost improves the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of the soil. It increases water retention of sandy soils and drainage of clay soils. Adding garden trimmings and food scraps to a compost pile reduces landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions. In a community setting, composting turns organic waste into an asset to enrich gardens and support local food production.
During the first phase, our team determined the system and site requirements to guide the design of the composting system. We chose a simple 3-bay system constructed of wooden pallets that would be easy and inexpensive to build, use, and maintain.
After the design was finalized in the second phase, our Resource Group began identifying local businesses, organizations, and individuals willing to provide donations and funding to obtain materials, tools, and supplies. At the end of February 2021, we held our first composting workshop to promote the benefits of composting and solicit input from garden and community members about our project plans. To create a safe environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, we held the event outside and followed local social distancing and masking protocols.
By April, we were ready to build the composting system. On a sunny Saturday morning at 8 am, 12 Master Gardeners arrived at Root 66 with their power tools. Fueled by coffee and donuts, the group completed construction and cleanup by noon. Within days, garden members were already asking if they could start composting. Little did we know our work was just beginning.
At the start of the third phase, we needed to educate ourselves about the composting process to avoid health and safety issues. One reference that was particularly helpful was “Community Composting Done Right: A Guide to Best Management Practices”, available on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website, ilsr.org. We decided to use the hot (thermophilic) composting method. Although it requires more work than cold (passive) composting, it produces a finished product more quickly and kills weed seeds and pathogens. The main ingredients of composting are greens, browns, water, and oxygen. Greens are materials high in nitrogen such as fresh fruit and vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, grass clippings, eggshells, and coffee grounds. Browns are materials high in carbon such as wood chips and shavings, shredded newspaper, dry leaves, and straw. The microbes that drive decomposition during composting require the proper amount of water and oxygen to thrive. When the moisture content is optimal, the compost will feel like a wrung-out sponge. When oxygen levels become too low, the compost will begin to smell. Your senses will tell you if you're doing it right!
To prepare to start composting, our team created a site layout plan and composting process flow chart. At the end of May, we officially “cut the ribbon” on the Root 66 composting system and created the first compost pile using free wood chips, plant material from the garden, and food waste from local coffee shops, juice bars, and a brewery.
Once we fully understood the composting process, it was time to share our knowledge with the community. In June and July, the Education Group spent nearly every Saturday morning at the garden, distributing informational flyers and encouraging gardeners to contribute materials for composting. We installed signage in the composting area to show where to leave different types of waste. The City of Rancho Cucamonga supported two public workshops in July by promoting the events through Healthy RC and providing finished compost, seeds, and hand tools to use as giveaways.
The Master Gardener project formally ends at the end of August. To wrap up the fourth phase, our team will complete the project documentation, transfer ownership to the Root 66 Community Garden, and celebrate our accomplishments. As it turns out, this is perfect timing. Root 66 is about to start receiving support from the Community Composting for Green Spaces program to expand its composting operations. Administered by the California Alliance for Community Composting (CACC) and funded by a grant from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecyle), the program aims to launch or improve community-scale compost sites in six regions, including the Inland Empire.
As I reflect on my first experience of community composting, I realize it not only benefits the environment, it also engages, educates, and empowers the community. It's an opportunity to build strong social bonds and leave a lasting legacy. While community composting requires a concerted, long-term team effort, the process is not particularly complex or costly once the system is set up. So why not get started? For more information about composting at Root 66, contact email@example.com.