- Author: Debbie LeDoux
UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener, Meredith Hergenrader says that one of the best parts of volunteering at Master Gardener events is the camaraderie of gardeners sharing gardening tips and tricks with each other. She has been an active UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener volunteer and sharing her gardening knowledge in many Master Gardener events since her graduation in 2016 and resides in the high desert.
Before the cancellation of regularly scheduled monthly events at the Hesperia Library due to COVID restrictions, the San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and UC San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers gave presentations on various gardening topics at the library. Meredith gave presentations on integrated pest management (IPM). With a strong belief in IPM, she does not use chemicals on any of her property. She uses natural and cost-effective ways to get rid of pests. Meredith has also volunteered at local farmers' markets in Wrightwood and Phelan, answering attendees' gardening questions.
One of the most significant things that Meredith learned through being a member of the Master Gardener program is the importance of being water-wise. She says that with water resources becoming increasingly limited, we need to make the best use of the water available with an eye towards future sustainability. The Master Gardener program teaches us ways to do that. One of the methods is by planning our gardens around the needs of plants. Meredith says, “We should use plants that naturally grow in the space they are planted, and by using native plants.”
She advises everyone, especially if you consider using graywater in your garden, to be aware of ingredients in detergents and soaps you use. She makes her own cleaning agents like dish soap and clothing detergent. She does not use fabric softeners or products that are scented and don't easily biodegrade. With better technology, fabrics, and laundry products, fabric softeners are no longer necessary. Instead, Meredith occasionally adds vinegar to the rinse cycle as a softener.
Meredith believes that if you see something that needs to be fixed, “be the solution” and do something about it. She and a group of Master Gardeners and other volunteers were motivated to do something after seeing the vegetation at the Phelan Post Office being removed because of the rising cost of upkeep. She approached the postmaster with the idea of using natives and other plants that would not need much water. She received his approval to proceed with the project and quickly started to work.
It was a large space, so Meredith tackled the job in three sections. Meredith and other volunteers provided native and other drought-tolerant plants for the first area. In the second area, she planted succulents and cactus that she dug up from her own property.
Meredith would like to thank Wendy Walsh Walker for her wonderful donations of a California Flannelbush and Penstemon spectabilis. The California Flannelbush is a fast-growing evergreen shrub that can grow 20 feet high by 20 feet wide and is one of the most spectacular of the native California shrubs. Meredith said: “The team has been fortunate to have Wendy as an advisor for the project. She has studied California native plants and natural history all her adult life. She worked for the Riverside Corona Resource Conservation District, doing habitat restoration for four years before moving to Transition Habitat Conservancy.”
The maintenance worker at the post office was concerned about having to water the plants. Meredith explained that only native and other water-wise plants were used, and once they were established, they would require minimal water. She watered the plants for the first year but has not watered them for the past year, and they are still alive and well.
Last summer, the post office grounds had become overgrown with weeds. The maintenance staff did not have time to maintain the grounds. Because of COVID, they were being utilized to clean inside the post office full-time. Funds at the post office were too low to hire more staff.
Around the time the post office was becoming overgrown with weeds, Meredith received a call “out
of the blue” from UCCE Master Gardener trainee Debi Dossey. Debi asked if Meredith had been responsible for replanting at the post office two years ago and if she was interested in being part of a team of volunteers to clean up the post office grounds. Meredith saw the need and immediately said yes.
A team of volunteers worked early on Saturdays, late on Sundays, and in their free time for several months. Most of the work was done with hand tools. However, they used Weed Eaters to finish work around the pine trees. Meredith wants to acknowledge Debi Dossey for spearheading the clean-up effort at the post office, getting approval from the postmaster, and providing encouragement to her and the other volunteers.
All the volunteers were motivated by a spirit of civic duty. Darlene House (another UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener), Amanda Plunkett (owner of BeeRooted, an environmental service “dedicated to promoting healthy environments for honeybees and humans through live bee relocation services, education, and products”), Debbie McAfee (Phelan resident), Barbara Hamilton (Hesperia resident), as well as many other volunteers from local high desert areas participated. Congratulations to you all for a job well done supporting your local community
Meredith is a life-long learner with a desire to acquire ongoing knowledge about gardening, IPM, and protecting the environment. She has extended her gardening knowledge by taking classes at Victor Valley College Agriculture and Natural Resource (AGNR) Department. She is currently taking courses for her own self-knowledge (while toying with the idea of possibly getting an advanced degree in Botany in the future.) She has taken an IPM class, is currently taking a class on identifying 100 non-native plants by their Latin names, and in February, will be taking a class on native plants.
Meredith was recently asked by one of her professors at the AGNR Department to start a seed library at the college. She has wanted to create a seed bank in the high desert, so she agreed. Meredith already has some thoughts about how she will organize the seed library utilizing onsite resources and volunteers. There are greenhouses wherethe library can be set up to bring in seeds that can be traded. There is even an onsite lab where the seeds can be cleaned, dried, and stored. She is looking forward to getting started on the seed library as soon as COVID quarantine restrictions are lifted!
Learning about Meredith's extensive knowledge of holistic health and living a fully holistic lifestyle has been eye-opening and inspirational! In her 20's, she adopted an organic lifestyle and has grown everything organically ever since. Early on, she read a book called "Back to Eden" by Jethro Kloss about herbs, how to use herbs, eat well, and avoid toxins. After reading the book, she concluded that there is probably an answer to almost any problem by using plants.
Meredith has a passion for educating people about keeping a pure seed supply and avoiding pesticides. She has never seen any logical reasons for using a lot of chemicals in our day-to-day lives. She has given talks in the high desert, promoting healthy choices, and encouraging people to lead organic lifestyles.
Meredith has an extensive property that includes a goat farm, rabbits, horses, and herb, vegetable, and flower gardens. Over several years, she has removed most of the invasive vegetation on her property while encouraging native plants to take over.
Every year the native plants reseed and have slowly taken over the invasive plants. The native plant areas need little water. However, Meredith installed a drip system to use during the hot summers in the high desert. She enlisted the help of her grandson and granddaughter and their friends to haul way truckloads of weeds. Another generation of farmers in the making!
Meredith's life-long love of farming began on her grandparents' farm in Nebraska. Like many people during that time, they had a farm growing their own vegetables, planting fruit trees, and raising chickens. They canned what they grew and preserved eggs by the water glassing method. Keeping eggs by water glassing is a long-standing historical method that works well for long-term egg storage. Meredith learned to operate farm equipment and helped her grandparents with their farm.
Meredith's fascination with seed saving started with rows of unlabeled jars of seeds on shelves in her grandparents' basement in Nebraska. Her grandmother taught her everything that she knew about farming and seed saving. Meredith learned how to operate farm equipment and plowed areas on the farm. She and her grandmother planted the collected seeds in the cultivated areas. When she was only 10 years old, she produced a large flower garden in Nebraska and won her first garden award (from the Spanish American War Auxiliary that her grandmother was a member of.)
One of the many things I hear Master Gardeners say that they like about being in the group is meeting life-long friends with common interests. It must have been "serendipity" that Meredith met UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Dana Marchica-Herring. She was attending a San Bernardino County Master Gardener composting class presented by Dana in Wrightwood. After the class was over, she and Dana "hit it off," talking about their mutual gardening interests. Dana encouraged Meredith to apply to the Master Gardener program. Dana moved and she and Meredith did not see each other for over 20 years, but Meredith always remembered Dana's encouragement and applied and was accepted into the Master Gardener program years later. After all those years of not seeing each other, Meredith and Dana “ran into each other” giving talks at a Whole Life Celebration in Wrightwood. Dana was representing the San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and Meredith was giving a talk on GMOs. As Meredith likes to say, their friendship came full circle.
Meredith encourages people to think about becoming a Master Gardener by saying, “it is easier than it looks.” Having an interest in gardening and a little gardening experience is a good start. The desire to help others become better gardeners is necessary, but it is also the most fun! She says that becoming a Master Gardener is a commitment, but there are many resources available through the Master Gardener Program that provide ongoing training.
The motto of Meredith's Valhalla Farm is, “A wee small farm with lots of animals, gardens, and penchant for independence.” I think it epitomizes the spirit of Meredith!
The UCCE San Bernardino Master Gardeners thank Meredith for her enthusiasm, diverse gardening knowledge, and dedication to creating a more sustainable future!
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Right plant…. right place….. right time: As Master Gardeners, this is our mantra….from the annual flowers we add to our garden for color, to our hardy native plants and everything in between. The “right plant” that is placed in the “right place” at the “right time” will do so much better than a plant out of place. For deciduous fruit trees lets break that down:
1) “Right plant:” Choose a fruit tree that get's enough chill hours in your area. Chill hours are calculated as the number of hours between Nov 1st and Feb 15th below 45 degrees (and above 32 degrees, which is less of an issue for Inland Valley plantings, where we don't get to many hours below 32 degrees each year). Lack of adequate chill hours leads to poor fruit production, so finding a variety that fits the chill hours you get in your area is one of the most important decisions you must make when selecting your trees. To find out how many chill hours you get in your area, check out this chill hour calculator: http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/Weather_Services/Chill_Calculators/
Don't get very many chill hours in your area? There's no need to worry! There are many varieties of fruit trees that have been bred to have low chill hour requirements, and there are many varieties that can be successful in sunny Southern California. A few varieties that need very few chill hours (only 100 to 200) are pomegranates, figs, and persimmons. Varieties that often need more chill hours (600 to 1,000 hours) are cherries, pears and some plums and apples, but there are varieties of those that have been developed to be “low chill” hour types, so look for those if you live in the valleys.
2) “Right place:” Chose a place in your yard that will give your tree space to grow or consider trimming your trees into “fruit bushes” if you are low on space. Want to learn more about fruit bushes? Join our upcoming class on fruit trees to learn more (details below). Do you have low chill hours in your neighborhood? You might want to look for a place in your yard that is away from structures that would radiate heat, and perhaps a low spot when cold air can collect and help you a little with chill hours (note: this might add dozens, not hundreds of chill hours though, so “right plant” is still really important!). Poor drainage can lead to lots of health problems for your trees (fruit and ornamental), so having good soil is important.
Planting tips: When planting all trees, it is best not to amend the hole where you are planting to prevent the roots from circling in the hole. Think about it like this: if you fill the hole with compost, and make it extra nice for the tree, the roots will prefer not to leave the comfort of the hole it was planted in and will circle around in that nice soft soil. This can lead to poor growth in the best case, and in the worst case can make a tree prone to falling and can cause damage or injury. Planting trees in native soil helps them adapt to their new home and will make sure their roots are not discouraged from venturing out into their new surroundings! If you are transplanting trees from containers, plant them at the same depth but dig the hole at least 2-1/2 times the width of the pot. Have heavy soil, or are not sure if your soil is good for fruit trees? Reach out to our helpline and we can help you figure out what is needed for success. What about bare root trees? Deciduous fruit trees can be planted ‘bare root' (dug in the field and refrigerated during their dormant phase with their soil removed at purchase) which is a great choice since you don't need to match two types of soil and they are less expensive. Planting deciduous fruit trees now has several benefits. Since the deciduous trees are dormant they experience less stress in the shipping, retail, and planting process. Then, once spring starts to warm up, they will break dormancy, send out new roots and leaves and be all ready to go in their new home.
Reminder: This is also the time of year to prune back your established fruit trees, while dormant (except for apricots and cherries, that do best when pruned in the Aug), and apply dormant oil sprays if needed.
3) “Right time:” Planting fruit trees at the “right time” can help your fruit trees get established before the heat of the summer and will get them growing with less stress to the tree. Citrus and avocados do best when planted in the spring in So Cal, when the soil and air are warming, but will also generally do ok when planted in the fall before cool temperatures set in. Planting them now can stress young plants when February, our generally coolest time of the year, comes around, so consider holding off on planting those trees until spring, which will be just around the corner!
Want to learn more about chill hours, fruit tree selection, planting, pruning and more? Attend our upcoming online Fruit Tree workshop on Jan 23rd and bring your questions too! In the meantime, the UC Backyard Orchard website has lots of great information for you to check out: http://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/. In my family we always plant fruit trees together (we even say a little blessing to our trees when planted…but that's a story for another day). I have trees that my mom and grandmother planted, trees that my grandmother and I have planted, and trees that I have planted with my children. I enjoy the fruits of my relative's forethought, relatives that my kiddos never got to meet….and one day my children and maybe their children will enjoy the fruits of my labor. Fruit trees give us something to look forward to each year: the first leaves to emerge; the blossoms; the delicious fruit and the winter when they rest and show us the beauty of the structure of their branches. Planting fruit trees gives us years of rewards and with the Master Gardeners' just a phone call or email away. We are here to help you with all of your questions and challenges!
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
Are you ready to transform your yard into a more sustainable landscape but don't know the first thing about irrigation systems? Our very own UC San Bernardino County Master Gardener Anita Matlock really knows her “stuff” when it comes to irrigation! She has enough experience and in-depth knowledge about irrigation to teach anyone how easy it is to transition their landscape from spray sprinklers to a drip irrigation system. She has provided numerous in-depth presentations and hands-on workshops that helped attendees increase their knowledge of beneficial irrigation concepts and decrease water usage in the garden.
As a Master Gardener, Anita has been our “de facto” trainer on irrigation systems since 2003. She says, “there are still many people who are unaware of how much water and money they could save by simply swapping out standard sprays and rotors for those with integrated pressure regulation. Communities everywhere continue to face the problem of high water pressure. High water pressure causes irrigation systems to experience a higher water flow rate, which results in wasted water, higher water bills, and damaged system components.”
Before retiring, Anita's professional background since 1991 had been in the irrigation industry. She was familiar with the irrigation concepts related to the "plant, water, soil relationship," but she was not familiar with growing plants. In 2003, she was inspired to join the Master Gardener program because she wanted to learn how to prune grapes and rose bushes. Through the Master Gardener program, Anita learned about growing roses and developed enough expertise and knowledge to teach a rose pruning workshop in January 2020.
Anita says that if you enjoy gardening and want to give back to your community, consider joining the Master Gardener program. You will experience many hours of pleasure spent in your garden while also teaching others about the many joys and benefits of gardening. She also wants to remind everyone to consider joining the UC San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers program if you enjoy growing edible gardens, especially if you grow many fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You will gain a lot of satisfaction from growing your own food, preserving it for your family, and giving your preserved foods as gifts! Joining the Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs will open opportunities for you to develop your interests in many different directions and make life-long friends with similar interests and passions.
Anita has used her expertise in irrigation to lead several Master Gardener landscape renovation projects. Her most recent project was in the summer of 2018, at Micah House in Redlands. Along with fellow UC Master Gardeners Betty Richardson, Trisha Fitzgerald, and other volunteers, she participated in transforming a grassy area in the front yard of Micah House into a lovely drought-tolerant garden. Master Gardeners removed the existing lawns and replaced them with drought-tolerant plants watered by a new drip irrigation system. The project was made possible through a grant from the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD).
In 2018, Anita donated irrigation equipment to a research project that measured the impacts of gardening on 82 first and second-grade students at Norton Space and Aeronautical Academy, a charter school in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in San Bernardino. It was a team effort with Master Gardeners Loleta Cruse, Jackie Brooks, Robert Simpson, and other community volunteers. The study found that students participating in planting and caring for the garden had greater concentration and group cohesiveness than students participating in other group activities. These positive outcomes corroborated research from several other studies worldwide, linking enhanced mood, feelings of self-worth, improved cooperation with others, and even higher standardized test scores and grades to school gardening.
Anita's previous career in marketing and consulting sales presenting to customers and potential customers, and becoming a Toastmasters member helped her develop the confidence to speak in front of groups. She has presented at Master Gardener events too numerous to list in this article. In 2018, she presented SoCal Landscape Transformation – The Hunt for Water Savings, a workshop at Western Municipal Water District (WMWD).
In April 2020, she presented at a free webinar on DIY water-efficient landscape irrigation hosted by IERCD in partnership with the (San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD.) She led attendees through the ins and outs of retrofitting and drip irrigation to increase their knowledge of effective irrigation practices and help decrease their water usage.
If you are interested in presenting as a Master Gardener but are hesitant to take that first step, you don't need years of public speaking experience like Anita has. She has some great tips to get anyone started. The first step is to study and understand the subject you are presenting. Prepare an outline for your presentation and practice it in front of your family and friends. Here is a great tip that worked for Anita when preparing to present a new topic to her fellow Toastmasters. She would introduce a shorter version to get feedback and gain the confidence to fine-tune her final presentation. Try it yourself and see how it works for you! Don't hesitate to ask your fellow Master Gardeners for help by giving you feedback on practice presentations or co-presenting with you on your favorite gardening topic.
Anita's latest gardening project reflects her interest in vertical gardening. If you have not already “dipped your gardening toes” into this fascinating and fun gardening activity, I highly recommend trying it! I think you will be inspired to try your hand at vertical gardening when you read about Anita's vertical herb and vegetable garden.
In 2003, Anita (and her husband Tony) decided they wanted something more visually appealing to look at while enjoying their patio than a bare wall separating their property from their neighbors. They also wanted herbs to use for cooking that they had grown themselves, so they built a vertical herb and vegetable garden made of wood. After 7 years, the wood had deteriorated. They recently created a new vertical system made of HDPE drainpipe to replace the old wooden system. Be creative and start your own vertical garden using unique and fun materials.
You never know where the path of being a Master Gardener will lead you. In 2003, Anita and her husband Tony started a hobby in home wine making. Anita also decided to join the Master Gardeners program in 2003 because she wanted to learn how to prune grapes (and roses.) Fast forward to 2018, when Anita and Tony decided to take their years as home winemakers to turn their hobby into an encore career to establish their commercial winery. Anita is now an award-winning winemaker and serves as a Board Member of the Yucaipa Valley Wine Alliance. She has provided hands-on training at many workshops on growing grapes and wine making.
UC San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are thankful to Anita Matlock for enthusiastically sharing her extensive knowledge of irrigation concepts that decrease water usage. She is a wonderfully approachable presenter, and we are proud to name her as this month's Spotlight Master Gardener!
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
I think many of us feel like our gardens themselves are gifts. We give our time to create spaces that are gifts to nature (pollinators, beneficial insects and an assortment of other critters) and to our neighborhoods and families, and if we are lucky, we can even eat and harvest flowers from them for us to enjoy indoors and with friends and family as well. I like to view gardening as a two-way street and see it as more of a journey than a destination. We give our love, our time, our sweat and tears….and our back muscles and money, all to create life around us. We can do it in our “back 40,” at a community garden plat, on our patios, on our windowsills and even in water (with fish) if we grow with hydroponics (or aquaponics!). With all we give to our gardens I think our gardens give back to us tenfold. When we are stressed or feeling overwhelmed the garden is a safe place that does not judge. When we are enduring loss and hardship, we can cry our tears and feel our sorrows in the garden, and in return it can give us solace. The garden reminds us that life goes on, as hard as it seems sometimes, no matter what else is happening…nature just keeps on going….and in that we can find strength. In my garden I find history: plants planted by loved ones that are still here, but we can't be together this holiday season, and plants planted by people that are no longer here. I find the future: what can I fit in my yard next? Perhaps a fruit tree would be great there? Where should I put my food forest for 2021? I find hope: wow, that seed really did grow, and look at it now! Or, oh wow, I remember when that tree was just a few feet tall and now look at then shade and fruit it gives.
If you grow fruits, vegetables, or herbs you probably have already shared gifts from your garden and know all about how rewarding that can be. If you are a new gardener, just wait! It is a challenge, but in a good way, and the Master Gardeners will be here for you throughout your journey, offering free classes on growing food, creating sustainable landscapes and how to just live better, healthier lives, though gardening. We also have our helpline, where you can contact us day or night (but we will call or email you back at a reasonable hour, after we have done some research), with all of your gardening questions and woes. You can even reach out if you just want to share a great success you had (you could even send us photos)!
Here are a few other ideas for gifts from your garden that you can try this holiday season to share your gardens gifts with your friends and families:
2) Three-tiered herb gardens: one of my favorite things to make! Fun fun fun and they are a great way to keep your herbs near your kitchen and healthy and happy! These towers can be made on a small scale as gifts or on a larger scale for your yard (or for gifts that you need to make on site!). The cool thing about these towers are that they will have a drier zone on top for your herbs that need a drier soil, and for the herbs that need a little more moisture they are wetter on the bottom. Also because of their height you can get a little extra shade or sun for your herbs on certain sides depending on how you orient them. Lastly, because they have an “inner core” of soil, they are great insulators that help keep plants cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I can fit between 8 and 12 types of herbs in my towers and they all do great!
My wish to you, for this holiday season, is that you find joy and peace and if you can find a little time to garden too, that just makes the holiday season extra sweet.
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.