- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Looking back at my lifelong relationship with gardening, from doing a lot to doing a little, I have been reflecting on why I have always tried to garden or visit gardens no matter where I was. There were many times that my gardening was not successful, or times when I did not even have a garden of my own, but I always gravitated towards plants, and things that were growing. What is it about not only plants, but tending plants, that lures us in? Is it in our biology, in our DNA….an ancestral connection we have to the earth? Is it our love of fresh tomatoes and peaches? I think yes to all of those things, but it is also an activity that soothes the soul. The garden calls to us, needing our care, but also offering something to us in return. Can you hear its call? Sometimes I can't hear my garden through my thoughts of “oh it's so hot outside, or wow that is a lot of weeds I need to pull….or I can't believe I under watered my citrus trees and they died…….and again, wow it's awfully hot outside.” But I have a strategy when I cannot hear my garden calling me, because it is an important call we should take! It's trying to tell me it can help heal what ails me, help me sort out my thoughts on how to tackle a project at work and help clear my brain when I start thinking about to many “what if's.”
Now, I am not talking about those times when I feel super motivated to garden, and I have a clear and specific to-do list. Sometimes I really know what I am going to do and feel motivated to get out there and have a plan! I am talking about those times when I think I might need my garden more than it needs me. Life can be absolutely wonderful and also so, so hard. I have seen some great things happen and have had wonderful life experiences and I have also had deep loss and sadness that I am not sure what to do with. Plants seem to know how to handle this range of joy to sorrow in a way that perhaps only pets and great wide-open spaces can compare to. In your garden you can grow stronger if you know how to listen. Your garden does not need to be huge; it can be containers on the patio, or windowsill herbs; those few plants can still help put you in a better frame of mind.
So here are my tips on learning how to listen to your garden and feel its benefits. While this may seem like common sense, and obvious, I too must remind myself of this sometimes and just go do it! First step of my strategy is just plan to go outside (or to your plants in the windowsill) for at least 5 min, and find something in the garden that needs to be tended to…..again this tip is not for those times that you are on a mission! This is for when you are just mehhh and not sure what to do with yourself. So just walk yourself outside, or to your windowsill, or your patio and just stand in front of your plants and observe. Better yet, set aside at least five minutes every day to look at your plants. Now, step two: become a scientist! Seems like an odd thing to do when you are there for mental health, right? Does that mean being sophisticated, knowledgeable, overly analytical or taking data about what you are doing? No, not really. The heart of science is observing and asking questions and wondering why. So, look at your plants. What are the colors of the leaves, do you see any bugs, how much have they grown since the last time you hung out with them, is your compost pile decaying the way it should, are your plants developing flowers or yellowing? One of my favorite mind clearing activities is to see how many shades of green I can see. Just sort of take it all in and let your mind and eyes wander. Step outside of your thoughts if you can and focus on your senses. What do you see or hear? What does the air feel like and are your plants fragrant? Then pick a task. Is it checking the soil to see if it is dry, or pruning out the dead growth, or checking for pests in your plants, or harvesting seeds or fruits? Just make it something to get yourself engaged in with your plants. I love picking lemons and weeding for mental health and I have a rule when I do those activities. I am a thinker…. I think waaay too much and that is sometimes a great thing and sometimes a real pain. So, my rule about being in the garden to get all those mental health benefits is, no matter how big or small the task is I am doing, focus on my senses and observations. Then after a few minutes of that I let my thoughts come back in slowly and that is when I do some of my best thinking. My grandma would always tell me that “handwork” like sewing or knitting, cooking, or gardening had been the savior of women (but I think it is true for everyone) for centuries. As one gets older and life becomes a more complex tapestry of experiences and challenges, I am beginning to understand what she means. It's that thinking time you have while doing a task that you can be fully engaged with or sort of do without thinking that is so great for your mind and soul, and that takes me back to this idea of slowly letting your thoughts back in while you putter around in the garden. Once you begin that small task I often finds it leads me to other tasks in the garden, I notice something else that needs to be done, or see damage on leaves and investigate what is causing it, or I notice that there is a trail of ants going into my tree and slow down and watch them to see what they are farming so I can decide if it's something I need to manage. That's when you know the garden has sucked you in! It has taken you down a trail of telling you what it needs from you and in that listening you begin to let go of yourself and your stresses and just start to “be.”
Do you love gardening, and feel all of its benefits but want to share your solo experiences with others? Bring your kiddos, parents or partner out into the yard or for a walk in a local park or garden space and do the same thing with them. Start small, with one task (water the pots, or look for pests, or in a public space just walk and look around), make comments about what you observe, point out something that you see and perhaps your few minutes in the garden can turn into something more…..some unplanned time to connect to each other and disconnect from the world. If you don't have a garden right now, what can you do to reap these benefits? Wandering through a local park can yield the same results…..looking for how many colors of green you can see, what type of animals are enjoying the outdoors with you, seeing how they have arranged their plantings and trying to figure out what types of plants are there can all be ways to tune out your thoughts and tune into nature. You can also look for a community garden in your area (contact the Master Gardeners and we can help you find one)! There are many in San Bernardino County, and if your area does not have one then maybe it is time to get one started! Master Gardeners can help guide you on what you need to get that going too! Joining online gardening groups or becoming a part of the Master Gardener program (a group of trained volunteers who actually want to hear all about the topped tree you just saw or the lemons that are getting ripe!) can be great for mental health too! While there are many important things going on in society right now that mindful attention needs to be paid to, it is important for us all to have a place to reset and regroup and talking to people and sharing about gardening is a great way to do that!
Feeling productive is so important for our wellbeing, physical and mental health. When, at the end of the day, we have had a great discussion about gardening with someone, or tended to our plants and gotten our hands dirty we can go to bed with a clearer mind and be ready to face the world (and look forward to facing our garden) again! Towards the end of my grandma's life she would have me put pots of flowers on TV trays so she could “groom” them. It was a small activity, and something that I could have done myself in a few minutes, but that time for her was priceless. She was able to engage in something with her hands, deadhead the flowers and feel pride in her tasks and probably get a chance to reset some of her thoughts as well…getting those mental health benefits I have been talking about. She would always finish her tasks with a smile and have a sort of glow about her that I totally understood as a fellow gardener…..her garden had called, and she had listened….and she was a good listener too!
So if you are at a place in your life where you are just dreaming about the garden you might have one day, that's ok too…start small, have a few house plants, or grow some herbs on your porch and spend time letting your garden heal you while you care for it. If you have a big yard and aspirations of turning those weed patches into a food forest, go out and start small, little by little you can make a huge impact on yourself and your space over time. If you spend your time fighting squirrels and gophers for your garden goodies, step back and do some detective work and contact the Master Gardener helpline. Let us help you trouble shoot and get you headed for success. Have no garden, no place for potted plants and not ready to join a community garden yet? When you feel overwhelmed or need an escape immerse yourself in leaning about plants. They have fascinating lives and all kinds of outer worldly adaptations that could put fiction writing to shame. Or go spend some time in a public garden or green space, observing those colors and seeing what is living in that green space. Even if you have your own garden, spending time in another garden can be rewarding because you are not thinking about your to do list when you look around!
Esther Martinez graduated from the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardener program in 2019. In the short time since she graduated, she has taught adults and children how to grow food, how to sustainably garden to save water and attract pollinators, and even what plants are poisonous to dogs through her many volunteer activities focusing on the West End of the county.
She was excited to educate attendees in the Pumpkin Festival at the Chino Community Garden in October 2019. At this free workshop, participants enjoyed harvest-themed activities. They learned about sustainable gardening and were invited to decorate or carve pumpkins grown in the Garden's pumpkin patch. Esther helped participants make succulent gardens in pumpkin shells.
I was impressed with Esther's willingness to jump in and get things done. She has a fearlessness that is inspirational. When she first started volunteering at the Chino Community Garden, she saw a need to clean up the butterfly garden and did not hesitate to do it. The butterfly garden is now thriving with native plants, including two butterfly bushes that attract butterflies. Children visit the butterfly garden and learn through hands-on activities about gardening with pollinators. To prepare for a "Build A Butterfly Garden" workshop, Esther ordered Painted Lady butterfly eggs online and raised them at home.
Esther has a portable butterfly net enclosure she uses for raising butterflies at her home. She transports the butterfly enclosure to gardening workshops so that children can experience hands-on learning about butterflies. Esther has taken her butterfly enclosure to the Waterwise Community Center Seed Library in Montclair to share with visitors that come to get seeds for their own gardens.
She sees opportunities for using her gardening knowledge in unique ways. She presented the idea of having an information booth at a pet event with Healthy Chino, at Ayala Park, called “Bark Around the Park.” Both she and Roger answered pet owners' questions. They also provided them with printed information about plants that are poisonous to pets.
Esther has terrific organizational skills that she has used to coordinate UCCE Master Gardener events. She was in the midst of organizing a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners West Valley get-together in May at the Chino Community Garden. She had received permission from the City of Chino to hold the get-together at the Chino Community Garden. The theme of the event was "A Beautiful Day in the Garden" in honor of Mister Rogers' "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." Because of COVID-19 restrictions, she was not able to move forward with planning. Esther is looking forward to the time when UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners can once again hold gardening workshops at the Chino Community Garden and you can be sure she'll be taking a lead role! Through thick and thin, she continues to help maintain the Chino Community Garden, keeping it free of weeds and making sure the plants are watered.
She has known about the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program for a long time and was always interested in becoming certified. She finally realized her goal when she had more free time in 2019. She applied to the program after she attended a Water Wise workshop presented at Chino Basin Water Conservation Districts' Waterwise Community Center. She met Maggie O'Neill, UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Program Coordinator and, after listening to her presentation on the Master Gardener program, decided "I'm going to just have to jump in and take a chance.”
Esther encourages anyone interested in helping county residents garden more successfully to apply to the Master Gardener program, which is taking applications beginning July 1 for the October 3, 2020 - March 6, 2021 program (completely online for the first time in its history!). For more information on the program and applying, please click here: https://cesanbernardino.ucanr.edu
In addition to gaining research-based sustainable gardening knowledge to share with the public, Master Gardeners meet people like Maggie O'Neill. Esther says that Maggie has been an incredible mentor to her. She has a good sense of humor and makes it fun to learn about gardening and horticulture.
Esther generously invited me to visit her garden and the Chino Community Garden. She humbly told me that her garden is like a "mom-and-pop garden, but it comes from the heart." I was delighted with the creativity Esther expressed in her garden. She has created themed areas in the garden that represent people and places that are meaningful to her. One area dedicated to her mother is decorated with pottery and mementos that Esther collected to remember her by. Another area is dedicated to her father-in-law. It includes items from his military career and a plaque acknowledging him as a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. Some areas of her garden are whimsical and charming. Other areas are steeped in Native American culture that Esther is proud to be part of. Free in her artistic expression, Esther has created garden areas that are unique and meaningful.
Esther appreciates the importance of pollinators in gardens. She has created a Monarch butterfly garden habitat at her home. She received certification last year from the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) by agreeing to criteria set by NABA that demonstrate her commitment to creating and maintaining the habitat. The garden must have at least three different native caterpillar food plants, and at least three various native butterfly nectar sources. The use of pesticides is discouraged because they are harmful to butterflies. Esther has planted a lot of milkweed and other native plants in her garden to attract butterflies and create an environment where they can lay eggs.
Another one of Esther's gardening interests is creating topiaries. She developed a fascination with them when she visited Disneyland as a child. She even has a topiary section in her yard devoted to the "Three Bears." She has created several, including a large topiary of a horse in her front yard. She created an area she calls "my pig pen" that features topiaries of a mama pig and her two cute piglets. She made several of her topiaries by shaping screen cages in the shape of the desired topiary. She also has a few topiaries that she made freehand. While keeping the topiaries trimmed and maintained is time-consuming, it is a labor of love for Esther.
If Esther has an interest in learning something, she just does it! She decided soon after becoming a UCCE Master Gardener that she would enhance the knowledge she acquired in the Master Gardener classes. Esther wanted to learn about irrigation concepts to gain the skills to fix her own sprinklers and manage run-off in her yard. So, she went through the required training to become a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL). In addition to participating in 20 hours of education on local water supply, sustainable landscaping, soils, landscape water budgets, irrigation system components and maintenance, irrigation system audits, and scheduling and controller programming, Esther was required to demonstrate her ability to perform an irrigation system audit as well as pass the QWEL exam.
During the same time that she was attending the classes, Esther and her husband decided to design the front area of their yard with a dry stream bed. They put decomposed granite in the front yard, installed a trench and lined it with river rocks to create a watershed. The area now catches water that would have run off uncaptured into the street.
Esther has a long history of agriculture and gardening, starting when she was 5 years old. Growing up in Chino, Esther, along with her family, was always involved in agricultural activities. When she was younger and school was not in session, she spent many summers working in agriculture. Esther knows first-hand about the hard work that goes into agriculture. She has a lot of respect and empathy for the people who continue to work in the fields in the Central Valley and other California areas to provide us with food.
Esther likes to say that "Plants are like people. They are all unique." She has combined her creative side with her love of gardening in unique ways. She has an artist's sensibilities as well as a life-long knowledge base of agriculture and horticulture. I am pleased that I had the opportunity to get to know Esther, see her home garden, and visit the Chino Community Garden with her! She expanded my gardening knowledge and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about gardening.
Esther felt honored to be featured as the July, 2020 UCCE San Bernardino County Spotlight Master Gardener. She very humbly told me that she was surprised to be chosen. UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are thankful to Esther Martinez for her enthusiastic support, creativity, and extensive gardening knowledge!
Doug Arnold is 100% home-grown and has been a UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardener in the High Desert since 1997. Doug and his wife have lived in the High Desert since 1982. He enjoys DIY projects, such as building raised bed gardens. For reading material, he enjoys reading the UCCE Master Gardener handbook. Doug is typical of a humble volunteer, being a man “of few words." The spotlight is not always a place he feels entirely comfortable in. However, he and his wife Sara, a UCCE Master Food Preserver, have been fixtures in the High Desert extending objective information on gardening and food preservation and safety for many years. I guess you could say that Doug is the ‘glue' for the UCCE High Desert Master Gardener community, supported and augmented by Sara's volunteer work!
Under Doug's leadership, the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver booth at the High Desert Home and Garden Show (Home Show) has run seamlessly over the past several years. He and fellow Master Gardener Jim Pettigrew have worked together at the Home Show at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville, California, every year. The Home Show holds two home improvement expos a year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. The Home Show in Spring tends to be especially busy. Attendees can meet and talk with over 150 vendors representing diverse areas like landscaping, patio, gardening, and building contractors. There are always people stopping by the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver booth with gardening questions. The Hesperia Garden Club also participates in the Home Show. Doug is hopeful he can get back to doing the home shows soon!
Doug and his friend Jim also participate in the annual plant sale at the Victor Valley College (VVC) Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. This year's spring sale has been postponed for now, but the plant sale has been at the college for several years. They have a wide assortment of plants for sale. Doug has bought many of his plants from the sale.
Doug's wife Sara became a Master Food Preserver in 2017. They are very active working together at local Farmers Markets. They enjoy working at the Farmer's Markets, saying, "it's a lot of fun." He and Sara are "an institution" at the Phelan Farmers Market the first and third Monday of every week. They enjoy working with the public, and people ask him and Sara a lot of questions about gardening, food preservation, and the Master Gardeners program. People who regularly visit the Phelan Farmers Market know that if they have questions about gardening or food preservation, Doug and Sara are the sources to go to! Doug says if he doesn't know the answer to a problem when presenting at Master Gardener events, he refers the person to the UCCE San Bernardino County helpline. "It's convenient!" They also worked for a few years in the past at the Farmers Market in Wrightwood, California. He and Sara are looking forward to working at the Phelan Farmers Market again when COVID 19 restrictions are lifted.
When Doug and his wife moved to Piñon Hills, they lived on 2 and ½ acres off a dirt road. He said there really wasn't much out there at the time and that they were "out here totally on our lonesome." Piñon Hills is in San Bernardino County, California, near the Los Angeles County line. It is located near the Pearblossom Highway, 28 miles east of Palmdale, and 15 miles west of the Cajon Pass, where Pearblossom Highway meets Interstate 15. The town lies within 25 miles of Hesperia and Victorville. Piñon Hills is in a tri-community that consists of Piñon Hills, Phelan, and Wrightwood.
Doug and Sara have a 20 X 30-foot vegetable garden, growing tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and jalapenos as well as many other types of vegetables. Sara preserves most of what they produce. They have a 30-year old apple tree and get enough apples for Sara to make lots of applesauce. They have to cover the tree to "keep the critters off it."
Doug has had to adopt a uniquely different approach to gardening due to the weather challenges in the High Desert, where they live at 4,000 feet. A lot of plants and vegetables won't grow because of the extremes in temperature fluctuations. Summers in the High Desert are generally hot and dry. Winters are relatively cold, with much of the annual rainfall occurring in the winter. The success of crops depends on winter rainfall, which varies from year to year. The temperatures can rise over 100 degrees in the summer, and can then quickly drop to below freezing around September/October. They might have a beautiful Spring or Fall one year. Still, the temperature and climate may be completely different in other years. One time it was 0 degrees for six days in a row.
The weather is usually dry, but they had a rainy spring this year, which was unusual. Vegetables haven't been growing as well as they typically do. They have partial tree shade in some of the property where they can keep the plants from getting burned by the sun. Doug experiments with 40% shade cloth, which also helps keep the sun from burning the vegetables. He sometimes sets up windbreaks to help reduce the effects of strong winds. Doug says he is always experimenting because "sometimes you don't need the shade or to block the wind!" He uses a drip irrigation system to water his garden.
Doug and Sara don't make their own compost because of the dry climate and expensive water rates. I experienced Doug's wonderfully dry sense of humor when he told me a story about some compost that they recently ordered from a nursery in Hesperia. While delivering the compost, the man's truck lost a transmission. Doug laughingly told me that their compost was somewhere between his and Sara's house and Hesperia! But it finally arrived at Doug and Sara's house.
Doug has gardened from an early age, inheriting his green thumb from his mother. She was an active gardener in Ontario, California, when the area was still undeveloped, and citrus tree groves were everywhere. She grew many types of vegetables, including rhubarb, strawberries, and tomatoes. Doug helped in her garden a lot, including pulling a lot of weeds!
The Southern California High Desert encompasses the Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, and the Morongo Basin. It extends as far north as Barstow and includes Victorville. Doug says the broad area makes it challenging to get together with his fellow Master Gardeners in the High Desert. He told me that Master Gardeners in Barstow, Twenty Nine Palms, Joshua Tree, and Yucca Valley are becoming more active. He also likes the Zoom meetings because of his interactions with people he wouldn't usually talk with.
Doug had a lot of fun working as the Real Estate and Special Sections Editor for 30 years before he retired from the Ontario Daily Bulletin. Doug met Janet Hartin, UCCE San Bernardino County Area Environmental Horticulture Advisor, and County Co-Director while working at the paper. He always very generously published weekly UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener articles in the Home and Garden section.
Doug retired due to having a major stroke. It took him a few years to relearn physical skills such as how to walk and talk. As Doug recovered and became more active, he and Sara attended the Farmers Market in Phelan. They met a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener who interested him in finding out more about joining the program. He remembered working with Janet Hartin from the time he published her horticulture articles and upcoming Master Gardener events in the Daily Bulletin. He contacted her for more information regarding becoming a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener. She helped him sign up for the classes, and get into the program.
Doug also keeps track of the local rainfall for the National Weather Service. The Weather Service has a rain gauge that measures moisture in hundredths of an inch. Doug records the information in a log and emails it to the National Weather Service group in Colorado.
Doug said what he likes most about the Master Gardener program is the people. He enjoys the people probably as much as he enjoys gardening. The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are very thankful to Doug and Sara for their years of service! Their extensive gardening knowledge helps other gardeners become successful. An added gift to all of us is Doug's sense of humor, wisdom, intelligence, and kindness! We thank you, Doug!
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
As spring draws to a close and I begin to accept that summer is truly on its way, I have a mix of emotions. I find spring to be exhilarating and there is such a sense of endless possibility! Maybe this year the tomato crop will be huge?! Maybe my apricots will ripen before they fall or get pecked by birds…..maybe I will get my act together and have the huge veggie garden that I always dream of……maybe this year I will plant my Anaheim chilies and make my first homemade chili rellenos!? Then the end of May and beginning of June starts creeping up and I realize that if I haven't started my tomato from seeds it is probably waaaayyy to late; if I haven't planted those new natives it is not a great time to do it; if I haven't thinned my apricots it might be too late and I feel like it might be another year where all of my dreams and plans might not come to fruition. Now don't get me wrong there are some great things about summer, like the long days …..and….well….this year it might not include summer trips or gatherings pool side and BBQ parties like it does in other years…but those long days are still going to be here and that means more time to garden right?!?!
Keeping your trees healthy throughout the summer will help them last for years and generations to come. I learned this the hard way with some of my older citrus trees last year, after losing them to insufficient and inconsistent watering. Proper and consistent water is so important, and something our Master Gardeners can help you out with. One of the most common garden questions we get is about watering, and this is even more important in the summer! There are several factors that go into the decision of how often to water, including what the soil type is, what type of plant it is, how well the plant is established and more, so don't be shy about reaching out to our Master Gardener helpline, or joining our online “Ask a Master Gardener” times and we can help you out with your individual watering needs.
So, what can you do to keep your garden healthy during the summer? Here is a short list of things that can make a world of difference in your garden:
· Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch around your trees and plants, keeping it at least a few inches away from the trunk or stem, avoiding mulch that has been artificially dyed.
· Water properly and consistently: Keep you plants on a good watering schedule and keep up to speed on upcoming weather so that if a hot spell is coming so you can make sure they are well watered ahead of time (a farmers favorite conversation starter is going to be something about the weather, and there's a reason for that!).
· Ollas can be a fun and creative way to add extra moisture protection for your plants. There are a wide variety of olla styles and filling methods, so join us on our upcoming Olla making class to learn more.
· Shade cloth can be a great way to help protect your fruits and veggies from the hot afternoon sun, and you can set it up so that it only shades your plants from the sun at the hottest time of day, ensuring they are still getting enough sunlight to grow and produce fruits.
· Back to water: Setting up an irrigation system will be a big help in the summer, especially if you are working or away from home for much of the day. While hand watering can be fun in the spring and the fall it is not very efficient, often gets water on leaves that can lead to things like powdery mildew and more and is a lot less fun when it's a “do or die” activity for your plants. It is also hard to water trees and larger shrubs enough by hand before run off occurs, so an irrigation system is a great, water efficient way to go! Watering in the early morning is a good time to water to reduce evaporation and make sure your plants are not sitting overnight with moisture on the leaves.
· Native plants that have been planted this spring are probably not well enough established to be on their own this first summer, so they will need supplemental water this summer.
· Don't fertilize a dry plant, if your plant is dry (and therefore stressed) then you need to get it back on track with regular water before you fertilize.
· Don't forget to protect yourself in the summer garden too! Be mindful of sun, drink lots of water, and be sure to take breaks! There are often lots of chores that can be done in the shade or early in the morning so plan ahead and keep yourself healthy out there too!
With these tips and the help of our Master Gardeners you can have a garden that thrives even in the summer heat. We will be offering classes in June about protecting your garden from summer's heat, and on a wide variety of topics so check those out and as always, we are here to help, just a phone call, zoom click or email away!
UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardeners Jillian Kowalczuk and Adam Wagner's passion and enthusiasm for gardening, agriculture, and the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program made for a lively and fascinating interview recently! They want people to know that the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program can benefit anyone. There are so many opportunities to try different areas of gardening that the hard part is deciding which one you want to pursue! Whatever your skills and strengths, you can utilize them in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program.
There are also opportunities to develop new skills and strengths. As long as the criteria meet the mission of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, there is support for creating new ideas. You can pursue gardening interests in any direction you want from working with your local community gardens to presenting at workshops to helping out on the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Helpline!
Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has opened up a lot of different doors and avenues of perception for Adam and Jillian. People from all areas of life, age groups, and experiences become UCCE Master Gardeners. Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, Adam and Jillian have realized that there are many different ways of approaching the same gardening ideas. Ideas from UCCE Master Gardeners from different geographic areas are shared with the gardening community. UCCE Master Gardener members learn that gardening practices work differently in different parts of the world.
Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has helped enhance and sharpen skills not just for employment, but for all areas of life. It has helped them learn public speaking, formulating new ideas, communicating and working well with others, and how to use technology applications like VMS.
Adam and Jillian's pet project as part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program is the Yucaipa seed library that they started as a satellite of the Chino Basin Water Conservation District seed library. They are proud of what they have accomplished through the seed library and have enjoyed making it the success that it has become. Though the seed library is temporarily shut down due to COVID 19 restrictions, they are ensuring that the work they started at the Yucaipa seed library continues through the support of the local community. Jillian received permission from the UCCE to donate the seeds to a group that she and Adam started called Seeds of Yucaipa. Seeds of Yucaipa was started with the Oasis Botanical Sanctuary in Yucaipa and Unity Church of Yucaipa to help facilitate getting the donated seeds out to the local community With COVID 19 restrictions currently in place, they believe people need access to gardening resources such as seeds, soil, and pots now more than ever.
Adam and Jillian also inspire and help other UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener to achieve their goals. UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Whitney Coker liked what they were doing with the Seeds of Yucaipa Project. She asked them for advice on how to start a similar project in Rialto. Jillian was able to get some seeds for the Rialto project. With so many UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener learning tools and presentations currently available online, people can learn from home, get the seeds and supplies from the Seeds of Yucaipa project and start their own garden!
The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program offers opportunities that you don't get elsewhere. Jillian and Adam have participated in educational opportunities that they feel would not have been available to them had they not been part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program. They participated in the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaping (QWEL) for the Chino Basin Water Conservation District, a major partner of UCCE. The QWEL program is an affordable, local training providing 20 hours of education on principles of proper plant selection for the local climate, irrigation system design and maintenance, and irrigation system programming and operation to landscape professionals.
Adam and Jillian also had the opportunity through the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program to go to South Coast Research and Extension Center (South Coast REC) for integrated pest management (IPM). South Coast REC is one of nine UC ANR Research and Extension Centers. It was established by the University of California in 1956 as a representative site for agricultural and horticultural research in California's south coastal plain-temperate climatic zone. South Coast REC programs focus on a variety of agriculture and natural resource topics, including crop and landscape pest management, irrigation management, plant disease, rootstock development, and alternative weed control methods.
In 2019, Adam and Jillian contributed their gardening skills to a kitchen garden project at the Asistencia community garden project, 26930 Barton Road in Redlands, California. The kitchen garden is a small garden at the Asistencia used for growing edibles such as herbs and small vegetables. They worked on the Asistencia kitchen garden through Rotten Apple Farms, a ‘hobby' farm they founded in Yucaipa, California, to provide farm-fresh produce to the public while preventing waste. They participated in the project by installing the irrigation and planting trees. As UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners, they contributed their gardening expertise and advice to the project. More than 50 volunteers from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, the Redlands Conservancy, the University of Redlands, and the Redlands High School AVID program also contributed to the project. They helped dig holes, pick-ax the adobe clay soil, prep new soil, remove old pipes, build water wells, and plant 110 plants in the 900 square foot area. Jillian and Adam agreed that it was a great learning experience to participate in a historical landmark garden project!
Building sustainable gardening communities and educating the public are two of Adam's and Jillian's greatest passions. They participated as UCCE San Bernardino Master Gardeners in the planning and development meetings for Huerta del Valle's “New Farmer Training Program.” The mission of Huerta del Valle is to cultivate an organization of community members to grow their own organic crops. Building lasting skills and developing strong relationships within the region are just a few of the goals of Huerta del Valle. Sixty-two 20' x 10' family plots are available to rent for one year. Huerta del Valle provides seeds, tools, water, compost, and small plants if available for the plots. The participating gardeners receive the support of experienced gardeners to help them succeed in producing a lot of food to consume or share as they please. They also taught gardening classes at Huerta del Valle.
Arthur Levine, left, programs manager for Huerta del Valle, leads an Inland Empire Resource Conservation District farmers' workshop in Chino Sept. 20, 2019. In the front row are Adam Wagner and Jillian Kowalczuk of Rotten Apple Farms. (Photo by Crystal Valenzuela, Inland Empire Resource Conservation District)
Most of Adam and Jillian's activities together revolve around gardening, farming, and agriculture. Through their different gardening experiences, they have learned from each other. Jillian started getting involved in gardening about 5 years ago with succulents. After that, she dove right into different kinds of gardening, developing an interest in sustainable gardening along the way.
Adam has a diverse background, having enjoyed gardening for most of his life. Living in different areas of the United States, he observed how nature worked around agriculture. His gardening experiences while living in Nebraska were much different than his gardening experiences in the Coachella Valley. He said that in Nebraska, you could just throw out seeds, and they grew, however, Coachella Valley desert gardening was much different. It was a culture shock to him that cultivation in Nebraska did not require irrigation. Coachella Valley desert gardening was much more labor-intensive. Through a change in perception, Adam worked on developing more efficient ways of growing. He developed gardening processes which enabled him to focus on areas of gardening that he really enjoyed.
Adam's gardening experience has evolved over many years. Learning about one area of gardening that interested him naturally led to learning about other areas of gardening that interested him. Working for a hydroponics company, he learned about indoor gardening and how climates can be controlled. Learning about indoor gardening evolved into an interest in greenhouse growing. Working at a local garden nursery, he learned about planter beds, compost teas, bacteria, fungus, and how everything all works together.
One of Jillian's most memorable gardening experiences was attending Armed to Farm, a week-long intensive training event in Davis, California. Offered through the National Center for Appropriate Technology, NCAT has partnered with several sustainable agriculture organizations to train military veterans interested in sustainable agriculture careers. Some of the goals of Armed to Farm are to train veterans and their partners to operate sustainable crop and livestock enterprises and to provide technical assistance to participants as they start and improve their farming operations.
Jillian has always been interested in Agriculture and related subjects. When she saw a trend that Viticulture was expanding in the Yucaipa area, she thought it would be an exciting subject to learn more about. She enrolled in a 2-year Applied Associate of Science program for Viticulture. Jillian's training as part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program gave her an excellent framework for her Viticulture classes. Her study of soils in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has helped in her study of Viticulture soils. Jillian is looking forward to getting her degree in Viticulture. She also has a keen interest in getting ISA Arborist certification. Her goal is to eventually be certified to work in vineyards and orchards.
In November 2019, Jillian was awarded the honor of being picked out of a list of 21 applicants to serve on the American Viticulture Area Planning Committee (AVAPC) for the City of Yucaipa. The AVAPC was established to assist in the planning effort regarding the American Viticultural Area in Yucaipa. Jillian was chosen as one of three members at large "as she is pursuing a degree in viticulture, and that would be a great benefit to the committee," said Yucaipa Mayor Pro Tem Allen. Yucaipa Councilmember Riddell ended with, "I'd like to say that we really had a large and outstanding group of well-qualified candidates too."
Adam and Jillian's advice to anyone hesitant to get started in gardening is to take classes in whatever gardening area you're interested in, become a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener, take courses and learn from each other! If you're a gardener, you're going to make some mistakes. Don't feel intimidated because making gardening mistakes are a great learning experience for the future!
In the two short years since they graduated from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener training program, Jillian and Adam have become involved in nearly every aspect of the UCCE Master Gardener program. Wherever they see a need, their enthusiasm compels them to jump in and help. They are great presenters, and regularly present at UCCE Master Gardener events. I asked them how they got the courage to do their first gardening presentation. They told me they had not even graduated from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program yet, but presenters were needed to do County presentations. They saw that their help was needed and decided to just go for it!
Jillian shared with me that even though she had been a recruiter and instructor in the military, she does experience some anxiety before presenting. She stressed that giving presentations is more comfortable when she is offering a topic that she is passionate about, and that co-presenting with Adam gives her courage. Becoming involved in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, sharing gardening activities and interests with Adam and serving the community inspires and motivates her to take action.
Jillian and Adam presenting together at UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener class, "Healthy Soils."
Adam and Jillian teaching "Basics of Building Irrigation" at the Huerta del Valle New Farmer Training program.
Jillian and Adam are passionate and enthusiastic enough about gardening to do whatever it takes to achieve the mission and goals of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener. They stressed that having the support of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program as well as local community members who donate seeds to the Yucaipa seed library enables them to accomplish their goals. Gloriselda Garcia, manager of the Green Valley Senior Village Apartments, has been incredibly supportive of them. She has allowed them to run the community garden, facilitate the Yucaipa Community Garden Club, and set up the Yucaipa seed library at the site.
Thanks to the City of Yucaipa's donation of a plot at the Yucaipa Community Garden to Adam and Jillian, they have been able to conduct gardening classes and demonstrations on-site. They also regularly give gardening presentations at the City of Yucaipa Library and are grateful that the library allows the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs the use of their conference room for presentations. They're looking forward to being able to hold more classes and demonstrations when COVID 19 restrictions are lifted.
Yucaipa Community Garden at the Green Valley Village Senior Apartments, 34955 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa.
Adam and Jillian have a love of collecting seeds and sharing them with the public. Recently, they made a donation to the Yucaipa Community Foundation, who has joined with That's My Brick!® to raise money for the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center. Personalized pavers will be located on the pathway along the Uptown Park in front of the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center next to Yucaipa Boulevard.
Jillian and Adam's support will help enhance the quality of life for their community by investing in the education, development, and presentation of excellence in art. It seems fitting that their personalized paver will say, “Adam and Jillian - Love Starts with a Seed.”