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What motivated you to be a University of California Cooperative Extension San Bernardino County Master Gardener?
I first heard about the Master Gardener program on a camping trip. A family friend's mother was a “Master Gardener” in Northern California, and I remember thinking “what is that!?” and “how cool is that?!?!?!” After that initial introduction to the program, I started meeting more and more people who had been involved with the program and UC Cooperative Extension and I needed to find out more! At the time I was caring for my grandmother and had two really young kiddos at the house, so I didn't really think I too could become a Master Gardener, I just thought it was something that I could do “one day.” My grandma lived to be 100 and just after she passed that day came! I saw an ad in the newspaper highlighting the program and saying the application was open and I thought, let me just try, I might actually get in….and somehow felt it was a sign from my grandma that “now was the time!” I had always loved gardening and grew up in a family who gardened to get fresh veggies, gardened for beauty, gardened to support wildlife and who had gardened for therapy….it was in my blood! I would always notice plants as I would travel and hike and would always find myself answering gardening questions for my friends. I had no idea there was a program out there that encompassed all I loved about gardening and science and also was focused on giving back to the community. So when I did get accepted to the program I was over the moon, and when I attended my first class it was next level exciting!! I shed a few tears on my way home from that first class because it brought together all of my life experiences in a way that made sense. I had worked for a small company in Davis and raised insects, I had worked as a scuba dive guide and lived on a small island where people still really lived off the land, and I had spent many of my grandma's last years with her in the garden, seeing how through all the loss she experienced in life the garden kept her going and renewed her soul. These jobs and roles, that didn't seem to have anything in common all became important to my new role as “Master Gardener” trainee. All of my experiences and knowledge that seemed so random, now all found uses in the program, and it made me feel complete and I knew that I had found a home in the program as a volunteer.
What were some of the projects you enjoyed as a Master Gardener (and wish you still had time to do as the Program Coordinator)?.
I really enjoyed all aspects of volunteering for the Master Gardener program but found a real liking for working information tables and presenting. It was so cool to share gardening information with people and be able to help people trouble shoot their gardening issues, but beyond that see the spark in people's faces when they started talking about their backyards, or their herbs they had growing in the window, or the plant that their great aunt gave them. At information tables people who just be passing by and I would say “Do you like to garden?” and some people would say “Oh yes” and get excited right away and others, who were not sure what my angle was, would be a little more guarded, and say “Yes” or “Maybe I do but I have a black thumb” but as I would ask them a few more questions they, too, would get animated. It became abundantly clear that no matter someone's age, or background or economic status, that gardening was a common interest, and it was always a topic that sparked passionate responses in people. They may rave about their herbs or curse gophers, but either way they were all of the sudden animated and deeply engaged in the topic of gardening, and it energized me so each and every time I could I would work an event!
Another volunteer project that I was really interested in was to help spread the word about citrus greening disease. I grew up in a small citrus grove and have many memories of the sweet smell of blossoms and fresh fruit off the trees. When I found out how citrus in Florida had been so devastated by the disease, I wanted to know what I could do to help protect our citrus trees and the best thing I could do was educate the public! The Master Gardener program gave me the opportunity to really make a difference, and just like working at information tables and presenting I could see how people got so engaged when I started talking to them about the disease and they wanted to know more about what they could do! Without the Master Gardener program I felt like I was just one person trying to get the word out about protecting trees, but as part of a larger group of Master Gardeners we worked as a team to get information out and keep the public up to date.
Seed saving is also a topic near and dear to my heart, and starting our San Bernardino Regional Seed Library as part of the Master Gardener program was another one of my favorite volunteer activities! It's amazing to see a pea go from a hard little seed to a plant and then save seeds from it. It made me feel so much more accomplished as a gardener and also made me feel connected to thousands of years of humanity since growing and saving seeds is what we have done for generations. Sharing education on seed saving with the public as a Master Gardener is such an amazing experience because you can see someone begin to feel more self-sufficient and empowered when they learn and practice seed saving. The pandemic has also highlighted why seed saving can be such an important life skill for all of us to have, and knowing how to grow a seed brings someone one step closer to food security.
What motivated you to apply for the Master Gardener Coordinator position (we're so glad you did!)
When I became the Master Gardener Program Coordinator for the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, it took my love of the program to the next level. To watch our group of volunteers come into the program I could see the same life changing transformations going on in them that I recognized in myself. So many people talking about growing up in a family who gardens, or that had turned to gardening when they had losses or health issues. I could see that these groups of people, who on the surface seemed to have very little in common, end up having so much in common: their real love of gardening, their wanting to make the planet a better healthier place for generations to come and their drive to elevate the community. Every one of the Master Gardener volunteers in the program inspire me because here they are, working, raising families, caring for loved ones and, with all of that going on in their lives, they also want to make time to share what they know in their heart: that gardening, growing some of your own food, creating habitats for pollinators and wildlife and making sustainable gardening choices all lead to a sense of joy and fulfillment that I think only gardening and growing can bring.
Being a volunteer before I was the Coordinator really helped put me in the shoes of the volunteers. I knew what it was like to be nervous about an upcoming presentation; I knew what it was like to spend a Saturday working an event and what it was like to answer gardening questions (or say “That's a great question! Reach out to our helpline so we can do some research for you and get you an answer!”). I knew what could cause volunteers anxiety and also what parts of volunteering were so rewarding. This helps me coach them through their struggles, and also helps me remind them about how good it feels to help someone with a gardening question that they haven't been able to solve, or to do a presentation and see people get excited about gardening! Since I remember my first days of class and that feeling of all of my random jobs and experiences came together, I could also help volunteers who would not be sure if they were really up to the task of being an official “Master Gardener” see how their diverse experiences (that on the surface might not seem like assets to the program) were really part of the key to them successfully teaching and sharing gardening with the public.
Do applicants to the Master Gardener program need to have a strong background in gardening to be successful volunteers?
While having gardening experience is a great thing as a Master Gardener, it's really not the most important part of being a Master Gardener. Learning to garden well is a life long journey, so the Master Gardener program, with all of the training it offers, will help you grow your skills as a gardener, and teach you many different aspects of gardening. What volunteers really bring to the program is themselves. Their mish mash of life experiences, talents and interests. We have many volunteers who are great at organizing or program development and administration, so when trainees share their “non-gardening superpowers” we say “Great! we have jobs for you!!” We do lots of public facing events, presentations and demos, but without those behind the scenes folks it couldn't happen. We also have trainees who share how gardening helped them overcome loss or a serious health issue. For those folks we say “Great!” because they can show people how gardening can heal their heart and help them find joy and health in life. Then we have those folks who come into the Master Gardener program with a love of community and want to “be the change they want to see in the world,” and to those people…you guessed it…. we say “Great!” because that is one of the cores of our mission as Master Gardeners, to take peer reviewed research and information and get it out to the public in ways that can create positive and lasting outcomes for families and communities. We also have those people who have a skill level to present research and scientific topics in a way that makes it seem doable and relatable…..for those members of the public who think “I want to do that but it's too hard, or “I have a black thumb” we can help share vital information in a way that doesn't seem intimidating or out of their reach.
What are some non-gardening ways Master Gardeners impact people?
The UCCE Master Gardener program really brings in all aspects of humanity in a way that has such a positive outcome. We all need to eat, and wouldn't it be cool to know how to grow some of your own food? We all want to live on a healthy planet, so would it be great to know how we can make a difference in our yard or home for a healthier planet? We all experience anxiety and struggles and wouldn't it be great if there was a garden coach there to help those who are struggling see that the garden can heal them too? Well, that's what we are as Master Gardeners…….people who can help the community with all that! I always say “We are like batman waiting by the phone” to answer all of your questions about pests and watering and growing, and it seems kind of silly to say that….but really we are there for the public, waiting to support them in all of their gardening efforts, and ready to help them find success in their gardens!
`Last year we made an Earth Day video and my opening line was “I am proud to be part of a program that celebrates Earth Day everyday” and it's so true! For those of you out there considering reaching out to the Master Gardener program to ask your plant questions, but you think they might be silly questions, or you don't want to bother us, just know the only silly question is the one you don't ask! We are excited to help you with your growing and love a challenge, so no question is too basic or too complicated, so send an email! Also, for those of you considering applying to the Master Gardener program but aren't sure if its right for you, this is my advice: if the program seems interesting, then it's already right for you! The skills you don't have yet as a gardener you will develop in time, and seeing that spark in people who have shared something about their garden with you, or who have had gardening questions answered, is one of the most rewarding things I have experienced
Coming from the role of passionate Master Gardener volunteer into a leadership role has given me a unique perspective on what it takes to get projects in the community done, and what it takes to provide guidance for volunteers. First and foremost, having been a volunteer for several years makes me feel a deep appreciation for the commitment volunteers make to the training course to become a Master Gardener, and also the commitment it takes for volunteer's families to support those efforts. While we do what we can to make the class work with the students, it's still an 18 week course, and that's a definite time commitment! Once trainees finish the coursework, it takes some time to figure out how to “Master Garden!” While many of our Master Gardeners have been teaching their friends and families for years, it is a little different to lead gardening presentations and projects. And yet, despite all of the things Master Gardeners need to learn to teach and empower the community, our volunteers do it with pride and commitment. To say I am proud of our volunteers would be an understatement! The wealth of knowledge that they bring from their previous jobs and life experiences make their contributions unique and diverse. The volunteers in our county (and I'm sure other counties too!) show their heart and selfless dedication to improving the environment and the community every day and it is really remarkable to watch!
In San Bernardino County we are always listening to the needs of county residents and trying to see how we can help improve food security and environmental, physical and mental health through gardening. We have begun teaching monthly classes in Spanish to expand our outreach and look forward in the next few years to expanding beyond Spanish into other languages as well. We feel it is important that when you are learning you have access to information in the language you are most comfortable with. While many community members do speak English it's important that we meet them where they are comfortable so the learning can be most effective. We also try to encourage all interested members of the public who think it's a good fit to apply to the Master Gardener program so they can represent the communities they live in, and let us know how we can bring gardening in all its forms into their local neighborhoods. Representation matters and we want communities to see their fellow community members as gardeners and garden teachers so they can see themselves in their teachers.
What are some of your current passions to move the program to the next level?
My dream is to get gardens into every school in the county and to support community gardens that might one day be in every neighborhood. It has been wonderful to see the number of community gardens that have started going into the county during the pandemic and I hope this trend continues! Our Master Gardener volunteers are at the heart of our outreach, supporting our efforts behind the scenes to being the face of our program, and we also have our many community partners to thank as well. Our community partners include various County departments and Inland Empire Resource Conservation District. Other deeply valued partnerships are with the many water districts in the county, school districts, “Healthy Communities” initiative staff, city staff, teachers, principals, church leaders, parents, non-profit organizations, business leaders, farmers market managers and community members that connect us to projects they vision. We couldn't help people make all the positive changes and impacts made through the Master Gardener program without them!
I look forward to continuing to build relationships with our local communities throughout the county so that we can get everyone to grow a little of their own food, whether it be in small spaces or big; save resources and improve the environment though sustainable gardening practices; and have improved mental and physical health through gardening…..because I can tell you there is nothing better then poking around with my plants after a long and stressful day!! The relationship we can build with plants, the care we give them and the way they make us slow down and observe will make us better parents, better children, better community advocates and better community members over all! If you are able to get out and garden in anyway, I say “Go for it,” and if you need our support, our wonderful Master Gardener volunteers are here to help! Just email the helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org
Coordinators Corner: Getting to know your Sunset climate zone and growing space!
When we do presentations on growing fruit trees and vegetables and herbs, one of the first things we cover is how important it is to know your soil conditions and climate. Soil and climate are the also two things we ask gardeners about who contact us as Master Gardeners. These two things will help us determine what might be wrong with your tomatoes, your apple tree, or your lavender plants. Spending time to get to know your soil and climate will really help you understand where to place different plants, and also help you trouble shoot issues.
For more information on soils, register for our free Zoom class on April 26th ‘Getting to Know your Soils” http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/?calitem=502732&g=61974
UCANR Soil resources: https://ucanr.edu/sites/soils/Soils_for_Homes_-_Gardens/
Knowing your soil will help you determine how often and how long to water, how well your plants will grow in the location you put them in and also what types of plants will do best in your yard. Even if you are planting in pots, understanding the soil you use will help you keep your plants healthy and happy! For a quick rule of thumb about “how often should you water,” no matter what type of soil you have check the soil water retention before you add water. Dig down a little below the root zone and make sure it's as wet or dry as you think it is to avoid overwatering, a common cause of plant death in established plants (underwatering is a common cause of death for newly planted plants, that haven't established themselves yet).
Back to our climates! In California we encourage gardeners to use “Sunset” climate zones rather than “USDA” climate zones since Sunset zones focus on heat and other important factors rather than just how cold a given climate is. If you live in the mountains where you get really cold weather, either work well and it's useful to know the estimated “last frost date.” For gardeners living in the deserts and valleys the Sunset zones better reflect the weather conditions we have here in California and the different factors that influence proper selection and care.
Why does knowing your climate zones matter? Weather patterns in your area are a determiner of what species of edibles and ornamentals are suitable and can save you time and money having to start over if the wrong species are selected.
San Bernardino County alone covers at least 5 Sunset zones:
7: Lake Arrowhead
18: Chino, Ontario, Redlands
19: Upland, Montclair
These zones can be found at: https://www.sunsetwesterngardencollection.com/climate-zones/
What do these zones tell you about the area you are growing in? These zones look at factors like time of the year of rainfall, summer and winter temperatures, and also factor in things like the temperature of continental air flow. Climate zones also help you determine when you can start planting your summer edible garden and what is the best month to plant things like native plants. One other factor you should know about if you are growing fruit trees is how many “chill hours” you get in your area. While Sunset zones help you determine your growing climate, chill hours are not reflected in the zone. The number of hours you get will help you determine what types of fruit trees will do well in your area. For “chill hour” calculators check out this website: http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/Weather_Services/Chill_Calculators/
Beyond knowing your Sunset zone and chill hours in your area, there is still more to know about your growing space to really maximize your gardening experience. It is good to spend some time to get to know your microclimates. Microclimates in your yard are affected by some of the following, just to name a few: sun exposure (is your garden or space getting morning sun or afternoon sun?); wind movement through your property; radiating heat from buildings, roads/driveways and types of material used for ground cover; low spots in your yard that might allow cold to settle, and more. In my yard I have fuchsias growing in one area and a few dozen feet away I have cactus growing. By taking advantage of slightly different microclimates I am able to grow a more varied selection of plants in a small space. You do not need a big yard to have microclimates! Your porch will have different microclimates depending on which side of the porch your plants are on, getting the morning or the afternoon sun, or none at all if it's facing north for example. Your house even has different microclimates, with different sun exposure at different times of day, and different airflow depending on where your heating and cooling vents are located.
Lastly try to “hydrozone” your plants by placing your plants in groupings according to their water needs for accurate irrigation and water savings. Hydrozoning for plants in the ground can make a huge difference in the survival and success of the plants so that some don't end up overwatered and some underwatered (examples: fruit trees in a lawn, or roses with native plants). This technique also helps with potted plants as well, since groups of pots with similar water needs can be on a similar watering schedule. One note about hydrozoning: newly planted plants will need more frequent watering than their established plant buddies in a hydrozoned area. If you have a native garden with established buckwheat, and you plant a new buckwheat, remember that the newly planted buckwheat will need more water to get established then the other plants that may have been there for a few years. Supplement water applied through your irrigation system with regular waterings with a hose or watering can the first season. While that new buckwheat is properly hydrozoned, it will just have different water needs for its first season.
These many microclimates and hyrdozones can seem overwhelming, but once you get to know them you can use them to your advantage by finding “just the right spot” for your plants! When I have visited amazing home, or public botanic gardens, one of the things that makes them amazing is that they utilize microclimates to find spots around their growing space that will be well suited for their plant selections. With a little research on the needs/likes of your desired plants, and a little time getting to know your yard you can find the perfect match for the things you want to grow…..and the Master Gardeners are always here for you to answer your plant questions, and through questions we can ask, help you find the right plants for your yard! Send us an email at email@example.com, or visit our online “Ask a Master Gardener' times!
It feels like spring is here! It might not stay, as we sometimes have a few false starts here in So Cal, but the birds are singing, the trees are sending out blooms and summer veggies are getting seeded and about ready to be transplanted. Things always seem so much easier in the garden in the spring. The weather is mostly on our side, with a few hot or cold days, but usually nothing really extreme. We have the hope of periodic rain to help our plants along so we are not alone in watering, getting a little help from nature. While many pests that have slowed down in the cooler months are just emerging and starting planning their takeovers in our garden, optimism is high! We have grand plans for successful vegetable and herb gardens.
Here are a few tips to help turn your grand plans into successful gardens:
1) Keep it reasonable (or don't, just be prepared): In the spring, with weather on our side and soooo many seeds coming in one packet, it's easy to get a garden going that might be bigger than you want to maintain in the summer. Big expansive gardens can be great! Just make sure that for each crop you plant, you think about the water, shade, space, and protection the plants will need in the summer, and what to do with any extra produce!
2) Keep your garden close to a water source: Be sure your garden is set up so you have easy access to water. While it might not need very much supplemental water now, inconsistent watering can cause fruit and veggie bitterness and fruit split. Make sure you plan ahead to supply water through an irrigation system or with a hose or, for smaller gardens, a watering can, keeping in mind that your plants can need about three times the water in the heat of summer than in early spring.
3) Check early and often for pests and diseases: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a pest management approach that combines several “best practices” with the use of pesticides as a last resort. These practices include: Proper identification of your pest (and the damage they can cause); early monitoring and detection before populations or disease are widespread; and treatment that is based on your pest or diseases life cycle and behavior to get a treatment that is effective and also reduces harm to non-target animals and plants. When IPM techniques are used, many problems in your landscape and garden can be avoided before harmful chemicals are needed. In practical terms: check for things like aphids, earwigs and blight often so that you can catch the infestation early and only need to treat or manage a small outbreak; make sure when you see a bug that it was the bug that actually did the damage to your plant, or find out if it's a pest that doesn't cause much harm and can be left alone. (It may actually be a beneficial insect since there are more of those in our gardens than actual insect pests.) If you see a weed, pull it out before it becomes a huge pest in your garden. Keeping your plants weed free keeps them from competing with other plants for nutrients and water, and keeping weeds out early helps keep them from taking over your yard!
4) A great resource for all things IPM is: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html
Another great resource is the UC IPM diagnostic tool where you can go to trouble shoot your pest problems: https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu Don't forget that our Master Gardener helpline is also here to help you trouble shoot all of your pest problems too!
5) Use “best practices” when caring for your plants: Part of a successful integrated pest management strategy is to keep your plants healthy and well cared for. Just like when we exercise, eat right and get enough water and rest to avoid getting sick, we can do the same for our plants. Start by adding generous amounts of organic matter (compost is great!) into your garden soil, mixing it at least 6 inches deep for non-root crops and a foot or deeper for potatoes, carrots, and other root crops. Overwatering is one of the main causes of mature plant failure and underwatering is one of the major causes of newly established plant failures (including recently planted vegetable seeds and transplants). Both overwatering and underwatering put extra stress on plants and makes them vulnerable to pests. Also, apply the right amount of fertilizer. Both too little and too much impact the health and production of vegetables. Applying mulch on top of the soil around your vegetables is another best practice that can buffer soil temperatures and keep spring weeds from germinating in your garden.
6) Keep an open mind and learn from your struggles! Gardening can be so rewarding when you sit down to eat your first summer tomato (if it even makes it into the house) or can be so frustrating when you go to pick your first tomato and you find it's hollowed out on the back side!! Arggggg! It's important to remember that gardening is a journey not a destination and all of the best gardeners will tell you they learned more from their failures than their successes. When things aren't going right in your garden, don't be shy to reach out to your local Master Gardener helpline and let us help you (firstname.lastname@example.org)! The sooner you reach out to us to have us help troubleshoot your challenges, the more likely it is that the problem can be resolved without total loss of your plant or crop…..and don't be shy, the only silly question is the one you don't ask, and the Master Gardeners loooove a gardening mystery or challenge!
Right plant, right place, right time: That is what we learn early when we go through our Master Gardener training program to become volunteers. The right plant (meaning it's well suited for your climate and the microclimate that you are planting it in at your house) put in the right place (given the right amount of sun or shade as needed, placed in a soil that it is suited for, placed in a place where it can grow to the height it needs, etc.) and planted at the right time (e.g. warm vs. cool season veggies) will be a plant that is healthy and productive!
With these tips, and regular “check in's” with your garden, you are well on your way to taking your spring dreams into summer success.
If you need more help with your vegetable garden, check out our ABC's of School and Community Garden Workshop on March 13th where we will go over our new veggie guide: From Asparagus to Zucchini for all the San Bernardino County climates! Register here for this free Zoom class: http://ucanr.edu/u.cfm?id=265
Remember that the Master Gardeners are here to support you along the way with free online gardening classes, our monthly “Ask a Master Gardener” time, and our helpline!
Interested in developing or participating in the school and community food garden movement? Want to learn more about the benefits of these gardens and how to get started? Or find gardens already up and running to link to? What about accessing our new UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County ‘From Asparagus to Zucchini Guide' which includes tips for growing bumper crops of nutritious vegetables in all parts of San Bernardino County. You're in luck! Register today for the ‘ABC's of School and Community Garden' workshop via Zoom on Saturday, March 13, from 9am – 4pm: http://ucanr.edu/u.cfm?id=265
The ‘ABC's of School and Community Gardens' workshop will highlight how to create and sustain successful school and community gardens, with presentations by UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and other horticulturists from all geographical areas of the county. Learn from experienced gardeners what works and what doesn't. Resources from the Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver volunteer programs will be shared and you will be able to connect with local partners who are here to support your success. This is a participatory workshop! We will have breakout sessions where you can share your experiences and learn from others involved in school and community gardens in all areas of the county from the valleys (Montclair to Yucaipa and Chino Hills to Rancho Cucamonga and Highland!) as well as mountain and high desert regions.
With our “ABC's of School and Community Garden” workshop and our local growing guide in mind, and spring almost here I can hardly contain my excitement to get outdoors and get into the garden! In most parts of Southern California we can garden year round, growing delicious and nutritious cool season vegetables in the winter and great fruits and vegetables in the summer. But spring is still a special time of year, where the sky's the limit on what we can grow and plant and everything outside seems new and fresh! Each year many home gardeners start out with excitement and with a little planning and support your excitement can turn into success! In addition to our regular free online classes we offer each month, we will be offering extra classes to help you get your summer growing off to a great start! We are hosting several free online workshops on transplanting and seed starting, giving you tips on soil and seed/plant selection, and helping you get your soil just right to produce a bumper crop. Also, don't forget we will be there to troubleshoot your seed and transplant challenges with you through our “Ask a Master Gardener” times and email and telephone helpline, being sure to also provide support for those gardening and landscaping in the deserts and mountains, where timing and conditions make growing a little different than in the valley. We are now offering several of our classes in Spanish so that we can continue to support our diverse community of gardeners. Check out our online classes at http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/, and reach out to our San Bernardino County Master Gardener Helpline with all of your growing questions by phone: 909-387-2182 or email: email@example.com
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!