I love research results that can be applied to everyday life and wanted to pass along a couple of tidbits. Did you know that playing in the dirt (e.g. what adults call 'gardening') and getting your hands dirty can boost your serotonin levels, producing a feeling of calmness and increasing your happiness? This is because many soils contain a bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which triggers this 'feel good' response. But the benefits don't stop there. Serotonin can also boost one's immune system which is a welcome outcome during flu season.
Another very interesting finding is that harvesting the fruits of your gardening labor, whether it be tomatoes or squash or even Brussels sprouts, can increase dopamine levels in your brain. This chemical rush results in mild euphoria. Researchers have even documented that just plucking an eggplant off a grocer's shelf can mimic this response. Evolutionary biologists are not at all surprised, attributing the more 'modern day' response to the onslaught of rural populations to cities and urban areas where fewer people actually grow their own food.
Have you ever heard of the term 'biophilia'? It was coined by Dr. Edwin O. Wilson, an entomologist studying the social behavior of ants and suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. I look forward to the day when there is adequate evidence that I can blog that biophilia is a fact rather than a theory! I do believe living things prosper together.
And, it's no wonder that school gardens are becoming so popular. K-12 students who engage in gardening are found to have greater self esteem, lower rates of depression and anxiety, improved social skills, a greater sense of cohesiveness and belonging, a lower body mass index and healthier diets. In many cases students engaged in gardening activities that are directly connected to mastering core subject matter even earn higher grades and perform better on standardized tests.
What does all of this have to do with our University of California Cooperative Extension programs in San Bernardino County? Our Master Gardeners, Master Food Preservers, Expanded Food and Nutrition (EFNEP) educators and 4-H members have banded together across professional disciplines to promote school gardens and healthy diets in several locations. As they say, a picture paints 1,000 words. You decide! I bet you can't help but smile (which is also good for your health) at the success of these events for both the students and the staff!
I'd like to extend a warm welcome to the 56 newly accepted trainees in our UC Cooperative Extension San Bernardino County Master Gardener class that starts Tuesday, October 1st in Loma Linda. We are excited to meet and greet those of you taking the class in person as well as our online desert and mountain students. The first evening we will go over the syllabus outlining the subject matter we'll be covering over the next 18 weeks, distribute training materials, and discuss expectations. Our team is here to help you navigate the volunteer management system (VMS), become familiar with events and activities current Master Gardeners are involved in, and - most of all - to help guide you and to address questions and any concerns you have along the way.
Thank you for choosing to become a UC Master Gardener volunteer. We look forward to helping you help your community save water and reduce the impacts of urban heat islands through the incorporation of drought-resistant sustainable landscaping; enhance food security and health by expanding home, school, and community food gardens; and enhance the health, well-being and sense of community by promoting an appreciation of nature and outdoor activities.
I also want to assure you that both the midterm and final exam are intended to help you help the public, not memorize endless facts and figures with little practical value. Therefore both exams are open book, open notes. Our main goal educationally during the class is to familiarize you with credible UC ANR resources to enable you to provide accurate information to the public. Topics include the selection and care of fruits, vegetables, and landscape plants; integrated pest management stressing prevention; soil/water relations and irrigation to maximize plant health and minimize water waste; sustainable food systems; plant propagation; prevention and control of weeds and invasive plants; helping mitigate the impacts of climate-change with well placed trees; and more.
Main contacts for the UCCE Master Gardener Program of San Bernardino County:
Master Gardener Coordinator: Maggie O'Neill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Office/Promotion Manager: Robin Rowe (email@example.com)
See you Tuesday!
Janet Hartin, UCCE Area Environmental Horticulture Advisor (San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles Counties), Master Gardener Manager (San Bernardino and Riverside Counties), UCCE County Co-Director (San Bernardino County)
European Flower Boxes Provide Beauty and a Welcoming Ambiance. Many European countries pride themselves on colorful displays of geraniums, ivy, and other flowers adorning window planters of hotels, restaurants, and even train stations. I had always marveled at their use, particularly by Austrians and Germans whose love of these colorful planters seems equal to their affinity for weiner schnitzel. What a surprise to find them plentiful in Ireland, as well! As I strolled through picturesque cities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland the last few days, I noted the great care that both shopkeepers and plant care companies exercise in tending these lovely and delicate works of art. I walked by the same restaurant one morning and again in the late afternoon to find the same two horticulturists tediously fussing over a dozen or so planters sporting bright hues of blues, yellows, and reds with over twelve varieties of annuals. With plentiful natural rainfall, most are not on irrigation systems which reduces maintenance costs and time. I asked ‘Carol' (one of the crew) what she liked most about her job and she quickly answered “seeing smiles on so many faces from just seeing the flowers”. Well said! I hope these photos help brighten your day as well.
Forget the ‘Boom Box': Here's How to Create your Own ‘Bloom Box'.
1. Select a location where you can truly enjoy the fruits of your labor.
2. Select a box that has drainage holes and line wooden boxes with plastic (punch holes to match drainage holes) to prevent chemical leakage from certain types of wood.
3. Draw a rough sketch of what you hope your final box will resemble once mature.
4. Select annuals that won't outgrow the space and that tolerate the sunny or shady microclimate and that require similar amounts of water (eases hand-watering).
5. Select plants with a wide array of colors and forms. Adding trailing varieties with upright plants enhances the beauty and adds interest.
6. Fill the planter box half-way with loose garden soil or compost. An alternative is to use potting soil. Avoid heavy soils with poor drainage. Moisten the soil until it resembles a well rung-out sponge.
7. Take one last look before you plant by carefully setting your plants on top of the soil. Consider the final size of the mature plants to avoid overplanting.
8. Once you're satisfied with your design, plant your selections at the same depth they were in their pots, gently tamping the soil around them for support.
9. Thoroughly water in the plants, making sure water drains through the holes.
10. Water as often as needed the first few weeks after planting since container boxes dry out faster than garden plants. The frequency of irrigation can decrease as plants mature.
11. Hand-weed and apply fertilizer as needed.
12. Pinch back annuals to encourage lateral growth; remove dead leaves and flowers.
13. Take time from your busy day to enjoy the display!
Way to Go Maggie!
UCCE Master Gardener Coordinator for San Bernardino County Maggie O'Neil received a much deserved Certificate of Recognition from San Bernardino County Supervisor Dawn Rowe at the April 16, 2019 Farm Bureau meeting. Supervisor Rowe's Chief of Staff Gayle Covey (left) is pictured below with Maggie.