- Author: Anne Schellman
Are you interested in helping others and giving back to your community? Do you have a passion for gardening and volunteering? The Stanislaus County* UC Master Gardener Program is accepting applications for 2024.
Who are the UC Master Gardeners?
Master Gardeners are volunteers from the community that are trained to help answer questions about gardening and pest management and to promote sustainable landscaping. Watch this short video from the Coordinator, Anne Schellman, about what it takes to be a Master Gardener.
How are UC Master Gardeners Trained?
Classes are taught by University of California experts on water management, soils and fertilizers, ornamental and drought tolerant plants, landscape tree care, vegetable and fruit tree care, pest management, and more. Each session is approximately 5 hours long. The 2024 training program will be held weekly from January through early May (18 weeks).
Program requirements include weekly reading and quizzes, and an open book a final exam. Collaboration on assignments is encouraged, and trainees are provided any needed assistance by Master Gardener mentors.
How Can I Apply to Become a UC Master Gardener Trainee?
Visit Become a UCCE Master Gardener website page to read more and fill out an online application before August 18.
*You must be a Stanislaus County resident to apply. For other county programs, visit http://mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs/
Precautions and Harvesting Review
A reminder: before consuming edible flowers, one should always proceed with caution. The flowers should come only from your garden or other trusted sources that have not been sprayed with pesticides. Many flowers share common names, so always look for the scientific name (genus and species) to ensure you have the right flowers, since not all flowers are edible.
Harvest fully opened flowers in the morning right after the dew has dried. Carefully wash them, and as needed remove the stamens, styles, pistils, and sepals (the parts that hold the pollen and the green stems that hold petals together). Use as soon as possible for maximum flavor.
Edible Flowers from Fruits & Vegetables
- Squash flowers are often used in Mexican and Latin American cuisine. Use male flowers that have been removed after pollination. They can be stuffed with a variety of foods, and fried or baked as appetizers and side dishes. In addition to being delicious, they look stunning.
- Pea flowers: Rather than letting some flowers become pea pods, pick a few of these flowers to add a mild pea flavor to a salad.
- Onion/Chive flowers are grown primarily for their bulbs or stems. However, the flowers, along with other parts of the plants from this family have a mild garlic or onion flavor that works well in a range of recipes. Some varieties can remain green all year, thus providing a year-round source of flavor for salads, soups, etc.
- Elderflowers are one of the most common examples of edible flowers and are used in a wide range of drinks such as elderflower cordial or syrups.
- Cherry blossoms are also edible from fruiting cherry trees. They are often an ingredient in Japanese cuisine. They can be pickled in salt and vinegar.
- The blossoms from fruiting plums, peach, citrus, and apple trees, and almond trees are also sometimes eaten, but are generally used as garnish or decoration.
Don't Forget Flowers from “Weeds!”
- Dandelion leaves and green ends of the flowers are bitter, while the petals and stamen have a mildly sweet flavor. Like elderberry, dandelion flowers can be used to make cordials or syrups.
- The daisies you might find all over your lawn have little flowers that can be eaten in salads or sandwiches.
- Clover flowers, both the white and red varieties, are both suitable for eating. The red flowers are the most flavorful and can be used in teas, syrups and a range of desserts.
As the two articles from last week and this week on edible flowers show, there is an incredible array of flowers you can choose from to expand your meals, desserts, and decorate your plates. Your local library is a good source for books for ideas, preparation, and recipes. I'm looking forward to collecting summer squash flowers from our vegetable garden, stuffing them, and grilling them!
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a Stanislaus County Master Gardener since 2020./h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
- Author: Skylar Peters
February is a great time to start preparing for your spring and summer vegetable garden, especially if you want to get a head start on the growing season. According to the California Master Gardener Handbook, growing your own transplants from seed indoors can extend your garden season by several weeks, reduce your gardening cost and allow you to grow a more diverse variety of crops.
Growing from seed is not only fun, but it can also save you money. When stored properly a typical seed packet can last several years. Seeds should be started indoors or in an outdoor hot box or cold frame. Start growing the seeds 6-8 weeks before the date you would like to transplant them and when the threat of frost has passed.
Another benefit of growing vegetables from seed is the wide selection of varieties available from seed catalogs. Growing different varieties is important for an extended harvest and to find plants that grow well in your area. Vegetable plants sold in seedling form are generally available in only one or a few varieties. Plants typically started by seeds indoors include broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, parsley, tomatoes and peppers. Seeds typically started in the ground include beans, beets, carrots, peas and turnips.
What do you need to get started?
- Soil mix - The soil media you choose should be fine textured, uniform and airy. Do not use garden soil. It is usually too heavy and often may have disease-causing organisms. A commercial potting mix suited to starting seeds will work well. Fill your growing containers about 2/3 full.
- Containers - You can start seeds in almost any container that has drainage holes. Sterilize recycled containers in a 1:9 bleach to water solution, rinse them well and let them air dry prior to use.
- A location with proper light and temperature - A sunny window is usually the perfect spot as it has strong but indirect sunlight. Seed packages should instruct you on sunlight needs. Additionally, keep your seedlings in an area that stays between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and 55-60 degrees at night.
- Quality Seeds – Only plant seeds from a reputable source. Check your seed packets to ensure your seeds have not expired, and that you are planting them at the right time of year. You can also check for seed viability.
- Water – It is crucial to provide seeds with consistent watering. Seeds and seedlings must be kept evenly moist to thrive.
Steps to starting your vegetable garden indoors
- It is important to follow the instructions on your seed packet. Refer to the seed packet for the proper planting depth, plant spacing, and days to maturity.
- Once you have planted your seeds, water them and continue to do so consistently. The goal is to keep the soil evenly moist but not overly wet.
- Two weeks before transplanting, or when your plants are two to four inches tall, expose them to outdoor temperatures to acclimate them. Do this by leaving them outside in a shady spot during the day for a week, and bringing them inside at night. The following week, leave them outside in their containers during the day and at night, gradually exposing them to more sunlight. This process is referred to as hardening off.
- Transplant your vegetables into the garden, planting them at their original depth. Tomatoes can be an exception to this rule however, so consider this tutorial before planting tomato seedlings. Be sure to handle seedlings with care.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program
Have a seed starting or home vegetable gardening question? UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help. Click here to Find a Program and connect with your local UC Master Gardener Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE. Happy gardening!
Participants will receive free carrot and cilantro seed packets!
Tues, 2/7 at 6:00 p.m. – Salida Library
Wed, 2/8 at 2:30 p.m. – Patterson Library
Sat, 2/11 at 2:00 p.m. – Riverbank Library
Mon, 2/13 at 6:00 p.m. – Ceres Library
Tues, 2/14 at 6:00 p.m. – Oakdale Library
Sat, 2/18 at 2:00 p.m. – Empire Library
Wed, 2/22 at 6:00 p.m. – Turlock Library
Mon, 2/27 at 5:30 p.m. – Modesto Library
Don't see your local library on our list? Contact them to request our classes.
Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubs usually have an easier time getting through the winter if they are in good shape. However, if a freeze is forecasted, one of the most important things to do is to ensure they have been watered 2-3 days prior, especially if autumn has been dry. As with perennials, mulching with fallen leaves or other mulch will help protect the roots, but do not have mulch up against the tree trunk or plant stem, which could cause rot to occur.
Wrapping trunks of young trees with blankets, towels or piping insulation will provide added protection.
Wait until after the first frost, then gently dig up the bulbs or tubers. Cut away any leaves and brush off as much soil as possible. Let them dry out in a cool spot for about a week. Label them so you'll remember what they are! Pack them in a breathable box, such as a cardboard box, storing the bulbs so they don't touch each other, and cover them in sawdust or shredded newspapers. Keep them in a cool, dark location that is below 45°F, but doesn't freeze.
Citrus plants can be protected by frost cloths which allow some light and air to penetrate and can stay on plants for a few days at a time. They can also lay directly on plant foliage. If you use other type of cloth such as burlap or cotton sheets, use stakes to hold the cloth away from the plant greenery. Remove it during daytime when temperatures are above freezing and sunny, and replace it each night prior to sunset. Whatever cloth you use, make sure the cloth goes all the way to the ground to capture radiant heat from the ground. If there is mulch around the plant, rake away during the day, if above freezing and sunny, to allow the soil to warm up.
Some roses are more sensitive to cold than others. As a group, hybrid tea roses are the most vulnerable. Make sure they are watered prior to predicted freezing temperatures, protect the root zone with mulch on the soil mound. You may also wish to cover your sensitive roses with frost cloths.
What do do if frost damages your plants? Wait!
Frost damage occurs when the water inside the cells of a plant freeze, causing damage to the cellular walls, which harms the overall health of the plant. Frost damaged vegetation will wilt, turning brown or black, as if they have been scorched. The bark may crack, or split. In severe or prolonged periods of frost the plant can die.
If you see what appears to be frost damage, wait until late spring until all chance of frost has passed. Plants are resilient and can often recover on its own, producing new growth. Pruning what seems to be damaged branches too soon can cause significantly more trauma, even death, to a vulnerable plant that might otherwise have recovered in the spring.
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020.