Why did you decide to apply to the UCCE Master Gardener program in San Bernardino County?
I decided to become a UCCE Master Gardener because I was interested in improving my knowledge in pesticide -free food production. I had been growing vegetables and fruit trees but a lot of experimentation and trial-and-error was involved. The UCCE Master Gardener program provides researched based gardening information and training that MGs can then share with diverse communities in a variety of settings.
Tell us about the “climate-ready” landscape tree mulch/no mulch research project you've led for the past several years.
As of February of 2019, I meet up with a group of several UCCE Master Gardeners to measure tree trunk circumference as part of a citizen-science project. The trees for this climate-ready tree study are located at the Chino Basin Water
Note from UCCE Lead Researcher Janet Hartin: Irene and her team (MGs Wayne Borders, Christian Ordaz, Roger Lai, Esther Martinez, Judy Scott, Debi Adams and Kit Leung) have played a critical role in identifying the impacts of mulch vs no mulch on drought, heat, and pest resistant trees that stand up to the challenges of climate change. Properly selected and cared for landscape trees cool urban heat islands, provide shade and habitat, and - at maturity - absorb and store carbon produced by the burning of fossil fuels. The four species of trees (‘Bubba' desert willow, ‘Maverick' mesquite, ‘Red Push' pistache, and ‘Desert Museum' palo verde) included in this project were selected from a larger project at UC Riverside due to our interest in determining the impacts of mulch on tree growth and development and water conservation due to less soil evaporation. Irene's team has meticulously taken quarterly data on tree circumference at two heights and photographed the trees throughout the project.This is just another example of how UCCE Master Gardeners help UCCE's mission to develop
I would tell a San Bernardino resident interested in becoming a MG to apply to the program. They will find that the decision to learn further about gardening and sustainable landscaping will not only enrich their own life but also that of those they share the information with. They will also likely make new friends with others who are also passionate about nature.