- Author: Marisa A Coyne
The UC Master Gardener Program is well known for its volunteers' prolific extension of home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management to California residents. At times behind the scenes and at other times front and center, UC Master Gardener Program Coordinators and lead volunteers work diligently to ensure that volunteer cohorts have the skills and resources they need to succeed.
Last month UC Master Gardener statewide staff, program coordinators, and volunteer leaders gathered for their annual coordinator meeting. This year the annual coordinator meeting included two packed days full of training, sharing, and enrichment centered on volunteer engagement.
Volunteer engagement is an approach to volunteer leadership that attempts to support volunteers throughout the volunteer lifecycle – from identification and selection through orientation and training to program recognition and evaluation. Presenters delivered informative presentations focusing on generation-informed approaches to volunteer engagement, best practices in adult and land-based learning, program evaluation, communication with government officials, and new resources.
The group re-convened bright and early the next day for a presentation by UC Davis Student Farm Associate Director, Carol Hillhouse. Drawing on her 30-year career in outdoor experiential learning with UC, Hillhouse outlined eight best practices for adult and land-based learning. “Adults come to education experiences with prior knowledge and with expectations,” said Hillhouse. “Successful volunteer engagement includes the acknowledgement and application of prior knowledge and an ability to meet adult learning goals.”
Next, Melissa Womack, Statewide Marketing and Communications Coordinator and Tamekia Wilkins, Statewide Evaluation Coordinator, led the group through an activity designed to help folks share program evaluation data using storytelling and data. As daily communication moves increasingly online, networks like Twitter and Facebook create opportunities for sharing impact with community members and community leaders.
A list of coordinators can be found the UC Master Gardener Program website. Note: Some counties do not have UCCE staff coordinators. In these cases, UCCE Advisors or County Directors are listed as the lead contact per UC ANR policy.
Thank you to all who attended and presented at this year's coordinator meeting!
- Author: Lauren Snowden
It may seem odd to see seventy-five people at a hotel conference center learning about insects and rats on vegetables, but not if you are a UC Master Gardener. The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) in partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program just wrapped up the Vegetable Pests and Solutions train-the-trainer series. More than 340 UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state took part in the regional trainings offered in Fresno, Orange, Placer, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma counties.
The advanced UC IPM training offered a hands-on, train-the-trainer experience that increased participants' knowledge of insect pests of vegetables, vegetable plant diseases and disorders, and vertebrate pests of gardens and homes. One of the highlights of the training was Human-Wildlife Interaction Advisor, Niamh Quinn, showing a taxidermy collection of vertebrate pests at the Orange and San Luis Obispo County workshops. Being able to handle and observe the different markings, colors and claws on certain animals makes future identification easier as participants learned the signs to look for when identifying vertebrate pest damage in the vegetable garden.
UC Master Gardener volunteers were lead through exercises that mimic questions commonly received from the public. Some of the questions had a photo, others just a sparse description that volunteers worked together to solve using online IPM resources and materials provided at the training. The exercises were designed to challenge and expose the learner to different types of scenarios and tools they can use in the future.
Outreach and Education
The UC Master Gardener Program's mission is to extend research-based information, by attending advanced trainings such as this, volunteers are even more prepared to contribute to the program's mission. With exposure and practice using new resources and materials training attendees have the tools and knowledge needed to educate the public on vegetable pests and solutions including scripted PowerPoints, activities, handouts, and vegetable pest identification card sets. One attendee reported “As a first year UC Master Gardener, this training helped me become more comfortable and more confident researching answers for pest management questions.”
At the conclusion of the training volunteers convened with their fellow county volunteers to talk about their plans to take new found knowledge back into their communities. Some of the great ideas generated were:
- offer seasonal pest problems workshops
- include a “Need Help Solving Pest Problems?” flier for all events
- add IPM tips to newsletters and social media
- integrate IPM into presentations as appropriate or relevant to topic
- add signage for damaged or diseased plants with IPM solutions in demonstration gardens
- share IPM toolkit at farmers markets and demo garden events
How We are Making a Difference
One portion of the agenda was focused on how the UC Master Gardener community is making a difference. With 6,000+ volunteers serving more than 517,000 Californians per year the impact of the UC Master Gardener volunteer effort is truly amazing. Through statewide program evaluation efforts the impact in sustainable landscaping, food gardening and community well-being is now being analyzed and reported in the programs annual report. Volunteers can see the impact they are having statewide and be proud of being part of a group that social changes they are seeing in their local communities.
As active volunteers and life-long learners UC Master Gardeners are a powerful educational tool and inspiration for others not only in the garden but in the volunteer community. Statewide educational offerings like UC IPM's train-the-trainer series help hone the diagnostics skills while building confidence in the subject matter.
The next statewide training opportunity for UC Master Gardener volunteers will be the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference, Sept. 28 –Oct. 2, 2020 at the Granlibakken, Tahoe. The conference is the beginning planning stages and taking speaker and topic suggestions, click here to suggest a speaker or topic.
- Author: Donna Navarro Valadez
“Be very afraid…….Be deathly afraid,” of these very spooky garden inhabitants for Halloween!
When you think of Halloween, the first things that come to mind are ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and other spooky creatures. Did you know that spooky fungi and plants can also be lurking in your garden? Creepy fungi and plants exist, and are the perfect opportunity to put the scare into your landscape.
If you're trying to conjure up a terrifying garden or create a truly inspired spine-chilling floral display for Halloween, you may want to include one or two of these frightening garden dwellers. Read on at your own risk!
Bleeding tooth fungus or ‘devil's tooth'
Scientifically known as Hydellum peckii, bleeding tooth is a fungus. This fungus gets its name from the thick red fluid that oozes through tiny pores across the white cap, generating the appearance of blood. The red gooey sap is the result of guttation, a process that occurs in moist conditions where excess root pressure forces water out of the plant or fungus. This mushroom can be spotted in America's Pacific Northwest and in Europe. It is typically present among moss and pine needles in coniferous forests. Despite its ghastly appearance, the mushroom is not toxic, but also not recommended for consumption. Bleeding tooth fungus contains atromentin, a chemical which has effective antibacterial and anticoagulant properties like heparin (prevents formation of blood clots). Not only is the mushroom used medically, the ruby red like goo is also used in textiles to produce colorful pigments.
Scientifically known as Monotropa uniflora, this plant is a perennial wildflower in the blueberry family. The entire plant is translucent, often appearing almost “ghostly” white. The “ghostly” white droopy flowers of the plant resemble spooky white figures found in dark, chilling underground crypts. This plant is found throughout the United States in deep, shady, rich woods at low to moderate elevations. Ghost plant is parasitic; it feeds on other organisms. These flowering plants don't photosynthesize, meaning they don't need light to grow. In fact, the ghost plant can actually grow in the dark, making for a truly frightful night.
Scientifically known as Dionaea muscipula, Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant. This particular plant may remind you of the famous movie Little Shop of Horrors. “Feed me, Seymour”, is a quote you may remember. The Venus flytrap is a predator in the plant world. It has several small, tooth-like structures that serve as a “mouth”. This “mouth” closes around unsuspecting insects that the plant has lured in. Once the insect is caught, the plant emits enzymes that slowly digests the bugs. What remains is a brittle figure of appendages and the exoskeleton of the insect. The nutrients extracted, specifically nitrogen, are then absorbed into the plant. This nitrogen assists in the plants' survival in unfriendly environments. This carnivorous plant is native to North America, mostly found in subtropical wetlands in North and South Carolina. Because of its “alien” like appearance, the Venus flytrap would make for a petrifying addition in any home.
Scientifically known as Mammillaria elongata ‘Cristata', this cactus is a popular houseplant or outdoor specimen plant (in warmer climates). This gruesome looking plant has unusual development patterns because when it grows it appears to look like a zombies favorite treat, the human brain. An interesting fact about this cactus is how the shape occurs. The brain cactus is a mutant form of a cactus that is supposed to grow straight finger-like formations. Cristata's mutation creates a crested appearance for the plant and cause the pads of the plant to twist. Brain cactus is native to Central Mexico, they grow in rocky outcroppings and between crevasses.
As you can see, fungi and plants do some pretty creepy things! They do anything from oozing blood-like fluid, growing in the dark, devouring unsuspecting insects, to looking like human brains. Whether or not Halloween costumes are your thing, there is still an opportunity to get your scare on this Halloween season. Conjuring up a display of any of these garden dwellers will definitely bring some spine chilling reactions.
Have a wonderful, safe, and spooky Halloween!
- Author: Marisa Coyne
At first glance, the Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden, tucked up against the banks of the Arroyo Corte Madera del Presidio creek in southern Marin County, looks like any tidy, well-maintained community garden. Inside the garden gate however, the diligent gardeners working amongst the spindly cosmos, inky delphinium, sturdy kale, and near-dry late season sunflowers, are all over the age of 75.
That's because Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden is located at The Redwoods Retirement Community, an independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing facility (including HUD Section 8 apartments), in downtown Mill Valley. The Redwoods is one of a growing number of facilities, in Marin County and throughout the state, designed for older adults and aimed at supporting Californians through the aging process.
According to state projections, in ten years, 21 percent of the California's adult population will be over the age of 65. As our state population ages, and as sites like The Redwoods demonstrate, Californians will need to build and sustain healthy living environments for our seniors. In Marin County, gardens are part of the plan.
On the morning of Sept. 17, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) staff, academics, and UC Master Gardener volunteers gathered with Marin County Health and Human Services employees in San Rafael to tour four gardens located at adult residences throughout the region. Organized by UCCE Marin's School and Community Gardens Coordinator, Lauren Klein, the tour highlighted successful garden projects for older adults, while identifying challenges related to garden design and accessibility.
Mackey Terrace, an affordable housing site for seniors, is home to a garden of nine waist-high raised beds including one ADA-compliant bed accessible by wheelchair. Mackey Terrace gardeners adopt their own beds or choose to share beds with other residents, growing food and flowers of their choosing. During our visit, one resident selected a basketball-sized watermelon she jokingly named “the papa” of her plot, sliced it open and served each tour attendee a bright pink juicy slice. Another resident showed off her impressive bed of zinnias and cosmos. Still another noted that she inter-planted nopales (or cactus) with jade and pumpkin. Several of the Mackey Terrace residents are longtime gardeners with knowledge about plant care and soil. “Before I moved here, the thing I missed most was my garden … Now I grow what I want … as long as the gophers let me!” said one enthusiastic gardener.
At Golden Hinde, a Marin Housing Authority affordable housing site, tour attendees were led behind the recreation room to a small garden space, teeming with large not-quite-ripe tomatoes. Sarah, a resident leading the tour, shared that everything she knew about caring for plants came from fellow resident and gardener, Charlie. At this small site, UC Master Gardener volunteers dispense advice about saving lettuce seed and watering regimes for tomatoes - emphasizing that in gardening, as in life, there are many paths and learning is constant.
Bennett House, a Mercy Housing-run affordable housing facility, is home to the largest garden on the Marin tour. Nestled into a hillside in Fairfax, the Bennett House garden boasts pear, peach, and apple trees along with a dozen raised beds overflowing with nasturtium, tomatoes, and melons. Residents adopt their own beds, but also contribute seeds and labor to a community plot nearest the garden shed. Even outside of the garden, Bennett House has a strong focus on food access, serving as a drop-off point for organizations such as the Food Bank of San Francisco and Marin and ExtraFood.org. On food drop-off days, fruits gleaned from the on-site garden are available for residents to collect. During the tour, UCCE staff and volunteers, standing on tiptoes and on the corners of raised beds, harvested Bartlett pears.
The final stop of the tour, the Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden is a 20-year old community garden on the property of an older adult facility and adjacent to Audubon open space. Residents and community members are welcomed into the garden seven days a week. Garden Activities Coordinator, Kurt Ellison, and garden ambassadors and volunteers from the local community, support residents as they seed, weed, and harvest. Ellison has designed the garden and his activities to optimize inclusion of his aging residents. Garden instructions are posted daily, indicating what tasks need doing. Garden beds are labeled. Garden activities are advertised in large, easily legible fonts. Beds are spaced appropriately to allow wheelchair and walker access. The garden's most popular activity is its u-pick flower bed, where residents can create bouquets of seasonal flowers to bring back to their rooms or apartments.
While the project of garden accessibility for older adults in the state of California is still very much in progress, UCCE Marin's tour of adult residence gardens demonstrates that interest in home horticulture persists, even when home changes, and that with the proper support gardening can be an activity for any age.
To learn more about the UC Master Gardener Program in Marin County and UCCE Marin's work to support school and community gardens, visit: http://marinmg.ucanr.edu/Community_Service_Projects/Marin_Community_Gardens/.
The tour was followed by the Marin Food Policy Council—a monthly meeting of food systems stakeholders working to support policies that expand equitable access to local and healthy food through community and school gardens, urban agriculture, and other means.
The tour was funded by a collaborative grant through the Marin Community Foundation to improve healthy eating and active living for older adults in Marin County. The tour built on UCCE Marin's ongoing work to support the sharing of best practices across community gardens, elevate public awareness of the benefits of community gardening, and expand municipal policies that are supportive of community gardens. As part of her program, Klein has also created an interactive map of community gardens in Marin County available here and published a booklet featuring garden highlights, A Garden for Everyone: Tales of Marin's Community Gardens.
Big appreciation to all of the staff and residents of Mackey Terrace, Golden Hinde, Bennet House, and The Redwoods for opening up their gardens and for sharing their harvest. Gratitude to UCCE Marin staff and academics including School and Community Gardens Program Coordinator, Lauren Klein, Food Systems Advisor, Julia Van Soelen Kim, and Communications Specialist, Bonnie Nielsen for organizing the event. Special appreciation to two tour attendees, UC Master Gardener Program of Marin County volunteers, Sandy T. Parry and Barbara Searles, for sharing their garden knowledge and connecting residents to UC horticulture resources.
- Author: Donna Navarro Valadez
In the heart of San Mateo County sits a garden gem, The Gardening Education Center, a 5,000 square foot growing space established by the UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo County. This green garden space was approximately three years in the making, which included fundraising, planning, and actively working the land.
In the spring of 2018, when the site was unveiled, UC Master Gardener volunteers went to work. The plan was to prepare the space for a small (4-5 fruit tree) orchard, three large raised bed planters for seasonal flowers and vegetables, and separate specialty in-ground beds featuring natives, succulents and other drought tolerant plantings.
Prior to the planting, UC Master Gardener volunteers sheet mulched with cardboard and wood chips. This assisted in smothering the invasive groundcover that had taken over the overgrown neglected space.
Unbeknownst to UC Master Gardener volunteers, there was significantly more Bermuda grass than was initially suspected. Bermuda grass seeds can be an aggressive, the grass itself is tough and persistent. Over the next few months the grass eventually crept in and completely took over. Drastic measures were needed to eradicate the pesky weeds so the committed volunteers accepted the challenge and made a plan to eradicate the invasive grass without utilizing chemicals.
The plan of attack included eradicating as much Bermuda grass as possible from the very compacted and dry soil as naturally as possible. They scraped the top few inches of the soil off of the area to get rid of as many rhizomes and stolons of the pernicious Bermuda grass.
They worked tirelessly to remove the Bermuda grass, and prepared the soil for compost tea and cover crop planting. By removing the Bermuda grass it made a huge difference in the look, health and overall maintenance of the garden space.
The following eight cool season cover crops were chosen for the first planting because of these benefits:
In the end, UC Master Gardener volunteers produced a harvest of plenty. They learned the finer points of making compost extract using premier compost and applying it to the soil to introduce microbial life into the soil, attracting beneficial fungi, nematodes and earthworms. Not only were they able to plant diverse cover crops that crowded out the weeds, they were also successful in reaching their goal of treating the 1,600 square foot space of garden soil with no pesticides.
The Gardening Education Center has been open to UC Master Gardener volunteers since last spring, as they work to create the infrastructure to accommodate classes for the public. There are three greenhouses onsite that are currently growing plants for the UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties.
Compost Class pictured above, front row from left to right: Mark Foulard, Norine Cepernich, Terry Messinger, Maggi Lim, Cathy Vreeberg, Gaye Torjusen, (and standing) Nancy Kruberg, Terry Lyngso, and Steve Maskel. Second row from left ot right: Patty Deering, Linda Dvorak,Kathy Stamm, Kate Sweetman, Carol O'Donnell, John O'Hara, Charlie Akers, Charlene Landreau, Ginny Piazza, Cynthia Nations, Nick Landolfi, Janet Gilmore, Yana Maloney, and behind Yana, John Bassetto (Norine's husband and heavy equipment operator).
Many thanks to this group of volunteers, who have led the efforts and plan for The Gardening Education Center space and whom have spent countless volunteer hours! They have put a lot of thought into making this an excellent learning process for all. We would like to especially recognize Terry Lyngso, whom donated compost, seeds and paving stones to the project.