- Author: Skylar Peters
- Author: Melissa Womack
In 2020 near California's state capital, UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County awaited with excitement for its annual Harvest Day they organized each year. But the ongoing pandemic forced the cancellation of this much-anticipated event leaving the usual over 1500 attendees disappointed. Each year Harvest Day provided a colorful assortment of speakers, vendors, and food all in celebration of sustainable gardening. In the name of resilience, the UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County charged a path of embracing change while cultivating accessibility to gardening help and the beloved tradition of Harvest Day.
With grit and determination, the UC Master Gardeners transformed Harvest Day into “Virtual Harvest Day,” an online learning experience that overcame the barriers that Covid created. An incredible video learning experience took the place of the in-person festival. Instead of Harvest Day's typical speeches and demonstrations, UC Master Gardeners created over 20 captivating videos debuting on its newly established YouTube channel.
“Virtual Harvest Day” was an extraordinary success attracting an audience of 4,389 viewers, nearly three times the normal average number of in-person attendees. This victory inspired the program to continue providing gardening support through online webinars and recorded videos. This innovative approach eliminated the many obstacles of the pandemic and welcomed gardeners from around the world. Now, plant lovers, garden enthusiasts and gardening beginners from all walks of life can access UC Master Gardener help.
Since the launch of the YouTube Channel, subscriber counts have skyrocketed to about 22,800 with an astounding increase of +4,500 since April and more than 200 views daily. The comments section showcases gratitude for the helpful content with comments like, “Very informative and helpful video! Thank you” and “I have learned mistakes made previously in my garden. Well done!!!”
The green thumb classroom enriched the lives of the UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County themselves. Through the video creation process, UC Master Gardeners were able to dive deep into research, writing, and production allowing their gardening knowledge and ability to educate to blossom.
UC Master Gardener of Sacramento County's video project serves as an inspiration across the state and has inspired other programs to create accessible video content. The setbacks of the Covid pandemic demonstrated the UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County's resilience and dedication to giving back to their community. Volunteers turned a pandemic cancellation into an educational experience that transcends the limitations of time and location and creates an online community space centered around gardening. The program's YouTube channel has opened the doors of gardening education to people who never had access before. Congratulations to UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County for their dedication and perseverance that won them third place in the Search for Excellence awards competition!
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
As parents across the country start preparing for the next school year, the UC Master Gardeners of Placer County are demonstrating the extraordinary impact that school gardens can have on the community. UC Master Gardeners' dedication to nurturing a love for science and gardening in the youth shows us that every seed sown in these school gardens represents not just a plant but a life lesson, a commitment to sustainability, and a step towards a healthier future.
Every three years, UC Master Gardener Programs across the state have an opportunity to showcase their incredible projects, with the goal of inspiring others on how gardening can transform people and communities. The award-winning second-place project, "Engagement + Education + Enthusiasm = School Garden Success!" has touched the lives of numerous young learners in Placer County.
Over the last few years, the UC Master Gardeners of Placer County have provided valuable support to more than thirty schools. Last year they ramped up their support in seven of those schools by implementing a program to recruit principals and parent garden leads to revive or enhance school garden classes. In partnership with UC CalFresh Healthy Living, one of their focus areas was partnering with Title 1 schools where a high percentage of students are from low-income families. UC Master Gardener volunteers have created engaging, outdoor garden activities that go beyond traditional textbooks, sparking a love for nature and healthy living in students. The program delves into exciting topics like plant care, photosynthesis, the role of worms in soil creation, and the delicious benefits of eating fresh vegetables. Some of the delicious vegetables grown in school gardens are fresh spinach, lettuce, peas, fava beans, and carrots!
Additionally, parents are becoming an integral part of the project, fostering closer relationships between the schools and families. Parents' involvement ranges from assisting in classroom gardening sessions to leading discussions about nature, plant life, and sustainability. "The partnership with UC Master Gardeners of Placer County has been invaluable. It's inspired me to get more involved with the Parent Teacher Club and attend quarterly meetings. I am so much more involved with all of the parents and staff at Skyridge because of the inspiration and encouragement I have knowing the UC Master Gardeners are involved,” one parent remarked.
The rewards of this initiative are truly inspiring! “Our Larry Ford Outdoor Classroom and Garden is a focal point of teaching and learning on our campus. Our amazing team of Garden Docents, who are directly supported by Placer County [UC] Master Gardeners, have created a beautiful outdoor space for learning,” says Skyridge Elementary Principal Wright. “Students and staff enjoy visits that include academic lessons, planting seeds, harvesting crops, eating fresh vegetables, and taking a quiet break from the day to walk through the Mindfulness Maze. Providing opportunities for our students to learn in our Larry Ford Outdoor Classroom is a priority for our school community, and the [UC] Master Gardeners have become an instrumental piece in making that dream a reality.” Many students have started experimenting with new fruits and vegetables and gardening at home. Of the students surveyed, 53% ate a fruit or vegetable that they had never considered trying before, and 44% are now gardening at home.
The UC Master Gardener team is working to build valuable partnerships to continue expanding the number of school gardens across the county every year. By partnering with school boards, garden clubs, and community non-profits, they are working together to create a more sustainable, greener future for Placer County and its youth.
Congratulations to the UC Master Gardeners of Placer County for coming in second place in the Search for Excellence competition. Your hard work and dedication to excellence are truly commendable. Well done!
- Author: Skylar Peters
Happy March! The days are starting to get longer, which means the spring gardening season is about to begin. As temperatures begin to warm, it's the perfect time to start tackling tasks in the garden. Whether you've been hibernating and taking a break from gardening this winter, or you've been planning your spring garden for months, we have some gardening tips to help your garden thrive.
1. Clean up your garden just before the growing season swings into full gear. March is the perfect time to clean up your garden. If you haven't already be sure to:
- Prune dead branches to keep your trees healthy (for more information check out this pruning resource.)
- Prune summer-flowering plants that bloom on new wood such as crape myrtle
- Pull weeds once garden beds aren't water-logged
- Remove dead leaves or plant debris
- Clean your garden tools
2. Fertilize your lawn. The most important nutrients for lawns are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. But most lawns only regularly need nitrogen. To give your lawn the nitrogen it likely needs, you must decide between a:
- Slow-release fertilizer that lasts 8-10 weeks (typically marked on the package as water-insoluble nitrogen or WIN)
- Soluble fertilizer that lasts about 4 weeks
3. Check your irrigation system to see if it needs maintenance. Adjust your irrigation controller for the appropriate season. Plants don't need as much water in late fall, winter, and early spring as they do in the summer months. Adjusting your watering schedule can save water and rescue plants from being overwatered. Do a walkthrough to check your irrigation system for any leaks or problems.
Common irrigation problems and solutions
replace with a sprinkler that applies water at the same rate
replace with sprinklers that apply water at a common rate
sunken sprinkler risers
raise the sprinklers or replace
straighten to an upright position
turfgrass growing around sprinklers, other plants blocking sprinklers
mow, prune or remove plant material
sand or debris plugging sprinklers
flush out sprinklers to remove debris; replace sprinklers as necessary
4. Look for standing water in your landscape and containers. It is crucial to ensure that there is no standing water in your yard or garden, as it can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
5. Plant cool-season vegetables. March is still a good time to plant cool-season crops like peas, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli. These crops love the cooler weather and will thrive in your garden this time of year. Make sure to plant them in a spot that gets plenty of sun and has well-draining soil.
6. Start warm-season seeds indoors. If you're planning on growing warm-season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants, now is the time to start your seeds indoors. Learn more about seed-starting from our recent blog: Get a Head Start on Your Garden by Starting Your Vegetable Seeds Indoors.
7. Grow herbs. March is an excellent time to grow herbs that can enhance the flavors in your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Herbs can be grown indoors (e.g., in a kitchen window) or outdoors in a pot, raised bed, or in the ground. Herb leaves and herbaceous stems are an incredible addition to most food. Try a new chimichurri recipe or herbed veggie dish this spring.
8. Look out for ladybug hatchlings. While inspecting your garden for pests, keep an eye out for newly hatched ladybugs and refrain from disturbing them. Ladybugs can be extremely beneficial to your garden as they prey on aphids that can be harmful to your plants. For additional information on ladybugs, you can refer to UC IPM's Lady Beetle information.
9. Plant flowers to attract butterflies and support your local pollinators. Some great pollinator-supporting plants include:
March is an exciting time in the garden as it marks the beginning of the growing season. As the temperatures start to rise there's a lot to do in the garden from maintenance to planting. It's time to start putting in the work that will pay off when you see your beautiful spring garden.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program
Have a 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!/h4>
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!
- Author: Skylar Peters
Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than to show your garden a little love? February means it is time to start planning and preparing your spring and summer garden. These gardening tips will help you get your garden ready for the spring growing season:
Prune your roses. If you haven't already, cut back a third to half of their total height. Additionally, remove dead parts including old leaves on the bush and ground to improve overall plant health. Watch this video for more detail on how to prune roses.
Fertilize your citrus trees. Most mature citrus require regular fertilization with nitrogen. Typically, most other nutrients are available in sufficient amounts in the soil. Nitrogen should be applied in January or February just prior to bloom. The second application can be applied in May and perhaps a third in June. Information about fertilizing citrus can be found on the UC Integrated Pest Management website.
Suggested application rates of nitrogen
|Year one (1)|| 1 tablespoon nitrogen fertilizer 3 times per year, per tree.
|Year two (2)||0.25 lb. actual nitrogen per tree|
|Year three (3)||0.50 lb. actual nitrogen per tree|
|Year four (4)||0.75 lb. actual nitrogen per tree|
|Year five (5+)||1 lb. actual nitrogen each year|
Plant these trees, shrubs, and perennials.
• Bare root deciduous shrubs and trees
• Roses, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, asparagus, chives, onions, green onions.
Plant cool-season crops like ... lettuce, spinach, and broccoli. These vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures and can be planted directly in the ground or started indoors for transplanting later.
Start seeds indoors. Get a head start on your vegetable garden and consider starting seeds indoors in February. This will give your plants a jump start on the growing season and allow you to get a head start on your harvest. Here are a few seeds you can start now:
• Sweet peas
Protect your garden from snails and slugs. As the month progresses, you may start to see more snails in your garden. Make sure to remove them by hand-picking, baiting, or putting up barriers to keep snails and slugs out of your garden. Learn about snails and slug management from UC IPM.
February is a great time for gardeners in California to plan, prepare, and get an early start growing their gardens for the upcoming season. From planting cool-season vegetables to starting seeds indoors, to protecting your garden from pests, there are many ways to get a head start on your garden. So make the most of this month and show your love for your garden and your special someone on Valentine's Day.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program
Have a 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!