- (Public Value) UCANR: Promoting healthy people and communities
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
If you have seen a butterfly native to Orange County fluttering its wings along a flowerbed searching for nectar, chances are the same species has been found in the garden of UC Master Gardener volunteer Heather Hafner. But that wasn't always the case. For more than two decades, Hafner played professional volleyball on the sunny beaches of Southern California. If it wasn't for a related sports injury, she might have never been introduced to the adventure of attracting butterflies and pollinators into her garden.
While recovering from surgery, Hafner decided to refresh her landscape and visited a local nursery. Slowly shuffling down the aisle and waiting for help she overhead an employee at the nursery showing a customer a monarch egg on the underside of a leaf. Captivated by the possibility of taking home a butterfly for her garden, she optimistically purchased the plant with a monarch egg and patiently waited.
After learning about the many challenges monarchs face to survive, Hafner quickly began to explore how to support monarchs and other butterflies in her garden. She watched videos, read books, and attended workshops and events with the UC Master Gardener Program of Orange County. Hafner was determined to learn everything she could about what butterflies are native to her area and how to build a habitat to support them. Then she got to work. Her goal is now to provide a larval host plant for as many local butterflies as possible.
Her small garden in Irvine, Calif., offers a food source for more than 30 kinds of butterflies. "If I can't eat it, or it's not food for a butterfly – then it doesn't go into my garden," says Hafner, "For me to give up real estate in my garden, I want to know that it is serving a purpose and supporting local butterflies and other pollinators."
She has planted many host plants and trees for almost every type of butterfly found in Orange County. Some of her plants include pipevine, passionvine, hollyleaf cherry, fennel, rue, popcorn cassia, figwort, monkeyflower, Snapdragon, lupin, licorice, California lilac, penstemon, puellia, California buckwheat, bladderpod, and deerweed. She specializes in milkweed (Asclepias) and propagates 12 kinds from seed with differing soil, soil temperature, stratification, and watering requirements. Like any gardening journey, it has been a series of wins and losses.
Her passion for butterflies brought her to the UC Master Gardener Program in search of native plant propagation techniques. Still, she also knew she wanted to make a larger impact in her community and encourage others to help build pollinator habitat in their landscapes. Hafner was accepted into the UC Master Gardener Program of Orange County and completed her training in 2019.
As a UC Master Gardener volunteer, Hafner first focused a large part of her volunteer efforts on the propagation, orchard and youth garden teams. Today, she serves as the co-lead of the youth demonstration garden at the South Coast Research and Extension Center (REC), where they are installing a monarch conservation exhibit with the three native milkweeds and some non-natives to show how non-natives can be responsibly used (cut them back when natives go dormant). Her goal is to help conserve the Western monarch butterfly, which is dwindling in numbers.
She quickly fell in love with the beauty of a diversified garden. "I love monarchs … but my garden wouldn't be the same without the diversity of the other butterflies and pollinators," says Hafner. While not all butterflies arrive at the same time, they are all welcome in her garden.
For the past year, Hafner has expanded her volunteer efforts and used skills from her professional career as a teambuilding facilitator to help improve the diversity of the Orange County program's volunteers. Being a trained facilitator helped her recognize who was missing or underrepresented in the program, which is primarily white and female. She ran a comprehensive outreach campaign to help recruit new volunteers that included geographical, ethnic, economic and chronological age diversity. She called newspapers and community centers in the corners of Orange County to recruit volunteers who were more representative of the people the county serves. Her recruiting efforts and strategy resulted in the county's largest and most inclusive class (58 trainees).
Hafner was most proud of the fact that the program in Orange County now has members who speak 10 languages: Vietnamese, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish, Urdu/Hindi, Portuguese, German, French, Italian and Farsi. These new UC Master Gardener volunteers will create presentations in their native language for outreach into their communities. "I think it's important that UC Master Gardener volunteers represent the community we live in," says Hafner, "and I think this year we delivered on that."
The UC Master Gardener Program is proud to recognize Heather Hafner as a 2021 Gardener with Heart for the impact her volunteer work is making in her community. "Without Heather's incredible contribution, our first virtual UC Master Gardener training class simply could not have happened," says program coordinator Randy Musser, "and our program in the future will benefit greatly because of its new, more diverse members."
Gardeners with Heart are nominated by local county leadership for their stewardship of the UC Master Gardener Program during the pandemic period, their diversity equity and inclusion leadership, and their digital superstardom.
- Author: Karey Windbiel-Rojas
- Author: Belinda J. Messenger-Sikes
Instructions for making homemade mixtures to control pests are easy to find online and in social media, and it's tempting to make your own home remedy when pests invade. Doing so may seem like a natural, organic, and non-chemical solution, but did you know that what you are mixing is considered a pesticide? A pesticide is any mixture used to kill, destroy, repel, or mitigate a pest.
Pesticide mixtures of household ingredients like dish soap, garlic, and vinegar (Figure 1) may seem harmless and safer than storebought formulated pesticides, but they can actually pose unrealized risks.
What is the Concern with Homemade Pesticides?
While ingredients in home remedies are items we might eat or use in the kitchen, the mixture of them is not tested for
For example, some online sources describe making a homemade insecticide from the tobacco leaves found in cigarettes and tout it as “natural” or “organic.” While cigarettes are readily available for purchase, the resulting concoction (a pesticide) made from tobacco is extremely concentrated and highly poisonous to humans and pets. There are many additives used in producing products such as cigarettes, soaps, or detergents and these ingredients are not always known to the consumer.
Another concern is the potential hazard created during the mixing and making of home remedies. Even while natural, some ingredients become more toxic during the process of cooking the mixture, which may concentrate the ingredients and increase risks of harmful health side effects due to inhalation of fumes or contact with skin.
No Instructions for Use
Commercially available pesticides (Figure 2) are required by law to have a label with instructions on use, mixing, storage, and first aid. Home remedies don't have instructions for specific dilution or use rates, nor do they identify how often mixtures should be applied. Home remedies also contain no guidance about wearing protective equipment like gloves or how to properly store the mixture.
Homemade mixtures are stored in containers that are either not labeled with what's inside or lack the required label information registered pesticides contain. Each year, poison control centers report poisonings of children and adults from drinking pesticides that have been stored in food or drink containers. Without a label and knowledge of how a mixture can affect people when exposed, first aid information isn't available. To prevent accidental poisoning, pesticides should never be mixed or stored in food or drink containers even if the container is marked.
Are home remedies effective?
Because homemade pesticides vary greatly in their makeup and are not tested through rigorous research studies, there is no data to support whether they consistently control targeted pests. Unlike commercial pesticides that must show their efficacy data before being registered, homemade remedies lack scientific studies to show that they are effective.
Applying ineffective homemade pesticides can make pest problems worse, may not control the pest, could be harmful to the plant, or contaminate waterways. In addition, a homemade pesticide sprayed in the garden may kill the “good bugs” as well as the targeted pest insects. Many commercial pesticides are formulated to work only on specific pests or groups of pests.
Many home remedies specify using dish soap mixed with other ingredients to kill insects, plant diseases, or weeds. Dish soap, which is a powerful detergent, can injure desirable plants by stripping the waxy layer off the leaves. Commercially available insecticidal, fungicidal, and herbicidal soaps, which are registered pesticides, are highly effective against the targeted pest and will not damage plants when used correctly. These products cannot be made at home with common household ingredients.
Are home remedies legal?
The U.S. Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) covers the use of homemade pesticides. According to FIFRA, in order to legally apply a material as a pesticide it must be either registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or be exempt from registration. There is a list of active ingredients (the part of a pesticide that affects the pest) that can be used in pesticide products without requiring registration; these are called minimum risk or 25(b) products) The active ingredient list allows the use of single chemicals, like sodium lauryl sulfate (found in soap), as unregistered pesticides, but does not include commercial products like dish soap that may contain other ingredients, such as viscosity modifiers, preservatives, and pH adjusters.
Alternatives to pesticides
Many pests in the home and garden can be managed without pesticides. In a garden, grow plants suited to the environment and keep them healthy with proper irrigation and fertilization. Weeds can be controlled by hand-pulling, mulching, or weeding tools. For more information, see the UC IPM Home and Garden pages.
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
- Author: Marisa Coyne
In April, we celebrate National Volunteer Month, honoring all of the contributions that volunteers make in our communities. All month long, the UC Master Gardener Program featured stories of exceptional volunteers, or Gardeners with Heart, making a difference in California's community, school, demonstration, and research gardens. While the past program year presented many challenges to program delivery, the surge of interest in gardening has never been higher. The passion and support of UC Master Gardener volunteers have been essential in the program continuing to serve our mission.
This past year, with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and limited safe activities, the UC Master Gardener Program saw a rush of gardeners looking for help and advice on starting a garden. Calls and e-mails poured into UC Master Gardener Program hotlines, Facebook groups, and websites. Today, we celebrate Gardeners with Heart, whose commitment to continuing program extension over the past year using new digital platforms and technology has helped the program stay connected to our communities.
Allen Buchinski – Santa Clara County
Allen Buchinski joined the UC Master Gardener Program in 2003 because of his love for gardening and its sense of community. “I joined the Master Gardener program in 2003 because of my interest in learning more about gardening and to become part of a like-minded community, looking ahead to the day I'd retire. I worked full time while also volunteering for thirteen years before retiring in 2016. I've continued (and stepped up) my UC Master Gardener activities since then,” says Allen.
Allen has played an instrumental role in the development and ongoing maintenance of the UC Master Gardener Program in Santa Clara County's website. He became the chair of the website team following his retirement in 2016 and took on the role of co-chair for the program's help desk. On the first Friday of each month since 2003, Allen has helped answer gardening questions from the public at the help desk. Since COVID-19 and the surge of interest in gardening, Allen helped the program quickly switch its help desk to be a remote, virtual space. “The help desk has been especially interesting during the past year because of the pandemic. We needed to adjust our processes to work from home as well as deal with a 50% increase in the number of questions. We answered more than 2,100 questions from March 2020 to February 2021!” says Allen.
Not only has Allen helped bring the program's help desk online, but he also coded an online storefront for the program's support group to sell seedlings and schedule pick-ups. “[Allen's] website know-how and swift action saved thousands of plants from the compost pile,” exclaims Katherine Uhde, program coordinator, “these sales bring in tens of thousands of dollars to our partner non-profit, Friends of Master Gardeners, used to support outreach and our demonstration garden Although both sales were limited to UC Master Gardeners, friends, and family last year, all of the plants were sold or donated to non-profit agencies throughout Santa Clara County. This would not have happened if it weren't for the quick work of Allen and his team. Because of their efforts, the demonstration gardens and the advisory board had funding in 2020-21.”
Michele Willer-Allred, Ventura County
“Social media has been a great tool, especially with promoting our virtual workshops and interacting with other Master Gardeners throughout the country. But there is so much more we want to do,” explains Michele, “We plan to start an e-mail newsletter; create educational gardening videos and virtual tours of local gardens; profile more of our amazing garden volunteers; and go outside our county and visit with other UC Master Gardener Programs. We also hope to increase our reach to a broader, more ethnically diverse audience, as well as younger gardeners in our community, since they are indeed our future!"
With all in-person events and limited activities due to COVID-19, Michele felt it was important to still communicate about all of the dedicated volunteers still making such an impact in the community. She developed a series of interviews with UC Master Gardeners to learn from them and share their advice with the public. With so many people starting “victory gardens” during quarantine, she also felt it was important to continue sharing gardening resources and science-based gardening information with the public.
Rita Evans - Fresno County
Since 1993, Rita Evans has been an active UC Master Gardener volunteer in Fresno County. In her 28 years with the program, she served many roles and shared her many talents and skills to serve the program's mission. “I am a born volunteer and the program gave me wings to serve, to stretch and grow. I have strong organizational skills and love team building,” says Rita, “the UC Master Gardener Program has allowed me to use those skills to create and serve in many leadership positions.”
When the pandemic hit and COVID-19 forced the closure of the UC Cooperative Extension Fresno County office and most volunteer activities, Rita immediately came up with a plan on how volunteers could stay connected and continue to earn hours. “Rita shared her idea on how we could offer a UC Master Gardener “refresher course” similar to the new training course for our current volunteers. She quickly began to gather a group of volunteers to transfer course classes online to a digital format,” says Denise Cuendett, program coordinator in Fresno County. UC Master Gardener volunteers immediately started pulling together tech teams and presenters and scheduled bi-weekly classes on Zoom.
“When the pandemic hit, our online refresher course was born. It is a 16-session 'refresher' using the UC Master Gardener Handbook with our own UC Master Gardener volunteers being the featured speakers. It is providing a path for volunteers to earn their required hours, to socialize virtually with a study buddy and to refresh their horticulture knowledge ... it's a win-win,” explains Rita.
After seeing the success of the Zoom classes, Rita was inspired to continue the county's annual volunteer awards program on Zoom last December. Rita is part of a team of volunteers that created a “party-in-a-bag” that included a dinner, mask and other small gifts to awardees. The creative planning provided a way to celebrate the volunteer impacts COVID-19-style, but still in a festive way.
Digital Superstars Team, Marin County
The UC Master Gardener Program in Marin County recently completed a huge renovation of its public website, marinmg.ucanr.edu. The new website launch was made possible by a team of more than 40 volunteers, who spent eight months to make sure the site was visually appealing, easy to read, and navigate. Three key members of the team were recently nominated by Nanette Londeree for their hard work and dedication to the project, Kathryn Parkinson, Roxanne Ansolabehere, and Linda Stiles.
“This past year, a group of us decided to transform and rebuild our organization's entire website. We started as a small group, which ultimately grew to nearly 60 volunteers. It became a focused and vigorous goal for all of us, and I felt lucky to have been involved in the endeavor. The result is a beautiful and well-organized website that richly serves our community,” shares Roxanne Ansolabehere.
Roxanne developed numerous digital organizational tools to layout the new website navigation, schedule writers and editors, track progress, and allow for submission and retrieval of documents and photos. These tools were vital to the success of the new website project.
Linda Stiles, a gifted graphic designer, helped make the project “sparkle.” Her knowledge of technology, incredible aesthetics, ability to visualize the final product, and generosity of time were elemental to the success of this project. Linda designed the overall look and feel of the website and built every page using the existing required platform, focusing on user appeal and ease of use for all devices. She developed nearly a hundred unique banners, chose photos that promoted diversity, and did it all with grace and wry humor.
About National Volunteer Month and Gardeners with Heart
Special appreciation to Nanette Londeree, UC Master Gardener volunteer leader in Marin County, Alexa Hendricks, program coordinator in Ventura County, Katherine Uhde, program coordinator in Santa Clara County, and Denise Cuendett, program coordinator in Fresno County, for sharing these stories./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Dustin Blakey
The first week of December is California Healthy Soils Week. To help "celebrate" the occasion, I was asked to give a lecture on some tips to keep your garden soil healthy. If you're the type that likes to watch videos, then you can watch the recording. (It's about 1 hour, including the questions at the end.)
If you're like me and like to get the short, bullet-point version, here it is.
Dustin's Healthy Soil Tips:
- Know your native soil (Try this link!)
- Make permanent paths
- Treat beds like beds: don't stand or walk in them and keep them covered—with mulch
- Add organic materials like compost
- Rotate crops; be sure to include cover crops
- Till gently; here's an article to learn more
Originally published on the Backyard Gardener blog (Dec. 16, 2020):
- Author: Lauren Snowden
UC Master Gardener Programs in San Diego County, Contra Costa County, and Santa Clara County won the triennial Search for Excellence competition. In honor of their achievement, winning projects receive a cash prize to support local program delivery. Winners will present their projects at the 2020 UC Master Gardener Virtual Mini-Conference taking place online Sept. 29 - Oct. 1. Attend, enjoy, and learn more about these phenomenal 2020 Search for Excellence winners.
The Search for Excellence competition is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. County programs were invited to submit educational and innovative projects for consideration for work performed over the past three years. A panel of four judges from outside the UC Master Gardener Program read and scored fourteen submissions. Many of the judges expressed their gratitude and awe as there were so many projects with merit and clear alignment with the program's mission. Congratulations to all winners and contenders. - your work is inspiring and impactful.
San Diego County: Reminiscence Gardening
UC Master Gardener volunteers in San Diego County saw an opportunity to collaborate with residential memory care communities and Alzheimer's San Diego to provide sensory exploration and tabletop gardening activities for individuals living with dementia and their care partners. Currently, the Reminiscence Gardening Program can be found in nine locations. At each location, a team of UC Master Gardener volunteers engage participants in a way that encourages social interactions, stimulates garden memories, promotes relaxation, and relieves stress. With thoughtful planning and care, participants are paired with a UC Master Gardener volunteer who, for the next hour, guides and assists them through several activities including table-top gardening. Participants leave with their own “garden” to place in the activity room for all residents and visitors to enjoy.
Contra Costa County - Essentials of Vegetable Gardening: Lessons for Underserved Communities
UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County created a series of 18 focused gardening lessons that combine interactive talks with hands-on learning specifically designed for individuals with limited mobility, mental health issues (including addiction and PTSD), and language barriers. Topics include core lessons in vegetable gardening, such as soil and compost; how to care for plants; the role of pollinators; and IPM, plus optional lessons in propagation, succulents, etc. Through partnerships with Contra Costa County Department of Behavioral Health – Alcohol and Drug Services; Bi-Bett Corporation; Eden Housing; and the VA the program has been offered at senior centers, residential treatment centers and the Veterans Administration local campus.
Santa Clara County - Mornings at Martial Cottle Park: Lessons in the garden for school children
In partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, the Santa Clara County Parks Department, Cal Fresh Healthy Living, and local schools, two UC Master Gardener volunteers in Santa Clara County, with backgrounds in education, created a garden-based field trip program for second graders. The program's goal is to promote food and science literacy by using edible gardens linked to California nutrition and science education standards through dynamic, outdoor lessons at the UC Master Gardener Community Education Center and demonstration garden in Santa Clara. The four-acre Education Center is located within Martial Cottle Park in San Jose, Calif. Students rotate through four stations, covering topics on nutrition, plant life cycles, insect anatomy, and beneficial vs. pest insects. Students are taught garden manners and lesson objectives throughout the trip, families are encouraged to return to the garden during normal operating hours to continue their exploration and learning.
The UC Master Gardener Program provides the public with UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management practices. It is administered by local UCCE county-based offices that are the principal outreach and public service arms of the University's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The UC Master Gardener Program is an example of an effective partnership between the UC Division and passionate volunteers. In exchange for training from the University of California, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers engage the public with timely gardening-related trainings and workshops. With programs based in 51 California counties and 6,297 active members, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers donated 328,540 hours last year and have donated more than 5 million hours since the program inception in 1980.