Posts Tagged: UC Master Gardeners
UC Master Gardener Francie Murphy was pruning the succulents in her San Diego front yard when an unfortunate accident catalyzed her commitment to communicating the dangers of toxic plants. She trimmed a stem on her drought-tolerant pencil milk bush and milky sap spurted into one eye, causing stinging pain.
“I tried to wipe it out, and in doing so got in both eyes. I was blinded. The pain was unbelievable,” she said.
A nearby friend rushed her to the emergency room where the doctor diagnosed chemical burns to her corneas and washed her eyes with two liters of saline water each. Murphy removed the plant from her garden, but saw it growing throughout her community.
“I knew we had to do something,” she said.
Drought-tolerant plants like cacti, yucca, agaves and aloes have adaptations to protect themselves from wildlife in search of the moisture within their leaves and stems. They have spikes or spines to ward off people and animals. Other plants don't have outward signs of danger. Fire sticks, also known as sticks on fire and pencil cactus and by its scientific name Euphorbia tirucalli, is a very popular succulent in frost-free areas. Its vertical growth habit and showy soft green to reddish-gold stems make it a striking landscape specimen. A native of southern Africa, the smooth, coral-like stems look deceptively harmless. The sap is toxic.
“Fire sticks should be planted far from walkways, in the back of the landscape, where you can see them, but not touch them,” said UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor Chris McDonald. “When trimming the plant, wear long pants, long sleeves and eye protection. If the plant is tall, consider protecting your face.”
After Murphy shared her story about these plants with other Master Gardeners, UCCE San Diego gathered a team and worked with colleagues to secure funding from the County of San Diego to develop a website and handouts to inform the community about readily available yet toxic drought-tolerant plants being planted into California landscapes.
The handout can be downloaded from the Plant Safely website (https://ucanr.edu/sites/PlantSafely/). The materials were quickly distributed to nurseries, garden events and Master Gardener help booths, such as at farmers markets, home shows and fairs, and other educational events. A key feature of the website is a database of nearly 100 plants (which can be found here) with photos and descriptions that explain how they are unsafe and how they can be used safely in the landscape. (https://ucanr.edu/sites/PlantSafely/Common_Names/)
Some common yet toxic landscape plants included in the database are:
“These potentially harmful plants are grown widely in many parts of California,” McDonald said. “It's important to promote drought-tolerant landscapes, and we must also do it in a way that preserves public health.”
View the UC Master Gardener video about safely planting fire sticks (Euphorbia tirucoli):
Stephen Cantu, a UC Master Gardener in San Diego County UC Cooperative Extension, is well aware of ways to improve accessibility and inclusiveness in gardening for people with mobility issues, reported Lisa Deaderick in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Cantu, who has used a wheelchair for 37 years due to a job site accident, identifies obstacles and solutions that help people of all abilities benefit from the joys of tending a home garden. He is active in the UCCE Master Gardener Association program that assists community members in designing garden spaces for maximum accessibility called Friendly Inclusive Gardening (FIG).
FIG teaches people how to implement the principles of universal design to make home, school and community gardens safer and more accessible to people with physical disabilities, seniors with mobility issues and young children. A workshop scheduled for March 21 had to be postponed in order to comply with efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, so Deaderick published a Q&A with Cantu to share how people can start a small garden at home while waiting out the coronavirus.
He said FIG is not just for wheelchair users. "In other words, a garden designed for the whole family to use, from young children to grandma and grandpa," Cantu said.
He recommends new gardeners start simple and build on success.
"Start out with a small kitchen garden of mostly herbs, something that is in small containers that you can grow next to your kitchen. . . Don't buy anything until you have an understanding of your needs. For a small garden, all you really need are your hands, a pair of gloves, some soil, and a few herbs," Cantu said.
With many schools are closed due to the coronavirus crisis, families are educating and entertaining children at home. Susan Schena of The Patch provided nine enriching activities for housebound kids; for the third one she turned to UC Master Gardner Louisa R. Cardenas from the Los Angeles County University of California Cooperative Extension for advice.
"There are numerous free sites with kids' gardening and environmental activities," said Cardenas, who chairs the Los Angeles County Master Gardener Program School Garden Network. "While most resources focus on school-yard gardening, many activities may easily be applicable to home gardens or apartment living."
According to a Los Angeles Times article, gardening does more than keep the kids busy and enriched. It can relieve stress associated with trying times. The article cited research in the Netherlands in which a test group performed a stressful activity for 30 minutes, and then were randomly assigned them to garden outside or read a book indoors. The study found that both activities reduced the cortisol levels that trigger stress, but the people who gardened saw much lower cortisol levels and their positive mood restored, as opposed to the readers, whose moods got worse.
For gardening advice, Times reporter Jeanette Marantos spoke to Yvonne Savio, the now-retired long-time UC Master Gardener coordinator for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County. Savio writes the blog GardeninginLA.net.
You can plant your tomatoes in late March, Savio said, but wait until April to plant summer crops like eggplant, peppers and cucumber.
If the soil hasn't warmed up to at least 60 degrees, warm-season seedlings “just sit and pout at you,” Savio said. Worse, she said, the cool temperatures can stunt their future growth, destroying your efforts to get an early harvest.
There are plenty of garden tasks that can be accomplished while waiting for warmer soil. The Times article suggests:
- Feed your soil with good organic amendments such as compost and steer manure or organic potting soil for pots.
- Water it well and wait a week or two before planting, because the organisms create a lot heat as they break down, and can burn your tender seedlings. You'll know the soil is safe for planting when the temperature feels comfortable to your bare hand, said Savio.
- Try Savio's technique of burying 5-gallon nursery buckets among your plants (the kind with holes already in the bottom). Make sure the rim of the buckets are about 4 inches above ground, so you have room for mulch, and then fill those buckets with water once or twice a week to force moisture — and roots — deeper into the ground.
For more at-home gardening information, find your local UC Master Gardener program website here:
Yvonne Savio now volunteers as a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener.
EFNEP, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, partnered with UC Master Gardeners in Tulare County to celebrate EFNEP's 50th Anniversary! The UC Master Gardeners provided a one-hour workshop about container gardening for parents of young children. The parents had just completed the EFNEP Eat Smart•Be Active series at Conyer Elementary in Visalia, Calif.
Mariana Lopez, a UC nutrition educator who speaks English and Spanish, led the EFNEP classes from Jan. 30 to March 27, 2019. Seven of the 10 participants completed the series and graduated. The graduates expressed interest in participating in a gardening workshop. Deepa Srivastava, the UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor, reached out to Susan Gillison, the UC Master Gardener coordinator, to initiate this collaboration and Mariana coordinated the gardening workshop.
UC Master Gardeners provided full support
The Master Gardeners provided the materials such as soil, pots, basil seedlings and cilantro seeds. The guidance and knowledge received from Dana Young, the Master Gardener volunteer – also known as The Plant Lady – was very helpful! Parents participated with their children in the hands-on container gardening activity. Dana explained that container, or pot gardening, is the practice of growing plants in containers instead of planting in the ground. Herbs and other edible plants can be grown in containers. The participants also learned about healthy soil and gutter gardening.
Parents enthusiastically shared their experience from participating in this hands-on activity:
“Knowledge about gutter gardening was very helpful!”
“It was exciting to be a part of this activity, my child loved it!”
Indeed, the EFNEP and Master Gardener collaboration in Tulare County was successful. The Site Coordinator of Conyer Elementary expressed interest in holding additional meaningful workshops like these for parents during the school year!
The UC 4-H Youth Development Program, UC Master Gardeners, UC Master Food Preservers and the California Naturalists are parts of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) that rely on the generous contributions of time and talent by thousands of volunteers.
During National Volunteer Month, UC ANR honors people who help us deliver our research-based information and educational experiences to residents throughout the state.
The UC 4-H Youth Development program has 6,557 youth volunteers and 14,068 adult volunteers.
4-H volunteers serve in many roles, such as club and project leaders, sharing research-based information in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; agriculture; healthy living; civic engagement and leadership. Their compassion, skills and knowledge are improving the lives of California youth and preparing them for success in adulthood marked by health and well-being, economic stability and civic engagement.
“We would like to thank our volunteers for their dedication, passion for the program and youth, and most of all for giving their time to help develop the next generation of true leaders,” said Shannon Horrillo, director of the Statewide 4-H Youth Development Program. “Our volunteers are the inspiration our state's youth need to thrive.”
The UC Master Gardener Program has trained 30,983 volunteers and currently has 6,116 active volunteers who serve as agents of change in their communities, connecting people to research-based information and sharing skills to help them grow food, protect the environment and meaningfully connect with nature.
UC Master Gardener volunteers staff telephone and email “hotlines,” where residents can get answers to their gardening questions. Many UC Master Gardener programs around the state manage demonstration gardens that serve as outdoor classrooms for presentations and hands-on workshops. UC Master Gardener volunteers can also be found throughout communities at farmers markets, libraries, and garden centers providing answers to questions about home gardening. These efforts have wide ranging impacts, helping people conserve water, reduce green waste, manage pests safely, grow food abundantly, and more.
“We are so grateful for our volunteers' generosity, commitment and passion to providing the public with information they can use to maintain their gardens that protect and support a healthier environment,” said Missy Gable, UC Master Gardener statewide director.
In 17 counties across California, 400 certified UC Master Food Preservers provide food preservation education to the public, ensuring a safe food supply, increasing food security and reducing food waste.
“Currently, a third of the world's food is wasted. Our Master Food Preserver volunteers make a difference at the household level in reducing food waste,” said Katie Panarella, director UC ANR's nutrition, family and consumer sciences program and policy. “To maintain public safety and avoid foodborne illness, the program teaches techniques for freezing, canning, drying and fermenting food safely.”
The California Naturalist program certifies volunteers to serve as informed stewards of California natural resources, docents of public lands, and citizen scientists gathering data about the natural world and wildlife. After completing 40 hours of training in ecology, geology, wildlife conservation, energy, environmental issues and other topics, most of the certified naturalists serve as volunteers with land conservancies, museums, gardens and organizations that deliver workforce education to young adults at the urban core. See the complete list of partners here. Since its inception in 2010, the program has certified 2,855 Naturalists.
“We have a diversity of groups who partner with UC ANR to offer this training program to their existing, new, or potential volunteers,” said Sabrina Drill, interim director of the California Naturalist Program. “The volunteers share the wonders of California's unique ecology by interpreting at parks and nature centers, and taking part in the study and stewardship of the state's natural resources.”