UC Master Gardener Program Statewide Blog
Learn and celebrate Healthy Soils Week with the UC Master Gardener Program and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Nov. 30 – Dec. 4! Healthy Soils week is full of virtual activities, at-home projects, and LIVE talks to join. Growing and supporting soil health is something all of us can contribute to whether we have a full landscape to work in, a small patio, or a community garden plot.
Why Healthy Soil?
Soil quality is critical to healthy plants, crops and is a vital part of our living ecosystem. Soil is alive with organisms that slowly grow or change depending on what is added or used. Soil health, much like our own, is gradually improved over time so focusing on its constant improvement helps sustainability. Adding certain practices into your gardening routine, such as incorporating organic matter, can improve soil health and quality.
Tips to Keep your Garden Soil Healthy, LIVE on Dec. 3
The UC Master Gardener Program will celebrate healthy soils week by hosting a free LIVE talk on Tips to Keep your Garden Soil Healthy. No registration is required. The discussion will be live-streamed to Facebook and YouTube on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 10 am.
Guest speaker, Dustin Blakey, will be breaking down what gardeners can do to support healthy soil for years to come. LIVE talks are an authentic and interactive way to interact with our audience in real-time. Share the Facebook and YouTube Live opportunity on your social media and tune in to the UC Master Gardener Program LIVE broadcast! In the comments section, let us know what topics or questions you would like answered on Thursday, Dec. 3 or ideas for future LIVE topics.
The event will be recorded and available for later viewing for those who can't make it. Attention UC Master Gardener Volunteers: Whether you join LIVE or watch the recording, be sure to record your continuing education hours in the Volunteer Management System.
Other Events and Activities
California Department of Food and Agriculture and more than 20 partners have teamed up highlighting healthy soils on the farm and at home. Find a full list of partners participating in healthy soils week and a calendar of this year's online activities at www.cdfa.ca.gov/healthysoilsweek/.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener
For more gardening help and local county resources, click here to Find a Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers, staff, and our extended community's health and safety is our numberone priority. Many UC Cooperative Extension offices are offering only phone and virtual services but are here to help, be sure to check your local program for resources. Thank you for your understanding.
Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season. With so many digging into gardening for the first time, there is a huge surge in demand for resources and trusted home gardening information. Giving to the UC Master Gardener Program helps create gardening resources, virtual workshops, and empowers gardeners to support food banks, schools, and community gardens.
How can you help? Here are a few simple ideas:
- Join us and donate. Your gift can be applied directly to support your local county program.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for exciting updates. Tag @UCMasterGarden and include the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #PushPlayCA.
- Share this message with friends and family and encourage them to join the movement!
We're asking you to join us in supporting the UC Master Gardener Program by helping spread the word to friends and family who want to support you in making an impact. Thank you for all you do for the UC Master Gardener Program and for joining the #GivingTuesday movement! For more information visit mg.ucanr.edu/GivingTuesday.
On November 11, we recognize Veterans Day (originally known as Armistice Day), the end of World War I, and the armed forces' contributions. The stories below profile UC Master Gardener Program projects in Northern and Southern California that make a difference to those in the veteran community. Just as home and community gardening occupied a role in the war effort, gardening and garden education can play a role in community wellness for veterans.
A Home for Veterans in Ventura County
In 2009, Barbara Hill, a UC Master Gardener volunteer in Ventura County, saw a newspaper article soliciting artwork and other "homey" touches for a veterans home grand opening. What could be homier than a garden?” thought Hill. She contacted the administration at the Veterans Home of California – Ventura and offered her expertise as a UC Master Gardener volunteer. The administration supported Hill's vision and formed a partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program of Ventura County to begin work on the more than five acres of open space surrounding the facility.
Initially, Barbara's goal was to provide fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for the veterans' home. She recruited other UC Master Gardener volunteers, and together they planted sugar snap peas, sweet peas, and artichokes in a couple of raised garden beds. They left several raised garden beds empty so veterans could grow their own food. Shortly after the facility opened, residents began adopting the remaining raised garden beds and formed a gardening group assisted by UC Master Gardener volunteers. With help from other community service groups, UC Master Gardener volunteers coordinated the evolution of other gardens that serve as a tribute to the residents and all service members.
Wanting to beautify an undeveloped area outside the dining room where residents frequently gathered, UC Master Gardeners designed and constructed a heart-shaped rose garden in 2011. Many varieties of roses featured in the garden were donated by family or friends of residents who passed away to honor those who served. They include Peace, Proud Land, Gold Medal, Purple Heart, and Eternal Flame roses. One of the residents even constructed an arbor in the garden to support Fourth of July climbing roses.
In 2013, the daughter of a resident who passed away asked if she could make a donation for a tree to be planted in her father's memory. As she toured the site with UC Master Gardener volunteers, her vision grew. Instead of one tree, she donated an entire orchard that includes more than 75 trees and consists of 50 different fruit varieties! Together with help from the community, UC Master Gardener volunteers planted each of the trees. Today, UC Master Gardener volunteers provide education about tree maintenance in the orchard so residents can wander up and down the rows and pick fresh fruit.
In 2014, the UC Master Gardener Program of Ventura County trainees worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to establish a native plant garden to provide food and refuge to migrating birds, butterflies, and bees. In addition to welcoming home migratory animals, the garden became a tribute to the veterans that served in the Vietnam War and was named the "Welcome Home Garden." A Vietnam veteran and frequent visitor at the home shared his personal experience arriving home from the unpopular war. Upon his return, he recalls wishing that "… one person would say 'welcome home' to (him)." He was so moved by the garden that he wanted to contribute. The facility's maintenance supervisor promptly got a drill and screw and allowed him to mount a flag on welcome sign post.
Over the past ten years, UC Master Gardeners of Ventura County have helped reshape the landscape outside of the California Veterans Home – Ventura. What was once raw, hard ground has transformed into several beautiful gardens, each thoughtfully designed to honor the home's residents and all who serve in the U.S. military. Barbara's proud that because of the gardens, the California Veterans Center "… is not an institution, but a home."
A Message of Gratitude from the Captain – Contra Costa County
The UC Master Gardener Program in Contra Costa County is home to an exceptional volunteer, Captain Robert Archer, Aircraft Commander and Vietnam Veteran. Though Archer's educational efforts focus on soils, composting, and farmers' market outreach, he knows better than most UC Master Gardeners the impact of community gardening on health and wellbeing.
After reading a report of his fellow volunteers' work at the Martinez Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center, Archer drafted a heartfelt letter to his UC Master Gardener volunteer community.
"Dear Fellow Master Gardeners,
I read the report for your visit to the Martinez Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center. I go there regularly for treatment and medical exams … Your work is most appreciated."
Archer continues in his letter to detail the painful loss of his friend, Captain Gene Miller, in Vietnam and his journey to the Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington, D.C. with his son and fellow veteran.
"I often go to the VA Clinic for treatment or a routine exam. When I see the vets who are interred there, my heart goes out to them, and I think about my dear friend Gene.
When I am driving through the city, I see persons on the street, huddled under a bridge or begging on a street corner with tattered, dirty clothing (vets and non-vets). It hurts to see these people struggling, knowing that probably no one cared enough to help them; some of them are undoubtedly veterans struggling to find their way.
I want to thank you because many vets who are residents of Veterans' Hospitals are there because they have no providers or family capable of caring for her or him, or simply nobody cares enough or has the time to do it.
My heart is full of joy that you remembered those who are often talked about, but too often forgotten.
God Bless You All,
Bob Archer, Captain
Vietnam Veteran, 158th Assault Helicopter Co.
Pre-pandemic, the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa held twice monthly workshops at the Martinez Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center. After the first workshop in 2017, UC Master Gardener volunteer Darlene DeRose wrote, "It was just amazing to watch the excitement and surprise of the vets when they realized that they were going home with three different types of containers with plantings! At the end of the workshop, we asked for feedback. The vets were unanimous in telling us that they want this to be an ongoing program. Attendees want to learn how to propagate and care for plants, and when to harvest, among many other topics."
In honor of today, the UC Master Gardener Program sends wishes of peace and wellness to all who've served in the armed forces, especially our gardening veterans.
Special thanks to Alexa Hendricks, Roanna Prell, and Nicole Vanole in Ventura and to Dawn Kooyumjian, Bob Archer, and Darlene DeRose in Contra Costa for their contributions to this story.
Every three years, we look forward to connecting UC Master Gardener volunteers, staff, academics, and friends to network, learn, and share their projects and stories. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, all large-gatherings have not been possible to help slow the spread of the virus. After much thought, we have decided to postpone the triennial UC Master Gardener Conference from its originally planned 2020 dates to 2023.
The decision to further postpone the conference date was made after a careful review of the resort contract, current state and federal rules for group sizes, UC travel restrictions, and restricted activities related to COVID-19. The health and well-being of our speakers, staff, and UC Master Gardener volunteers is our top priority.
While we are sad we cannot meet in person in the upcoming year, the good news is that we were able to reschedule the conference at the same beautiful location, the Granlibakken Resort in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Oct. 2 – Oct. 6, 2023.
While postponing meeting in person was a tough decision, it has opened the doors to other virtual learning opportunities. This year, the statewide office hosted an online mini-conference, held on Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2020. The mini-conference highlighted Search for Excellence winners, Gardeners with Heart nominees, and covered several home gardening topics as well as home food preservation. The mini-conference was well received by volunteers and the public at large. Although not as robust as a full in-person conference, this proved to be a great alternative that supported both learning and engagement.
With the conference rescheduled, efforts can now shift to more emergent online training needs and projects to support new UC Master Gardener trainings and continuing education. We thank you for your support as we all work through this together! We are incredibly grateful for the understanding of UC Master Gardener volunteers, coordinators, advisors, and county directors as we continue to work hard to ensure that our future event is met with the same enthusiasm and learning opportunities as previous conferences.
Until 2023, we look forward to continuing to provide live and recorded training opportunities for UC Master Gardener volunteers and the public. Follow us on social media for live event notifications and check out our library of recorded webinars online.
Tulare and Kings Counties
Edna Blackhurst has been with UCCE Tulare for more than 25 years. As the office supervisor, Edna has supported the UC Master Gardener Program since 1997 under Michelle Le Strange, farm advisor emeritus and UC Master Gardener Program advisor.
Being the UC Master Gardener secretary has always been the best part of her job. Edna loves working with UC Master Gardener volunteers who appreciate and welcome her guidance through times without a program coordinator. Edna supported program needs in the absence of a coordinator and will continue to do so until there is successful recruitment for the position. “I am just so glad that I understand the role of the program coordinator so that UC Master Gardener volunteers can continue to flourish,” says Blackhurst. Edna's goal is to maintain UC policies, keep UC Master Gardeners focused on providing education through research-based information, look for safe outreach opportunities during COVID-19, and provide the quality of support that the Tulare/Kings UC Master Gardeners need.
Edna was born and raised in Tulare and is married with three children and eight grandchildren. She was not raised around gardening and knew nothing about it until becoming the UC Master Gardener Program secretary. Her favorite gardening hobby is collecting and growing various succulents (easy to propagate and hard to kill!).