UC Master Gardeners of Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties
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UC Master Gardeners of Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties

UC Master Gardener Program Statewide Blog

Vegetable Pest Management Training Series a Success

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. 

Active Learning

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 Gardeners are getting a real hands-on look at the features of a pocket gopher. Photo Credit: Elaine Lander

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

UC Master Gardener volunteers of Orange County are brainstorming ideas of how to incorporate the IPM training they just received into their outreach and education efforts. Photo Credit: Elaine Lander

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.

Posted on Friday, November 1, 2019 at 10:20 AM
Tags: 2020UCMG (1), Gardening (15), IPM (10), Master Gardener (32), Master Gardener Program (3), Pests (6), Volunteers (7), Weeds (2)
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management Yard & Garden

It's a BOO-tiful Time for Ghouls in the Garden!

“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! 

The bleeding tooth fungus is present among moss and pine needles in coniferous forests. Photo credit: Bernypisa

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. 

Ghost plant is translucent, often appearing almost “ghostly” white. It is a perennial wildflower in the blueberry family, also known as corpse plant. Photo credit: Liz West / Flickr)

Ghost plant

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.

Venus fly trap is the predator of the plant world and has several small, tooth-like structures that serve as a “mouth”. This “mouth” closes to catch and trap insects that the plant liquefies and feeds off of. Photo credit: Lawrie Phipps

Venus flytrap

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.

Cristata brain cactus is a gruesome looking plant with unusual development patterns. When it grows it appears to look like a zombies favorite treat, mmmm brain. Photo credit: Cliff / Flickr

Brain cactus

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!

Posted on Monday, October 28, 2019 at 6:00 AM
Tags: Master Gardener (32)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Receive Project Recognition with the 2020 Search for Excellence

Looking to showcase the amazing projects happening in your county? The Search for Excellence (SFE) competition guidelines for the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference are now available. Application submission will begin on January 7, 2020 and close on April 28, 2020. The conference is scheduled for September 28- October 2, 2020 at Granlibakken Tahoe.

UC Master Gardener volunteers, program coordinators and advisors from around the state are invited to start planning to submit their innovative educational and outreach projects now.   The Search for Excellence guidelines and submission guide are available online to help with the planning stages.

Photo/ Los Angeles County
Search for Excellence Recognition and Prizes

The top three winning submissions are individually recognized and celebrated at the conference during the awards banquet dinner. Winners are given the opportunity to present their project to fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state during the Search for Excellence Session at the 2020 Conference. Cash prizes will be awarded to the three highest-scoring entries among seven counties. 

1st place = $1500 GRAND PRIZE
2nd place = $1000
3rd  place = $500

Search for Excellence Categories

Search for Excellence gives county programs the opportunity to share successful and innovative projects in the following seven categories:

  1. Community service
  2. Demonstration garden
  3. Innovative project
  4. Research (applied scientific methodology)
  5. Special needs audience
  6. Workshop or presentation
  7. Youth program

Outreach and making an impact in local communities should be the focus of the entries, which will be judged by a team of gardening and horticultural experts selected from throughout the state. Projects eligible for consideration must take place in California, be connected to the UC Master Gardener Program and have been completed between 2017-2019.

All applicants, regardless of award status, are strongly encouraged to submit a poster for display at the conference as an opportunity to share their ideas with other county programs. Winners to be announced July 2020.

For questions about submitting a project, contact your local program coordinator or advisor to discuss and get approval. Additional information and forms can be found on the conference website under the Search for Excellence tab,  ucanr.edu/sites/2020MGConference/Activities/Search_for_Excellence/

We look forward to learning about the creative and impactful projects from counties big and small!

Important Dates

  • Submission Guideline and Guide posted online October 23, 2019
  • Submissions accepted January 7 - April 28, 2020
  • Winners contacted end of June 2020
  • Winners announced publicly July 2020
  • Conference September 28- October 2, 2020

Past Winners

Questions? Contact: 

Search for Excellence Chair
Email: mgsfe@ucanr.edu 
Include county name in subject line for all email communications 

Posted on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 1:59 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

UCCE Marin Offers Older Adult Residence Garden Tour

The entrance to the Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden is as green and verdant as what is inside. The garden paths are made of hard-packed material to reduce tripping and slipping hazards. Photo: 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. 

A senior resident at Mackey Terrace watering a raised vegetable garden of tomatoes and herbs. The bed is designed to allow resting and to minimize the need to bend down to tend to plants. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

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. 

Americans with Disabilities or ADA compliant garden beds are designed to facilitate access for folks in wheelchairs and walkers. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

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.

UC ANR staff and community partners enjoying Bartlett pears at the Bennet House garden. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

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. 

Resident at The Redwoods pruning a climbing bean. The Redwoods offers it residents a u-pick flower bed that allows them to bring the garden into their rooms or apartments. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

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.

Kurt Ellison, Gardens Activities Coordinator, explaining the ways the garden is adapted to meet the needs of gardeners of all ages. Tasks and garden locations are assigned a clearly marked number to help guide volunteers. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

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.

Posted on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 11:17 AM
  • Author: Marisa Coyne
Tags: Master Gardener (32)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Save-the-Date: 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference Tahoe City, Calif.

Tahoe City, Calif.  September 28- October 2, 2020

The triennial 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference is taking place Sept. 28- Oct. 2, 2020 in Tahoe City, Calif. Save-the-date to come and join the UC Master Gardener Program and celebrate our 40th anniversary! 

The 2017 conference in Long Beach, Calif. saw over 700 attendees from 43 counties across California.  The quality and value of the conference is unparalleled in the industry; bringing together leaders in home horticulture and sharing the latest in UC research.

Lake of the Sky: Lake Tahoe

Nestled on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City is the crown jewel of the Sierra-Nevada and the ideal location for the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference to celebrate our 40th anniversary.  The conference is being hosted at Granlibakken Tahoe, a resort built around connection - with adventure, land, water and sky with great food, and one another.  

Serene Lake Tahoe

North Lake Tahoe offers experiences from outdoor adventures to explorations of food, culture, art, music and so much more.

Things to do:

Granlibakken Tahoe

Located minutes from Tahoe City the Granlibakken Tahoe prides itself on preserving the natural environment and providing a space that feels like old Tahoe.  Recreational activities (swimming, volleyball, tennis, biking and hiking) are all on conference grounds, and a 1.5 mile private trail leads to North Lake Tahoe. 

The UC Master Gardener Conference has reserved the entire resort and an "all-inclusive package" for attendees who stay onsite means lodging, three meals per day, and cocktail receptions will all be included in the lodging rate.  Room rate details and the process for booking will be announced in future conference communications.  All hotel information will updated on the conference website, ucanr.edu/2020mgconference, check back often for details.

Main Entrance of Grannlibakken Tahoe

Come to learn, celebrate, explore, & connect

The triennial conference is an important statewide event designed to train volunteers with the most current and up-to-date research-based horticulture information. Training from the statewide conference is used as a jumping board for local-county based programs to be inspired by speakers, content and each other.  Attendees are encouraged to share the information in their own county-based programs.

 Conference activities:

  • Intensive sessions
  • Poster session
  • Search for Excellence
  • Silent Auction
  • Tours
  • Guided nature hikes
  • Hosted cocktail receptions
  • S'more campfire
  • Celebration banquet
  • And more…

The 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference is a fantastic opportunity to come together and celebrate our 40th anniversary and explore the natural beauty of Tahoe.  Connect, network and build community with fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers from all over California.  Save-the-date and see you Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2020 in Tahoe City!

Visit the conference website for more details, ucanr.edu/2020mgconference.

Posted on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 2:26 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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