UC Master Gardener Program
UC Master Gardener Program
UC Master Gardener Program
University of California
UC Master Gardener Program

Latest Statewide Master Gardener News

5 Common Tomato Problems and Solutions

One of the most versatile and rewarding plants in a summer edible garden is the tomato. According to a 2014 study by the National Gardening Association, 86 percent of homes with vegetable gardens grow tomatoes. It is understandable that the tomato plant is a popular home vegetable garden staple, tomatoes offer thousands of different varieties options and flavors. Plus, nothing beats the flavor of a ripe tomato straight from the garden.

When properly cared for, a single tomato plant can produce 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8 kg) or more of fruit. If tomato yields aren't what was expected or the fruit is damaged it could be due to a number of abiotic disorders, diseases or pests. Abiotic disorders result from nonliving causes and are oftentimes environmental, for example: unfavorable soil conditions, too much or too little water, temperature extremes, physical or chemical injuries, and other issues that can harm or kill a plant. Below are five common abiotic disorders of tomatoes and recommended remedies from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication, Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden

1. Sunburn

Photo credit: UC IPM, ipm.ucanr.edu

Problem: Fruit turns light brown and leathery on side exposed to sun.

Cause: Overexposure to sunlight.

• Maintain plant vigor to produce adequate leaf cover.
• Avoid overpruning.
• Provide partial shade during hours of most intense sunlight.

2. Leaf Roll

Photo credit: Dr. Russ Wallace, today.agrilife.org

Problem: Older leaves roll upward and inward suddenly, leaves become stiff to the touch, brittle, and leathery.

Causes: High light intensity and high soil moisture, particularly when plants are staked and heavily pruned

• Choose less-susceptible varieties.
• Maintain even soil moisture.
• Provide shade during hours of intense sunlight.  

3. Blossom End Rot

Photo credit: UC IPM, ipm.ucanr.edu

Problem: Water-soaked spot on blossom end of fruit enlarges and darkens, becomes sunken and leathery. Affects both green and ripe fruit, and is more common on sandier soils.

Causes: Calcium nutrition and water balance in the plant, aggravated by high soil salt content and fluctuating soil moisture.

• Maintain even soil moisture.
• Amend planting area with compost to improve water retention.
• Avoid heavy applications of high-nitrogen fertilizer.
• Soils deficient in calcium may be amended with gypsum. 

4. Fruit Cracks and Catfacing

Photo credit: Goldlocki / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

Problem: Circular concentric cracks around the stem end (concentric cracking), cracks radiating outward from the stem (radial cracking), malformation and cracking at the blossom end (catfacing). 

Causes: Very fast growth with high temperatures and high soil moisture levels. Wide fluctuation in soil moisture and or air temperature. Any disturbances to flower parts during blossoming.

• Keep soil evenly moist.
• Maintain good leaf cover or provide partial shade during hours of most intense sunlight.
• Mulch around the plant 3 to 7 inches deep to maintain soil moisture and temperature.

5. Solar Yellowing and Green Shoulders

Photo credit: UC IPM, ipm.ucanr.edu

Problem: Yellow or yellow-orange instead of normal red color, upper portions of the fruit remian green even though the lower portion appears red and ripe. 

Cause: High temperatures and high light intensity.

• Maintian plant vigor to produce adequate leaf cover.
• Avoid overpruning.
• Provide partial shade during hours of most intense sunlight.

Pests eating away at your tomatotes?
Other damages that are caused to tomato plants can be caused by a variety of pests. Some examples of common pests, include: hornworms, tomato fruitworms, tomato pinworms, stink bugs, white flies, and leafminers. For information about identifying and managing pests in your edible garden visit the UC Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) website, ipm.ucanr.edu.

Looking for free gardening advice?
Since 1981, the UC Master Gardener Program has been extending UC research based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscape, and pest management practices to the public. Through a vast network of more than 6,000 certified UC Master Gardener volunteers, the program is administered by local UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) county offices across California. Contact the UC Master Gardener Program in your county for more information about edible gardening or upcoming educational workshops, mg.ucanr.edu.

Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden Publication 8159, anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8159.pdf

Posted on Monday, July 11, 2016 at 11:30 AM

VMS Reappointment In-Progress

Volunteers don't necessarily have the time; they just have the heart! – Elizabeth Andrew

Volunteers make a huge impact in counties across the entire state of California, from educating the public on sustainable landscaping practices to saving millions of gallons of water a year in home landscape use. Thank you for sharing your valuable time and volunteering with the UC Master Gardener Program. We hope you consider applying for reappointment and that you continue to serve as a volunteer for the UC Master Gardener Program for the next year fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). Volunteer appointments are made annually and serve as an agreement between the volunteer and the University of California. 

Annual reappointment is required for all volunteers working under the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UC Master Gardener Program. Please read this how-to guide thoroughly and direct any questions regarding the reappointment process to your county's Program Coordinator, Advisor or County Director. 

Reappointment begins June 1 and must be completed by all Active, Limited Active, First-Year, Gold Badge and Platinum Badge volunteers.  If you haven't finished the process already, it can be done in three easy steps!

Step One: Select “Complete Agreement Now” in VMS

  • Log into VMS, vms.ucanr.edu
  • Select “Complete Agreement Now” from prompt box at top of VMS home screen

Step Two: Complete all three sections to fulfill county requirements for participation

Step Three:  Verify Date Completed displays and Print a copy for your records

Quick Tips and FAQ's:

Who must complete the reappointment process?  The Appointment process is mandatory for all UCCE Master Gardeners / Master Food Preservers, including:

  • Active
  • Limited Active
  • First-Year
  • Gold Badge
  • Platinum Badge

How many hours do I need to volunteer for reappointment?  The minimum hours required to remain a certified UCCE Master Gardener / UCCE Master Food Preserver are:

  • 25 hours - Volunteer
  • 12 hours - Continuing education
  • Date Range - 7/1/2015 - 6/30/2016

Note: First year UCCE Master Gardeners / UCCE Master Food Preservers are required to complete a minimum of 50 volunteer hours (no continuing education requirement) before the next certification cycle.

Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Save-the-Date: 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference

Save-the-Date: 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference in Long Beach, Calif.  
August 22-25, 2017

The triennial 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference is taking place Aug. 22-25, 2017 in Long Beach, Calif. The UC Master Gardener Conference is one of the largest gathering of certified Master Gardener volunteers in the world. The last conference in 2014 saw more than 700 attendees who represented 45 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 UC research from the field.

  • 99% of conference attendees surveyed said they would recommend the conference to a friend or colleague
  • 94% of attendees reported being satisfied with the conference topics and training
  • 92% reported speakers met or exceeded expectations  

Location, Location, location!

Long Beach, Calif. offers conference attendees the perfect blend of urban sophistication and beach resort.
The 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference will be hosted in the heart of Southern Calif. in Long Beach. The City of Long Beach lands almost exactly on the border of both Orange and Los Angeles Counties, this unique location offers conference attendees the perfect blend of urban sophistication and beach resort.

Things to do:

  • Aquarium of the Pacific
  • Rainbow Lagoon Park Shoreline Village
  • Queen Mary (5 min.)
  • Catalina Island 
  • Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens  (1 hr. drive)
  • Disneyland (30 min.)
  • J. Paul Getty Museum (1 hr. drive)

Hyatt Regency Long Beach

Hyatt Regency Long Beach is the official 2017 conference hotel. The hotel is within walking distance to the aquarium, shopping, beaches, and hundreds of restaurants.
The Hyatt Regency Long Beach is the official 2017 conference hotel and is conveniently located adjacent to the Long Beach Convention Center. Nestled on the waterfront, the conference hotel is within walking distance to the aquarium, shopping, beaches, and hundreds of restaurants.

The Hyatt Regency offers 528 recently renovated guest rooms with spectacular ocean views and access to deluxe amenities, including: spa, fitness room, business center and an outdoor pool. Each room includes down comforters, remodeled bathrooms and are all PURE hypoallergenic compliant which provides a better night's sleep for all guests.

A reduced rate has been negotiated for all conference attendees, the reduced conference hotel rate is not yet available for booking. Room rate details and the process for booking will be announced in future conference communications. All hotel information will also be added to the conference website, check back often for details.

Join us and be inspired

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:

  • Book Signings
  • MarketPlace
  • Photo Contest
  • Poster Session
  • Search for Excellence
  • Silent Auction
  • Tours
  • Vendor Mall

The 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference is a fantastic opportunity to network and visit with fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers from all over California.  Save-the-date and see you Aug. 22-25, 2017 in Long Beach!

Visit the conference website for more details, ucanr.edu/2017mgconference.

Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 2:05 PM

Don’t Spring into Planting – Wait for the Threat of Frost to Subside

Frost damage to young tomato seedlings. Photo credit: Goldlocki
Seed catalogs have been coming in the mail for weeks showing off their new varieties and tempting home gardeners with harvest photos featuring vibrant fruits and veggies.  Don't let early spring like weather trick you into planting warm weather crops . . . just yet. 

Extreme heat or cold can cause damage to both cool and warm season vegetable crops.  Cool season vegetable crops like carrots, lettuce and broccoli bolt (premature flowering and seeding) when warm weather arrives.  Warm season vegetable crops like tomatoes, corn, beans and summer squash can easily be damaged by cooler weather and freezing temperatures.

As the transition from cool season vegetable crops to warm season vegetable crops occurs pay special attention to the weather and most importantly the frost date. Don't forget to harvest cool season crops before they bolt, and only plant warm season crops after the threat of frost.  

A cold frame provides a warm and protected space for your spring seeds, allowing gardeners to start gardening before the threat of frost as subsided. Photo credit: Sandy Metzger
To determine when the threat of frost is over use a frost date calendar, and read seed packets and plant labels for recommended planting times.  A frost date calendar is based on historical weather data and gives approximate dates of the first and last frost. Frost date calendars assist in determining when to plant and how long the growing season is in a particular area.

Time of planting, temperature and moisture all contribute to the success of a home vegetable garden.  If planted early, seeds may not successfully germinate and tender seedlings may be damaged by cold.  If planted late, vegetables may not have enough days to reach harvest.    

If you are eager to get your spring garden moving forward and can't wait until after the threat of frost has passed, here are some ways to extend your gardening season:  

Growing your own vegetables is rewarding when done properly, don't let poor planting practices ruin your harvest! Planning and preparation will help ensure the success of your crop, for more information on vegetable gardening and water-saving tips visit the University of California Garden Web


Last day http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-california-last-frost-date-map.php
First day http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-california-first-frost-date-map.php

California Master Gardener Handbook, Chapter13 Home Gardening


Posted on Monday, March 14, 2016 at 1:29 PM

Little Less Conversation, Little More Action (Please)

I saw Elvis today. 

Actually, he's quite the regular at Sustainable Conservation's San Francisco headquarters these days. More than a titan among musical icons “The King” has become a muse to the PlantRight team, especially this National Invasive Species Awareness Week . We love Elvis' “A Little Less Conversation” because it might as well be our theme song for actionable awareness. We can't guarantee you'll be dancing along by the end of this article, but we do guarantee providing you with a few awareness-raising resources, a deeper understanding of what's holding back the hold-outs from taking positive action, and most importantly what we can do about it.

PlantRight defines “actionable awareness” as what happens when individuals and businesses are made aware of an opportunity to be part of the solution to California's costly (economically and environmentally) invasive garden plant problem, and make a conscious decision to act.  Invasive plants (despite the fact that many are deceptively beautiful and drought resistant) outcompete native plants, alter soil chemistry, increase wildfire risk, clog our waterways and can severely compromise agricultural yields and real estate value. If that weren't enough, invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity after human development.

Awareness of these facts alone will not fix any of these issues; however, add action to the mix and you have a proven formula for problem solving.  PlantRight's idea of problem solving is collaborating with the industry to voluntarily phase invasive plants out of the supply chain and replace them with high-quality (i.e. non-invasive) plants. Voila! Together we prevent new invasive garden plants from wreaking havoc on our wild lands and taxpayer wallets.

Invasive species are second greatest threat to biodiversity after guess who …?
A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action Please

The fact that 50% of California's invasive plants are of horticultural origin (Bell et al. 2007) is a source of both conversation and dismay.  Yet from PlantRight's perspective this 50% is a great source of optimism because it's proof of a huge opportunity the nursery industry can play in preventing future invasive plant introductions. In past decades ornamental plant breeders and growers had little or no ability to predict a plant's invasive risk in a given region, and most invasions were well-intentioned accidents.  Lucky for us we finally have science-based plant risk evaluation tools to prevent new invasive plant introductions.   Not so lucky for us is that popular plants travel, and a delightful Dr. Jekyll plant in one region, may become a hideous Mr. Hyde plant and landscape transformer in a different region. It's about the right plant in the right place, but just where to begin, if we're to turn this talk into actionable awareness?

In the beginning there was lots of conversation and lots of listening sessions that Sustainable Conservation conducted with a diverse group of nursery industry stakeholders, from large ornamental growers, retail nurseries, plant scientists, trade associations and government agencies. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has been part of this group from the start, providing academic expertise on weeds and calculating their risk. This group's official moniker is “California Horticultural Invasive Prevention,” but we prefer Cal-HIP.

With a couple years of listening and learning under our belts, and funding from Sustainable Conservation, the PlantRight program was ready for action: action   engaging the nursery industry in voluntarily phasing our invasive ornamental plants and promoting, in their place, non-invasive alternatives.

Our first order of business was to measure the scope of the problem and establish a baseline. Working closely with plant science experts to identify the most problematic invasive ornamental plants, and industry experts to identify non-invasive alternatives, we created our first PlantRight plant list. If you can measure it you can manage it, we like to say - to do this, we rely on an annual Spring Nursery Survey. Each spring, partner with UC Master Gardener volunteers to survey more than 200 nurseries and garden centers around the state, and in the process track the retail market for invasive garden plants in California.

Along with informing PlantRight's program strategy, the annual survey allows us to keep PlantRight's plant list manageable and up to date – we add new invaders and retire those that are largely phased out of the trade.  It is our program's calling card, and the starting point for conversations with prospective partners and skeptics, alike.  It has earned the enthusiastic support of California Certified Nursery Professionals (CCNPro), SaveOurWater, and more.

A Little Less Fight, a Little More Spark

Buying non-invasive means many things, including protecting native species, being good stewards of our beautiful open spaces and waterways, being fiscally responsible and preventing additional taxpayer dollars going to avoidable invasive plant eradication efforts.  Buying non-invasive plants is casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

So, why on earth do people buy invasive plants in the first place? (Hint: One big reason has to do with what happens when you turn off the lights). Yep, people who purchased invasive plants were in the dark – they did not know. 

In 2013, we learned that the primary drivers behind consumer purchases of invasive plants are: 1) aesthetics – it looks good; and, 2) there was no information on the plant indicating “invasive.”  In other words the majority of invasive plant purchases (by consumers) are impulse purchases and would not have occurred had the plant been properly identified as “invasive.”

Photo credit: Susan Morrison
Nan Sterman, award winning garden writer and host of PBS' “A Growing Passion,” has her own answer to this vexing invasive plant question.  “It's about visual influence,” says Sterman.  “People tend to buy and plant what they see in their local gardens and landscapes. “ According to Sterman, these include the very people who religiously recycle, buy high-efficiency appliances, and drive electric cars, yet they can't imagine beautiful, drought tolerant plants posing environmental problems.  Nassella tenuissima, or Mexican feathergrass, is one such culprit that has been romancing many well-intentioned Californians.

Come On, Come On…Come On, Come On

Ready to channel your inner Elvis and tackle invasive garden plant problems in ways that make economic sense?  (Of course you are!)  Here are a few resources to empower more action in your community.

So this National Invasive Species Awareness Week we encourage you to crank up that volume and bust a move with the PlantRight community (blue suede shoes optional), knowing that YOU are driving actionable awareness…this week, this month and in the years ahead.

Thank you, thankyouverymuch.

Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 1:40 PM
  • Author: Jan Merryweather, PlantRight

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