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Latest Statewide Master Gardener News

Raising Awareness and Support On #GivingTuesday

Thanks to passionate UC Master Gardener volunteers, partners and friends, we raised $10,050 during #GivingTuesday!

Social media was buzzing with activity and "UNselfies" celebrating the program for #GivingTuesday!
#GivingTuesday provided an opportunity to raise awareness and talk about the UC Master Gardener Program and the incredible volunteers that make a difference across California's landscape. Funds raised will be used for both local county initiatives, school, community, demonstrations gardens, and statewide funds raised will be used to support advanced training opportunities to volunteers across the state in 2018. 

The UC Master Gardener Program plays a critical role in extending research-based information to the public and simply put, we could not do it without people like you. 

In 2017 you helped:
  • Extend sustainable landscaping practices to more than 2.1 million people in California!
  • Support more than 1,000 demonstration, community and school gardens around the state; creating beauty, outdoor classroom training opportunities, and increasing science literacy in schools, jails, hospitals, senior centers and more.
  • Combat food insecurity in our local communities by giving people the skills and knowledge to grow their own healthy fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce pesticide use and inspired habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects. 

Social media was buzzing with activity on #GivingTuesday, with volunteers and program supporters sharing reasons why they love the program. "UNselfies" or unselfish selfies were posted in support of the incredible impacts the UC Master Gardener Program makes across California. Check out the fun slideshow of #UNSelfies that were shared across social media on #GivingTuesday! 

With much gratitude,

Missy Gable
(530) 750-1266

Posted on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 9:20 AM

Halloween Plants that will Scare the BOO out of you!

It's a scary time of year! Plants are amazing life forms, coming in a wide array of forms, shapes, and colors. Here are some of my favorite Halloween plants that are sure to scare the living daylights out of you!

Doll's Eyes (Actaea pachypoda)

Doll's eyes plants are not only poisonous but host eyeball-like berries that are highly toxic to humans but don't harm most birds. Unless you're visiting friends or relatives or vacationing in the Midwest or Northeast USA you may never set your own orbs on this plant!

Devil's Claw or Ram's Horn (Proboscidea louisianica)

This unfriendly looking species is native to the South Central USA and sports a unique horn-shaped pod. In addition to its attention-grabbing visual appeal, pigments contained in the pod are used for black dyes by several Native American tribes.

Bleeding Tooth Fungus (Hydellum peckii)

This startling-looking fungus oozes fake blood through minute pores. (The red goo is actually a result of guttation that forces water into the roots during osmosis.) Fortunately for Southern Californian's, it is found mostly in the Pacific Northwest and Europe living peaceably in a symbiosis with conifers.

White Ghosts or Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora)

Photo credit: Jay Sturner / Flickr

These eye-catching specimens have bright white droopy flowers reminiscent of ghosts found in spooky dark, dank basements. They hide in shady spots and live in a symbiotic relationship with a fungus in their roots providing food.

Happy Fall!

Posted on Monday, October 30, 2017 at 9:18 AM

Crazy for Catmint: Celebrate your Cat for National Cat Day Oct. 29th!

Dedicated to Rascal Snowden.

Some of us garden for ourselves, others for our children and pets. When it comes to gardening for your fur friends, especially cats, catnip is the first thing that most people think of. Catnip (or catmint), Nepeta cataria, is in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Members of this aromatic family include many common herbs like rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and perilla. Nepetalactone is the compound in catnip that gives it a fragrance. Not all cats respond to nepetalactone but those that do are drawn to the garden to sniff, roll around and generally enjoy the plant.

Create a garden experience for your furry family members to enjoy with Catnip, Nepeta Cataria. (Photo credit: Lauren Snowden)

Traditional catnip, Nepeta cataria, should be planted with caution. It re-seeds readily and therefore requires a fair amount of maintenance to keep the plant from getting out of hand. Fortunately, there are numerous kinds of catmint that a gardener can choose from, all with the same cat alluring nepetalactone.

A Honey bee nectaring catmint (Nepeta), a flower that attracts pollinators into the garden. (Photo credit: Kathy Keatley Garvey)


Look for a catmint with valuable landscape qualities such as a long blooming period and maneagable growth habit. All Nepeta attract pollinators, are drought tolerant, rabbit and deer resistant, and according to the American Chemical Society may help repel mosquitos from the garden.

A common and favorite catmint is Walker's Low catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker's Low'). This particular catmint was the 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year and is an attractive garden showstopper with a soft gray-green foliage and bright lavender-blue flowers. It is suitable in Sunset zones 1-24 and does not reseed like other Nepeta racemosa.

Walker's Low catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker's Low') was the 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year. (Photo credit: piedmontmastergardeners.org)

Many gardeners use Walker's Low catmint as a groundcover although with flower spikes 2-3 feet tall, it can easily be placed farther back in a planting bed and still get attention. This easy to grow catmint tolerates full sun and morning sun with afternoon shade.

If you are looking to give your garden some “cattitude”, take a little time to look into the many catmints available and which one is most suitable for your space.

Posted on Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 9:56 AM

The New Backyard Orchard Workshop: Grow Your Own Fruits and Nuts

Liberty apple espalier in the Sherwood Demonstration Garden Orchard in El Dorado County.
Thinking about planting a fruit or nut tree? Fall is the perfect time to start planning the steps for a new tree or trees, including variety selection, location in the landscape and planting plan.   Most gardeners use their taste buds during summer and fall harvest to identify fruit and nut varieties and cultivars that have desired characteristics.  Additional preparation in the fall can make for an easier and more informed process for winter procurement and planting of bareroot fruit and nut trees. 

Developing a healthy and productive backyard orchard, according to The Home Orchard, requires the following:

Identify a location for fruit trees where they will receive full sun 6 or more hours per day during the growing season, too much shade will affect the quantity and quality of fruit produced. If you don't have loose, well-drained soil you may want to amend the soil and add compost, or fertilizers.

  • Proper tree selection 
    Selecting a quality tree and caring for it increases the chances for success.  This begins with selecting a tree from a quality nursery.  At the nursery this winter, select bareroot trees that appear strong, healthy, and do not show signs of disease.

  • Good planting techniques
    Planting of bareroot trees should take place in winter, between December and March.  Dig a planting hole just bigger than the depth and width of the roots, it is best to leave a “pedestal” or to leave the soil below the root system undisturbed to help prevent the tree from settling. Fruit trees should be planted high to help avoid crown rot disease.

A UC Master Gardener volunteer working with schools on a field trip to the Sherwood Demonstration Garden in El Dorado County.
Once your trees are in the ground, having a thorough understanding of how fruit and nut trees function for proper pollination, bud formation, and fruiting will help you more effectively care for your trees.

The UC Master Gardeners of El Dorado County have gathered an excellent team of experts to teach about tree factors and show you how to take advantage of pruning techniques that allow your trees to obtain better sun exposure, better airflow, and better structure for easier netting and pest prevention.

Join the UC Master Gardeners of El Dorado County, on Nov. 2 for a new workshop titled The New Backyard Orchard, at the Cameron Park Community CenterThe New Backyard Orchard workshop will help you choose the right tree varieties for your region, plant trees correctly, and shape trees to make them attractive, as well as high-bearing. You'll receive a thorough, scientifically correct understanding of how trees generate fruit, to help you understand how to manage your orchard.

Nov. 2, 2017
10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cameron Park Community Center 
2502 Country Club Drive
Cameron Park, CA 95682


  • Phil Pursel, Specialist, Dave Wilson Nursery
  • Ted DeJong, Professor Emeritus, Pomology, UC Davis
  • Chuck Ingels, Farm Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension

$40 registration, light lunch included

Whether you have just a tree or two, or hope to expand your food supply through intensive backyard orchard development, this workshop is for you!

UC Master Gardeners who attend will earn four hours of Continuing Education credit. To learn more and to pre-register, please visit our website at http://ucanr.edu/mgedc-workshop  or register at http://ucanr.edu/mgedc-workshop-reg. If you have questions, please call (530) 621-5528.  

Ingels, C.A., Geisel, P.M. & Norton, M.V. (2007) The Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees UC Agriculture & Natural Resources, Publication 3485

The California Backyard Orchard, homeorchard.ucanr.edu

Posted on Monday, October 23, 2017 at 2:25 PM

Feeling at Home with Fellow UC Master Gardeners at the 2017 Conference!

UC Master Gardeners taking photos with friends and fellow volunteers at the social media wall at the conference. Photo credit: Sheila Clyatt
The woman next to me asked if I wouldn't mind passing the butter, then she adds, "Harlequin Beetles are a nuisance." I nod in response and we move on to another exciting lunch topic. I am at a table surrounded by strange garden loving enthusiasts and I feel right at home.

In fact, it is the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference, in Long Beach, and we have descended on a very "posh" hotel with our sneakers, jeans and short practical fingernails. We stand out so much that it is almost humorous. We are a jovial crowd, relaxed and invigorated by the audible buzz of information and humor relayed at every gathering.

Some of the returnees appear to take everything in stride but I am so excited about this event that I push all fear aside and talk to every UC Master Gardener volunteer I meet. I am relieved to establish that UC Master Gardeners are totally approachable, love to share information and some can talk longer on the subject of compost then I can. That is quite an accomplishment.

What is so awesome about this event, is that when entomology is discussed instead of glazed over eyes, my fellow attendees become hypervigilant to the subject and even interject with commentary. These are my people!
I had wanted to attend UC Master Gardener conferences in the past, including the 2014 event in Yosemite. But each year after filling out the application, adding the cost of hotel and transportation I'd determine it's not within my budget. This year with the help of the funds raised by the previous silent auction made available to all UC Master Gardeners volunteers, combined with the cheap airfare on JetBlue I was able to attend.

Having fun with "face coasters" during the awards banquet and silent auction. Photo credit: Sheila Clyatt
The experience was amazing! Everything about the conference was exceptional: we ate great food, listened to stimulating lectures, participated in hands on workshops, and met wonderful staff and volunteers. I also gained an extraordinary sense that I was a part of something bigger and that my contributions back home held a more significant impact because of it.

Witnessing what other UC Master Gardeners were doing in their counties was both inspiring and reassuring. We might not be geographically close - but our goals, efforts and intentions were all in alliance. This comradery of meaningful contribution buffered both my stamina in the program and my commitment to its goals.

I hope that I might be fortunate enough to attend another UC Master Gardener conference in the coming years, and if so, I hope to see you there!

Posted on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 9:46 AM
  • Author: Sheila Clyatt

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