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

Latest Statewide Master Gardener News

Creating a Pollinator Garden

When you look at a flower, how often do you consider the importance of these unsung heroes? Pollinators help produce beautiful landscapes and the bounty of fruits, nuts and vegetables we all enjoy.

Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and bats help plants reproduce by carrying pollen from one flower to another.

Right now, honey bee and other pollinator populations are being threatened by a number of factors including disease, mites, and loss of habitat and food sources.

Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on pollinators, and those pollinators need your help!

  • Have you seen bees and other pollinators in your own neighborhood?
  • Are there flowering plants in your garden, park, school or community? 
  • Did you know that many pollinators are essential for the production of most of the fruits and vegetables you eat every day?

If you answered no to any of the questions above, click here to see how you can help!

Things to Consider for your Garden:


  1. A variety of plants will be ideal for providing diverse sources of nectar and pollen. Choose at least 20 different plant types, or fewer if the types of plants are highly attractive to pollinators. Don't forget that night-blooming flowers will support moths and bats.
  2. Help pollinators find and use your garden by planting in clumps, rather than just single plants. Think about "landing zones."
  3. Include plants native to your region. Natives are adapted to your local climate, soil and native pollinators. If you want to see some locals, plant some natives!
  4. Overlap flowering times between seasons and use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall.Pollinators are in a constant search for new resources. Choosing plants with overlapping flowering times from February to October will allow bees and pollinators to continually forage in your garden.
  5. Consider plant climate zones. Plant for success! A plant's native climate range is important in determining if it will be attractive to bees visiting your garden (and if your plant will grow well in your garden or not!).
  6. Design a garden that has structure. The arrangement of plants in your garden will influence your ability to observe and enjoy pollinators. Plant the tallest plants in the back with the smaller ones in the front.
  7. Plant in the sun. Bees prefer to visit flowers in the sun, so avoid planting your pollinator-attracting plants in the shadier parts of your garden.
  8. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape, or incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control. If you use pesticides, use them sparingly and responsibly. Pesticides can kill bad insects as well as beneficial insects like bees, ladybugs and other predators of garden pests.
  9. Don't' forget about nesting bees! Not all bees have a hive. Make sure to leave some areas for bees to build their nests (either in bare ground or in prefabricated cavities in wood). It's ok to leave part of your garden un-mulched for ground-nesting insects to discover. 
  10. Leave dead tree trunks and branches in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles. By leaving dead trees, or at least an occasional dead limb, you provide essential nesting sites for native bees, but make sure these are not a safety hazard for people walking below. You can also build a bee condo by drilling holes of varying diameter about 3 to 5 inches deep in a piece of scrap lumber mounted to a post or under eaves.
  11. Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl, or birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches. 
  12. Create a damp salt lick for butterflies and bees. Use a dripping hose, drip irrigation line, or place your birdbath on bare soil to create a damp area. Mix a small bit of salt or wood ashes into the mud. 
  13. Provide a hummingbird feeder and add to nectar resources. To make artificial nectar, use four parts water to one part table sugar. Never use artificial sweeteners, honey, or fruit juices. Place something red on the feeder. Clean your feeder with hot soapy water at least twice a week to keep it free of mold.

The content for this blog was taken from the UC ANR Pollen Nation website.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 8:12 AM

Pollen Nation Photo Contest!

In honor of National Pollinator Week (June 15 - 21), UC ANR will be awarding a copy of California Bees & Blooms to the winner of their social media photo contest!

  • Simply take a photo of one of your local pollinators.
  • Upload your photo to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the #PollenNation hashtag. 
  • At the end of the week we will round up your photos and select a winner. The contest ends Sunday 6/21 and the winner will be announced on Monday 6/22! 
  • By uploading your photo to #PollenNation, you are hereby agreeing to their contest rules
  • For more information about pollinators and pollen nation, visit their website.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 8:05 AM

Soap Sprays as Insecticides

By Scott Oneto, Farm Advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

Soaps have been used to control insects and combat pests for hundreds of years, but their effectiveness as pesticides has been scientifically established only recently. Recently, there has been increased interest in and use of these products. This change is due to a better understanding of how to use soaps most effectively and a desire to try insecticides that are easier and safer to use than many currently available alternatives.

Photo courtesy: www.todayshomeowner.com

How soaps and detergents kill insects is still poorly understood. Researchers have been studying how soaps work in combating pests. Some soaps simply wash off the outer waxy coating of the insect's cuticle, destroying its watertight quality and causing the insect to dry up and die. Other soaps have additional insecticidal properties that may affect the nervous system. These soaps appear to have toxic effect only against plant-eating insects and thus may spare beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles (ladybugs), lacewings, and predatory mites. In addition, high pressure sprays may wash some insects off the plant and other insects may be immobilized in soapy water, making them easier to rinse off the plants.

Soaps will kill many insect pests, including aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, spittlebugs, rose slugs, and soft scale on most houseplants, ornamentals, and fruit trees. But because soaps have little or no residual action, sprays should be applied at regular intervals until the population is controlled or eliminated.

Soaps act strictly as contact insecticides, with no residual effect. To be effective, sprays must be applied directly to and thoroughly cover the insect. Several insecticidal soaps are available over-the-counter for control of insects and mites. Available under a variety of trade names, the active ingredient of all is potassium salt of fatty acids. Insecticidal soaps are chemically similar to many household liquid hand soaps. However, there are many features of commercial insecticidal soap products that distinguish them from the dish washing liquids or liquid hand soaps that are sometimes substituted.

Insecticidal soaps sold for control of insects:

  • are selected to control insects
  • are selected to minimize potential plant injury
  • are of consistent manufacture

Some household soap also makes effective insecticides. In particular, certain brands of hand soaps and liquid dishwashing detergents can be effective for this purpose. They are also substantially less expensive. However, there is increased risk of plant injury with these products. They are not designed for use on plants. Dry dish soaps and all clothes-washing detergents are too harsh to be used on plants. Also, many soaps and detergents are poor insecticides. Identifying safe and effective soap-detergent combinations for insect control requires experimentation. Regardless of what product is used, soap-detergent sprays are always applied diluted with water, typically at a concentration of around2 to 3 percent. (Table 1)

One of the most serious potential drawbacks to the use of Household soap-detergent sprays is their potential to cause plant injury –their phytotoxicity. Certain plants are sensitive to these sprays and may be seriously injured. For example, most commercial insecticidal soaps list plants such as hawthorn, sweet pea, cherries and plum as being sensitive to soaps. Certain tomato varieties are also sometimes damaged by insecticidal soaps. The risk of plant damage is greater with homemade preparations of household soaps or detergents. When in doubt, test soap-detergent sprays for phytotoxicity problems on a small area a day or two before an extensive area is treated.

Plant injury can be reduced by using sprays that are diluted more than the 2 to 3 percent suggested on label instructions. To reduce leaf injury, wash plants with in a couple of hours after the application. Limiting the number of soap applications can also be important, as leaf damage can accumulate with repeated exposure.

However, because of the short residual action, repeat applications may be needed at relatively short intervals (four to seven days) to control certain pests, such as spider mites and scale crawlers. Also, application must be thorough and completely wet the pest. This usually means spraying undersides of leaves and other protected sites. Insects that cannot be completely wetted, such as aphids within curled leaves, will not be controlled.

Environmental factors also can affect use of soaps. In particular, soaps (but not synthetic detergents) are affected by the presence of minerals found in hard water, which results in chemical changes producing insoluble soaps (soap scum). Control decreases if hard-water sources are used. Insecticidal soaps may also be more effective if drying is not overly rapid, such as early or late in the day.

Soaps and detergents can offer a relatively safe and easy means to control many insect pests. As with all pesticides, however, there are limitations and hazards associated with their use. Understand these limitations, and carefully follow all label instructions.

Information for this article was adapted from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
and Colorado State University Extension.
For more information on pesticides and pesticide alternatives, visit the UC IPM website



Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 6:30 AM
  • Author: Scott Oneto

VMS Reappointment In-Progress!

Annual reappointment is a requirement for all volunteers working with UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Please read this update thoroughly and direct any questions regarding the appointment process to your county's Program Coordinator, Advisor or County Director. 

Reappointment began 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  


Posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 9:34 AM
  • Author: Missy Gable

California Invasive Species Action Week, June 6-14

Adult (top) and mature nymph of the brown marmorated sting bug, Halyomorpha halys. Brown marmorated stink bugs primarily damage fruit and are a serious pest of many fruit and fruiting vegetable crops.
Did you know that this week (June 6 - June 14) is California Invasive Species Action week? The goal of this week is to increase public awareness of invasive species issues and share ways we can all participate in the fight against California's invasive species and their impacts on our environment and natural resources.

Find out more about California Invasive Species Action week, species of concern, schedule of events, and what you can do to help prevent invasive species at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Action-Week.

The University of California has information about exotic and invasive pests on the UC IPM Exotic and Invasive Pests page and the Center for Invasive Species Research.

Also, read some of our recnt blog articles on invasive pests and their impacts in urban areas:

Once established, invasive species are extremely difficult to eradicate and can cause not only ecological disruption, but economic problems as well. Everyone has a part to play to keep exotic and invasive species from coming into California and spreading throughout the state.

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 2:21 PM
  • Author: Karey Windbiel-Rojas

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: mgwomack@ucanr.edu