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

Latest Statewide Master Gardener News

UC Master Gardeners and Outreach: A Tale of Two Events

If there is one thing I appreciate about my UC Master Gardener volunteer groups, it is their desire to rethink, change, evolve and avoid stagnation. Now, sometimes there are “growing pains” involved with expanding a program or developing a new one, but the energy is needed to refresh the enthusiasm of both the volunteers and local gardeners who keep tabs on their outreach projects.

Years ago, a group of my volunteers came up with the idea to create a new community event that would bring amazing speakers into the county to deliver fun and interesting gardening topics to our local gardening clientele. They called it, “A Gardeners' Gathering”, it was created as a one-day event located in an historic fruit shed renovated to host large groups in the “middle” of the county so as to be convenient for both our urban and rural gardeners. The six speakers were chosen carefully and related non-profit groups were invited to have tables at the event.   Since it was a full day event, food and beverages were provided, pre-registration was required and the cost was relatively high (although the event was not a fundraising event).

Placer Master Gardener Larry Haughty - Photo courtesy Auburn Journal

It was very successful in many ways – one big product of the event was the first online credit card survey created and used in our office for registration. For years, we packed the fruit shed with eager gardeners looking forward to networking, listening to some great speakers, and enjoying good food too. After doing this event for years, the volunteers noticed that the same folks were attending year after year and we were limited to 130 registrant because of space limitations. This meant, there was no options for expansion of the event in its current form. So, it was brought up that maybe we should rethink the event which was difficult to contemplate considering how well it was running.

The event was reviewed in a series of meetings and UC Master Gardeners decided it was time to change it up and reach more local gardeners with a different event format.   Enter the new “GardenFaire” – an event created and put on for the first time last year reaching more than 300 people. This event had the goals of being inexpensive with no registration required, a kid's area to bring in families, less speakers, more tables and an “Ask a UC Master Gardener” area that had plenty of visitation! We believe this event has a huge potential for future growth.

Floral Display Competition - Photo courtsey of the Auburn Journal

So, here we are about to put on the 2nd Annual Garden Faire in Placer County and it shows how sometimes a pivot with an event can quickly double or quadruple (fingers crossed!) the number of people we can reach through our program. Remember, even if you have a successful event going for years - take the time to review and reconsider after a while. It may end up being the best path forward to change it up and keep all of our local gardeners wondering, “What will those UC Master Gardeners do next?”

For more information about the UC Placer Master Gardener Program and their upcoming events, visit their website at pcmg.ucanr.org

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Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 12:53 PM

Search for Excellence Competition a Highlight of 2017 UC Master Gardener Statewide Conference

UC Master Gardener volunteers that were part of a river-friendly garden project in Lodi, Ca. pictured from left to right: Curt Juran, Anita Herman, Sharon McDonnell, Kathy Grant. and Lodi Mayor, Bob Johnson.
Looking to showcase the amazing projects happening in your county? Entries for the Search for Excellence (SFE) competition are now being accepted for the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference! The conference is taking place August 23-25, 2017 at the Long Beach Hyatt and Long Beach Convention Center.

UC Master Gardener volunteers, program coordinators and advisors from around the state are invited to submit their innovative educational and outreach projects by the May 1, 2017 deadline.

Search for Excellence Prizes

The stakes have been raised and the prizes are bigger than ever before! For the first time the grand prize winner of the Search for Excellence awards will receive $1,500 for their county program. Second place winner receives $1,000 and third place winner receives $500 for their county program.

UC Master Gardener volunteers from San Diego County present "Fall Plant Extravaganza". Pictured from left to right: Mike Harrelson, KUSI host and Lucy Warren.
The top three winners are individually recognized and celebrated at the conference during the awards banquet dinner. Winners are given the opportunity to present the details of their project to fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. Prizes are awarded to the top three highest scoring entries among seven categories.

Search for Excellence Categories

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

  • Community service
  • Demonstration garden
  • Innovative project
  • Research (applied scientific methodology)
  • Special needs audience
  • Workshop or presentation
  • Youth program

UC Master Gardener volunteers getting youth excited about science and horticulture at AgVenture Day.
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 2013-2016.

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 June 2017.

For questions about submitting a project contact your local program coordinator or advisor. Additional information and forms can be found on the conference website on the Search for Excellence webpage, ucanr.edu/sites/2017MGConference/Activities/SFE/ 

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

Questions? Contact: 
(Please include county name in subject line for all email communications)

Southern California (San Luis Obispo, Kern, San Bernardino, and south) 
Scott Parker 
Program Coordinator, San Diego 
Phone: (858) 822-6932 
Email: mgsfe@ucanr.edu 

Northern California (Monterey, Kings, Tulare, Inyo and north)
Marcy Sousa 
Program Coordinator, San Joaquin 
Phone: (209) 953-6111 
Email: mgsfe@ucanr.edu 

Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 8:48 AM

With PlantRight, You Too Can Prevent the Sale of Invasive Plants

It's that time of year again. Soon, over 150 UC Master Gardener volunteers will head to plant nurseries throughout the state with clipboards, cameras, and data sheets in hand. In this 8th year of the survey, they will be searching for invasive ornamental plants. But why?

The nursery survey is how PlantRight measures what is happening in California's retail nursery industry, and none of it would happen without the survey volunteers. In 2016, 175 volunteers (many of them UC Master Gardener volunteers) were trained by PlantRight to survey for invasive plants at retail locations throughout the state. If approved by your county, hours spent participating in the survey can count towards certification volunteer hour requirements. Check with your local county program coordinator. 

Survey volunteer Mary Ann Saylards recording an occurrence of pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) at a nursery.

Interested in participating? 

  • Learn more about the survey and results from past surveys. 
  • Register to receive updates about the survey and gain access to the online training.
  • View either a refresher video for returning volunteers orawebinar for new volunteers that discusses invasive plants, how to conduct the survey, and includes a guest speaker each year.
    • The survey starts earlier in Southern California (San Luis Obispo, Kern, San Bernardino counties and south) than it does in north of those counties.
    • Southern California: Nurseries are available to claim and the survey begins on February 27th, going through May.
    • Northern California: Nurseries are available to claim and the survey begins on April 3rd, going until June 20th.
    • This year's webinar includes an Introduction to the Watershed Approach to Landscaping by Pamela Berstler from G3: Green Gardens Group. 
  • Take a short quiz to demonstrate your newfound knowledge. 
  • Access to survey materials and claim your survey store (or multiple stores. 
  • Visit the store/s and record information about any invasive plants or candidate plants being sold. 
  • Submit information to PlantRight

Why is the survey important?

The information volunteers gather is vital to PlantRight for three main purposes:

1. Tracking the sale of invasive plants currently on the plant list, and retiring those that have been largely phased out of retail.

Scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius), a familiar sight in California wildlands. It has invaded at least 23 counties in California and can produce up to 12,000 seeds per plant, making it difficult to control once established. Photo by Joe DiTomaso.
The first PlantRight invasive plant list was developed using the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) Inventory as a starting point and included 19 plants, focusing on the highest priority invasive plants still sold in garden centers.

To keep the list relevant, as plants from the original list are no longer sold, they are “retired.” To retire a plant, it must be found at less than 1% of nurseries surveyed for 3 years in a row. This doesn't mean that they are gone from our landscapes. Plants like Scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius) and arundo (Arundo donax) have already invaded wildlands in California, and there's still much work to be done to control their spread. Since the invasive plant list was first published in 2006, 15 plants have been retired, which is excellent progress. You can help with these retired plants by removing them if they are on your property or volunteering with groups that remove invasive plants.

There are 7 plants currently on PlantRight's list of invasive plantsThe 2016 survey results for these 7 plants can be found in the Fact Sheet and Full ReportFour of these plants were part of the original list of 19: green fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum),pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)highway iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis), and big-leaf periwinkle (Vinca major)

Three plants were added in 2014Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima)yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).  

2. Helping PlantRight determine whether or not to add candidate plants to the plant list.

In late 2012, PlantRight recruited several horticultural experts (all volunteers, from diverse sectors of industry, academia and conservation) to establish their Plant List Committee. These individuals engage in the complex, involved, and time-intensive process of working with PlantRight to decide which surveyed plants to add to the invasive plant list and which non-invasive alternatives to suggest. Each fall, PlantRight solicits input from the Plant List Committee and an extended network of experts to see what plants might be hopping the garden fence and escaping into wildlands. 

Rows of Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima) at a nursery. While green during the wetter part of the year, this grass will turn golden brown at the top as its seeds ripen — its many, many seeds. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds, which are dispersed by wind, water, contaminated soil, automobiles, and animals. Photo by Jan Tilford.

To appear on PlantRight's invasive list, a plant must meet the following criteria:

  1. When evaluated by PlantRight's Plant Risk Evaluator (PRE), it rates as being “high risk” or is on the Cal-IPC Inventory
  2. It is found in 3% or more retailers surveyed in the annual Spring Nursery Survey
  3. Its invasive range is large enough to warrant action, and its inclusion is supported by both the Plant List Committee and Steering Committee

There's one more way PlantRight uses the survey information – helping use their energy and time strategically.

3. Informing industry outreach strategy with information about sales in different regions and store types.

On the left, green fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), one of the original 19 plants that is still on the plant list. Pennisetum setaceum was found at only 3.7% of nurseries in 2016 as sales continue to decline from 2012, when it was found at 7.7% of nurseries surveyed. Photo by Bobbie Wright.
PlantRight has worked across the nursery supply chain to raise awareness about invasive plant issues and benefits of planting right. In recent years they been recruiting retail nursery partners. These partners commit to sell exclusively non-invasive plants — you won't find any plants on our plant list at a retail nursery partner's store. Knowing who is selling invasive plants and in what regions of the state helps focus their efforts where they will have the greatest impact.

Get an exclusive look at the results of this year's survey (before they go online) by attending the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference in Long Beach on August 22-25, where PlantRight will be giving a presentation and celebrating the participation of UC Master Gardener volunteers in this effort. 

Can't participate in the survey?

You can still help by sharing what you've just read, sharing the Plant List or Mexican feathergrass species spotlight, shopping at PlantRight retail partner locations, and educating your friends and neighbors. You can also participate in their Continuing Education program if you would like to expand your knowledge about invasive garden plants in California. You are welcome to still watch the webinar if you can't participate in the survey. A recording of each webinar will be shared on the PlantRight YouTube channel immediately after it concludes.

Learn more about PlantRight at www.PlantRight.org. Stay up on the latest from PlantRight on Facebook and Twitter, and InstagramHave a question? Contact us at PlantRight@suscon.org.

Note: this blog post is an updated and abridged version of Where invasive plants are sold in California – and how we know, which was shared by PlantRight in October 2016 and summarized the results of the 2016 survey and plant list update process. 

Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 11:53 AM
  • Author: Stephanie Falzone

IPM Achievement Award for Cherry Buckskin Project in Contra Costa County

Accepting an award from the CA Dept. of Pesticide Regulation, for the Cherry Buckskin Project. From left to right: Jorge Vargas, Claire Bernardo, Janet Caprile, and Matt Slattengren.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation held their annual Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Achievement Awards on Jan. 26. Awards were given in recognition of six organizations that applied problem-solving approaches to manage pests through the use of least toxic practices. One of the awards, accepted by Janet Caprile, Farm Advisor UC Cooperative Extension Contra Costa County, was for the Cherry Buckskin Project.

Since 1987, the Cherry Buckskin Project has been working to prevent the establishment of cherry buckskin disease which can decimate entire orchards. “Cherry buckskin disease is spread by leafhoppers, which acquire the disease when feeding on diseased cherries or other plants that host the disease organism. Diseased trees produce pebbly, leathery-skinned paled fruit that is most evident at harvest,” according to the UC IPM website.

Prevention of cherry buckskin disease is a collaborative effort between UC Cooperative Extension, the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture and local cherry growers; the Cherry Buckskin Project aims at early detection through education and outreach.

A major component of the Cherry Buckskin Project is the training of UC Master Gardener volunteers and local growers. UC Master Gardener volunteers in Contra Costa County are trained annually by Caprile, who explains the history of the disease, how it is transmitted and what symptoms to be on the lookout for.

UC Master Gardener volunteers serve as early detectors and scout for symptoms of cherry buckskin disease, through an annual survey of cherry orchards in Contra Costa County. Since the beginning of the project UC Master Gardener volunteers donated more than 1,100 volunteer hours surveying cherry orchards!

Healthy cherry fruit (left) and fruit with symptoms of cherry buckskin disease (right). Photo credit: Jack Kelly Clark.
In 2002, a UC Master Gardener volunteer found the first orchard infected with cherry buckskin disease. Over the next five years, seven more orchards were identified with one or two trees showing symptoms of the disease. All of the infected trees were removed after the lab samples were confirmed to be positive. In 2015, the orchard that was a recurrent hot spot for the disease was removed and no more occurrences have been found in the annual surveys conducted since.

A huge congratulations to Janet Caprile for the well-deserved IPM Achievement Award, and a thank you to all of the UC Master Gardener volunteers in Contra Costa County that have helped make the Cherry Buckskin Project possible with the hours they have dedicated to its success.

Also attending the award ceremony with Caprile were Matthew Slattengren, Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Sealer of Weights and Measures, Jorge Vargas, Agricultural Biologist Weights and Measures Inspector, and Claire Bernardo, representing UC Master Gardener volunteers. The ceremony took place in the CalEPA headquarters Building in Sacramento, Calif.

Resources: 

UC Cooperative Extension, Contra Costa County, cecontracosta.ucanr.edu
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County, ccmg.ucanr.edu
UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM), ipm.ucanr.edu

Posted on Monday, February 6, 2017 at 2:18 PM

Celebrating volunteers and 5 million hours donated to the program!

The UC Master Gardener Program is open to anyone interested in becoming a volunteer and sharing gardening knowledge with the public. (Photo credit: Evett Kilmartin © UC Regents)
Every day, UC Master Gardener volunteers make a difference in communities across California. These incredible volunteers give their time to mentor, teach, and inspire the people around them to adopt more sustainable gardening practices. These newly taught skills and information based on university research makes for healthier plants, environments and communities - the core values of the UC Master Gardener Program.

All of the success of the UC Master Gardener Program is due to the hard work and dedication of its volunteers, for this we would like to say a sincere THANK YOU for all you do!

Volunteers make a difference

Volunteer hours focus on services and outreach to the general public, sharing research-based information about water conservation, green waste reduction, pest management, and sustainable gardening practices. UC Master Gardeners are creating healthier communities and gardeners through their love for gardening and hours of volunteer service.

Last year 6,237 active UC Master Gardener volunteers donated 328,540 hours. (Photo credit:Evett Kilmartin © UC Regents)
Thousands of hours every week are spent planning and hosting workshops, teaching at demonstration gardens, working with school administrators and community garden leaders, answering gardening questions from phone calls, emails and online, and so much more. Whether in person, on the phone, in the media or online UC Master Gardeners are making a lasting impact.

Impacts by the numbers

Last year 6,237 volunteers gave their time and shared their talents, resources and gardening knowledge with communities across California. From July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016 more than 328,540 hours were donated, a monetary value worth more than $9 million. It is hard to put a value to the service volunteers make for the program, but over the course of our 35 year history more than 5 million volunteer hours have been donated worth more than $137 million to California.

“This year we celebrate hitting the impressive 5 million volunteer hour's milestone,” says Missy Gable, statewide director. “We are so proud of the UC Master Gardener Program and its volunteers and the incredible work they do across the state. This hour milestone represents thousands of volunteers giving their valuable time, horticulture knowledge and sharing their passion about sustainable home gardening with their friends, neighbors and communities.” 

Telling our story by reporting

Volunteers extend research based information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices. (Photo credit: Evett Kilmartin © UC Regents)
The growth and support of our program into the future depends on telling our story through reported contacts, hours and impact numbers. As the UC Master Gardener Program works toward building financial security for all counties in the state we encourage volunteers to record all volunteer hours and contacts in the Volunteer Management System (VMS) to ensure efforts are accurately captured and reported. Program activity is compiled at the county and state offices and reported not only to the County Boards of Supervisors but to the University, state and federal governments. We are proud to share our collective accomplishments and aim to be a leader within volunteer communities.

We look forward to reaching our next hour milestone together, a sincere thank you to our incredible group of volunteers, for sharing their passion and valuable time with the UC Master Gardener Program!

Posted on Monday, December 5, 2016 at 3:10 PM

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