UC Master Gardener Program
University of California
UC Master Gardener Program

Growing Creativity in the COVID-19 Era (Part 3 of 4)

For the past three months, COVID-19 and social distancing requirements have changed the way the UC Master Gardener Program serves our mission to extend trusted gardening information. With a resurgence of interest in gardening, UC Master Gardener volunteers adapted to the pandemic using new and innovative ways to share gardening support and help.

This is the third feature of a four-part blog series. Read our earlier posts about how volunteers in Amador County learned new skills and quickly brought program resources online in Part 1 of this 4-part series and how volunteers in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties created the “Great Tomato Plant Share' in Part 2 of this 4-part series.

Join us as we celebrate the innovation, creativity, and flexibility of UC Master Gardener volunteers and county staff during this unique time! 


The UC Master Gardener Program in San Diego County has been quick to develop new and innovative ways to provide remote education to its trainees and members of the public. Scott Parker, program coordinator, credits its new class operation team and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) partners with its successful move to online training and graduation of the class of 2020.

UC Master Gardener Program trainees in San Diego County attended plant propagation and flower dissection workshops via Zoom during shelter-in-place orders in spring 2020.

“Shortly after the shelter-in-place order went into effect, Karey Windbiel-Rojas and Elaine Lander of UC Integrated Pest Management Statewide Program (UC IPM) suggested they deliver their pest management content online rather than in person. The presentation was so well done and well attended, that the class lit up,” says Parker. This first success inspired the new class operation team to continue its courses via Zoom.  “They thought, we can graduate these folks!” says Parker.  

The new class operation team, led by Judy MacKenzie, reimagined and developed lessons, including a Zoom-based flower dissection lab. “We sent out a list of materials that trainees needed to gather including plants from their yard or community, a cutting board, and a knife. Suddenly, we had 47 flower dissections in 47 places around the county, all taking place simultaneously!” says Parker.

UC Master Gardener Program trainees in San Diego County participated in an online flower dissection lab via Zoom, led by experienced volunteers.

“Thanks to the creativity and innovation of volunteers, county leadership, and UC ANR partners, trainees reported a high quality, engaging, and interactive educational experience. On the last day of class in late May, trainees said that they were proud to be joining such a wonderful organization,” says Anne Perriera, UC Master Gardener volunteer.  “When Scott Parker played the UC Master Gardener Program's 2020 graduation video during our final training Zoom class, there was not a dry eye in the Zoom room,” says Perriera, “I have been a UC Master Gardener volunteer for four years and had tears in my eyes as well!”

UC Master Gardener Volunteer, Nancy Herzfeld-Pipkin, presents an overview of the Beginning Vegetable Gardening Committee to the UC Master Gardener Program of San Diego Class of 2020 trainees.

Trainees are not the only ones benefiting from the UC Master Gardener Program of San Diego County's flexibility at this time. Just a few weeks after Governor Newsom's statewide shelter-in-place directive was announced, a team of volunteers developed ‘Let's Grow Together San Diego' online gardening resources for gardeners of all ages and experience levels. Parker credits Mike Harrelson, Francie Murphy, and a variety of talented and dedicated volunteers, with gathering resources, creating informative and hands-on activities, and marketing the product to the community.

The reception has been no less than enthusiastic! Visit the San Diego Union-Tribune Home and Garden section to read a column on the ‘Let's Grow Together San Diego' digital collection of tips for gardeners of all ages and experience levels and many other articles about exceptional UC Master Gardener volunteers.
While COVID-19 has affected all communities and volunteers differently, the resilience, creativity, and flexibility, of UC Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators alike, continues to inspire and impress. The stories featured in this four-part series here are a small snapshot of the innovation and strength that this food community and garden education community has to offer.

Please note: Reappointment for the 2020/2021 Program Year began on June 1st and ends July 30th. The UC Master Gardener Program celebrates and appreciates ALL volunteers, regardless of their ability to contribute hours during this unprecedented time. Volunteers who choose to remain active and reappoint will be approved, regardless of the number of volunteer or continuing education hours completed this year.  Volunteers will not be responsible for making up any incomplete volunteer and continuing education hours in the following program year. However, all volunteers must complete reappointment to remain active or limited active in the UC Master Gardener Program.


Posted on Monday, June 22, 2020 at 6:22 AM


Zoom is better than nothing, I admit. Doing many zooms in UC Master Gardeners Napa County but it takes hours of more preparation. And you miss the interaction between people. Our poor trainees finished their last day of class and never got to know the MGs already in place. Hope for better days.

Posted by Penny Pawl on June 22, 2020 at 8:25 AM

Congratulations San Diego Master Gardener class of 2020!

Posted by Elaine Lander on June 23, 2020 at 8:20 AM

It was impressive the way the training operations team was able to pivot and continue the training via Zoom. I know it challenged everyone but the openness to change and the creativity used was inspiring. Congrats to all!

Posted by Diane Woodward on July 31, 2020 at 10:14 AM

We at the UC Master Gardener Statewide Program office wholeheartedly agree. It has been incredible to witness the commitment and flexibility of UC Master Gardener Volunteers, Trainees, and Coordinators during this unprecedented time. Congrats to all indeed! Thank you.  

Reply by Marisa A Coyne on July 31, 2020 at 12:12 PM

Thank you and all of our amazing partners in the UC Integrated Pest Management Statewide Program.  

Reply by Marisa A Coyne on July 31, 2020 at 12:17 PM

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