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The Latest Dirt - Sept 2022
  • CoCoMg Team Works Together Toward Success
    CoCoMg Team Works Together Toward Success

    Ah, the bounty of late summer! At the time of this writing, the beds at Our Garden are bursting with produce: tomatoes of all shapes and colors, cucumbers, eggplants, and those irrepressible zucchinis that somehow either manage to hide until they are yule log size or else spring to that size overnight. And the flowers! Bright yellows, neon reds, and brilliant whites—unbelievably tall sunflowers with faces full of seeds, fluffy tennis ball sized zinnias and feathery cosmos. Walking in Our Garden does not fail to bring happiness and faith in the future.

  • Ask A Master Gardener Farmers Market  — Dougherty Station, San Ramon
    Ask A Master Gardener Farmers Market — Dougherty Station, San Ramon

    Blue sky, warm temps (but not TOO warm), no wind: a perfect day for a UC Master Gardener Ask A Master Gardener booth in San Ramon! As you may know, Dougherty Station is a brand new market. It opened in May 2022. 

  • More Than Plants, A Garden Is…
    More Than Plants, A Garden Is…

    A garden is certainly about plants, but it’s so much more. A garden is creativity, beauty, sanctuary, community and unique. Having had the pleasure of touring our many community gardens and urban farms this past year, one thing stands out. Gardens are personal, an individual expression of one’s self and, sometimes, a community collaboration.

  • Growing Gardeners Look to Add Volunteers
    Growing Gardeners Look to Add Volunteers

    The Growing Gardeners project was first adapted for CoCoMG in 2018 by Darlene DeRose based on a UCCE-Los Angeles County program. Monika Witte assumed the lead role just in time for the Pandemic to change everything. Monika successfully adapted the program for the Zoom platform and later added an in-person day at Our Garden. In 2022, before stepping down, Monika developed a team model with Hosts, Co-Leads and Coordinators to manage the various aspects of the program.

  • Mango Plants Are in Need of Help
    Mango Plants Are in Need of Help

    Dear UC Master Gardener,

    My mango plant seems to have stopped growing. I have several of these plants which I have sprouted from a seed. Does it require fertilizer to continue to grow? The plants are several months old. Thanks.

    Terry Lippert’s response:

    Thank you for contacting our UC Master Gardener Program’s Help Desk with your question about growing mangoes from seed. I chose your question to answer because I have always considered mangoes to be a tropical fruit and I didn’t think it could grow outside a greenhouse in Contra Costa County. I thought that the occasional winter freezing temperatures we have most years would doom the trees. So, I wondered why you would be trying to grow mango trees from seeds.

  • Update From Our Garden
    Update From Our Garden

    The summer has been good to us at Our Garden. Heat waves have been short followed by reasonably mild temperatures—a relief to the garden and the gardeners. Our twice-weekly harvests have yielded over 11,000 pounds of produce for our friends at the Monument Crisis Center, and we’re not done yet. We still have much more to come, including winter squash, sweet potatoes and cabbages – all of which tilt the scale mightily.

  • What’s New at Rivertown?
    What’s New at Rivertown?

    Rivertown Demonstration Garden has been planning and re-grouping, and planning some more, as the garden has been reoccupied over the last year, following little to no activity during the pandemic. In the midst of making plans for a mini orchard along our back fence line and a potential patio garden demonstration adjacent to our amazing Garden Shed, we determined that not only was there something hampering plant growth in the main garden beds, but that we also were not altogether feeling that the current garden configuration was much of a ‘Demonstration.’

  • “Make a Dent in the Universe!”
    “Make a Dent in the Universe!”

    I had just finished tying down the last zip-tie on the new Water Conservation Garden sign—designed by UC Master Gardener/Designer, Fletcher Oakes (2019)—anchoring it tightly to the garden’s fence, when a car stopped behind me and a young woman jumped out. She was excited and wanted to know all about what we were doing and then asked how she could get involved. She isn’t the first person this summer that has been curious about our work at the Water Conservation Garden in El Cerrito.

  • Rewarding Fun at an Antioch Elementary School Garden
    Rewarding Fun at an Antioch Elementary School Garden

    I recently had the pleasure of participating in a teacher exploration seminar at Jack London Elementary in Antioch. We gathered in a classroom and divided the teachers into three groups. Each group was given a brown paper bag full of items to remove, examine and share.

  • Milkweed Is Overrun with Aphids
    Milkweed Is Overrun with Aphids

    Client’s question: I'm growing milkweed in hopes of creating a habitat for monarch butterflies. Every day every plant is infested with oleander aphids. I pick them off but I'm wondering if there's anything else I can do that would not require such careful attention. Thanks so much for your help.

    CoCoMG Emma Connery’s reply: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program’s Help Desk regarding aphids on your milkweed. Thank you for helping to save Monarchs by providing habitat.

    Yep, those aphids sure do love milkweed! I am sure you are finding picking off aphids pretty tedious. This is a bit of a dilemma—manage one insect on a plant while causing no harm to the other.

  • Qualifying Hours Explained
    Qualifying Hours Explained

    While working on reappointment this year, we discovered that the subject of qualifying hours was a source of confusion for a lot of UC Master Gardener volunteers. This article is intended to serve as a resource on this subject. If you don’t want to read it now, you may want to bookmark its location so that you can return in the future if you have questions.

    What hours are required?

    Our hours requirements are governed by the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program’s Administrative Handbook for Program Staff, dated June 1, 2011 (accessed August 26, 2022).

  • Interview with Greg Letts
    Interview with Greg Letts

    Greg Letts and I had a chance to sit down the other day beneath the oak tree lording over the entrance to Our Garden in Walnut Creek. We talked about his experiences so far in the UC Master Gardener program and his role on the Executive Leadership Team. Greg is a graduate of the class of 2019 and has been instrumental in several important efforts already.

    What was your career prior to being certified as a UC Master Gardener, Greg, and why did you apply for the program?

    “I had a 25-year career in the outdoor products industry, selling outdoor gear and clothing to distributors and retailers. Before that I was in the office products industry. I chose to retire in 2019 and had already applied to be a UC Master Gardener program volunteer.

  • Using Recycled Water—What You Should Know
    Using Recycled Water—What You Should Know

    From our sibling UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County.

    The Latest Dirt has covered many aspects of living with drought as an ongoing condition of global warming. We are pleased to share with you an article by Jim Farr, a UC Master Gardener in Alameda County. Farr writes about the positive and negative aspects of using recycled water to replace from-the-tap water for our gardens. In particular, he highlights the negative impact of recycled water’s higher salt content on our landscapes. Writing in clear language, Farr helps readers understand the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ increased salinity can harm the health of our landscapes.

    Read Farr’s cautionary tale about using recycled water to help our environment.

  • UC Master Gardeners Wish a Happy 90th Birthday to PK Sathe
    UC Master Gardeners Wish a Happy 90th Birthday to PK Sathe

    Ninety years old and still going strong!! They say that gardeners live longer, healthier lives than non-gardeners and UC Master Gardener Prabhakar S. Sathe (known as PK to one and all) is an inspiring example of that idea. PK is a much beloved and valuable member of the Our Garden team and is responsible for getting most of our veggies seeded and growing throughout the year.

    However, his experience as a Master Gardener didn't start with us. PK moved to the US from his native India in 1978 after working in the Indian Diplomatic Service for over 25 years.