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The Latest Dirt - March 2023
  • Spring is in the Air
    Spring is in the Air

    Article and photos by Greg Letts

    The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted above average rain this winter and they nailed it. I don’t recall them mentioning anything about local snow, but there it was. But it is now time to move on.

    Spring is on the way. My backyard has drained, the paperwhites and daffodils are in bloom, as is my early peach tree.

    Spring also means GTPS! The Great Tomato Plant Sale, our largest activity and primary fundraiser for our program, is right around the corner. This is my fourth. Each year I am amazed that those trays of little squiggles, pictured here, turn into more than 25,000 plants that overflow the 17 hoop houses and numerous tables upon which they are staged. And then they are all gone! Most of them sold, of course, but many plants are donated to school and community gardens.


  • Great Tomato Plant Sale 2023!
    Great Tomato Plant Sale 2023!

    By Mary Jo Corby and Robin Moore

    Hello UC Master Gardeners,

    We are very excited to be back to in-person sales for both Walnut Creek and Richmond this year! The past two years’ sales have been online-only, and while many of our customers really enjoyed ordering their plants via the online system, we missed seeing the hustle and bustle of the Saturday “opening”, chatting with customers and hearing their lovely comments about the plants and how beautiful they looked. It’s time to get that excitement rolling again!

    We are trying something new in Walnut Creek this year – a consecutive, three-day, in-person sale! We are doing this for a few reasons. First, for customers who worry about gathering in crowds with Covid still lingering, this gives them a way to avoid the Saturday “feeding frenzy.” Second, we always have inventory left. Historically we’ve held the option open of holding a second Saturday sale, but it’s a hard push to put everything back together a week later for a smaller return. Our three-day sale will keep the momentum rolling, both for the customers and for us.

  • If You Plant It, They Will Come
    If You Plant It, They Will Come

    By Liz Rottger

    It was a late afternoon in early April 2022 when I arrived at Pacific Oaks Community Garden to pick up the garden’s key. UC Master Gardeners finally had a formal agreement with the community garden to take over its operations. The garden was a chain-linked fence enclosure of a steep, grass-covered hillside with a very large vacant flat area. A small community garden had struggled for several years to gain a toehold in this space without success. There were two formal, weed-choked raised beds, along with several other areas that had once been cultivated, but were now mostly covered in either wild oat grass or Oxalis. As I walked across the lot, the only sound I heard was that of the late afternoon wind that blows in from the Bay. It was a beautiful setting, but essentially dead.

  • Plant California Fuchsias Now for Hummers, Bees, and Fall Color
    Plant California Fuchsias Now for Hummers, Bees, and Fall Color

    By Robin Mitchell

    There are so many reasons to love California fuchsias! They are drought tolerant, fast-growing, small to mid-size perennials that deer generally find unpalatable. They are easy to grow, and they tolerate garden conditions well. They bloom in late summer and into the fall when most other natives have stopped blooming or gone dormant. Hummingbirds and bees love the profuse red-orange funnel-shaped flowers, and the fuzzy silver or green foliage adds lovely color and texture to your garden.

  • ┬íSaludos a los jardineros maestros, especialmente a la clase de 2023!
    ¡Saludos a los jardineros maestros, especialmente a la clase de 2023!

    (Greetings UC Master Gardeners, especially the Class of 2023)

    By Anne Sutherland

    Jardineros (Gardeners) is a small group that wants to help underserved populations grow their food and learn gardening basics.  Most of us speak Spanish but recognize that recently arrived people of Asian and Eastern European extraction may also be underserved.

  • What is the Effect of Pouring Alcohol Into the Yard
    What is the Effect of Pouring Alcohol Into the Yard

    By Terry Lippert

    Client’s question:
    Can you tell me anything about pouring out old alcohol into the yard/garden/dirt?
    We have some cases of wine, champagne, & spirits.

    Terry Lippert’s reply:
    Thank you for contacting our UC Master Gardener Help Desk. You’ve asked about the effect of pouring out old alcoholic beverages (wine, champagne, and spirits) into the yard and garden. We do not recommend disposing of alcohol in this manner. It would likely kill or significantly harm your plants.

    My research located a scientific journal article published by the American Society for Horticultural Science reporting on a study of the effects of growing paperwhite narcissus bulbs with a water/ethanol mixture.

  • Call before you dig?!
    Call before you dig?!

    By Lisa Bramblet

    Yes, that’s right. It's a good idea to find out what you may be digging into before you start. If your garden site has been occupied for 20+ years and there have been various projects conducted on the site (i.e. prior digging/trenching), it's by the grace of God no previous digging has severed a vital service line. The threat of doing so does loom large, especially, when in preparation for trenching, you peel all the mulch off the original crushed gravel paths, and you find a surprise "Electrical Box" right in the middle of the garden going goodness knows where! That's when you call 811.

  • UC Master Gardeners Teach Plant Propagation to Students at John Muir Family Farm
    UC Master Gardeners Teach Plant Propagation to Students at John Muir Family Farm

    By Kate Verhoef

    In December and January 2023, School Gardens collaborated with Community Gardens to give a series of propagation lessons at John Muir Family Harvest Farm. The attendees were 14 middle school students from Antioch Charter Academy (ACA). Also present were their teacher Allen Stahler, two-parent chaperones, and Family Harvest Farm manager Mary Cherry.

    I caught up with UC Master Gardeners Suzanne Miller, Jan Manns, and Kathryn Wilson after their experience at the farm on January 12.

  • Ask a Master Gardener Wants You in 2023!
    Ask a Master Gardener Wants You in 2023!

    By Laura Brainin-Rodriguez

    AAMG kicks off its 2023 season in April. We can’t wait to get out to our 14 Farmers Markets and Our Garden tables, as well as at single-day events, including the Great Tomato Plant Sale where you get to interact with county residents and hear their gardening queries and concerns.

    Our season runs from April-October. Most markets are once a month. Our Garden is every week to reach those attending the weekly garden talks. San Ramon City Center is twice a month, and Shadelands is every other week.

    To make it possible for AAMG volunteers to join our tables we release the next month’s VMS postings on the 15th of the prior month and have a dedicated slot for the 2023 UC Master Gardener graduates. March will be different, since we have our kickoff event, in person, on March 20, 2023. We will send a Collaborative Tools message to the AAMG roster, and you can sign up on VMS.