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The Latest Dirt - Sept 2022

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.

All of this points to the loving care supplied by our CoCoMG volunteers—weeders, waterers, and harvesters—to the abundant sunshine and to the carefully monitored drip irrigation system. Less obvious to the untrained eye (but not to the graduates of our New Volunteer Training Class and Continuing Education sessions) is the contribution of the soil. Soil provides stability and nutrients to the plants. It is also home to an unseen network of helpful earthworms, microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi, who loosen the soil, communicate with, and direct nutrients to plant roots, while helping to protect them from soil borne pathogens. We are only at the inception of discovering all that occurs invisibly within our soil.

We all know that plants growing in compacted or over-tilled soil are subject to root problems and vulnerable to the excessive heat and reduced rainfall that are the sad vanguard of climate change. The crinkled brown leaves on shrubs and trees in my neighborhood speak volumes about the challenges they face.

The UC Master Gardener volunteers at Our Garden and at our other demonstration gardens at Rivertown, West County and Richmond are only a small part of the visible activities of the CoCoMG program, and this outreach is also at its zenith in late summer. Almost every day Ask A Master Gardener volunteers receive a newsy email reporting on the questions asked at our AAMG tables or the goings-on at our Community Gardens. Growing Gardeners has started another of its always over-subscribed classes, and each month Speakers Bureau delivers at least one virtual talk with 500-plus attendees. Our News to Grow By newsletter is delivered to over 8500 subscribers.

As with the plants growing in our gardens, our organization is also supported and nurtured by a less visible base of people. These folks create and update our social media,edit, video, organize media storage, and web pages, keep our volunteers trained, informed and in good standing, deliver equipment and set up chairs and tables, print signs and plant stakes, order recognition pins and badges and design certificates, and perform a myriad of other tasks.

Not all of these jobs can be done by volunteers. Our Program Coordinator and administrative staff supports our program; not only by processing plant and booklet sale receipts and assisting in procuring supplies, tools, and equipment, but also negotiating leases, rental, partnership, and other agreements, evaluating the content of our trainings and presentations to make sure they represent the cutting edge of research-based knowledge, and sorting out interpersonal conflicts. These are all activities that require the continuity, education, experience and standing within the UCANR community that comes with a formal job position.

The success of our program also is dependent on nurturing our hidden resources. In short, our ability as UC Master Gardeners to carry out our mission depends on how well we use the visible and invisible assets of our program—in part by keeping its base healthy, nurtured, and open to let oxygen into the “soil” of our program.

By Robyn Barker