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Volume 13, Issue 4 - September 2023

Editor's Note: Welcome to your September edition of The Latest Dirt. While summer may be waning, we are still experiencing beautiful weather. Gardens everywhere in my neighborhood are in full bloom. My fruit trees are providing a bounty of sweetness, and everything is green everywhere. Here in West County, the temperature is moderate. There is still mist in the mornings, and the afternoons are a luxury. With slightly higher temperatures, Central and East Counties have also been enjoying perfect weather.

Soon, Fall and Winter will return, but only after a truckful of weeds will need pulling. I'm being cautious this year to remove any fallen leaves or dead foliage, especially after watching the devastating footage of the fires in Maui. Marilyn Saarni writes an impressive article on the firestorm, tying it back to our California fires and what Firewise practices you can follow around your property.

In this issue, David George delivers another outstanding interview with Terri Takusagawa, the first Triple Platinum volunteer. After reading his interview, you won't be surprised by this, considering the monumental job she's done for the UC Master Gardeners.

Liv Imset describes an inventive pilot program at the Water Conservation Garden in El Cerrito that collects water onsite using a fog collector. Separately, Dawn Kooyumjian, our UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, will present on the transformation of the Richmond Low Water Demonstration Garden, in partnership with EBMUD, at the Richmond Main Library, Friday, September 29, 1:00 - 2:30 pm (in person) — https://www.ebmud.com/about-us/events/event-details?occurrenceID=4783.

Anne Sutherland recounts this year's Jardineros highlights of the many potting up classes given to Spanish-speaking mothers at various elementary schools and the Monument Crisis Center.

Sheila Weston at the Help Desk shares an interesting query from a client trying to identify a smallish-looking fly with a green cast tormenting his tomato plants. Terri Takusagawa comes through with the identification. And finally, Janet Miller gives us an update on the incredible bounty of Our Garden and shared with our good friends at the Monument Crisis Center.

Simone Adair, Editor

The Latest Dirt - Sept 2023 Staging
  • The Power of Collaboration: Why Every Project Needs Co-Leads
    The Power of Collaboration: Why Every Project Needs Co-Leads

    By Kirsten Mollo

    As we continue to nurture our programs, fostering growth and beauty in our community, it’s crucial to remember that successful projects often rely on the strength of collaboration. While gardening is often seen as an individual endeavor, there’s immense value in working together towards common goals. One way to harness this potential is through the role of co-leads in our projects.

  • Living in Wildfire Country: Reflections on the Maui Fire
    Living in Wildfire Country: Reflections on the Maui Fire

    By Marilyn Saarni, UC Master Gardener 2018
    Vice Chair West Contra Costa Fire Safe Council

    The August 2023 Maui fire was devastating. As of September 8, 2023, the confirmed death toll is 115, and 66 people are still missing. Among the 55 names released of those who died, 22 were in their 70s, and another 13 were in their 60s, emphasizing the vulnerability of our elders in catastrophic wildfires like Maui’s. Over 2,200 structures were destroyed, 86% identified as homes. While insurers state that insured claims will be ~$3.5 billion, total community losses will likely be $5–6 billion.

  • An Interview with Terri Takusagawa
    An Interview with Terri Takusagawa

    By David George

    When it comes to volunteering hours, no one does it more often these days than Terri Takusagawa. Terri has gone ‘Triple Platinum’ in hours volunteered to the program (7,500+), a level that has never been reached. Yes, many of our longer-tenured UC Master Gardeners have volunteered as many or more hours as Terri through their dedication to the program for many years. But Terri incredibly achieved this distinction in just six years! I had the opportunity to interview her recently about her experiences and learn about her goals for the future.

  • Water, Water: Everywhere and Nowhere, All At Once
    Water, Water: Everywhere and Nowhere, All At Once

    Reporting from Oslo, Norway
    By Liv Imset
    Lately, it seems like water, in one way or another, makes headlines every day. There are reports of either not enough or too much at once. Some recent examples:
    October 2019 to 2022 were three of the driest years on record in CA. In the fall of 2022, both California and Nevada were almost 100% in either moderate or exceptional drought conditions.

  • ¿Qué pasa, Jardineros? (What’s happening, Jardineros?)
    ¿Qué pasa, Jardineros? (What’s happening, Jardineros?)

    By Anne Sutherland

    This year’s highlight has been teaching hands-on potting up classes to Spanish-speaking mothers at local elementary schools. We began these classes last year, and the word is spreading.

    You may recall from last Winter’s The Latest Dirt [1] that I met Marisa Neelon, the Nutrition, Family & Consumer Sciences Advisor for UCCE in CoCoCo. She put me in touch with Santos Lopez (see photo with baby). Santos is the EFNEP* Community Nutrition Educator for UCCE. [2] He teaches nutrition classes to Spanish-speaking mothers of Contra County County students. With the help of school staff, we have continued a program for these mothers to learn to grow their own food. Container gardening makes the most sense since many of the families have little or no garden space.

  • Bug ID: It Takes a Team
    Bug ID: It Takes a Team

    By Sheila Weston

    In July, a client brought specimens of an insect to the Ask A Master Gardener table at Our Garden that he thought were damaging his tomato plants. They looked like flies but were actively moving around in the container. AAMG team members couldn't examine them at the table.

    He said these have been around his plants for the last three years. The plants have grown well and have flowered but failed to set much fruit. He has seen small bugs on the leaves that look like 'fast-moving aphids,' which he thinks are the 'nymphs' of this fly and are causing the lack of fruit.

  • News From Our Garden
    News From Our Garden

    By Janet Miller
    Photos by Greg Letts

    The summer season at Our Garden has been one of our busiest and most productive. The year started out with more challenges than we have ever experienced. The heavy rains and cold temperatures lasted longer than ever; windstorms blew apart our hoop houses, and seedlings sat sadly in sodden beds, refusing to budge.