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Volume 14, Issue 1 - January 2024

Editor’s Note:

Welcome to the first issue of 2024. I’m looking forward to the new year and all the great projects we’ll cover in The Latest Dirt. It always seems like this time of year is slow, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Garden projects continue. Project Leads are making plans.

And very importantly, we’re in the middle of the New Volunteer Training course. Please join me in welcoming the new trainees. We’ve included their bios and photos below for you to get to know them. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I did.

Dawn Kooyumjian, the Program Coordinator for the Contra Costa County UC Master Gardeners, welcomes the New Volunteer Trainees and urges them to volunteer for various projects. She noted, "You may be surprised about how much you like a new project or what you'll find."

NVT Coordinator Dorothy Abeyta and John Fike take on the challenge of leading our primary educational program for UC Master Gardeners. As John puts it in his article below, “Our colleagues’ historical precedents and experiences over the past decade or more have provided us with critical insight as we engage the newest UC Master Gardener trainees.”

Many of our 2024 Project Leads have also contributed to an article describing their projects for the NVT class. I remember when I was a trainee, and everyone came in to talk to us about their areas. It was a whirlwind. This article will be a handy reference and include contact information.

We’re also highlighting the fantastic December Recognition Potluck Dinner. Muriel Wilson and Virginia Saifer assembled an excellent team of 30 volunteers to create a seamless event. It was incredible seeing CoCoMGs that I usually only text or email. The potluck was delicious, and here’s a special shout-out to Maiytth Coleman for that fantastic cake of the forest floor.

The recognition ceremony also reflected the hard work and dedication of our UC Master Gardeners. We’ve included an article highlighting those hitting milestones, including Terri Takusagawa reaching over 7,500 hours.

We also learn about the additions at Our Garden by Greg Letts, including new sheds. Thank you to Susan Heckly for providing Sara Hoyer’s reply to a community member’s question concerning the late planting of bulbs, something we have also done occasionally. I’m always astounded at the breadth of questions the Help Desk receives and the comprehensive answers our volunteers give.

At the end of this issue, I've also included a few words about our friend and colleague Kathy Gage, who passed away on January 6. Kathy often wrote and edited articles for both TLD and News to Grow By.

But first, Bill Miller, an Executive Leadership Team member, shares his thoughts on the positive effects and benefits of gardening.

Simone Adair, Editor

The Latest Dirt - Nov 2023
  • What Good, Gardening?
    What Good, Gardening?

    By Bill Miller

    The above title does not ask: “What’s good gardening? We trained UC Master Gardeners, have a pretty good handle on that, and are at the ready to share knowledge and best practices with those in our community. But rather, and as Yoda might put it, “What Good, Gardening?”


  • Program Coordinator Dawn Kooyumjian Welcomes Class of 2024
    Program Coordinator Dawn Kooyumjian Welcomes Class of 2024

    I am delighted to welcome our soon-to-be Class of 2024! This class brings together people with incredible backgrounds and talents to our program. I can’t wait to see you all certified and jump into volunteering!


  • NVT Co-Leads Dedicated to Building Confidence
    NVT Co-Leads Dedicated to Building Confidence

    By John Fike

    Leading a project like New Volunteer Training has a myriad of aspects associated with it, ranging from challenge to fun. There also is a daunting feature given the complexities of managing both online Zoom and in-person components. However, if we can loosely interpret a famous statement by Isaac Newton, we can see further and, hopefully, succeed because we are standing on the shoulders of giants. That means we have solid templates to help us, developed by former Leads who ironed out wrinkles, found the most expedient ways to develop curricula, and pointed out those pitfalls, black holes, and swamps better left alone. Our colleagues’ historical precedents and experiences over the past decade or more have provided us with critical insight as we engage the newest UC Master Gardener trainees. Because these trainees will hopefully infuse the program with enthusiasm as well as new ideas and perspectives, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that their experience, while rigorous, is engaging, enlightening, and enjoyable. We are committed to providing the appropriate information and preparation so that our new trainees will be outstanding volunteers to the communities within Contra Costa County.


  • Project Leads Welcome New Volunteer Trainees
    Project Leads Welcome New Volunteer Trainees

    In this month's The Latest Dirt, we present the New Volunteer Trainees bios, photos, and a message from NVT Co-Leads John Fike and Dorothy Abeyta. Here, Executive Committee Project Leads extend a warm welcome and describe the many opportunities available to the UC Master Gardener Trainees.


  • Volunteer Recognition Dinner Tops off Amazing Year
    Volunteer Recognition Dinner Tops off Amazing Year

    Article & photos by Simone Adair

    As I looked around the large community room, seeing so many familiar faces was lovely. I hadn’t seen many of the UC Master Gardeners that filled the room since before the Pandemic. I only knew some of them from Zoom calls. It wasn’t long, though, before hugs and handshakes were had by all. Delicious-looking food slowly filled the tables, everything from appetizers to magnificent desserts. There was a warm glow and holiday cheer all around.


  • Major Milestones Honored at Recognition Dinner
    Major Milestones Honored at Recognition Dinner

    By Simone Adair

    One of the highlights of the recent 2023 Volunteer Recognition Dinner was the honoring of UC Master Gardeners, who have volunteered a significant amount of hours with pins and new badges. Our UC Master Gardeners are awarded based on their inputted hours into VMS, starting at 100 hours and going to 7,500 hours.


  • New Additions to Our Garden
    New Additions to Our Garden

    By Greg Letts

    You will see some new additions to Our Garden on your next visit.

    Two large, barn-red sheds have replaced the old sheds at Our Garden, and the fenced area has expanded 10 feet.

    For several years, squirrel nests and gopher tunnels have undermined the foundations of the old sheds. The floorboards were rotting beneath the storage racks.


  • Help Desk Tackles Forgotten Spring Bulbs
    Help Desk Tackles Forgotten Spring Bulbs

    By Sara Hoyer

    Client’s question:

    I purchased some spring bulbs early last fall and then forgot to plant them! I purchased some daffodils and crocus. Is it too late to plant them - once we dry out a little bit, obviously? I purchased these from High Country Gardens, so they are on the drought-tolerant end of the spectrum. If it’s too late to plant, how should I store them? In the garage, freezer, fridge??


  • In Memoriam: Kathy Gage
    In Memoriam: Kathy Gage

    By Simone Adair

    It was with sadness that we learned of our friend and colleague Kathy Gage’s passing on Saturday, January 6, after a long battle with cancer. When I became Editor of The Latest Dirt, Kathy quickly volunteered to help in any capacity needed. She wrote and helped edit many articles for our internal newsletter. Kathy was always available with advice or as a last-minute writer. She always brightened my day with her quick wit and thoughtfulness.