The Latest Dirt - Sept 2023
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.
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.
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.
Reporting from Oslo, NorwayBy Liv ImsetLately, 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.
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  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.  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.
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.
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.