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UCCE Marin Offers Older Adult Residence Garden Tour

The entrance to the Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden is as green and verdant as what is inside. The garden paths are made of hard-packed material to reduce tripping and slipping hazards. Photo: Marisa Coyne

At first glance, the Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden, tucked up against the banks of the Arroyo Corte Madera del Presidio creek in southern Marin County, looks like any tidy, well-maintained community garden. Inside the garden gate however, the diligent gardeners working amongst the spindly cosmos, inky delphinium, sturdy kale, and near-dry late season sunflowers, are all over the age of 75.  

That's because Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden is located at The Redwoods Retirement Community, an independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing facility (including HUD Section 8 apartments), in downtown Mill Valley. The Redwoods is one of a growing number of facilities, in Marin County and throughout the state, designed for older adults and aimed at supporting Californians through the aging process.

According to state projections, in ten years, 21 percent of the California's adult population will be over the age of 65. As our state population ages, and as sites like The Redwoods demonstrate, Californians will need to build and sustain healthy living environments for our seniors. In Marin County, gardens are part of the plan. 

A senior resident at Mackey Terrace watering a raised vegetable garden of tomatoes and herbs. The bed is designed to allow resting and to minimize the need to bend down to tend to plants. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

On the morning of Sept. 17, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) staff, academics, and UC Master Gardener volunteers gathered with Marin County Health and Human Services employees in San Rafael to tour four gardens located at adult residences throughout the region. Organized by UCCE Marin's School and Community Gardens Coordinator, Lauren Klein, the tour highlighted successful garden projects for older adults, while identifying challenges related to garden design and accessibility. 

Americans with Disabilities or ADA compliant garden beds are designed to facilitate access for folks in wheelchairs and walkers. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

Mackey Terrace, an affordable housing site for seniors, is home to a garden of nine waist-high raised beds including one ADA-compliant bed accessible by wheelchair. Mackey Terrace gardeners adopt their own beds or choose to share beds with other residents, growing food and flowers of their choosing. During our visit, one resident selected a basketball-sized watermelon she jokingly named “the papa” of her plot, sliced it open and served each tour attendee a bright pink juicy slice. Another resident showed off her impressive bed of zinnias and cosmos. Still another noted that she inter-planted nopales (or cactus) with jade and pumpkin. Several of the Mackey Terrace residents are longtime gardeners with knowledge about plant care and soil. “Before I moved here, the thing I missed most was my garden … Now I grow what I want … as long as the gophers let me!” said one enthusiastic gardener.

At Golden Hinde, a Marin Housing Authority affordable housing site, tour attendees were led behind the recreation room to a small garden space, teeming with large not-quite-ripe tomatoes. Sarah, a resident leading the tour, shared that everything she knew about caring for plants came from fellow resident and gardener, Charlie. At this small site, UC Master Gardener volunteers dispense advice about saving lettuce seed and watering regimes for tomatoes - emphasizing that in gardening, as in life, there are many paths and learning is constant.

UC ANR staff and community partners enjoying Bartlett pears at the Bennet House garden. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

Bennett House, a Mercy Housing-run affordable housing facility, is home to the largest garden on the Marin tour. Nestled into a hillside in Fairfax, the Bennett House garden boasts pear, peach, and apple trees along with a dozen raised beds overflowing with nasturtium, tomatoes, and melons. Residents adopt their own beds, but also contribute seeds and labor to a community plot nearest the garden shed. Even outside of the garden, Bennett House has a strong focus on food access, serving as a drop-off point for organizations such as the Food Bank of San Francisco and Marin and On food drop-off days, fruits gleaned from the on-site garden are available for residents to collect. During the tour, UCCE staff and volunteers, standing on tiptoes and on the corners of raised beds, harvested Bartlett pears. 

Resident at The Redwoods pruning a climbing bean. The Redwoods offers it residents a u-pick flower bed that allows them to bring the garden into their rooms or apartments. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

The final stop of the tour, the Robert Sinclair Scott Vegetable Garden is a 20-year old community garden on the property of an older adult facility and adjacent to Audubon open space. Residents and community members are welcomed into the garden seven days a week. Garden Activities Coordinator, Kurt Ellison, and garden ambassadors and volunteers from the local community, support residents as they seed, weed, and harvest. Ellison has designed the garden and his activities to optimize inclusion of his aging residents. Garden instructions are posted daily, indicating what tasks need doing. Garden beds are labeled. Garden activities are advertised in large, easily legible fonts. Beds are spaced appropriately to allow wheelchair and walker access. The garden's most popular activity is its u-pick flower bed, where residents can create bouquets of seasonal flowers to bring back to their rooms or apartments. 

While the project of garden accessibility for older adults in the state of California is still very much in progress, UCCE Marin's tour of adult residence gardens demonstrates that interest in home horticulture persists, even when home changes, and that with the proper support gardening can be an activity for any age.

Kurt Ellison, Gardens Activities Coordinator, explaining the ways the garden is adapted to meet the needs of gardeners of all ages. Tasks and garden locations are assigned a clearly marked number to help guide volunteers. Photo: Julia Van Soelen Kim

To learn more about the UC Master Gardener Program in Marin County and UCCE Marin's work to support school and community gardens, visit:

The tour was followed by the Marin Food Policy Council—a monthly meeting of food systems stakeholders working to support policies that expand equitable access to local and healthy food through community and school gardens, urban agriculture, and other means.

The tour was funded by a collaborative grant through the Marin Community Foundation to improve healthy eating and active living for older adults in Marin County. The tour built on UCCE Marin's ongoing work to support the sharing of best practices across community gardens, elevate public awareness of the benefits of community gardening, and expand municipal policies that are supportive of community gardens. As part of her program, Klein has also created an interactive map of community gardens in Marin County available here and published a booklet featuring garden highlights, A Garden for Everyone: Tales of Marin's Community Gardens.

Big appreciation to all of the staff and residents of Mackey Terrace, Golden Hinde, Bennet House, and The Redwoods for opening up their gardens and for sharing their harvest. Gratitude to UCCE Marin staff and academics including School and Community Gardens Program Coordinator, Lauren Klein, Food Systems Advisor, Julia Van Soelen Kim, and Communications Specialist, Bonnie Nielsen for organizing the event. Special appreciation to two tour attendees, UC Master Gardener Program of Marin County volunteers, Sandy T. Parry and Barbara Searles, for sharing their garden knowledge and connecting residents to UC horticulture resources.

Posted on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 11:17 AM
  • Author: Marisa Coyne
Tags: Master Gardener (29)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Save-the-Date: 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference Tahoe City, Calif.

Tahoe City, Calif.  September 28- October 2, 2020

The triennial 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference is taking place Sept. 28- Oct. 2, 2020 in Tahoe City, Calif. Save-the-date to come and join the UC Master Gardener Program and celebrate our 40th anniversary! 

The 2017 conference in Long Beach, Calif. saw over 700 attendees from 43 counties across California.  The quality and value of the conference is unparalleled in the industry; bringing together leaders in home horticulture and sharing the latest in UC research.

Lake of the Sky: Lake Tahoe

Nestled on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City is the crown jewel of the Sierra-Nevada and the ideal location for the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference to celebrate our 40th anniversary.  The conference is being hosted at Granlibakken Tahoe, a resort built around connection - with adventure, land, water and sky with great food, and one another.  

Serene Lake Tahoe

North Lake Tahoe offers experiences from outdoor adventures to explorations of food, culture, art, music and so much more.

Things to do:

Granlibakken Tahoe

Located minutes from Tahoe City the Granlibakken Tahoe prides itself on preserving the natural environment and providing a space that feels like old Tahoe.  Recreational activities (swimming, volleyball, tennis, biking and hiking) are all on conference grounds, and a 1.5 mile private trail leads to North Lake Tahoe. 

The UC Master Gardener Conference has reserved the entire resort and an "all-inclusive package" for attendees who stay onsite means lodging, three meals per day, and cocktail receptions will all be included in the lodging rate.  Room rate details and the process for booking will be announced in future conference communications.  All hotel information will updated on the conference website,, check back often for details.

Main Entrance of Grannlibakken Tahoe

Come to learn, celebrate, explore, & connect

The triennial conference is an important statewide event designed to train volunteers with the most current and up-to-date research-based horticulture information. Training from the statewide conference is used as a jumping board for local-county based programs to be inspired by speakers, content and each other.  Attendees are encouraged to share the information in their own county-based programs.

 Conference activities:

  • Intensive sessions
  • Poster session
  • Search for Excellence
  • Silent Auction
  • Tours
  • Guided nature hikes
  • Hosted cocktail receptions
  • S'more campfire
  • Celebration banquet
  • And more…

The 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference is a fantastic opportunity to come together and celebrate our 40th anniversary and explore the natural beauty of Tahoe.  Connect, network and build community with fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers from all over California.  Save-the-date and see you Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2020 in Tahoe City!

Visit the conference website for more details,

Posted on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 2:26 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Announcing the 40th Anniversary UC Master Gardener Photo Contest Winners!!

The UC Master Gardener Program is pleased to announce the winners of the 40th Anniversary UC Master Gardener Photo Contest.  Thank you for helping tell our story by submitting over 480 photos and to all the people who voted.

 People's Choice”  Winners
1st - “Lettuce Grow”, My Thanh Kim, San Diego County

2nd - “Early Head Start Students”, Marti Lindsey, Los Angeles County

3rd - “Stairway to a Heavenly Garden”, Leora Worthington, Monterey County


First, Second and Third place winners were notified by email and will receive prizes and be showcased on the statewide UC Master Gardener Program website, UC ANR Repository, UC Master Gardener social media channels, program marketing materials and the 2019 annual report. Winners will also be recognized by having their photo displayed in a gallery at the 2020 UC Master Gardener Program statewide conference. 


Thank You for your Support
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Photo Contest! The gallery of submitted photos represents what it means to be a UC Master Gardener. The photos will be used to communicate our impact, message and mission through the use of imagery. 

Together we are making a difference!


Honorable Mention
4th - “Kids+tools= Cool School Garden”, My Thanh Kim, San Diego County

5th - “Drip Irrigation or Dripping in Paint”, My Thanh Kim, San Diego County

6th - “Queen Bee surrounded by her Entourage at the Master Gardener booth, Amador County Fair”, Betty Olson-Jones, Amador County

7th “Master Gardener Butterfly Garden (Alice Keck Memorial Garden Santa Barbara)”, Karen Twibell, Santa Barbara County

8th - “MG Coordinator, Maggie O'Neill is also a cake decorator! Celebrating Volunteers”, Robin Rowe, San Bernardino County

9th - “Future UC Master Gardener!”, Lauren Snowden, Yuba-Sutter Counties

10th - “Working Together for better gardens”, Julie Enberg


Posted on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at 11:51 AM
  • Author: Donna Valadez
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Local Garden Gem in San Mateo County: The Gardening Education Center

In the heart of San Mateo County sits a garden gem, The Gardening Education Center, a 5,000 square foot growing space established by the UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo County. This green garden space was approximately three years in the making, which included fundraising, planning, and actively working the land. 

In the spring of 2018, when the site was unveiled, UC Master Gardener volunteers went to work. The plan was to prepare the space for a small (4-5 fruit tree) orchard, three large raised bed planters for seasonal flowers and vegetables, and separate specialty in-ground beds featuring natives, succulents and other drought tolerant plantings.

Prior to the planting, UC Master Gardener volunteers sheet mulched with cardboard and wood chips. This assisted in smothering the invasive groundcover that had taken over the overgrown neglected space.

Unbeknownst to UC Master Gardener volunteers, there was significantly more Bermuda grass than was initially suspected. Bermuda grass seeds can be an aggressive, the grass itself is tough and persistent. Over the next few months the grass eventually crept in and completely took over. Drastic measures were needed to eradicate the pesky weeds so the committed volunteers accepted the challenge and made a plan to eradicate the invasive grass without utilizing chemicals.

The plan of attack included eradicating as much Bermuda grass as possible from the very compacted and dry soil as naturally as possible. They scraped the top few inches of the soil off of the area to get rid of as many rhizomes and stolons of the pernicious Bermuda grass.

They worked tirelessly to remove the Bermuda grass, and prepared the soil for compost tea and cover crop planting. By removing the Bermuda grass it made a huge difference in the look, health and overall maintenance of the garden space.

The following eight cool season cover crops were chosen for the first planting because of these benefits:

In the end, UC Master Gardener volunteers produced a harvest of plenty. They learned the finer points of making compost extract using premier compost and applying it to the soil to introduce microbial life into the soil, attracting beneficial fungi, nematodes and earthworms. Not only were they able to plant diverse cover crops that crowded out the weeds, they were also successful in reaching their goal of treating the 1,600 square foot space of garden soil with no pesticides. 

The Gardening Education Center has been open to UC Master Gardener volunteers since last spring, as they work to create the infrastructure to accommodate classes for the public. There are three greenhouses onsite that are currently growing plants for the UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties.   

Compost Class pictured above, front row from left to right: Mark Foulard, Norine Cepernich, Terry Messinger, Maggi Lim, Cathy Vreeberg, Gaye Torjusen, (and standing) Nancy Kruberg, Terry Lyngso, and Steve Maskel. Second row from left ot right: Patty Deering, Linda Dvorak,Kathy Stamm, Kate Sweetman, Carol O'Donnell, John O'Hara, Charlie Akers, Charlene Landreau, Ginny Piazza, Cynthia Nations, Nick Landolfi, Janet Gilmore, Yana Maloney, and behind Yana,  John Bassetto (Norine's husband and heavy equipment operator).

Many thanks to this group of volunteers, who have led the efforts and plan for The Gardening Education Center space and whom have spent countless volunteer hours! They have put a lot of thought into making this an excellent learning process for all. We would like to especially recognize Terry Lyngso, whom donated compost, seeds and paving stones to the project.

Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at 1:42 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Photo Contest Submissions and Voting are Heating Up!

Remember to add to our timeline. Enter the 40th Anniversary Photo Contest for a chance to win prizes and receive recognition among the UC Master Gardener community.

(Remember to add to our timeline. Enter the 40th Anniversary Photo Contest for a chance to win prizes and receive recognition among the UC Master Gardener community.)

Time to pull out your scrapbooks or cameras! The UC Master Gardener Program is holding a photo contest and you are invited to submit and vote for your favorite images.

Join us and share your favorite memory or what is special to you about being a UC Master Gardener volunteer. Enter and vote for your favorite images into the UC Master Gardener Program's 40th Anniversary Photo Contest. Photos can represent the UC Master Gardener Program history, events, workshops, volunteer activities, gardens, or anything that represents what it means to be a UC Master Gardener over the past 40 years.

Submit or vote for your favorite photo

So far the 40th Anniversary Photo Contest has received 134 inspiring entries and more than 1033 votes, but plenty of time still remains to enter and win! Check out current photos at and vote for ALL your favorites EVERY DAY until the contest closes. 

Check out some popular photo entries that are a great representation of the photo contest theme:

“Lettuce Grow” by My Thanh K. (193 votes)

“Master Gardeners Teaching the Teachers” by Michele Y. (17 votes)

“Caretaker” by Leora W. (14 votes)

How to enter

Entry is free and open to all past and present UC Master Gardener volunteers. Entries must be submitted electronically by 11:59 PST on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 using the online photo contest submission form.

Please read and review the official photo contest participation guidelines before entering.

  • Images must be smaller than 10MB
  • No limit on number of images
  • Winner selected by popular vote!


Photographs with the highest overall public votes will be designated as “People's Choice” winners. First, second and third place winners will receive prizes and be showcased on the statewide UC Master Gardener Program website, UC ANR Repository, UC Master Gardener social media channels, program marketing materials and the 2019 annual report. Winners will also be recognized by having their photo displayed in a gallery at the 2020 UC Master Gardener Program statewide conference.

Don't forget to vote for your favorite photos every day until the contest closes and share with family and friends on social media for additional votes!


Questions? Contact:

Donna Valadez

Marketing Assistant, Statewide Office


Posted on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 9:26 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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