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Safety Requirements for Essential Garden Maintenance During COVID-19

Fair Oaks Horticulture Center serves as a key education and demonstration garden in Sacramento County. Photo Credit: Aubrey Brandt

Gardens are not just about plants - they are also about people. Gardens create a learning space, help reduce stress and anxiety, and offer a place to connect back with nature. Over the last few weeks there have been many concerns voiced about garden spaces needing essential maintenance during the COVID-19 outbreak. While we recognize the importance of gardens in our communities, there is nothing more important than the safety of our volunteers.

The UC Master Gardener Program is taking all precautions possible to help minimize exposure and spread of COVID-19, following all guidelines and recommendations from Public Health officials and the CDC. Taking these recommendations carefully into consideration the following requirements have been developed to help volunteers and staff manage essential garden maintenance needs in their local community, demonstration or school gardens. Please connect with your local Program Coordinator, Advisor or County Director for approval before providing any essential garden maintenance activities. Allowable activities may differ county by county; approval must be given by the County Director.

Essential Maintenance

UC Master Gardener volunteers and staff must obtain approval from their County Director prior to providing essential maintenance in demonstration gardens. All work is voluntary. Limit garden maintenance to only activities required to ensure survival of plants and infrastructure, including water systems and fences. UC Master Gardener volunteers age 65 years or older, or at a high risk for COVID-19, may not be considered for essential maintenance in accordance with state guidelines.

The Grow Lab provides a hands-on laboratory for UC Master Gardener trainees and a venue for UC Master Gardeners to educate the public on innovative vegetable gardening techniques in Riverside County.

Working in Shifts

Work in the garden must be coordinated and staggered between volunteers to allow for required physical distancing. Shifts are scheduled in advance in the Volunteer Management System (VMS). If an assigned shift is missed, please contact your team to discuss reassigning duties. You must sign up for an alternate shift before returning to the garden. Physical distance requirements require six feet or more at all times. Individuals showing symptoms of illness, including: coughing, sneezing, feeling feverish or even experiencing seasonal allergies may not work. In addition, if any household members are showing symptoms of illness or you have been notified you have been in contact with someone that is suspected of having contracted or tested positive for COVID-19, you must follow public health guidelines for self-quarantining prior to returning to the garden.

Any volunteer working in a garden for essential garden maintenance activities must bring their own hand tools, and wear personal work gloves when using any shared tools. Disinfecting wipes will be available to wipe down large tools before and after use.
Tool Use

Volunteers will bring their own hand tools to use, do not share hand tools. Personal work gloves must be worn when using larger tools and equipment housed at the garden – shovels, wheelbarrows, mowers, weed-whackers, hoses, irrigation equipment, etc.


Handwashing requires rubbing hands together with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, followed by rinsing and drying with a clean, disposable towel. More info:

Individuals will wash their hands when arriving at the garden before beginning any work, and before leaving the garden. Hand soap and paper towels are available at the outdoor sink in the garden. Notify your UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator if the supply runs low. Disinfecting wipes will be available (as supplies allow) to wipe down large tools before and after use.

Work Breaks

Wash hands properly before and after work breaks, before and after eating or drinking, or using the restroom. If you leave the site for a break, wash your hands before leaving the garden and upon returning. Follow all CDC recommendations, food sharing is strictly prohibited.

Non-Approved Visitors

No other persons are allowed into the garden, including friends and relatives of UC Master Gardener volunteer and staff. All gates, where applicable, are to remain locked while approved essential maintenance activities are being conducted. 

Harvesting and Deliveries to Food Bank

Harvesting produce from the garden and delivering to food banks requires prior approval from the County Director. Harvesters must follow protocols set by the food bank and local or state Public Health guidelines.
Disposable gloves must be worn when harvesting fresh produce. Refrain from touching your face, hair or clothing with the gloves. When harvesting tasks are complete and the delivery is loaded into a vehicle, discard all disposable gloves and wash hands before leaving the garden. Replace gloves when you take a break. Disposable gloves will be available on site.

Social distancing must be exercised when delivering to the food bank, wash your hands after making a delivery.

Seeking Approval for Essential Work

All essential work must be approved by UC ANR leadership. Contact your UC Master Garden Program Coordinator, Advisor or County Director.

Download the “Safety Guidelines for Essential Garden Maintenance” PDF 

Special thank you to Maria Murrietta, UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator of San Luis Obispo, who spearheaded the development of safety guidelines for essential demo garden maintenance. Many thanks for Maria and contributors Katherine Soule, Chris Greer and others for creating this great resource!



Posted on Friday, April 3, 2020 at 11:07 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Broaden your gardening knowledge using online continuing education

Online learning is more important than ever due to the changing situation with COVID-19.

UC Master Gardener volunteers are not only educators but are life-long learners who regularly engage in growing their skills and gardening knowledge. Although the current circumstance surrounded COVID-19 has disrupted our in-person public events and affected our daily lives, it doesn't mean we can't continue learning. Sharpen your mind from the comfort of your own home with these online learning opportunities for the gardener in you. 

Online Continuing Education Resources

Horticultural Topics: 

1. eXtension Campus (no log on required but recommended to be able to access most courses)

a. UC Master Gardener Program Recorded Training - This course acts as a repository of UC and UCCE trainings and was put together as a response to COVID-19

b. eLearn Urban Forestry Citizen Forester

2. eXtension Learn (no log on required)

a. All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series

b. Gardening for Pollinators

 3. UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

a. Introduction to Pesticides

b. Moving Beyond Pesticides

c. Online Scavenger Hunt

d. Biological Control

e. Household Pests

f. Less Toxic Pesticides

g. Managing the Argentine Ant

 4. Oregon State University (log on and registration required)

a. Vegetable Gardening Course

 5. Xeres Society

a. Classroom Series

b. Monarch Butterfly Conservation: What Farmers and Ranchers Can Do to Help This Imperiled Species

c. Pollinators, Plants, and People

Volunteer Development Resources: 

1. Extension Master Gardener Social Media Training

a. Module 1 Social Media Toolbox

b. Module 2 Building Online Community

2. University of California Implicit Bias Trainings

a. UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – Implicit Bias YouTube series

b. UC Managing Implicit Bias Series

3. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension

a. Civil Rights Training for Extension Volunteers and Advisory Group Members

Attend a training and enter your Hours

Don't forget to enter your continuing education hours in VMS, utilize the Volunteer Management System User’s Guide for step-by-step instructions for using VMS.
During this time, it is crucial to enter hours into the Volunteer Management System (VMS) to continue to share impacts with partners and county leaders. Please take this time to track and record your continuing education hours and any volunteer hours you may not have entered yet. If you are unsure about how to enter continuing education hours in VMS watch the video How to enter continuing education and volunteer hoursor utilize the Volunteer Management System User's Guide which offers step-by-step instructions for using VMS.

The amount of continuing education hours you enter should include the training and any supplemental reading you may be directed to complete as part of the training. All of the trainings suggested in this blog qualify for continuing education hours for UC Master Gardener Program volunteers.

Staying connected with one another is important during this time. Consider teaming up with a fellow volunteer to take the same training as you and then talk about what you learned after. Although we cannot be together at this time we can expand our knowledge and connect with each other through online learning opportunities! 

Posted on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 11:47 AM

UC Implicit Bias Trainings – Now Available for Volunteers!

The UC Master Gardener Program is proud to announce that two new UC implicit bias training courses are now available online to UC Master Gardener Program volunteers!

What's implicit bias?

Implicit bias refers to the unconscious short cuts (stereotypes or biases) our brains use when we are confronted with making real-world decisions, according to Jerry Kang, UCLA Vice-Chancellor. “We are all susceptible to automatic cognitive processes that throw our decision making off course,” says Kang.

While biases are normal, they can produce results that are unfair particularly for those who are not members of dominant groups.

To guard against the influence of bias in the interview and appointment processes, the University Office of the President and UC campuses developed resources and guidelines.

Guidelines include:

  • Recommendations for building in enough time to engage in a quality process; Short timelines can increase the likelihood that confirmation or in-group bias will creep in
  • Recommendations for using consistent procedures and rubrics for all candidates
  • Recommendations that all hiring and selection committee members receive training about implicit bias, the consequence and impact of bias, and strategies for managing and disrupting bias

Training courses help guide new volunteer recruitment

UC Master Gardener volunteers, as agents of the University of California, and with guidance from program coordinators, advisors, and county directors, work to recruit and select new volunteers that perform educational outreach in their communities, sharing research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and integrated pest management.

Now, for the first time, all UC Master Gardener volunteers with recruitment and selection responsibilities will have access to TWO of the same critical training resources as staff and academics.

Training 1: UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – Implicit Bias YouTube series

UCLA's implicit bias series consists of seven short videos developed by BruinX, the research and development arm of UCLA's Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The video series defines and explores terms such as stereotype and schema, discusses the impact that bias can have on decision-making, and proposes countermeasures such as decoupling facts and assumptions.

Consider playing one of these short videos before each of your council, committee, subcommittee, or leadership meetings to build collective understanding of the reality and impact of bias.

The first video, linked below, describes how biases and heuristics can influence our decision-making and behavior without us even knowing it. These videos are free and available on YouTube.

Screen shot of UCLA Implicit Bias Video Series Preface (Biases and Heuristics)


Training 2: UC Managing Implicit Bias Series

The UC Managing Implicit Bias Series is a six-course online training series designed to increase awareness of implicit bias and reduce its impact. Each course is 15-20 minutes in length and covers a topic related to identifying, understanding, and managing the influence of bias. Because vocabulary is built throughout the series, learners are encouraged complete the modules in sequential order.

The UC Managing Implicit Bias Series is accessible to UC employees through their division-specific online UC Learning Center. The series is accessible to UC volunteers through the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) Human Resources website.

Volunteers - please follow the steps below to access the online course. Volunteers attempting to view the UC Managing Implicit Bias Series using other links will be unable to access password-protected online UC Learning Center resources.

For volunteer access to the course:

  1. Navigate to the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) Human Resources website's Systemwide Talent Management eCourse page.
Screenshot of Managing Implicit Bias Video Series page on the University of California Office of the President Human Resources website



  1. Click the name of the course you wish to take. Remember, learners are encouraged to complete the modules in order.


Screenshot of Managing Implicit Bias Video Series page on the University of California Office of the President Human Resources website; Arrow indicates how volunteer learners can access the first of six courses


  1. Use the course controls and menu bar to navigate through all of the course pages. Below you'll find the landing page of the first course, “What is Implicit Bias?”


Screen shot of the first module of the Managing Implicit Bias video series titled "What is Implicit Bias?"



  1. Return to the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) Human Resources website's Systemwide Talent Management eCourse page and select the next course.


  1. Repeat until all six courses in the series are finished.

Consider hosting a session for volunteers involved in the recruitment and selection process. Play one or more of the videos to generate a discussion about reducing bias in volunteer application and interview procedures. The research about implicit bias is clear – awareness is the first step to interrupting and reducing bias in learning and working spaces. Now, volunteers and staff can take that step together. 

Technical Support:

  • Training 1: UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – Implicit Bias YouTube series - Contact UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to request support OR to let the Office know that you are using their resource 
  • Training 2: UC Managing Implicit Bias Series - Contact UC Systemwide Talent Management via their Contact Us page

Additional Resources:


Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 9:32 AM

PlantRight’s Spring Retail Nursery Survey Re-launches in 2020

PlantRight is bringing back its annual Spring Retail Nursery Survey for 2020. Photo: ©PlantRight

What's in store this spring? That is exactly the question on PlantRight's mind as the program launches its 9th Annual Spring Retail Nursery Survey. PlantRight's spring survey helps keep a pulse on the sale of invasive plants in California. 

The Spring Retail Nursery Survey began in 2009 under the management of the 501(c)3 non-profit Sustainable Conservation. After development of a comprehensive program and eight successful surveys, Sustainable Conservation transferred the management of the PlantRight program to Plant California Alliance in 2019. Plant California Alliance, an association of horticultural industry professionals, is a great fit to host the PlantRight program. Now, under the new leadership, PlantRight is excited to announce that they are re-launching the survey.

The nursery survey has come a long way from its debut year in 2009 when it included 75 stores in 27 counties to its most recent survey in 2017 which included 332 stores in 45 counties. With almost half of all invasive plants in the state being introduced through the horticultural industry, the nursery survey is an important source of information on the prevalence of invasive plants in California's gardens and landscapes. PlantRight looks forward to continuing the legacy of successful data collection.

The survey would not have had the success it has had so far without the hard work of UC Master Gardener volunteers. Each spring, the nursery survey is conducted throughout California through the participation of volunteers from the UC Master Gardener program and a few other conservation groups.

A UC Master Gardener volunteer participating in a previous PlantRight - Spring Retail Nursery Survey. UC Master Gardener volunteers check for the sale of invasive plants at nurseries across the state. Photo: ©PlantRight

How PlantRight Uses the Data

The information gathered during the survey allow PlantRight to:

  1. Collaborate effectively with thousands of plant retailers, wholesalers and growers;
  2. Provide gardeners with information about invasive plants and choosing beautiful non-invasive alternatives for their gardens;
  3. Inform our strategy, measure our progress, and keep our plant list relevant.

PlantRight works in partnership with the nursery industry and only releases aggregated data that protects the identity of, and data from, the stores that are surveyed.

To view past survey results visit this page

The last Spring Retail Nursery Survey was able to include 332 stores in 45 counties, helping provide critical information about the availability of invasive plants in retail nurseries. Photo: ©PlantRight
Interested in participating?

UC Master Gardener Program counties may offer volunteer and continuing education hours to UC Master Gardener volunteers who participate in the Spring Survey and visit local nurseries to help PlantRight track the availability of invasive plants in California. Check with your local county coordinator to see if your county will be participating this year.  Participation in the 2020 Spring Nursery Survey is easy, educational, and fun!

Volunteers will:

  1. Register 
  2. View a training video online and pass a short quiz
  3. Download required survey materials (e.g. survey form & plant ID key)
  4. Sign up to survey a store in their county
  5. Visit the store and record information about any invasive plants sold 
  6. Submit information to PlantRight

The survey process takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete. Volunteers start by RSVPing to participate on PlantRight's website. When it becomes available, volunteers will be notified and be able to view a training video. once completed, volunteers will take a short quiz and be able to claim nurseries to survey.

Nurseries will become available to claim on

  • Southern California: Monday, March 9th at noon
  • Northern California: Monday, April 6th at noon

Visit to create an account and register as a volunteer in your region!

Questions? Contact:

Alex Stubblefield
PlantRight Program Manager
(916) 448-3900

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 9:43 AM
  • Author: Alexa Stubblefield
Tags: PlantRight (6)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Welcome! New Program Coordinators

The statewide office is thrilled to introduce three new Program Coordinators that started with the UC Master Gardener Program in Fall 2019. Please join is in giving them a warm welcome! 

Danica Lea Taber
Santa Barbara County

Growing up in Denver, Danica Taber, was in awe of her mom's ability to grow orchids in the arid Colorado climate.  In high school Danica experimented with germinating seeds from store-bought produce, and everyone in her family was shocked when a grapefruit seed not only sprouted, but grew into a little plant that flowered!

Danica further explored plant cultivation as a student at CU Boulder by volunteering at the university greenhouses to help care for the phenomenal teaching collection curated by Tom Lemieux and Janice Harvey.  When she moved to Santa Barbara in 2012, her growing experience skyrocketed, “I was fortunate enough to serve as the manager for UCSB's research greenhouses and teaching collections.  I got a crash course in IPM, and I also began to appreciate how valuable invested volunteers are,” says Danica.  

After finishing a Master's programs in environmental science and public affairs at Indiana University, Danica moved back to the area to live with her husband.  “The UC Master Gardener Program of Santa Barbara has truly helped me feel at home here.  Between the friendly faces, the impassioned conversations about ground squirrels, and the ‘can do, will do' attitude that I see volunteers apply to projects, even as a trainee I felt like I'd hit on a big secret. Gardening grows more than just plants.  Gardening grows communities,” said Danica.  She looks forward to meeting and supporting Santa Barbara County's UC Master Gardener volunteers in our mission to share science-backed gardening wisdom with members of our communities.

Katherine Uhde
Santa Clara County

Katherine Uhde started as the UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator in Santa Clara County in November 2019. Katherine comes to us from UCCE Alameda County where she was part of the UC CalFresh Healthy Living Program. While there, she led a gardening education program for older adults in partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County. Katherine also holds a Master Gardener Home Horticulture Certificate from Oregon State University Extension.

Katherine is originally from Iowa and earned her B.S. in Kinesiology, Public Health Option from Iowa State University where she studied human nutrition, exercise science, and public health. After graduating, Katherine moved to Kansas where she coordinated regional food access programs and led state-wide farmers' market, food policy, and school health initiatives, including the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program which served over 5,000 eligible older adults through 19 local agencies and 450 certified farmers. Katherine also managed a weekly farmers' market on the Capitol grounds in Topeka.

“Katherine is passionate about community, policy, systems and environmental changes that are sustainable, protect the environment, and promote healthy lifestyles. We are delighted to have her as part of the UC Master Gardener Program,” says Lucy Diekmann, Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Advisor.

Kali Burke
San Francisco & San Mateo

Kali Burke joined as the new Program Coordinator in San Franscisco and San Mateo this past September.
Growing up on the California coast, some of her earliest memories are of time spent in her large family gardens. Having dirt under her nails after a day in the garden still makes her the happiest.

Kali graduated from UC Santa Cruz where she earned a bachelor's degree in Sociology. After graduating, she pursued her interests in food, agriculture, and education. Working with the local farm and garden community for close to 10 years now, she has experience in both the programs and operations sides of small nonprofits.

She considers herself a life-long learner and believes that gardens are a powerful tool for building community, educating the public, and learning more about ourselves and the world around us. She couldn't be more excited to be a part of the UC Master Gardener community!

Posted on Friday, January 31, 2020 at 11:47 AM

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