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During this Holiday Season Give the Gift of Garden

The holiday season is upon us! As you check off the presents on your shopping list, consider a gift from the garden. Here are some great gift ideas with sprinkles of garden angels in mind for those special gardener's in your life:

Office Poinsettias / Photo: Melissa Womack


Even though poinsettias are tropical plants, they have become synonymous with the winter holiday season. The poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) has both dark green and bright red leaves as well as small clusters of green and yellow flowers.

Heirloom Seed Packets / Photo: Parenting Patch

Seed Packets

Seed packets make a great holiday gift because of the large number of varieties available. The gardeners in your life will be able to grow their own vegetables and fruits or have a colorful array of flowers for their spring landscape. Seed packets contain planting instructions and tips that help guide all gardeners from novice to expert.

Canned veggies, fruits, pickles, relish, jams and jellies / Photo: Melissa Womack

Jar It Up

Homemade items are always a pleasant addition to gift giving. Fruits can be made into marvelous jams and jellies; vegetables can be pickled or made into relish; nuts can be candied and placed in a jar. Use a piece of burlap and some ribbon for the finishing touches on a beautiful gift.

Blank Gardening Note Card /Photo: Donna Valadez

Garden Angel

Be a Garden Angel! Make a card with a handwritten offer to mentor a beginning gardener or an offer to help plant or harvest for a seasoned gardener or a person who loves to garden but may not be able to.  This is truly a gift from the heart.

Dried Flowers / Photo: Beatrize / Pixabay

Dried Flowers

Press or dry flower arrangements from your garden. Pressed flowers look beautiful in a picture frame with a special note, poem, or quote.

House wrens - nesting box with 4 young / Photo: Robin Rivet

Recycled Bird House

Bring out your crafty side and upcycle old material around the house to create a birdhouse. Construction basics are available online along with video tutorials.  This gift keeps on giving as it provides seasonal interest and excitement once a bird chooses it as home. 

Basket of Pears / Photo: Evett Kilmartin

Gift Basket

Fill a basket with any bountiful harvest of fruits, vegetables, or flowers from your garden. You can also include seed packets, a Garden Angel card, and jarred goods. This is a fun way to share your enjoyment of your garden with others.

During this holiday season give the gift of garden and share joy, peace, and love on this bountiful time of the year.  Wishing you and yours a very Merry Holiday and a Happy New Year!

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2019 at 2:47 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

American Rose Trials for Sustainability

Did you know the UC Master Gardener Program of San Joaquin County has been part of a National Rose Trial since 2018? The National Rose Trial is part of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S.) Program which has trial sites across the United States. The National Rose trial was initiated in 2012 by individuals representing multiple rose stakeholder groups including: private industry, the scientific community, and public gardens.

Since 2018, UC Master Gardeners in San Joaquin County have been part of a National Rose Trial. The trial is part of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability program, which aims to identify roses that perform well in a given region when grown under “minimal input conditions.” (Photo: Marcy Sousa)

The goal of the A.R.T.S. program is to identify roses that perform well in a given region when grown under "minimal input conditions."  What are "minimal input conditions?" 

  • there are no pesticides used
  • we do not deadhead the flowers
  • there is no pruning (except to remove winter-killed canes in the spring, or those killed by rodents)
  • we do not add any fertilizer (only compost is added prior to planting)
  • plants are not covered in the winter (in colder climates it is common to cover and protect roses)

A.R.T.S. national test sites are strategically located throughout the U.S. and are hosted by partners that share the A.R.T.S. mission including botanical gardens, arboreta, municipalities, colleges and universities. There are only two Mediterranean climate trial locations and they are both located in California.  The National Rose Trials at the UC Cooperative Extension office in San Joaquin County began in 2018, and the second location at Fullerton Arboretum started in 2019.

Rose bushes in full bloom, outside of the UC Cooperative Extension Office in San Joaquin County (Photo: Marcy Sousa)

A.R.T.S. defines its climate regions using the Köppen climate classification system, which is the preferred means used by ecologists. This system not only takes into account temperature, but also seasonal precipitation and humidity. The A.R.T.S. evaluation protocol has 45% of the score reflecting sub-components of the health and quality of the foliage, 42.5% the presentation and quality of the flowers and 12.5% reflecting the plant's growth habit. Climate can greatly impact all three of these evaluation categories.

How does the trial work?

Karrie Reid, UC ANR Environmental Horticulture Advisor, has been managing and overseeing the trial since its inception in 2018. Roses were planted in an unused turf area that was converted to rose trial grounds.  One of the selling features of converting the turf sections was the calculated water savings - 3,656 sq. ft. of turf used more than 103,000 gallons of water, while 60 roses in the same area on drip irrigation uses approximately 6,175 gallons, a huge 94% savings! 

Each year starts the beginning of a new trial with 20 difference rose cultivars. Three of each rose variety is planted randomly throughout the beds, allowing ample spacing between plants to observe natural plant habit. Mixed in the plantings are two standard rose varieties known to perform well and to be disease resistant. The trial runs for two years, evaluations start the year of planting and finish the following year so roses only go through one winter season. There are two staggered rose trials planted in San Joaquin County per year.

Roses being tested in the A.R.T.S. trial may be watered thoroughly during the first year after planting for proper establishment during the season they were planted. The roses in the UC Master Gardener of San Joaquin trial are watered 1-inch, twice a week while they are blooming during the first year, and only once a week during the second year.

Each rose is evaluated monthly during the growing season; the roses are rated on a 10-point scale, judging them for their foliage, flowers and plant form. (Photo credit: Marcy Sousa)

Each rose is evaluated twice monthly during the growing season by a team of UC Master Gardener volunteers, the local advisor, or a local rose club member. Evaluators rate the roses on a 10-point scale, judging on foliage, flowers and form. The evaluation data collected is submitted to the A.R.T.S. program for evaluation.

UC Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County, Kate Vizcarra and Janet Nimtz, evaluate roses for its foliage, flowers and form. (Photo Credit: Marcy Sousa)

Picking the winners

Any rose cultivar in a given region that scores higher than the average of the standard cultivars and has greater than a 50% survival is given the A.R.T.S. Local Artist Award. Any rose that receives the A.R.T.S. Local Artist award in four or more regions is given the A.R.T.S. Master Rose Award.

Having the A.R.T.S. awards in different regions means that nursery and landscape professionals along with home gardeners can be sure they are selecting plants that will perform well in their gardens. Not every plant is going to thrive in every climate. While a particular cultivar may do well in the short, cool growing season of Maine, it may perform very poorly in the much longer and warmer conditions found in California.  

We are excited about the opportunity to participate in the program and are eager to find out the winners in our region. Follow us on Facebook @ucsjmg to hear about the winners from us.

Soon, the UC Master Gardener Program in San Joaquin County will begin prepping the ground to install a brand new trial in January 2020!

If you would like to learn more about the A.R.T.S. program, visit their website: If you have a gardening related question, you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website:

Information for this article was taken from the A.R.T.S. website and Nursery Management magazine.



Posted on Monday, December 16, 2019 at 4:53 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Giving Tuesday is Dec. 3


Join us in supporting the important work of the UC Master Gardener Program this Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3, by making a gift or taking and UNSelfie and sharing on social media.
On Dec. 3, 2019 the UC Master Gardener Program is once again participating in Giving Tuesday's 24-hour global giving challenge, a movement about ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things.

Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season. For UC ANR #GivingTuesday is an opportunity to raise funds for county programs, projects and extension efforts.

“Wherever you are in California, so are we. Our programs and research serve our communities— bringing practical, trusted answers to residents across the state. That's what our #GivingTuesday #NeighborCA campaign is all about,” said Emily Delk, director of annual giving for UC ANR. 

How can you help? Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Join us and donate. Your gift can be applied directly to support your local county program.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for exciting updates. Include @UCMasterGarden and the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #NeighborCA.
  • Share this message with friends and family and encourage them to join the movement!

“Giving Tuesday gives us an opportunity to talk about our research and outreach to enhance food systems and create thriving communities, as well as all the other positive things everyone in ANR is doing to make life better for Californians,” said VP Glenda Humiston.

We're asking you to join us in supporting the UC Master Gardener Program tomorrow by making a gift that supports our mission and the work we are doing in your community. Please spread the word to friends and family who want to support you in making an impact.

Thank you for all you do for the UC Master Gardener Program and for joining the #GivingTuesday movement! For more information visit

Posted on Monday, December 2, 2019 at 10:40 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Program Coordinators and Leaders Gather for Annual Professional Development Meeting


The UC Master Gardener Program is well known for its volunteers' prolific extension of home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management to California residents. At times behind the scenes and at other times front and center, UC Master Gardener Program Coordinators and lead volunteers work diligently to ensure that volunteer cohorts have the skills and resources they need to succeed.

Last month UC Master Gardener statewide staff, program coordinators, and volunteer leaders gathered for their annual coordinator meeting. This year the annual coordinator meeting included two packed days full of training, sharing, and enrichment centered on volunteer engagement.

Program coordinators and volunteer leaders brainstormed ideas on ways to engage and support volunteers from all generations. Photo: Melissa Womack

Volunteer engagement is an approach to volunteer leadership that attempts to support volunteers throughout the volunteer lifecycle – from identification and selection through orientation and training to program recognition and evaluation. Presenters delivered informative presentations focusing on generation-informed approaches to volunteer engagement, best practices in adult and land-based learning, program evaluation, communication with government officials, and new resources.
Sample icebreakers were done in the morning as a team-building activity and to showcase interactive ways to have volunteers meet each other or buy into the training. In this icebreaker coordinators were asked to act out the phrase "Oh no! Look at that topped tree!"
Following a few sample icebreakers, coordinators received updates on the state of volunteer engagement within UC ANR from Gemma Miner, the UC 4-H Youth Development Program's Volunteer Engagement Coordinator. Building on this presentation, UC Master Gardener Program Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, Marisa Coyne, offered a presentation on applying a generational lens to the work of recruiting and retaining volunteers. Coordinators brainstormed generated ideas related to improving the generational diversity of UC Master Gardener volunteers and remarked that although each generation (traditionalist, baby boomer, generation X, and millennial) was shaped by different trends and events, many of their needs are similar.
Program Coordinator, Judy McClure, of Sacramento County welcomed attendees to the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center to learn about how gardens can be used as an outdoor classroom and learning space. Photo: Melissa Womack
A quick lunch was followed by a visit to the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, a beloved community garden located in Sacramento County. The Horticulture Center hosts community events and workshops, including an annual Harvest Day in August attended by thousands in the region annually. At the garden, Lauren Snowden, Statewide Training Coordinator, demonstrated hands-on, multi-sensory, participant-focused facilitation methods, while teaching about bulbs for fall planting. UC Master Gardener Volunteer, Lori Thorson, gave her account of the impact of the program on her life. 
A hands-on demonstration about planting bulbs showcased multi-sensory and participant focused facilitation methods. Photo: Melissa Womack

The group re-convened bright and early the next day for a presentation by UC Davis Student Farm Associate Director, Carol Hillhouse. Drawing on her 30-year career in outdoor experiential learning with UC, Hillhouse outlined eight best practices for adult and land-based learning. “Adults come to education experiences with prior knowledge and with expectations,” said Hillhouse. “Successful volunteer engagement includes the acknowledgement and application of prior knowledge and an ability to meet adult learning goals.”

Carol Hillhouse, UC Davis Student Farm Associate Director, presented to the group about experiential learning and engaging volunteers. Photo: Melissa Womack

Next, Melissa Womack, Statewide Marketing and Communications Coordinator and Tamekia Wilkins, Statewide Evaluation Coordinator, led the group through an activity designed to help folks share program evaluation data using storytelling and data. As daily communication moves increasingly online, networks like Twitter and Facebook create opportunities for sharing impact with community members and community leaders.


Participants were asked to combine storytelling and impact data for various communication pieces. Photo: Melissa Womack
Before lunch, Coordinators were treated to a special presentation from Anne Megaro, UC ANR Government and Community Relations Director, who provided advice for effective communication with government officials and community leaders. Megaro noted that, in the local context, it is important to “know your champions,” meaning the individuals (volunteers included!), entities, and families that are committed to and recognize the worth of projects and offerings. 
Finally, a five person panel of program coordinators presented on the topic of partnerships for program effectiveness, sharing ideas for possible collaborations with juvenile rehabilitation programs, visually impaired communities, school districts, sustainability-focused non-profit organizations, and other UC ANR statewide programs.
Five coordinators and volunteer leaders, presented on projects that support the program's mission and are opportunities for meaningful partnerships within our communities. Photo: Melissa Womack
Just as UC Master Gardener Volunteers seek continuing education to ensure that their horticulture information and extension skills are sharp, program coordinators engage annually in professional development around volunteer management, program administration, and evaluation. Research on core competencies of Master Gardener Coordinators in North Carolina indicates that a variety of proficiencies are needed to successfully lead a Master Gardener Program. Annual coordinator meetings are a regular opportunity to build and share knowledge.

A list of coordinators can be found the UC Master Gardener Program website. Note: Some counties do not have UCCE staff coordinators. In these cases, UCCE Advisors or County Directors are listed as the lead contact per UC ANR policy.

Thank you to all who attended and presented at this year's coordinator meeting!

Program coordinators, volunteer leaders and the statewide staff gathered at the UC ANR building in Davis, CA for the UC Master Gardener Program's annual coordinator meeting. Photo: Melissa Womack
Program coordinators, volunteer leaders and the statewide staff gathered at the UC ANR building in Davis, CA for the UC Master Gardener Program's annual coordinator meeting. Photo: Melissa Womack

38 team members of the UC Master Gardener Program taking a group photo, holding sunflowers, in front of the UC ANR building.

Posted on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 11:16 AM
Tags: Master Gardener (32), Training (4), VMI (1), Volunteers (7)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Vegetable Pest Management Training Series a Success

It may seem odd to see seventy-five people at a hotel conference center learning about insects and rats on vegetables, but not if you are a UC Master Gardener.  The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) in partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program just wrapped up the Vegetable Pests and Solutions train-the-trainer series. More than 340 UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state took part in the regional trainings offered in Fresno, Orange, Placer, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma counties. 

Active Learning

The advanced UC IPM training offered a hands-on, train-the-trainer experience that increased participants' knowledge of insect pests of vegetables, vegetable plant diseases and disorders, and vertebrate pests of gardens and homes.  One of the highlights of the training was Human-Wildlife Interaction Advisor, Niamh Quinn, showing a taxidermy collection of vertebrate pests at the Orange and San Luis Obispo County workshops.  Being able to handle and observe the different markings, colors and claws on certain animals makes future identification easier as participants learned the signs to look for when identifying vertebrate pest damage in the vegetable garden.

UC Master Gardeners are getting a real hands-on look at the features of a pocket gopher. Photo Credit: Elaine Lander

UC Master Gardener volunteers were lead through exercises that mimic questions commonly received from the public.  Some of the questions had a photo, others just a sparse description that volunteers worked together to solve using online IPM resources and materials provided at the training.  The exercises were designed to challenge and expose the learner to different types of scenarios and tools they can use in the future.

Outreach and Education

The UC Master Gardener Program's mission is to extend research-based information, by attending advanced trainings such as this, volunteers are even more prepared to contribute to the program's mission. With exposure and practice using new resources and materials training attendees have the tools and knowledge needed to educate the public on vegetable pests and solutions including scripted PowerPoints, activities, handouts, and vegetable pest identification card sets. One attendee reported “As a first year UC Master Gardener, this training helped me become more comfortable and more confident researching answers for pest management questions.” 

At the conclusion of the training volunteers convened with their fellow county volunteers to talk about their plans to take new found knowledge back into their communities.  Some of the great ideas generated were:

  • offer seasonal pest problems workshops
  • include a “Need Help Solving Pest Problems?” flier for all events
  • add IPM tips to newsletters and social media
  • integrate IPM into presentations as appropriate or relevant to topic
  • add signage for damaged or diseased plants with IPM solutions in demonstration gardens
  • share IPM toolkit at farmers markets and demo garden events

UC Master Gardener volunteers of Orange County are brainstorming ideas of how to incorporate the IPM training they just received into their outreach and education efforts. Photo Credit: Elaine Lander

How We are Making a Difference

One portion of the agenda was focused on how the UC Master Gardener community is making a difference. With 6,000+ volunteers serving more than 517,000 Californians per year the impact of the UC Master Gardener volunteer effort is truly amazing.  Through statewide program evaluation efforts the impact in sustainable landscaping, food gardening and community well-being is now being analyzed and reported in the programs annual report.  Volunteers can see the impact they are having statewide and be proud of being part of a group that social changes they are seeing in their local communities. 

As active volunteers and life-long learners UC Master Gardeners are a powerful educational tool and inspiration for others not only in the garden but in the volunteer community.  Statewide educational offerings like UC IPM's train-the-trainer series help hone the diagnostics skills while building confidence in the subject matter. 

The next statewide training opportunity for UC Master Gardener volunteers will be the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference, Sept. 28 –Oct. 2, 2020 at the Granlibakken, Tahoe. The conference is the beginning planning stages and taking speaker and topic suggestions, click here to suggest a speaker or topic.

Posted on Friday, November 1, 2019 at 10:20 AM
Tags: 2020UCMG (1), Gardening (15), IPM (10), Master Gardener (32), Master Gardener Program (3), Pests (6), Volunteers (7), Weeds (2)
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management Yard & Garden

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