UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County

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End of the Year Thank You!

As 2020 comes to a close, I'd like to express my deep appreciation and thanks to all of our UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener volunteers who have given the ‘gift of their time' to provide credible information to the gardening public. Even during COVID, they've found creative and safe means to continue reaching the public by converting face-to-face classes and workshops to online opportunities.They've gone above and beyond their expected volunteerism by helping those in need during these difficult times by working with our partners to distribute free seeds, trees, and wattles (for erosion control) and ensuring a happy holiday season for children and adults in need through a gift drive. Through COVID, the UCCE Master Gardeners have maintained their email and phone helplines to help county residents solve their gardening quandaries (linked here) mgsanber@ucanr.edu and (909)387-2182.

MG Bob Yocum and Crafton Hills College Gardeners

Master Gardener volunteers helped thousands of county residents landscape more sustainably, grow food in home, community, and school gardens, and deepen their appreciation of nature. They: 

  • Taught classes on drought-resistant landscapes and growing food in home, school, and community gardens
  • Hosted ‘Ask the Master Gardener' sessions
  • Provided education to community and school gardeners
  • Distributed gardening information and answered questions at Farmers' Markets, community fairs and other events
  • Answered home gardening questions via email and phone helplines
  • Shared gardening information through social media
  • Helped promote planting trees to cool urban heat islands in underserved neighborhoods and communities
  • Helped take research data on the 'trees for tomorrow' project
  • Published the monthly Master Gardener newsletter (thanks Phoebe, Debbie, Maggie, Robin, Sue and contributing authors!)

A special ‘shout out' to our monthly 2020 ‘Spotlight' Master Gardener volunteers for their extraordinary service:

I'd also like to recognize our dozens of non-profit partners including Inland Empire Resource Conservation District and the County of San Bernardino. 

And, last but far from least, I'm forever thankful to UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Coordinator Maggie O'Neill whose passion, heart, and expertise keeps the program thriving!

 

 

Happy Holidays to All! 

MG citizen scientists
MG citizen scientists

Posted on Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 12:55 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus? Are they the same species?

With only a few short weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and two very similarly looking plants, you may be wondering whether the gift a loved one gave you for Christmas is a Thanksgiving cactus or a Christmas cactus. (Many sold in local nurseries and large box stores this past Christmas season were actually Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata), pictured below). While both are native to tropical regions of Brazil, host a wide array of flowers ranging from the more traditional pink hues to newer hybrids showing off white, red, yellow, and purple, they have different bloom periods. The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), blooms about a month after the Thanksgiving cactus.

 

 

The Christmas cactus also has slightly different projections on its leaves, which are more scalloped and less pointed that the projections on the Thanksgiving cactus. Is yours still not in flower and not in the holiday spirit? Both species require cool temperatures and longer nights for about a month in advance of their flowering period. Both plants bloom optimally when grown outdoors when cool night temperatures dip`into the 50s and shorter nights reduce daytime light to 10 -12 hours in a 24 hour cycle. They can also be grown indoors in pots if kept in a cool dark area with no light between 5 pm and 8 am. During daytime, they prefer bright, indirect light. Full sun can cause the leaf segments to turn dark red. Both species require good drainage but, even though they are in the cactus family don't let this fool you! They need adequate moisture - particularly during boom- and cannot make it through long, dry periods without supplemental water. Unlike most houseplants, they prefer to feel snug in their pots, almost to the point of enjoying being slightly pot-bound.

Happiest of holidays however you choose to safely celebrate them this year!

Janet

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 10:46 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Tips for Enhancing the Fire-Resistance of Your Home Landscape

Welcome to another “New Normal!” Due to climate change resulting in hotter, drier conditions and reduced snowpack, the occurrence of a “fire season” which traditionally occurred from May through October is becoming a misnomer, with fire occurring throughout the year. The severity of what may lie ahead over the next several months was highlighted in a recent tweet posted by CAL FIRE: “Compared to last year, California has seen over 2,650 more fires and a nearly 2000% increase in the acres burned year-to-date (January 1 – September 7), across all jurisdictions.”

Indeed, Fall often hosts strong offshore winds that can quickly spread destructive fires, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. What can you do to help ensure ‘defensible space' that increases the safety of your family, pets and property in fire-prone areas? First and foremost, select and properly maintain fire-resistant plants augmented with hardscapes and fire breaks extending from your home to at least one hundred feet outward. (This also helps ensure access to your home by firefighters and other first-line responders in the event of a fire or other life-threatening event.)

Vegetation chosen for your defensible space should have low flammability and can include trees and shrubs along with herbaceous plants. Allowing adequate space between woody plants is important to avoid a continuous fuel path (fuel ladder) where fire starting at ground level can climb to the top of a tree and spread from tree to tree.

1. Follow these ‘defensible space' guidelines to reduce the risk of fire spread and damage:

Zone 0 (first 5 feet from structures): avoid anything combustible including woody plants, mulch, woodpiles, trellises, and stacked items. Instead, add walkways and mulch and other hardscaping made from pebbles and rocks, pavers, rock mulch, or pea gravel. Include a 6-inch noncombustible area extending from the ground to the exterior siding of structures.

Zone 1 (5-30 feet from structures): Eliminate fire spread by ensuring adequate space between trees, removing lower branches. Consider adding irrigated groundcovers or mowed grass or hardscapes between these plant groupings, as well. Properly maintain plants and remove dead portions of plants.

Zone 2 (31-100+ feet from structure to the property line): Concentrate on reducing the density of plants to slow the spread of fire and to reduce the height of flames. Woody plants should be spaced (as illustrated below) to prevent fuel ladders.

 

                                   Defensible Zones (source: National Fire Protection Association, nfpa.org)

2. Remember that even a so called “fire-resistant” species that is under-watered or otherwise poorly cared for can be highly combustible. The conditions under which the plant is grown influences its fire-resistance more than the species itself. However, plant species high in wax, oil, and resins such as conifers tend to be highly flammable while manzanita and ceanothus (California lilac) are less so. 

3. Avoid planting or spreading invasive species. While invasive plants are never recommended in any landscape, they are especially problematic in natural areas prone to wildfire. Once established they can fuel fire as well as crowd out native vegetation and associated habitat. Refer to the California Invasive Plant Council website for more information and specific examples and plants to avoid (www.cal-ipc.org).

4. Follow recommended planting and pruning guidelines to prevent both horizontal and vertical spread from tree to tree. Horizontal spacing is directly related to the slope of the land and the height of the vegetation.

 

Photo above (courtesy of CAL FIRE) is a diagram to help you determine minimum horizontal clearance for tree and shrub placement to reduce fire risk.

 

Photo above (courtesy of CAL FIRE) shows a 5' shrub near a tree. In this example, 15' of clearance (3 x 5') is needed between the top of the shrub and the lowest tree branch to prevent a fire ladder.

 

5. While fire-resistant natives and adapted non-natives greatly reduce your chance of losing your home and property to wildfire, all plants will burn under favorable conditions. Ensure that plants receive adequate irrigation.

6. Rather than applying organic mulch near your home, use non-flammable materials such as stone and pebbles. Granite pathways are also suggested since they provide a fuel break. Firewood and propane tanks should also be kept away from your home.

References:

CAL FIRE “Ready for Wildfire”: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-ready/defensible-space/

Drill, S. et al. (2009), S.A.F.E Landscapes: Southern California Guidebook, UC Cooperative Extension: https://ucanr.edu/sites/SAFELandscapes/files/93415.pdf

UC ANR “Preparing Home Landscaping for Fire”: https://ucanr.edu/sites/fire/Prepare/Landscaping/

 

Posted on Sunday, September 27, 2020 at 5:22 PM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Welcome Accepted Master Gardener Applicants!

What do more than a dozen community and school garden organizers, members and directors of 15 non-profit boards, several K-12 teachers, a department chair from Loma Linda University a, retired USDA senior marketing manager, a sociologist, an anthropologist, a handful of IT and human resource managers, a structural engineer with a second career as a public health educator and 40 other San Bernardino County residents have in common? They all have a desire to give back to their communities and were recently accepted into our UC Cooperative Extension San Bernardino County Master Gardener program.

The Master Gardener 'class of 2021' hails from all parts of the county including Yucca Valley, Victorville, 29 Palms, Running Springs, San Bernardino, Redlands, Chino, Montclair, Chino Hills, Running Springs, Pinion Pines, Colton, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, and Ontario. They will be brought together for the first time ever in the history of the program entirely via Zoom! In exchange for the horticulture knowledge they receive during the 18-week training class, each has agreed to volunteer 50 or more hours helping county residents landscape more sustainably and grow fruits and vegetables in home, community, and school gardens.

Please help Master Gardener Coordinator Maggie O'Neill, our 150+ current Master Gardeners, and me welcome these new students into our program. I am excited to get to know them and inspired already by their passion and giving spirit. Besides helping residents landscape more sustainably, this year the Master Gardener program will focus heavily on helping county residents develop home, school, and community gardens. This closely aligns with the increased interest county residents have in growing food and adopting healthier lifestyles. Master Gardeners are in the process of developing vegetable planting guides for our three main climate zones (valley, high desert and mountains), ‘how to' videos on planting, growing, and harvesting cool and warm season vegetables, and conducting workshops (via zoom for the time being) to help current and new home, community and school gardeners become even more successful. And, of course, Master Gardeners will continue to staff our email and telephone helplines and hope to resume staffing their Farmers' Markets booths as soon as it is safe to do so!

I'm looking forward to another great year!

school garden san bernardino master gardener university of california
school garden san bernardino master gardener university of california

Master Gardener San Bernardino University of California 3
Master Gardener San Bernardino University of California 3

Master Gardener San Bernardino University of California 2
Master Gardener San Bernardino University of California 2

Posted on Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 9:18 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Environment, Food, Health, Yard & Garden

Applications of Organic Mulch Result in Enhanced Tree Growth and Water Savings

I hope all of you and your loved ones are staying well and healthy as the pandemic continues.  Involving yourself in outdoor activities is not only a great way to escape 'cabin fever' and improve your physical health but it is also good for you psychologically, as well.   

A silver lining for me over the past few months has been the opportunity to summarize results of some research studies including an update from a mulch trial that I'll report on virtually rather than live at the American Society for Horticultural Science conference (that was to be held in Orlando). I thought you might be interested in the results.

The objective of the research project was to measure the impacts of organic mulch treatments on the growth and health of four species of low maintenance, drought-tolerant landscape trees under deficit irrigation. Species selected were Parkinsonia x ‘Desert Museum' (it's thornless!); Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba' (Desert Willow) (beautiful magenta flowers!), Pistacia ‘Red Push' (hybrid from P. atlantica and P. integerrima with brilliant orange fall foliage), and Prosopis glandulosa ‘Maverick' (thornless). Trees were planted in a randomized complete block experimental design in at the Chino Basin Water Conservation District (CBWCD) in Montclair in October, 2016. Half of the trees received 4” of organic mulch and half did not. Trees were transplanted from 15-gallon containers and irrigated with recycled water at 80 percent of reference evapotranspiration (ETo) the first 12 months.

Irrigation was reduced to 50% ETo in November, 2017 which was maintained until May 2020, when irrigation ceased. While the study continues through October 2020, there are some interesting early results.  Organic mulch applications enhanced growth with no loss in quality in the Pistacia, Prosopis glandulosa, and Chilopsis linearis trees while growth was actually better in the Parkinsonia trees that did not receive mulch. This may be due to the fact that its trunk and branches actively photosynthesize as well as its leaves. Parkinsonia leaves also feature sunken guard cells, providing another form of drought avoidance. Furthermore, they develop deep root systems and may not need the added benefit of reduced soil evaporation in the top few inches of soil provided by the mulch. While all of the species selected have wonderful attributes, the Parkinsonia 'Desert Museum' has all the best traits of its palo verde heritage including having no thorns and a continues bloom throughout summer.

A huge thanks to our UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener team (led by Irene) who take data quarterly on the trees, recording trunk circumference at 6" and 3'. This is another great example of the breadth and depth of the contributions of our wonderful volunteers!

The four species of landscape trees in this study are part of a larger study at University of California, Riverside to determine the ability of 12 species of landscape trees to mitigate impacts of climate change. While I'll be long retired, growth and health data of all species will continue to be evaluated through at least 2035. The study at CBWCD provided the opportunity for a mulch/no mulch treatment for four of the most promising species which was space-limited at UCR.

Below are plot photos from October 2016 (right after planting), July 2020 (no irrigation for 3 months), a mature 'Desert Museum' tree in prolific bloom (photo credit to Dr. Bob Perry, Emeritus Professor, Cal Poly Pomona), and a mature Chilopsis linearis 'Bubba' from our UCR plot.  

 

Plot overview (2020)

Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba' (Desert Willow)

Save the date We will be hosting a virtual UCR Field Day on September 3, 2020 featuring our drought-tolerant landscape plots at UC Riverside that was to be held live last May.  More information is forthcoming but it will provide at least four hours of continuing education hours and a chance for you to ask questions of Dr's  Amir Haghverdi, Don Merhaut and myself.

Have a wonderful August in your garden!

Janet

Posted on Sunday, July 26, 2020 at 1:06 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment, Natural Resources, Yard & Garden
 
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