In the News
The summer of 2023 brought a burst of creativity within the UC Master Gardener Program, as volunteers across California have submitted their best shots to this year's Photo Contest. The photo contest offered a fun opportunity for UC Master Gardeners to showcase their photography skills and gardening adventures.
This year's submissions have been truly spectacular! They've unveiled vibrant harvests, comedic garden mishaps, backyard visitors, and a trove of other gardening memories that encapsulate the rewarding nature of gardening.
Now, it's time for you to play a part. After careful selection of 20 finalists for each category, we ask you to vote and help us select the winners.
Vote for your favorite photo submission here: https://m.shortstack.page/nRCjrx
Once you've chosen those photos that catch your eye, spread the word on social media and encourage your friends and family to cast their votes!
We are extremely grateful to each participant for sharing their artistry and garden with us. Congratulations and good luck to each semi-finalist, and let the voting begin! Voting closes Friday, September 15 at 12 p.m. PST, so make sure to cast your vote before then. (Finalists are listed below in no specific order.)
Get Growing Finalists:
Garden Lessons Finalists:
Lovely Landscaping Finalists:
Garden Fails Finalists:
Garden Bounty Finalists:
In 2020 near California's state capital, UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County awaited with excitement for its annual Harvest Day they organized each year. But the ongoing pandemic forced the cancellation of this much-anticipated event leaving the usual over 1500 attendees disappointed. Each year Harvest Day provided a colorful assortment of speakers, vendors, and food all in celebration of sustainable gardening. In the name of resilience, the UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County charged a path of embracing change while cultivating accessibility to gardening help and the beloved tradition of Harvest Day.
With grit and determination, the UC Master Gardeners transformed Harvest Day into “Virtual Harvest Day,” an online learning experience that overcame the barriers that Covid created. An incredible video learning experience took the place of the in-person festival. Instead of Harvest Day's typical speeches and demonstrations, UC Master Gardeners created over 20 captivating videos debuting on its newly established YouTube channel.
“Virtual Harvest Day” was an extraordinary success attracting an audience of 4,389 viewers, nearly three times the normal average number of in-person attendees. This victory inspired the program to continue providing gardening support through online webinars and recorded videos. This innovative approach eliminated the many obstacles of the pandemic and welcomed gardeners from around the world. Now, plant lovers, garden enthusiasts and gardening beginners from all walks of life can access UC Master Gardener help.
Since the launch of the YouTube Channel, subscriber counts have skyrocketed to about 22,800 with an astounding increase of +4,500 since April and more than 200 views daily. The comments section showcases gratitude for the helpful content with comments like, “Very informative and helpful video! Thank you” and “I have learned mistakes made previously in my garden. Well done!!!”
The green thumb classroom enriched the lives of the UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County themselves. Through the video creation process, UC Master Gardeners were able to dive deep into research, writing, and production allowing their gardening knowledge and ability to educate to blossom.
UC Master Gardener of Sacramento County's video project serves as an inspiration across the state and has inspired other programs to create accessible video content. The setbacks of the Covid pandemic demonstrated the UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County's resilience and dedication to giving back to their community. Volunteers turned a pandemic cancellation into an educational experience that transcends the limitations of time and location and creates an online community space centered around gardening. The program's YouTube channel has opened the doors of gardening education to people who never had access before. Congratulations to UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County for their dedication and perseverance that won them third place in the Search for Excellence awards competition!
In the rolling foothills of El Dorado County, Calif., a beautiful community garden thrives. Not just an ordinary garden plot, but a community space that cultivates life skills, self-confidence, and weaves a vibrant tapestry of community. The architects of this garden are the UC Master Gardeners of El Dorado County and their partners CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE (CFHL, UCCE) and the Mother Lode Rehabilitation Enterprises (MORE), a non-profit supporting adults with disabilities. Together, they've crafted a pathway to equal opportunities, inclusivity, and engaging experiences for the clients at MORE.
Recently, the team's extraordinary efforts were recognized statewide in the UC Master Gardener Program's Search for Excellence awards for their commitment to expanding the program's reach to a typically underserved audience. “I was moved after reading the El Dorado MORE volunteer project that focuses on teaching adults with disabilities about gardening and growing food. UC Master Gardeners' dedication to creating an inclusive and empowering environment where individuals of all abilities can learn and flourish is inspiring,” commented a Search for Excellence committee member.
Transitioning from childhood to adulthood can be challenging for many people with disabilities. The path to continued learning and independence often becomes foggy and winding. It's a journey that calls for customized support, guidance, and resources. At the heart of MORE's fully inclusive program is a commitment to improving the quality of lives and making dreams come true for the people they serve.
In late 2018, a seed of collaboration was planted as MORE, the UC Master Gardener Program and CFHL, UCCE initiated a partnership built on shared goals—cultivating an enriched life for adults with disabilities. The blossoming garden-based lessons led by UC Master Gardener volunteers perfectly intertwined with CFHL, UCCE's nutritional education and MORE's education and MORE's mission.
In 2020 and 2021, despite the many challenges of COVID-19 UC Master Gardeners continued to provide harvested fruits and vegetables and deliver projects to MORE, even when in-person meetings were on hold. Following the pandemic shutdown, the partnership thrived anew in 2022, breathing new life into their mission with revised plans, fresh goals, and an updated curriculum. The renewed goals of the collaboration were as multi-layered as a well-tended compost heap: providing practical garden and nutritional instruction, introducing sustainable practices, promoting healthy food choices, and fostering skills leading to increased independence.
UC ANR's “Teams with Intergenerational Support” or TWIGS program for gardening and healthy eating curriculum, complemented by CFHL, UCCE's "Harvest of the Month" curriculum, was a perfect fit. This hands-on, research-based approach provided the ideal way for MORE clients to delve into the fascinating realms of botany and nutrition. Traditional methods of assessment often miss the mark when catering to adults with various abilities. Hence, the team innovated, embedding assessments within instruction, using interactive and engaging tools like stickers, thumbs-up/down gestures, and verbal responses. This fluid, dynamic approach ensures each participant can connect with the concepts and apply them to their daily lives.
One rewarding highlight includes clients adopting fruit trees at the Sherwood Demonstration Garden orchard, learning about seasonal changes, and assisting with pest management. This sense of ownership and responsibility is a profound result of the program's influence. Clients are actively involved in the food cycle—harvesting crops, preparing healthy meals, and understanding the nutritional value of what they eat.
In a world often focused on individual achievement, the story of the UC Master Gardeners of El Dorado County, CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE, and Mother Lode Rehabilitation Enterprises serves as a reminder of the transformative power of community and collaboration. As their clients and garden continue to flourish, we are reminded that the journey to excellence is best undertaken together. This is a celebration of their award-winning work, a testament to the importance of community, and a heartwarming reminder of how we can all grow together!
Almost any home gardener will tell you that one of the most versatile and rewarding plants to grow in a summer edible garden is a tomato. In fact, a 2023 study by the National Gardening Association revealed that 86 percent of gardeners grow tomatoes. It is understandable that the tomato plant is a popular home vegetable garden staple, tomatoes offer thousands of different varieties options and flavors. Plus, nothing beats the bursting flavor of a ripe tomato straight from the garden.
When properly cared for, a single tomato plant can produce 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8 kg) or more of fruit. As with any gardening journey, sometimes there can be obstacles or challenges to overcome. If tomato yields aren't what was expected, or the fruit is damaged, it could be due to a number of abiotic disorders, diseases or pesky pests.
Abiotic disorders result from non-living causes and are often environmental, for example: unfavorable soil conditions, too much or too little water, extreme temperature, physical or chemical injuries, and other issues that can harm or kill a plant. Using research-based information from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) publication, Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden.
Here are five of the most common abiotic disorders of tomatoes and how to address them:
- Sunburn or Sunscald: Yes, just like humans tomatoes can also suffer from sunburns because of overexposure to the sun. Sunburnorsunscald occurs on the side of the fruit exposed to the sun, which turns brown and becomes leathery in texture. Solutions:
- Maintain the plant canopy to produce adequate leaf cover for the fruit.
- Avoid overpruning.
- Provide partial shade during peaks sunlight hours.
- Leaf Roll: You might find that the older leaves on your plant suddenly roll upward and inward, becoming stiff, brittle and tough to the touch. This is typically caused by high light intensity and moist soil, especially in staked and heavily pruned plants. Solutions:
- Choose less-susceptible varieties.
- Maintain even soil moisture.
- Provide partial shade during peaks sunlight hours.
- Blossom End Rot: This condition appears as a water-soaked spot at the blossom end of the fruit, which enlarges and darkens, creating a sunken, leathery appearance. It's more prevalent in sandy soils and is primarily caused by calcium nutrition imbalance and inconsistent water levels. Solutions:
- Maintain even soil moisture.
- Amend planting area with compost to improve water retention.
- Avoid heavy applications of high-nitrogen fertilizer.
- Soils deficient in calcium may be amended with gypsum.
- Fruit Cracks and Catfacing: Rapid growth during high temperatures and excessive soil moisture can lead to circular concentric cracks around the stem end, radial cracks shooting out from the stem, and malformation and cracking at the blossom end, a phenomenon known as ‘catfacing'. Solution:
- Keep soil evenly moist.
- Maintain good leaf cover or provide partial shade during hours of most intense sunlight.
- Mulch around the plant 3 to 7 inches deep to maintain soil moisture and temperature.
- Solar Yellowing and Green Shoulders: This problem is marked by the tomato turning yellow or yellow-orange instead of the normal red color, with the upper part of the fruit stubbornly staying green even though the lower part appears red and ripe. It's a result of high temperatures and intense light. Solutions:
- Maintian plant vigor to produce adequate leaf cover.
- Avoid overpruning.
- Provide partial shade during hours of most intense sunlight.
A variety of insects and pests can cause other damage to tomato plants. Some examples of common pests, include: hornworms, tomato fruitworms, tomato pinworms, stink bugs, white flies, and leafminers. For information about identifying and managing pests in your edible garden visit the UC Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) website, ipm.ucanr.edu.
Navigating the ups and downs of growing tomatoes might seem daunting, but don't forget, every seasoned gardener has been in your shoes once. We've explored the common abiotic diseases and challenges you might encounter in your tomato-growing journey, and hopefully armed you with solutions to keep these issues at bay.
If you have additional questions or need more help, don't hesitate to reach out to your local UC Master Gardener Program. We have a team of volunteers trained and eager to help you have a bountiful harvest! mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs
Source: Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden Publication 8159 http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8159.pdf
As parents across the country start preparing for the next school year, the UC Master Gardeners of Placer County are demonstrating the extraordinary impact that school gardens can have on the community. UC Master Gardeners' dedication to nurturing a love for science and gardening in the youth shows us that every seed sown in these school gardens represents not just a plant but a life lesson, a commitment to sustainability, and a step towards a healthier future.
Every three years, UC Master Gardener Programs across the state have an opportunity to showcase their incredible projects, with the goal of inspiring others on how gardening can transform people and communities. The award-winning second-place project, "Engagement + Education + Enthusiasm = School Garden Success!" has touched the lives of numerous young learners in Placer County.
Over the last few years, the UC Master Gardeners of Placer County have provided valuable support to more than thirty schools. Last year they ramped up their support in seven of those schools by implementing a program to recruit principals and parent garden leads to revive or enhance school garden classes. In partnership with UC CalFresh Healthy Living, one of their focus areas was partnering with Title 1 schools where a high percentage of students are from low-income families. UC Master Gardener volunteers have created engaging, outdoor garden activities that go beyond traditional textbooks, sparking a love for nature and healthy living in students. The program delves into exciting topics like plant care, photosynthesis, the role of worms in soil creation, and the delicious benefits of eating fresh vegetables. Some of the delicious vegetables grown in school gardens are fresh spinach, lettuce, peas, fava beans, and carrots!
Additionally, parents are becoming an integral part of the project, fostering closer relationships between the schools and families. Parents' involvement ranges from assisting in classroom gardening sessions to leading discussions about nature, plant life, and sustainability. "The partnership with UC Master Gardeners of Placer County has been invaluable. It's inspired me to get more involved with the Parent Teacher Club and attend quarterly meetings. I am so much more involved with all of the parents and staff at Skyridge because of the inspiration and encouragement I have knowing the UC Master Gardeners are involved,” one parent remarked.
The rewards of this initiative are truly inspiring! “Our Larry Ford Outdoor Classroom and Garden is a focal point of teaching and learning on our campus. Our amazing team of Garden Docents, who are directly supported by Placer County [UC] Master Gardeners, have created a beautiful outdoor space for learning,” says Skyridge Elementary Principal Wright. “Students and staff enjoy visits that include academic lessons, planting seeds, harvesting crops, eating fresh vegetables, and taking a quiet break from the day to walk through the Mindfulness Maze. Providing opportunities for our students to learn in our Larry Ford Outdoor Classroom is a priority for our school community, and the [UC] Master Gardeners have become an instrumental piece in making that dream a reality.” Many students have started experimenting with new fruits and vegetables and gardening at home. Of the students surveyed, 53% ate a fruit or vegetable that they had never considered trying before, and 44% are now gardening at home.
The UC Master Gardener team is working to build valuable partnerships to continue expanding the number of school gardens across the county every year. By partnering with school boards, garden clubs, and community non-profits, they are working together to create a more sustainable, greener future for Placer County and its youth.
Congratulations to the UC Master Gardeners of Placer County for coming in second place in the Search for Excellence competition. Your hard work and dedication to excellence are truly commendable. Well done!