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Front Yard Update

A year and a half ago, I decided to take out my scruffy grass in the front yard and replace it with low maintenance plants, drip irrigation, and landscaping materials.  I designed the planted areas, and, after, much research, selected the plants and purchased them.  Problems with my back have limited my mobility, so I hired someone to do the actual labor on my project.  So far, so good!

Fast forward to now, and I have learned several lessons, which I would like to share with you:

  1.  Being a good landscape designer is difficult!
  2. Plants that thrive in one garden may not do as well in another garden, even if the second garden has the same sun exposure, wind, soil, etc.
  3. When a plant description says “Morning Sun”, that does not include ten days in a row of temperatures over 100'!
  4. During the second year of a landscape project, not all plants grow at the same rate.
  5. When extreme heat causes the top layer of leaves on a plant or tree to dry out, do not clip them off yet.  Let them protect the lower leaves until the danger of extreme heat is over.
  6. It is OK to change your mind, and replace some of your initial plantings with different plants.  But wait until October!
  7. Water!  Water!  Water!  And check your drip irrigation frequently.

I always learn new things when I garden, working with my soil and the weather.  Replacing my front lawn has been challenging and rewarding at the same time.  I will let you know how my project progresses.  Hopefully, it is on its way to the image of beauty I hold in my mind!

Posted on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 7:50 AM

That Elusive Cabbage White Butterfly

A cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, nectaring on catmint last summer in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

If you've been looking for that cabbage white butterfly in the three-area county of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano to win UC Davis Professor Art...

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 4:24 PM

Dig it, Grow it, Eat it: School gardens support learning and healthier food choices

Different edible parts of plants are on display (roots, stems, flowers, leaves and seeds) for students to have hands-on learning in the garden. (Photo: UC Master Gardener Program Marin County)

The success of a garden is normally identified by plentiful crops of tomatoes and squash or the beautiful display of vibrant thriving flowers, shrubs or trees. However, a school garden's true success is dependent on the rich experiences and education students receive.

Taking the classroom into the garden

School gardens can play a big part in supporting a child's education outside of the traditional classroom environment; offering hands-on learning experiences in a variety of core curricula. Social sciences, language arts, nutrition and math are just a few of the many subjects that can be easily integrated into the school garden curriculum.

When paired with nutrition education, school gardens can transform food attitudes and habits.

“Gardens containing fruits and vegetables can change attitudes about particular foods; there is a direct link between growing and eating more fruits and vegetables,” said Missy Gable, statewide director for the UC Master Gardener Program. “Programs statewide connect people to local community gardens, or provide school administrators and staff the information needed to get started with their own school, community or home garden.” 

UC Master Gardener volunteers in Marin County connect gardening topics to science and nutrition in portable field trips for their award-winning project, "Dig it, Eat it, Grow it." (Photo: UC Master Gardener Program Marin County)

“Dig it, Grow it, Eat it”

The UC Master Gardener Program of Marin County hosts an award-winning school gardening program that emphasizes engaging students with the many learning opportunities in nature. The program is a portable field trip for school-age youth called “Dig it, Grow it, Eat it.”

“Dig it, Grow it, Eat it” starts with University-trained UC Master Gardener volunteers training school educators. Once trained, educators use the curriculum to teach students how to grow edible plants from seed to harvest. UC Master Gardener volunteers help deliver the curriculum and provide additional resources. Students learn how plants grow, and receive nutrition lessons to give them a better understanding of the human body's need for healthy food.

Students learn about healthy soil and the benefits of composting from a UC Master Gardener volunteer during a "Dig it, Eat it, Grow it" school field trip. (Photo: UC Master Gardener Program Marin County)

The half-day workshop rotates groups of students through six stations providing them with garden enhanced nutrition education, linking health with growing and harvesting foods they like to eat and are good for them. These include:

  • Edible Plant Parts
  • How Plants Grow
  • Plant Seed Science
  • Propagation
  • Soil Science

The “Dig it, Grow it, Eat it” curriculum is centered on the theme “We love the earth because we care for it. We care for the earth because we love it.” For many children, getting their hands dirty in the garden and discovering the science of growing their own food brings a sense of joy and pride they can carry with them for years to come. 

Connect with us

The UC Master Gardener Program extends to the public free UC research-based information about home horticulture and pest management. In exchange for the training and materials received from the University of California, UC Master Gardeners perform volunteer services in a myriad of venues. If you are interested in becoming a certified UC Master Gardener contact your local UC Cooperative Extension office or visit


Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 11:43 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Ventura ranchers thank UC Cooperative Extension

The Ventura County Cattlemen's Association publicly thanked UC Cooperative Extension and other organizations for their support during the devastating wildfires of late 2017.

In the space of 12 hours, the Thomas Fire ripped through vital grazing land that cattle rely on for their daily feed. Some animals were also killed in the fire. In a letter to the Ventura County Star, Beverly Bigger, president of the Ventura County Cattlemen's Association, said UCCE livestock and range advisor Matthew Shapero, the Ventura County agricultural commissioner and representatives of Ventura County animal services established an emergency program to supply five days of hay until ranchers could get on their feet.

UC Cooperative Extension also served as a one-stop location where ranchers could meet with representatives from multiple agencies to apply for assistance programs.

"We want to thank and recognize them for helping us in our time of need. We look forward to returning to our passion: managing and improving the land and continuing Ventura County's ranching heritage," Bigger wrote.

When rangeland burns, ranchers must scramble to feed their cattle. In Ventura County, UC Cooperative Extension stepped in to help after the Thomas Fire. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 10:49 AM
Tags: cattle (16), Matthew Shapero (1), rangeland (24), wildfire (101)
Focus Area Tags: Economic Development

Anemones Announce Fall is Here

If you're looking for a low-maintenance perennial that is one smart plant, consider the Japanese anemone. This member of the Ranunculaceae family knows its place on a gardener's calendar. Like New Yorkers, who realize that the appearance of Japanese anemone blossoms in Central Park's Conservatory Garden means shorter days and cooler weather lie ahead, I can predict fall's arrive by observing my anemones. 

When the cluster of plants growing along the eastern exposure of my house begin to sprout graceful branching elongated stems, sometimes to heights of five feet, I know that a welcomed relief to the Vacaville's scorching summer heat is just around the corner. Slowly, atop the long, thin, wiry stems the buds open and hint at winter with pure white to pale pink blooms shaped like a tea saucer with a gentle upward curve of sepals instead of flower petals. In the center of the blossom is a greenish-yellow button-shaped cluster of stigmas encircled by a fluffy yellow ring of stamens. But most amazing to me is the Japanese anemones often blooms continuously until frost.

To grow this faithful perennial in your garden, here are a couple tips:

• Provide part shade and a buffer or shelter from strong winds and intense afternoon sun that may burn the foliage. Plants thrive best if protected by an overhang, larger plants or a tree.

• Place new plants into flowerbeds either in mid-spring or early autumn. Anemones grow in both acid or alkaline soil, spreading by underground runners from their fibrous rootstocks. 

• Be patient and don't expect blooms the first year. In time, Japanese anemones will spread beside the side of your house and along your walkway, delighting you with fall blossoms year after year. 

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 7:21 AM

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