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Posts Tagged: Master Gardeners

Exotics? Succulents?

I keep back issues of my favorite gardening magazines as do a lot of gardeners.  We justify this magazine “hoarding” by telling ourselves that they are needed “in case I want to refer back”; but rarely do we look at anything in the stack again!  Well, I’m here to suggest that we need to periodically check out those not outdated articles, and this blog serves as a good reason!

Years ago I subscribed to Flower & Garden, which was published back in the 1990’s – I know since my subscription ended with the January, 1996 issue.  In the 1990’s, it seems that most people thought of succulents as exotic plants.  These were meant to be carefully tended, shaded from the direct sun, kept from harsh temperatures, and planted in sandy, rocky soil.

Interesting, but since a lot of succulents come from either desert-like climates or cold, windy alpine mountains, it does seem that the coddling “required” was a bit much.  Where are the succulents growing in your yard?  In the full sun, away from winds (try that in Suisun or Fairfield!), in crumbly semi-moist soil?  Mine are growing like weeds in pots outside in regular potting soil; they get water when “everyone else” does and they don’t get sheltered from the elements!  Nope, mine thrive where they are, thanks!

The article continues on about picking out the right size pots: for a barrel type cactus, use a pot 1 to 2 inches wider than the plant; for vertical type plants such as aloes use a pot ½ the height of the plant.

I don’t have many specimen succulents here.  I have creepers mixed with verticals and here and there they are interspersed plants that grow wider than tall.  Everything spills, and tumbles out of the pots so that one succulent looks like it belong with the plants in the next pot over. One of my succulents is rangy, with leaves spaced a good 4 inches apart and a rather strange shade of pale green; not an attractive plant BUT when it blooms – wow! – pale yellow bell-shaped flowers abound in a semi-panicle form.  It’s just beautiful!  And then the flowers are through and it becomes its rather nondescript self. 

Aloes, Agaves, Crassulas, Echeverias, and Sempervivums are plant groups that fall into the succulent category.  Come to the plant exchange on October 12, and see the variety there.  Thanks to Elizabeth who came to my house and harvested cuttings, there should be a goodly bunch for you to select from.  Come and take the free plantlets and stay to listen to the various mini-talks by the Master Gardeners of Solano County.

Hope to see you there!

Crazy succulents! (photo by Jennifer Baumbach)
Crazy succulents! (photo by Jennifer Baumbach)

Posted on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Gardening Activities for You

When it comes to gardening, there is always something new or something more to learn.  Luckily there are many opportunities nearby to expand your gardening knowledge.  Below is a sample of some upcoming educational opportunities, most of which are free of charge.

 August 31, 10:00-11:00

            Topic: Composting.  This class will be taught by Solano Master Gardeners.

            Location:  Vallejo People’s Garden (

Sept. 7, 10:00-3:00

Event: 30th Anniversary Sustainability Fair. For list of presentations see the Contra Costa MG website (

            Location:  Walnut Creek

Sept. 14, 10:00-12:00

            Topic:  Seed Saving

            Location:  Loma Vista Farm, Vallejo, CA  (

Sept. 14, 10:00-12:00

Topic:  Loose Your Lawn and Sheet Mulching

            Location:  Solano County Water District, 810 Vaca Valley Parkway, Vacaville

Sept. 17 – 19  

            Event:  Weed Science School

            Location:  UC Davis Weed Research and Info. Center  (

            Note:  a course fee applies

Sept. 22, 10:00-4:00 

            Event:  “Down the Garden Path” Educational Garden Tour

            Location:  Napa (UC Master Gardeners of Napa County)


            Note:  There’s a fee of $25 in advance, or $30 on the day of the event.

Oct. 12, 9:00-12:00

FREE EventMaster Gardener Public Plant Exchange (and Gardening Talks)

Location:  501 Texas St., Fairfield

Bring a plant to share if you have one, if you don’t you can still take home a plant.

            Come learn about the Master Gardener Program (11:30).

            Attend one or more gardening talks.

            Free Gardening Sessions scheduled:

            9:30    Succulents

            10:15  Plant Propagation

            11:00  Garden Gift Ideas for the Fall

            Pick up a free vegetable planting guide and other gardening information.

            Fun for kids too!

photo by Jennifer Baumbach
photo by Jennifer Baumbach

Posted on Monday, August 26, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Tags: education (6), garden (66), master gardeners (51), weed (6)

Just a Little Bragging on the Master Gardeners

If you missed it, the Solano County Fair ran from July 31 to August 4.  It's been about 5 years now that the UC Master Gardeners have participated in the Amateur Gardens competition at the fair. 

The first year, they did not enter the garden competition.  However, for the past four years, they have won blue ribbons (yes, I'm bragging about it here!).  The Master Gardeners are not professional gardeners, they are people who just love to garden and share their knowledge with others. 

The theme this year was "Home Grown Fun", so they create a house façade and planted a colorful variety of plants around it.  They embellished the garden with whimsy, such as a metal sculpture, a gourd, a fun chicken planter and a cat peeking out the window.

The MGs create a non-competition garden for the entryway to these competition gardens within the Twilight Theater.  This garden had a tropical, relaxing vibe to it.

In addition to the gardens, we some times have MGs who enter their own plants in the plant or flower competitions as well.  Karen Pryor used to enter this fabulous shrimp (Justicia brandegeana) plant year after year.  It was gorgeous! 

This year MG Carolyn Allen entered her crested aeonium. It's crazy, weird appearance caught the eye of many an onlooker and the judges.  She placed Reserve Best of Show in the Container Grown Plants.

Congratulations to the UC Master Gardeners in Solano County! A wonderful group of gardeners!


Amateur Garden entry that won a blue ribbon. (photo by Carolyn Allen)
Amateur Garden entry that won a blue ribbon. (photo by Carolyn Allen)

Non-competition garden in entryway. (photo by Carolyn Allen)
Non-competition garden in entryway. (photo by Carolyn Allen)

2013 Reserve Best of Show Crested Aoenium (photo by Carolyn Allen)
2013 Reserve Best of Show Crested Aoenium (photo by Carolyn Allen)

Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 2:47 PM

For the Birds

Doing monthly maintenance at the Children’s Memorial Garden in Fairfield has been more enjoyment than labor. The volunteer Master Gardeners who participate, show up early on the appointed day, with their tools, always eager to begin the task at hand.  Everyone finds a job from weeding, deadheading, raking leaves and removing debris. Often we talk and share plant information or discuss upcoming Master Gardener events. Occasionally, in silence, we listen to the hum of bees and observe dragonflies and damselflies as they zoom in and out between the plants.  Earlier this year, we observed a crow and heard a meadowlark in the magnolia and arbutus trees behind the little garden.

It was listening to the sounds of the garden that gave me an idea. Why not add a birdhouse on a pole to the garden. It might become a home for the birds and would be a delight to the adults and children who pass by daily. My husband and I had a rustic birdhouse that was embellished with a western motif (metal horse head, stars and horseshoe). The pole we envisioned was something natural, not something perfect or man-made. When we found a seven foot long tree branch in the alley behind our house, it was exactly what we were searching for.  After removing most of the branches and cleaning the trunk, the birdhouse was attached to the pole with glue and screws. One weekend we took the birdhouse on the branch to the Children’s Garden and dug a two foot hole to place and stabilize the pole. Not many people notice this addition as it blends into the garden like it has always been there.

As of this writing, there are no new residents in the birdhouse. Maybe the birds are unsure of the horse head significance on their potential nesting home.  The birdhouse is standing guard over this tiny garden the Master Gardeners planted in memory of the children of Solano County who have passed away.

Entrance to the bird house. (photos by Sharon Rico)
Entrance to the bird house. (photos by Sharon Rico)

Bird house on a branch (pole).
Bird house on a branch (pole).


Posted on Monday, August 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

UC Master Gardener part of a new farm-to-table trend in L.A.

UC Master Gardener Geri Miller is making a living by tending a "bespoke garden" in Los Angeles, said an article on The new trend is part garden, part urban farm and part farmers market.

Miller and her husband have built 8-by-4-foot raised beds in a previously vacant lot and are using a bio-intensive planting process to enable high production in little space. Beds for home chefs, which go for $327 per month, are sold out. Beds for restaurants, priced at about $427 per month, are still available.

With the bespoke garden, the renters have something to say about the plants that are grown, but they don't have to do the work. One chef, for example, wanted unusual tiny purple and white eggplants. Another chef requested ice lettuce, frilly mustard greens and sweeter baby collards.

Miller plans to build more bespoke gardeners in L.A.

“We’re aiming to be near high-minded kitchens in neighborhoods willing to eat the best produce they can find,” Miller said. “We want to turn vacant lots into places where you can eat nutritiously and deliciously.”

The UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program in Los Angeles trains volunteers to to help residents of underserved communities learn how to grow their own food. Master Gardeners go through intensive gardening training that emphasizes organic production of vegetables, fruits, trees and flowers. The volunteers also get training from UC experts on soils, composting, fertilization, irrigation, pests, diseases, weeds and harvesting.

Posted on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 9:40 AM
Tags: Master Gardeners (51)

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