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Posts Tagged: Yvonne Savio

Gardening provides stress relief in trying times

With many schools are closed due to the coronavirus crisis, families are educating and entertaining children at home. Susan Schena of The Patch provided nine enriching activities for housebound kids; for the third one she turned to UC Master Gardner Louisa R. Cardenas from the Los Angeles County University of California Cooperative Extension for advice.

"There are numerous free sites with kids' gardening and environmental activities," said Cardenas, who chairs the Los Angeles County Master Gardener Program School Garden Network. "While most resources focus on school-yard gardening, many activities may easily be applicable to home gardens or apartment living."

According to a Los Angeles Times article, gardening does more than keep the kids busy and enriched. It can relieve stress associated with trying times. The article cited research in the Netherlands in which a test group performed a stressful activity for 30 minutes, and then were randomly assigned them to garden outside or read a book indoors. The study found that both activities reduced the cortisol levels that trigger stress, but the people who gardened saw much lower cortisol levels and their positive mood restored, as opposed to the readers, whose moods got worse.

For gardening advice, Times reporter Jeanette Marantos spoke to Yvonne Savio, the now-retired long-time UC Master Gardener coordinator for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County. Savio writes the blog

You can plant your tomatoes in late March, Savio said, but wait until April to plant summer crops like eggplant, peppers and cucumber. 

Soil prep is a gardening activity that can be accomplished before it is warm enough to add seeds and transplants.

If the soil hasn't warmed up to at least 60 degrees, warm-season seedlings “just sit and pout at you,” Savio said. Worse, she said, the cool temperatures can stunt their future growth, destroying your efforts to get an early harvest.

There are plenty of garden tasks that can be accomplished while waiting for warmer soil. The Times article suggests:

  • Feed your soil with good organic amendments such as compost and steer manure or organic potting soil for pots.

  • Water it well and wait a week or two before planting, because the organisms create a lot heat as they break down, and can burn your tender seedlings. You'll know the soil is safe for planting when the temperature feels comfortable to your bare hand, said Savio.
  • Try Savio's technique of burying 5-gallon nursery buckets among your plants (the kind with holes already in the bottom). Make sure the rim of the buckets are about 4 inches above ground, so you have room for mulch, and then fill those buckets with water once or twice a week to force moisture — and roots — deeper into the ground. 

For more at-home gardening information, find your local UC Master Gardener program website here:

Yvonne Savio now volunteers as a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener.
Yvonne Savio now volunteers as a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener.

Posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 11:20 AM
Focus Area Tags: Family Yard & Garden

Build the soil for successful gardening

Before digging in to spring planting, pay attention to building the soil, advises an article in the Los Angeles Times by Jeanette Marantos.

Marantos visited the Pasadena backyard garden of Yvonne Savio, the retired coordinator of the UC Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles County. Savio is the creator of the Gardening in LA blog, with new stories appearing "every other week or so."

“The old saying is, ‘Feed the soil, not the plant,'" Savio said. “When you just use chemical fertilizers, you're not establishing a long-lasting base of nutrition for the plant. It's just giving it a huge piece of cake on Sunday, and then by Thursday it's nutritionally starving.”

Savio recommends a steady diet of organic matter be spaded into soil, and a layer of organic mulch added to the top of soil.

When you continually add organic amendments to the soil, the dirt comes alive as the amendments decompose, creating the beneficial bacteria, fungi and the nutrients plants need to grow strong and healthy, Savio said. “It's really like a cafeteria where your plants can pick and choose what they really like.”

Yvonne Savio, UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
Posted on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 9:24 AM
Tags: compost (12), mulch (5), soil (18), Yvonne Savio (11)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

UC Master Gardeners in LA are volunteers who garden

Yvonne Savio
Instead of recruiting gardeners interested in volunteering, Yvonne Savio decided to look for volunteers interested in gardening. The subtle change led to development of a UC Master Gardener program in Los Angeles County that is unique in the state of California, reported Jeff Spurrier in the LA Times.

UC Master Gardeners volunteer under the auspices of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). UC ANR Cooperative Extension offices in 50 California counties operate the volunteer gardening education program.

Savio has served as the UC Master Gardener coordinator in LA County since 1994. The first few years of MG classes, the students were often retirees or garden club members, many of whom were uninterested in volunteering in areas where they was the greatest need. In 2000, Savio visited community garden to search for volunteers.

"That's what started this synergy between master gardeners and community gardens," she says. "We in L.A. are completely different from other [master gardener programs] statewide in that we allow people to develop their own projects. We have had the special distinction in specializing in edibles, school gardens and low-income folks. As much as we're known for doing this wonderful stuff, it's not within the purview of other master gardener programs."

The program will continue after Savio retires at the end of June with Rachel Surls, the UC ANR Cooperative Extension urban agriculture advisor, at the helm. In retirement, Savio be writing a blog at with garden resources for the greater Los Angeles County area and beyond.

Posted on Monday, June 8, 2015 at 2:06 PM

Turn a 'victory garden' into a 'vitamin garden'

UC Cooperative Extension's Yvonne Savio suggests home gardeners check their vitamin gardens every other day to harvest at optimum maturity.
Many Americans fall short of the daily recommended doses of vitamins needed for optimal health. Bottled supplements can help, but it's better to fill the gap with a vitamin garden, reported Suzanne Sproul in the Los Angeles Daily News.

"In Southern California, we can indeed turn gardens into vitamin patches," said Kari Walker, a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer in LA County. "It is not hard and you don't need a lot of space for a garden."

A registered dietician quoted in the story says fruit and vegetables' vitamin levels will be at their highest when eaten raw immediately after harvest.

"Nothing beats fruits and vegetables for digestion, sources of fiber and good nutrition," she said. "Mom is always right."

For a sidebar, Sproul turned to the coordinator of the UCCE Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles County, Yvonne Savio.

Savio suggested Southern California residents plant lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplants and other heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuces, melons, okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, summer and winter squash, and tomatoes before the end of June.

Add more vitamins to the garden with herbs and spices. Savio suggested lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme in sunny, dry areas. Basil, chives, coriander and parsley prefer richer soil with more frequent watering.

More details about planting, irrigating, feeding and harvesting a home garden in Southern California are on the LA County Master Gardeners website.


Posted on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Tags: garden (66), Yvonne Savio (11)

Five gift ideas from UCCE Master Gardeners

'California Master Gardener Handbook' is on a short list of gift ideas for gardeners.
Who better to give advice on presents for gardeners but Master Gardeners certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension? asks Katherine Spiers this week in the KCET "In-Ground Gardens" blog.

The UC Master Gardener Program trains volunteers to extend research-based information to the public about home horticulture and pest management.

In the KCET story, a few UCCE Master Gardeners of Los Angeles County share their tips for excellent garden gifts.

  1. Master Gardener Denise Friese suggested rain barrels, which collect water when it rains so it can be used between storms for irrigation. "Plus, there is a new rebate for rain barrels from the Metropolitan Water District," she said.

  2. Master Gardener Elizabeth Ostrom recommended moisture meters. "It's an excellent tool that lets you know if you are under/over watering. And over time, it acts as a teaching tool," she said.

  3. Master Gardener Jane Auerbach suggested a gift membership to a garden club, which offers abundant inspiration and, often, free classes with membership.

  4. Auerbach also recommended Felco pruners, "the gold standard" in gardening equipment.

  5. Yvonne Savio, the Master Gardener coordinator in LA County, recommended the California Master Gardener Handbook. Written by UC academics, the 700-page handbook is a gardening encyclopedia.
Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 2:47 PM

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