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Join in on celebrating 40 years of California master gardening

Public can 'attend' virtual convention Sept. 29-Oct. 1

Pam Bone speaks at Harvest Day
Landscape expert and lifetime master gardener Pam Bone talks about root problems during Harvest Day 2019. Bone is one of four still-active members of Sacramento County's first master gardener group. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

California always has been a state full of gardeners, but the UCCE Master Gardener Program has been part of California gardening for just the past 40 years. The trained volunteers follow the program's mission to assist and advise the state's many backyard gardeners: "Advice to grow by ... Ask us!"

And here's the local angle: Sacramento County was the first Northern California county to have a program of master gardener volunteers; Riverside County had the first in SoCal.

A few of the hardy souls from those days are still around: Fran Clarke, Marsha Prillwitz, Virginia Feagans and Pam Bone. In 1980, Bone was on the UCCE staff when she became Sacramento County's original master gardener. Later she became a super-busy MG volunteer,  often speaking at events and on Farmer Fred Hoffman's radio shows.

Later this month, the California master gardener program, which covers 50 of the state's counties and includes more than 6,000 active volunteers, was due to celebrate its milestone year during a Lake Tahoe convention.

We all know what has happened to plans like that this year, with the threat of coronavirus keeping everyone at home (and in their gardens). But the convention will still take place, although in radically altered form.

The best change: The public is welcome to attend the online event, which will be streamed via  the statewide master gardener YouTube channel and Facebook page . It’s free, and doesn’t even require registration.

Mark your calendars now for these events:

Tuesday, Sept. 29

9-10 a.m. -- "Celebrating 40 Years of the UC Master Gardener Program"

Noon- 1 p.m. -- "Gardeners With Heart: Incredible Volunteers Doing Incredible Work"

3-4 p.m. -- "Houseplants: Soil, Water and Such for Sustainable Indoor Growing," with Ernesto Sandoval, director of the Botanical Conservatory at UC Davis

Wednesday, Sept. 30

9-10 a.m. -- "Composting for Soil Health," with Kevin Marini, coordinator, UC MG program, Placer-Nevada County

Noon - 1 p.m. -- Search for Excellence Winner: "Reminiscence Gardening," UC MG program of San Diego County

3-4 p.m. -- Search for Excellence Second Place: "Gardening with Underserved Communities," UC MG program of Contra Costa County

Thursday, Oct. 1

9-10 a.m.: "Fire Safe Landscaping, So. Calif. focus," with Valerie Borel, coordinator, UC MG program of Los Angeles County

Noon- 1p.m.: "Preserving Your Garden Harvest," with Sue Mosbacher, UC Master Food Preserver program, Central Sierra

3-4 p.m.: Search for Excellence Yhird Place: "Lessons in the Garden for Schoolchildren," UC MG program of Santa Clara County

All presentations will be recorded and available for viewing after the event. Additional information about the UC Master Gardeners Mini Conference can be found here .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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