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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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For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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