master gardener

Ritter and the trees


After completely forgetting about the Master Gardeners training class this morning, only to remember with 10 minutes before I'd need to leave to arrive on time to the class, I dashed to the class, and, boy, am I glad I went. I mean, aside from the training hours that I seem to be somewhat failing at gathering (a member can have only one video count for a couple hours of training, alas), the information was great.

We had Matt Ritter, Tree Man Extraordinaire, speaking to us today. Go on, search for him on the tubes. Ignore the state representative. Ignore the comedian. Ignore the drummer and the weatherman and the lawyer. That's right, the top guy, the botany professor at Cal Poly (heh, Cal Poly, there's a story with my giggle about Cal Poly).

Not a good start


Every two years, a new class of home gardeners are trained by the county in an effort to expand the knowledge base of "intelligent" gardening in the area (versus the hocus-pocus, fear-based tactics that could be prevalent if not continuously beaten down (think "intelligent design" and you have hocus-pocus)).

When I was trained, the procedure was to invite several people in the new class to help out in various ways: after class cleanup, sound system and projector setup, instructor help, table and chairs setup and the like. I and two other classmates, my carpool buddies actually, signed up for the sound system and projector setup. The three of us were immediately integrated into the program, meeting all of the teachers and experienced gardeners each week.

This, to me, was integral to my enjoyment of the program. I didn't have to work to meet anyone, I just met them, and everyone knew me. That seems to be a trend in my group activities - everyone knows me, I remember maybe half of everyone else. Happened in high school (a school of 3000+ students), college (okay, only 820 there), and various ultimate leagues (150 or so players).

This class, however, the PTB have decided to coddle the new class, and instead of inviting two or three people from the new class to both learn the sound system and project setup, a chairperson of the A/V committee will lean on the people who have been trained on the A/V equipment to sign up to set up and run the sound system, projector and computer or the video camera. Instead of two people for the systems (recalling that I can and did all three systems by myself just fine, but with lots of grumbling that I was the only one doing the A/V equipment, being unable to get ANYONE to help me, which is a different story that apparently I haven't complained about, er, told), three people were asked to sign up for each class.

As I tend to ignore calls to my phones from numbers I don't recognize, I didn't receive any of the initial can-you-help-these-days calls. I did, however, receive the we-don't-have-anyone-help call, and signed up for about 6 of the 15 classes, despite my huge misgivings about taking away the opportunity from someone in the new class.

Today was the first of those classes.

Somehow I managed to drag my sleepy butt out of bed this morning early enough to both hit the Starbucks for a tasty Signature hot chocolate and make it to the A/V equipment location on time. Yay, me!

On my way up to retrieve the video equipment, I met up with a fellow gardener heading downstairs with the audio equipment. She was good, so I continued up to the office area, opened the equipment cabinet, and discovered the equipment was all gone.

Now, this is another problem I have with the current setup. Does the first person take all of the equipment over to the other building for setup, or does he take only the equipment that he's signed up to manage? After setting up the first part of the equipment, does he setup the rest of the equipment, in case the next person is too late to do so? The whole thing beomes a minor clusterf--k, and I particularly dislike clusterf--ks.

So, after realizing that a fellow gardener has reduced my workload by taking over the equipment I'm responsible for settup up, giving a small thanks, and worrying a little bit aabout whether or not the equipment was actually over in the training class, I closed the cabinet, locked it up, and wandered out of the office (running into a remarkably attractive young county employee in the process - gee, don't I wish I wasn't dressed in a sweatshirt and baggy cords - phooey).

I caught up to the previous gardener who was still struggling with the audio equipment. I mentioned I was doing the video equipment when she noticed I wasn't carrying anything. She commented, no, no, the tripod was still in the cabinet, it was behind the speaker stand, and she left it there. Really? I asked, wondering how much to trust myself versus how much to trust her observations. No, she was sure, it was still there, so I went back up to look.

For those of you in the audience, an easel is not the same as a tripod.

In a huff, I stomped back out of the office, stopping my huff when I ran into the cute county employee, and wandered over to the training building, grumbling the whole way about how much of a cluster this is turning into.

I arrived twenty minutes before class, ready to setup some equipment, to find that everything had been set up. I didn't need to do a single thing, though I did help the fellow gardener with the sound system setup. To my surprise, I didn't need to do the video for the class, either. I find the videoing of the classes the most tedious of the three equipment responsibilities, mostly because you can't just walk away, you have to pay attention to keep the speaker on screen the whole class. That, and you have to balance centering with too much centering - if you move the camera continuously, a viewer of the resulting video invariably becomes seasick.

So, here I was signed up for the video, which I didn't have to do, for a class that I didn't need or want to take, at a time that's too early for me, on a day that's horribly busy for me.

I can't say I'm particularly happy about this outcome.

Though, I do have three hours to catch up on blogging, I guess.


Another website sprint


Today was the third web sprint for the Master Gardener's website. I swear, this is feeling less like a sprint and more like a marathon. We've made fantastic progress, but, good lord, there is a lot of work left to do. I'm really impressed with how far the group has come, and how much several people have learned about web pages and the like.

What's been the biggest eye-opener, however, has been how much I had taken for granted that a process was both usable and (I'm almost embarrassed to say) easy. For someone without web experience, the process was not easy, and much of it did not make sense. Fortunately, everyone has been as patient with me as I have been patient with them (which is to say, I can a heck of a lot more patient with other people than I can be with myself, so I'm making progress in this journey called "life"), and I've been able to fix the workflow processes and update the documentation.

The Master Gardener's group is a far different group than ultimate players (including an age swing of near, oh, half a century) , but the lessons I've learned with them have been just as big and just as interesting as those from ultimate.

The best part of this sprint, other than Abby's blueberry cobbler?

Running water.


Book page

Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 19:07:53 -0700
From: Bracey Tiede
To: leeannray
Cc: master-gardeners
Subject: RE: [master-gardeners] Propagating cuttings

Hi Lee Ann,

I've not used hormones for rooting but instead paid close attention to the
proper timing on when to take the cuttings.

Books can give you that info and websites too.

There is a UC database of when to take cuttings of specific plants to be
successful and how to treat them.

There is also one for propagating native plants at

Click on Search Protocols, continential US and then start your search. It's
both seed and cutting info.



From: master-gardeners
Sent: Monday, May 12, 2008 6:58 PM
To: master-gardeners
Subject: [master-gardeners] Propagating cuttings

Greetings all,

I am looking to do some propagating from softwood and semi-hardwood stem
cuttings this summer and am wondering if anyone has any favorite rooting
hormone they have had good results with.

The MG handbook has a section on pg 100 - 104, but no recommendation of
brand. I know much depends on the type of cutting as well as seasonal
timing, maybe even the phase of the moon.

I have tried Rootone, both liquid and powder, and was really disappointed
with the success rate...and the disposal of the used liquid is an issue. My
mentor, Louis Saso, swore by Hormex Powder #1 but the man had a green thumb
like nobody's business and could coax a rose to grow from a brick.

Anybody tried old-school soaking their cuttings in willow bark water?

Enquiring minds would like to know,

Lee Ann Ray

Master Gardners tips 2008 May

Book page

*Tip: Last month we suggested planting citrus for year-round fruit
and foliage. This month we highlight Mandarins! *

This is the month to plant new citrus as local nurseries
are loaded with fresh shipments of Mandarins and more. Mandarin
choices are extensive. For an early harvest in October - December,
try seedless Kishu. Satsumas follow with fruit in
December and January. As you are finishing your seedless and
easy-to-peel Satsumas, Page will be producing. Known for being one of
the best tasting and having the longest harvest season (January
– June), Page is a great bang for your buck. Gold Nugget, also
seedless, richly flavored, and easy to peel, begins bearing in March.
Gold Nugget is remarkably frost tolerant, and unlike many other
mandarins, the fruit holds well on the tree through summer. For the
latest season fruit, look for Encore, while Fremont is another master
gardener favorite
Some newer varieties that are quite early, large, and nearly seedless
are Shasta Gold and Tahoe Gold

*Tip: If you want more bees in your garden, plant some bee-attracting
annuals such as Cosmos, or simply allow your herbs to flower.*
With few exceptions, fruit will not form until pollen from male
parts is transferred to the female parts of a flower. Without
pollination, flowers
may bloom abundantly, but will not bear fruit. Some plants
are better at attracting bees and other pollinating insects and
animals than others. Give your fruit trees the gift of an
insect-friendly environment and give your family a better harvest!

*Tip: Bring your cut roses inside to enjoy.*
Cutting rose blossoms allows the plant to conserve energy and leads
to further flower production. During the growing season, the
rule-of-thumb for cutting blooms on first-year
plants is to make the cut above the first outwardly facing
five-leaflet leaf. On well-established plants, cut blooms somewhat
lower to ensure new canes can support the weight of the blooms. To
deadhead a rose bush, use the same guidelines as those for cutting
blooms. Landscape varieties do not need to be deadheaded. For all
your rose questions, be it cultivation, pests, or pruning, UC IPM
online has
the answers.

*Tip: If your neighbor’s lawn makes you green with envy, the
number one, easiest way to make your lawn look better is to not mow
your grass too short.*
Any time your lawn is mowed, its
ability to photosynthesize and to produce carbohydrates essential for
growth decreases. To maximize photosynthesis and reduce turf stress,
remove no more than one-third of the blade at one time. If the lawn
is repeatedly cut too short, carbohydrate reserves will be depleted,
weakening roots and predisposing the grass to weeds, diseases,
insects, and drought injury. For ideas about lawn alternatives (PDF),
or for more sustainable lawn tips, check out these sites, too!

Hotline surprise


The Master Gardener program is full of a lot of people who are not quite my generation. Most are my parent's generation, but way not all of them. So, when I walk into classes with a t-shirt on it that reads "Kitt is a Cylon," most of them, okay all of them, look at the shirt and say, "Huh?"

Which also means when I run up to one of them with a camera in hand, even the younger ones look at me like I'm crazy.

At least Jack smiled.

Hotline seeds


Today's hotline training was a stark contrast to last week's training. Where last week was a non-stop answer of phones and garden research, this week was a relatively quiet ordeal, with only three of us at the hotline. We did have phone calls, but they were few, and Sue Bell did most of the talking. Which seemed to suit both Jack and me just fine.

The highlight of the day was the seed search. The Master Gardening program will often receive donations of seed packets. Seeds are packed for a season/year, with date expirations. If the seeds don't sell by the end of the season, they can't be sold, so they are donated to the Master Gardening program. The Master Gardeners then use them in trials or volunteer projects.

For this project, a group of people were going to grow chile peppers to make holiday wreaths (next year, of course). This year's project included the gift of these seeds.

Since the seeds aren't fully organized, Jonica asked us to flip through the seed packets and pull out all the pepper plants. As an added bonus, if we found seeds we want, we could have them. What a deal!

I looked for yellow flowers, to match the front yard yellow design. I pulled out a few vegetable plants, and excitedly took them with me.

At work, I mentioned them to Doyle. He suggested I mention them to Shirley. When I did, wow, did her face light up. She sifted through the packs I had, and found Chinese chives. Apparently, she's wanted to grow them, but couldn't find them in the store. Her mom couldn't find the seeds, either.

So, yay! Serendipity!

And seeds!

Hotline training


Today was my first Master Gardener Hotline day. I was late, arriving at 9:30 instead of 9:15 as the instructions suggested. What was worse, however, was the even later arrival of the two veteran hotline people and the other junior hotline gardener. They arrived between 10 and 25 minutes late, while I wandered around wondering where I was supposed to start and what I was supposed to do.

Eventually the other three people showed up, and showed me how to get the messages from the voice mail. I wrote down the names, numbers and questions, and called back the first person after researching her question. What i found strange about the calls were that the answers of each of the questions could have been found with a simple google search. Why call the hotline when you can just look up the answer in the Intarweb™

Of course, by gathering the questions into a hotline log, answering them, then posting the answers on the master gardener website, we'd have a phenomenal resource for local answers.

Honestly, I wasn't really looking forward to answering questions on hotline. I was sure to know none of the questions asked, given I haven't been in the garden for a while now, with ultimate and work, I haven't had much time. We were told to answer the phone, get a phone number, and offer to call back with the answer after researching the question.

I was worried about getting too may calls. I needn't have been worried, though, as any calls that were too many were allowed to roll over to voice mail. No problem. However, what I had problem with was the non-stop questions from one caller: I'd answer the original question, and as I'm about to say good bye, thanks for calling, she asked another question. I'd answer that question, only to be asked the next question. I kept wanting to say, "How about asking me all of the questions so that I can look up all the answers at once?"


It was mostly a successful hotline experience.

All official and all


Well, it's all official and all. I have graduated and am now a Master Gardener.

I now receive a HUGE discount on gardening and farm care books. Guess where my paychecks are going now?

Oh, hi, Kris. They're going to the house. No, really. The house.

Learning more than gardening


I learn more and more in the Master Gardening program each week, and not all of it about gardening. Today I learned that a large number of people in the Master Gardening program are tech-phobics. Either that, or they are worry warts to the level I could only dream of achieving.

Honestly, part of the problem is that I messed up and didn't verify we had equipment available that I knew we would need. As a result, we were sorta in a panic when the instructor arrived late with his equipment. However, rather than allowing us, the A/V team, to set up and test the equipment, several other people went into panic mode and needed to bring over duplicate equipment, even though we had four replacement parts for the original equipment.

Instead of insisting they stop worrying, it'll work out, it always works out, stop worrying, darn it, I said nothing, and let them worry, let them bring over extra equipment that we'll have to carry back over, let them flutter around like mother hens, and look, everything worked out and class started on time.

Go fig.