Posts Tagged ‘Master Gardeners’


FREE Heirloom Class

February 5, 2014



Last Frost Date and Why it Matters

February 22, 2012

With the onset of spring-like weather, it is tempting to put away frost cloths and to plant vegetation and sow seeds outdoors. But, don’t let the sunshine, green field grasses, and emerging buds fool you. Frost and frozen ground can kill or damage plants and seeds leaving you frustrated, discouraged, and broke.

If you are new to gardening or have recently moved, ask your local Master Gardener Chapter or professional nursery person for your zone’s last frost date. They can also tell you what zone you live in or plug in your zip code here to find out. But remember there is more than one zone system. Guest writer and master gardener Robin Ivanoff explains here.


Seed Starting Guide

February 8, 2012

Recently, I came across a FREE, on-line seed-starting guide at Johnny’s Seeds. This is an awesome tool that I hope you will use. Although it’s not a complete list of vegetable and flower crops, it includes those most grown by home gardeners.

In order to explain a couple of things about the guide, I have posted part of it below:

  • Once you are at the link, enter the last estimated frost date in your area (where it says mm/dd/yyyy) and the dates following each crop will automatically  change accordingly. Is that cool or what!
  • In the cell where it says, “Safe time to set out plants (relative to frost-free date)”, the phrase ‘to set out’ simply means ‘hardening off’. This is a horticulture term for placing indoor seedlings outside during daylight to gradually make them more resistant to their new environmental conditions. If you are a gardener who doesn’t have the time or patience to do this and prefer transplanting seedlings directly into the soil, simply protect your tender plants from the hot afternoon sun with a cover cloth until they adjust to the climate.
Enter spring frost-free date (include year):  
Crop Number of weeks to start seeds before setting-out date When To start inside Setting-out date
From To Safe time to set out plants (relative to frost-free date) From To
Artichoke 8 19-Feb on frost-free date 15-Apr
Basil 6 11-Mar 1 week after 22-Apr
Beets* 4 to 6 19-Feb 4-Mar 2 weeks before 1-Apr
Broccoli 4 to 6 19-Feb 4-Mar 2 weeks before 1-Apr
Cabbage 4 to 6 5-Feb 18-Mar 4 weeks before 18-Mar 15-Apr

After you utilize Johnny’s Seeds’ seed-starting guide, check out their online catalog. I know several master gardeners who are pleased with their service and products. Have fun with both!


2011 Tomato Tasting Contest

September 7, 2011

No matter what size garden one tends everyone gets hyped up about growing sweet, juicy tomatoes. To honor this megastar, Amador County Master Gardeners conducted their 18th Annual Tomato Tasting Contest at the Farmers Market in Sutter Creek. The competition was open to anybody, experienced and first-time gardeners, and Mom and Pop farmers.

This year, the event brought in 100 entries! Hybrid or heirloom, variety (over 60) didn’t matter. This competition is all about flavor.

Tomatoes were divided into three categories, full size non-red, full size red, and cherry. Each entry was logged, tagged, categorized, and cut into bite-size pieces. Participants looked on with anticipation while three poker-faced judges tasted and scored each entry.

Once the winners were announced, the public was free to sample red, yellow, orange, green, and plum colored tomatoes. Adults, children, and a few canines enjoyed the chance to experience the many varieties. Attending a tomato tasting contest is sure to get you hyped up for next year’s crop.

Here are the Judges’ Results:

Full size red:

1st Place, Early Wonder
2nd Place, Abraham Lincoln
3rd Place, Big Beef

Full size non-red:

1st Place, Black Krim
2nd Place, Golden Girl
3rd Place, Yellow Jubilee


1st, 2nd, 3th Place, Sun Gold


Field Trip: gardens, gnomes, and goodies

July 11, 2011

In recent weeks, I took a day off from the demands of everyday life and hopped into my friend’s car for a garden tour. It was over an hour’s drive to Tuolumne County, a mountains community of red soil and narrow, roller coaster roads. Because the outing was my idea I hoped it would be worth my friend’s time. Most garden tours are $25 and up. This one was only $10. I was a little apprehensive.

The first garden was ah-la-natural with laidback qualities. The premium attraction was the complimentary snacks and cold lemonade on a table covered in white linen. While I wandered about, my friend, who had fallen under the spell of sweet chocolate, ate six yummy cookies! When she caught up me, we quickly scanned the mayhem grounds then politely exited to the car where I was told about the cookie disgrace. At this point the tour didn’t look promising. I was glad to hear pleasure was reaped.

At the next stop the garden was delightful. I had been redeemed. Tucked behind a white picket fence was a well-tended fairyland. Gnomes, fairies, small, medium and giant mushrooms, ponds, and gazebos adorned the large front, side and back yards. Although the garden was a little eccentric, it had the appearance of a charming village where mystical characters lived among 100 plant and tree species. My favorite was a beautiful Eastern Redbud tree.

From there we drove to a hillside garden with native and deer resistant plants. Barberry, beard tongue, lily turf, maiden grass and more grew under oaks, Japanese maples, dogwood, and ginkgo trees.

Another garden showcased a shed that resembles an outhouse, and recycled artifacts tucked here and there as landscape art or plant containers. Some of the 85 species included dahlias, calla lilies, aster, foxglove, and evening primrose.

The last garden on the tour was designed for wildlife and is certified as a Wildlife Garden by the National Wildlife Federation. The homeowners’ goal was to attract birds, bees, bats, butterflies and insects that crawl inside flowers. This was accomplished with 14 sage varieties, coneflowers, several milkweed varieties, rosebushes, flowering maple, coral bells plus 90 other flowering plants and trees.

Iceland Poppy

At day’s end, we had walked through mayhem pathways, entered a fairyland, trekked hillsides, and roamed a certified wildlife garden. The long drive to a little mountainous community with red soil and narrow, roller coaster roads, and a mere ten dollars was well worth our time. Any apprehension I felt beforehand had vanished.

Garden Touring Tips:

  • To avoid the heat and crowds, get an early start.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, a sunhat and sunscreen.
  • Use a GPS, especially when touring out of town gardens.
  • Many gardens are not wheelchair accessible or elderly friendly, so check on this beforehand.
  • Garden tours don’t always provide complimentary refreshments so pack a few – at least six yummy cookies.

Field Trip

May 3, 2010 Registered & Protected

Yesterday, I attended the San Joaquin Master Gardeners’ Home Garden Tour. Strolls like these make me feel good, and this first-time event was impressive for reasons other than the gardens. (Not that the gardens weren’t worth seeing, because they were.)

At each residence, there were several Master Gardeners dressed in matching red vests eager to answer questions. They handed out plant lists detailing exposure needs and water requirements. ID tags marked the plants throughout the grounds. If you spotted a desirable plant, you’d know what to ask for at the nursery! Horticulture literature, books, and information on products and composting were available. My favorite mapping highlight was the roadside directional flags. Most organizations place small, short signs that blend into the landscape making them invisible behind parked cars and shrubs. The flags at yesterday’s tour were tall and colorful, easy to sight a block away.

One of the six gardens included Sue Chinchiolo’s beautiful grounds. (Sue has the black mulch written about in the last Give and Take article.) As I wandered about each garden, camera strap around my neck, I overheard people noting plants they intended to add to they’re yard. Comments on the placement of accents (such as antiques and whimsical ironwork) spurred bright ideas. Even Sue’s black mulch attracted questions, mostly from people asking where to buy it.

Although many of us have had to cut back on activities, pinching elsewhere to attend at least one home garden tour is worth the sacrifice. You’ll walk away energized, hopeful, and best of all you’ll feel good.

When Touring Gardens Note:

Where to place seating

Where to place focal points

Material options for fencing

Material options for pathways

How to connect garden rooms

How to dress up unsightly sheds

How to blend structures with plants

What to do with a long narrow yard

How to integrate vegetables in flowerbeds

How to marry plant heights, texture, and hues

How to integrate antiques without looking junky

At this residence, there were several old buildings throughout the grounds. The homeowner dressed them up by painting the doors a bold color.

To create a theme they used the same color on each door, including the house—clever and inexpensive.

This is just one example of the many ideas

gained by attending home garden tours.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

%d bloggers like this: