UC ANR NEWS
Stephen Cantu, a UC Master Gardener in San Diego County UC Cooperative Extension, is well aware of ways to improve accessibility and inclusiveness in gardening for people with mobility issues, reported Lisa Deaderick in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Cantu, who has used a wheelchair for 37 years due to a job site accident, identifies obstacles and solutions that help people of all abilities benefit from the joys of tending a home garden. He is active in the UCCE Master Gardener Association program that assists community members in designing garden spaces for maximum accessibility called Friendly Inclusive Gardening (FIG).
FIG teaches people how to implement the principles of universal design to make home, school and community gardens safer and more accessible to people with physical disabilities, seniors with mobility issues and young children. A workshop scheduled for March 21 had to be postponed in order to comply with efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, so Deaderick published a Q&A with Cantu to share how people can start a small garden at home while waiting out the coronavirus.
He said FIG is not just for wheelchair users. "In other words, a garden designed for the whole family to use, from young children to grandma and grandpa," Cantu said.
He recommends new gardeners start simple and build on success.
"Start out with a small kitchen garden of mostly herbs, something that is in small containers that you can grow next to your kitchen. . . Don't buy anything until you have an understanding of your needs. For a small garden, all you really need are your hands, a pair of gloves, some soil, and a few herbs," Cantu said.
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 GardeninginLA.net.
You can plant your tomatoes in late March, Savio said, but wait until April to plant summer crops like eggplant, peppers and cucumber.
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.
Policy advocate at the California Farm Bureau Federation, Taylor Roschen, wrote a 736-word commentary, published in AgAlert today, praising the value of UC Cooperative Extension advisors and advocating for an additional $20 million annual funding from the state of California.
Roschen provided highlights of UC ANR's public value, writing that:
- The breadth and depth of agricultural knowledge created by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources is unparalleled.
- Local Cooperative Extension staff, such as farm advisors and community education specialists, serve as translators, sharing the power of UC research with our farms, our families and our communities.
- 4-H youth leaders are 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their communities and nearly five times more likely to pursue higher education.
However, she continued, since 1990, the state's contribution to UCANR has decreased by 57%. California has lost more than 60% of its 4-H advisors since the 1990s and now have the equivalent of only 31 program representatives to serve the state's 58 counties.
To bring UC ANR programs "back from the brink," Roschen wrote, the California Farm Bureau is working with Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, to fight for UCCE's future and save 4-H and local farm advisors and specialists.
"We are petitioning the state Legislature and the Newsom administration to provide an additional $20 million annually to UC ANR," she said.
The shut downs and self isolation sweeping across the country to curb the spread of coronavirus likely will not impact agricultural staple foods, but high-end wines and specialty ag products grown in California may suffer, reported Tim Hearden in Western Farm Press.
He said some California agricultural products see demand increase during tough economic times, such as less expensive wines.
“Central Valley grapes are nearly recession-proof,” he said. “When the stock market collapses or the dot-com busts, nobody's buying $200 bottles of wine anymore.”
Sumner said Midwestern corn and grains will hold their own, however California products like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, strawberries, raspberries and even some leafy greens may "slip off the plate."
Wine sales may also be hurt by California Gov. Gavin Newsom's decision to close winery tasting rooms, restaurants, bars and pubs. Wineries are allowed to remain open for pick-up and winery business and production operations.
Hearden noted in his article that many UC Cooperative Extension workshops and other ag-related public events were canceled, including Ag Day festivities at the state Capitol that were set for March 18.
A welcome sign of spring each year for grape producers is budbreak, the moment when tiny buds on the vine start to swell and green leaves appear. Budbreak varies by region, variety and even vineyard topography, but in Sonoma County, unseasonably warm weather caused buds to burst early, reported Bill Swindell in the Press-Democrat.
“Perhaps it's the new normal,” said Jen Walsh, the winemaker at La Crema Winery in the Russian River Valley, commenting about long-term change due to global warming.
The Carneros region that borders San Pablo Bay is typically the first wine appellation to experience bud shoots on grapevines, given its milder climate, said Rhonda Smith, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor in Sonoma County. In addition, hillside vineyard areas in the county with south- and west-facing slopes also usually are on the early side because of their longer sun exposure.
There is a downside to early budbreak. The vines are susceptible longer to a potential spring frost, which could harm opening buds and young shoots.
Below are recent tweets heralding the 2020 budbreak around California.