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Posts Tagged: Master Gardener

Tips to prepare, plant, and grow a fall vegetable garden

The transition of fall is upon us and gardeners are busy tending to late summer harvests, pruning back perennials, prepping for slower plant growth and more. But fall doesn't have to be all about wrapping up the growing season. In fact, life is sprouting and new garden plants are growing with the promise of fall, winter and early spring harvests. 

Are you looking to join the cool-season gardening craze? The UC Master Gardener Program has engaging workshops to  inform and inspire this fall. Bay Area residents can check out Growing Garlic and Onions in San Jose or Top 10 Vegetables for your Winter Garden in Campbell, both hosted by the UC Master Gardener Program of Santa Clara County. Another great resource is Saving the Harvest, a gardening and preserving guide and 2019 calendar created by the UC Master Gardener and UC Master Food Preserver Programs in Sacramento County. Check out the local offerings in your area at UC Master Gardener Program events.

An alternative from planting from seeds is to buy vegetables that have already been started at a local nursery.

Wherever you are in your gardening journey, here is a checklist of September activities for your garden:

Early September                 

  • Maintain your warm-season garden with regular checks and harvesting. Prune new growth, flowers and any small or very immature fruits from tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. This practice encourages the plants to put energy into ripening fruit that has already set.
  • Harvest and store seeds for next year's warm-season garden. To save and use seeds in the future, make sure you have a dry, cool location for seed storage. Don't forget to label and organize seeds to make preparation and planting easier in the spring.
  • Remove and compost plants that have reached the natural end of lives or fruitfulness. 
  • Enjoy regular harvest of late-season-bearing cane berries like raspberries and blackberries. Check vines regularly for ripe fruit and pick before the birds steal away the fruit.
  • Check and harvest edible landscape plants as well. Pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana, is a fantastic landscape shrub that has the added bonus of producing a tropical fruit. When pineapple guava fruit fall to the ground they are ripe, collect the fruits and wash, slice and eat the white fruit on the inside (like you would eat a kiwi).  

Late September

By the end of the month it's time to start planting a cool-season garden. Try radishes and lettuces for harvest in late fall. They mature quickly and pair beautifully with roasted vegetables, cheese and nuts for a harvest-themed dinner salad.  Broccoli and cauliflower are a great addition to your garden for winter harvest. Try roasting or making a creamy soup for a warm dinner on a cold night. Finally, onions and shallots are a must for your cool-season garden. They are slower to mature and will be ready for harvest in early spring to brighten your dishes and usher in a change in the seasons.

  • Plant radishes, turnips, beets, onions and kale from seed.
  • Pick up vegetable starts for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuces at your local garden center.  
  • Keep soil moist while young plants send roots out into your garden bed. 
  • Provide shade to cool-season vegetables if needed to protect them from hot afternoon sun.  
The UC Master Gardener Program has classes and events across the state to teach communities about about how to grow and harvest food from their home gardens and landscapes.

Connect with us

The UC Master Gardener volunteers are eager to help with all of your gardening needs. The UC Master Gardener Program can work with teachers and community volunteers to provide gardening information and consultation in the support of school gardens. With local programs based in more than 50 counties across California, there is sure to be a workshop or class near you. Visit our website to find your local UC Master Gardener Program,

Missy Gable, Director of the UC Master Gardener Program shares tips for keeping a fall vegetable garden producing.
Missy Gable, Director of the UC Master Gardener Program shares tips for keeping a fall vegetable garden producing.

Missy Gable, Director of the UC Master Gardener Program shares tips for keeping a fall vegetable garden producing.

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 1:19 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Three winter activities for a bountiful summer harvest

Shorter days and colder weather means most people aren't thinking about spending large amounts of time in their garden. However, February is the perfect month to plant cool season leafy vegetables or root plants, like cabbage, beets and carrots. These nutrient-rich plants are packed with healthy antioxidants and vitamins and make the perfect addition to a hot bowl of soup.  If you aren't game to play outdoors, cold winter months are a great time to stay inside and start planning for summer garden fruit and vegetable bounties.

If you're like most people you're probably already dreaming about summer fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, sweet corn, blackberries and chard. Follow these three simple tips and you'll be rewarded come summertime with enough homegrown fare to fill your fridge and preserve to carry you through the year.    

Sample Garden plan from the UC Master Gardener handbook.

Step one: plan

Instead of dreaming about a summer harvest, start planning now! Don't get caught up in the seductive call of seed packets or the dreaded 'transplant trap.' This happens when you head to your local nursery without a plan for your garden and leave with 20 plants you've never heard of before.

With California in an official drought, consider planting varieties that require less water. Some great examples of drought-tolerant plants include herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme), asparagus, eggplant, melons, squash and goji berries. Think about Mediterranean flavors, many of these varieties require less water and do well in California's hot, dry climate.

Think outside the box –  it doesn't have to be just about fruits and vegetables. What does your family love to eat? Do they love spaghetti? Consider focusing on a good crop of tomatoes, peppers, onions and oregano. You can harvest enough to preserve homemade marinara for the remainder of the year.  Add some jalapenos to this garden mix and you have all of the ingredients for delicious salsa, another favorite that is easily preserved. 

Select crops that have high yields, like tomatoes, for smaller garden spaces.

Step two: prioritize

The size of your garden will depend on available space. When planning a smaller garden, typically 10 by 10 feet or less - prioritize with fruits and vegetables that your family will eat AND that have high or continuous yields. The goal is to produce the largest quantity possible with your available resources (space, water). Great options include tomatoes, bush beans, summer squash, chard and cucumbers. In a small space, avoid crops that monopolize precious garden space like potatoes, watermelon, cabbage and artichoke. Rather, consider purchasing these tasty delights from a local farmers market.

Expand your garden's reach by incorporating edibles into your landscaping or containers. Edible landscaping is the use of food plants as design features in a landscape. Edible plants can be used both for aesthetic value as well as consumption. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries can be expensive to buy at the supermarket, but are easy to grow at home. Visit The California Garden web for information on garden planning and individual plant spacing requirements.

Collection of preserves from a UC Master Food Preserver's Garden. (Photo: Melissa Womack)


Step three: prepare

Attend a UC Master Food Preserver class and learn how to manage your fruits and vegetables once they arrive from your garden and move into your kitchen. The UC Master Food Preserver (MFP) Program is a public service community outreach program focused on providing up-to-date information on food safety and preservation. Monthly classes are available, and most are free or low-cost to the public.

Preservation techniques include:

  • Freezing (berries, onions, broccoli, rhubarb)
  • Drying (fresh herbs, kale, root crops, peas)
  • Canning (tomatoes, green beans, corn, strawberries)

Master Food Preservers have delicious recipes for salsa, corn relish, pickles, jams, jellies and much more! Winter months are the perfect time to start calendaring Master Food Preserver classes, collecting recipes and cataloging ideas for preserving your summer bounty. Find preserving research, resources or find a local UCCE Master Food Preserver class near you at on the UC Food Safety website.

With the proper planning, prioritizing, and preparation the activity level in your kitchen will be as hot as or even hotter than the temperature outside come summer harvest!

Are you interested in becoming a certified UC Master Gardener or UC Master Food Preserver? Visit our website to learn more!

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 8:38 AM
  • Author: Missy Gable

Infusing nutrition education into an LA County vegetable garden initiative

Two weeks ago, my colleague wrote about LA County Cooperative Extension’s popular “Grow LA Victory Garden” initiative – Resources for beginning vegetable gardeners develop from LA initiative. This exciting initiative has achieved great success in LA County over the past two years by teaching more than 1,100 beginner gardeners how to grow their own vegetables at home through Master Gardener-led classes.     

These classes impart an array of useful skills onto beginner gardeners, potentially translating into positive outcomes, such as improved diet and savings on groceries. 

What to do with all of that home-grown produce?

Teaching novices how to grown their own food at home is one thing, but what are they going to actually do with all of that produce once it is harvested? Often a dilemma for beginner and experienced gardeners alike! This is where Fresh from the Garden comes into play.

With funding from the UC Agriculture Sustainability Institute - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, we were able to incorporate nutrition lessons and cooking demonstrations into the 4-week garden series by training Master Gardener volunteers to deliver Fresh from the Garden lessons into low-income community gardens. This is a resource that was designed to increase gardeners' knowledge of healthful eating habits, while emphasizing the health benefits associated with a vegetable-rich diet. Each Fresh from the Garden lesson features preparation and tasting of a healthy fresh vegetable recipe. Through these lessons, the beginner gardeners learned how to store, prepare and cook a wide variety of home-grown vegetables alongside the gardening instruction.

Reaping the benefits of vegetable gardening

We found that combined gardening, nutrition and cooking instruction encouraged novice gardeners to make important changes in their diets. By the end of the 4-week series, the participants said they were eating more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. What’s more, they were much more confident in their skills to prepare and cook home-grown vegetables. By the end of the 4-week series, 90 percent of participants surveyed said they could prepare and cook home-grown vegetables. This group was also very interested in trying different types of vegetables and all said they were willing to serve them to their families.

Through this project we have demonstrated promising results with the combination of gardening, cooking and nutrition instruction. We plan to continue the delivery of Fresh from the Garden in the coming year through the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program in coordination with the Master Gardener Program. CalFresh (formerly Food Stamp) participants are allowed to use their benefits to purchase seeds and plants for household consumption, which opens the door for exciting possibilities for this program!

Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 10:29 AM
  • Author: Brenda Roche Wolford
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