OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

4:00 P.M.

April 15, 2004

April 15, 2004

Reid04.jpg (47588 bytes)

Eighteen Weeks From
Oleander to Ceanothus

by Albert Reid

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library

About the Author

The author retired from the County of San Bernardino after 21 years in various executive positions. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1961. After graduation he joined the US Air Force and was assigned to The Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory where he worked on the development of advanced rocket propulsion systems. After 5 1/2 years service he moved to Redlands where he worked for Lockheed Propulsion Company as a systems engineer.

He has worked with several community non-profit organizations as a volunteer and officer of the organization including the San Bernardino county Museum Association, the Boy Scouts of America and local American Diabetes Association chapter


This paper describes the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program through the eyes of a Master Gardener Trainee. The leadership team, initial orientation, text, schedule, classes and resources used are described as two trainees progress through the program. Some specific descriptions of subjects taught and their underlying principles taught are included. Positive benefits of the program to individuals and the community at large are also discussed.


“Master Gardener”, “University of California Cooperative Extension”, Oleander, Ceanothus, Redlands.



When time came for me leave the Air Force Kathy and I looked at a number of locations. We were delighted with Redlands and accepted a position with Lockheed Propulsion Company.

It was 1967. We spent 5 years in the Air Force much of it in the Mojave Desert at Edwards Air Force Base. I had visited Redlands several times during my tour at Edwards and thought that it was a beautiful town. Redlands was filled with green, lush and relaxing landscaping and friendly people.

We moved here in late March, found an apartment and began house hunting. Kathy would go out with a realtor looking at houses and then take me to see the ones that she liked the most.

One evening after I got home she particularly raved about a house that she had visited that morning. She was particularly impressed with its landscaping and rose garden. The trees in front sheltered the yard like a park.

We moved in on our oldest daughter’s first birthday. Once we settled in we took stock of the yard. It had five citrus trees in a tight plot and spread throughout the yard was a cherry tree, an apple tree, a peach tree, an apricot, a pear and a fig tree. It also had four maple, an oak a fruitless plum and two deodars not to mention about 28 rose bushes and two 90 foot long rows of red and white oleander bushes. One row was on the Ford Street side of our lot and the other hid us from the next-door neighbor under the 4 ash and 2 birch trees. Grape vines covered the back fence.

We had little gardening experience but believed that we could take care of and possibly improve the yard. Kathy had always paid much more attention to gardening than I but California was new to both of us. She found the Sunset Western Garden Book and began to study.

We quickly found out that beautiful yards take a great deal of maintenance. Rose gardens need careful pruning and grow bountiful crops of weeds. Ash trees are very dirty meaning that if you swept out the driveway it was fully covered in leaves by the time your company came an hour later. Fruit trees are not long lived. Eventually we only had the citrus and the fig trees.

To make a long story short our children, jobs and volunteer activities took priority over our beautiful yard and the yard showed it. Through the years we managed to stabilize the lawn and plant a limited number of flowers but we were not able to maintain the showcase quality that we originally purchased.

After the children grew and left we again started to think about improving the yard but weren’t quite sure of where to start.


Our hands were forced late in the year 2000 when our two Oleander rows turned brown.

I took sample leaves and branches down to the County Cooperative Extension office. Their expert diagnosed Oleander Leaf Scorch. Oleander Leaf Scorch is a relatively new disease found mainly in Southern California. It is caused by the same bacterium that causes Pierce's disease in grapevines and almond leaf scorch.[i] An exotic pest called the glassy wing sharpshooter spreads this bacterial disease. It was accidentally introduced into California over a decade ago. [ii] There is no known cure. Cutting the plants back allows temporary recovery but they eventually die.

For 30 years our oleander provided a sound barrier from growing traffic noise, and a privacy shield that required little attention and no irrigation water. It did require significant pruning too keep the sidewalk clear. We had the bushes removed and sadly stared at the resulting picture of a cedar wood fence and a clear view of our neighbor’s backyard. This was a real shock after 30 plus years of green shield. The street noise seemed to get louder.

We didn’t have any immediate alternatives. We drove around town and looked for choices. These seemed limited and required irrigation. Lack of irrigation was a feature of the oleander that we had always liked.

After 2 1/2 years we selected Photinia a hedge plant commonly known as “red tip” that would grow quickly, provide color, sound shield and privacy. We saw many healthy plants and hedgerows around town. The Photinia leaves are glossy dark green, with a coppery orange new growth. It needs water so I extended our sprinkler system to include a drip zone, dug 30 holes, planted the Photinia, and put in a dripper for each individual plant. I intended to plant the remaining line of Photinia in the spring.


Over the years our side yard had deteriorated and needed help. It contained ivy, a deodar, an olive, an acacia and many weeds that I simply mow to maintain some semblance of upkeep. The Sunset Western Garden Book and walking through nurseries didn’t help.

One day I saw an announcement in the Daily Facts about a talk on ornamental grasses. We thought that it might provide us with ideas to help our side yard. We watched a slide show of a yard less than two blocks from ours that had been completely renovated in about three years. We liked the ideas but weren’t sure how to use them in our yard.

During the break we found a small brochure that offered an 18 week Master Gardening class. The brochure brought back an old memory.

In the early 1980’s I was the County General Services Administrator. We provided support for the University of California Cooperative Extension County Office.

One day the head of the Cooperative Extension Program Mike Trujillo told me about new program. It was called the Master Gardener’s Program. The University would teach people gardening skills and certificate those who graduated. In return the students would volunteer to help others by teaching and by answering a “hot line” responding to gardening questions from the public.

I wished then that we had the time to take this course.

Later I met the young lady fresh out of college who was hired to lead this effort. Her name was Janet Hartin. I noticed on the class announcement that she is still responsible for this program.

We signed up that night.


The Master Gardener program began in Snohomish County, Washington, in 1972. The Cooperative Extension advisor was unable to handle all the incoming calls from home gardeners and initiated the use of trained volunteers. The Master Gardener Program in California was started in 1979 with pilot projects in Sacramento and Riverside. There are now over 6,000 trained Master Gardeners in California and approximately 60,000 Master Gardeners in 45 States and Canada.

The San Bernardino County Master Gardener program began in 1984 and over the history of the program, over 45,000 home horticulture questions have been answered by trained Master Gardeners servicing the hotline, which can be reached at (909) 387-2182. Additionally, master gardeners conduct school garden programs and participate in many public service functions.

Interested residents of San Bernardino County who want to become a Master Gardener can contact the hotline and request a brochure. Training classes are conducted bi-annually. Advanced training for current Master Gardeners is offered monthly in the Redlands area as well


We attended our first class on September 29, 2003, learned about the structure of the program, and about our responsibilities.

Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who are agents of the land grant universities in each state offering the program.

The class teaches practices based on scientific research and master gardeners are only to provide advice proven and documented in this manner.

Trainees receive, on average, 50 hours of introductory training in all facets of plant science including arboriculture (ornamental woody plant selection, establishment and care; deciduous and subtropical fruit tree selection, establishment and care; soils and irrigation assessment and management; lawn grass selection, establishment and care; plant pathology; entomology; weed identification and control; general integrated pest management guidelines; composting; plant propagation; and, many other relevant topics. Most states offer extensive advanced training classes in more specific aspects of home horticulture, field trips to botanical gardens, nurseries and other venues of interest, and provide a useful conduit for home horticulturists to receive objective, research based information from a reliable source.

A Master Gardener Certificate cannot be used as part of a business.

To obtain our initial certification we had to attend 18 classes nights 16 of which had outside lectures and pass two examinations. We also had to provide 50 hours of volunteer service prior to June.

Certification must be renewed annually with 18 hours of continuing education and 20 hours of volunteer time.


Janet Hartin from cooperative extension was our professional leader. She began the program in 1984 after graduating from the University of California Riverside.

Robert and Hoberley Schuler were our volunteer organizers. They became Master Gardeners in one of the early classes and have maintained the enthusiasm to be active since.

Robert and Hoberley signed up students, secured classroom facilities, organized student activities and generally managed a myriad of details to keep the class together.

We also noticed that they also seemed to plan and lead the monthly meeting of the Inland Empire Master Gardeners Club. We later found that they are officers of the Inland Master Gardeners Club and have led many other community organizations.

Fifty-six people had enrolled in the class. They were from all over southwestern San Bernardino County. They came from the high desert, the mountains and the valley from Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Lytle Creek and all cities of the East Valley.


Our text the California Master Gardener Handbook.[iii] contains 22 chapters with two appendices and is 702 pages long. It is clearly one on the most comprehensive documents on gardening available. Recognized experts authored each chapter.

The class schedule and program outline included 16 class nights, two exams and two additional nights for class presentations.. This schedule was modified due to events as the classes progressed. We heard from academics, economists, nursery managers, irrigation specialists, foresters, wholesale tree distributors and many other knowledgeable individuals including our classmates.


We studied basic botany and horticulture everything from the plant genus and species to the pitfalls of using common or popular names of plants.

We discussed how to buy plants at nurseries. I had never thought of taking a plant out of the pot at the nursery to see if it was diseased or if it was already root bound. I’ve always wanted to buy the most mature plant not the little one that hadn’t really developed yet.

Dirt isn’t dirt it is soil. It is made up of sand, silt, and clay in varying proportions and how they affect water holding capacity and allow plant growth. We saw a demonstration of how water is absorbed into various types of soil.


Water management was the focus of many lectures.

We saw how residents, cities, and commercial developers waste water and in the process contribute to pollution. Photographs illustrated poor landscaping designs that waste water by overspray into street or fail to prevent the runoff of water and chemical fertilizers into public drains creeks and the ocean.

In our dry climate we import water to support our needs. We saw examples of how to retain water on the property being irrigated. Examples of drought tolerant plants that need little water were emphasized.

The University of California has developed tables that provide guidelines for lawn irrigation needs each month of the year. We used these tables to calculate how long a sprinkler system should run. We also discussed how to measure the output of a sprinkler system, and when tweaking is needed to optimize water use.


  • Weeds and undesirable grasses need to be removed in advance. Lawn Damage can be caused by improper basic care such as:

    • Too much water will leach the nutrients from the soil.

    • Too little water will dry the grass and cause it to turn brown.

    • Improper fertilizing can lead to lawn damage or disease. Fertilizer should be applied in adequate but not excessive amounts at the right time.

    • Improper mowing. Grass should be cut high and only cut back by 1/3 each time it is mowed.

    • Dog urine contains too much urea and will burn the grass.

    • Too much foot traffic will compact the soil so that the root cannot sustain the grass.

    • A thick thatch will also stunt the grass.

  • Closely mow the remaining turf and remove the clippings. The soil should be loosened for seeding or plugs.

  • Dethatch and aerate to allow penetration of the soil by water and air. Then aerate the soil.

Then seed. fertilize, and irrigate. Keep the soil moist with frequent light irrigations until the grass is well established.


The pest management section discussed the identification and control of pests. Our university specialist in pest management emphasized the principles of Integrated Pest Management

Basic rules for successful pest control arc:

  • Identify the problem. Everyone has a different impression of what the problem is. If you wait until a tree is defoliated to start looking for the problem you are going to lose it.

  • Select a Proper Management Strategy. These might include:

    • Physical or mechanical control

    • Cultural controls. This means to plant pest resistant plants, rotate crops, or maintain cover crops to minimize dust that would allow pests.

    • Biological controls - the simplest example being lady bugs to control aphids.

    • Chemicals applied specific to the pest at the right time in is life cycle.

  • Monitor the condition of the garden continuously visually and through the use of traps.Use the results of your monitoring efforts and keep records for future suppression  efforts.

Integrated Pest Management combines several control methods, such as resistant plant varieties, cultural practices, biological controls, and the least-toxic pesticides, for long-term management of pests. This encourages methods that provide long-term prevention or suppression of pest problems with minimum impact on human health, the environment, and non-target.organisms. Its principal components are

  • Identify the specific pest before taking any action if you don't know what the pest is your efforts to control it will most likely fail. Most insects arc not pests.

  • Use proven methods for detecting, monitoring, and predicting pest outbreaks

  • Know the biology of the pest and its ecological interactions with hosts, natural enemies and competitors.

  • Use ecologically sound methods of preventing or controlling pests

  • Some insect damage can be tolerated. Most backyard gardens can be managed without  the use of pesticides. Oily soaps, horticultural oils, or microbials will handle the usual backyard problems.


After an overview of insect anatomy and classifications our entomology class focused on how to diagnose an insect problem. The speaker then talked about the advice we should give our future advisees'?

•      Most problems are caused by factors other than insects or mites 4

•      The cause of poor plant performance may not be evident on the plant sample given for diagnosis. For example, wilted leaves may be caused by a pest attacking roots, The presence of insects or mites does not always mean that they are the real cause of the problem.

•      If the entire plant is dead, the chances are high that insects or mites are not the cause of death. Insects and mites seldom kill their host plants, but there are a few exceptions.

•      Most insects and mites are specific in their choice of host plants. Some are general feeders, but the majority are not. Knowing the name of the affected plant is therefore extremely helpful and frequently essential because most reference literature is found under the plants name.

•      When people notice a pest problem and seek advice, it is often too late in that particular growing season to take corrective action. A pest insect may be gone, and only the damage remains.

•      People tend to magnify the actual size of an insect. Do not make recommendations based on the client's verbal description, it is important to see the damage and the insect itself to avoid incorrect identification. Incorrect identification leads to ineffective control measures unnecessary expense, and potential damage to beneficial insects.

•      When in doubt, do not make a diagnosis.


Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a home owner makes when landscaping a new home or replacing a tree lost to damage or disease. Most trees outlive the people who plant them Therefore the impact of this decision is one that can influence a lifetime. Match the tree to the site and both lives will benefit. 5

Before you select a tree a number of factors need to be considered.

•      Why is the tree being planted? Do you want the tree to provide shade, fruit, or seasonal color, or act as a windbreak or screen? Maybe more than one of the above?

•      What is the size and location of the planting site? Does the space lend itself to a large, medium, or small tree? Are there overhead or below ground wires or utilities in the vicinity? Do you need to consider clearance for sidewalks, patios, or driveways? Are there other trees in the area? Think about the size and shape of the mature tree

•      Are there any city requirements for tree setback or limitations on curb trees?

•      What are the soil conditions? Is the soil deep, fertile, and well drained or is it shallow, compacted, and infertile?

        What type of maintenance are you willing to provide? Do you have time to water, fertilize, and prune the newly planted tree until it is established or will you be relying on your garden or tree service for assistance?

        Asking and answering these and other questions prior to beginning the selection process will help you determine the "right tree for the right place."

Many specific trees were discussed and we used the Sunset Western Garden Book to select landscape trees for various locations in this region.

We always dug large holes and added lots of potting soil. The class taught us that the local soil should be used and fertilizer not used at the time of the planting. Plants need to survive in the local soil conditions

Staking of trees is also critical. Tight staking will eventually weaken a tree so that it can never stand on it’s own. We saw photographs of trees planted inappropriately that were stressed and with little prospect of reaching maturity.


Again the lecture was from a UCR specialist. Most of the issues and solutions were common to the other subjects we studied.

He outlined and briefly discussed many issues currently confronting agriculture.

        Biotechnology is modifying the food on the market.

        Microbes & food


        Pollution caused by agriculture

        Urban encroachment

        Food taste

        Nutrition provided by food

        Organic approaches to agriculture.

        Reducing water use

Soil quality is critical. Soil should:

        Accept hold and release water and nutrients.

        Promote root growth

        Maintain soil diversity with an active culture of nutrients microbes and insects.

        Respond to management

Compost is a highly desirable addition to the garden:

        It buffers soil PH, water nutrients, and soil temperature.

        Supplies slow release nutrients, worms microbes and soil aggregates. . It also recycles green waste that would otherwise go into landfills.

Fertilizer can be a useful tool but should be used wisely.

        Most soils only require nitrogen and phosphorus. More complete fertilizers are not necessary.


The course outline periodically changed. Our local mountains were struck with heavy wildfires during Santa Ana winds in October. This event had been widely anticipated for a number of reasons.

We had experienced continuing drought for several years. The drought had weakened the pine forest in our mountains. Bark beetles invaded years ago but the drought weakened trees became particularly susceptible to their attack and hundreds of thousands of trees were dead. Large portions of communities turned brown with dead trees. They became tinder for any potential wildfire.

The county, state and federal government initiated efforts to cut down dead trees in the forest. Timber cutting had been discouraged for years and few local resources existed to carry out the effort. Private property owners had to cut down trees on their own property. Few cutters were available to the private owners and the costs were extremely high.

With the Santa Ana winds came the fires. Tens of thousands of acres of forestlands burned across the entire range of San Gabriel and San Bernardino National Forests as well as a major conflagration in San Diego County. Thousands of homes were destroyed in the fire’s path.

At least five of our classmate’s homes were consumed in the fires. Other classmates had to evacuate but survived without damage.

We watched the news intently expecting the worst and it got very bad. The storm finally abated when a wet weather front came through just before the fires reached Running Springs and after Big Bear was evacuated.

The aftermath of the fires came to the class in several forms.

The university brought speakers to us in an effort to anticipate future questions to Master Gardeners about fire defenses and recovery from the damage.

Tom Scott the UCR area natural resources wildlife specialist for Southern California was our speaker. He is an expert on fire ecology, management and policy.

 He described wildfires as a circle rather than an event. They will occur when the fuels exist. He described the interface between homes and wild lands as complex. He described the fires as a storm not a battle and most often only Mother Nature can end the progression of a major fire.

He talked about what Master Gardeners should tell people who ask for advice.

        Do no harm. Don’t create new problems in restoration efforts. Change of drainage could increase erosion problems in future storms. Planting non-natural plants could make the next fire worse. He used the example of well intentioned foresters will dropping grass seeds to prevent after fire mudslides but creating dry wild grasses to feed the next fire.

        Separate the protection of the house from recovery of the landscape.

        Make a plan

         To create defensible space.

        Deflect but don’t stop debris.

        Use methods with proven success

         Know your risks of living in the wildlands. Where are the slopes, canyons and streams?

         Keep track of problems that could affect your property. After rains mudslides from loose unrestrained soil above your property can have devastating effects.

        Be Prepared

        Watch the weather

        Drive to an old fire to see how recovery occurs to understand the cycle of recovery and learn about your plants.

While there were many good ideas discussed the class leaders also looked for methods to gather information and to develop better university based advice for future wildfire situations concerning reduction of damage and recovery. They wanted feedback from the hotlines to further understand what residents were facing.

One of our classmates brought a PowerPoint presentation of their home in Waterman Canyon and described how she planned to replant the property.

I wondered a about the wisdom of living there. During the night of the Panorama Fire that occurred Thanksgiving weekend in 1980 I drove through Old Waterman Canyon with several county fire chiefs and saw the still smoldering homes the fire destroyed. Twenty three years later history had repeated itself.  I suspect it will again.


The class graduation requirement includes 50 hours of community volunteer service as a master gardening student. This was not to be physical labor but to take an advisory form. At each class projects were announced that qualified to meet this requirement. Given our position as students we weren’t sure that we should be giving out much advice. We eventually found a number of projects that let us learn with others and share our knowledge.

We first helped a gardening cleanup at Crafton Elementary School. When we arrived we were asked to prune the roses. We had pruned our own roses for years but had not yet received our rose pruning training. The leader told us that the roses had been trimmed with hedge shears and that anything would be an improvement. She was right. They were in bad shape.

We eventually found that one of our volunteer class leaders Emily Bueerman was leading an effort to improve the gardens in the school both for aesthetic purposes and as a teaching aide. The gardens were being used to teach California history, gardening skills and an understanding of where food comes from. She has become a district wide leader and is helping volunteers at each school take charge.

The Inland Empire Master Gardeners sponsor gardening at 21 schools in the Redlands Unified School District. This includes all elementary, middle, the three high schools and the Grove Charter School.

Mariposa Elementary School now has a landscaping plan and a garden area that describes various aspects of California history.


The various methods of plant propagation were discussed in some detail. We now feel reasonably competent growing plants from seeds and through the use of cuttings. Splitting and dividing plants has always worked for us. Layering and grafting are future projects.

As with many subjects in many fields the devil is in the details you only learn by doing. Much of our volunteer time has been dedicated toward the propagation of plants for sale at gardens shows and for school projects. We propagated using cuttings, repotted plants as they grew and split and divided many plants.


We had lost most of our fruit trees and never replaced them. There were several reasons

        We could never eat all of the fruit before it rotted; therefore, we had a surplus of birds and varmints that we didn’t want.

        Picking them was difficult as the tree grew.

        We found that as other trees matured we simply did not have the space for multiple fruit trees.

Our deciduous fruit tree speaker represented a wholesale nursery that sells to local retail nurseries. He seemed to have a solution that overcame all of our issues.[iv]


For years, most of the information about growing fruit came from commercial orchard culture: methods that promoted maximum size for maximum yield but required 12-foot ladders for pruning, thinning and picking, and 400 to 600 square feet of land per tree. Tree spacings had to allow for tractors. Most people today do not need or expect commercial results from their backyard fruit trees. A commercial grower would never consider using his methods on a 90 ft. x 100 ft. parcel, so why should a homeowner?


Maximizing the length of the fruit season means planting several (or many) fruit varieties with different ripening times. Because of the limited space available to most homeowners, this means using one or more of the techniques for close-planting and training fruit trees; two, three or four trees in one hole, espalier, and hedgerow are the most common of these techniques. Four trees instead of one means ten to twelve weeks of fruit instead of only two or three

Close-planting offers the additional advantage of restricting a tree's vigor - a tree won't grow as big when there are competing trees close by.


Small trees yield crops of manageable size and are much easier to spray, thin, prune, net, and harvest than large trees. And, if trees are kept small, it is possible to plant a greater number of trees, affording the opportunity for more kinds of fruit and a longer fruit season.

The only way to keep most fruit trees under twelve feet tall is by PRUNING, and the most practical method of pruning is SUMMER PRUNING. In BACKYARD ORCHARD CULTURE, tree size is the grower's responsibility. Choose a size and don't let the tree get any bigger. A good height is the height you can reach for thinning and picking while standing on the ground, or while standing on a low stool.

Two other important influences on tree size are irrigation and fertilization practices. Fruit trees should not be grown with lots of nitrogen and lots of water. Some people grow their fruit trees the way they do their lawn, then wonder why the trees are so big and don't have any fruit!

Simply stated if you grow more fruit than you want or need; select several fruit trees that will bear fruit at different times; plant two, three, or four trees very close together (within 18 inches), prune them so that you can reach all fruit without a ladder. Then let it grow and enjoy.


We still were not satisfied that we had found a good oleander replacement that would fit our climate and our desire for low watering demands.

Susan Jet, the Nursery Manager from the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden in Claremont, was our speaker spoke on a broad variety of California native plants. It was a simple slide presentation but her knowledge of each plant was extensive.

She specifically talked about oleander replacements. We liked the Blue Cascade Ceanothus or California Lilac. It grows to a height of 6 to 8 ft and a diameter of 6 feet and can be trimmed as a hedge. The flowers were a brilliant blue. The botanical garden had a seasonal sale but they did not necessarily have the ceanothus.

After Class we did a Google search for “Ceanothus Blue Cascade”. We found one nursery near Temecula that specialized in California Native Plants. However, while their catalog listed our plant they had none in stock. We decided to stop on our way back from a trip to San Diego.

La Pilitas Nursery is small and by any standards had a minimal physical plant. It was on old Highway 395 about 10 miles south of Temecula. There is a large selection of one gallon plants, a fence, a small wood shed serving as an office (with solar power for the computer and credit card machine) and a Porta-Potti.

The physical plant is in stark contrast to their website. The website was developed from their catalog, Manual of California Native Plants, into 5000 pages of pictures and information. It is an extremely comprehensive catalog of how native plants can be used. The catalog includes plants ranging from A to Z.

The entire stock was of California native plants. Most of the plants discussed at our class were in stock. They carried ceanothus but not specifically the blue cascade that we were looking for. We told the manager our need and she suggested the Ceanothus Tassajara Blue. This plant tolerates full sun, and part sun. It is an evergreen with a pleasant fragrance, and it is edible.

The plants in stock are small and we weren’t sure they would grow tall enough for our need. That was a simple solution. She took us to their mother plant. It was about 20 feet behind the office. It stands about 8 feet tall and about 8 feet in diameter. It would do!

We selected all 12 plants that were available in stock. They will ultimately form a hedge that should exceed 60 feet in length. We also picked a butterfly plant, a sage and a Lions Tail.

The nursery gave us detailed planting instructions that entailed literally flooding the holes for several days. The plants are in and I am now installing an irrigation system to water on a limited basis. The nursery advised that they should not be watered at all once they are established.


The final two weeks were set aside for student reports and the final exam. The students were to provide a report on a project or a subject of special interest. Our fellow students were an accomplished group. We found that most were already accomplished gardeners.

Some of students designed and had begun projects that they had thought about for a long time. Others shared their favorite tools or tips to make better gardens.

Our most memorable talk was from the “skunk man”. This student from Lytle Creek is the community handyman. One of his callings is skunk removal for neighbors. He brought his tools of the trade and gave us a complete demonstration fortunately without the skunk. His knowledge and obvious experience was superb. He was well versed in how not get sprayed while trapping and relocating the skunk in his pickup. Most of the class was rolling in laughter before he was done.

Kathy developed and carried out a plan to replant our front planter that has been struggling for years. I showed how I repaired our sprinkler system that sprung a leak and created a front yard swamp while we visited our son’s family in Florida for 11 days during early December.


We began this class with a need to change many parts of our landscaping scheme. After 18 weeks of classes and monthly continuing education classes we have hopefully found a replacement for our long dead oleander bushes and have planted the ceanothus or California Lilac bush. Currently the plants are about 1 foot tall and seem to be growing rapidly

Our yard has thriving grass again. I have followed the guidance given by our classes and it works. We are reducing water use

Finally we are starting to feel comfortable in answering other people’s questions.


The classes we attended were conducted under the auspices of The University of California Cooperative Extension. This organization focuses on farm, 4-H, nutrition, family and consumer sciences issues through research, publications and outreach to educate end users or basically families who want to live a better more productive life.

The Extension has farm, advisors based in most county offices. In addition, they conduct research and coordinate advisors’ activities. They develop and publish much important information that needs to be spread.[v]

In our Master Gardening experience a single advisor has used the statewide resources to create a volunteer core that brings people together to learn and to help others. We had access to many experts that taught us skills that we wanted to learn. This volunteer organization and these graduates will teach others and improve their communities in ways that formal organizations can’t.

For years I had admired the benefits or the 4H program for children. I had never quite appreciated the full breadth of the programs sponsored and the methods used to reach the residents of California. Certainly this is a program that benefits us all and improves the knowledge we use to live our daily lives.



[i] UC IPM Online

[ii] University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources

[iii] California Master Gardener Handbook, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication 3382 Second Printing 2002

[iv] Dave Wilson Nursery

[v] University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE),

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