Master Gardeners are trained, non-paid teaching staff certified to extend practical horticultural information to Napa County residents. These volunteers receive an intensive 88-hour training program over a 3-month period to become certified.

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After you have been gardening a while, you may want to branch out and try growing more unusual plants. Being successful with less common plants requires more knowledge and research. Experience helps, too.

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In other parts of the country, people focus on inside tasks in November. Garden tools are already oiled and hung for the winter; bulbs are dug and cellared. Treasured perennials, pots of citrus and fragrant herbs have been brought inside to wait out the winter in bright, warm rooms. With the…

When is a plum a prune? Short answer: When it’s dried. That’s what the dictionary says, but common terminology is not always so straightforward.

I have long been practicing asexual propagation. As I walk around my yard with friends, I point out the plants I have reproduced by air layering, slipping or dividing. My propagation method up to now has been to put a cutting into a mixture of sharp sand and pumice and then water it daily. T…

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Over the years, many people have attended compost workshops conducted by the City and County of Napa and the Napa County Master Gardeners. I have been teaching the worm compost classes and always wonder if the people who made worm bins got all the information they needed to clean the bed whe…

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Until recently, onions were, for me, a smelly vegetable I liked to put on hamburgers. I have recently learned, however, that they have a much more colorful history. Despite their checkered past, many people today credit onions with near-magical abilities.

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Gardening can be a positive influence on children, teens and adults. Scientific evidence shows that it can help alleviate stress, instill a feeling of accomplishment, improve respect for nature, even provide a sense of awe and wonder at watching plants grow.

One of the most pleasurable activities in a fall garden is planting spring-flowering bulbs. Spring-flowering bulbs add color to a late winter and spring garden, and the right kinds of bulbs will naturalize and reward your efforts for many years.

One of the questions that home gardeners ask Napa County Master Gardeners most frequently is: How much should I water? As with many gardening questions, the answer is: It depends.

Every morning before I get myself together, I take a stroll through my garden. I want to see how all my plants fared through the night. Did any creatures knock over a pot? Do my tomatoes need a good shake to pollinate the flowers so the plants will make fruit? Even though I thought I watered…

Most of us have warm, fuzzy feelings about ladybugs. We feel special when a ladybug lands on our hand. We charm our children with early garden experiences and recite iconic nursery rhymes as we entreat the cheerful red beetles to “fly away home.”

If you are a regular reader of this column, you already know that you can grow vegetables year-round in Napa County. Growing produce in autumn and winter extends your harvest and protects the health of your soil because you are practicing crop rotation.

Adding one or more trees to your garden can make a very big difference. Trees are amazing. They can provide shade and fruit, save energy, support wildlife and help reduce global warming.

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For the last three years, I have been battling gophers in my garden. They have pulled artichoke plants down their hole and last summer took out my peppers and eggplants. A young fig tree had only a chewed-on place where its roots had been. In desperation, I bought wire cages to plant in.

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Gardening is fun, of that there is little doubt. It begins with a trip to the nursery, picking out those perfect plants from the multitudes of foliage. Then the dirty work begins.

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Gardeners are a generous bunch. I know that I have benefited tremendously from the knowledge and plants shared by more experienced gardeners. I’ve also been the grateful recipient of tasty produce and delicious jams and preserves.

Summer is bold, bright, warm and colorful — except when it is not. The other side of summer is soft and gray and fuzzy. Bright, bold summer days are often tempered by soft gray fog creeping over the hills and wispy fingers of silver mist drifting through the valley in the morning, cooling an…

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Gardens can be a lot of work. So I appreciate the many volunteers who make my dream of having beautiful garden flowers without 24/7 attention. I love volunteers.

Being a plant lover can have its ups and downs. The joy of having a garden, whether in containers or in the ground, indoors or out, is like no other. The love of plants can have a dark side, however, turning to a unique strain of obsession and mania.

One of my favorite parts of home gardening is growing my own herbs. Fresh herbs add depth of flavor to food that dried herbs simply can’t match, plus many documented health benefits. A single herb has more culinary applications than a single vegetable and needs little space to produce all yo…

The rose bushes in Napa Valley are now full of leaves and tiny buds, preparing to bloom. By May, garden roses will be in full flower. My rose-care season began in January with heavy pruning on a dry day, followed by the purchase of two bare-root roses (‘Marilyn Monroe’ and ‘Julia Child’) to …

Something changes when you put fresh flowers or foliage in a room. I have always believed this, and have always tried to include plants in my garden that I could cut for the house throughout the year.

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Spring is finally here and that means that tomato season is around the corner. Don’t get too excited, though. Even though seedlings will be showing up in nurseries, it’s best to wait to plant them.

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Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and a writing implement. Six thousand tomato seedlings, old and new favorites, will be looking for their new home at the 7th annual Master Gardener Tomato Sale at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 13. The sale location is 1710 Soscol Ave., next to Central Valley …

If I had to choose just one herb for my garden, it would have to be basil. Granted, I would want every variety of basil, from Genovese to Thai, lemon to lime, but I would be happy with just basil. Growing a garden of basils would satisfy my kitchen needs, flower needs, sensory needs and make…

When you are planning your summer garden, remember the pollinators. Bees and other pollinators are in trouble in California and across the U.S. and need our help. They are nectar feeders so put in plenty of blooming plants for them.

Spring is around the corner, ready to bring new opportunities to spend time in our gardens. While many of us find this thought exhilarating, some prefer to spend their time in other ways.

If you live in one of Napa County’s towns, you may be one of the lucky gardeners who does not have to deal with gophers. Gardeners who live in or near the county’s rural areas are usually very familiar with the damage that gophers can cause.

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Starting plants from seed can save you money, allow you to try more interesting varieties and be a lot of fun. Although it can seem intimidating, starting plants from seed isn’t hard. To grow plants from seed successfully, you need to plan the timing (so the plants are ready to set out into …

I have recently become interested in the plant family Aizoaceae. It is a positively huge family, consisting of many sub-families. The plants under the Aizoaceae umbrella are mostly of the low-lying, groundcover type. For this reason, they are sometimes known as carpet weeds, although I have …

Why do sunflowers follow the sun? This mystery has been researched and hopefully solved. Recently, discoveries at UC Davis have explained what this movement is and what causes it. The tracking was reported in the magazine Science, and it’s known that the movement follows circadian rhythms.

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Many of you know that Master Gardeners share university-based research with Napa County home gardeners through our help desk, public workshops and website. But I bet you didn’t know that we also do our own field-testing research. We try out vegetables in our gardens with the goal of understa…

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Many of us set goals at the start of a new year, and most of us give up on them fairly quickly. How about focusing on your garden this year instead? That will probably be a lot more fun than any resolution you were going to make.

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Purple plants do well in my garden. Animals seem to leave them alone, and birds that seem to know which little green things are weeds and which are my seedlings hop by my baby purple plants without assaulting them. Insects also tend to ignore my purple plants in favor of their green-leaved n…

I went to Oaxaca, Mexico in November to celebrate the Day of the Dead. The experience was unique in many ways and I enjoyed it very much. The parades, the music, the food and especially the flowers really delighted me. Most of the flowers used were marigolds. Until this trip, I was not aware…

If you are like me, you have occasionally daydreamed of a life on a farm. Open skies, fresh air and working the land all add up to a pretty idyllic-sounding situation until I remember that I would have to start each day before the sun comes up.

If you are familiar with the area around the Historic Napa Mill and Napa River Inn in downtown Napa, you may have noticed the beautiful landscaping. The design seems to balance the art and architecture all around the complex, using large containers.

Some time ago, I wrote a column about African keyhole gardens. These innovative gardens are circular and have a place in the middle for worm composting bin. The design has performed so well that you can now buy a wooden kit for such a garden.

Fall is a wonderful time to be in the garden. The cooler air is reinvigorating after the long hot days of summer. Fall is also a perfect time to plant many California natives. Many have been dormant during the summer and will soon awaken and stretch their roots within the soil. These plants …

It’s almost time to plant garlic. There are a lot of decisions to be made when choosing garlic. Hardneck or softneck? Many cloves or just a few? Mild or spicy? Comparing all the features of each variety can be a daunting task, but with a little time and access to the internet, anyone can lea…

For years, my husband and I grew successful summer gardens. We were so successful that for a while we set up an “honor system” farmstand for charity on the road in front of our house. We supplied neighbors and walkers-by with tomatoes, peppers, squash and other summer vegetables.

Do you enjoy gardening? Are you a resident of Napa County? Do you want to teach others to be better gardeners by doing educational programs in the community? Then the UC Master Gardeners of Napa County is for you. Now is the time for experienced home gardeners to consider becoming a UC Maste…

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A couple of years ago, someone gave me a strawberry plant. I had never grown strawberries as I thought it was difficult. However, I was surprised by this plant and enjoyed the ripe berries. Then I added a couple more plants and decided to build a strawberry tower. Someone else gave me more b…

Most people are familiar with proteas, the shrubs with exotic blossoms that are often the focal point of a bouquet. Proteas are only one member of a family of beautiful, drought-tolerant plants. Plants in the Proteaceae family are spread across the southern hemisphere in impressive variety.

These are called the dog days of summer, but I think a more accurate name would be insect days. Everywhere I turn, something is creeping, crawling or flying around me.

When I asked a friend how her garden was doing, she told me that the day after she planted lettuce and basil, she found nothing but stumps. I told her that the likely culprits were snails, birds or rodents. Her response: “Okay, but what can I do about it?”

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The olive tree (Olea europaea) is well suited to Napa Valley. The tree’s Mediterranean origin makes it a natural fit for our sunny, arid and temperate climate. Our warm summers encourage fruit growth, and winter provides the necessary 200 to 300 chill hours (hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit…

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