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.

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…

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…

The Big Island of Hawaii has captured media attention lately with the spectacular Kilauea volcano eruptions and magma flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The calamity destroyed many homes, numerous residents were evacuated, and communities disappeared or were severely diminished. Such a powerful…

Few other vegetables are more representative of fall than pumpkins. Come October, mounds of pumpkins of various shapes and sizes are a common sight in Napa Valley. While they may seem to suddenly appear, pumpkins have a fairly long growing season. If you are considering growing pumpkins in y…

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Gardening and a love for nature is on the rise these days. Many people I know would like to garden more but believe they can’t because they live in an apartment or have only a small yard. That’s not so. While they may not be able to have massive oaks or cultivate long rows of tomatoes, there…

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It’s hard to decide which is worse: weeds or snails. This spring, with its late rains, has brought an abundance of both. One place in my yard has been cleared of weeds three times since January. Each time the weeds return, they are different. This year, I am not using a commercial weed kille…

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Napa County Master Gardeners recently had the opportunity to hear a wildlife specialist talk about managing vertebrate pests in gardens and landscapes. Participants were asked to list their five most troublesome vertebrate pests. Mine would be gophers, ground squirrels, birds, deer and voles.

I love California native plants. I also love to eat. Until recently, I had not considered the possibility of an overlap between these two passions. Eventually it occurred to me that there must be many edible native plants to complement those brought here by European settlers.

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Worms are not native to North America. About 20,000 years ago, our continent experienced an Ice Age, along with Europe and Asia. The phenomenon decimated the worm population, with the only survivors in parts of Turkey and the Mediterranean.

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About 25 years ago, my next-door neighbor brought home a half-dead tangle of a plant that she called a passionflower (Passiflora). She planted it in a large trough and set to work spraying it lavishly with Miracle-Gro.

To pinch or not to pinch? That is the question. Pinching is a technique that can shape a plant; increase production of herbs, flowers and fruits; determine the size of blooms and fruit and even keep your garden blooming longer. But pinching is not the answer for every plant. So which plants …

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Red, yellow, purple or green? Huge, small, plum or round? Some might say there are too many choices, but you can decide next Saturday, April 14, when the U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County hold their annual tomato sale.

It’s that time of year: time to start thinking about planting this year’s vegetable garden. It’s still too early to actually plant seeds or starts but it’s not too early to do a little planning.

When I look back at my vegetable garden layouts from years ago, I see that everything was planted in neat and segregated rows. Every vegetable had its own area and would not dare encroach on its neighbors.

There are many ways to propagate plants, but the method I want to share is asexual propagation. With this method, which does not rely on seeds, you duplicate a plant by rooting a cutting from it. For some species, it is the best way to maintain them.

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The time has finally come to start planning for summer crops. Looking over my seed packets, I feel an unexpected bout of restlessness. I still love my old favorites and always feel a flush of glee when harvesting a richly orange carrot or dirty red beet. This year, however, I feel a distinct…

With the surging interest in pollinator gardens and habitats, it is great to see so many home gardeners, parks and public spaces embrace the concept.

The challenges of caring for houseplants are often underestimated, and the successes rarely celebrated. A flower garden is easily visible to passersby, who may stop to discuss it and compliment you on your green thumb. Indoors, however, our efforts (sometimes, thankfully) go unseen.

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