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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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…

Sprout new ideas with our home & garden newsletter

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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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Grapevines in Napa are still dormant and enjoying their winter nap, but this doesn’t mean home grapegrowers have nothing to do. Bud break is occurring and the annual growth cycle will commence.

Valentine’s Day will soon be here. What do we give our favorite valentine? In American culture, the gifts of choice are often candy (chocolate preferred), cards and flowers. For flowers, of course, a bouquet of red roses symbolizes love.

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Recently I encountered the term ‘food forest.’ The unfamiliar term piqued my curiosity as my gardening interests primarily involve growing food. One cold, dreary day, I decided I needed to find out exactly what a food forest is.

I can feel spring in the air, so it is time to think about which unique, beautiful plants I can add to my garden. As I peruse all the new garden and seed catalogs, I need to remember not to choose any invasive plants.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but at times I get bored with vegetable gardening. I love growing food for my table, but anything can become repetitious after a while. I felt like I was in a rut until I came across a recent NPR article titled “Americans Love Spices. So Why Don’t We Grow The…

For gardeners like me, it’s a dangerous time of year to walk through a nursery. It’s bare-root cane berry season, and there is so much to choose from. I may not “need” another cane berry plant, but I’m sure there’s an empty spot in my garden that wants to produce blackberries or raspberries.

It was roughly a year ago that I suggested writing a column on New Year’s resolutions for the gardener. At the time, I felt energized by the excitement and hope I held for the coming year. I had plans for our garden, big plans relative to its modest size.

Most Napa Valley gardeners have long embraced the idea that planting native species is the way to go. These locally evolved species tend to be more acclimated to our long, dry summers and less thirsty as a result.

One of the attractions of my house, when I first saw it for sale some decades ago, was a fragrant, lush Meyer lemon tree abloom in the side yard. Unfortunately, by the time I moved in, the Great Blue Norther of 1990-’91 had transformed it into a blackened mass of lifeless twigs and shriveled…

Many residents of Napa Valley are continuing to recover from the October wildfires. These horrific fires killed people and animals, devastated homes and gardens and left the ridges above our valley scarred and bare. Thanks are due to the first responders for all that survived. My neighbors, …

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Chances are that by now you have one or more cuetlaxochitl somewhere in your home. You may not recognize the name, but they have recently spread across Napa. Don’t call an exterminator yet, however.

I just built an African keyhole garden, and I’ll bet you are wondering what that is. The African keyhole garden was designed by CARE in Zimbabwe during the mid 1990s to encourage people to grow their own food. The design relied on materials that were close at hand—such as bricks, stones, bra…

Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about water-wise landscaping, yet never did it occur to me to investigate fire-wise landscaping. The unfortunate events of late have now brought these concerns to the forefront of my mind.

Here is another issue arising in the aftermath of the wildfires. This question came from someone who lost his home. Some of the trees were destroyed, some damaged and some relatively unscathed:

Now is the perfect time to prepare to plant bare-root fruit trees, or to transplant them from a pot into the ground.