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.

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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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.

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In early October, I chose fall garden cleanup as the topic for this article. Proper garden sanitation practices are an important part of successfully growing anything. I’m never one to do a project in advance of a deadline so I hadn’t started writing when the wildfires struck the Napa Valley…

Arbor Day, which falls on Oct. 21 this year, is a perfect day for a stroll in Fuller Park. This beautiful Napa park is the city’s arboretum with more than 60 outstanding trees, many marked with signs that provide useful information about each tree. For me, walking the park today is vastly di…

I aim for comfort and ease while gardening. Recently, I acquired some wisdom that I’d like to share, as well as a few gardening tricks from a couple of gurus in the field.

When it comes to making decisions about new plants for your garden, consider combinations of the following types: California natives, plants that aid pollinating insects and plants that attract beneficial insects.

The multiplication of plants, known as propagation, is an entertaining and rewarding part of gardening. Many people are familiar with growing and multiplying plants using seeds. This method is useful but can be time consuming and, depending on the plant, difficult.

This year has been one of the hottest on record, and next year is likely to be even hotter. As the temperature rises, gardening can become increasingly challenging. There are a few easy things you can do to help your garden beat the heat this summer.

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When you ask a Master Gardener a question about almost anything, quite often the answer will be, “It depends.” It’s not that we don’t know the answer, but rather that we need more information to answer correctly. This is especially true when it comes to a question about fertilizing vegetable…

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?

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Fennel is a Mediterranean plant that has been introduced to the U.S. Over many years, it has naturalized in our area. Recently, I saw an anise swallowtail butterfly visiting my fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) so I went out and looked for eggs and babies. The babies look like bird droppings as th…

If you are a home gardener in Napa Valley, you can successfully grow olive trees. Olives are one of the most popular trees in the valley, and with a few pointers extrapolated from University of California research and other sources, you can enjoy their beauty in your own landscape.

The heat is on, and our gardens are bursting with delightful treats. If you are like many people in the valley, you are looking at your upcoming vegetable harvest and wondering what you are going to do with it all.

In recent years, the plight of the honeybee has made international headlines due to alarming colony losses. When many folks hear the term pollinator, the honeybee quickly comes to mind. While honeybees are indeed an invaluable pollinator resource, there are many other pollinator species with…

One summer when I was about 10 years old, I had two farms. One was a lizard farm, with a variety of lizards that I had captured and put in a big box. I had alligator lizards and blue bellies. That adventure ended when a lizard bit my mother on the finger. Goodbye, lizard farm.

I have a manure farm in my backyard. Before you decide to move on to another article, you should know that my farm is small, only about two square feet in size. It consists of a plastic bin in which live hundreds of small, red worms. Known as “red wigglers”, they are different from the earth…

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With consistently warmer weather at hand, our gardens are a flurry of activity. Bees and other pollinators are active, and many songbirds greet us with their chorus.

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There were some benefits to the lavish rainfall we experienced this winter and spring. First, Napa residents got proof that the flood-control project worked. Second, and just as important to a rose gardener, the frequent rains washed off all the aphids that like to prey on emerging rose buds.

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West of St. Helena in the Napa Valley sits a lovely garden surrounding a small house with a large porch and big picture window. I had an opportunity to speak with the owner, Glenn, about how this idyllic spot came to fruition.

It’s time to get into the garden. Whether you are planning a new garden, renewing an old garden, adding color and interest for summer or hoping to grow award-winning produce, now is the time to get started.

If you are looking for attractive and low-maintenance additions to your garden, look no further than California native plants.