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An Introduction to Our Guest Writer Jennifer Baumbach, Solano County Master Gardener

March 31st, 2011

About me

I have the pleasure of working for the Solano County Master Gardeners: a fun-loving, happy group of people with different backgrounds who love what they do and do it well. We have doctors, teachers, microbiologists, a clown, and even people who had never gardened before. If they have a desire to learn and share their knowledge, we love to have them in our program.

Jennifer Baumbach, Solano County Master Gardener Program Coordinator

A native of Dixon, I come from a family of botanists and farmers, but did not realize my interest in gardening until I went to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I fell into horticulture by accident; a Biological Sciences major with plans for being a dentist, I took Gardening 101 as an elective and learned that I had a flare for the subject.

After graduating, I returned to Dixon and while working at the Department of Fish and Game in Sacramento I heard about recruitment for the Master Gardener Program. Previous to that moment I had never heard of the UC Cooperative Extension or the Master Gardeners. I wanted to volunteer my knowledge to the people of Solano County, so I took a training course and became a Master Gardener in 1998. In 1999 I got the job as Program Coordinator and have been working in Solano County ever since. I also received my Master’s Degree in Environmental Horticulture in 2009 from UC Davis. As a program coordinator I help administer day-to-day operations, and also am a resource to other Master Gardeners and to the public.

In particular, I have an affinity for plant and insect identification, specifically weed identification. My own home garden is a bit of a wreck as there is no plan; I plant what I like. I am an ornamental plant lover but am trying to branch out by trying my hand at apples. I also want to build raised beds to grow peppers and tomatoes. I am also particularly interested in salvias, especially the Salvia melissodora (grape-scented sage.)


Garden update-It’s a chard-topia out there!

March 29th, 2011

The word of the week is CHARD!  The chard looks fantastic and is definitely the show stealer in the garden right now.

rhubard chard

This particular bunch of rhubarb chard is going to be harvested and served at an outreach and development function taking place at the Chancellor's residence this week! Talk about eating local!

bright lights chard

The colors of the bright lights chard variety are so vibrant; they look like neon lights...hence the name!

bright lights chard

The bright light chard varies greatly in color - notice the bronze-colored leaves in the background?

bright lights chard

Ok - last chard photo... I promise. It's just so dang pretty!

barcarolle lettuce

The barcarolle lettuce is a variety of romaine. Stunning! I'll take this with some freshly grated Parmesan and crunchy croutons please!

pioneer shell peas

We've got pioneer shell peas!

ruby perfection cabbage

We seem to have gotten a handle on the aphid infestation on the ruby perfection cabbage. Unfortunately some of them have started bolting!

Snow queen nectarine

Snow Queen nectarines are blossoming!

brown turkey fig

Could that be a baby fig? Did you know that figs are actually inverted blossoms? Read more about it here!

crimson clover

The crimson clover is also blooming.

shot of the garden facing west toward the vineyard

Thank goodness the sun finally came out!


It’s official: announcing our partnership with master gardeners

March 28th, 2011

The UC Davis Good Life Garden is proud to announce that Master Gardeners from throughout the area will be contributing to our website.  We thought it would be interesting for you to know a little bit about their backgrounds to start off, so, about once a month for the next few months we’ll be introducing them to you!  These introductory articles will be followed by original articles about gardening by these experts.  By promoting this valued program to our audience, we hope to inspire the Master Gardener in you!  You may find that you too would like to become a Master Gardener,  take advantage their many classes or, call their hotlines with questions.

Photo of Christina & Pat at Master Gardener Conference

Landscape Architect and Good Life Garden designer, Christina DiMartini Reyes with Pat Stoffel, Good Life Garden Gardener at a recent Master Gardener conference.

Who are the Master Gardeners?

A group of volunteers trained in horticulture, the Master Gardener Program functions as a partnership between the University of California, the USDA, county governments and California residents. After receiving training based on UC-verified research, Master Gardeners extend their knowledge to the public via classes, demonstrations and other venues like farmer’s markets and the Master Gardeners hotline.

The Master Gardener programs focus on sustainable practices, teaching people to be more environmentally aware in areas like integrated pest management, energy and soil conservation, and waste management.

Find Out More!

Master Gardeners are located in almost every county throughout our state and others!  Here are just a few of our ‘local’ chapters.  If your county is not listed just Google your county’s name and ‘master gardener.’  It will surely be the top listing.  Their programs and expertise are definitely worth exploring!

Amador County Master Gardeners

El Dorado County Master Gardeners

Placer County Master Gardeners

Sacramento County Master Gardeners

Solano County Master Gardeners

Yolo County Master Gardeners


Why have a vegetable garden in a park?

March 24th, 2011

This is an abridged article written by Peg Smith from “The Yolo Gardener” Spring 2010 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners. Thank you Peg for this great information!  To read the full article, visit their website here.

Curious about what vegetables can be planted at this time of year? A visit to the Central Park Gardens vegetable bed will help you make your choices and evaluate new ways of doing things. The vegetable garden is an oval at the north end of Central Park Gardens (corner of Third and B Streets, Davis) divided into four beds.

A year round plan for vegetable rotation has been developed so at any time of the year something is being planted, is growing, or is being harvested. All produce grown at Central Park is donated to the Davis Community Meals program.

This bed was planted in November of 2010 and is now being harvested. Broccoli, cabbage and kale (brassicas) were the demonstration winter crops this year. Onions are interspersed between the plantings.


This bed was planted in October 2010 with samples of “green manure,” or cover crops. Included are annual rye, crimson clover, vetch and fava beans. Clover, vetch and fava beans are nitrogen fixing plants that improve the health of the soil. These cover crops will be chopped and turned into the soil or added to our compost.


Yolo County winter grain crops. Looking at a field while traveling along the road, it is hard to tell what grain crop is in a field. Currently in the vegetable garden there are samples of hard white wheat, hard red wheat, durham wheat, triticale, barley and oats. This allows our garden visitors a closer look at Yolo County crops so they can easily see the difference between oats and wheat .


This bed has recently been planted with late winter crops, including beets, cabbage, chard, leeks, spinach and carrots.

Workshops at the garden once a month. Please check for a complete schedule. All are welcome, from beginners to advanced, at our outdoor garden classroom.


You can’t fail with KALE!

March 23rd, 2011

by Felix Munoz-Teng, Vice President of the student-run UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG).

This leafy-green vegetable has been grown for over 2000 years and continues to be grown today. In Europe, it was the most widely-eaten green plant until its bulky brother, cabbage, came along. Surprisingly, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts all belong to the same species of plant: Brassica oleracea. Despite their large differences in appearance, selective propagation by humans has led to the wide variety of the species that we see today!

Kale - it's not just a garnish! Image from


If there is any green vegetable you can count on, it’s kale with its unmatched nutrient richness. One cup of this green-leaf vegetable provides a daily value of 1327% vitamin K, 192% vitamin A, 88.8% vitamin C, 25% manganese, 10% dietary fiber, 10% copper and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, this nutrient-abundant vegetable delivers no more than 36 calories per cup.

Healthy Living

There has been a great deal of research conducted on kale and its benefits related to health. It has been shown to reduce the risk of “oxidative stress” and “chronic inflammation”, which is linked to a low intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients respectively. As a result of these benefits, research has further been able to show definite advantages in terms of cancer prevention and, in some circumstances, treatment.

In other areas, kale contains remarkable cholesterol-lowering abilities. Researchers have shown that fiber-related contents in kale prevent the fat in cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine. Instead, the fat passes through the intestine and leaves the body. Secondly, kale plays an important role in the regulation of detox activities within the body, which is an important process for our cells.
Try this recipe for kale chips – you will never believe that kale could taste so good!

Kale chips are a healthy and tasty snack! image from


  • -Preheat oven to about 375*.
  • -Use about 1 salad spinner’s worth of kale (about enough to fill a grocery store veggie bag). Tear the leaves off  the thick stems into bite size pieces. Spread out on cookie sheets.
  • -Drizzle with about 2 tsp of olive oil.
  • -Sprinkle with Parmesan, Asiago or your seasonings of choice, plus a sprinkle of kosher salt.
  • -Bake for about 15 minutes, until edges are brown and kale is crispy when moved in pan.

Spring Vegetables

March 22nd, 2011

Here are some gardening tips to get ready for the season from “The Yolo Gardener” Spring 2010 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners, by Master Gardener Laura Cameraon. Thank you Laura for this great information!

Photo of cucumbers

March and April are good months to start cucumber seeds in a greenhouse or other protected area.

The sun is back [sort of!], our new bare root fruit trees are budding and it’s time to plan and plant spring vegetables.

When choosing which vegetables to plant, consider the size of your garden, available sunlight and what you like to eat. Be adventurous and try one new vegetable each season. Vegetables need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day so you need to be aware of what parts of your yard have adequate sun. If you are planting climbing and ground plants, carefully determine placement so your 6’ tomato plants don’t shade your row crops. For example, squashes tend to cover a lot of territory, so if your yard is small you may want to steer away from them. You can also consider sharing your vegetable garden with a friend or neighbor. We consult with our neighbors and each plant something different and the bounty is shared. Our households are small so this works out perfectly for us; we each have a wider variety of vegetables to eat.

While most vegetable garden designs follow traditional linear pathways don’t let that stop you from planting vegetables anywhere in your garden that gets the sun load needed. Our neighbor’s vegetable garden is a small traditional linear plot that works out perfectly for their yard and their dog. Our back yard was recently transformed to an esthetically pleasing “mound” that mimics the Himalayas. Base Camp One had tomatoes, Everest was covered with squashes and melons and K2 is the current home of last year’s swiss chard. Anywhere there is a spot in your garden that meets the sun and water requirements of your vegetables will work out fine.

Dr. Robert Norris, UCD Department of Plant Sciences, has created a vegetable planting guide for the Sacramento area. We also have included the planting guide in The Gardener’s Companion available for purchase at our office at 70 Cottonwood in Woodland. Dr. Norris’s guide lists not all vegetables but a goodly number of them that do well in our area.  Basic vegetable garden design and plant rotation plans as well as other valuable information regarding gardening in California can be found  here .

March and April are good months to start seeds in a greenhouse or other protected area: Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, beets, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, celery, corn, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, peas, potato eyes, radishes and summer squash. March is also a good time to transplant seedlings or purchased plants of lettuce, tomatoes and chard.

April is a good time to start seeds in a greenhouse or other protected area: melons, squash, green beans, and spinach. In April you can also directly seed carrots, cucumbers, corn, green beans, melons and squash into the designated growing areas as well as transplanting seedlings or purchased plants of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumber.

As always, weather can change your planting and harvesting dates. As you pick through varieties, note that some seeding and transplanting dates may vary.

Enjoy choosing, planting and eating the vegetables of your labors. I enjoy looking at my circle of lettuce and waterfall of squash plants. Be creative in your plantings and enjoy your own new tradition of vegetable gardening.


Does sprinkling tomato plants with seawater increase their nutritional value?

March 15th, 2011
by Zuhayr Mallam, founder of the UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG). For more information about this group, visit their website.

Tomatoes are among the most popular items in American gardens today and are commonly used in many types of salads and sauces. They have an especially rich history at UC Davis (see the “square tomato” and other tomato research on campus) and thrive in the Sacramento Valley, due to the prime tomato-cultivating summer climate.

Image taken from the Gillaspy Lab webpage at Virginia Tech University

Tomatoes are high in antioxidants, which are thought to help fight cancer, prevent heart disease, slow aging, and confer a host of other health benefits. And although it has been long held that salt is harmful to soil, several studies conducted worldwide have shown that spraying tomato plants with diluted – approximately 10% saline – seawater can actually increase their nutritional value and taste! The salt in seawater is thought to produce stress in tomato plants, which respond by producing more antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and chlorogenic acid, as well as other taste-enhancing chemicals – albeit it makes the fruit somewhat smaller. Many are still concerned about salt causing soil degradation and rendering some seawater-treated tomatoes inedible, but scientists cite that plants thrive in balanced soil containing both macro– and micronutrients.

This theory is still much up in the air, but it is good food for thought. A major potential benefit of this method would be providing irrigation for crops in areas with freshwater restrictions and shortages as well as malnourishment.

Hmm… This may be an interesting opportunity for a summer science experiment! Let us know if you decide to give it a try.

As always, consult a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet!