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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.)


Spring Gardening Tips

March 9th, 2011

Spring is almost here!  The vernal equinox is on March 20 and marks the beginning of spring in the northern  hemisphere.  Here are some gardening tips to get ready for the season from “The Yolo Gardener” Spring 2011 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners, by Master Gardener Linda Parsons. Thank you Linda for these great tips!

Yum!  Can’t wait for peaches this year!  Make sure to get out there and trim and treat your fruit trees before buds swell.  Image from


  • Prune foliage and branches damaged by winter.  If you haven’t yet pruned your roses and fruit trees this is the last month to get them ready for spring bloom.  Don’t put it off any longer!
  • Take care of weeds now before they take over.
  • Remove old growth from perennials and dig and divide crowded plants. 


    • Begin cultivating your perennials – loosening soil once it is dry enough – and add soil amendments such as compost, peat moss and organic fertilizer. 
    • Be sure to use fertilizer recommended for each plant type.  Too much nitrogen will make plants grow too quickly, producing weaker growth.
    • Care for roses and fruit trees by adding rose food and soil amendments, as well as a cup of alfalfa pellets and two tablespoons Epsom salt to each rose plant.  This will help the roses produce more basal breaks (new growth) and chlorophyll.
    • Mulch your garden to a depth of 3 inches to reduce weeds and require less watering.


    • Start your plant selection: 
      • Pansies, violas, Dianthus, Iceland poppies, primroses and plant candytuft are all early blooming annuals.  
      • Bulbs, corns and tubers like cannas, begonias, lilies and dahlias can be planted now.
      • Some good shade plant selections include astilbe, columbine, coral bells, Dicentra, Foxglove, Hostas, Nepeta, Pulmonaria and ferns.
      • Primroses are one of the earliest spring flowers, and are often a common sight at Victorian cottage-style gardens. Image from
      • A good drought tolerant selection can include Russian sage, Muhlenbergia, rabbit’s tail grass, Buddleia, echinacea, rudbeckia and gallardia.
    • Remember to lightly fertilize and mulch after planting!  Plants will do better if they are planted at or slightly above grade.
    Rabbit or bunny’s tail grass is a great drought-tolerant selection, and it’s cute!  Image from


      • Due to above average rainfall, there are going to be more insects and diseases this year, so keep an eye out for early fungal diseases and aphids.
      • March is your last opportunity to spray fruit trees with dormant (lime-sulfur) spray before buds swell to get rid of wintering fungus and spores.
      • Check plants regularly (especially roses) for black spot, rust and mildew.  Also check for slugs, snails and earwigs, as well as aphids, mites thrips and scale with the advent of warmer weather.  Keep these harmful insects in check by planting yarrow, alyssum, feverfew, dill, parsley, coriander, penstemon and asters to attract beneficial insects.
      • Visit if you want to use commercial pesticides.


      • Check your irrigation system to make sure your lawn is getting enough water.  Increase the water amount as the days get longer and warmer.
      • Re-seed thin areas and begin your fertilizing and mowing schedule.  Try applying a light topcoat of compost to improve lawn growth and health.


      • Stake tall growing perennials and vegetables before they start bending over in late spring.
      • Later on in the season thin fruit trees, leaving four to five inches in between each fruit to help remaining fruit mature properly and to keep branches from being over-weighted which can cause splitting.
      • Deadhead spent flowers to ensure a long blooming season.
      • Plant containers with annuals and herbs.

      To read the unabridged version of this article go to their website and download the Spring 2011 newsletter here.  You can also sign up to receive this newsletter by entering your email address at the top of this page.


        Corn from our garden: BEFORE and (almost) AFTER

        August 13th, 2010

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again!  I love before and after photos from our garden so I thought I’d share some with you too!

        To learn more about growing your own corn access this helpful download about corn from the UC Davis Vegetable Research and Information Center.  This and many other helpful links and resources can be found on the California Master Gardener Program website called California Garden Web.

        To learn more about the corn varieties we have growing in the garden visit the corn page on our website.

        Here is the corn on June 30 about a week or so…cute!  (Can corn be cute?)  It’s hard to believe it will ever amount to much!
        Here you can see a couple rows.  Some of the seeds did not germinate.

        Here is a photo of that same corn, only this was taken just over two weeks later on July 16.  They grow up so fast don’t they?
        Now you can see the corn is filling in despite the few that did not germinate.

        This is what they look like almost a month after (August 12, 2010) the photos that were taken just above on July 16.
        We have two patches of corn growing in our ‘Malting and Brewing Bed’ just outside of the brand new Brewery, Winery and Food Processing Facility.  Perfect fit, right?
        Here is a close-up of the corn blossom!  This is a really interesting variety called ‘martian jewels’ corn.  The kernels are white, but the cob is a rich purple; the flavor is hardier and richer than most typical sweet corns.

        Container Gardening Question?

        May 27th, 2010

        We received a question from one of our readers about the safety of gardening in containers and which container material is the best, but we don’t have answer. Does our audience have any information to share on the topic? Any advice would be much appreciated! See our reader’s question below.


        I have a very important question and think UCDavis may be the best place to get an answer….

        Is it safe to grow vegetables in plastic containers, such as the “plastic” clay colored pots sold at nurseries, and the black gallon or more containers that many plants are sold in? If drinking water from plastic bottles can be dangerous, can this practice be also?
        …and how about clay type pots…. how does one know if they contain lead, and if so does in end up in the plants grown in them?
        I have been using containers – to grow tomatoes and peppers- for several reasons, mainly to avoid ground critters…but many other folks use them to grow plants on their patios. If using such containers is a heath hazard, it would be kind of you to let us all know.


        I wish we had an answer from the UC Davis archives, but I was not able to find one! I am sorry we couldn’t be more help! You may want to locate a one of your local Master Gardeners and ask them as well. I know that their are quite a few that read our blog, so stay tuned here too!


        Great Gardening Resource: CALIFORNIA GARDENING Advice to Grow By

        April 28th, 2010

        Starting and maintaining a productive edible home garden is not easy! It takes time and patience because something unexpected always throws a wrench into the most well-laid plans.

        Where do you go for help? Here is a fantastic resource to answer a huge variety of your gardening questions for those of you who live and garden in California: California Gardening–Advice to Grow By. On this site you will find tons of useful information ranging from “Gardening Basics” to “Poisonous Plants.” There’s even a link to to help you find a local master gardener as well as a list of upcoming classes and events.

        This site is a service of the University of California Cooperative Extension. (If you don’t live in California, just google your state name, “gardening” and “cooperative extension.” The plethora of information they offer will blow your mind!)