In one way or another, COVID-19 has been a dominant influence in our lives these past few months, and like it or not, it will continue to be for the foreseeable future. And even if you’ve “had it up to here” with coronavirus news, please read on for the sake of those you care about.


There are still so many unknowns about the novel coronavirus. Can an effective vaccine be developed? Are previously exposed people vulnerable to reinfection by new viral strains? Are sudden new cases of inflammatory diseases in children tied to viral exposure? Over time, scientific investigations will help answer these questions and relieve some of the current uncertainties.


The vast majority of us will apparently escape the most serious health consequences of this pandemic, but within our circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, we all know someone who’s highly vulnerable to severe or even deadly symptoms. That’s why the importance of science-based information can’t be underestimated. That’s also why I’d like to share some helpful and informative resources with my fellow San Joaquin County residents.


Part of the U.C. Master Gardener Program’s mission statement is “To extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California […].” University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) is the umbrella organization for our state’s Master Gardener program, and they now have a webpage dedicated to “Coronavirus and COVID-19”—https://ucanr.edu/Coronavirus_and_COVID-19/.


This UCANR website is divided into several sections: agriculture; food, water, and nutrition; youth development; gardening; exploring your environment; and health and wellness. It’s truly a one-stop-shop of information for the general public, not just for those with gardening on the brain. Some of the available information is specifically virus-related, but other resources are simply helpful for developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles.


Here’s a small sampling of the helpful guidance you can find on this informative site (with the relevant section name in parentheses):


• “How to Stay Food Secure and Eat Well Despite COVID-19” (Food, Water, and Nutrition) — This flyer includes basic health tips and links to various organizational websites related to local food initiatives, food safety and health, and much more.


• “COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Farm Stands” (Agriculture)—This link includes guideline for roadside produce stands and large-format, printable signs for posting at agricultural sites open to the public.


• “Guidance On The Safe Usage of Open Spaces During COVID-19” (Health and Wellness)—This one-page flyer has basic safety guidelines and links to various public resource agency websites regarding outdoor access.


• “4-H Healthy Living Activity Guide” (Youth Development)—This 18-page guide is packed full of valuable guidance and fun, age-appropriate activities for children. It’s a wonderful source of inspiring, educational ideas that you can use to keep your kids, grandkids, or students engaged and learning while sheltering at home. A sampling of the contents: building a first aid kit; reducing stress through mindfulness; simple science experiments; and many easy and nutritious recipes.


• “Composting Is Good for Your Garden and the Environment” (Gardening)—This informative Master Gardener tip sheet discussed the basics and benefits of backyard composting. This could be an excellent new spring/summer activity for anyone with a bit of space and extra at-home time on their hands. (Note: Even if you don’t have a yard, it’s possible to use the technique of vermicomposting to create your own compost; more about that next topic week.)


• Other Miscellaneous Resources — While I haven’t yet finished exploring UCANR’s coronavirus website, there are quite a few items that have captured my interest. The Health and Wellness section includes two mask-making patterns from the University of Florida Department of Anesthesiology that “have been found to be as, or more, effective than the N95 mask.” The Agriculture section includes a practical guide to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; a resource guide for immigrants in California; and a page called “COVID-19 Infection Prevention for Agricultural Employers and Employees.” The Exploring Your Environment section has links to the UC California Naturalist program; the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (for those interested in citizen science and bird observation); and the nature journaling website of John Muir Laws. (I’ve been fortunate enough to attend one of his out-on-the-trail workshops; he’s a very talented artist and wonderful teacher.) And there’s so much more…


May the information on the UCANR website help you stay safe and well!


For gardening-related questions, call the UC Master Gardener office at (209) 953-6112, or visit our website: http://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/.