Everybody starts somewhere. Even Master Gardeners. Many in a class are newbie gardeners, but come to learn. What better place to learn than one surrounded by experts?
I get asked often how does one become a Master Gardener. Many have the desire to learn, but also they yearn for having those of experience as friends to ask. They ask about becoming a Master Gardener, but not what we do for the community. You know, what I discussed last post – the doing.
For instance, the Niagara County Master Gardeners are pulling garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, this weekend at a local park. Hard work that would not get done otherwise. When people hear this, they change their minds on joining.
Above you see garden club members planting and doing Spring cleanup. Master Gardeners work in their communities on tasks like this too. The hands on projects help to teach them new things, where even garden clean up has a few tricks, like giving the beds a clean-cut edge.
The members of garden clubs and the Master Garden Program also share from their own gardens for these community gardens. They generously share amongst each other too. They put on plant sales each year to raise money, but it is also a good place to learn about how some tried and true plants grow in your area.
I was serving as a Master Gardener three years at our Extension Office before I actually took the classes, answering gardeners’ questions in person and over the phone. Required to complete the program eventually was necessary to get my paper certificate. It was mandatory for Cornell certification. The interesting program had many fine speakers from Cornell, so it was worth the time.
In Master Gardening classes, we had a manual which was mostly consisted of lists. Things like lists of pesticides and what insect they were used on for instance.
I got caught being an uncertified Master Gardener, reported for dispensing a recipe for an organic home remedy for aphids. Cornell does not endorse pesticide application that is not one of the listed chemicals. Funny how that works. Something innocuous to the environment is a more “harmful solution” than one reviewed by the FDA, approved by the USDA – chemicals manufactured by a large chemical companies. I wonder if the policy changed on this 15 years later.
With plants, it was all practical field learning, taking trips to sites. We learned to identify trees, insects and weeds mostly, but also learned what weeds are beneficial to keep on our properties. But it is helpful to know the difference between a Spruce and a Fir or a Asian Lady Beetle and a Cucumber Beetle too.
Other things Master gardeners do and learn, is how to make abandoned lands more beautiful, productive and beneficial. They plant urban gardens for instance.
Why is field training important? Well it is learning by doing.
Conditions in one locale will not be conducive in another, so learning what you have and how to work with it is easiest done by doing, like mentioned in the last post. Learning soil structure helps in figuring out how to contend with what you’ve got – the same with learning soil pH. Learning weeds helps you to know what you have and how to eliminate it if you must. Even knowing what weed is growing can give an indication to soil structure and pH.
One does not have to be a Master Gardener to excel at planting and maintenance, but Master Gardeners become Master Gardeners through lecture and practical experience.
They work with each other too. It is fun and rewarding, where anyone at any level can participate. Complete the program and you gain knowledge and the paper certificate. Honestly, I don’t have a clue where mine is!
Make friends with a Master Gardener. It may be your best gardening buddy yet, who knows?
Most Master Gardener classes are run during winter, so check out a program. Some, like ours, have a greenhouse and that is really a great place to learn.