To Be a Master Gardener

I became interesting in becoming a Master Gardener when we first moved up here. I knew I wanted to learn more about gardening in this area, which is so different from S. Calif., and to make new friends.

What I didn’t know was how it would affect me. With each new day of involvement I find myself just listening and observing. Just recently we had our biggest fund raiser of the year. The Plant Sale Extravaganza.

Friday, the first day, many of us gathered in the early morning to begin set up. Expectations are high and there is a lot of work to be done. Sleeves are rolled up, aprons are donned and the work begins. Tables have to be set up, vendor areas measured and marked off, raffle area and items labeled and displayed, registers, holding areas, signs, kitchen, dividers and then all the plants arrive. By truck, car, trailer and vans they come one after the other for several hours. There were several times throughout the day I would stop and watch. While we were all sweating and tired, everyone smiled, joked with each and quickly came to over to help each other. After 9 hours, sore feet, tired backs and limping off, there was a sense of pride at a hard days work completed.

Saturday morning arrives all too early. Everyone moves a bit slowly till the muscles get worked out. It’s 7:30am, food is arriving for the potluck. At 8am everyone is briefed and it’s time for finishing touch ups, trimming. 8:30 am it’s time to man our stations. I am on herbs. Allow me to elaborate – We have Basil – Genovese, Mammoth Sweet, Cinnamon, Lemon, Lime, Siam, Sweet, Purple Ruffles, Spicy Globe and Crimson King. Regular chives and garlic chives. Parsley, Dill, Marjoram, Fennel, Thyme, Sage, Cilantro and Rosemary. Let’s just say I had the best smelling station. The doors will open at 9am and I am ready, at least I thought I was. Below is the picture I took just as the doors opened. Keep in mind behind that blue curtain is a whole area full of vendors, 70 of them. But did they stop there first…no! As you can see from the image on the right they swarmed us.

Before Chaos

Before Chaos

During Chaos

During Chaos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a mad house from 9am till 4pm. And I loved every minute of it!

But there is another side of being part of this organization. We have a large Discovery Garden which features numerous types of gardens. Herb, Easy Access, Xeriscape, Rock, Japanese, Rose, Butterfly, Hummingbird and Orchard gardens and more. And each of these is lovingly tended to by a team of MG’s who dedicate their time to going out every week and pruning, cleaning, replanting, mulching and all things necessary to keeping them looking beautiful.

Yesterday I was out in the easy access garden. This is designed with raised beds, wider walking paths and made for those who have a difficult time bending or walking. A group was over in the butterfly garden putting in new mulch, and a few folks down building the new rock garden. Others were putting finishing touches on the humming bird garden. It was quite outside, birds were singing and the sun was shining.  I work quietly removing weeds, removing soil from old containers, planting onions and beans. Suddenly I hear laughter from the other garden, and even though I am not over there to share in the humor, I am a part of it and smile. This is a community, my community. We are all connected through the things we grow, our gardens, our little patches of soil.

I leave you with some beautiful shots from our Discover Garden. Special thanks to Anita Yager for taking many of these pictures and sharing them with me.

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Herbs and Orchards Batman!

This has been a very busy couple of weeks! After graduating as a Master Gardener I am now working on my volunteer hours so have been putting in lots of time at the plant clinic fielding calls, people bringing in “what’s this thing growing in my yard” samples and others who have some weird bug. Not too fond of the bug questions, but at least I don’t scream and jump on the desk anymore.

A couple of days ago I attended an extended education course on grafting fruit trees. The work was done on apple trees. Using good root stock, which is  just a small stump, and which already has an established, healthy root system, onto which a cutting (scion wood which is one year old) or a bud from another plant is grafted.

Once cut they will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. So it’s very important your root stock diameter and scion wood diameter are close in size.

'V' cut grafting tool

‘V’ cut grafting tool

So now I have my mini orchard started. Five small apple grafted trees are sitting out in my garden in their tubs where they shall remain for 2 years before finding their new place out in the yard. I have 2 Spitzenberg, 1 Black Arkansas, 1 Honey Crisp and 1 Golden Delicious.

Mini Apple Orchard

Mini Apple Orchard

Not sure if you can see the green ‘goop’ midway up the trunks but that is where the graft was done. The blue tape is just the names of the trees which, now that I think of it, I should probably put something a bit more permanent in there. Two of these trees will be pretty big, 15′ or more and the other 3 are on root stock that should keep them around 8-9′.

This brings my total of garden items to 12 tomato plants, 6 cherry tomato plants, 9 broccoli, 8 heads of lettuce (more to be started next week to keep my lettuce supply going) 8 jalapeño plants, 8 Anaheim chili plants, 4 eggplants, 20 leeks, herbs – cilantro, basil, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley and marjoram, one small catnip plant for Ranch Kitty. Next month will see my squash and cucumbers started as well as bush beans.

I think this year is my most exciting year yet!

It’s Official – I’m now a Master Gardener

I am so happy that I’ve graduated as a Master Gardener! But there is still a lot to learn.

Master Gardener Badge

Master Gardener Badge

Now I think back to last year’s garden. How I had to plant it three times, well I planted once and then replanted two times due to frost and other conditions. I sure wish I had known then what I know now. And yet, after all my classes I still feel inept. They say some people have green thumbs. My Mom is one such person. You should see her yard, front and back, it’s just beautiful. She has such wonderful plants, trees and shrubs.

I have learn to stand back and look at how things grow differently. Case in point, I willingly looked into a plant because a specific spider was present and I wanted to see what he was eating. (Of course when said spider decided he had had enough and quickly came running out I promptly jumped back assuming I was his next meal.)

What I need is a dose gamma rays to ignite my green DNA. So here’s to lush tomatoes, crisp green lettuces, juicy black berries, fresh green beans and fragrant herbs. Let the growing season commence!

 

Trees and Seeds

Taking the Master Gardener’s course has really opened my eyes to so many different things. I am amazed at what I have learned, and saddened by what I know I have forgotten. (But thank goodness I have the text book(s). )

Today was all about trees and seed harvesting. I am so encouraged now, that I know this fall there will be new trees on the Ranch. And knowing about how to harvest my own seeds, well now I can grow what I want, from the stock I want and be guaranteed good production. Not to mention saving money in using my own seeds.

If my crop comes in good, I think I will try and put together a seed library and donate them to the schools, community centers and senior homes. This is such an exciting time.

I encourage all of you to get out in your yards, balconies, porches, ranches and farms and grow! It’s time for rich tomatoes, spicy peppers, buttery squashes, sweet carrots and fresh green beans.

Tip of Day…for this Fall –

Don’t forget your cover crops this winter to help feed nitrogen back into your soil. Check your local extension office for what cover crops are best for you. This can save you a lot of work prepping the soil come spring for your new plants!

Master Gardening – Always an Education

So I am now one month into my training towards becoming a Master Gardener. This is such an intense course of classes, labs and getting your hands dirty.

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to help pay back some of my volunteer hours by helping to clean up after a rather large Douglas fir tree was cut down. I wish I had a picture of my pants and shirt after this. Folks trees are beautiful, they even smell lovely, but they are filthy!! From picking up branches and hauling them to the chipper I was covered in dirt.

Here I am with a couple of classmates Kish Doyle and Rachelle (do not remember her last name). Yeah that’s a sledge hammer I’m wielding…but no I did not use it. I really don’t know why I’m holding it. Or why it looks like Rachelle is kicking me in the crotch. But a lot was going on that day…

Garden Gals

Garden Gals

Here’s a few pictures of the event –

Then on Monday I started my volunteer payback in earnest. It began with me working in the greenhouses transplanting various plants for 3 hours. You’d think it’d be tedious, but it was fun. I enjoyed listening to the veteran MG’s talk about the big plant sale in May, they have jokes they share and a camaraderie that comes from years of serving the community together. After getting my hands dirty I then headed over to the main office where I worked for 4.5 hours in the plant clinic. Here we field calls of all types. Today I took calls on a man who’s peach trees are suffering from Peach Curl and how to combat it. A woman with lots of Yellow Star Thistle in her yard, another man came into the office needing a soil sample done. More calls, voice mails and emails had to be addressed and BAM 4.5 hours was gone in the blink of an eye! I shudder to think of what it’s like to work the clinic when things really get hopping. But I cannot wait.

I can see that I will have great pride working with these individuals and for this organization. There is just something meaningful when you give back to the community that serves you.

First day of school and no detention!

Well today I officially started my classes towards becoming a Master Gardener.

My Trainee Badge

My Trainee Badge

I use that term loosely as I think it will be years before I could remotely say I’m a Master Gardener.

Class starts promptly at 9am with a lecture on basic botany. I had 2 concerns, one that I have zero knowledge on botany, or anything relating to science and figured this part of the class was going to be very boring and confusing. And two, that I was sitting in the very first row of the class and would be caught sleeping. Because seriously the discussion of cell structure, xylem, phloem and what tap roots do couldn’t be that exciting…right?

Well I was wrong! Our instructor, John Punches, made botany come alive! (Ok so when I wrote that I didn’t mean the pun, but that sure worked out nicely) My head is swimming with questions, which (and this one is on purpose) propagate more questions. It also gave me a much better understanding of why plants do what they do. I can only imagine how much I would know if I had a master’s degree in botany considering how much I learned today.

We also went over climate vs. weather, current weather trending and how something as simple as 2 foot drop can make a huge difference in how a crop will grow.

All in all a very interesting day! I look forward to our “lab” work which takes us out to orchards, greenhouses, micro gardens and xeriscaping.

If all goes well I might actually be able to keep my silk plants alive after this!

Becoming a Master Gardener

Coming in January I will be starting my classes for my Master Gardener certification. I am very excited to start this new adventure! I can only hope I have a fraction of the green thumb my mother does.

Went to our orientation and got our book, which weighs about 20 pounds I do believe so I guess I’ll get a workout walking to and from class. After reading the first chapter, as instructed, my brain is already fried. I am having to learn what appears to be greek, medical or just a totally different language. Words like totipotent (because some plants carry their entire DNA structure in it’s cells it can reproduce a totally new plant – remember spider plants?), meristems (a formative plant tissue usually made up of small cells capable of dividing indefinitely and giving rise to similar cells or to cells that differentiate to produce the definitive tissues and organs), tunicate (having, arranged in, or made up of concentric layers like an onion) and formulas like 6CO2 + 6H2O > C6H12O6 + 6O2. Look I stopped helping my own daughter with math when she was in third grade!

I really wish our book also came in digital format so I could use my online dictionary.

Stay Tuned!

Master Gardener Logo

Master Gardener Logo