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The Garden Writers Association

Last Update 06/03/08

What Do Master Gardeners Know ...

 ...That I Don't?

Always read the labels.Gardening is a growing pastime, and millions of people are engaged in some form of green thumb activity. The term "Master Gardener" is often bandied about, but people aren't quite sure what that means. So, what exactly does a Master Gardener know that the rest of us don't?

Master Gardeners are part of a group of more than 50,000 avid gardeners who have completed a training program run through state universities. Classes are in basic botany, plant pathology, soils, environment, entomology and pesticides, IPM (Integrated Pest Management), vegetables, fruits, lawns, herbaceous ornamentals, propagation, and woody ornamentals. It's a structured learning that covers all bases. These gardeners, in turn, commit to answer questions about horticultural problems that come in to the County Extension offices -- all in order to respond to the public's eagerness for information about gardening. Some questions that come in are easy to answer, while some require research and a return phone call.

Master Gardeners are the first to admit that they don't "know it all" -- that no one knows it all -- that all gardeners are always learning. However, the program has taught them how to better research the answers to questions that gardeners have.

Watering Questions

Many questions come in about watering. With so many people working today, it's easy to understand that people feel they can't keep up with the watering requirements of plants.

Master Gardeners would inform them about soaker hoses or easy watering with a wand on the end of a hose. The value of mulch to help retain moisture would be covered too.

Those who call in and find that they are under-watering their beloved plants and drying them out would be told about soil… about adding compost, peat, or rotted cow manure and the benefits of mulch.

Feeding Frenzy

People ask about a fertilizing schedule that fits their lifestyle. Some worry about applying too much food, and some too little. These folks would be told that the only thing they need to remember is that a liquid fertilizer (mixed according to label directions) every other weekend during their plants' active growing season would keep their plants well fed. It helps to take a felt tip pen and place an "F" on every other Saturday of every month of a calendar to help you remember when to fertilize.

Healthy Plants

This feeding schedule will ensure that you have healthy plants, and a healthy, robust plant is best equipped to stave off attacks of pests and diseases. Learning how to raise healthy, happy plants arms you with skill that helps to make gardening easy and fun.

Tips, Tricks, and Hints

One of the best parts of Master Gardening work is the interaction and friendships that are formed with others who share your passion. One group shared these tips:

  • Keep a bucket full of clippers and trowels right in your garden for spontaneous gardening;
  • Hide a coffee can behind a rock or in a shrub to hold deadheads or weeds you pull during a morning visit to your beds;
  • A good way to measure the amount of water your plants are getting is to place an empty tuna can wherever you are watering, and simply notice how long it takes to fill to an inch depth;
  • Roll newspaper and insert it in the gap between your lawn and the garden. Cover it with mulch to prevent weeds from jumping the gulch, and then the lawnmower can easily go right to the edge of the garden;
  • Design is nothing more than creating pleasing texture, color, form, and height. Vary your garden components, or at least make conscious choices instead of just letting things grow willy-nilly; Use groups of the same plant at once. Three, five, or seven of the same thing planted together "shows well."

Gardening is fun. Knowing it's as easy as picking up the phone to get the answers you need for your specific gardening question makes it even more fun. The question, in gardening, is never how much you know or don't know. The question is how can you grow? Master Gardeners help you to grow.

Content assistance for the above information was provided by: Jane Johnson, Horticultural lecturer and consultant and The Scotts Company. 


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