Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Master Gardeners share knowledge on horticulture – The San Diego Union

Nationwide, more than 80,000 volunteer Master Gardeners donate an average of 5.3 million hours a year. Master Gardeners use research-based information to promote environmentally responsible and sustainable horticultural practices in the home, community and school landscapes.

In San Diego County, 307 Master Gardeners literally have their fingers in all kinds of endeavors. In 2015, our local Master Gardeners made 398,150 educational contacts with the public.

San Diego’s Master Gardeners (MGs) are trained by University of California Cooperative Extension specialists and other qualified instructors in home horticulture and pest management. After a six-month program, they are qualified to help the public diagnose and control plant diseases, pests and weeds. At the same time, they help teach how to build healthy soils through composting and proper irrigation and fertilizer use, so that the public can grow healthy perennials, annuals and vegetables.

The UCCE Master Gardener Program of San Diego County began in 1983. Since that time, 18 Master Gardener classes have graduated, and another will follow in 2018. What motivates a new class of MGs? Every MG I interviewed echoed similar sentiments: “I love educating others about my passion for gardening.” “I love interacting with the public.” Every two years, a new class of 48 carefully selected individuals begins its training and then graduates to serve in many committees and programs.

Balboa Park and at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. MGs write and publish a monthly e-newsletter, “Dig It.” They participate in horticultural research activities with UC academics and bring back information to home gardeners via the Master Gardeners’ Hotline, where they answer gardening questions from the public.

MGs have educated parents and teachers and helped establish 190 school gardens. They are responsible for a countywide biannual seminar for teachers who have a garden at their school or want to start one. MGs also volunteer their education and guidance to 100 community gardens throughout the county. Other yearly educational events include the annual public Plantextravaganza (on Sept. 30 this year) and the March Spring Seminar, filled with speakers, plants, free handouts and decorative items for the garden.

An emphasis this year has been placed on accessible gardening for the disabled and the blind in conjunction with the Braille Institute. MGs continue their ongoing Growing Opportunities program by working with incarcerated youths to create vegetable gardens out of empty parking lots, implement garden therapy and teach them about healthful meals.

Most Master Gardeners will tell you that someone in their family was an avid gardener and that they simply followed in their footsteps. Heather Holland, class of 2014 and chair of the School Gardens Committee, relates how her mother was a Master Gardener in Florida. You can often find Heather dispensing advice on the Hotline, collaborating with her peers at in-garden Design Charrettes, or manning an “Ask a Master Gardener” booth at events. Her motivation is educating the younger generation about gardening and helping them develop a nurturing relationship with plants. “Giving back to the community” is her mantra.