Master Gardener program

A few weeks ago, my fellow MG trainees and I finished our four-month training program and began in earnest to put in the 60 hours we’ve commited to volunteering in our first year. I’ll be making occassional posts about my experiences as a Master Gardener, but wanted to offer some observations on what I’ve learned so far.

  1. As with any good educational program, I finished it realizing how little I know. Even though I’ve been gardening regularly now for about eight years, all the classes underscored for me (more…)

For years, I’ve been telling people my berries are black raspberries. This is based on what I recall the guy who gave me the initital cutting told me. I even spent a good part of last Sunday during the garden tour telling people that I have a black raspberry plant.

However, based on my reading this week in the California Master Gardener Handbook and a Master Gardener training class yesterday on fruits and berries, I think this is wrong. Berry and plant-growth characteristics now make me pretty sure that my plant is a thornless blackberry. So, now I’ll start calling my homemade liqueur a blackberry liqueur instead of a black raspberry liqueur. 🙂 More importantly, if you’re looking to buy a plant, look for a thornless blackberry!

For years, I’ve been interested in participating in the Master Gardener program, but the weekly training has always been held during the workday, so this hasn’t been possible. Now that I’m retiring, I can participate. I got into this year’s training program by the skin of my teeth, learning about the program right at the deadline, applying late and hoping to get an interview. Fortunately, my last minute email got me an interview and I was accepted into the program.

This will be interesting. I’ve often admired the USDA’s Cooperative Extension services, and have used resources from the California and other states’ Extension Services. The information ranges from a production focus (often using industrial techniques, but usually trying to minimize their negative impacts) to what I would consider good agricultural practices (sustainable and ecological). The Master Gardener program is an outreach of the Extension Service, with a focus on providing information primarily to non-commercial home gardeners. With this focus, I expect there will be a strong emphasis on non-toxic methods (ie, no pesticides) and drought tolerant landscaping and food production.

This post introduces what I plan to be a new series on my experiences training to be and as a Master Gardener. I expect it will contain a mix of what I am taught or learn from ongoing activities with my own experience and knowledge from other sources. I’m most curious to see, for example, what we learn about GMO crops and light brown apple moth. I don’t know if I’ll agree or disagree with the Extension Service on every issue, but I do expect to learn a lot.

Stay tuned.