Sunday, January 19, 2020

Another Season Begins

Ice-covered branches on an apple tree.
Friday brought freezing rain, coating everything in a layer of ice, and dripping icicles.

My husband went in early in the morning and found the road readily passable, but by that afternoon the gravel road we must take to reach the highway had become a skating rink. I didn't have difficulty walking to the mailbox, but I did not want to drive on it. So much for attending this year's first Extension Master Gardeners' meeting, activity fair and advanced education the next morning... I thought.

Hoses coiled and left in the garden until I can clear a space in the garage to
store them.
When I woke Saturday morning, though, my husband said the icy coating was gone. The stone steps and path outside our back door that had been thickly coated with ice on Friday afternoon were now clear. So I pulled on my clothes and headed into the meeting. Yay!

It is that time of year when the Master Gardeners start building steam for the year's activities. The first big activity for the Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners this year is our Garden Show, which we do every other year, alternating with the Garden Tour. I'm in charge of putting together an information table on Edible Gardening. I've already put a few seeds in soil-filled pots so I can have plants for our table. It won't be about just vegetables, but will include information on edible flowers, as well as herbs and fruits.

Not only does this show allow us to introduce ourselves and our services and activities to the public, but also is our major fundraiser for the year. One gang of Master Gardeners will spent the next couple of months creating garden art to sell at the show. We've also had a "garage sale" in the past, selling used items contributed by Master Gardeners and their pals. I have always had fun with this show.

I took the Master Gardeners class in 2013. When my husband told me about the program, having read about it in the newspaper, I resisted. How could I possibly find time to do this? Especially since the class started in mid-August, the height of tomato and green bean season. He convinced me, though, and I reluctantly applied.

I was accepted (I'm not sure who wouldn't be). Somehow I managed to attend class all day every Tuesday for nine weeks, weed the garden, harvest and process tomatoes, and all the other life things without going insane.

And I haven't looked back.

I have loved being a Master Gardener, hanging with my homies and hobnobbing with members of the public, talking about gardening. I am on the EMG speaker's bureau and upon request am prepared to develop and give presentations to groups on a variety of garden topics. Another favorite of mine is the horticulture hotline. People call, e-mail or come into the Extension office with questions like, "What's wrong with my tree?" "What kind of grass will grow in shade?" "How do I deal with tomato diseases?" And on and on and on. I learn a lot by working the hotline (because I've never known much about trees or lawns).

The Master Gardeners program also has many other activities one can participate in, if you're not keen on public speaking or unsure of your gardening knowledge. Our group cares for several demonstration gardens, as well as the Monarch Watch garden on the KU campus. So if you're up for some weeding and planting and weeding, these are for you. We also need volunteers to do public relations work, feed us snacks at each monthly meeting, teach gardening to kids, organizing, and simply providing support to those doing the educational activities.

Anyone can become a Master Gardener. You don't even have to know much about gardening. All you need is the desire to learn and to help others learn. In Douglas County classes begin in late summer/early fall. They've changed the class schedule since I took it to make it easier for people to fit classes into busy schedules. A fee is charged for the training, which not only helps fund the program, but guarantees that participants are serious about it. If the fee is beyond your budget, though, the Douglas County program offers a certain number of scholarships each year.

Once you've completed the class, to remain an active member you must meet certain requirements for volunteer time and advanced education.  We now must put in a minimum of 30 hours of volunteer work (which includes monthly meeting attendance). We also must complete a minimum of 10 hours of advanced education each year, which is easy because an hour or more of advanced education is offered after each meeting, and many online webinars are available.

You don't have to live in Douglas County to become part of the Douglas County EMG program, you just need to live in a neighboring county that does not have its own EMG program. And if this isn't your area, many other counties offer this program.

To check on EMG activities and find out when they will begin taking applications for this year's class, go to the Douglas County Extension Web site. On the left hand side you will find a menu, click on "Lawn and Garden" and in the drop-down menu click on "Extension Master Gardeners." On the right hand side of that page you will find links to the EMG brochure and our Web site, info on the hotline, and a link to the new class application. However, the application for the 2020 class has not yet been put up. You also can find us on Facebook -- Douglas County Kansas Master Gardeners.

It's been a fun ride with the EMG program. I highly recommend it. But if you can't, or don't want to become an EMG, take advantage of our programs. Check out our table at the Lawrence Farmers Market, call the hotline, ask for a speaker for your club, attend the Garden Show (March 28), walk through one or all of our demo gardens, or attend one of the educational programs after our monthly meeting. Our first and foremost mission is education. Come, let's chat.