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What’s Growing On: Master Gardeners have a love of gardening and a passion to share it with others

Image result for What’s Growing On: Master Gardeners have a love of gardening and a passion to share it with othersDo you need to figure out what variety of apple is less susceptible to fire blight? A Master Gardener can help with that.

Do you have a plant that has a mysterious problem you can’t seem to diagnose? Are you interested in vermicomposting but not sure where to start? Yup, call a Master Gardener for help.

Are you looking for a speaker to talk at your garden or service club about gardening for pollinators? We’d love to come meet your group.

Why we are Master Gardeners

I have been the San Joaquin County coordinator since 2007. I have helped train close to 400 people that have come through the program. There are many reasons people become a Master Gardener volunteer. Many want to learn more about becoming a better gardener, others like to connect with like-minded people (that can talk all day about plants or bugs or composting) and there are those that want to get involved in their communities and connect with people. They want to teach people how to be better gardeners, how to conserve water, how to reduce green waste going to the landfill, maybe even how to grow a tomato.

I can tell you that their desire to connect and share researched and scientific-based information applies to all of our volunteers in one way or another. Just like every other aspect of gardening, the most important part of the master gardener program is getting outside and making things happen. Without our dedicated and passionate volunteers, we wouldn’t have this wonderful program in our county.

What do we do?

Since July 2007, our volunteers have recorded more than 63,300 volunteer hours and more than 17,000 continuing education hours on projects throughout the county. Here are just a few of the things we have been busy doing.

Did you know you can call our helpline if you have a gardening question? There are volunteers in the office from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Thursday, so you can give us a call or stop by our office. For general gardening questions, you may contact the help line at (209) 953-6112.

Our biennial Smart Gardening Conference is coming up on March 14. You can find more details and register on our website (ucanr.edu/sjmg). We also will have our spring Open Garden Day on April 18. The garden will be full of volunteers working and ready to answer your gardening questions. There also will be informational booths.

We have added three new locations to our monthly workshops this year. You can still find us at the Lodi Library and the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center in Stockton. We now have monthly classes in Ripon and at University of the Pacific, and in April will start classes at the Troke Library. Check the calendar on our website for topics, dates and times. Also, stay up to date with all of our events and announcements on our Facebook page.

The Learning Landscape is located at the Cabral Agricultural Center. This garden is open to the public year-round and is maintained by our volunteers. It’s comprised of six different themed landscapes — All-Stars, California Native, Edible, Foliage, Mediterranean and Pollinator — all are designed to inspire and educate visitors. We have a new low water landscaping project this year with a local firehouse in Stockton and will make sure to share more about that project once it gets started. Our volunteers also are maintaining the river-friendly landscape we installed on School Street in Lodi (in front of the Post Office).

We are busy keeping up with the garden beds at the Stockton Emergency Food Bank and are involved in many school gardens throughout the county. Our volunteers are busy working on many different projects, thinking of new ways we can get involved in our communities and making connections with like-minded programs.

Master Gardener volunteers provide a valuable public service by sharing sustainable gardening information with their communities through a variety of education and outreach programs. Our Master Gardeners volunteer their time and talents at various special events throughout the county. You can find us at: farmers markets; AgVenture programs in Lodi, Manteca and Stockton; Arbor Day events throughout the county; local Earth Day celebrations; the Sandhill Crane Festival in Lodi; and many more local festivals and events. If you see us, make sure you stop by and say hello. If you have an event you think we should participate in, let us know.

How did the program start?

In 1972, the first Master Gardener program started in Washington state, after the growing suburban population had inundated the Washington State University Cooperative Extension with requests for horticultural information. A group of volunteers was trained to help, and the idea took hold.

This year, the University of California is celebrating the 40th anniversary of our first program in California (Sacramento County). The Master Gardener Program is administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), and is part of the University of California, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR). Our mission is “to extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California …”

The San Joaquin County Master Gardener program has been active since 2007. We are fortunate to have a partnership with the San Joaquin County Department of Public Works who supports and funds our program through AB939 under the communities of San Joaquin County.

Master Gardeners go through intensive training in a diverse range of horticultural subjects, including sustainable gardening, plant pathology, soil health and composting, edible gardening and pest management. In return for their training, Master Gardeners commit to 50 hours of volunteer time their first year and 25 hours every year after.

If you have a gardening question, give us a call. You have nothing to lose — and a beautiful, thriving garden to gain.

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