Amidst the food, fun and heat, Master Gardeners talk with an average of 400 people per day during the Fair. They answer questions on everything from how to pollination troubles on squash to Japanese beetle management to powdery mildew on peonies. They try to identify oddities that people bring as pictures on their smart phones or (!!!) in their pockets. It's fun, fast-moving - and challenging!
"The visitor doesn't always tell you the whole story immediately", explained state director Julie Weisenhorn. "So part of being a Master Gardener is being a detective. It's satisfying when we are able to diagnose a problem and recommend one or more possible research-based solutions. Many times, it's simply a change in cultural care of a landscape that will help resolve the problem."
It's a team effort too. In 2013, about 150 Master Gardeners from 21 different counties signed up to staff four-hour shifts in the booth located in the wing of the Ag/Hort Building dedicated to the U's College of Food, Ag, and Natural Resource Science. By the end of their shift, they have gotten to know fellow volunteers and made some new friends. By the end of the Fair, they will have spoken with about 5000 people from Minnesota and surrounding states with some visitors from as far as northern Canada.
In addition to staffing the booth, 24 Master Gardeners also volunteered this year to present on gardening topics at The Dirt Stage. Some of the topics: night gardening, tomatoes, lazy gardening, bees, native plants. The Dirt is a free stage in the Ag/Hort Building designed to spread education about topics for Minnesota gardens and landscapes. In addition to Master Gardeners, presenters includes the MSHS, ornamental plant societies, and the green industry.
And, after it's over, volunteers can rest assured they have helped a slew of home gardeners solve some of their pressing issues and have healthier landscapes too.
Visit Master Gardeners, August 22 - Sept. 2, 2013 - 9am - 9pm, in Agriculture / Horticulture Building located at Judson and Underwood near Gate 7. Master Gardeners present noon - 2pm daily at The Dirt Stage in the same building.
The focus of the day was soil - good soil, bad soil, what's in soil - and how worms compost soil. Gopher adventurers gathered 'round as Extension educator and Master Gardener state director Julie Weisenhorn demonstrated worm composting using a commercially available worm bin called the Worm Factory.
"Do any of you compost at home?" Weisenhorn asked the kids. Almost all raised their hands. "What do you put in your compost pile?" Kids replied "Veggies!", "Bananas!", "Coffee filters!" Weisenhorn talked about carbon and nitrogen, and the importance of balancing green items (fruit rinds, vegetable peelings, grass clippings) with brown (dead leaves, paper). When Weisenhorn saw the kids were getting a little fidgety, she pulled the lid off the worm bin and separated the two bin sections. Worms dangling from the top section held their attention as she explained how worms need mucus to slither through soil and how they consume (and eliminate) soil through their digestive system to create vermicompost or "black gold" that's high in nutrients for plants.
"The worms are always a hit", said Weisenhorn. "No one can resist these squirmy, living creatures - especially when they find out how important they are to our gardens."
Gopher Adventures is one of the summer day camps offered by the University's Rec Sports Deparment for kids ages 7-11. Gardening is one option campers select when they register. Kids also choose from sports, computers, dance, art and more. Taught by Extension Master Gardener volunteers, the gardening option is a collaboration between the U of M Department of Youth Sports and Rec, Department of Horticultural Science and the College of Extension.
The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener State Advisory Board welcomed five new board members in June at its first quarterly meeting of the 2013-2014 program year. It was also the first meeting functioning under new operating guidelines that aligns board member representation with the five University of Minnesota Extension regions.
The Extension Master Gardener State Advisory Board provides input and advice to the state Master Gardener staff about program direction, strategies and governing policies. Board members act as ambassadors of the statewide program. In 2013-2014 board members intend to increase communications and connections with county/local Extension Master Gardener groups within each member's region.
The board is comprised of fourteen Extension Master Gardener volunteers and four staff representative. Pictured above (l to r): Bob Azman (Ramsey Co.), Julie Weisenhorn (State Director), Dave Knapp (Anoka Co.), Nancy Lizette Berlin (Goodhue Co.), Tom Voigt (Ramsey Co.), Barb Gasterland (Hennepin Co.), Coralee Fox (Crow Wing Co.), Kit Sitter (Lake Co.), Rick Ellis (Stearns Co.), Patty Citrowski (Chippewa/Yellow Medicine Co.), Diane Henry (Douglas Co.), Paul Wood (Dakota Co.), and Terry Straub (Hennepin County Master Gardener Coordinator). Board members not pictured include: David Moen (State Program Manager), Susan Thurston-Hamerski (Landscape Arboretum liaison), and Dori Vikla (Rice Co.).
Master Gardener volunteers on the scene were Diane, Sarah R, Ge, Z, Melvin, and Sean.
The class started out with the gardeners drawing a picture of their ideal garden or coloring a plant part picture. Attached the works of the 2 older girls. One gardener designed a pea teepee in her ideal garden!. The students acted out 'radishes and weeds' in an effort to understand why weeding is important. Then, Gardeners to the Rescue! The class weeded the west border where we will be planting lettuce this week and did a great job!
Next up was a demonstration of what plant parts people eat. The class examined carrots (roots), celery (stem), cauliflower (flower), lettuce (leaves), cherry tomatoes (fruit), and sunflower seeds (seeds). Then they ate these plant parts in 'plant part roll-ups' -chopped carrots, celery, cauliflower, tomatoes, and sunflower seeds rolled up in a lettuce leaf, dipped in Ranch or Western dressing. SUCCESS!!!!!!! The kids ate them, liked them....even asked for seconds.
One Master Gardener volunteered to be a radish! That is truly being present to the cause!
Looking forward to our next class--BUGS!
Submitted by M. P., U of MN Extension Master Gardener - Ramsey County
Extension Master Gardeners contributed more than 111,000 volunteer hours in Minnesota communities last year, many of which were spent teaching homeowners environmentally-sound landscaping practices or how to eradicate invasive plant species.
Community-wide programs, such as a long-term partnership with the Ramsey- Washington Metro Watershed District, illustrate what can happen when local alliances take off.
As part of the partnership, Ramsey County Master Gardeners work to revitalize Battle Creek, which drains a large part of the east Twin Cities metro area. As water rises in the creek, it undercuts the banks and vegetation is lost, causing further erosion and loss of animal habitats.
"Master Gardeners were instrumental in selecting long-rooted plants that would best stabilize the shoreline," says Sage Passi, watershed education specialist.
Master Gardeners also mentor Battle Creek Middle School students, showing them how to drive plants into erosion blankets. The school's science teachers are working with Master Gardeners to create a creek research area where students can compare different approaches to erosion control.
Protecting rivers, lakes and streams from yard-waste pollution is another priority for Ramsey County. Runoff from lawn chemicals can enter the waters through storm sewers causing fish kills, algae bloom and plant decay.
To help prevent that, Master Gardeners share tips on low-impact lawn care and composting at the county's yard waste and compost sites. The sites draw more than 500,000 people each season. Master Gardener Kathy Smith coordinates the effort.
"It all comes back to proper management of materials and reducing waste," says John Springman, environmental health supervisor with the St. Paul-Ramsey County Department of Public Health. "Master Gardeners extend our capacity to hone in on our environmental goals with the public."
In 2010, University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners in Anoka County wanted to have a more definitive picture of how much their classes and services affect changes in garden practices by people attending their educational sessions. They conducted an electronic survey of people attending their horticulture day, "Walk in the Garden" classes and diagnostic clinics.
The educational sessions that were evaluated all provided information and recommendations about best practices in home garden and landscape care. There were special themes about environmental impacts that encouraged reduction of water use and reduced chemical usage through practices of integrated pest management (IPM).
An E-survey was sent to 176 individuals. The response rate was 45 percent. Assessment of the survey results showed the following positive impacts:
Last year in Ramsey County, Master Gardeners spent approximately 604 volunteer hours working with 1,865 students and 89 adults through school-based projects. These school-based community enrichment projects will have a lasting impact upon future gardeners. The gardens will help manage storm water run-off, beautify schoolyards, inform future school education activities, serve as demonstrations to students, staff, residents and visitors, and provide valuable wildlife habitat. Master Gardeners explained and discussed garden design elements, evaluated sites for schoolyard gardens and residential rain gardens, explained soil types and conducted soil sampling, taught students to identify common garden weeds, and instructed students on seed starting and transplanting.
Check out this thank you note from a Battle Creek Middle School student: "Thank you so much for everything you've done. You've been really helpful to Battle Creek. I think it's awesome that you care about our community. What I'm trying to say is that it means a lot to us middle-schoolers that you helped take care of our environment. Thanks a bunch."
Work continues with the Enabling Teaching Garden Project at Cherry View Elementary School in Dakota County. Using a Minnesota Master Gardener grant, Master Gardeners worked with a special needs Boy Scout and his troop to construct an enabling garden for horticultural therapy. The garden included a wheelchair accessible bed surrounded by a wheelchair accessible path. Special needs students and their helpers were given instruction and assisted in the planting of their sensory garden that includes highly textured, colored, and fragrant plants. Students and helpers maintained the garden during the school year and through the summer months. The garden has been especially meaningful to special needs students and their families. It also exposes all who visit the school to the benefits of horticultural therapy.
Goodhue County Master Gardeners were involved in creating a larger-scale city park designed with special needs in mind. In Faribault County, Master Gardeners have worked with a local nursing home and engaged both residents and youth in creating a raingarden at the facility in Winnebago. This year youth had the opportunity to work with the senior citizens on garden cleanup in the spring. Together they divided perennials and extra plants were sold to benefit the nursing home.