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Amidst the food, fun and heat, Master Gardeners talk with an averagEMGs at state fair 2013.jpge 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.

171712-18.jpgBy Adrienne Richter

Every Tuesday from June through August, U of M Extension Master Gardeners have been sharing their penchant for plants with students of the University of Minnesota's Gopher Adventures program--a day-camp style, summer youth program designed to open the minds and imaginations of local kids, ages 5-12.

Held in the Department of Horticultural Science Display Garden on the St. Paul campus, weekly themes like Gardening Basics, Soil Sleuths, and Trash to Treasures are designed to work as stand-alone lessons for those enrolled in the program for only a single week, while the overarching, acronym-based topic: "PLANTS" (P-lace, L-ight, A-ir, N-utrients, T-hirsty (water) and S-oil), ties everything together for those who attend on a regular basis.

This year, the "Goldy in the Garden" program has been headed-up by Extension Master Gardeners Betsy Massie, Kate Wodtke, and Rochelle Jansen from Hennepin County --with help from a rotating support staff comprising volunteer Master Gardeners from across the state.

Each class typically begins with a brief lesson, group discussion, and activity centered around073112-6.jpg that week's unique theme in the Garden's Outdoor Classroom. During last week's Plant Parts class, students first discussed the structural components of familiar garden vegetables and flowers, and then applied what they had learned through the dissection of locally-grown Asiatic and day lilies.

As the day heats up, students migrate to the covered gazebo to record the past week's weather conditions and contemplate issues of conservation and environmental stewardship. This past week, "re-use" was the topic of discussion, and students were tasked with brainstorming ways to repurpose old shoes. Creativity flowed as students suggested options like donation, making hamster beds, and even using rain boots as vessels for potting plants.

071012-1.jpgThe most anticipated part of the day is the time spent in the ever-evolving Children's Garden--a kid-friendly, botanical oasis chock full of fragrant mint and basil; neon-stemmed Swiss chard; towering trellises of morning glories; and beds of eye-catching annuals. After taking inventory of the plants, discussing their various uses, and pulling out the errant weed (or two), the students were let loose in the garden to observe, discover, and (of course) harvest a few goodies to take home and share with their families.

Next week, Pollution Solutions takes center stage, followed by a plant-based scavenger hunt in the garden. In week ten, everything comes full circle, as students are able to see how their planting, weeding, and watering has paid off--with an end-of-the-season harvest party, where students can literally "eat what they sow."

For more information:
Extension Master Gardener Program - mgweb@umn.edu
Department of Rec Sports Youth Progams: drsyouth@umn.edu
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