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Masters of the Gardening Universe

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Masters of the Gardening Universe

Program blooms throughout Idaho

I just met 18 new friends.  Actually there were more, coming and going, but there were eighteen new faces for me to greet.  There were twenty of us all together, but I came with a trusty sidekick so we had eighteen new enriching personalities to enjoy. They were an eclectic bunch of men and women from all over North Idaho and a sprinkling of Montana.  Some of them were natives to our area and others just moved here from different places and states. The group was very much like a spring bouquet of flowers and a breath of fresh air. They ranged in every size and shape and came from all walks of life. They gathered here for one focus—worms!

It wasn’t totally the interest in worms that drew us together. It was the interest in dirt. That interest propelled us to spend two days a week for twelve wonderful weeks on an adventure I could call nothing but exciting. We started the last week in January and our final meeting was April 15, 2010. What would draw a cross section of the United States to an Extension Office in Sandpoint? To a classroom? In the middle of winter?

The draw was the Master Gardeners Program presented through the University of Idaho.  That isn’t where it started though.  The Master Gardener Program actually started in 1972 in our neighboring state of Washington. Their State Agricultural Extension Offices were being overwhelmed with calls about horticulture and their two agents, David Gibby and Bill Scheer, were inundated with plant problems and growing questions. The two agents thought that they might recruit and train people interested in gardening to assist them and their respective communities. The seeds of hope were planted when Sunset Magazine ran an article on the two men that then germinated an initial 600 calls volunteering to help.  Thus the Master Gardener Program began. Four years later the University of Idaho introduced it and now it blooms in 32 of her 44 counties.  Neighboring state of Montana joined the program in 1976.

 I just wanted to know how to garden more efficiently and productively.  Little did I know that I would be steeped in researched, science-based practices for home horticulture. It just wasn’t the neighbor, who often is very knowledgeable, telling me to spray with tobacco tea for a particular bug (it worked), but fully accredited PhDs in Entomology, Plant Biology, Diseases and Pesticide Management. No one ‘religion’ was preached but all topics were covered from Organic Gardening to Sustainable Vegetable Culture. And yes, the composting worms were fascinating. I didn’t know I didn’t know so much about gardening and yet I had been at it from the original Victory Gardens. My elementary school in Los Angeles (yes Los Angeles) had a vegetable garden with each class being assigned a section for growing. We even contributed to our own cafeteria lunches. 

After completion of the Master Gardener course each member is then required to continue for an additional 24 hours in a Plant Clinic that is open to the public. You can bring in your sick plants to the Plant Clinic located behind the Extension Office at the Fairgrounds any Tuesday or Thursday from 9-3 and we will try to identify the problems and give you some suggestions for more successful gardening.  

The new buzzword is Sustainable Living and that starts literally at the ground level.  I’m sure Mr. Gibby and Mr. Scheer would both be proud of their accomplishment. Currently 30 states are involved in this program. We are assisting our communities and enriching our own lives and soil. I came away enriched not only by my newly acquired knowledge but also by the people I look forward to working with in the future.

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Kathleen Huntley

Tagged as:

outdoors, gardening, Master Gardeners, extension office

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