The Garden Professors test new products all the time. Fertilizers, pesticides, tree wraps,compost tea, etc., they’ve all found their way into our fields and greenhouses at one time or another, but still, we can’t test everything, it’s just not possible. New stuff comes out all the time, and it’s impossible to keep up, so one of the things we love to see is people who take the initiative to test things themselves. Recently we got to see the results from a group of Master Gardeners who tested biochar on growing vegetables. The results aren’t final yet – there’s still a few years to go – but I love the fact that this is occurring and I can’t wait to see more.
I’ve had a hectic week (taxes! financial aid!) and haven’t had a chance to think about posting. Fortunately, yet another colleague just sent me an interesting link that’s worth sharing and discussing.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with how Master Gardener programs work, they are built on volunteers who receive training in garden-related sciences and then contribute a significant number of hours to outreach education. Many MGs work in plant clinics, and others volunteer in public gardens. Regardless of where they spend their volunteer hours, they are always representing their sponsoring university and therefore dispense advice and follow practices based on the best available science.
This will help explain why the Master Gardeners who volunteered at the Racine Zoo felt they had to resign their volunteer positions.
(Note that the zoo is losing out on 1300+ hours/year of donated garden upkeep, but the zoo president and CEO is confident that the zoo staff can pick that up. Wonder if he’ll be out there weeding and watering?)
Am just heading out the door for Fairfax, Virginia – part of the greater Northern Virginia metro area, with traffic that scares the pants off of us country mice. I’m doing the Master Gardener training for the Fairfax Master Gardener Association. Their attendance is so huge, they have to split into a morning session (150 people) and an evening session (100+). Two and a half hours of training on “herbaceous plants” twice in one day – that’s a lot of yakking even for yours truly. But what a terrific group. I led the herbaceous sessions in 2007 and was impressed at the diversity of age, ethnicity, levels of knowledge, you name it. A complete cross-section of the area, all with the common desire to learn. Merrifield Garden Center generously (and brilliantly) hosts the training in their large meeting room. Alas, after we all get worked up over the fab perennials, annuals, and tropicals, there’s not much to buy this time of year.
I’ve written about the tremendous contribution of volunteer hours that Master Gardeners make to our state. As the budget axe drops hither and thither, Extension programs always seem to be at risk. All of the Garden Professors have noted their own state’s struggles with such. Here’s the (slightly) brighter side, though – the Fairfax Master Gardener Association receives no funding from federal, state, or local government. Just some training materials from Extension Same with most of the other associations across the state. Not much to cut, really. In turn, it was calculated that MG volunteers across the state reported 334,000 hours of service for 2009. That’s a pretty good return on very little investment from the state. Heck, I don’t even have an Extension appointment. But I’m a believer in the MG system, and want to help in whatever way I can, even if it means leaving the peaceful mountains and driving to Northern Virginia. A bit of a bonus is there’s really good shopping up there. Heh.