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One Woman's Opinion

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Hurrah for Master Gardeners

Urbanna, Va.— Do you know a Middlesex Master Gardener? Chances are you probably do as this is a gardening group that is highly active in our county with a high profile of working for the betterment of gardening.

Every few years Middlesex Master Gardeners, now under the present leadership of president Jim Knupp, hosts an official “Master Gardener Training Course” for the entire Middle Peninsula. Such a program is going on right now and last week it was my pleasure to sit in on several of the classes being offered every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the American Legion Hall in Saluda.

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
The 2009 Master Gardener class of 21 has been taking the Virginia Tech sponsored program since January and will “graduate” in March with the required amount of class hours and begin serving the mandatory 50 hours of public service for all interns before they can become a full- fledged Master Gardener.

I felt the winter blues begin to  recede and the warmth of spring begin to permeate the room as I sat there and listened to Middlesex Master Gardener Virginia Clark discuss pruning and tool care addressing  such questions:

  • Is this an ideal time to prune crepe myrtles? (Yes)
  • What about roses? (No, still a bit early to cut back roses.)
  • How do you make a proper cut on a tree limb? (Not against the actual tree trunk, but within the collar of the limb, make a lower cut halfway from the bottom of the limb followed by an upper cut on the top of the limb at an angle from the first cut so that the cut will not tear the bark when the limb comes down.)
  • Should you clean pruning tools with bleach? (No, that will corrode the tools. Use alcohol instead.). And so forth.

Earlier in the week David Moore of the local extension office presented a course on pesticides. I learned about the Virginia Tech “Pest Management Guide,” which is available on line and at the Extension Office with all sorts of scientific information on everything you need to know concerning how to control diseases and pests in your garden. A very practical part of his presentation was reading actual pesticide labels with all the warnings and learning what the warnings meant in layman’s language.

For example, did you know when reading a pesticide label that “Caution” means the product is of low toxicity, “Warning” means moderate toxicity, and “Danger” or “Poison” indicates high toxicity? One can’t be too careful when working with pesticides.

These were just two of the programs offered in this splendid course that Middlesex Master Gardeners have lined up for bi-weekly presentations. Other topics and speakers have included “Risk Management,” Fred Weaver, Director of Risk Management, VCE; “Water Quality,” Charles Ivins, USDA National Resources Conservation Service; “Lawns,” Jim Orband, Extension Agent, VCE; “Plant Propagation,” Leonard Morrow, PhD, Fellow, Virginia Academy of Sciences; “Vegetables,” Andy Hankins, Extension Agent, VCE; “Soils and Fertilizers,” David Moore, Middlesex Extension Agent, VCE; “Basic Botany,” Ted Hoagland, Asst. Professor Botany and Horticulture, CNU; “Fruit Trees,” Dan Nortman, Middlesex Extension Agent, VCE; “Roses,” Joy Long, Gloucester Master Gardeners; “Organic Gardening,” Bill Garlette; “Trees,” Ken Sterner, VA Department of Forestry; “Basic Entomology,” Eric Day, manager of the Insect Lab at the Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech; “Plant Pathology,” Mike Likins, Extension Agent, VCE; “Bayscaping,” Karen Duhring, VIMS; and “Native Perennials,” Denise Green, Sassafras Farm.

On top of such top notch speakers were several field trips scheduled for the group including “Behind the Scenes Tour of Colonial Williamsburg” by Wesley Green, and a field trip to the gardens of Sue Perrin, a landscape designer in Gloucester.

Middlesex Master Gardeners are an enthusiastic group of volunteers who work hard to educate the general public by presenting numerous programs throughout the year. Examples of what Middlesex Master Gardeners do in the area besides planning for new training classes in our county every few years are providing the manpower to answer horticulture questions at the local extension office’s Help Line Desk each Wednesday morning from spring to fall.

Master Gardeners are often manning booths at Deltaville and Urbanna and at special events, local festivals and market days handing out information on how to care for a garden, and providing soil sample kits to the general public. They also hold a plant sale each May which provides funds for the group to sponsor 4-H summer camp scholarships.

Spring may not yet actually be here, but according to my eyes, it is definitely in the air. As I type this column I can look out the window of my office on a cloudless day that the temperature reads 59. True, the weather forecast calls for a sudden drop tonight with a low of 25. But I can see my forsythia bush just outside and the yellow buds that welcome spring are just about to pop.

Not to mention daffodils and irises that are already well launched in mulch in the winter garden. So get out the packets of seeds everyone and let’s start to think about spring gardening.

Master Gardeners have planned several educational programs coming up soon that will be open to the public. The dates are March 11 and April 24 at Holly Point in Deltaville; June 9 with a “walk around the farm” talk with Evelyn Scott; and July 17 there will be 5 hours of training offered on organic farming at Church of the Nazarene in White Stone. (Please check future issues of the Sentinel for details.) In the meantime, hats off to this hard working, dedicated, energetic green thumb group. The next time a Master Gardener course in the area is open to the public, my best advice is don’t miss this incredible learning opportunity for better gardening.  ©2009 

posted 02.26.2009

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