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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thoughts for the Aspiring Gardener

Whether spring is months away in your geographic location or you already enjoy occasional spring-like days, this time of year is prime for garden planning. Here are some thoughts to get you going.

Finding Space

There is something for everyone when it comes to gardening. You need as little as a windowsill or porch to develop your green thumb. Some of the most rewarding gardening is done in containers. Try planting a selection of herbs and maybe even some mini tomatoes in a pot. Enjoy summer pesto and fresh tomatoes from small labors! There are many indoor and outdoor flowers that thrive well in various planters and pots. Many containers add ornament to plants. If you have land and ambition, you can grow on a larger plot, but container gardening is a great place to begin when space and experience are limited.

Seek Out a Mentor

Whether you are a newcomer in the gardening world, or an experienced grower, a gardening mentor can benefit your experience. Go to a local nursery on a weekday or early on the weekends when business is slow. Ask lots of questions and take notes! These professionals love to share their knowledge, and you likely will come away with a wealth of information. You can find mentors on the Internet as well. Find a gardening blogger from your town and bookmark his or her site. Maybe you have a friend or neighbor that loves to garden (it is easy to spot the neighbor who is a gardening hobbyist). Invite this person over for a Saturday brunch. Enjoy chatting over a meal, then look over your garden plot together. Your friend can give you advice on where to begin and add expertise along the way. Lastly, don’t neglect to spend some time at the library or a nearby bookstore to get inspiration and information on gardening. Gardening publications--especially seed catalogs--are great resources.

Explore Community Resources

One excellent way to immerse yourself in garden learning is to seek out the Master Gardener group in your community. Check out the American Horticultural Society index of Master Gardener programs in the U.S. (and even in some Canadian provinces) at http://www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/index.htm. Almost every community, rural or urban, has a Master Gardener program. Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by the Cooperative Extension Service, also known as the Extension Service of the USDA, land-grant university horticulturists, and local gardening specialists over a year’s time in gardening subjects. Consider becoming a certified Master Gardener. The certification requires a year commitment of one to two classroom instruction days per month as well as one to two practicum days per month in a demonstration garden. Class fees are typically around $150. Participants are also required to serve a number of volunteer hours as part of their training. If this commitment sounds too heavy, you can alternatively check the calendar of events or newsletter for the Master Gardener office in your area. Discover what lectures and demonstrations are offered to the public. Volunteers are also available over the phone for gardening questions. Leave your question in a message if you get an answering service. Master Gardener volunteers are very good at returning phone calls.

Happy Gardening!

1 comment:

Dale Johnson said...

Amen to the Master Gardner program and the Cooperative Extension Service. Many state Extension services have a Home and Garden centers with a toll free number where you can call to get answers to gardening questions. The telephones are manned by volunteer Master Gardners. If they don't have the answer for you immediately, they will call you back very quickly with an answer