I spent a delightful four hours Saturday morning at the Master Gardener table at the Almonte Farmers Market breathing in the tantalizing aroma of Amanda’s gourmet creations – check out northmarketalmonte.com for full details on Rick and Amanda’s catering business. It was a sunny warmish day with market stalls full to capacity and throngs of enthusiastic and chatty shoppers. I look forward to doing my shift every other month – Gerda will be back next month.
The most frequently asked questions at the Master Gardener table related to lawn care and hopefully I convinced a few folk to get off the treadmill of a chemical-addicted, high maintenance, monoculture of Kentucky Blue grass that is disastrous for pollinators and for the environment. I think that I actually heard a few signs of relief where folks realized that it’s alright to just let the ‘weeds’ in the lawn grow. The other aspect that became clearer to me was the importance of peer pressure from neighbours. I suspect that many people try to achieve a perfect lawn and spend endless hours digging out dandelions not because they believe that it is important but because they fear the enmity of their neighbours.
I admit to being fascinated by the concept of ‘tipping points’, particularly when something that was tolerated or ‘cool’ in society appears to suddenly become actively discouraged. Cigarette smoking is one of the most obvious examples that I have experienced in my lifetime. Once the epitome of cool, it is now the bane of the health system and the target of many anti-smoking campaigns. I realize that the campaign against smoking slowly gathered steam but find myself wondering what was the ‘tipping point’ – what was the point at which society decided that breathing someone else’s cigarette smoke was not OK? The comparison may be a bit laboured but I look forward to the day when the societal norm for lawns includes dandelions and the ‘perfect’ lawn no longer looks like a bowling green!
There was also curiosity about exactly what are Master Gardeners and why do we do what we do. I will get back to that shortly but first a word about the garden build happening at the CP Community Garden on Saturday. That’s right, this coming weekend!
Carleton Place Community Garden Rejuvenation this Saturday and Sunday
It is finally going to happen! Saturday May 27 and Sunday May 28 9am to noon both days. Here’s another opportunity for Mississippi Mills gardeners to extend a helping hand (and shovel) to our neighbours in Carleton Place. A major project to rejuvenate the community garden next to St. Gregory School on Townline Road in Carleton Place is being spearheaded by the Lanark County Food Bank (aka the Hunger Stop) in partnership with existing gardeners at the site. It is being funded by a grant from Sysco Food and is supported by several local businesses. Circle the dates. We got a bit of a start by ripping up the rotting existing beds on Saturday but much work remains to be done. Construction will be in full swing starting at 9 in the morning and will wrap up around noon each day. Come for an hour or two or for the whole morning. Bring your wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes!
What are Master Gardeners?
Lanark Master Gardeners and Ottawa-Carleton Master Gardeners are two of about 30 Master Gardener chapters in Ontario that fall under the umbrella of Master Gardeners of Ontario Inc. It is an organization dedicated to providing horticultural information to the public that began in 1985 as a program of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) but it is now an independent non-profit charitable organization. The Master Gardener concept was originally created in Washington State (USA) in 1972 and has spread to many jurisdictions since then.
Master Gardeners (MGs) in the Province of Ontario are experienced gardeners who have studied horticulture extensively and continue to upgrade their skills through technical training. With this training and continuing education, Master Gardeners provide expert horticultural advice to the general public. Master Gardeners are very often specialized in their area of knowledge and experience – for example many are very knowledgeable about perennial flowers – my expertise is largely with vegetable gardening. One of the strengths of the groups is the ability to draw on the expertise of fellow Master Gardeners.
Experienced gardeners are recruited locally, often from Horticultural Societies. After an orientation session, candidates take an eligibility test, and then register for online courses from the University of Guelph or Dalhousie University (formerly the Nova Scotia Agricultural College). For very experienced gardeners, an exemption examination is another option. Becoming a Master Gardener does not give one an accreditation that one can post after one’s name like a University degree – rather it signifies that one is an active member of a Master Gardener Chapter who is committed to ongoing education and a specified minimum number of annual volunteer hours serving the public.
Participants provide horticultural information to the public via garden clinics (many at Farmers Markets), telephone, letters, displays, workshops, television, and radio and newspaper articles. Master Gardeners are often asked to be speakers at monthly meeting of Horticultural Societies.
I have been a Master Gardener for 15 years – most of that with the Ottawa group before my recent switch to the Lanark County group. I have found it incredibly rewarding – lots of opportunities to learn, to serve the public and to connect with like-minded gardeners.
Go to lanarkmg.blogspot.com or MGOI.ca if you are interested in obtaining more information about becoming a Master Gardener.