Friday, July 6, 2012

Why I Became a Master Gardener - Part 5

After years of enjoying planting trees, shrubs, flowers, and bulbs wherever we lived (IBM stands for "I've Been Moved,") we retired to our deceased mother's house, and it was such a pleasure to have the shade and beauty of the mature trees we had planted in her yard to commemorate when our children were born thirtysome years earlier. The Celebration Maple we had planted for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary was now thirty feet tall! Finally we had a small property where we could put down roots and plan and plant for posterity. We wanted to establish a wildlife habitat that would be natural and welcoming to animals as well as people, and especially our grandchildren.

However, we needed specific knowledge about local soils and native species before we proceeded. I applied to become a Master Gardener in order to learn about the ecology of rain gardens so we could do our part to help save the Chesapeake Bay, and understand the complex, interdependent microbiology of various plants. The college professors at Penn State who taught the courses were very informative and down-to-earth (pardon the pun) instead of ivory tower esoterics. Their presentations were not just fact-filled, but also fun; and getting to keep their lectures and my notes in binders to refer to whenever necessary was like having a how-to library at my fingertips. Being able to ask them questions and receive real-time answers tailored to my individual concerns via video-conferencing was more intimate than being in a large lecture hall with hundreds of students on campus. Each day I came home with knowledge I could immediately apply both in our yard and at church where we are establishing a Green Sanctuary. In addition there was an experimental rain garden in the Master Gardeners' Wildlife Area where I could volunteer to help maintain it and learn real-life lessons while enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded fellow Master Gardeners. What a great group of kindred spirits who don't mind rolling up their sleeves and digging in the dirt!

A completely unexpected bonus was being encouraged to learn enough about Japanese gardening and handicapped-accessible tools and techniques to be able to facilitate workshops for the general public on those subjects and share with others in the community the diversity of information available through the Franklin County Penn State Cooperative Extension. The continuing advanced training offered every year ensures that I am learning state-of-the-art agricultural science and best practices researched at Penn State and other land grant universitiies to be extended to my church, friends, neighbors, and relatives to preserve and protect our precious environment.
Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 and Part 4 of this series.

That's the last of the emails I received.  I'll post more if folks send in more.  Next Thursday, July 12th, we'll be interviewing the folks who want to become part of the next class of Franklin County Master Gardeners.

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