Q: You suggested that I contact the local Master Gardener Program. What is that?
The Master Gardener Program is an organization that provides free horticultural information to urban and suburban dwellers. It operates under the auspices of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)Extension Service and your state’s agricultural university.
The Master Garden program originated in the early 1970’s when the folks at the Washington State University cooperative extension recognized a growing need for availing accurate information to urban dwellers. This mission differed from that of the USDA, a federal agency whose focus is more toward commercial farms and ranches. Urban and suburban homeowners were seeking reliable information about everything from lawn care to home vegetable gardens, fruit trees, soil amendments, garden pests and even indoor container gardening.
There are Master Gardener programs all over the United States. Volunteers receive intensive, university-level education in every aspect of home horticulture including sustainable gardening and integrated pest management. The classes are taught by university professors specializing in each topic. All of the information shared by these volunteers has been tested in the local climate and soils.
Locally tested information is important because of the variety of soils, climate, plants, water availability and other factors. What is good advice in one geographic area can be bad advice in another geographic area. For example, in some parts of the United States turf experts recommend watering your lawn in the evening. This allows the lawn to absorb the maximum amount of the water, and minimizes the amount of water lost to evaporation. In other parts of the country, watering in the evening can lead to fungus problems in the lawn.
In return for this wonderful educational opportunity, volunteers promise to share the information in their communities via email, telephone, publishing articles in local newspapers and newsletters, hosting information tables at fairs, festivals and other public events.
Your local Master Gardeners can help you choose an appropriate turf type for a new lawn. They can identify your existing turf grass and recommend the best mowing height and frequency of mowing for your lawn. They can help you solve all kinds of lawn care problems, from insect or weed invasions to areas where grass just won’t grow. They can show you how to test your soil and recommend the appropriate soil amendments. Overwatering or incorrect watering are the most common lawn care mistakes. The Master Gardeners can tell you how much to water, when to water and how to measure the amount of water you are applying.
The Master Gardener Program is a wonderful, free source of information. Everything they tell you has been tested in your local climate and soils. Look for them at your county fair or visit their site even if you do not have a visible problem with your lawn. You could be using more water or fertilizer than necessary. You might even apply to be a Master Gardener volunteer.
Please click here to find a Master Gardener Program near you.
Are you a Master Gardener or have you ever contacted a Master Gardener for help?