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Search for excellence

Nevada County Master Gardeners
Special to The Union

The gardening needs of Western Nevada County are as diverse as its natural setting and its inhabitants.

Our goal is to provide varied paths to learning for people of all ages and experience. The overriding message is resource-efficient landscaping translated into easily understood, practical and sustainable gardening techniques.

The key to our program’s success is the energy, ingenuity and knowledge that our members take to the public in direct and media based delivery of information. From July, 2007 until May, 2008, a cadre of 61 members donated 6,198 hours to deliver a myriad of gardening related services to over 4,437 people in the community. Indirectly, we’ve reached an even broader audience through various aspects of the media.

Paths to learning

n We present formal workshops on seasonal topics, frequently asked questions and sustainable gardening practices.

n In tangent with the county, we organize and present every year a dozen community composting workshops that cover all aspects of basic composting and vermiculture. We give away compost bins to get attendees started composting immediately.

n Our Hotline informational phone service is staffed by Master Gardeners three days a week to answer gardening related questions from people who either call or walk in.

n Public events provide varied opportunities for exchange of information with the public. Master Gardeners have become an integral part of many of them. We provide information booths with and without demonstrations at the local grower’s market each Saturday from June to September, the bi-annual Home & Garden Show, and the Nevada County Fair, a community event that brings us all together and provides an opportunity for us to present short workshops.

n We are developing youth programs. To date we have presented two formal workshops that we term “Growing the Next Generation of Gardeners”. Vermiculture programs are presented at schools; we lead groups of children through a local garden, which is sponsored by the county recycling program, and we are participating in library reading programs. We help the staff of local schools with their gardening projects.

n We host a radio show known locally as “Master Gardeners and Friends”, a weekly two hour radio show that ranks as the second most listened to show on our local radio station and reaches an audience of approximately 5000 according to radio surveys.

n The Western Nevada County Gardening Guide is a 233 page gardening book written by Nevada County Master Gardeners for Nevada County gardeners; it addresses the specific issues of gardening in this area and provides information on plants that grow well here. The sale of these guides helps fund our projects.

n The Curious Gardener is a quarterly newspaper written in collaboration with Placer County Master Gardeners. Its topics are seasonal, it’s free to the public and it has a large e-mail and newsletter subscription list.

n Our Demonstration Garden is operated in partnership with NID that loans us the land and provides us with irrigation water. The operation and expansion of the garden is funded by our organization.

It is the hub of our educational activities, as well as a demonstration garden for showing and testing which plants grow well here.

We take part in UCCE native plant viability testing. It is the site of our free community workshops, scheduled public events, bi-annual plant sales and in-service education.

Over time the garden has developed from a small orchard with an herb garden to a garden somewhat over two and a half acres that consists of six areas: a Mediterranean garden, raised beds, native oak habitat, native grass meadow, a cottage garden, and a backyard orchard.

Our commitment to the community and its gardeners will continue with plans to emphasize water conservation through sustainable gardening practices – another part of our many paths to learning. All paths lead back to why Nevada County Master Gardeners became gardeners in the first place – the love and passion to watch things grow, evolve, and change before our eyes, be it our plants, ourselves or the people we meet in the community.

Adapted from winning paper, “Pathways to Learning,” written in committee chaired by JoAnn Moore.

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