Tag Archives: Master Gardener Volunteers

Meet the Farmers Market Garden Squad

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Carol Earle and Margot Thompson

Carol Earle (left) and Margot Thompson are the engines that keep the farmers market Master Gardener outreach project on track.

More than 1300 inquisitive gardeners stop by the Ask a Master Gardener tent every summer at the Cherry Creek and City Park Esplanade farmers markets. Some ask timely questions about pests like Japanese beetles and others just like to chat about their gardens.

Colorado Fresh Markets generously donates the valuable space at each farmers market, and Master Gardeners help the market by gathering customer demographic information.

With every interaction there’s a CSU Extension Denver Master Gardener ready to offer advice, hand out resources or lend a sympathetic gardening ear. Because Ask a Master Gardener starts in May and runs through October, hundreds of volunteer openings need filling. Those volunteers also need a tent, banners, table, reference books, CSU Extension fact sheets, brochures, bookmarks and other materials.

While the Ask a Master Gardener effort runs smoothly now, it wasn’t always that way. When it started in the mid-1990s, scheduling was difficult and staffing was inconsistent. At one point the farmers market organization wasn’t sure it wanted to continue the collaboration.

That was before Carol Earle got involved and helped reorganize the farmers market volunteer project in 2002.

“In those days scheduling was all done manually, on the phone and by hand,” Carol explained. “Master Gardeners could check for a volunteer opening and then call a scheduler to get on a shift. It worked that way for years,” she said.

While scheduling for the farmers market is more efficient now, the need for someone to handle the behind-the-scenes work continues. Carol makes sure there are enough handouts and supplies for the markets, ensures there are enough volunteers to staff the markets, and helps transport equipment when needed.

She also fills in and works the market when there aren’t enough volunteers, like over Labor Day weekend. She spends more hours volunteering for the market than she tracks each summer.

“Carol has been volunteering for the farmers market for about 20 years and is trying to get out of it, but keeps getting sucked back in!” said Merrill Kingsbury, Master Gardener program assistant.

Carol agrees. “We don’t pay to be there, so I want to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain,” she said. “Now we’re a draw and people look for us at the market. I feel invested in making sure it runs right and we keep our obligation. We now have a reputation to uphold.”

She said she’s able to devote her time and energy to the market because she skips taking vacations in the summer.

“A lot of times I felt I should let someone else have a chance at doing it,” she said. “But I hated to leave the office in a lurch. I can’t cut and run now,” she joked.

“The advantage of volunteering at the farmers market is you learn a lot there, it reinforces what you learn in class, and you learn how to talk with people, answer questions and direct them to resources.”

In addition to her farmers market volunteer commitment, Carol has helped create and maintain vegetable and therapy gardens at the Denver Children’s Home.

She began her Master Gardener training in 1999 when one of her neighbors recruited her, but she was unsure she’d be accepted because of limited gardening experience as an adult. However, when she was 5 or 6 she had worked with her sister to weed their grandfather’s strawberry patch with a little hoe he made specially for them.

It wasn’t until she retired from her marketing job with a mining company that she bloomed as a gardener. Her neighbor helped her learn how to grow native shrubs and perennial flowers. This season she’s growing a ratatouille vegetable garden in a shared plot at the Denver Botanic Gardens Community Garden.

“I love the market, I like working with Master Gardeners, and I like getting to know the apprentices,” she said.

Even though she loves volunteering for the farmers market, she’s ready to let others learn to love it, too.

Last season Margot Thompson offered to lend Carol a hand and took over coordinating the Wednesday markets at Cherry Creek. The two work closely together to make sure materials are in place and the schedule is staffed with the right combination of Master Gardeners and apprentices.

“I like exchanging ideas with other Master Gardeners, getting suggestions from the apprentices and answering different questions every week,” Margot said.

Gardening is in her DNA and she’s been at most of her life. She’s able to answer questions based on her Master Gardener training and her own gardening experience, especially when those questions are about Japanese beetles.

“I remember being 4 years old and picking Japanese beetles off of plants in my parents’ garden in Massachusetts,” she said. “I got paid one penny for every beetle I picked.”

Margot used to have a big vegetable garden at her home in southeast Denver, but the trees have taken over and now it’s mostly a shade garden. She still plants and grows in containers wherever she can find some sun. She also finds time to volunteer at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Margot started as a Master Gardener in 1998 after retiring from a career as a physical therapist. Besides the farmers market, some of her early volunteer assignments included helping with the Habitat for Humanity program and starting community gardens at the Marian Plaza senior apartments.

“We were trying to make sure the residents had fresh vegetables to cook with,” she said. Denver Urban Gardens helped create the garden plots and volunteers worked to buy hoses to help with irrigation, among other tasks. It was a big project, she said.

Margot thinks volunteering at the farmers market “is a great way to share information and for people to give us information we can use, too. We can always learn something.”

She said her favorite time to volunteer at the market is early in spring. That’s when she can give balcony gardeners ideas for growing vegetables in containers. She also likes to help the new-to-Denver transplants who stop at the Master Gardener tent to ask, “How do you garden here?”

Image and text by Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

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Meet the Garden Squad

Meet the Garden Squad is a new blog feature and a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Mark Zammuto

Retirement seems to agree with Mark Zammuto. Gardening, biking, hiking and volunteering keep this “recovering attorney” busy. Mark spent about 25 years working as an attorney in the public sector, including the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

Mark Zammuto and Charlotte Aycrigg are active CSU Extension Master Gardeners in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Mark Zammuto)

His work kept him from doing many of the things he always wanted to do, like becoming a CSU Extension Master Gardener. In 2009 his schedule finally opened up to allow time to attend classes and commit to being a volunteer.

He’s taken that commitment to heart. Many of his volunteer hours are spent organizing the plantings at the Harvard Gulch vegetable demonstration garden. For the last several years, he’s worked at the City Park Greenhouse starting seeds and tending more than 450 vegetable plants before they’re moved to the demonstration garden at the end of each May.

That’s when other Denver Master Gardeners and volunteers from Outdoor Colorado and Grow Local Colorado gather to complete a mass planting in the vegetable bed located at the corner of E. Iliff Ave. and S. Emerson St.

About 1000 pounds of produce are harvested each year and donated to the food pantry at the Community Ministry of Southwest Denver, as well as other food banks in southwest and central Denver.

Mark’s interest in growing plants dates to when he planted little gardens as a kid growing up in Illinois. He had older relatives there that gardened, too, but he credits one of his grandfathers as an exceptional garden inspiration.

“He had an incredible green thumb,” Mark said. “He lived in California and when I’d go out in summers to visit, I’d see him graft trees and other things like that. He was an Italian immigrant and grew all kinds of fruit trees, avocados, lemons, plums and many traditional Italian foods like squash, tomatoes, basil and eggplants.”

A path leads through the many plantings in Mark and Charlotte’s garden. (Photo courtesy of Mark Zammuto)

Mark and his wife Charlotte Aycrigg, who’s also a Denver Master Gardener, have a big vegetable garden, a water-wise perennial garden and whatever else will grow in their yard that’s steadily getting shadier. To make up for that, they have a plot in the Denver Botanic Gardens Community Garden at Congress Park.

When he’s not out hiking and biking with his wife, Mark volunteers with the Botanic Gardens answering questions at the Help Desk, working with the Plant Select division for the DBG plant sale and volunteering at the Steppe Garden.

Interacting with other Master Gardeners is what Mark enjoys most about being a Master Gardener. “They’re all pretty nice people,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot because there’s so much cumulative knowledge.”

If he had to offer advice for other gardeners, he’d say to concentrate on planting the right plant in the right place. That advice is especially important when it comes to the long-term consequences of planting trees, he said.

“Before we did the Master Gardener training, we were novice gardeners when it came to planting trees. Looking back, I would’ve made better tree choices but we didn’t know and nurseries were selling trees not suited to this environment.”

If he had it to do over, he said he’d take time to do the research and study what kind of trees to plant for the best results.

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Meet the DMG Squad

Meet the Garden Squad is a new blog feature and a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Newton Linebaugh

Technically speaking Newton Linebaugh isn’t a CSU Extension Master Gardener apprentice anymore, but he’s not sure when he’ll stop feeling like one. While he completed his apprentice training in 2018, he understands that learning about gardening never stops, no matter where he puts down roots.

Newton Linebaugh signed up for CSU Extension Master Gardener training in 2018. (photo provided by Newton Linebaugh)

Newton moved to Colorado from Florida in the spring of 2017. He agrees that gardening here is more challenging, but he thinks it’s also more rewarding.

“The things we grow as houseplants here, grow into tall trees in Florida,” he said. Tampa Bay and Miami are subtropical and tropical climates that offer special challenges, too. Gardeners there have to cope with moist soil, high humidity and insects like mosquitoes and flying cockroaches.

Florida gardeners face growing challenges with moist soil, humidity and flying cockroaches. (photo provided by Newton Linebaugh)

Newton was a Master Gardener in Florida until 2015. That’s when he retired as director of payroll and benefits for the New York Yankees. The job he held for about 18 years meant he had the responsibility for managing many companies, multiple unions and thousands of employees.

“My partner and I had a business plan for retirement and everything fell into place in a few days,” he said. They moved to Colorado because it was the top choice when they compared it to other parts of the country.

Even though he’s been a gardener for more than 50 years, he signed up for CSU Extension’s Master Gardener program to learn how to garden in a different climate with different kinds of plants.

“When you become a master gardener, you embark on a lifelong learning adventure with plants,” he said. “You’ll be amazed at what works and what doesn’t, and shocked at what you think you know is wrong.”

During his time as a Colorado Master Gardener, Newton has already enjoyed volunteering at the Cherry Creek Farmers market and running the cash register at the annual plant sale.

His earliest gardening experience was helping his grandmother in her Pennsylvania garden. When he was 19 he moved to Florida and had to relearn how to garden there.

While his Florida gardening is decidedly different from planting in Denver, he’s familiar with working in heavy clay from his Pennsylvania days. He also recalls how spring storms there knocked plants down, but then they’d spring back up.

His garden plan for this year is grow some of the plants that don’t thrive in Florida, like peonies. He’s also using this season as a test to see how the sun falls on his yard in Congress Park before creating a garden plan for next year.

As a long-time gardener, he’s developed a practical philosophy about gardening. He believes some plants have to grow on their own to see if they survive the environment he provides for them. If not, he plants something else.

“Always plant a garden and plan that it’s going to change because every day is different. Then adapt to that,” he said. “Everything changes and you have to flow with that.”

By Jodi Torpey
Colorado Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Meet the DMG Garden Squad

Meet the DMG Garden Squad is a new blog feature and a way to get better acquainted with some of our dedicated volunteers.

Jan Appelbaum has volunteered with CSU Extension Master Gardeners since 2004.

Meet Jan Appelbaum

Most Master Gardeners know the value of making their own compost. But Jan Appelbaum discovered there’s more to compost than a good soil amendment.

“My best success last year grew out of the compost bin. There were three or four tomato varieties that grew out of the compost, and they were prolific.” She harvested hundreds of tomatoes from tomato seeds that decided to sprout and grow on their own.

Jan’s tomatoes planted themselves in the compost bin. (Photos by Jan Appelbaum)

Jan joined the CSU Extension Colorado Master Gardener (CMG) program in 2004, after retiring from a 30-year teaching career in Douglas County. She thought the program would be a good way to provide some structured activity to fill her time.

When she started, the Denver Master Gardeners’ office was located downtown in the Wellington Webb Building. Those were the “good old days” when the pace was quite a bit slower.

“We have the ability to get information faster now, almost instantaneously, and we reach more people now,” Jan said. “But sometimes slow is better, too.”

One of her favorite volunteer activities is interviewing Master Gardener apprentices because there are many different ages, levels of enthusiasm for gardening and levels of expertise. “It’s fun and interesting to hear why people want to be trained to be a master gardener,” she said.

Jan also volunteers as part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) to track precipitation in all 50 states, Canada and the Bahamas. As a CoCoRaHS volunteer, she measures daily precipitation in her yard and keeps track of the results.

She also volunteers at the annual spring plant sale and helps answer questions at the farmer’s market. One of the advantages of volunteering alongside other Denver Master Gardeners is the collaborative spirit. “At the Master Gardener booth, four brains are better than one.”

The farmer’s market is a valuable and sometimes entertaining outreach opportunity. “It’s always fun when people come up to ask a question but have already made up their mind. Or when people from out of town say ‘That’s not how we do it in Michigan.’ But most people appreciate the help we can give.”

Jan grew up in Connecticut where she admits it was easier to garden. She helped in her family’s huge vegetable garden, but had to learn how to garden in a more challenging environment when she moved to Colorado in 1972.

Her advice to new gardeners, and those new to gardening here, is to be patient and learn by doing.

Some of that advice is based on her own early planting efforts. She recalled planting a miniature Japanese maple tree and giving it too much love.

“I thought it needed water because the leaves were curled, and I killed it by overwatering. Eventually I found out they don’t like to have their roots too wet.”

Jan said she’s grateful for the Master Gardener experience because it’s broadened her gardening knowledge. She thinks everyone who gardens should go through the Master Gardener training, too.

“Gardening for me is very therapeutic,” she said. “It helps connect us with the soil and Mother Nature. Having a sense of nature is getting harder and harder to do in the city, but I’m encouraged to see there are more people getting into gardening now.”

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Fair Questions for Master Gardeners

Denver Master Gardeners answer questions from the audience during the “Ask a Master Gardener” session at the Denver County Fair on July 13. The panel included (from left to right) Jodi Torpey, Daniel Neufeld and Elizabeth Neufeld. (Photo by John Pendleton)

Almost 20,000 people attended the Denver County Fair from July 13-15 to enjoy typical fair food and fun.

At the Demo Stage, Denver County Master Gardeners had the chance to answer questions from other gardeners during three “Ask a Master Gardener” panels.

This year was the first time Master Gardener volunteers were put to the test in a panel format. On Friday, I was part of the panel with apprentice master gardeners Elizabeth and Daniel Neufeld. It was fun to take turns answering questions from our CSU Extension Master Gardener training, supplemented with connecting to the CSU Extension website for fact sheets and other information using the fair’s fast Wi-Fi.

Fairgoers stopped by to sit, listen, ask questions and chat about their gardening experiences during the hour-long panel. Some of the discussion topics included:

Why can’t I get my twice-blooming daylilies and irises to bloom more than once a season?
Why aren’t there more young people interested in gardening?
How can a beginning gardener get started?
How can I grow bigger potatoes?
Does a corn cob in the planting hole help retain water?
Is it too late in the season to plant a vegetable garden?
What’s the best way to get rid of bindweed?
What are ways to deal with tree suckers every year?
How can I grow bigger tomato plants?

In addition to questions from the audience, the panel talked about the importance of soil testing, how to access CSU Extension resources online, ways to deal with Japanese beetles, and resources to prepare ahead for Emerald Ash Borer.

Gardeners were especially interested to hear about Elizabeth and Daniel’s project to turn their hell strip into a beautiful low-water xeriscape.

Master Gardeners also participated in panels on Saturday and Sunday. If you were on (or at) one of these other panels, please share some of the questions gardeners asked during your session.

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

 

10 Reasons for Becoming a Denver Master Gardener

If you like to plant and grow things, you may be a Master Gardener in the making. A desire to help your community is another plus. In case you need more convincing, consider these 10 benefits of joining us and then take the next step to become a Colorado Master Gardener.

Number 10: You’ll be a better gardener. Becoming a Denver Master Gardener doesn’t mean you’ll be a perfect gardener, but at least you’ll know why the daisies died, what’s wrong with your tomato plant, why the lawn has brown spots, and what the heck is eating those roses. The CSU Master Gardener program is like getting a mini-degree in horticulture.

Number 9: You’ll help with important research. Master Gardeners are often called on to help with CSU Extension research projects. One recent project included collecting tree data as part of the Rollinger Tree Collection Survey project, a collaboration with the Denver Botanic Gardens and other partners to understand the past, present and future of Denver’s urban forest.

Master Gardeners like to meet, mingle and break crab legs together.

Number 8: You’ll meet and mingle with like-minded folks. Gardeners like to talk—and listen. Whether you’re a social butterfly or just like to belong to a tribe with similar interests, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company.

Number 7: You can share your knowledge. People have questions and now you’ll have the research-backed information to provide answers in person at farmer’s markets and special events or by answering email questions from home. There’s a lot of gardening misinformation out there, but you can help dispel the myths (except when it comes to marijuana).

Number 6: You can volunteer in meaningful ways. Community outreach is an important part of being a Denver Master Gardener and others appreciate your contribution. The vegetables grown in the Harvard Gulch Demonstration Garden are donated to help feed the hungry; The Haven at Fort Logan offers another chance to serve others with your gardening skills.

Master Gardeners plan and plant the CSU Extension exhibit at the Colorado Garden and Home Show.

Number 5: You’ll get to work behind the scenes at the Colorado Garden and Home Show. A favorite volunteer project is being part of the annual show whether helping to build the CSU Master Gardener display or answering attendee’s questions. Free entry to the show is an added bonus.

Number 4: You can stretch your leadership skills. Being a Master Gardener lets you take the lead on a special project in a safe and supportive environment. Creativity, innovation and new ideas keep the program interesting.

Number 3: You’ll receive a well-recognized credential. Anyone who’s been paying attention has heard of CSU Extension’s Master Gardener program. The title is a well-known and well respected credential in the gardening world and in every state across the country.

Number 2: You’ll be supporting an important educational program. Becoming a Master Gardener isn’t free, but the nominal annual fee ensures the Denver Master Gardener program can continue its mission.

Being a volunteer at the City Park Greenhouse refreshes gardening skills for the new season.

And the Number 1 reason for becoming a Denver Master Gardener: Volunteering at the City Park Greenhouse.  It’s one of the most revitalizing volunteer gigs, and it happens at a time of year when gardeners need it the most.

Those are my top 10 reasons. What are your top reasons for becoming a Denver Master Gardener?

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener since 2005

Colorado Master Gardener 2016 State Conference Recap

Colorado Master Gardeners from around the state gathered together October 3-4 to be entertained, educated and inspired at the first state-wide conference. Lunch and snacks were excellent, too.

After the welcoming remarks by Mary Small, state Master Gardener coordinator, JoAnn Powell, Extension Front Range Regional Director, thanked attendees for their valuable contributions on the 40th anniversary of the Master Gardener Program.

She challenged the group to think about the direction of Master Gardeners for the future. “It takes all of us to make Extension Master Gardeners work well,” she said. “We need to be in touch with our communities, adapt to our communities, and try new things.”

One of those new things included the filming of a Master Gardener promotional video to help increase the program’s visibility in the community.

Here’s a brief recap of the first conference. Hopefully you can join us next year!

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The keynote speaker, Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott from the Puyallup Research and Extension Center at Washington State University, signed books and answered questions before the start of the conference. Chalker-Scott is the author of  “How Plants Work” and “The Informed Gardener Blooms Again.” During her two sessions she dispelled myths about common gardening products and practices. She also helped Master Gardeners understand how to apply The CRAP Test to evaluate gardening information.

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Master Gardeners in attendance included representatives from all three state regions: Western Region, Peaks and Plains, and the Front Range. In addition to the keynote presentations, attendees could choose breakout sessions on topics such as Taxonomy of Vegetables, Tomato Diagnostics, Insects, Extending the Season, Facts and Fiction about GMOs, Landscape Design, Low-maintenance Perennials, Pesticides, Herbs, Turf, and Advanced Plant Physiology.

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Master Gardeners were encouraged to engage with fellow gardeners throughout the day. The social hour was a good excuse to meet and mingle over an impressive assortment of appetizers.

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Table talks were a highlight at the end of the first day of the conference. Displays included programs from around the state like Jefferson County’s guidelines for using social media to promote master gardener volunteer programs. Other displays included Denver County’s Anchor Center for Blind Children, Arapahoe County’s work at the Colorado Center for the Blind Legacy Garden, and Pueblo County’s display featuring its Plant Diagnostic Clinic.

 

 

 

 

 

Master Gardeners Plant Flowers and Ideas

CSU's annual display at the Colorado Home and Garden Show starts with a plan. But it's the master gardener volunteers who take the plan from paper to planting.

CSU’s annual display at the Colorado Home and Garden Show starts with a plan. But it’s the Master Gardener volunteers who take the plan from paper to planting.

Master gardeners fill each garden bed with soil, cover it in mulch and add the larger plants. Space is reserved for garden details, like a concrete bench, fire pit, lawn chair and table.

The demonstration gardens are like a blank canvas. Volunteers cover the planting beds in mulch and add the larger trees and shrubs. Space is reserved for special garden details, like a concrete bench, fire pit, lawn chair and table.

Racks (and racks) of plants wait for their cue. Sometimes plants fit perfectly into the design, other times last-minute changes need to be made to adapt to floppy flowers or clashing colors.

Racks (and racks) of plants wait for their cue. Sometimes plants fit perfectly into the design; other times last-minute changes need to be made to adapt to floppy flowers or clashing colors.

Master gardeners put their heads together to make sure the garden plan comes together. Mike Archer and Laura Roiger confer on plant placement while Linda McDonnell starts planting.

Master Gardeners put their heads together to make sure the garden plan comes together. Mike Archer and Laura Roiger confer on plant placement while Linda McDonnell starts planting.

Planting at the show's display garden is almost as difficult as planting a garden at home. The main difference is plants are planted in their pots. But no containers can be showing!

Planting at CSU’s display garden is almost as difficult and messy as planting a garden at home. The main difference is plants are planted in their pots here. But no containers can be showing!

Plants have to be kept fresh, so there's no drooping before the show. Anne Beletic takes time to make sure the spring flowers have that just-bloomed look.

Plants have to be kept garden fresh, so there’s no drooping before the show. Master Gardener apprentice Anne Beletic takes time to ensure the spring flowers have that just-bloomed look.

When visitors stop by CSU's demonstration garden at the show, they probably don't think of all the hours and hands that go into creating it. What they can count on is inspiration and reliable information to take home and put to use in their own gardens.

When visitors stop by CSU’s demonstration garden at the show, they probably don’t think of all the hours and hands that go into creating it. However, what they can count on is reliable information and inspiration to take home and put to use in their own gardens.

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener