If you love to garden, on any scale, you might consider the Master Gardener program in your state. This has been a wonderful experience for me including meeting new people with the same interests and learning more about sustainable horticulture practices.
When I first moved to Nebraska, I found it somewhat difficult to merge into the community. After taking time to settle our home I began looking for opportunities within the community where I could devote time. A friend from Indiana had just completed the Master Gardener program and shared her experience with me. It was intriguing especially since I was just learning how to garden in zone 5 after moving here from southern California and wanted to have sizable vegetable and flower gardens. I researched the Nebraska Master Gardener program and found a training session near my home. That was three years ago.
Initially I was overwhelmed with all the information during the 40 hour spring training and it felt like I knew nothing about gardening. Soon everything settled and I realized I had alot yet to learn but also resources to which I could draw from UNL and their NebGuides as well as my own gardening experience.
Our program is headed by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic young woman, Elizabeth Killinger, MS Extension Educator. She made the classes fun and brought in excellent speakers on each topic from UNL or other Extension Educators. I made great friends each year and we often find ourselves volunteering for the same projects which is another motivation to be involved.
The planters as they are planted for the State fair.
A nice rainy day, perfect for planting.
The State Fair planters that Master Gardeners
plant, deadhead and weed until the SF opens.
These planters are moved all around the fair
The MG program certification requires 40 hours of initial training and 40 hours of volunteer work the first year. That volunteer time can include such activities as planting and maintaining demonstration gardens, collecting data on research projects, helping with county and state fair activities (my fave), speaking to community groups, leading garden tours, collecting plant samples, answering phone questions (scary, but I've done it), and teaching youth programs. There is something for everyone. After the first year, in order to maintain certification, 10 hours of training and 20 hours of volunteer work are required each year. It's not a huge commitment but a satisfactory one for a gardener who wants to continue learning and to make new friends.
I love to help at the county fairs
in the 4-H horticulture division where
kids bring in the produce and flowers
they have planted and raised.
|Helping plant the 'American flag' flower bed|
The Master Gardeners worked in this area
near the gazebo and 4-H building to pull
weeds and spiff it up before the fair started.
This time of year the gardener is still busy.
Produce preservation: It is lovely to eat the fresh fruit and vegetables directly from the garden but the abundance is there for preserving for the winter. I find great satisfaction in using my home grown products through the winter. They bring that fresh garden flavor to those dishes. I can and freeze the produce from my garden.
An addition of compost to the beds before winter can be a helpful step in increased production next spring. This is where the black-gold comes from that makes our soil so richly productive. It can be do-it-yourself or you can purchase it complete at your local trash company who may compost.It's worth calling to check out. That is where we get most of ours and it only costs $25 per pickup load so it is economical.
This is what many tools look like after
a busy summer
Free Mulch: If you rake the leaves in your yard, consider using them as mulch on your garden and flower beds. Leaves are one of natures greatest mulches and it provides nutrients as it breaks down.
Prepare Plants for overwintering: Some plants don't need much help to survive the winter although mulch is always a good practice. In the coldest climates, roses may need additional protection.
If you have delicate plants, tropical plants or houseplants that spent the summer outdoors, it's time to look at them carefully and determine whether they need to be repotted, look for bugs and pests and treat before bringing them indoors and select an ideal spot for them in your home or garage to spend the winter. If you are unclear whether a plant can stay in the ground during the winter or is more tender, call your local Extension Office.
Time to plant garlic: You can either save the best and biggest
garlic heads and divide into individual cloves which you will plant now, or order garlic from a reputable nursery asap because they go fast.
In a prepared sunny spot in your garden, plant each individual clove two or so inches deep about six inches apart in the row, with about twelve inches between rows.
The first year I planted garlic, I panicked when I saw the green tips come up in late fall but the plants are hardy so they will survive just fine with beautiful garlic next year.
Remember your trees: Be sure to check on all your trees. The smaller and younger among them should have bark protection on them to ensure that hungry critters don't feed on the bark during the winter and to protect from wind and/or sun burn. Also make sure they have enough water before they go into dormancy this winter so they have enough moisture to pull through. It's always good practice to mulch your trees to the drip line with three to four inches of mulch but be sure to keep it away from the trunk. Mulch piled next to the bark can create deterioration and make the tree susceptible to insects and disease.
Enjoy the fall and the garden chores of putting your garden to bed for the winter. Remember once that is done, you can relax and enjoy the winter including dreaming about next years garden!