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August 07, 2001
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DESERT BLOOM: Master Gardeners

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Does the very thought of trying to grow anything in the caliche of the Las Vegas Valley send you screaming from the room? Have you thought about improving your own gardening skills?

If you have ever needed help for a difficult spot in your garden or with a plant here in Las Vegas, there is a good chance that someone suggested you call the Master Gardeners. If you have ever admired the native plants outside the visitor center at Red Rock canyon, or the arboretum on the UNLV campus, then you have already been impressed by the work of the Master Gardeners. These are volunteers with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Since 1992, this program has helped valley residents deal with their garden problems.

I have to admit that when I first heard the term "Master Gardener", I was cowed. All I could think of was something like the village magician, a person who could get any flower, herb, tree or vegetable to thrive and never have any difficulty. Of course that isn't the case at all.

Now, don't get me wrong. Master Gardeners are very good gardeners. You know, some of them might even be magicians. The people who can get tomatoes to produce even when the temperature is much too high, or those whose flower gardens always look perfect, well, they do make me wonder. But that's not the essence of being a Master Gardener.

No matter how innately talented they are, two characteristics set Master Gardeners apart from other excellent plant people, or village magicians.

The first is that they are trained both generally, in the fundamentals of horticulture, and specifically in the range of concerns that affect gardening in their region wherever the region may be. There is a Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program in virtually every state of the union, but a Master Gardener trained in Michigan would probably not be prepared for the conditions that are present here in the Mojave. So, obviously, the localized instruction is critical.

Even so, that horticultural education does not define a master gardener. Almost anyone can learn how to grow plants correctly. What really distinguishes a master gardener from others, the second, but more important characteristic, is the commitment to assist other area residents as a volunteer.

Some serve as docents at the Desert Demonstration Garden while others participate in school and community gardens. They teach, they explain, they describe, they help. During office hours every Monday through Friday, master gardeners staff the phones at the Cooperative Extension office and answer questions from the public on any plant-related subject from aphids to zoysia.

But who are these people? Are they all wealthy retirees?

Not hardly.

Among the Master Gardeners in Las Vegas, you can find people in their 20s as well as 80 year olds. And every age in between. Some are retired. But, there are doctors, waitresses, engineers and landscapers. They may be self-employed but it is just as likely that they are casino workers or teachers. Both men and women are involved.

None of this is particularly important where Master Gardening is concerned. What matters is creating a beautiful environment and helping others to do so. Some Master Gardeners have gardened for decades, but a number have only started raising plants in the recent past. Some don't consider themselves particularly terrific gardeners at all, but they know that their contributions are important.

Maybe you would like to be part of developing the community of Las Vegas working with children or in neighborhoods, or by becoming a member of a healing garden. Perhaps you would like to be part of the team that is studying which fruit trees work well in this region. Since every master gardener contributes 50 hours to the program every year, there are many projects to choose from, and folks bring in their ideas for new projects regularly.

In order to become a master gardener, you need to have both the preparation and the commitment.

The Southern Nevada program is about 70 hours long, done over the course of two months. The curriculum covers plant nutrition, soil science, how to plant and grow trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers and vegetables, and confronting plant problems like insects and diseases. University faculty as well as master gardeners and local experts teach the courses. You gain access to very good reference texts, and the only financial outlay is to cover the cost of the books and other instructional materials.

The commitment comes from within.

Required orientation for the next class will be held on August 8 at 9am. Why don't you call 257-5501 to get the details?

For KNPR's Desert Bloom, this is Dr. Angela O'Callaghan of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

See discussion rules.

Archives

AngelaAug 12, 2014 | Organic Pesticides
Choosing a method for ridding your garden of an unwanted guest, be it bug or weed, is not always a simple choice. But the more you know, the better it goes. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormJul 28, 2014 | Lose that Lawn
We know, it's a desert out there including every place there's a lawn. Norm Schilling reminds us all the ways he wants you to consider losing the lawn... permanently.

AngelaJul 14, 2014 | Protect Fruit Trees from Birds
If you put a good deal of care into growing fruit trees, there are likely some birds who will take advantage of your effort. Here's Angela O'Callaghan.

NormJul 10, 2014 | Palm Care, Part 2
To keep, or not to keep. Norm Schilling ponders his palm trees, on this edition of Desert Bloom.

NormJun 10, 2014 | Palm Care
Norm Schilling has mixed feelings about how we use Palms in our yards. Full grown palm trees transplanted into the entry way of a mall is a common sight that tells Southern Nevadan's "something" is nearly open for business. He reminds us that those palms come with challenges.

AngelaJun 3, 2014 | Hot Weather Plants
As temperatures across the Valley begin to climb, you might be wondering what will survive in your garden in the months ahead and what probably won't. There are some 'sweet' options. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormMay 20, 2014 | Desert Color
Norm Schilling just got back from Belize and has some ideas for lush leaves in your desert yard. He reflects on some well suited plants to provide color and variety in this edition of Desert Bloom.

AngelaMay 6, 2014 | Emerald Ash Borer
Raising a healthy shade tree in the Mojave is not always easy. And if one particular insect makes its way here, it could get even harder. Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormApr 22, 2014 | The Right Plants
Our current warm spell gives the impression that some plants can thrive when they aren't really suited to our desert. Norm Schilling has some examples.

NormMar 24, 2014 | Spring Garden Party
Spring is here and the garden is blooming . . . so invite some friends to enjoy the rewards of gardening!

AngelaMar 10, 2014 | Lady Banks
If you love roses, but don't care for thorns, you may want to call on 'Lady Banks.' Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormFeb 26, 2014 | Signs of Spring
It may be February, but if you are paying attention, signs of Spring are visible. Dwarf peach and Mexican plum trees are in bloom. Vibrant Red Spraxis can be seen among the falling Almond blossom. Watch gardening expert Norm Schilling transplant an offshoot. Check out the slide show of photos taken from his backyard.

AngelaFeb 18, 2014 | Mulch is for Winter
Rewards for using mulch in your landscape can be had year-round. Mulch is about mulch more than just "good looks" according to Angela O' Callaghan. In any climate, and certainly in a desert, mulch is an ecologically sound way to conserve our limited soil moisture and to control weeds.

NormFeb 4, 2014 | Investing for Spring
Temperatures are scheduled to stay cool this week, but Norm Schilling finds his yard is ready for Spring. He reflects on techniques to keep older trees healthy even as the surrounding yard may change. Bigger, older trees may need more water.

AngelaJan 13, 2014 | Freezing Temps
If your garden looks like it's been zapped by Jack Frost, there's still a chance that all is not lost. Delicate desert plants can suffer chill damage even when the temperature stays above freezing. Well-established plants should survive.

NormDec 31, 2013 | Leave the Leaves
Just because most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, it doesn't mean you have to rake them all up. Norm Schilling says it's better to use the leaves as mulch to protect the plants and make rich soil. Some woody plants can be pruned now, while others should wait another month or two.

AngelaDec 13, 2013 | Winter Greens
It is the season to enjoy some winter gardening. In Southern Nevada, a cold-snap does not have to mean that your garden is done for. Angela O'Callaghan gives a few cold facts.

NormDec 3, 2013 | Winter Watering
After a recent rain followed by a cold snap this week, Norm Schilling digs in to figure out how much water is needed this time of year. Touch the leaves to get a feel and don't water much at all for the next few months.

AngelaNov 18, 2013 | Herb Gardens
Our desert environment may be hard to handle for many plants, but it is possible to grow your own herbal remedy. The healing properties of some herbs are still widely recognized. Even though we rarely have to rely on them to deal with our infirmities, Angela O'Callaghan says many herbs are pretty and simple to grow.

NormNov 5, 2013 | Fall Color
Our second Spring is in full bloom. Norm Schilling shares his favorite plants that are bringing color to the yard right now, including Chocolate Flower, Mexican Bush Sage, Autumn Sage and ornamental grasses.

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