Meet The Masters – the North State Master Gardener Programs

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Pam Geisel, Statewide Coordinator of the UC Master Gardener Program – several counties of which are accepting applicants for this fall – including Glenn and Shasta.

Pam gives us an update on Master Gardener programs in the North State and recommends visiting some of their keystone projects at upcoming events and demonstrations, including Patrick Ranch in Chico, Young Family Ranch in Weaverville and Fair Oaks Horticultural Center in Fair Oaks. Photo: Master Gardeners learn about all manner of beneficial insects and integrated pest management.

North State Master Gardener Programs include:

Butte County Master Gardener Program:
Visit or Call the Hotline

Butte County Cooperative Extension Office
2279-B Del Oro Avenue
Oroville, CA 95965
(530) 538-7201

Monday and Wednesday
8:45 – 11:45 am Photo: Master gardeners are trained in soil science.

Colusa County Master Gardener Program

Master Gardeners are available to answer your home garden questions beginning May 19, 2009. The U.C. Master Gardener Office Hours are: Tuesdays from 9am – 12pm at the UCCE Office, and Thursdays from 1pm – 4pm at the Farm Bureau Office.

Call the UC Cooperative Extension office at 530-458-0570 or the Colusa County Farm Bureau office at 530-458-5130. We have two locations: UC Cooperative Extension office, 100 Sunrise Blvd. Suite E, Colusa, CA 95932 AND Colusa County Farm Bureau, 520 Market Street, Colusa. If you would like more information, please email one of our Master Gardener Program Coordinators, Gerry Hernandez at or Melodie Johnson at

Glenn County Master Gardener Program:

The Glenn County Master Gardener Program provides our community with UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscape and pest management practices.
Upcoming 2012 Master Gardener Training classes: 2012 Master Gardener Training Class – Become a Glenn County Master Gardener! Applications are currently being accepted for the class of 2012 – 13. Photo: Master gardeners learn about all manner of food crops – their cultivation and health.

As part of our training program, applicants attend a 18-week series of classes in plant science, soils, water management, vegetable gardening, entomology, integrated pest management, home orchard, turf grass, oaks, fire safety, pathology, weeds, pest control and more. Classes are taught by experts in their fields, including UC Cooperative Extension Advisors and Specialists.

After passing a written examination and completing a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service, the Master Gardener is certified. To maintain your affiliation with the University Master Gardeners, you need to complete 12 hours of continuing education yearly and continue to volunteer 25 hours per year.

August 16, 2012 – 4:00 p.m. – Farm Bureau Office Informational Orientation Meeting.

Come hear the presentation and get your questions answered!

November 2012 – Classes begin, classes will be held in Orland at the Farm Bureau building.

August 16, 2012 – Deadline for submitting your application.

Our Master Gardener volunteers have all undergone extensive training provided by specialists from the University of California. Below are examples on how Glenn County Master Gardeners will share UC research-based information to the public:

The Glenn County 2011 MG Fair Booth
One-on-one consultation
Demonstration gardens
Websites & online forums
Fairs and plant clinics
Mass media
Send an e-mail to the Glenn County Master Gardeners:

Congratulations to the new Glenn and Butte County Master Gardeners!

Humboldt/Del Norte Counties Master Gardener Program:

Master Gardener Program:
The Humboldt Master Gardener Program will be offered again in 2013. It is a 13 week course meeting 4 hours a week. Please call Deborah Giraud at 445-7351 for more information.

Sacramento Master Gardener Program:

Sacramento County Master Gardener training will take place in 2013.

Shasta and Tehama Counties Master Gardener Program:

The mission of the Shasta College Master Gardeners Association is to develop, adapt, and extend research-based horticultural information and educational programs to the residents of Shasta and Tehama Counties. The Master Gardeners assist the University of California Cooperative Extension through gardening programs and horticultural activities designed to educate the public with research-based information. Photo: Master gardeners learn about native and drought tolerant plantings. Here a native California fuchsia at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay, where Shasta and Tehama County Master Gardeners are regular volunteers.

Have a Question?
Information on many subjects including integrated pest management, soils, composting, irrigation and watering, plant selection, etc. is available in several ways:

Call the Master Gardener Helpline at (530) 242-2219 or Email:

Master Gardener Training Date: August 21, 2012 – November 20, 2012 Register Today!
This is the training course for the Master Gardener Program, a community service organization designed to relay research based horticultural information to the home gardener. The Master Gardener program was developed by the University Cooperative Extension to train interested horticultural enthusiasts to assist local gardeners in diagnosing plant problems and to provide science based information for keeping home landscapes and the environment healthy. The University of California has agreed to let Shasta College use their training materials which are provided through this class. Topics covered in this course include pesticide use, IPM, weed identification and management, pruning, plant diseases, soils, fertilizers, growing vegetables, native plants, vermiculture, watering and many other plant related topics. This is a required course for anyone interested in obtaining a UC Extension certification as a Shasta College Master Gardener. Class meets weekly on Tuesday evenings. Includes four Saturdays: 9/8, 9/22, 10/13, 10/27. Go to Shasta College Website to register online.

Trinity County Master Gardener Program:

UCCE-Trinity will be coordinating a Master Gardener training program, with over 50 hours of training from University of California staff and other professionals in the nursery and landscape industries, beginning January 11, 2012 and ending on May 2nd. Classes will usually be held on Wednesday evenings from 6 pm to 9 pm, with 3 Saturday classes, at the Young Family Ranch in Weaverville. The fee for the training program is $75, which includes the Master Gardener Handbook and other course materials. For more information on future trainings, contact coordinator Carol Photo: Master gardeners learn habitat gardening.

History of the Master Gardener Program in the United States:

The Master Gardener program was originally conceived and started in Washington State in 1972 by David Gibby, Ph.D, a horticultural Extension agent for the University of Washington.
But wait. To truly understand the Master Gardener program, you need to understand a little bit about the history of the agricultural or horticultural Extension Agent system, and to understand that, you need to understand a little bit about American history. Photo: In 2011-2012, the Butte County Master Gardeners put together a wonderful and colorful calendar of regional garden tasks by month and the year long theme was tomatoes: from starting the seed to staking, watering, harvesting and preserving the harvest and saving seed for the next year. Look for more Master Gardener publications from each of the counties.

If that sounds almost Epic – it is. The rigorously trained, enthusiastic volunteer corps we now know as Master Gardeners are at the end of one thread of the history of Westward Expansion, the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions, and the subsequent suburbanization and even more recent Technological Revolution of the United States. In my humble opinion, the Master Gardener program is one shining example of a good and effective marriage between government resources, educational institutions and those of us at home on the farm – or in the garden as it were.

According to what is now known as the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service:

“The roots of U.S. agricultural extension go back to the early years of our country. There were agricultural societies and clubs after the American Revolution…In 1819 John Stuart Skinner of Baltimore began publishing the American Farmer. Farmers were encouraged to report on their achievements and their methods of solving problems.”

“The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant universities to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other practical professions. Extension was formalized in 1914, with the Smith-Lever Act. It established the partnership between the agricultural colleges and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide for cooperative agricultural extension work, in order to Develop practical applications of research knowledge, and give instruction and practical demonstrations of existing or improved practices or technologies in agriculture.” Photo above: Management of Orchards, Fruits and Berries are one of the subjects covered in the Master Gardener training.

“Congress created CSREES through the 1994 Department Reorganization Act, by combining the USDA’s Cooperative State Research Service (CSRS) and Extension Service (ES) into a single agency….All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities, have a third critical mission—extension. “Extension” means “reaching out,” and—along with teaching and research—land-grant institutions “extend” their resources…and bring land-grant expertise to the most local of levels.”

When Extension Agent Gibby came up with the idea of the Master Gardener Program, it was a case of “necessity is the mother of invention.” He was overwhelmed with the scope of his job and needed an extra hand – or 50.

An extension agent’s task in the early 1900s was primarily to use their scientific training, knowledge and on-going research to help farmers to produce more food at less expense for a growing nation. As time and situations developed, the task of agents also included helping to avoid or diminish damage to crops due to soil failures, large scale pest outbreaks or diseases. For example, according to the North Carolina University Cooperative Extension website, “on Nov. 12, 1906: the first county agent in the United States, W.C. Stallings, was appointed to serve Smith County, Texas. Boll Weevil damage was so severe in Texas and Louisiana that businessmen volunteered to help pay a large share of expenses in employing agents.” Later still, agents were a crucial link to the Victory Garden movement during the World Wars.

As times and farming have changed, the extension agencies have been widely called upon to address more and more general home-gardening and private land-use questions – from “what’s eating my tomatos?” to “can you do a walk around on my 35 acre county property to help me identify Pine-Bark beetle or invasive weed problems?”

Agents had a difficult time extending themselves (pardon the pun) farther and farther. Gibby reasoned that good and interested home gardeners could easily be trained to help specifically with the home-gardening side of an extension agent’s work. They could, they were, they did and the Master Gardener program continues to thrive and grow today. Photo above: This Praying Mantis is an example of a beneficial insect in a garden. The role of beneficial insects is part of the Integrated Pest Management portion of the Master Gardener Program.

Where once one land-grant university per state handled all of the state’s extension services, today literally thousands of Extension offices exist around the country. Extension Master Gardener programs exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and the program has been copied in other countries around the world.

Examples of projects or activities in which Extension Master Gardeners participate, (including the excellent and searchable web eXtension) are:
Conducting garden consumer hotlines; Setting up gardening exhibits; Writing news articles; Educating in community gardens; Conducting yard and neighborhood environmental programs; Controlling invasive plants; Establishing public demonstration gardens; Providing sensory gardens and other gardens and gardening techniques for the handicapped; Helping with community plantings; composting, lawn waste management, and yard waste recycling. Photo above: Soils and Fertility is a portion of the Master Gardener training.

Pam indicates that one of the main focuses is to help disseminate “scientifically based answers” to the many gardening questions that arise for the home flower, vegetable, orchard or vine gardener. Photo above: Turf Management is a subject of the Master Gardener training.

Master Gardeners go through a rigorous training over the course of approximately 16 weeks. Class topics range from: Basic Botany, Insects – the good and the bad; Soils & Fertility; Plant Diseases, Vegetable Gardening, Fungi, Irrigation, Lawns, Fruits & Berries and Fire-Safe Landscaping, among others. Sources include the well-respected Botany for Gardeners, by Brain Capon,
“The real benefits of the program,” says Leimone, “are that gardeners develop a better understanding of the science behind gardening and so develop a more balanced approach to gardening – from feeding to pest-control. They also connect with like-minded people and often form life-long networks of friends and colleagues!” Photo above: Irrigation, watering and how plants take up water is a portion of the Master Gardener training.

Once certified, as a Master Gardener, you are expected to give a certain number of volunteer hours back to the program in the form of such activities as manning informational tables at local farmer’s markets, answering the Master Gardener Hotline, giving composting or other garden-related workshops to schools or other organizations. “But most people are happy to do this,” says Leimone. “They are excited to share their love and knowledge of gardening.” An International Master Gardeners Conference – “New Frontiers” in horticulture and gardening – is being held in Las Vegas— March 22-26, 2009. For more information on that go to:

Interested in a Master Gardener Program near you? Visit the appropriate website below for more info. Registration for the fall sessions generally happens in mid-August. Have a question for the Master Gardener Hotline? Call: 530-242-2219. Photos above: Vegetable gardening and Insect Identification are covered in the Master Gardener training.

General County Extension and Master Gardener Websites of interest:

California Master Gardener Websites:

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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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