by Kathy Eide Casas
The Master Gardener Vision:
Healthier Environment, Healthier Communities,
Healthier Plants, Healthier Gardeners
Brown is the New Green…this familiar reminder is sprouting up all over California as we enter another year of the historic drought. For those who want to remain water-wise but still want to enjoy all the benefits that plants, trees and flowers have to offer, more residential gardeners than ever are turning to the experts who are on hand 24/7, to offer tips, advice and knowledge– The Master Gardeners.
Known as the ‘backyard gardener connection,’ there are currently 250 Master Gardeners in Fresno County as a branch of the University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension. The Fresno County Master Gardeners program is designed to extend UC research-based horticultural information to home and community gardeners. Each Master Gardener must complete a rigorous four-month training program for their certification, as the first step in their ongoing educational experience, plus 50 hours of hands-on training that’s done outside of the classroom, and of course, they must pass an exam at the end.
This tremendous resource is offered at no cost to the public and has a full selection of information and opportunities. In fact, the Master Gardeners Program logs thousands of hours of community outreach each year through their telephone helpline and email outreach. Also offered are plant clinics that are regularly held at local public venues, educational activities, demonstrations and events such as the popular and longtime Fresno Favorite, the Spring Garden Tour, where guests can enjoy touring private gardens that rank among Fresno’s finest.
Each year, the Smart Gardening Conference is offered, where attendees can learn new techniques for everything that backyard gardeners need to know! There is also the Garden of the Sun, another product of the Master Gardeners, featuring an innovative one-acre ornamental and food production demonstration garden, located on the south end of the City of Fresno’s Reedy Park, at Winery and McKinley Avenues.
Janet Cangemi, the Master Gardener Program Manager, emphasized that the Master Gardeners are here to help with answers, information and ideas. She is passionate about her work and it shows! Cangemi has been the Program Manager since 2010 and prior to that, was a volunteer Master Gardener. She has truly seen the program blossom. With the current drought, the Master Gardeners are experiencing even more calls than normal on their busy help line, where every range of homeowner question is answered – whether it is drought related, pests, irrigation, soil, soil testing, or the all-encompassing comprehensive gardening questions.
The Master Gardeners pride themselves on responding to each inquiry in an efficient manner. Janet Cangemi, explained, “People are in the process of changing – transitioning to a new style of growth, and we want to help them with that transition. We are providing a lot of information on how people can save their trees, as they change out their lawns for more drought tolerant forms of landscape.” Though that’s just a portion of what they do on a daily basis, the Master Gardeners are always responsive and informative.
To find out more about all that Fresno’s Master Gardeners have to offer, to view their full calendars of events or to access the helpline, please visit their website at: ucanr.edu/sites/mgfresno.