What can the Master Gardeners do for your garden?

This column usually picks a timely topic or two and helps you deal with them. Today, we are going to discuss what the Master Gardeners can do for you on a daily basis. We should probably start out with a short description of who the Master Gardeners are. Master Gardeners are common, average gardeners with an uncommon desire to be much better. They signed up for the sixteen week Clemson horticulture school and when they finished, they spent a year doing volunteer work in the community. After that, they were given the title of “Master Gardener”. The title did not end their commitment to community service. There are several ongoing programs provided to the community and almost all of them are free. Here is a list of what is available.

2011 Aiken County Gardening Almanac: For the past four years, the Aiken Master Gardener Association has produced a gardening almanac specifically for Aiken and vicinity. Most gardening books are written for large areas such as the Southeast and cannot offer detailed information for a local region. The new almanac has been completely revised and expanded. It is the one source of information that will increase your knowledge of our unique soil conditions, weather patterns, available plants, turfgrasses, vegetables and trees. The almanac will be available after January 1, 2011 at the Clemson Extension Center on Richland Avenue and will also be available at selected locations around Aiken. This is the one book you should own if you do any gardening and it makes a great gift for a fellow gardener. The price is still $15.00 and worth so much more!

Meet a Master Gardener: On the first Saturday of each month from March until November, the Master Gardeners are at the Farmers Market on Richland Avenue. From 8:00 A.M. until noon, they will answer questions about anything to do with the lawn and garden. They pass out literature and will research a specific problem if they can’t offer a satisfactory answer on the spot. This is a free service and a chance to talk directly with someone that can help you be more successful with your garden chores.

Rent a Master Gardener: This program was developed to respond to homeowners that wanted someone to come to their home and help them with a variety of problems. For a modest fee, a team, (3-5) of Master Gardeners will spend an hour at your home discussing whatever issues they discover during the visit. Following the visit, a written report is submitted with detailed instructions on how to resolve current issues and prevent future ones. This program is available from March through October.

Lunchbox Lectures: This free series of lectures about common gardening topics takes place on the third Monday of each month, January through October. They are called Lunchbox Lectures since they take place at noon and run for an hour. You are invited to bring your own lunch or a snack to enjoy during the lecture. Some of last year’s topics included developing great soil, general lawn topics, daylilies, weed identification and many more. This is another great time to speak with a Master Gardener in a relaxed atmosphere. Here is the schedule for 2011:

January 17, Pruning Shrubs and Trees by retired U.S. Forester Ron Bonar
February 21, Turfgrass issues by Master Gardener Bill Hayes
March 21, Roses by MG Jane Burkhalter
April 18, Fertilizers for Turf by MG George Montgomery
May 16, Fire Ants by Extension Agent Vicky Bertagnolli
June 20, Palms by St. Aquinas teacher Joe Levert
July 18, Ornamental Grasses by Ted Williams
August 15, Cool Season Veggies by Jim Bennett
September 19, Hitchcock Woods by Harry Shealy
October 17, Beekeeping by MG Hank Smalling

Extension Office Support: The Master Gardeners provide telephone response to questions during the week from January through December. There is a Master Gardener in the office from 8:30 A.M. until 11:00 A.M. every day except Wednesday. They will answer your telephone calls or meet with you personally if you decide to visit the office. The address is 1555 Richland Avenue, East and the location is Suite 500. The telephone number is 803-649-6911, extension 122.

Website Help: The Master Gardeners provide a website with various types of support services. You can send us an email question using a provided form. Our email address is info1@aikenmastergardeners.org. There are also many timely gardening articles posted along with a monthly calendar that lists many of the local garden shows and meeting dates. The website is located at https://www.aikenmastergardeners.org/.

Speakers Bureau: Garden Clubs and other community organizations often require guest speakers. The Master Gardeners have several members that can speak on a wide variety of lawn, garden, and tree related topics. They can be contacted through the office telephone number or the email address.

Scholarship Support: The Aiken Master Gardener Association is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization. All funds are returned to the community for local projects related to horticulture. The funding has also provided an endowment at Clemson to aid a local student in a horticulture related field.

Now, here are a few tips from a fellow Master Gardener. Winter has arrived a little early and may have caught a few of us napping. Remove all drip irrigation timers from water supplies. A quick freeze can destroy a plastic timer in a very short time. Check those outdoor hoses and be sure that they are clear of any trapped water. Add fresh water to your bird baths. They can’t peck through the ice! Store your garden chemicals in a location where they will not freeze. Remember the first free Lunchbox lecture will be on January 17, 2011 at the Clemson Extension Center. Merry Christmas and a very Happy Holiday Season from all of the Master Gardeners!