Friday, January 6, 2012


Now I know how to read a bag of fertilizer. (Experienced gardeners, go ahead and snicker.) The vastness of my ignorance was the catalyst for applying to the DeKalb County Extension Office's Master Gardener program. My yard and vegetable garden are testament to the trial and error approach that has resulted in more errors than I can count.

One class and I decided:

1. I need a tiller. Because unless I'm going to landscape the yard in raised beds the whole thing needs churning and turning.

2. Learning soil science in two and a half hours is like drinking from a fire hose.

3. Pressure cookers have come a long way since my grandmother's day when explosions were a real threat.  (I got that gem from a lifetime canner/preserver who lives on a family farm. She could TEACH the master gardener program but thought she still has much to learn so she signed up.)

During class, I ignored the edict to turn off my cell phone (it's never off since my kids have to be able to reach me in an emergency) and instead silenced it and set it next to my iPad.

While we have lost much of the intrinsic lore related to self-reliant vegetable gardening (my grandparents KNEW when to plant, where to plant, when to harvest, how to can/preserve, and how to enrich soil without chemicals ...) we have gained amazing tools giving us access to a plethora of knowledge via the internet.

When the Soil Science Master opined on chemicals to balance alkalinity and acidity for various plants, I consulted an organic gardening website to see the alternative methods available because I prefer a more "natural" approach.  I snapped photos  of graphs and data I couldn't transcribe quickly or neatly enough with note-taking or the Penultimate app. I looked up a gardening book recommended by another intern and ordered it with my one-click account on Amazon.  And I used one of the breaks to review flash card apps I'll utilize to master the vocabulary and concepts I need to know to pass the final exam (it's a certification program).

The only thing my electronic tools couldn't do was prevent the mid-afternoon sleepy slump that unfortunately coincided with the basic botany lesson. Note to self: extra Diet Coke in the lunch bag for that post-prandial lull.

My bucket list has a new check for "Learn something new every year."  The Master Gardener class is intellectually stimulating, evocative, and physically challenging (thanks to the 50 required volunteer service hours in the field), so it's a great foundation for 2012.


  1. You said I could do it so I'm going to.

    **snicker** (Mom and hubby were both farmers and came from long lines of farmers. I learned enough to know I don't want to do it for a living.)

    Whadaya mean you don't know how to can??? Bring over a half-bushel of figs or peaches, etc this spring, I'll get you up to speed.

  2. I tried one time to can green beans then read too much information about botulism and other "oh no!" possiblities. Having NOT canned in tandem with my grandmother, I skulked away from the stove and resorted to freezing instead. Mmmmm - figs. Deal!

  3. You are always welcome to borrow our garden tiller - and yes, it is a MUST HAVE if you're gonna do a good job of churning and turning, for sure! And yes, I recall feeling so enlightened when I first learned what those 3 little numbers on the fertilizer bags meant...and I now know and understand why 10-10-10 is always a safe bet...most of the time :-)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts - it's great to hear from you!