Master Gardeners have big lineup of programs planned for 2021

Provided photos: These kids do soil blocking, a seed-starting method that has zero plastic waste, using free-standing blocks of soil. Master Gardener Nancy Halstead will be teaching the basics of this technique in the first class of the “Master Your Garden Series” on April 3.

Posted 10 March 2021 at 9:08 am

Press Release, Orleans County Master Gardeners Coordinator Katie Oakes

Master Gardener volunteer Jena Buckwell will teach two of the classes in the upcoming Master Your Garden Series. Here, she shows participants of a past MG event a soil drainage demonstration.

KNOWLESVILLE – Orleans CCE Master Gardener volunteers have typically offered annual events intended to bring big crowds – Plant Sales, Summer Garden Tours, Spring Education Days, etc.

Last March the pandemic put a halt to all programs they had planned, and the volunteers were faced with the task of coming up with ways to offer educational programming to the public in a way that could allow for more predictable attendance as well as flexibility in the event of unforeseen changes.

“Last year was such a let-down,” said Horticulture Educator and MG Volunteer coordinator Katie Oakes. “The volunteers had planned all of these really great, ambitious projects, only to have them all cancelled just as the season was getting started.”

Many of the events and projects typically planned by the Master Gardeners require planning months in advance, purchase of supplies and materials, rental or speaker contract fees, etc.

“We just couldn’t afford to plan a typical year of events without being able to recoup those costs with large numbers of participants,” explained Oakes.

Master Gardener volunteer Jena Buckwell spearheaded the effort to adapt MG programming to a pandemic society, and together the volunteers came up with this year’s “Master Your Garden Educational Series” held on the first Saturday of every month.

“I really felt that a monthly series could go a long way in increasing accessibility to our programs,” said Buckwell, describing the motivation behind the altered programming. “The cost for these programs will be low, and by hosting them on Saturday mornings for a shorter amount of time, we are hopefully opening up our programs to people who work full time, parents who have a hard time finding childcare on weeknights, participants who may not feel comfortable driving home in the dark after an evening class, or anyone who just couldn’t find the time to attend our longer educational events in the past.”

The topics of the class series range from current gardening trends (Soil Blocking and Square Foot Gardening) to volunteer passions (Roses, Common Beans) to public requests (Propagation and Grafting, Mushrooms).  They will all be taught by Master Gardener volunteers or CCE staff who are eager to share their own successes and experiences in gardening with the public. It was important to the volunteers to offer these classes in a way that’s inclusive to all, therefore, all of the classes are available to the public for free, with an optional donation of $5.

“I hope that by providing more casual programming on a regular basis, we will encourage a sense of community for Master Gardeners and all those attending our programs,” said Buckwell.

All classes will be held in person (following current Covid-19 guidelines) and on-site at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds, 12690 State Rt. 31, Albion, NY 14411.  For more information and details on the class lineup, visit the Master Your Garden event page of the Orleans CCE website.  To register for these classes, call 585-798-4265.

A stunning variety of rose grown by Master Gardener Brenda Radzinski.  She will be teaching a class on how to grow this garden favorite on July 3.

CCE Wyoming County staff member Don Gasiewicz will teach about Mushrooms on November 6.  Mushroom growing has been requested multiple times by participants of past MG events.