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New master gardener pursued passion for plants

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 24 May 2015 at 12:00 am

Provided photo – Kristina Gabalski, an Orleans Hub correspondent, completed the master gardener course in Orleans County. She is pictured with her flowering shrubs.

You might call me a “plant-a-holic” or maybe a “compulsive planter”, whichever the case, I’ve loved growing things since I was a kindergartener.

Up until a few months ago, gardening had always been a hobby for me. I love the seasonal process of clearing, digging, planting, watching something grow and harvest. I even love weeding.

Last fall I decided to finally get some formal training in horticulture and since my kids are Orleans County 4-Hers and I’ve really enjoyed Master Gardener programs I’ve attended in the past, I signed up for the 16-week Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Training Program. I knew I would enjoy helping and being a part of the activities and programs organized by Master Gardeners.

A group of more than 25 people started the program last October and those of us who made it all the way through – a few less than the beginning number – received our Certificates of Completion during the May 20 regular monthly meeting of the Orleans County Master Gardeners.

We celebrated with a pot luck dinner and cake before the business meeting took place and now Orleans County can boast of a register of 32 Master Gardeners – both experienced and new.

The training was rigorous and the size of the training manual itself a bit daunting, but the course was broken up with eight classes last fall and eight classes this spring. We covered a long list of topics – garden botany, soils and fertilizers, insects, plant diseases, diagnosing plant problems, woody plant materials, pruning, ecological lawn care, organic gardening, vegetable gardening, herbaceous perennial gardening, annuals and bedding plants, growing herbs, and nuisance wildlife management.

The training included open book mid-term and final exams. The most important part of training, however, was to provide us with the skills necessary to find information provided by Cornell University to help answer questions from residents and gardeners.

This spring we were also excited to welcome our new Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulture educator, Katie Oakes. She taught several of the spring training classes and was particularly helpful in learning more about fruit production, a subject in which she has great expertise, as she is a member of the Oakes family, owners of Lynoaken Farms.

Master Gardener volunteers will now begin applying their knowledge and information gathering skills in a wide variety of ways. It is hoped that the Master Gardener hotline will be staffed soon, enabling residents with questions to call or come into the Extension office during mid-day hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Details will be determined in the near future.

Now that we are into the growing season, a number of special events are also planned by Master Gardeners. A Healthy Garden Walk is set for July 11 and features a walking garden tour of the Village of Medina.

Master Gardeners will have a strong presence at the 4-H Fair, July 27-Aug. 1, with a booth in the Lartz Building and the first ever Flower Show planned. The annual Plant Sale is set for Sept. 12 and the winner of the Master Gardener Makeover will be also be announced that day in the Lartz Building on the fairgrounds.

Tickets for the Makeover are available now for $10 each and can be purchased at the Extension office, 12690 Rt. 31, in Knowlesville. The winner will receive a beautiful new perennial garden installed by Orleans County Master Gardeners. The design will be created by Master Gardeners with the approval of the winner. The makeover sight can be a new planting or addition to an existing garden. The prize, including installation and plant material, is valued at $1,000.

Horticulture Educator Katie Oakes is also working with Master Gardener volunteers to develop summer children’s programming for local libraries and Master Gardeners will again be teaching local 6th graders about composting during Conservation Field Days May 26 and 27 at the fairgrounds.

New Master Gardeners are always welcome. If you would like to become involved, contact the Extension office at 585-798-4265 or click here.

Other graduates in the new class of Master Gardeners include: Catherine Adams, Erin Anheier, Denise Bedard, Paula Bensley, Jena Buckwell, Colin Butgereit, Cindy Confer, Janelle Flammger, Kristine Fredrick, Mari Hoffmeister, Deborah Hoy, Audry Liao, Barbara Linhart, Wayne Litchfield, Mary Mann, Amanda Mrzywka, Eileen Sorochty, Jennifer Tynan, and Mary Jane Woodworth.