Master Gardener training is often compared to a college course in horticulture: there is a significant time requirement, and concepts are treated in great detail from a research-based perspective. In 2020, Master Gardener programs across Oregon are striving to be more similar in every county. In Klamath, that effort leads to a slightly shorter training period for incoming Master Gardeners. Trainings will still be day- long, but for fewer weeks. Inevitably, a few topics had to be trimmed away to fit the shorter course schedule — but those seeking quality, in- depth horticultural knowledge will not be disappointed.
In Klamath County, subjects trimmed from the training for new incoming volunteers have been added to the advanced training lineup available to returning Master Gardeners — those with the availability and thirst for additional class time will still have options. Applications for the 2020 cohort of trainees will be accepted through Jan. 6. Classes begin on Wed, Feb. 19. Master Gardener training is also appropriate for those seeking professional training for entry-level jobs into the horticulture industry. Several local businesses have supported staff taking Master Gardener training. The perspective of the employees working in the field adds more depth and perspectives to the topics addressed.
Following are some of the topics covered in the basic Master Gardener training starting in February.
Botany: Plants are perceived in a whole new way when viewed from a botanical perspective. From understanding of the names of plant parts to how we categorize plants and their relationships, botany is a necessary foundation for deeply rooted plant discussions. Many participants are fascinated to learn that there are dozens of terms to describe the margin of a leaf, another dozen to describe the tip of the leaf, and still more to describe the leaf buds that develop over winter! While few participants will remember all 57 terms after a single afternoon, lots of them will remember that plants in the mint family have square stems, or that a flower’s type of symmetry is a clue to its family relationships.
Soils: As a college student, this author pondered how in the world her professor was going to fill an entire semester’s worth of teaching on soil. Imagine her surprise when she opened her textbook, and realized there were doctorate degrees in soils! From pH to texture to water holding capacity, soils impact plant performance in myriad ways. The Klamath Basin has a wide variety of soil types, changing with elevation and location. Better understanding of how soil impacts plant growth leads to more successful gardeners.
Plant propagation: One of the most popular lab activities of the training season is propagation lab, in which we investigate the ways plants are multiplied. Different plant types benefit from different techniques: learning and experimenting with these is exciting to gardeners, largely because it results in more plants. Propagating and growing houseplants has been a major project of the Klamath Master Gardeners in 2019, so next season’s propagation lab will be more interesting than ever. We also take a close look at seeds and the terminology surrounding seed choices.
Organic gardening: Concerns about the environment and pesticide use lead many gardeners to investigate organic gardening and its benefits. Many participants are surprised to learn that organic production does, indeed, include the use of pesticides! In fact, organic production includes the use of naturally derived pesticides, as well as requiring that other inputs like fertilizer are “natural.” In addition to separating some of the fact and fiction revolving around organic gardening, Master Gardener training provides resources for those who want to investigate this topic more thoroughly. Successful organic gardening requires a systematic approach and long-term planning to create healthy, biologically active soil.
Insect ID: There are about 2 million kinds of insects in the world, but most of them don’t impact the lives of gardeners directly. Master Gardener training helps gardeners distinguish helpful and harmful insects, and determine insect type by the damage found on the plant. Chewing damage, for instance, is usually done by beetles or caterpillars: stinkbugs don’t have chewing mouthparts. The needle-like mouthparts of a stinkbug leave a different signature than those of the chewing caterpillar. Plant feeding insects often congregate in large numbers, camouflaged in green the same shade as the leaf they are feeding on. Predators are more often found singly, with big eyes and long legs suitable for predation. Using the approach of recognizing the characteristics of insects helps gardeners identify them when the need arises. Master Gardeners that really enjoy the world of insects and want to study identification more robustly can do so through participation in the Oregon Bee Project.
Nicole Sanchez is horticulture faculty at OSU’s Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center. For more information on this or other gardening topics, contact Nicole at Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-883-7131.