Special for The Coast News
Struggling with ways to control all those ants crawling on your vegetables?
What about the aphids and powdery mildew wreaking havoc in your flower beds?
Have any idea how to replace your lawn with drought-tolerant landscaping?
There are hundreds of garden experts ready to help you at no cost thanks to the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners program (mastergardenerSD.org).
Here in San Diego, nearly 300 Master Gardeners volunteer thousands of hours each year to provide home gardening and pest control information throughout the county, free to the public.
Master Gardeners are trained by the University of California Cooperative Extension and the County of San Diego Farm and Home Advisor experts in all aspects of home gardening with special emphasis on new pests and issues affecting the county.
Their advice is based on UC-based research that includes the innovative Pest Notes — more than 150 helpful guides to pest-related problems and plant diseases.
All Pest Notes can be downloaded from the Master Gardeners’ website or by visiting the state’s comprehensive website for home gardeners at ipm.ucanr.edu. You can also pick up printed versions by visiting the UCCE office at 9335 Hazard Way, Suite 201, San Diego, CA 92123.
The Master Gardener program attracts volunteers who have a passion for gardening, and it is the county’s responsibility to make sure these trainees are given accurate, up-to-date information on home horticulture issues and taught how to properly research and respond to questions they get from local residents. In San Diego, the next Master Gardener training course will be offered in 2016.
Each class is popular, with only 48 students accepted from an applicant pool of 200.
Master Gardeners receive six months of classroom training and educational field trips.
Instructors include experts in turf grasses, citrus, insects, vegetables, trees and shrubs. Students are certified as UCCE Master Gardeners after they successfully complete the training course and pass the final exam.
The newly minted garden experts must volunteer at least 50 hours/year in public outreach activities, helping to educate the public and answering questions on home gardening and pest management especially through the hotline (858) 822-6910, staffed Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Inquires also can be emailed to [email protected]
Master Gardeners give advice at more than 100 annual events in the county, including the San Diego County Fair, in addition to speaking at local garden clubs, serving as consultants for more than 400 school gardens and 80 community gardens, and providing horticultural classes at local juvenile detention facilities. Their demonstration garden was on display this past spring at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad.
This weekend, the Master Gardeners Plant Sale and Open House will be held at Balboa Park’s Casa del Prado from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Thousands of plants will be up for sale along with garden art, tools and books.
And 15 different exhibits and demonstrations will cover myriad topics including water-wise plants, earth-friendly gardens, pest management, composting and gardening in small spaces.
Plans are already underway for next year’s annual Spring Gardening Seminar March 21, 2015 because Master Gardeners are committed to helping other gardeners grow.
Scott Parker is the UCCE Master Gardener Program Coordinator for San Diego County.