2017-03-30 / Views

Veggies just one part of master gardener classes

A column by Amy Hubbell

While friends and family bask in the warmth of southern climes, I’m carefully plotting my course for spring 2017.

And after last year’s successful return to the vegetable patch, I’m getting a little education to go with my experience.

I’m one of 39 people participating locally in the Michigan State University Extension’s Master Gardener program, which teaches more than how to grow a garden. It’s an education and volunteer leader training program committed to improving horticulture-based volunteerism and beautifying communities throughout the state.

The Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center just down the road a piece in Bingham Township has been my destination each Thursday for the past three weeks, and will continue to be through the next couple months.

That’s fortunate, as some of my fellow classmates come from as far as Jackson and Blanchard to attend the class. That’s quite a commitment, as the 12-week course includes weekly classes of four hours.

Material covered ranges from soil science to composting; tree fruits and small fruits to vegetables; diagnostics to integrated pest management. You get the picture.

And much to my surprise — and the chagrin of my chemist daughter — horticulture involves a lot more chemistry than I thought it would.

Interestingly, after each of my first three classes, I’ve been able to connect material covered to real-life situations or to other situations that have come my way.

Whether through serendipity or harmonic convergence, the fabric of material covered in class has been woven into my life.

Native plants mentioned during the chapter on pest management got a boost at my weekly Rotary meeting last Thursday when district forester Kama Ross spoke about their importance in enhancing wildlife habitat.

The following day, I visited with a very passionate Kay Charter, founder of Saving Birds Thru Habitat, who more specifically talked about how native plants boost insect numbers required by migrating and nesting birds.

It was kismet.

This farmer’s daughter has already learned so much — and we haven’t even touched on vegetables and fruit in our classes.

That will come a little later.

Whether it’s the class or the brief spring tease we experienced in February, gardening and lawn care have already occupied a lot of my time.

The ash trees that were dead and dying in my front yard — for years — have been mercifully removed by my son and friends. It was bittersweet as my excitement to have them gone was tempered by the memory of my daughter and nephew swinging together on a seat made by dad.

Removing the eyesores opened up all sorts of possibilities for the front yard. And hopefully, I’ll be able apply what I’ve learned. And then there’s the Hubbell veggie patch, which had much success last summer.

To fulfill my 40-hour community service requirement for Master Gardener certification, I have a new and exciting project in mind.

The Leelanau Christian Neighbors (LCN) will be moving into their new home next door to the Enterprise offices this spring. Just last week, on the LCN website plans were announced for a raised bed vegetable garden south of the new garage being built at the new location.

I couldn’t ask for a better arrangement. In no time, I’ll be able to put down my note pad, put on my Master Gardener trainee name tag and maybe have a hand in helping provide the needy in the community with a little fresh produce.

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