Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Putting "Community" in Community Gardens

Did you have a chance to attend Friday's Advanced Training session on Community Gardens? There were wonderful bits of experience mixed in with new ideas at the day-long training held at the Extension office in Henry County.

We heard from Glenda Garris, Director of the Community Gardens of Henry County. Glenda shared piles of tips on building a community garden, gaining support, building partnerships, and of course, stories about the gardeners who grow there.

Jennifer Davidson, ANR Agent in Columbus, GA (Muscogee County), talked about multiple garden projects that are part of the Columbus Community Garden Network, highlighting Extension's role and the benefits to local residents. She had great ideas for getting things done without expending money, like her fabulous website.

Ted Wynne, ANR Agent in Newton County, demonstrated the importance of planning and forethought in his presentation on community gardens in Newton County. He shared how Newton County developed a long-range plan for 2050, identified health and greening components, and looked to Extension for meeting elements of that plan. He highlighted the successes of working with local college students and other volunteer groups, but emphasized the need to be prepared to direct these groups. His take-home advice was to not own the garden -- be a resource, but not the owner.

MGEVs share experiences with each other as they work on class activities.
 One of the most fascinating tips I took away from the training came during our first class activity before lunch. MGEVs divided into small groups and began identifying the successes and challenges of their community garden projects. They also identified what they needed to know more about. During this session, a MGEV indicated that one of their successes at bringing "community" to their community gardens came from a blog. The blog serves as a place of exchange among the gardeners at the community garden. It was creating conversation and engaging the gardeners at the site!

Thank you to Frank Hancock, ANR Agent in Henry County, and the MGEVs in Henry who planned and hosted this Advanced Training! Participants left with ideas and contacts for community garden development. We look forward to hearing their success stories!


  • March 5, 2013: Leadership: Building a Dynamic MGEV Network; Advanced Training in the “Required” Course Options. Hosted by Gwinnett County Extension and the Gwinnett County Master Gardener Association. 9:30 am – 4:30 pm; Cost: $25. Registration Deadline: February 26, 2013. Contact local Extension agents for registration information.
  • March 22, 2013: Sustainability in the Garden: Comparing Conventional and Organic Garden Management (SGL), Athens, GA (prior to GMGA spring conference); This six-hour training is designed to give Master Gardener Extension Volunteers in-depth training in the differences between conventional and organic garden management. During the session management techniques and products will be examined and pros and cons will be weighed. Registration is now open; contact your Extension Agent for a registration form.
  • April 29-May 4, 2013: Cultivated Spaces (YCG) as part of our bus trip to St. Louis, MO titled “Cultivated Spaces Tour: The Gardens of St. Louis.” Registration is now open; Tour Information and registration.
  • June 7-8, 2013: Master Gardener University; The Georgia Center, Athens, GA. Multiple sessions offered. This will be an on-line registration through the Georgia Center and is expected to open for registration by March 1.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Meet Me in St. Louis...

Missouri Botanical Garden
Meet Me in St Louis...
Wasn't that a lovely film? I haven't seen the whole movie yet, but as I was researching the things we wanted to do for the Master Gardener Study Tour for 2013, clips of that classic 1944 film with Judy Garland kept coming up.

Why did we choose St. Louis for a study tour? Well, we were looking for a place that is far enough away to give our Georgia MGEVs a reason to get on the bus with us, but one that wasn’t so far that the distance would be overwhelming. Some place that would give us ample time on the coach to get to know one another, yet not so long that we’d be sick of each other by tour’s end. And, of course, a city that had great gardens.

I did not know a lot about St. Louis, other than that the Gateway Arch was there. I remembered reading an article or seeing a news feature about St. Louis’ green initiatives and developing a greener city. That idea prompted me to do some research. One of the first things I read about was Gateway Greening, http://www.gatewaygreening.org/, a nonprofit  that brings together  the resources and people to promote community development, food security, and greening projects on abandoned land. This was exactly the kind of place we were looking to study.

So I did some more digging, and realized that the world-renowned Missouri Botanical Garden http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org  was there. I was familiar with their Kemper Center for Home Gardening, having used it for online research about plants. But, wow! I did not know about the history of this garden, the oldest one in the United States (begun in 1859 and operated continuously since), and its founder Henry Shaw. A successful businessman who retired before he was 40, Henry was a visionary and true plantsman. He traveled the world and brought back ideas (and plants) to build a botanical garden and, later, Tower Grove Park, http://www.towergrovepark.org/, a 280-acre park with thousands of plants and trees. Henry Shaw didn’t just appreciate a beautiful garden, he also understood the need to begin a research facility for scientists. He also founded the School of Botany at Washington University in St. Louis.

The more I read about St. Louis’ garden history, the more excited I was about doing a study tour there. Then, I happened across an events blog for a cemetery in St. Louis that was so intriguing. Belle Fontaine Cemetery http://bellefontainecemetery.org, founded in 1849, was a cemetery developed in the era of the Rural Cemetery movement. This movement, begun in the Victorian Era, envisioned the cemetery as a community resource and emphasized the beauty of the landscape. With something like 87,000 burials, this beautiful cemetery is a fascinating repository of history and architecture over a rolling landscape of 314 acres, planted with 1,100 shrubs and 4,000 trees.

So, these are a few of the highlights that we will be exploring on our 2013 Cultivated Spaces: Gardens of St. Louis study tour, leaving Georgia on April 29 and returning May 4. Sheri and I will be your tour co-leaders and Tavia Henderson with Southern Touch Tours will be making tour arrangements for us. If you have traveled with us before, you will know that she does a spectacular job. Here is the link for the tour registration: http://www.caes.uga.edu/departments/hort/extension/mastergardener/documents/MGEV_Tour_13.pdf  If you are a current, active MGEV, you can do some extra work and receive Advanced Training credit in the YCG category. If aren’t interested in credit, it’s still going to be a fabulous tour. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at masterg@uga.edu