Hero Image

Marin IJ Articles

United by a love of gardens

  • Karen Gideon
  • People join the UCCE Marin Master Gardeners for different reasons. Some applied to the program after years of gardening with mixed success. We might have had an appetite for growing but without an understanding of soil, plant biology and sustainable practices, it was frustrating at times. Some were avid gardeners and wanted to help spread the word to others about building healthy soil and planting the right plant in the right place.

    I asked some Marin Master Gardeners what motivated them to apply and what they experienced when they entered the training program to be certified.

    Dawniele Richardson-Pasha, whose father was an avocado rancher, watched her young children enjoy edibles coming from their small garden.

    “My kids were eating lettuce and tomatoes,” she says.

    It was that joy, coupled with the fear that she “didn’t really know what I was doing,” that motivated her to apply.

    The application process is a thought-provoking endeavor complete with an interview by a panel of UC Marin Master Gardeners. At first Carol Felton found it rather daunting but soon relaxed among the other gardeners, finding common interests and sharing a love for volunteering.

    The weekly Thursday classes cover topics such as botany, soil, composting, plant pathology, garden design, growing vegetables and fruits, and pruning, and run from January to mid-May.

    “I loved it. I was sorry that it ended,” Felton says.

    Woody Reynolds said he was surprised by the time he spent reading and studying between classes.

    For Marie Narlock, the diversity of the class was as satisfying as the educational experience.

    “Our common bond is our love of beauty,” she says. “The learning is exponential, as are the number of ways to volunteer. Some folks like to work on computers. Others prefer to keep their hands in the soil, planting and weeding. There’s something for everyone; nothing is compelled or constrained.”

    The diversity of volunteer opportunities mirrors the variety of backgrounds that people possess when they apply. Teachers, secretaries, sales and marketing folks, nurses, Realtors, landscape architects, librarians and lawyers have all found a place in our organization.

    Reynolds, a retired biochemist with a Ph.D. in neuroscience, found his niche at the Falkirk Greenhouse propagating our Tomato Market plants for the annual April sale. Felton loves caring for native plants while volunteering at Harvey’s Garden at Blackie’s Pasture. Narlock consults at Marin Ventures, where with Master Gardener creativity and nurturance the garden brings folks peace. Richardson-Pasha has a passion volunteering in community gardens.

    Many Marin Master Gardeners are surprised by how quickly friendships form within the group. A common purpose and the unity of the organization breed a special social network.

    “I met some people in my class, we carpooled and bonded. We’re still good friends and go on hikes together,” Felton says.

    If you’re interested in the program please go to our website, marinmg.org, and click on the link on the home page to “How to Become a Master Gardener” to learn what’s required and the timeline for applying. Be sure to watch the short video at the bottom of the page that describes what we do and who we are.

    You are welcome to attend a free information session 11 a.m. to noon Aug. 20 in Suite 150 at 1682 Novato Blvd. in Novato. Completed applications are due at the Novato UCCE office by noon Sept. 11; interviews take place the first week in October.

    Stop by our demonstration garden at the Marin County Fair (near the pig races) if you’d like to meet some of us and chat over the Fourth of July weekend. We also have volunteers at the Civic Center, Corte Madera, Novato and Point Reyes Farmer’s Markets.