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Marin IJ Articles

Fresh, local and sustainable advice

  • Jane Scurich
  • Ah, spring! Time to visit the local farmers market for tender locally grown asparagus, luscious spring peas and great gardening advice. Wait — what’s that last item — advice? Yes — and it’s free!

    Knowledgeable, UC-trained volunteers in the University of California Marin Master Gardener program officially open their market advice tables in May to provide research-based information on horticulture and sustainable gardening practices to Marin residents.

    Expect to meet two or three master gardeners at each location offering “Advice to Grow by… Ask Us.” Master gardeners include men and women of all ages and all walks of life and backgrounds. They share an enthusiasm for gardening, knowledge of plants and our local micro-systems, a desire to learn and help others, and enjoy sharing their knowledge with the community.

    All master gardeners have been trained using science-based information on topics such as soils, growing edibles, good garden practices and diseases of the home garden. They all live in Marin County and are familiar with our somewhat quirky variety of weather and growing conditions, from windy, fog-filled gardens to warmer dry areas and most everything in between. They have hands-on experience growing edibles and florals, propagating plants from seeds and cuttings, and identifying both good and bad bugs. In addition to the intensive 18-week training program, each master gardener has 12 or more hours of continuing education each year in order to stay current on topics, including sudden oak death and the danger of the Asian citrus psyllid.

    In addition to the opportunity to ask your most pressing garden questions, the table is filled with printed “quick tips” on a wide range of topics to help you control aphids and rats, replace your lawn with more sustainable plant material, divide bulbs and learn when to prune lilacs. A host of other quick tips developed by the University of California Cooperative Extension will help you solve some your most challenging garden problems.

    If your questions can’t be answered on site, you will receive information about our Novato help desk. You don’t even need to make a trip to Novato: volunteers will help you learn the preferred procedure to send photos showing your plant problems there, where more extensive research will be dedicated to your challenge.

    Locations and times for garden advice areas are as follows:

    Marin Civic Center Farmers Market  
    May 12 through mid-October
    8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays

    Downtown Novato Farmers Market
    May 7 through September
    4 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays

    Mill Valley Farmers Market 
    June 7 through September
    9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. first and third Fridays

    Toby’s in Point Reyes Station 
    July 6 through October
    9 a.m. to 1 p.m. first and third Saturdays

    There will also be an opportunity to ask master gardeners for gardening information at the upcoming Outdoor Art Club Garden Tour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 16, when they will bring their advice table to the patio of the Clubhouse at 1 West Blithedale Ave. in Mill Valley. More information is available at OACgardentour.com.

    Be sure to bring along your burning garden questions and add “garden advice” to your shopping list as you gather your favorite fruits and veggies at our popular farmers markets this spring and summer.