FAQs Related to MG Plant Care

Since sharing the document outline OSU’s requirements for the Care of Plants in Master Gardener Greenhouses and Demonstration Gardens, I have fielded many questions. So, I thought it would be useful to compile some FAQs, here.

Question: Why is OSU telling the Master Gardener Chapters to donate their plant sale plants?

Answer: OSU is NOT suggesting, requesting, requiring, or even asking Master Gardener Chapters to donate their plants. The guidance on plant sale donations came to be, because I received questions from four separate Master Gardener chapters about whether or not they might be able to donate plants that had otherwise been destined for a plant sale. If you are part of a Master Gardener chapter that would like to donate plants to a local food bank or food pantry, wonderful! If not, that’s fine, too!

Question: Why are Plant Sale Donations Allowed, but Plant Sales are Not Allowed?

Answer: The Master Gardener program does not currently have permission to allow for plant sales conducted under the Master Gardener name. Some key points:

  • OSU is observing the Governor’s Stay Home | Save Lives order, and is encouraging everyone to stay home. 
  • The plant donations was an exception, granted after review by the OSU attorney in charge of making sure OSU is in compliance with the Governor’s Executive order (Julie Penry), OSU’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator (Dan Larson), and the interim head of OSU Extension (Anita Azarenko). The exception was granted because it was made clear that donations would only occur if we were able to leverage another organization’s distribution network, rather than set up our manage our own. The exception was given for one-time, bulk donations, rather than limited, frequent, and dispersed distribution.
  • An exception has NOT been granted for Master Gardener plant sales, and I doubt that one would be granted. A donation can occur as a bulk, one-time transfer of plants, whereas a sale would occur over time, bring multiple volunteers and customers to a common point (even with social distancing), and would require folks to travel (in violation of the Governor’s Executive order to stay home and minimize travel).

Question: But why are nurseries allowed to sell plants, and Master Gardener Chapters are not?

Answer: In short, Master Gardener Programs are not commercial nurseries. We want our volunteers and our employees to be safe. Staying home a critical part of the Stay Home Save Lives Executive order.

Nurseries are open and are selling plants. But, as a business, they’re also subject to being reported for violating the 6 foot distance rule for employees, promoting unsafe conditions for employees and customers.

Question: But Master Gardener chapters are separate 501(c)3’s from Oregon State University? Why are we subject to OSU rules?

Answer: Our partner Master Gardener chapters are separate 501(c)3’s from OSU. The separation allows the OMGA and Master Gardener chapters to raise funds in ways (such as by holding a plant sale) that greatly enhance OSU programming. But, the Master Gardener Program and the Master Gardener name are service marked by OSU. The Master Gardener Program in Oregon is overseen by OSU. If a program or event is being advertised in the state of Oregon, using the name ‘Master Gardener’, OSU policies, procedures, and guidance must be followed.

Question: Does my local Master Gardener coordinator have flexibility to allow us to continue our local face-to-face events and activities?

Answer: No.

Question: Why is my Master Gardener coordinator allowed to water plants in our greenhouse, but another Master Gardener coordinator is not allowed to water plants for their Master Gardeners?

Answer: OSU has placed strict rules on employee travel. Any travel to a location that is not that employee’s normal work-duty station (such as the Extension Office) must be approve by their Director or Dean. If the plants are in a greenhouse or garden that is on OSU owned or leased land that is also that employee’s normal work-duty station, your Master Gardener coordinator would not have to submit a travel request for approval ~ and could thus be designated as the point person to water plants. If the plants are in a greenhouse or garden that is not on OSU owned or leased land, that person would need to submit a travel request to their Director or Dean for permission to travel and care for those plants. These types of requests are unlikely to be approved at this time, unless they are deemed an essential or critical activity.

Care of Plants and Gardens in the Context of EO 20-12 (Stay Home. Save Lives)

March 25, 2020

To: OSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinators, Faculty, and Staff

From: Gail Langellotto, Statewide Master Gardener Program Coordinator

Subject: Guidance on Master Gardener Activities and Plant Care, in the Context of Executive Order 20-12

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and in accordance with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12 (Stay Home. Save Lives), Master Gardener Programs are to continue with the suspension of face-to-face programming. This means no face-to-face Master Gardener classes, events, meetings or outreach activities.

The purpose of the executive order and this guidance is to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, to protect the health and lives of Oregonians, particularly those at highest risk, and to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity. Oregon State University fully supports the governor’s executive order and encourages its community members to stay at home.

Plant Care in Greenhouses or Gardens

In terms of plant care in greenhouses or gardens (whether they are school, community, or educational gardens), I offer the following guidance:

If the greenhouse and/or garden is on OSU-owned or OSU-leased land:

  • Only OSU employees will be allowed access to maintain plant materials or gardens. Limiting on-campus and onsite operations is required under EO 20-09. Volunteers are not to be permitted to access OSU Extension-owned or leased property for any reason, including plant care or garden care.
  • A single OSU employee should be identified (as per Anita Azarenko’s March 23rd email noting that ‘regional directors will identify one individual per off campus location to monitor building security, receive mail, and perform other critical functions determined by the university’.
  • Maintenance of plant materials or gardens by a designated OSU employee will be performed on an ‘as available’ basis. Employees should only include plant or garden maintenance in their short-term Plan of Work if they have the capacity, ability and willingness to do so.
  • Carefully consider whether or not plant care or garden care represents a critical function at this time. Supervisors will help employees to determine what qualifies as a critical function. If plant care or garden care is deemed critical, think of the steps that you can take to minimize plant care or garden care needs. For example, can the greenhouse temperature be lowered to reduce watering needs and slow plant growth? In parts of Western Oregon, many perennials can survive without supplemental water well into June. Note that many common gardening maintenance activities, such as weeding, pruning or plant propagation, are not critical activities.
  • Worm bin or compost pile maintenance is not considered a critical function.

If the greenhouse and/or garden is on land that is NOT owned or leased by OSU:

  • We must honor the policies in place of our community partners. Many fairgrounds, recreation and parks units, and schools have closed their facilities to the public.
  • Individuals should refer to Executive Order 20-12, particularly section 22, which dictates that “individuals are directed to minimize travel, other than essential travel to or from a home, residence or workplace; for obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services . . .”
  • Under the current directives of Executive Order 20-12, Master Gardener volunteers are not authorized to care for greenhouse plants or gardens on behalf of OSU or in their role as a Master Gardener volunteer.

Donating or Selling Plants

Many of you have asked about the possibility of selling or donating plants that were originally destined to be sold at Master Gardener Association plant sales.

For plant materials that are owned by Master Gardener Chapters or Associations and not by OSU:

  • We are exploring whether or not the plants can be sold or donated to partner agencies, while using the Master Gardener name. If we proceed, we aim to work with partner agencies that already have distribution channels in place rather than creating our own distribution network.

For plant materials that are owned by OSU:

  • We would have to work through the university’s surplus system, before donating or selling excess plants.  

These guidelines, like Executive Order 20-12, are in place immediately and until further notice.

I hold the important work that we do in the Master Gardener program in such high regard. I especially value and appreciate the joy that gardening and plant care brings to our lives and to the lives of Master Gardener volunteers, and the friendships that are formed through the Master Gardener Program. 

But during this public health crisis, the best thing that we can do to ensure the health and safety of our volunteers ~ many of whom are in groups that are at higher risk for serious illness if they are exposed to COVID-19 ~  is to encourage them stay home. Those of us in positions where attendance on campus or at the Extension office is not essential or critical should also be staying home. By doing so, each of us will reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19 locally and across Oregon.

Image result for stay home save lives oregon

CDC Issues New Guidance that Affects MG Outreach, Plant Sales, and Events, through May 10th

On March 15th, the CDC issued new guidance for large events and mass gatherings. This guidance recommends that, for the next eight weeks (which would take us to May 10th, or Mother’s Day) that events which can draw 50 or more people, in person, be cancelled or postponed.

This recommendation takes us out further on the calendar than the state of Oregon’s March 7th Executive Order banning face-to-face gatherings of 250 or more people for 60 days (which would take us to May 6th). It also takes us further on the calendar that Oregon State University’s policy banning face-to-face gatherings of 50 or more people, through April 30th.

Given the updated CDC guidance, I am updating the previous guidance given to Master Gardener groups (on 3/12), to adhere to CDC guidelines. Through at least May 10th, any face-to-face Master Gardener classes, meetings, outreach activities, and events, including Master Gardener Conferences and plant sales that can draw 50 or more people, should be cancelled or postponed.

All face-to-face Master Gardener activities, events, meetings ~ no matter how many people may attend ~ are suspended pending further notice. This suspension aligns with the guidance given by OSU Extension on March 13th.

As someone who has planned several large events, I know that this is heartbreaking news that will have negative impact on affected Master Gardener chapters. I truly feel bad for the many Master Gardeners who have tirelessly and enthusiastically worked for a year or more, only to have their event cancelled or postponed. But, the health of our volunteers, faculty, staff, and community is paramount, and should be put ahead of other concerns.

Wiley Thompson, the Regional Director for the OSU Extension on the coast, has said something like: ‘this is the year that a lot of things won’t happen: NCAA basketball tournaments, PAC-12 Spring Sports, and so much more’.

But, I’m also seeing many instances of ingenuity, in the face of these challenges.

Master Gardeners are holding meetings via Zoom. If you are able, and if your Master Gardeners are wanting and needing to meet, please help them by setting up a Zoom meeting.

The Benton County Master Gardeners are planning to offer Seed to Supper via Zoom!

Don’t forget that the Advanced Training Master Gardener webinars start tomorrow (3/17). Once again, they will be offered via Zoom! It’s not too late to sign up for one or more classes.

Hang in there! We will get through this!

Best Management Practices for Master Gardener Plant Sales

Since mid-August, an advisory group consisting of myself, OSU Extension faculty (Brooke Edmunds), OSU MG volunteers (Linda Coakley and Ruth Estrada), and ODA Invasive Pest Professionals (Beth Myers-Shenai and Chris Hedstrom) have been working on developing guidance for best management practices for MG plant sales. This effort emerged as a result of increased awareness of how plant sales and plant swaps might serve as venues for invasive pest introduction or spread. Given the focus of the Master Gardener Program, we wanted to work together to do our part to stem the introduction spread of invasives, while delivering high quality plants to MG Plant sale customers.

THIS DOCUMENT is what our group has developed. As questions related to this document arise, I will start developing an associated FAQ list. Please let me emphasize, however, that the intention is not to police plant sales, but to provide guidance on how we can all work together to truly practice sustainable gardening.

FAQs (new questions and answers will be added, as soon as possible)

Q: How quickly must Master Gardeners adopt the best management practices?

A: Of the three recommendations, only the first (‘Apply for and receive a temporary nursery license from the Oregon Department of Agriculture’) is a legal requirement to host a short-term plant sale in Oregon. That recommendation must be adhered to, immediately (and should have been adhered to, in the past).

The other two recommendations (‘Only sell plants that are free from pests’; ‘Only sell plants that are properly identified, cross-checked against state and local noxious wee lists, and tagged’) should be adopted as soon as is practical for 2019 plant sales, but should become standard practice for plant sales in 2020, and beyond. For example, if a large part of your 2019 plant sale inventory consists of donated plants dug from home gardens, or another similar source, you are not expected to dispose of those plants. But, for plant sales in 2020 and beyond, Master Gardener groups should be proactively planning for a different approach to procuring plant materials for sale.

Q: How will these best management practices be enforced?

A: It is not my intention to act as the plant sale police. If I hear of reports of Master Gardener groups using practices that contradict the plant sale best management practices, I will reach out to the key organizers in an effort to raise awareness of the issue, and to strategize on how to remedy the situation.

Q: Can we take stem cuttings from plants grown in garden soil, if the plant is healthy and pest-free?

A: Yes.  As long as a cutting is from the above-ground portion of a healthy plant (inspected to be disease and pest free), then risk of invasive pest introduction and spread is minimized. Movement of soil poses the greatest risk, and thus root cuttings should not be taken.

October 2018 Update

Updates from the Statewide Master Gardener Program

  1. MG Instructor Database: for those of you searching for instructors for your 2019 MG classes, please remember that the list of MG instructors is annually updated, and housed in the ‘Master Gardener Program’ on Box. If you need access to this folder, please let me know. Specifically, the Excel file with the list of MG Instructors is in the sub-folder called ‘MG Basic Training Resources’, which can be accessed via https://oregonstate.box.com/s/alop5gv86az1q5zjscomgghds1v4y2mn
  2. MG Core Courses: Signe Danler recently sent out a information on how to access online Master Gardener modules, to supplement your in-person MG trainings. The required classes for MG training (Oregon MG Program, Botany Basics, Understanding Pesticides) are FREE for use. Other modules are available on a sliding scale ($50-$150 per module). If the sliding scale is out of your range, but you are interested in using an online module, please let us know. We charge a modest price to help cover basic program costs, but want to be flexible for counties without resources.
  3. MG Re-certification Stickers: I have 2019 Re-certification Stickers to send out for veteran MGs who have completed at least 10 hours of continuing education and 20 hours of approved volunteer service. If you have not already done so, please let Gail know (via email) how many stickers you need for your Master Gardener Program. They will go out in next week’s mail.
  4. Best Management Practices for MG Plant Sales: I have received feedback on our first draft from our task force. My goal is to synthesize all comments into a revised draft, by the end of this week (October 12th).
  5. 2018 CHAP Update: The 2018 Consumer Hort Advisory Panel came up with three recommendations to make annual MG trainings more fun, interactive, and accessible. These recommendations were to: a) move towards active learning in MG training classes; b) consider ways to keep costs low for MG trainings (scholarships, payment plans); c) lower the minimum number of required volunteer service hours for new MG trainees, to 55 or fewer hours. You can see the full description of recommendations on the hypertext entitled CHAP DRAFT Recommendations April 2018 on this page. At our working group meeting in July, recommendations 1 and 2 were adopted. Recommendation #3 received majority support, but there was still a lot of concern related to this recommendation. We are thus tabling this third recommendation, for the moment.
  6. Working Group Innovation Grant Funded:  Several Home Hort working group members advanced a proposal for a two-day retreat, to carefully consider what changes are needed to build a more inclusive EMG Program, but also how to implement change. Our Innovation Proposal for the Home Hort Working Group was funded!!! We are targeting May or June for the actual two-day retreat. Keep an eye out for the first step in this effort ~ a survey of MG coordinators.
  7. Fall OMGA Newsletter: The fall issue of the Gardener’s Pen Newsletter has been published and posted online. Please make sure that your Master Gardener volunteers have access to this statewide MG newsletter.
  8. 2019 International Master Gardener Conference (IMGC): If you will be attending the 2019 IMGC (June 16-21, 2019 in Pennsylvania), the room block is now open for reservations. Registration is not yet open, but the full slate of speakers and tours has been posted.
  9. Professional Development Opportunity, “Achieving the Extension Mission through Volunteers“: an instructor-led, online course offered by the University of Minnesota. This course has received positive reviews from other Extension Master Gardener coordinators. The cost is reasonable ($250), but the timing coincides with Oregon’s Master Gardener training. Topics include ‘Identifying and Recruiting Volunteers’, ‘Selecting and Matching Volunteers’, ‘Supporting Volunteers’, and ‘Communicating Public Value’. If you are interested in taking this course, but cost is an issue, please let Gail know.

August 2018 Statewide MG Program Update and Helpful Hints

Developing Best Management Practices for Master Gardener Plant Sales

The Master Gardener Best management practices task force met via conference call, last week. Our task force include Master Gardener volunteers who coordinate their Master Gardener Association plant sale, and have also operated a commercial nursery. The task force also includes the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s invasive species response coordinator, myself (as statewide Master Gardener Program coordinator), and Brooke Edmunds (as county MG faculty). Prior to working for OSU, Brooke worked with the Oregon Department Plant Health group, where part of her work involved certification of nursery plants. Thus, we have a lot of expertise in the group.

We will soon be surveying plant sale coordinators, to find out:

  • do you apply for an ODA temporary nursery license?
  • where do you get your plants for MG plant sales?
  • how and where are they propagated?
  • what are your concerns regarding changes to plant sale guidelines?

The goal of the survey is to get a general sense of what Master Gardener Associations are currently doing, to identify key areas of risk for invasive species introduction, and to provide guidance on how to transition to lower risk activities. Please keep an eye out for the survey, and share with your plant sale coordinators, when available.

We are also developing a draft list of best management practices for Master Gardener Plant sales, in cooperation with our Extension colleagues, volunteers, and nursery industry professionals. In the next 4-6 weeks, we expect to share this list of practices, as well as case studies of Master Gardener Associations that have successfully transitioned from higher risk to lower risk plant sale activities.

Please stay tuned!

Food Safety for Master Gardener Tasting Events (i.e. Tomato Tasting)

A question recently came in about how to approach an event such as a tomato tasting, to ensure safe food handling and food safety. I consulted with Jeanne Brandt, statewide coordinator of the OSU Extension Master Food Preserver Program, to get her feedback. Below is her response (edited for brevity).

My understanding is that sharing samples is part of educational programming, not food service, so that site or event licenses and food handler’s permits are not required.  Those come into play when any products are sold.  Providing samples for educational purposes is included in liability coverage offered by OSU, as long as best practices are used to prepare them. We put out a sign that says  “Products made/prepared by volunteers in our classroom or home kitchens.”  This makes booth visitors aware of where the products came from and that they are not commercial, so they can choose to sample or not.  

This resource has guidance for handling produce samples at public events:

https://www.fcs.uga.edu/docs/13_Keeping_Food_Safe_at_Market.pdf

Page 3 has some good guidelines for preparing samples.

Best practices are good hygiene, clean produce, and protection from contamination by the customers. That’s not as easy as it sounds,  since we are often places without handwashing stations.  Setting up individual samples so that customers can’t handle more than their own sample is ideal. 

Clients with Biting Bug Infestations, Without an Apparent Cause

Every now and then, a client comes into the Extension office, wanting advice for how to deal with insects that are biting them, or that have infested their house. After some conversation, or time to examine the sample that the client has brought into the office, you may determine that the client might be feeling a sensation on their skin, but that it is not due to an insect or mite issue. How do you help these clients? The cases are often heartbreaking: a client desperate for relief, with no apparent cause or solution in sight. Colleagues in extension published an excellent article on this topic, a few years ago, that includes a long list of recommendations for working with clients who believe their body and/or environment is infested with insects or mites, despite evidence to the contrary. Please read, and share with your Master Gardener volunteers, as needed.

Kerr et al. 2014. Recommendations for extension professionals and volunteers regarding individuals with delusional infestation. Journal of the NACAA 7(2).

Best Practices in MG Plant Sales

Master Gardener plant sales are a major fundraiser for many Master Gardener Associations. However, recent Oregon Department of Agriculture quarantines and restrictions to the movement of plants and soils in Washington County, Oregon have affected some Master Gardener plant sales and have highlighted the role that plants sales may play in promoting invasive species introductions.

In fact, a recent news story reported on the role of a Coos County plant sale in introducing an invasive weed from India. Other news reports show that the sale of invasive plants, or that the introduction of invasive species via plant sales, is neither unique nor isolated (e.g. ‘Invasive species for sale in Kootenay region’).

And, plant trades between gardens are also potential venues for the movement of native plants. In fact, research conducted in the United Kingdom estimates that ~2 million seeds are moved via the movement of garden soils and soils for new housing developments. Further, the researchers found that the risk of introducing invasive plants was far greater from the movement of garden soils, than other soil types.

Over the next year, a task force will work to develop best practices for Master Gardener plant sales, in order to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species in Oregon. The task force includes two Master Gardeners, two Master Gardener faculty, and an advisor from the Oregon Department of Agriculture. As we develop specific recommendations, we will post them for feedback and critique. Stay tuned!

 

 

Guidance for Master Gardener Plant Sales

As we head into Master Gardener plant sale season, it is a good time to remind Master Gardener Associations of the requirements to host a Master Gardener Plant Sale.

1) Master Gardener Associations need to fill out and file the temporary nursery license with the ODA. This will provide the ODA an opportunity to contact plant sale organizers (if needed), for sales in areas of concern.

2) Master Gardener plant sales can not include sale or distribution of (click on the link for more details):

3) Best practices dictate that Master Gardeners DO NOT MOVE SOIL. If plant sale plants are coming from personal gardens, remove the soil, wash the roots, and repot in commercial potting mix. We recognize this may be inconvenient but there are several exotic horticulture pests (snake worm, European chafer ~ see page 18) that currently have limited distribution in Oregon, and that can be moved through soil.

The Master Gardener teaches sustainable gardening. Modeling best practices in invasive species prevention is part of our work.