The Master Gardener volunteer photo contest is officially open!

“What do Master Gardeners actually do?”

This is a question Master Gardeners get asked a lot. We can answer that question in words, but better yet, let’s answer that question in photos.

OSU Extension Master Gardeners are invited to participate in a statewide photography challenge and contest.
• How can you capture in photos what you love about the Master Gardener program?
• How would you show others what you see about being a Master Gardener?
There will be prizes!

When: The contest is now open. Submissions will be accepted until September 30, 8 p.m. Winners will be announced on October 25th.

There are three categories:

  1. The places of Master Gardeners: beauty shots of demonstration and learning gardens. What would you put on the cover of a travel magazine featuring demonstration gardens?
  2. The people: Master Gardeners in action, fulfilling the program’s mission and vision.
  3. Program priorities: photos depicting any of our eight program priorities:
    -Sustainable gardening skills
    -Plant and insect identification and education
    -Local food
    -Native species
    -Adaptive and accessible gardening
    -Climate change
    -Cultural connection
    -Soil health

Rules and Usage:

  • Photos must be taken during 2020-2021;
  • Photos must be taken by current OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers;
  • Photos submitted become the rights of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program and may be used in program communications (website and in print). They will not be shared for use by any third party other than OSU. Photographers will be given photo credit.
  • Master Gardeners sign photo use waivers as part of the program, but have the option to opt out. Please obtain approval for the use of their image. For people in any of your photos that *not* Master Gardeners, photo releases must be obtained and submitted. Please use the Model release form;
  • Participants can enter up to five photos per category (total of 15);
  • All entries are to be digital and cannot exceed 10MB each.

How to Submit:

Fill out the form, upload your photos, include any photo releases:

Prizes:
First-place winners in each of the three categories will receive signed, autographed copies of the books Trees to Know, and Shrubs to Know. In addition, an OSU Foods of Oregon reusable tote.

All second-place winners in each of the three categories will receive signed, autographed copies of the book Trees to Know. In addition, an OSU Foods of Oregon reusable tote.

Judging:
Judges will be a small panel of staff from the statewide program, Extension communications, and Master Gardener volunteers.

Tips for taking photos for the Master Gardener photo contest

Equipment:
You don’t need to own expensive nor professional photography equipment to take great photos. Current mobile phone technology is great! It’s how you capture the moment!

How to take great photos of people:
Photography style suggestions from OSU Extension provide good examples:

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Shoot in high resolution mode;
  • Landscape and vertical images are welcome;
  • Photograph people the way they see themselves;
  • Capture people in their element, with clues about who they are surrounding them in the space;
  • Try different set-ups and arrangements: different size groups and different angles and directions;
  • What stops you in your tracks and makes you take in a scene? Capture that;
  • Different angles, from on the ground, or from directly above, make for interesting photos.

Culture and detail:
Sometimes subtle details can show diversity, such as a religious head covering, assistive device or a gender-inclusive sign on a restroom door. Who the camera is focused on can also send a message. Who are you centering your camera on? Photography is a great way to explore all of the people and places of the Master Gardener program. Representation matters.

How to take great photos of a place:
Think big picture:
• Try using portrait mode if you have it available on your phone;
Panoramic mode can be a great way to create a wide or tall shot of a space;
• Drone photography? If you’re a drone photographer and familiar with drone regulations, what about a photo like this or this? Now there’s a challenge.

Ideas for photographs that represent our program priorities:

These might be photos of people, or of places, or of both! How would you show our program priorities to someone asking about the Master Gardener program?

Some examples (but use your imagination)…

  • Sustainable gardening skills: Master Gardeners working together on just about any project in a garden.
  • Plant and insect identification and education: a workshop of people looking at insects, artful photographs of insects or plants submitted to a plant clinic, hands exchanging a plant or insect for identification, Master Gardeners working together at plant clinic, macro (close-up) photograph of a really interesting and common insect (or one we should all be on the lookout for)
  • Local food: vegetable gardens in abundance, produce harvested and arranged in beautiful ways, community members receiving produce grown in a Master Gardener garden
  • Native species: native plants in bloom, invasive plants, invasive species photos
  • Adaptive and accessible gardening: people working in raised beds, a vignette of an accessible garden area in your local demonstration garden
  • Climate change: applying mulch, burned plants, ice storm damage on trees, garden scene with smoky skies, ash on garden produce or leaves, soaker hoses
  • Cultural connection: gardeners with plants or tools that you grow or use as a connection to your culture. For example, salsa gardens, herbs specific to your families’ foods, tools specific to your heritage.
  • Soil health: making compost, compost set ups in a demonstration garden, earthworms in a gardener’s hands, digging, mulch spreading.

Lighting

  • Outdoor lighting is going to be your friend;
  • Avoid using flash or shooting indoors if possible;
  • Seek “magic light” or “golden hour”—this kind of light occurs early in the morning, or in the evening, when the angle of the sun makes gardens and people glow, filling the photograph with warm light;
  • Watch for shadows that obscure faces or key elements of your subjects.

Photo Adjustments
Please don’t use date stamps on your photos, watermarks, frames, or additional art or text on your photos.

We can’t wait to see what you see!

A healthy garden is biodiverse, and so is the OSU Extension Master Gardener program: introducing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force

30+ Master Gardener volunteers from 15 counties across the state, along with 7 Master Gardener program staff and faculty recently kicked off the first cohort of a task force focused on expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program. These volunteers have made an incredible personal volunteer commitment to serve on the task force for one year, and the faculty and staff are excited to work alongside them on this journey.

As a learning community we explore:

  • our own stories and history
  • history of racism in Oregon 
  • founding stories of land grant institutions
  • colonization within the field of our work
  • growing our awareness of inequities to improve our critical consciousness

As a working community we work to:

  • Increase the diversity of who we serve in the community
  • Increase the diversity of who we are in the program
  • Grow the breadth of our curriculum and events to include cultural practices and inclusion
  • Model inclusive practices to our peers in the MG program
  • Form, grow and strengthen our work with community partners

We meet monthly to deepen our learning and to connect, and working sub groups are also running throughout the month. These four workgroups are focused on the following questions:

Who becomes a Master Gardener?

What are our current demographics?
What are the barriers to becoming a Master Gardener?
Barriers identified in previous surveys of MG volunteers and coordinators include: 
-time required to take the course and to fulfill volunteer hours; 
-cost of the training course and financial penalty for not completing volunteer hours; 
-location of training course and volunteer opportunities;
-time of year/day when training course is offered.

Who do we serve in the community?

Mapping of where the MG Program currently works and operates 
Using an asset-based approach, identify existing organizations and potential partners, groups and communities working in areas of the community where we are not. 

How can our Master Gardener curriculum and content grow to be more inclusive?

Examining existing MG curriculum and making recommendations on how the MG curriculum can be broadened beyond a Euro-centric perspective that assumes land access and ownership. Should and how do we include different cultural perspectives in the curriculum?

What events and programming should we grow/develop to support this work?

Identify and plan special events, such as OSU Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of celebration, Pride and others as identified by subgroup. Coordinate and plan the Culture of Gardening series.

Why a DEI Task Force?

In 2020, we made clear statements and reiterated our commitment to building a more inclusive program. We know that these changes cannot be made without Master Gardener volunteers playing a key role in identifying and doing the work alongside us, as a way to engage and demonstrate, and to hold each other accountable. We have work to do, and we are committed to doing it together.

A Spring 2021 Update

Hello Master Gardener Volunteers,

The signs of spring are different across Oregon: daffodils in the Willamette Valley, the first trilliums seen in bloom along the coastal forest roads, the fields greening up in Central Oregon, and in Southern Oregon, the bright red of maple tree buds before they unfurl into leaves.

Spring brings so much hope, so let’s talk some real talk: we acknowledge the social isolation has been hard on many of us, with little to no opportunity to gather in person and to do the gardening work we love, together. Yes, we’ve had many zoom meetings, webinars, emails, and virtual trainings, but as many of you are receiving vaccinations, there seems to be hope on the horizon. As we look to the possibility of opening things back up, please know that the health and safety of our volunteers is of utmost importance, and our work will be to prioritize that.

As county risk levels continue to move to lower levels across the state and we start to participate in more face to face Master Gardener activities, please know:

  • Face to face Master Gardener volunteer activities still require approval from the appropriate Extension regional director. Requests for new activities are submitted by your Master Gardener coordinator. Activities that have been approved may need to be cancelled or postponed if a county’s risk of COVID transmission moves from a lower to higher level in the interim between when an activity is approved and when the activity is scheduled to take place.
  • Many volunteers have asked if vaccination status influences the types of Master Gardener activities and projects that can be planned. OSU Extension administration states that irregardless of an individuals’ vaccine status, we are continuing to use the status at-a-glance information for restricted return or modified operations as a guide whether specific activity requests are approved, or not.
  • In discussions with Master Gardener Program Coordinators across the state, we noted that most face to face Master Gardener gatherings are going really well. Folks have taken the COVID safety training class, are wearing masks, and are observing social distancing. We have high confidence that our Master Gardener volunteers are doing their best to keep themselves and each other, safe. At the moment, we are prioritizing face to face Master Gardener activities that are limited to Master Gardener volunteers, or to a small number of folks from the general public. At this time, we’re not yet at the point where we want to schedule activities that would place Master Gardener volunteers into high-traffic events and activities with the general public. For now, we’re not prioritizing Master Gardener plant clinic booths at farmers markets or fairs.

As a closing note, we stand in solidarity with members of the Asian and Asian American community as the rise in anti-Asian racism continues in our country. To our Asian Master Gardeners and community: we see you, we value you, and know you deserve to feel safe and respected. Here is an important message from OSU leadership. To report a bias incident within the OSU community, visit the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Bias Incident Response website. Any member of the OSU community who believes they have been subjected to harassment or discrimination should visit the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.

Here’s to Spring and the message of hope it brings, for all of us.

LeAnn Locher
Statewide Master Gardener Outreach Coordinator
Oregon State University Extension

White flower trillium
Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

Two New and Remote Volunteer Opportunities

At this time, when many Oregon counties are in the ‘Extreme Risk’ of COVID transmission category, there are limited opportunities for Master Gardener volunteerism. And, until we return to ‘normal’, we can expect that OSU Extension will require approval for in-person programming and employee travel. The current guidance that we are operating under can be found in the PDF, below.

A jpg of the OSU Extension Activities and Risk Level Matrix, which is also shared in this post as a pdf.

During this time of COVID restrictions, Master Gardener volunteers have continued to serve their communities by writing social media posts (gardening tips of the week), participating in virtual plant clinic, or approved work in demonstration of community gardens. Given the limited selection of approved volunteer activities at this time, I am pleased to announce that there are two new options available for Master Gardener volunteer service. Both of these projects are eligible for volunteer service hour credit.

1) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Learning Community and Task Force

Are you interested in participating in a statewide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI )workgroup? We are exploring the formation of a statewide DEI workgroup that would include OSU Extension Master Gardener staff and volunteers.

For the past 8 months, a small group of Master Gardener program staff have been meeting to establish priorities and to work on creating a more equitable and inclusive program. We’d like to grow this group to include volunteers, and to create a learning community and work group dedicated to DEI. Are you interested in participating? We’d love to hear from you.

  • A learning community and working group to focus on needs and priorities for diversity, equity and inclusion in the OSU Extension Master Gardener program
  • Estimated time commitment is 5 hours/month. Statewide working group to meet monthly, subteams to meet 1-2 times a month for specific focused work. Hours count towards MG volunteer hours.
  • Apply before February 12th. We hope to have the first meeting in April.
  • Apply here before February 12th: https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_41JSg3HIvsAFUwt

Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge

Food Hero and Master Gardeners are collaborating on the 2021 Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge. The second year of the Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge, is much bigger than last year’s Challenge! This year we are looking to sign up 8,000 gardeners to grow vegetable and flowers and need your help!

We need your help to grow along and share your expert advice with these gardeners. Please consider signing up to participate as a Grow This! Champion. Your growing tips, comments, challenges and stories will be shared on our social media platforms and in monthly update emails to beginning gardeners as a way to build a growing community across the state.

Master Gardener volunteers are invited to participate, and apply to be a Grow This! Champion.

A Grow This! Champion:

  1. Must be a current Oregon Master Gardener volunteer or Master
    Gardeners representing a county demonstration/educational garden.
  2. Will need to apply for the Grow This! Champion program by midnight
    February 19 (we are looking to include Master Gardeners from across
    the state and may need to limit participation if demand exceeds our
    seed supply).
  3. Will receive one crop seed packet and one flower seed packet.
    (Type and variety will be selected at random.) Pick up will be at your
    county in March (specifics will be sent by email)
  4. Must agree to give feedback on your growing process and results
    at least once—but as often as you want—during the Challenge.
    Feedback could include suggestions, comments, challenges and
    solutions, stories, photos, drawings or videos that we can share
    with others (with or without your name). These can be emailed to
    food.hero@oregonstate.edu or shared on social media adding the
    following text to any post: @BeAFoodHero and #mastergardener.
    All feedback is WELCOME.
  5. Can count your active time spent on this project as Master Gardener
    volunteer hours (report as ‘community science’)

Questions?
Email Brooke.Edmunds AT oregonstate.edu or food.hero AT oregonstate.edu or leave a voice message at 541-737-1017.

Learn more about the challenge here: https://www.foodhero.org/growthis. You can also download the flier in the file, below, to share with other Master Gardener volunteers who might be interested in participating.

A jpg of the Grow This! Challenge flier, which is also shared in this post as a pdf.


OSU Extension Master Gardener Program and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration

As part of the University-wide 39th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and staff are invited ahead of time to read, view and reflect upon materials and prompts of inclusion and identity as gardeners and Master Gardeners. These include:

A moderated online Zoom discussion will follow.

WHENJanuary 18th, 7pm
WHEREZoom online
WHOOSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers
HOWRegister here
COSTFree

You are also invited to attend the morning’s keynote address to be delivered by Dr. Angela Davis for Oregon State University’s 39th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. University-wide celebration. The event is free and open to the public. Register here.

Read more about OSU Extension Master Gardener plans for 2021, including additional event and trainings.

Getting ready for 2021: the OSU Extension Master Gardener program

As 2020 comes to a close, we are glad to be looking forward and seeing light in the new year and path ahead. Gardeners are resilient, and that includes OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers. So let’s look at an overview of what’s coming to the OSU Extension Master Gardener program in 2021.


Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level Up Series

This monthly Zoom series kicks off in January, offering education led by OSU horticulture experts for the experienced gardener. Take your gardening knowledge to the next level with timely topics ranging from gardening in a changing climate to techniques to extend your season.

WHENThe second Tuesday of the month, 3pm, January-November 2021
WHEREZoom, with recordings available for you to view anytime
WHOOpen to the public, Master Gardener volunteers receive continuing education credit
HOWTake one or take all. More information, including the list of classes here.
COSTFree

Elevated Skills Training for Current Master Gardener Volunteers

Ready to gather new skills to elevate your Master Gardener volunteerism? Through the Elevated Skills Trainings, Master Gardeners will learn how to use new tools for plant ID, advance your zoom or social media skills, and learn about community science within the Master Gardener program, are just a few examples. We’ll be using an online training tool named Thinkific, which is the same platform we’ve used to deliver the COVID Safety Training and the Celebrate Master Gardener Week. Each week, a new lesson will open for you to work through, on your own time, and at your own pace. Each lesson is optional: you can take whichever ones interest you. Once a lesson is open it will remain open for the rest of 2021, meaning you can take it at any time during the year.

WHENlate January-late March 2021
WHEREonline learning platform, Thinkific
WHOCurrent Master Gardeners (including 2020 trainees)
HOWTake one or take all. More information, including the list of classes here.
COSTFree

OSU Extension Master Gardeners and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration

As part of the University-wide 39th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and staff are invited to read, view and reflect upon materials and prompts of inclusion and identity as gardeners and Master Gardeners. A moderated online Zoom discussion will follow.

WHENJanuary 18th, 7pm
WHEREZoom online
WHOOSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers, staff, faculty
HOWRegister online. More information here.
COSTFree

Dr. Angela Davis will be delivering the keynote address for Oregon State University’s 39th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. University-wide celebration. The event is free and open to the public. Register here.


The Culture of Gardening

Let’s explore what gardening means to different people and groups, and how to grow and use plants from a variety of cultures. This new series of blog posts and talks will debut in late spring 2021, with a keynote address by horticulturist Abra Lee on the history of African American gardens and gardeners.

WHENMay 18th + more dates in the series
WHEREZoom online, with recordings available, and this blog
WHOOSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and the gardening public
HOWMore details to be announced.
COSTFree

Mini-College for OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

The Oregon Master Gardener Association is organizing the first all online Mini-College, coming this summer. Plans include an array of classes and workshops for gardeners of all levels.

WHENJuly 16th-17th
WHEREonline
WHOOSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and the gardening public
HOWMore details to come.

We will post more information and details as they become available. We hope to see many of you in 2021!

Community Science Projects and OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Community science projects, like climate or invasive species tracking, are reliant on observant volunteers, on the ground, able to report back findings. Think about how the Asian Giant Hornet was recently discovered in Washington State: Whatcom County residents served as the eyes and ears alongside scientists to spot, locate, and eventually destroy the nest.

In 2016, we developed guidelines to encourage OSU Master Gardener Volunteers to engage in community science projects and to have those hours count towards volunteer hours. These guidelines require that community science projects must:

  1. Align with the Master Gardener educational mission of discovering and disseminating research-based gardening information,
  2. Advance one of both of the flagship programs of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program: sustainable gardening and/or home and community food production,
  3. Involve participation on one or more levels of the community science typology.  These levels are (from least to most involvement): crowdsourcing, distributed intelligence, participatory science, collaborative science.

The following are Oregon and national community science projects which are approved for indirect volunteer hours with the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program as of 12/2020. You may count your hours as the actual time spent collecting and submitting data.  When reporting volunteer hours associated with participation in approved community science projects, volunteers should report in the category of ‘Citizen Science’ (indirect volunteer hours).

Projects approved for OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer hours

Project NameDiscipline(s)Sponsoring Organization(s)Website
Oregon Season Trackerclimate monitoring, phenologyOregon State University Extensionhttps://extension.oregonstate.edu/ost
Vegetable Variety TrialshorticultureOregon State University Extensionemail: brooke.edmunds@oregonstate.edu
Forest Pest Detectorsentomology, invasive speciesOregon State Universityhttp://pestdetector.forestry.oregonstate.edu/
eButterflyentomologyOregon State Universityhttp://www.e-butterfly.org/
Oregon Native Bee Atlasentomology, pollinatorsOregon State University, Oregon Department of Agriculturehttps://extension.oregonstate.edu/bee-atlas
PNW Bumblebee Atlasentomology, pollinatorsOregon State University, Xerces, Oregon Department of Agriculturehttps://www.pnwbumblebeeatlas.org/
The Hazelnut ProjectagronomyOregon State Universityhttps://www.arborday.org/programs/hazelnuts/
Project Budburstplant phenologyNational Ecological Observatory Networkhttp://budburst.org/
Great Backyard Bird CountornithologyNational Audubon Societyhttp://gbbc.birdcount.org/
Hummingbirds at HomeornithologyNational Audubon Societyhttp://www.hummingbirdsathome.org/
iNaturalistbiodiversityCalifornia Academy of Scienceshttp://www.inaturalist.org/
    
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)climate monitoringNOAA, Oregon State Universityhttps://www.cocorahs.org/state.aspx?state=or
A Tree’s Lifeclimate change, urban forestryNorth Carolina State Universityhttp://ecoipm.org/a-trees-life/
Oregon Garden Spring BioblitzbiodiversityOregon State Universityhttps://www.inaturalist.org/projects/spring-2021-master-gardener-bioblitz

Want to know if another community science project qualifies for Master Gardener volunteer hours?  Please check with your county MG Coordinator.

Celebrate Master Gardener Week Day 4: What does climate and climate change have to do with being a Master Gardener?

Climate Trackers

I like to think of gardeners as the original storm chasers. We can spot a change in humidity, temperature, scent and know if something is coming, and whether we should cover those tender seedlings, bring in the pots of zonal denial tropicals, or if we need to do an extra watering of the new plantings before tomorrow’s anticipated record high temperatures. A gardener is witness to the climate first hand, and many Master Gardener volunteers use these great skills as front row reporters on climate and climate change as part of the OSU Extension Oregon Season Tracker (OST) citizen science program reporting precipitation with national partner CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network).

Through CoCoRaHS, volunteers of all ages and background in all fifty states participate by measuring and mapping precipitation (rain, hail and snow). They share their precipitation measurements, providing important data for natural resource, education and research applications. Here in Oregon we’ve had over 70 Master Gardener volunteers join Oregon Season Tracker, active and engaged with reporting their precipitation, counting towards their hours of service in the Master Gardener program. 

Rain gauge used by Oregon Season Tracker participants

Shari Bosler, a Master Gardener in the Central Gorge region, collects precipitation data throughout the year. She shares her information with her local Master Gardener chapter, and with more participants sharing their data through the CoCoRaHS network, she’s able to see what’s happening throughout the region. Shari says “It’s been fun to total the amount of snow we receive (though it’s a bit less than fun to be the mad scientist at 7am to melt snow, then measure) using a white board.” But she knows she’s part of a larger network all contributing to capturing good local data for scientists and researchers across the country, and that’s exciting. This summer she learned she had totaled 2,614 observations to the network. 

Master Gardener volunteers make great partners in capturing this data according to Jody Einerson of Oregon Season Tracker (OST) at OSU extension. “OST citizen science volunteers are collecting precipitation and plant phenology data from home that is contributed to databases operated by our national partners,” she says. “MG’s have been a great fit with the OST program, as we share a common interest in plants and weather connections.”  

Gardening Water-Wise

Amy Jo Detweiler, OSU Extension horticulturist and associate professor, also coordinates the Master Gardener Program in Central Oregon. Her publication, Water-wise Gardening in Central Oregon (revised this past June) is a vital resource for successful gardening with little water and includes the seven steps of water-wise gardening, along with planting recommendations from trees to shrubs to ornamental grasses.

“As we continue to see a consistent pattern of drought in the western United States, we need to balance what our home and commercial landscapes can and should look like with a focus on water conservation and water quality. Landscapes add value, beauty, and livability to our homes and communities, and keeping them water-wise is a critical part of being a good steward in our region.”

Water-wise Gardening in Central Oregon

Central Oregon Master Gardener volunteers helped to design, install and now maintain Hollinshead Waterwise Garden in Bend.  They do cross programming with the City of Bend Water Conservation program to deliver classes related to water-wise gardening (in normal years).  Master Gardeners also maintain  water-wise plants at the OSU Demonstration Garden in Redmond.  Both gardens have educational signs that depict water use fire-resistance, irrigation types, etc.  The water-wise materials serve as materials for classes taught by Master Gardener volunteers. 

Wildfires

Almost all of our Master Gardener volunteers felt the effects of wildfires this year, and we know that means our gardens, too. Master Gardener networks fielded queries and responded with science-backed information thanks to materials produced by Brooke Edmunds, OSU Extension Community Horticulturist (and Master Gardener Coordinator) in Linn and Benton Counties and assistant professor (practice) in the OSU Department of Horticulture.  What should I do about the wildfire ash covering my garden? addressed exactly that question, and along with social media materials in English and Spanish, Master Gardener volunteers made sure the information was passed on into communities right when they were needed the most.

Today is Day 4 of Celebrate Master Gardener Week, and we hope you can make it to this evening’s “State of the Statewide Master Gardener Program” talk being given by Gail Langellotto. The presentation will review recent accomplishments and points of pride, current challenges and opportunities, and an overview of what is to come in 2021. And study up for tomorrow night’s Insect Trivia using both Zoom and some technology called Slido. Register here!

Celebrate Master Gardener Week, Day 3

Today, I want to shine a spotlight on and celebrate all of the great work that Master Gardener volunteers do in support to support native species conservation and address concerns regarding invasive species.

In Oregon, many of our Master Gardener volunteers focus their efforts to conserve native species on promoting ways to help native bees and other pollinators thrive in home and community landscapes. The Linn County Master Gardeners were real innovators in developing educational outreach related to native pollinator protection. They host the annual BeeVent Conference, write a newsletter for mason bee enthusiasts, and host online question and answer sessions for those wanting to learn more about how to care for native mason bees.

The Linn County Master Gardeners have hosted the BeeVent Conference, since 2015.

In Washington County, Master Gardeners have built mason bee demonstration nests at the PCC Rock Creek Education Garden. And, Master Gardener Ron Spendel dedicates extensive time to the study of mason bee nesting behavior, and effort that helps gardeners create better habitat for these beautiful bees.

Osmia lignaria, the Blue Orchard Mason Bee. Photo by Sam Droege, USGS. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to promoting mason bee conservation, Washington County Master Gardeners have several ‘insect domiciles’ at their PCC Rock Creek education garden. These structures add visual interest to a garden, and provide year-round habitat for a variety of insects and arthropods to nest. The idea is that beneficial predators, including carabid beetles, rove beetles, and spiders take up residence in the domicile, and help protect the plants from garden pests. I hope to eventually work with the Washington County Master Gardeners to break down the structures and document the diversity of arthropod and insect residents within.

An insect domicile at the Washington County Master Gardener PCC Rock Creek Education Garden.
A smaller insect domicile at the Washington County Master Gardener PCC Rock Creek education garden.

Master Gardeners across the state support native bee conservation and education, as community scientists who have partnered with the Oregon Bee Project to document the current status of Oregon’s bees. The Oregon Bee Atlas’ four year mission (2018-2021) is to train volunteers to explore Oregon Counties, to seek out new native bee records for the state, to boldly go where no amateur melittologist has gone before! These new specimen records will be added to newly digitized historic records from the Oregon State Arthropod Collection to build the first comprehensive account of the native bee fauna of Oregon. Master Gardeners in nearly every Oregon county participate in this statewide effort.

Master Gardeners are also stewards of native plant across the state. In our applied research program, we have studied 23 of Oregon’s native plant species, to better understand which are most attractive to pollinators ~ as well as to gardeners! Our 3-year field study identified a number of species were highly attractive to native pollinators across all years, including the Phacelia heterophylla, Solidago candensis, and Aster subspicatus. Unfortunately, these three plants were not attractive to many gardeners. We found that Gilia capitata and Eschscholzia californica were highly attractive plant to both native pollinators and to consumers. Clarkia amoena and Anaphalis margaritacea were moderately to highly attractive to native pollinators in 2/3 years of our field study. These plants were also found to be moderately attractive to gardeners. Finally, we established that several non-native plants that are popular with consumers and touted as bee plants are highly attractive to non-native honey bees and, but not native bees.

Douglas aster, in our native plant study plots. No supplemental water for 2.5 years, and no fertilizer. A top pick for native bees.

One of the things that we’ve worked really hard to do, is to get our data out to gardeners in a variety of formats, including our Garden Ecology Blog, talks across the state (13 talks and 2 webinars in 2020, reaching more than 1,600 people), videos of our research in progress, and native plant recommendations in a new Extension publication. It has been extremely gratifying to see gardeners starting to utilize some of the native plants that we’ve been studying in ornamental garden landscapes.

Native plants, including Douglas’ Aster and Goldenrod, in an ornamental garden planting.

Master Gardeners also help to protect Oregon’s native species, by participating in research and education efforts related to invasive species detection and eradication. Earlier this year, Master Gardener volunteers in Jackson and Josephine County assisted the Oregon Department of Agriculture and OSU Extension in setting out and monitoring gypsy moth traps. Gypsy moth poses a significant environmental and economic threat to Oregon’s forests. In a normal year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture sets out more than 10,000 traps to find incipient populations, that can be effectively eradicated before moth numbers grow and expand to new areas. In 2020, COVID made it more difficult for the ODA to conduct their normal trapping and monitoring operations. However, Master Gardeners were ready and able to lend a hand.

Master Gardeners also help to monitor invasive species that pose a threat to Oregon’s forest, via the Oregon Pest Detector Program.

It should be worth noting . . . that even though Asian Giant Hornet is not yet in Oregon . . . that it was the actions of dedicated volunteers, setting out traps throughout the summer, that helped scientists locate and eradicate the first Asian Giant Hornet nest in the United States. I am hoping that our colleagues in Washington State will be fully successful at locally eradicating this new invader. However, if need be, I also have great confidence that Oregon’s Master Gardener volunteers will heed the call to help keep this and other potential invaders from wreaking environmental and economic havoc in our state.

Thank you, Master Gardeners . . . for your love and protection of the natural world. You are helping to conserve and protect the natural history and heritage of our state, for future generations. You are helping to open people’s eyes to the beautiful insects that would otherwise be overlooked. You’re pushing boundaries with garden design, by placing native plants where they had previously had no place and creating habitat for insects.

Every time you build insect or bird habitat into your garden or share information about the ecological beauty of native species, you are making a difference. Your choices matter, and are helping to create a better world for all.

Celebrate Master Gardener Week, Day Two

We continue our 2020 Celebration of Oregon’s Master Gardener volunteers, by thanking Master Gardeners for all they do to build strong local food systems across Oregon. If you haven’t already registered for the mini-film festival and discussion that accompanies Master Gardener week, you can do so by visiting THIS LINK. Tonight, we will be discussing “Land Grab: The Movie” with the film’s director, Sean O’Grady, and OSU Urban Agriculture Instructor, Mykl Nelson.

The Master Gardener Program first started in Oregon in 1976, with 31 individuals who enrolled for class in Lane County or in Clackamas County. Helping others grow their own food has always been an essential aspect of the Oregon’s Master Gardener Program. And volunteers are so diverse in their individual approaches to growing food, which offers so many examples and ideas to others who might be starting their own journey in food production. Below are just a few examples of the diverse food production methods innovated, demonstrated, and practiced by Master Gardener volunteers across the state.

In 2008, Lincoln County Master Gardener Bill Biernacki his garden-scale method to extend the growing season on the Oregon coast, via a Raised Bed Cloche. Biernacki collaborated with Extension Sam Angima (now an Associate Dean in the College of Agriculture) to write a publication teaching others how to build their own raised bed cloche. Their method has been adopted by gardeners in challenging climates, across the state.

n 8×4-foot cloche used for growing vegetables, Newport, OR.
A raised bed cloche in the high desert of Redmond, Oregon.

In Marion County, Master Gardener Jim Liskey designed and refined a drip irrigation system for the Marion County demonstration garden, as a way to show others how to increase production, decrease weed pressure, and conserve water in raised beds.

A raised bed with drip irrigation at the Marion Garden in Salem, OR.

In Multnomah County, Master Gardener volunteers built out trellises to show how to grow vining vegetables that would otherwise take up a lot of space in small urban lots. Over the years, the group has also experimented with dry farming vegetables in raised beds, and has recorded and shared the results of their trials.

A square foot garden bed in Portland, OR, with supporting trellis.
In the background, to the left in this image, you can see the larger array of the raised-bed/trellis system that the Multnomah County Master Gardeners have set up in their demonstration garden.

In Lane County, Master Gardeners have built raised beds, pulley systems, and lowering trellises, to make gardening more accesible to everyone. Their motto is ‘Garden Smarter ~ Not Harder’. And, one of their volunteers is the living embodiment of this motto. Pat Patterson was a member of the very first Master Gardener class, in 1976 in Lane County. Pat continues to grow and share food in her community, and is also just as generous with her wealth of knowledge related to vegetable gardening and adaptive gardening.

An overview of the Lane County Master Gardener adaptive garden.
Lane County Master Gardener raised bed with lowering trellis.

Master Gardeners have tested and trialed grafted tomatoes, to see if their increased production merits their increased cost. One of the biggest advocates of grafted vegetables is Harry Olsen, who has developed the ‘Harry Prune Method’ for maximizing tomato production. Harry gardens on a small lot in Salem, Oregon (perhaps less than 0.15 acres?). Even though this is his private home, he operates it like a public demonstration garden, eager to teach anyone who wants to learn how to maximize food production on a small urban lot. In fact, when Mykl Nelson and I were building out the very first accredited Urban Agriculture certificate program in the United States, I had Mykl visit Harry to see his production system and to learn more about his approach.

Harry Olsen uses red plastic, raised beds, finely tuned soils, grafted tomatoes, and custom-made tomato cages to maximize production on small urban lot in Salem, OR.

There are so many more examples of great gardening techniques that I could provide. If you want to visit the demonstration garden in your neighborhood, check out the map of where Master Gardeners work in your community. You may want to contact your local Extension office, first, to make sure that the gardens are open and accessible during COVID Restrictions.

In addition to demonstrating effective growing techniques, Master Gardeners are also supporting food security in their communities. This has been particularly important in 2020, as concerns about disruptions to global food chains and economic hardship have renewed interest in food gardening.

Over 40,000 people signed up for OSU’s free, online vegetable gardening course ~ a level of interest that literally crashed the online registration system for a period of time. Master Gardeners across the state turned failed plant sales into an opportunity to support food security in their community. Clatsop County Master Gardeners turned a cancelled beginning vegetable gardening course into a beautiful series of blog posts on food security and growing your own food on the north coast. The Benton County community education team turned their cancelled vegetable gardening courses into ‘Seed to Supper at Home’, which they recorded and made available to all. They expanded their support for local gardeners by hosting live gardening question and answer sessions, online, which they have since turned into a series of podcasts. Curry County Master Gardeners used these recordings to deliver beginning vegetable gardening classes on the south coast.

Master Gardener volunteers really stepped up their efforts to support their communities’ local food systems in 2020. But, *every* year, Master Gardener volunteers do so much to support local food across the state. For example, in 2019, Master Gardener volunteers donated 52.5 TONS of fresh food to local food banks and food pantries, and supported the efforts of gardeners in 29 school gardens, 46 community gardens, and 23 teaching/demonstration gardens. That’s something to be proud of, and something that all Oregonians can applaud!