Welcome to, and from, our new Statewide Master Gardener Manager, Dr. Leslie Madsen

After a national search, Dr. Leslie Madsen (she/her) has joined OSU Extension as the Statewide Master Gardener Manager beginning December 29th, 2023.  Dr. Madsen most recently was the Associate Director for Educational Development in the Center for Teaching and Learning at Boise State University. She is an expert in evidence-based teaching practices that are informed by emerging technologies including different learning styles in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), as they apply to formal and informal learning platforms. She is equipped to support our coordinators and volunteers with evidence-based teaching practices, support both face-to-face and distant learning, support DEI efforts across programs, conduct educational assessment, evaluation and implementation, and support various digital accessibility technologies – among many other capabilities. Welcome Dr. Madsen!


A note to Oregon’s Master Gardener Volunteers

As I’m cleaning up my garden one last time before listing my Boise house for sale, I find myself looking eagerly to the future. I love to learn, and I have so much knowledge to glean from you about gardening in a temperate, wet forest biome rather than dry, sagebrush steppe. 

Because I’m a historian as well as a gardener, I’m also thinking of the botanist I most admire, the late Alice Eastwood (1859-1953), who served as the herbarium curator at the California Academy of Sciences for 57 years. 

Here’s my favorite story about Eastwood: 

When awakened in April 1906 by the big San Francisco earthquake, Eastwood hurried down to the Academy to check on the collections. As flames licked at the building next door, the 47-year-old Eastwood scaled the banister of the broken staircase to reach the sixth-floor herbarium. Once there, she lowered 1,500 specimens—most of them type specimens—out a window. She commandeered a cart and horse and ensured the specimens stayed ahead of the flames, even as her own home burned. (Today you can find six of Eastwood’s other specimens in the Oregon State University Herbarium.) 

Not surprisingly, Eastwood became a bit of a celebrity. On Eastwood’s 80th birthday, Smithsonian agrostologist Agnes Chase wrote,  

I recall how thrilled I was in the spring of 1906 when the men here were all talking about how Alice Eastwood had saved the precious types in the California Academy Herbarium. At that time women were not admitted to the august Botanical Society of Washington, so we rejoiced not only that the types were saved but that you saved them. And not only do we admire your work. Your unfailing kindness and helpfulness to other botanists has endeared you to all of us.

Chase’s letter to Eastwood captures the fondness I already feel Oregon’s Master Gardeners—even though I’ve only met a couple dozen of you. Your generosity with your time and knowledge is such a tremendous gift to the people of Oregon. I am so impressed with the amazing work you already have done, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside you. 

Eastwood also was famous for cultivating enthusiasm for gardening by building a network of garden clubs, botanists, and volunteers. Like Eastwood, I’m eager to welcome new Master Gardeners and expand our collaborations with organizations throughout Oregon. To accomplish this, I’ll need to draw on your wisdom, experience, and imagination. 

Our work together begins in the New Year. Should you want to say hello before then, the best way to reach me is via email at madsenle@oregonstate.edu. I’m looking forward to connecting and growing with you! 

Guide to Being a Master Gardener Volunteer: revised publication is now out

The quintessential guidebook for being an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer has been updated and modernized. It’s available to read online and download and features all things Master Gardener, including our connection to OSU, the priorities of the program, and policies and guidelines. Access it here.

What does it mean to recertify? What are the continuing education requirements of Master Gardeners? How do we provide gardening recommendations to the general public? What is the relationship between OSU and the county-based Master Gardener Associations?

You’ll find the answers to these questions, and many more, in the updated guidebook, plus links to even more background and items to read. The new version is a more nimble, modernized version, and can easily be updated as needed. Happy reading!

You’ve got a problem, we’ve got a project. 

Is your garden home to this problematic pest? 

(Photo) Cornu aspersum (also known as Helix aspersa; European Brown Garden Snail)

The slug and snail experts at OSU want your samples for a new USDA-funded project. 

In fact, if you’re in Western Oregon with a significant number of these slimy shelled mollusks, they’d like to come pull samples every few weeks. 

Or, you can even mail them in. 

Please contact Rory Mc Donnell and his lab via email or phone for details on how to get involved. Tel: +1 541 737 6146.  rory.mcdonnell@oregonstate.edu.

Thank you Master Gardeners for helping science at OSU!

Master Gardeners, let’s play some trivia!

The Oregon Master Gardener Statewide Trivia Tournament is happening during our “quiet gardening times” of October and November 2023, and January and February 2024.  Open to OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers throughout Oregon, these five sessions offer the opportunity to learn more about specific gardening topics, have fun, and even win prizes.

  1. Register to play.
  2. Join via zoom.
  3. Connect to the trivia app (Slido) on your phone or computer.
  4. At the start of the tournament evening, you’ll be directed to the Slido app to begin competing.
  5. Multiple choice trivia, 50 questions per session.
  6. Winners will be announced live during the Zoom event.

Each session counts as one Continuing Education Unit for Master Gardener volunteers.

Did we say prizes? Yes we did. For each session, you can win gift certificates to mail-order garden companies in the PNW.

  • 1st place: $100 gift certificate
  • 2nd place: $50 gift certificate
  • 3rd place: $25 gift certificate

Winners will receive gift certificates approximately one week after each event.

Register for each event:

Let’s identify woody plants! Wednesday, October 18th, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Name that flower: herbaceous annuals & perennials, Wednesday, November 15th, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

The buzz on biologicals: biological controls in food crops, Wednesday, December 13, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Least wanted: noxious and invasive weeds in Oregon, Wednesday, January 17th, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Right place, right plant: Oregon natives in the landscape, Wednesday, February 21st, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

For questions or accessibility requests, contact Nicole Sanchez, 541-883-7131, Nicole.sanchez@oregonstate.edu

Braiding Sweetgrass – a review and a request from Master Gardener Donna Leveridge-Campbell

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants has so much to offer.  And I believe other gardeners would especially appreciate this book, as I do.  It’s also available in an audio version read by the author, and as a beautifully illustrated adaptation, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults. Both make this book, a gift to the co-inhabitants of Mother Earth, even more accessible.

Braiding Sweetgrass book cover with green braided grass horizontally across the cover

Dr. Kimmerer speaks from multiple perspectives as an Anishinabekwe, Potawatomi woman, a mother, a gardener, a philosopher, a botanist and professor of plant ecology, and from so many other aspects of herself.  She beautifully integrates mind, body, emotion, and spirit as she shares “healing stories that allow us to imagine a different relationship, in which people and land are good medicine for each other”.  This is a hugely important book for our times.  I hope the lessons and wisdom of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) within the stories will be incorporated into all of our lives, while avoiding cultural appropriation. 

“I hold in my hand the genius of indigenous agriculture, the Three Sisters.  Together these plants––corn, beans, and squash––feed the people, feed the land, and feed our imaginations, telling us how we might live. … a visible manifestation of what a community can become when its members understand and share their gifts.”  For example, the corn stalks provide support for the beans, the bean roots house the Rhizobium bacteria that shares nitrogen with the plants, and the squash leaves keep moisture in the soil and other plants out.  And Robin reminds us they “are fully domesticated; they rely on us to create the conditions under which they can grow.  We too are part of the reciprocity.  They can’t meet their responsibilities unless we meet ours.”

As one who loves her children, and also loves her garden, Robin lists some “loving behaviors”.  And she makes the case that “The land loves us back. … She provides for us and teaches us to provide for ourselves.  That is what good mothers do.”  Robin taught her daughters to garden “so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.” 

The author writes with a heartfelt, holistic perspective and explains complex scientific and indigenous knowledge, uniting them beautifully, in an easy-to-read style.  As she says, “We see the world more fully when we use both.”  Robin is an incredible observer and listener to nature and to other teachers, as well.  She is a humble seeker and poetic sharer of knowledge and profound wisdom. 

One of her many significant reflections is on how our thoughts and feelings are so greatly influenced by our language.  She explains that English is a “noun-based language”, and that it leads to objectifying non-human life forms.  “Only 30 percent of English words are verbs, but in Potawatomi that proportion is 70 percent.”  And the language is “a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things”. … “So it is that in Potawatomi and most other indigenous languages, we use the same words to address the living world as we use for our family.  Because they are our family.”

In explaining the tradition of the Honorable Harvest and the “inescapable tension” of “the exchange of a life for a life”, she asks the question, “How do we consume in a way that does justice to the lives that we take?”.  In the edition for young adults, the answer is summarized as:  “Never Take the First,  Ask Permission,  Listen for the Answer,  Take Only What You Need,  Minimize Harm,  Use Everything You Take,  Share,  Be Grateful,  Reciprocate the Gift.” 

Robin addresses many of my own concerns, moral dilemmas, and feelings of guilt as a relatively ignorant and clumsy human on this Earth, trying to decide what to do –– or not do.  “Something beyond gratitude is asked of us.”  … “The most important thing each of us can know is our unique gift and how to use it in the world.”  She inspires me to discover my own gift. 

In talking about the berries and their place in ceremony she explains, “They carry the lesson, passed to us by our ancestors, that the generosity of the land comes to us as one bowl, one spoon.  We are all fed from the same bowl that Mother Earth has filled for us.  …  We need the berries and the berries need us.  Their gifts multiply by our care for them, and dwindle from our neglect.  We are bound in a covenant of reciprocity, a pact of mutual responsibility to sustain those who sustain us.  And so the empty bowl is filled.”

In each chapter the author shares metaphors and life lessons learned from plants, “our oldest teachers”, and from Indigenous interpreters.  Robin shares her journey toward greater understanding of her place in the world and the roles of humans in the web of life.  It feels like she has written to us with the informal intimacy of a caring friend.  Writing with a respectful and generous spirit, she seems to be understood and appreciated by people coming from various perspectives and levels of knowledge and awareness.

In an online conversation, Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke with Daniel Wildcat about “Indigenuity” (Indigenous Ingenuity) solutions for the Earth.  She reminds us that Indigenous people around the world “are still here” and many have the “knowledge that will bring us into the future”.  She gives me hope. 

Please read Braiding Sweetgrass and share it with others.  It’s a great read, and offers lessons and perspectives that are much-needed in these challenging times. 

—Donna Leveridge Campbell is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer in Coos County and a member of the Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee

Hope’s story: Master Gardeners teach ways to create resilient landscapes that are adapted to our changing climate

“I became a Master Gardener in 2019 when I retired. I had wanted to be an MG for years but couldn’t attend class while I was working. Today, with online classes, that wouldn’t be a problem. I became a Master Gardener to learn more about plants and planting and I wanted to be part of a like-minded community. I’ve always had a scientific bent and I knew the Master Gardener program was based on science, not anecdote.

I think what I’m most proud of is that we share fact-based information with the public. I work on the helpline and am pleased that answers/help I give comes from reputable, authoritative sources, much of it from OSU.

I think as our climate changes, it’s critical that the public and Master Gardeners learn sustainable gardening practices to deal with new threats (extremes of wet and dry, cold and heat, invasive plants and insects). I am very glad to be surrounded by people who feel the same way I do.”


This is but one of the many stories of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program we’re sharing this month in honor of Dam Proud Day. On April 26, Beavers everywhere will come together to support the things we do best: transformative educational experiences and life-changing research.
 
We are excited to be raising support specifically for our Seed to Supper program and updating our foundational resource, the “Sustainable Gardening Handbook” to reflect current knowledge. Please join us in gathering your friends and colleagues to give to support the Master Gardener Program on Dam Proud Day, at any donation level. See you (online) April 26th!

John’s story: Serving the public while always learning

With Fajita at an OSU lecture

“My Master Gardener story began in 1998 when I retired and moved to rural Lake County, California.   wanted to make the best of the land I lived on by educating myself about growing things. Joining the California Master Gardeners started my training which has continued to this day. Working the Help Desk suited me as I enjoy contact with the public and in every 4-hour session I research something new and learn about it in the doing. 

In 2013 I moved to Salem, Oregon and immediately looked up and joined the MG program here. I needed to take the basic training over again because the growing environment is so different here in the PNW, but I enjoyed that too. Over time I have lost much of my hearing but I am lucky to have a Hearing Service Dog from Canine Companions and the Extension Office has provided accommodations including a captioned phone in the MG office. 

My first love is still the Help Desk and I have learned so much from working it over the years. In the early days both in California and Oregon we had a huge library of horticulture books. Over time the library has shrunk as we use PCs more and more in our research. And I am full of admiration for the OSU professors we hear on a regular basis. 

I am most proud of the fact that over the years I may have helped a few people sort out growing issues and plant problems. It is also my hope that I have made a small contribution to preserving the environment. “

—John Eells, Marion County Master Gardener Volunteer


This is but one of the many stories of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program we’re sharing this month in honor of Dam Proud Day. On April 26, Beavers everywhere will come together to support the things we do best: transformative educational experiences and life-changing research.

We are excited to be raising support specifically for our Seed to Supper program and updating our foundational resource, the “Sustainable Gardening Handbook” to reflect current knowledge. Please join us in gathering your friends and colleagues to give to support the Master Gardener Program on Dam Proud Day, at any donation level. See you (online) April 26th!

Stormi’s story: Master Gardeners are on-the-ground community scientists

Stormi in front of the OSB Pollinator Bed at the Yachats Demo Garden in May 2022

Stormi wanted to up her plant growing game, and maybe make some friends in the process. When she found the Master Gardener program, she says “I feel like I’ve found a community.”

Stormi is heavily involved in her local community work of Master Gardeners working to help preserve the threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly (OSB). In a partnership with the Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District (LSWCD) Stormi worked with fellow Master Gardeners “to conduct very small-scale “tests” that could help increase the adult OSB’s feeding area and determine how far adult OSBs will travel. I took this on as my Apprentice project last year and led the incorporation of OSB Pollinator beds in our Lincoln City and Yachats Demo Gardens. When this opportunity came up in my own county, it spoke to me, and I raised my hand. It was a meaty project for me to get into. We live in a beautiful area of Oregon and want to preserve what we have. Anything I can do to keep the OSB alive and thriving is a very good thing.”


This is but one of the many stories of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program we’re sharing this month in honor of Dam Proud Day. On April 26, Beavers everywhere will come together to support the things we do best: transformative educational experiences and life-changing research.
 
We are excited to be raising support specifically for our Seed to Supper program and updating our foundational resource, the “Sustainable Gardening Handbook” to reflect current knowledge. Please join us in gathering your friends and colleagues to give to support the Master Gardener Program on Dam Proud Day, at any donation level. See you (online) April 26th!

Julie’s story: Master Gardeners are a community who value service to others

This photo was taken by fellow MG, Bonnie Coulter, and accompanies my byline when I write periodically for the Roseburg News Review in the Ask a Master Gardener feature. 

“I have been a gardener since my grandmother first cupped her hand over mine to tuck pansies into her flowerbeds, showing me the sweet face in each blossom.”
 
Julie is most proud of “Being part of a community of people who value service to others, who share a love of continually learning and applying new things, and who dig gardens as much as I do. Master Gardeners are some of the most supportive people I know. They love sharing freely what will help other gardeners succeed.”
 
“Our world is changing, and with that change comes the need for new and sustainable practices. Master Gardeners serve as a powerful and accessible liaison between University research and academia, and community practice. Master Gardeners are our neighbors, our friends, the one down the street who will help us repair our garden tools, or share a plant or a tip, or help us find resources for our gardening issue of the moment. They are the ones who will be there to laugh (and sometimes cry) right along with us at every stage of the gardening process.” 


This is but one of the many stories of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program we’re sharing this month in honor of Dam Proud Day. On April 26, Beavers everywhere will come together to support the things we do best: transformative educational experiences and life-changing research.
 
We are excited to be raising support specifically for our Seed to Supper program and updating our foundational resource, the “Sustainable Gardening Handbook” to reflect current knowledge. Please join us in gathering your friends and colleagues to give to support the Master Gardener Program on Dam Proud Day, at any donation level. See you (online) April 26th!

An exciting opportunity for Master Gardener demonstration gardens and volunteers: Master Gardener Grow-Along

Master Gardeners and their demonstration gardens are invited to participate in a “grow along” event this growing season. “Grow along” with thousands of Oregonian households who are participating in the Grow This! Gardening Challenge, an initiative of SNAP-Ed and Food Hero. (Last year 93,138 Oregonians participated!) These beginning gardeners can learn from you, see the same plants they are growing in your demonstration gardens, and discover the incredible resource they have with local Master Gardeners and the educational gardens you care for.

What you’ll do:

-Grow one or more of the following plants (preferably by seed) in your local Master Gardener demonstration garden.

  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Herbs
  • Lettuce
  • Zinnias

-Share via email 2-3 updates a month of the progress, including photos, tips, challenges, and/or advice for growing these plants.

-Offer Grow This! participants the opportunity to drop by during your garden work days to talk with Master Gardeners, and visit your gardens.

Some examples of updates shared in 2022:

What you’ll receive:

-Your growing updates and open garden opportunities will be shared through the Grow This! Newsletter, the Food Hero social media channels, as well as the OSU Master Gardener social media channels.

-Recognition of participation on our statewide demonstration garden page (this is a much-visited resource to the public).

-Increased recognition of the value and assets of local demonstration gardens.

-Connection to a local audience eager to learn how to grow their own food and begin gardening, many for the first time.

Other ideas:

-Some demonstration gardens may want to plan special open house events around growing these five types of plants, such as “learn how to plant your new seedlings” or “how to build your own tomato cage out of recycled materials.”

-Share a video how-to from your garden, demonstrating how your team direct sows zinnias.

-Share photos of your educational signage for growing these plants, or growing in containers.

We are excited to highlight the many demonstration gardens across the state to an eager and large audience seeking to grow healthy food on a budget.

Apply here: https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2g9jL9phEboAGkS

Please apply to participate by March 31.

About Grow This!

The Grow This! Garden Challenge is a call to action to families, schools and other groups to garden together and eat what we grow. Participants receive free seeds, a monthly garden newsletter with new, simple ideas for growing; tips on harvesting, seed-starting, seed-saving and pollinators; recipes; and more. This is a project of Food Hero, whose mission is to help low-income Oregonians improve their health by increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and is an initiative of Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) program, developed by Oregon State University Extension Service and funded jointly by OSU Extension Service, Oregon Department of Human Services, and the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. 

P.S. Visit all of our gardening content at Food Hero: wonderful resources for beginning gardeners!