Are you aware of the Master Gardeners in our fair city of Maricopa? Let me introduce you to our history and program.
The Land Grant College Act of 1862 ceded land within each state to establish colleges and universities specializing in the “agricultural and mechanic” (A&M) arts. The University of Arizona is our original land-grant college.
The Cooperative Extension Service is a large, non-formal educational system to help people use research-based knowledge to improve their lives. This service is provided by each state’s land-grant universities and administered by county horticulture agents.
The Master Gardener program is an arm of the Cooperative Extension Service. Our mission is to provide residential gardeners with research-based horticultural information through educational programs and projects. Master Gardeners are unpaid volunteers.
Our local group is fortunate to have the Maricopa Agricultural Center as our home base. The MAC is a University of Arizona experiment station known for its research on cotton, small grains, alfalfa and new specialty crops.
At the MAC, our Master Gardeners maintain a demonstration garden, cactus garden, greenhouse and a small orchard. We utilize these areas as teaching platforms to introduce local homeowners to new plants and growing techniques, as well as best practices in garden planning, cultivation, irrigation and tool maintenance.
Another vital service we provide is plant diagnostics. In this capacity, we research and resolve plant and insect questions submitted by home gardeners from all corners of Pinal County. We have a diagnostic lab and library in our office at the MAC.
Becoming a Pinal County Master Gardener requires some time and dedication, but it’s well worth it, not only for one’s personal knowledge but for the opportunity to share that learning with others.
First, one must complete a specialized course in gardening in the low desert. The comprehensive course covers topics such as botany, soils and plant nutrition, problem diagnosis, irrigation, pest management, desert-adapted plants and vegetable gardening.
Upon course completion, Master Gardener interns must complete 50 service hours to obtain full certification. Annual recertification involves additional volunteer and continuing education hours. Typical volunteer projects include planting and maintaining our garden areas at the MAC, staffing the plant diagnostic office, engaging with local schools, and presenting landscape and gardening information at city-wide events. Volunteer opportunities are fun and gratifying, and can open a whole new network of acquaintances and contacts.
The current course is offered online for learning at one’s own pace. Contact the Maricopa Master Gardener office at 520-374-6263 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Rita Bricker is a Maricopa resident and is a Master Gardener with the University of Arizona.