Dear Christine, Another Master Gardeners Article!
From my article Why Soil PH Matters I got a slammin’ comment from Christine. I was inspired by her comment to write this blog which is an open response to her comment. I think this also answers most questions experienced gardeners might have about whether or not the Master Gardeners program would benefit them.
I think you are right on the money watching your leaves for signs of nutritional deficiencies and attacks. We learn to do exactly that in the MG class. We get a note book full of pictures of leaves and symptoms and signs, and of insects, beneficial predatory and pollinating insects, and harmful ones with chewing or piercing sucking mouth parts! hehe, and much more.
You are already a great gardener with a lot of practical experience. I don’t think I went into the MG program with as much knowledge as you have already, but for me this class has better arranged the knowledge with which I came, filled in my gaps of understanding, and has made concrete for me the belief that I am absolutely on the right path in regards to the environment, and sustainable organic growing.
The Extension teachers have to expose us to everything that the University offers. It doesn’t mean that the teachers don’t see what’s coming, or embrace principles in growing similar to our own, many of them do. Not all the kindred spirits I have met in that program are other students. In any case anyone who goes in to that class at any level, whether conventional or organic in his ways will come out more educated, and better equipped to choose one practice or another. To answer your question directly I think the amount of the class time dedicated to synthetic pesticides and amendments was probably less than five percent.
I think that what the Master Gardeners Program best teaches us is how to efficiently research any botanical or agricultural query we might come up against. Many people go into the program with little or no practical experience with growing here. Those of us who go in with a lot of practical experience are able to glue new pieces of information to stuff we have known for years. It sharpens us like crazy!
Because the Master Gardeners Program was established to make a voluntary corps of garden gnomes
volunteer work is a big part of the obligation. I get to stand around talking about gardening with people who want to know about gardening. I think what I am doing is important, it is easy, and being more knowledgeable in my field will make me more valuable in my work.
And yeah I know I have begun to read like a Master Gardeners Cheer Leader, so I will promise not to write another blog about the same for a while. Rah Rah!
Thanks for the post further answering my query about the MG program. I have heard from other MG’s that the people aspect was a tremendous bonus to the book learning.
Your posts are inspiring and your comments much appreciated. I most of the time feel like my knowledge is shallow and would sometime like to attend the MG program to deepen my understanding of plants and growing things. I am interested in botany and need to get the basics down…which I would think MG would cover…
Wanted to mention an email I received recently. It was from Matt Vargas of Florida Organic Growers (FOG) http://www.foginfo.org.
I had gotten on their email list at some point. It was telling of a Demonstration Day at a farm in Hillsbourough county in April. I replied to the email to inquire if he might know of an organic bb grower I could talk to about my fungal issues. He then told me of a free program they have that pairs growers with crop advisors to either transition to organic or reduce pesticide usage. He also spoke with a grower on my behalf, who gave excellent advice which I will post below because I thought you might like to read and add to the store of info in the gray matter ie our noggin:
>Get rid of disease prone highbush varieties or at least don’t replant them. Sharpblue and Jewel have a tendency towards leaf fungus problems.
>Good field management by pruning dead and infected twigs and maintaining good air circulation in the blueberry canopy is important to prevent/limit fungal diseases caused by Colletotrichum acutatum (anthracnose), Gloeosporium and Septoria.
>Don’t over water or water in the evening where plants stay wet through the night
>Fish emulsion seems to help keep these problems down but recently I have run into food safety issues for using it within 45 days of harvest for fear of bacterial contamination, although there is no documented evidence of this happening [ie his buyer must have expressed concern, warranted or not]. Serenade Max and Actinovate can help control these problems as well. Oil sprays can be effective but take care to not burn young leaves.
>If anthracnose is a problem on harvested fruit, don’t pick over ripe or damaged fruit and keep temperatures low once picked.
>Sanitize trays and buckets regularly during the picking season.
>I have noticed that once plants are on a regular fungus control program that they seem to become addicted to the fungicide. I believe that the plants immune systems are not activated by exposure to these pathogens and therefore once the sprays stop, the fungi attack with a vengeance.
>He also added that healthy plants have fewer problems with these diseases. Healthy plants would involve selecting disease resistant varieties and also soil building and fertility management so that plants have the nutrients they need and a thriving soil ecology.
Me again- I practice his suggestions for the most part, some are not applicable and some I am contemplating…such as the soil health, as you mentioned, I think this is an area I need to explore more…I think a crop advisor is just the ticket esp. if he/she can help decipher my soil/leaf testing.
So to sum it up. Read, read, read….talk, talk, talk…learn, learn, learn…
Thank you Adina, thank you FOG, thank you MG’s, thank you IFAS, thank you Extension Agents, thank you internet, thank you gardeners, growers,thank you consumers of goodness, and thank you all those who care…
Great comment Christine! I had the pleasure of sharing a ride to the SSAWG Conference with several people from FOG. I had some great conversations with Marty Mesh who was verrry patient with my concerns (mostly against) certifying my growing operation. He was rather effective in helping me to see why it makes sense to certify. I think FOG is a powerfully helpful organization for organic growers, and it doesn’t surprise me that they have helped provide you with a connection with very practical and reasonable options for dealing with your fungal infestations. I hope you will let us know how the changes you choose to make help your growing operation, and thanks again for your comments.