• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Master Gardeners share a passion for growing

Becoming a Master Gardener doesn't give someone all of the answers to their gardening questions. The program does teach a person to ask questions and find answers to those questions, said Carol Gill, a Master Gardener. "When we learn a little bit, it just exposes us to how much more there is to learn," she explained. Gill and three other Master Gardeners in Woodford County shared what they've learned about gardening and how this knowledge helps them pursue their passion for gardening during an interview with The Sun. "A lot of our roots for gardening come from our youth," said Terry Burns, who has lived in California, Florida and other places before coming here. "Our families grew gardens . Some of us end up liking flowers more." "Gardening is more than just fruits and vegetables," added Debbie Tichenor. She said Master Gardener classes make people more aware of what they can plant to help native pollinators and birds in the area where they live. Woodford County's soil and varied climate allow a gardener to grow a wide array of plants, according to Gill. She said a gardener's interests often change at different stages of their life. Before moving here, Gill lived on eight acres in the Virginia countryside. "I'm (now) on a small corner lot in the city - downtown Versailles. It's a totally different kind of gardening. So I have new challenges," said Gill. Not having eight acres to maintain has been a good thing at this stage in her life. "I'm attracted to the beauty of gardening," explained Gill. "I want to create a spot that's lovely to look at, but that has birds and . butterflies, and (where) my granddaughter can play with me . And she can pick flowers." Because of a lack of sunshine in her yard, flowers, bushes and trees are now her focus as gardening remains vital to her life, Gill said. She cited studies showing people are happier and healthier when they have beautiful outdoor spaces around them. On her two acres, Tichenor started using raised beds for her vegetable gardening last year. She won first place at the Woodford County Farmers' Market for growing the largest tomato - weighing nearly two pounds - in her raised-bed garden. "Also the ease of gardening - not having to get down on your hands and knees" was another benefit of using raised beds, said Tichenor. She has been planting native spring flowering plants to attract "all of the good things to your yard to help get rid of the bad things." By planting the native spice bush, which is disappearing along the Kentucky River because of invasive plants, her raised-bed gardens are attracting spice bush butterflies to her yard. Terry Burns moved to Versailles after having gardened on up to six acres. He described his front-yard garden as "visually pleasant," with raspberry and vegetable production. He also has a "kitchen garden" in his backyard where he grows his herbs. "It doesn't matter how big your space is you can still have a garden," said Faye Kuosman, Woodford County's Extension agent for horticulture. Her office has information on growing flowers, fruits, vegetables and other plants in spaces of all different shapes and sizes. Scott Joublanc was a retired chemical engineer for an oil company when he made the decision to take Master Gardener classes being offered by the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service. He saw the Master Gardener Program as an opportunity to get an education in his hobby - gardening. Once he began taking the classes, Joublanc was surprised by "the depth of the subject matter," which he described as fantastic. "If you're interested in gardening or landscaping (the yard)," said Joublanc, ".it's a fantastic educational background - plus a chance to get your hands-on (experience) and actually do things." The Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service offers Master Gardener training classes every odd year, according to Kuosman. She said weekly three-hour classes begin at the end of August and continue until December. Anyone who wants to become a Master Gardener "just needs to be willing to take the time to take the class and then the time to do the service," said Gill. Because once they complete training, Master Gardeners volunteer in horticulture-related activities (40 hours in their first year and 20 hours annually thereafter) to continue their own education and share what they've learned with others. "The important part is not what we do in our lots, (but as Master Gardeners) what we teach others to do," said Burns. The Master Gardener program (offered in all 50 states) supports Cooperative Extension with its outreach efforts, said Kuosman. "A lot of what we do," she explained, "is just teaching people to do (gardening) the right way . What to do if you have pests?" Because there are beneficial insects, getting rid of bad bugs that are harming plants has its challenges too, Kuosman said. Gardening in Woodford County begins with soil, according to Burns. Joublanc said gardeners should have their soil tested by the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service before they do any planting. Some fruits and vegetables will not thrive - or even survive - if the soil has not been amended to suit its nutritional needs, he said. Leaves falling from the trees can be reused as a composting mulch to add nutrition to soil, added Gill. She continues to add - what her dad called black gold - in every hole before planting. For more information about the Master Gardener program as well as other classes and events offered through the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service, visit woodford.ca.uky.edu or call 873-4601.

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