- Author: Sophie Loeb
Over 2,000 attendees, first-time and returning customers alike, attended the UC Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties Spring Garden Market on April 16th, some of whom lined up at 7:45 A.M. before doors opened at 9:00. The Master Gardener volunteers took demographic information while participants were waiting in line and found that 40% of attendees had been to a previous Master Gardener sale and 60% of attendees were new to the sale. The majority of attendees were from San Mateo, San Carlos, and Redwood City including frequent returners who like the quality and variety of plants.
“Several returning customers commented that they come back to our sale year after year because our seedlings are healthy and thrive in our area gardens. This was very gratifying to hear, since I know the growing teams are extremely committed to ensuring we can offer plants that are in prime condition at the sale,” commented UC Master Gardener Shilpa Thanawala.
The goals for the Spring Garden Market are to encourage more Master Gardeners to participate in volunteer activities, expand the promotion of the event, and increase the educational opportunities offered to the community. Approximately 100 UC Master Gardener volunteers worked to transport plants, set up displays and education tables, and work the “day of Sale”. Work for the market begins wells in advance with a Marketing/PR team publicizing Master Gardener events and educational opportunities throughout the year. From the Half Moon Bay Journal to local coffee shops, Master Gardeners worked tirelessly to notify an assortment of community niches about the opportunity to purchase quality plants.
The Spring Garden Market would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors: the San Mateo County Event Center and Lyngso Garden Materials. In addition, Terry Lyngso, provided information about top soil and soil mixes, compost tea and mycorrhizae, mulch, and soil amendments. Many of our partner organizations participated in the Spring Garden Market, including: the educational table run by BAWSCA provided information concerning water-wise gardening, the Lawn-Be-Gone program, and drought-tolerant plants; Mary Vollinger of UC CalFresh provided a table with nutrition related materials; Collective Roots, Najiha Al Asmar provided an educational table on communal growing, sharing, and eating of nutritious foods; the Office of Sustainability (Formerly Recycle Works) manned an educational table regarding renewable energy and resource conservation; and the Beekeepers Guild worked on an educational table to educate “newbee” beekeepers.
This year, the Master Gardener growing teams raised approximately 5,000 plants to sell at the market with more vegetables and herbs offered this year than in previous years. There were less than 180 plants left at the end of the sale, which were taken to Elkus Ranch to be donated to school gardens, urban gardens, and senior center gardens. Some of the many market highlights included Master Gardeners educational tables, such as: How To Grow Tomatoes/Tomato Information, Irrigating Edibles from Rainwater Storage Tanks, UC Master Food Preservers, and Deer and Gopher Control in the Garden.
Spring Garden Market Coordinator volunteer, Cynthia Nations, began planning the market last December. Nations commented, “The growers, the transport and set up team, and all the volunteers who worked the market made the planning experience pleasant. We have gathered both quantitative and qualitative data to begin planning the market for 2017.”