By Susanne von Rosenberg, UC Master Gardener of Napa County
Gardeners are a generous bunch. I know that I have benefitted tremendously from the knowledge and plants shared by more experienced gardeners. I've also been the grateful recipient of tasty produce and delicious jams and preserves.
Whether we are sharing plants, food from our gardens, tips about all kinds of tools or information about gardening, sharing adds to the joy that we get from gardening.
You can grow that joy by expanding your circle of giving. Consider some of the following ideas.
If you like to share plants, make sure what you are sharing is free of pests and diseases. Grow some extras and tell your neighbors via online services such as Nextdoor, Freecycle, or Craig's List or phone apps that allow you to post free notices about things you are giving away.
I usually have extra vegetable seedlings in the spring, and I always find that people are happy to receive free plants. (If you are sharing plants that you originally purchased from a nursery, please make sure that they are not patent protected; growers invest a lot of money in developing new plants and protect their development rights to certain plants.) You can also share seeds you have saved. This practice is one of the most basic ways to share your love of gardening and an important way to preserve seed diversity.
If you like to share food from your garden, you also have many options for expanding your circle of giving. In addition to giving away food to friends and the food bank (check first to find out what kinds of produce they would like to receive), you can start a food exchange in your neighborhood, or simply set up a table in front your home and let people know you are sharing your bounty.
If you have fruit trees that have more fruit than you can use, the Napa County food bank's gleaning team can harvest it, and you will be happy knowing that neighbors in need are benefitting.
If you don't have the space to grow extra produce, consider helping out with CanDo's CanGrow garden for Napa County food banks. Check the CanDo website for information on gardening and harvesting times.
If you have extra time and energy, you can share your muscles. Help neighbors who just had a new baby, or who may be getting older, or who are facing a difficult time. Ask them if you can do some weeding, watering or other garden maintenance. Always ask before you uproot any plants. Something that looks like a weed to you may be a habitat plant or native seedling to them.
Sharing your knowledge and helping new or newer gardeners be more successful is also very satisfying. If you have kids or grandkids, you're probably already sharing the fun and satisfaction of gardening with them. What if you don't have kids or grandkids, or they live far away? Are there kids in your neighborhood who might be interested in gardening with you? How about supporting the school garden at your local elementary or middle school? Do you have new neighbors who are just getting started with their first garden?
Another wonderful opportunity to share your love of gardening is to become a UC Master Gardener of Napa County and teach others to be better gardeners through educational community programs. To join the Napa County program, you must be a resident of Napa County. If you live in another county, check out that county's Master Gardener program at http://mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs/. All nearby counties have active Master Gardener programs.
UC Master Gardeners are trained by the University of California Cooperative Extension and provide research-based information to home gardeners throughout the county. You have likely seen us at local farmer's markets, attended one of our workshops or submitted a problem to our help desk.
UC Master Gardener volunteers receive extensive training to become certified and they must do volunteer hours and continuing education each year to maintain their certification. The UC Master Gardener program is open to all experienced gardeners, but space in each class is limited and volunteers are chosen based on current program needs.
The first step is to attend an informational meeting and obtain an application for the 2020 class. Application forms are only available at these meetings, and no preregistration is required.
For more information about the meetings and other UC Master Gardener activities, visit the Master Gardener website (http://napamg.ucanr.edu) or call (707) 253-4221. Upvalley and American Canyon residents can call toll- free at (877) 279-3065. Additional information about the 2020 Master Gardener training class is available online at http://napamg.ucanr.edu/Become_A_Master_Gardener/ .
All meeting locations are handicap accessible and the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is open to all and does not discriminate in any of its programs.
Volunteer training class meetings:
- In Napa at University of California Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue; on Saturday, July 27, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday, August 20, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, September 7, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and September 24, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
- In Yountville at Yountville Park, 2900 Lincoln Avenue, on Thursday, August 1, noon-1:30
- In American Canyon at American Canyon Library, 300 Crawford Way, on Sunday, September 15, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- In St. Helena at Lyman Park, 1498 Main Street, Tuesday, August 20, noon-1:30 p.m.
The deadline for completed applications is 5:00 p.m. on September 27.
Next workshop: “Succulents Celebration!” on Saturday, July 20, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at the University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. Learn why succulents have become the trendiest members of the plant kingdom. For more details & online registration go to http://napamg.ucanr.edu or call 707-253-4221.
The UC Master Gardeners are volunteers who provide UC research-based information on home gardening and answer your questions. To find out more about upcoming programs or to ask a garden question, visit the Master Gardener website (http://napamg.ucanr.edu) or call (707) 253-4221 between 9 a.m. and noon on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.