Deb Babcock: Call on a Master Gardener for help

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

If you visit the farmer’s market Saturdays or have gone on the Strings Garden Tour any of the past few years or read this column regularly, you’re probably aware that Routt County has a cadre of knowledgeable gardeners in our community who are here to share their expertise with local home gardeners.

With gardening being one of the most popular hobbies of homeowners, and the fast growing interest in producing your own food in small home gardens, the extension office relies on volunteer Master Gardeners to help them answer questions from community members, assist local gardeners and nonprofit organizations with gardening issues, and put on programs such as our workshops on vegetable gardening and several on the cherry fruit fly infestation that has migrated to the Steamboat Springs area.

About 50 active Master Gardeners who have gone through an extensive training course consisting of three months of classes taught by professors from Colorado State University are here to answer questions and help out home gardeners and nonprofits in the area with gardening advice and information. (Actually, in the 13-plus years I’ve lived in Routt County, there have been more than 200 people who have gone through the training, but not all opt to continue to be active in the program.)

The course we took initially covered such topics as soils, plant nutrition, insects, diseases, fruits, vegetables, weeds, trees, shrubs, irrigation and more. The instructors did their best to give us information as specific to our mountain environment here in Routt County as they could. Local experts are occasionally brought in as well to make sure we receive as well-rounded an education in local gardening as possible.

Once we have completed the course of study, we receive certification as a Colorado Master Gardener and then maintain that certification by volunteering our help in the community and taking ongoing educational classes to keep up on new developments and refresh our knowledge.

One of the requirements we must follow when answering questions from residents about gardening topics is to provide answers that are research-based from the educational materials provided to us. Our personal opinions and biases are to be kept to ourselves and not shared when serving as an ambassador for the Master Gardener program. The men and women in the local Master Gardener program are volunteers who love to garden and want to share their knowledge with others interested in participating in this wonderful hobby.

The extension service has a presence in every state and is a cooperative effort between the United States Department of Agriculture, land grant universities and local county governments. In our case, it is a joint partnership with the USDA (federal partner), Colorado State University (state partner) and Routt County (local partner).

The role of the extension office is to provide residents with information about university research in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, youth, natural resources, food safety and nutrition. Delivery of that information in Routt County translates to such programs as weed abatement, agriculture viability, food product safety programs, 4-H, sustaining small acreages and … Master Gardening.

So if you need some help with a gardening issue at your home, condo or apartment, call the Extension office and the staff there will refer your question to our group of generous volunteer Master Gardeners.

Deb Babcock is a volunteer Master Gardener through the Routt County Extension office. If you have questions, call 970-879-0825 or email csumgprogram@co.routt.co.us.

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