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Master Gardener Journal  


F R O M   M E   T O   Y O U



Master Gardeners are Making a Difference

by Lucy K. Bradley,
Extension Agent, Urban Horticulture


With over 3 million people in Maricopa County, a large percentage of them newcomers to the Sonoran Desert, the need for public education regarding appropriate selection, placement and care of plants is tremendous. The Master Gardener program seeks to improve the health of plants and people, while promoting environmental responsibility in the garden. This includes the efficient use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and the reduction of green waste.

Two Initial Master Gardener Training classes were conducted in 2002. A total of 145 students took these 17-week home horticulture courses. Twenty-five MG Mentors guided these students through 51 hours of instruction, with 20 hours of organized volunteer activities. Based on pre- and post-test scores, students who graduated from Master Gardener Training:

  • Improved their knowledge of soils, turf, pruning, vegetables, fruit trees, ornamentals, and botany.
  • Are now more likely to apply water efficiently, select plants appropriately, use soil amendments effectively, prune properly, and identify common arthropods correctly.
  • Are now less likely to attempt to control harmless or beneficial insects, and more likely to tolerate some plant damage before attempting control (IPM).
In 2002, Maricopa County Master Gardeners donated 36,000 hours, the equivalent of 17 full-time staff members, conservatively valued at $15/hr., for a total of $530,400. Master Gardeners:

  • Staffed Horticulture Help-Desks at the main office and three satellite offices, where they assisted 3,400 walk-ins with gardening and landscaping questions.
  • Fielded 25,000 gardening and landscaping calls. In a 2001 follow-up telephone survey of 123 people who had called in on the gardening hot line, 86 percent intended to reduce herbicide and pesticide use after talking to a Master Gardener.
  • Managed a 250-page website that gets 1,500 hits per week.
  • Staffed a list serve that responded to 4,000 questions in 2002.
  • Maintained an Interpretive Trail and Demonstration Garden at the Extension Office, including a Water Garden, Heritage Roses, Rare Fruit, Herbs, Vegetables, Flowers, Children's Garden, Healing Garden, Citrus, and Turf Demonstration gardens. These gardens are open to the public 24 hrs/day; guided tours were conducted for 30 visiting groups.
  • Hosted East and West Valley Fruit Clinics: 8 concurrent speakers, 3 1/2-hour sessions, and 335 participants. In a follow-sup survey of 107 participants: the average rating for the session was 9 out of a possible 10; 88 percent felt they learned how to irrigate, fertilize, and use pesticide alternatives properly; 80 percent were likely to change the way they used both fertilizers and pesticides; 90 percent planned to irrigate more deeply and less frequently.
  • Sponsored Fall and Spring Garden Fairs: 700 participants.
  • Staffed Q & A Booth at 12 trade shows and similar events, information shared and questions answered for 100,000 plus.
  • Conducted Garden Tour: 868 participants, 6 hours of educational talks, materials, and tours. "A truly superb tour. The organization, good directions! and especially the educational components made this tour stand head and shoulders above other tours I've attended. Truly a tribute to a great group of volunteers and wonderful gardeners!" (Participant 4/1/2002).
  • Provided a Speakers Bureau, which gave 82 talks reaching 3,922 people.
  • Taught 13 intensive 3-hour classes, ranging from "Citrus Care" to "Wildflowers," reaching 290. Survey of 53 participants indicated that 87 percent found the information offered would help them irrigate properly, use pesticides appropriately, and become more confident in their ability to maintain their landscape to reduce greenwaste.
  • Provided regular information for several Valley Newspapers and Magazines, including The Arizona Republic, Phoenix Home and Garden, East Valley Tribune, AZ Senior World, and Sun City Papers.
  • Wrote, edited and distributed this publication, the Master Gardener Journal, hard copies distributed to 700 subscribers and available free on-line.
Thanks to all Master Gardener volunteers for your terrific support. As we face the budget challenges of the coming year, I hope you will continue in your excellent efforts. You make all the difference!


Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated January 25, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopa-hort@ag.arizona.edu 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092