County master gardeners are busy year-round

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Master Gardeners established this Birds and Bees Pollinator Garden and Monarch Waystation at the Crawford County Fairgrounds during the spring and summer. (Submitted photo)

By Sandy Vold

Like gardeners everywhere, Crawford County Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) spend a lot of time outdoors during the growing season, planting and tending their own gardens. They also volunteer their time by beautifying areas in the community such as the St. Feriole Island Memorial Gardens and the Crawford County Fairgrounds, assisting with local school gardens, staffing information booths and doing demonstrations. It would be logical to assume that once the harvest is in, the growing season has ended—the gardens are all tidied up for the winter and master gardeners breathe a huge sigh of relief in anticipation of a long winter break from anything related to gardening.

Such an assumption, however logical it might be, would also be inaccurate. Although they are busiest in spring and summer, master gardeners carry out their motto, “Learn, Teach, Lead and Serve,” throughout the year.

For instance, “Ask a Master Gardener,” a program held at the Prairie du Chien Public Library the fourth Saturday of each month, continues through the winter months (except November and December) under the leadership of MGV Deb Rider. The program gives area residents the opportunity to visit with a master gardener. With the exception of that and a few other activities during fall and winter, most master gardeners spend the winter months evaluating, learning, planning and preparing for the next season’s gardening activities.

Although master gardeners are required to complete only 10 hours of education per year in order to remain certified, most exceed that, and winter is an excellent time to learn something new. To make it easier for master gardeners to keep up with their education, the University of Wisconsin Extension Service now offers several online classes in addition to the many publications available online.  It is expected that master gardeners pass on this knowledge to others in one form or another. The classes are currently available only to master gardeners, but the publications can be accessed online at https://learningstore.uwex.edu and printed out or ordered for a small fee.

Newly-certified MGV Caprice Ellefson is a good example of someone passing on that knowledge. She grew so excited after she attended a class on making maple syrup that she purchased equipment, tapped her own trees, and prepared and bottled maple syrup. Following her success, she then prepared a lecture and slide show so she could show others how to do it.

After extensive research on monarch butterflies, she and fellow MGV Marla Hurley expanded the flower garden at the Crawford County Fairgrounds to become the Birds and Bees Pollinator Garden and registered it as a Monarch Waystation. By the 2018 growing season, they plan to have signage in place to identify the various plants and their functions in the life cycle of monarchs.

Donna Teynor, who, in conjunction with the Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation program, initiated the award-winning Kids in the Garden program last summer, will spend the winter refining the program and preparing new projects and activities for the children. In anticipation of that, she also applied for and received a $400 grant to cover some of the costs.

Several master gardeners will spend the next few months preparing to facilitate a new master gardener training class, which starts in February. But it is a safe bet that all MGVs will spend the next months, in some form, preparing for the 2018 growing season.

During the 2017 growing season, Crawford County Master Gardeners contributed 2,895 volunteer hours to the community.

Sandy Vold is a retired editor of the Courier Press. She is also a master gardener volunteer in Crawford County. She was enlisted to pen this article for the newspaper.

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