Growing into a Master Gardener

It was always a goal of mine to be a master gardener, but it was one that I set aside for retirement when I would have more time to devote to it. So that time is now! The purpose of this blog is to document my journey in completing the master gardener volunteer program offered by the U of M Extension Services. Since everyone’s background and goals are different, I realize this is only one person’s journey. My goal is to illuminate some of the intricacies of the program and share what I have gained from being an intern for those who might be considering becoming a master gardener volunteer.Vicki Olson

+ About me
Vicki Olson

I have loved gardening my entire life and that love has been nurtured by friends and family along the way. My grandmother lived on the outskirts of a small town in South Dakota and practiced the farm to table concept with a large vegetable garden and chickens running around the backyard. My mother had three huge flower gardens bordered by strawberry plants and there was a large swath of woods behind us, perfect for investigating frogs, salamanders, garter snakes, lightening bugs and all other types of insects. Rows of home canned fruits and vegetables lined the shelves in our basement.

I have lived in multiple houses in South Minneapolis and Minnetonka with each of them presenting different opportunities and challenges. I have fond memories of hanging out at garden centers on a Sunday afternoon, new to learning about perennials, and tracking their blooms – and participating in a community garden with relatives. Raising a family and working full time in healthcare made for a little less time for education but each spring brought the excitement of a new year of possibilities and experimentation. Now I have completed the hardscaping on my current urban yard and am looking forward to getting back to improving the lawn and gardens.

Issue #6: Recap of my Intern Year

Happy New Year!

Time to recap my year as an intern for the volunteer master gardener program.

I have met all the requirements for the master gardener program and have started my celebrations! Yay! Hennepin County had their last intern meeting at the beginning of December and we celebrated those that had completed the requirements. Then my mentor group went out to dinner at the beginning of January to celebrate.  And later this month we will have the official awards ceremony with all master gardeners and new 2023 interns.

So what are my takeaways from this year? So many – here are a few…

It was more intensive than I realized going into the program and as a result I feel more accomplished having met the requirements of this first year.

That being said, there was also more of an infrastructure in place to support interns and master gardeners. I should have guessed, being a U of M extension program, that they would know both how to educate new interns and support all Minnesota residents in their gardening endeavors but it was impressive.

It was humbling. I was comfortable with perennial gardening but trees, bushes, vegetables, fruits, insects, animals, weeds, plant diseases oh, my! Lots to learn. 

So many learning opportunities. The Hennepin County monthly update sessions had experts share their experience on so many different topics. The Arboretum had a weekly spring series and fall series on timely topics. Then there is education offered by the MN Horticultural Society. So many experts are in our midst.

I met so many nice people. I can honestly say I have never met a master gardener that I did not like. As an intern you are paired with master gardeners for the volunteer activities so there are lots of opportunities to meet people and learn from their experience.  They were all so friendly, welcoming and helpful.

I surprised myself. The thought of answering random gardening questions at the farmers markets was very intimidating and yet, it was one of my favorite activities. I set up my ipad with links to key websites and found each question a fun challenge to draw from my own knowledge, my fellow master gardeners or accessing resources from U of M or other education resources.

It was truly satisfying. I knew I loved kids having practiced pediatric nursing early in my career and playing with my young grandchildren but the vision of watching second graders excitedly raise their hands to answer pollinator questions and buzz around the room pollinating flowers and collecting nectar still brings a smile to my face. It was precious.

Previous Issues:
Growing into a Master Gardener #1 Application Process
Growing into a Master Gardener #2 Requirements for Interns
Growing into a Master Gardener #3 Requirements for Interns- Continuing Education
Growing into a Master Gardener #4 Requirements for Interns-Volunteer Hours
Growing into a Master Gardener #5 Requirements for Interns-Research Questions

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