Master Gardener Program — College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Kathie Griffin—

This school year kindergarten and first grade students at Mountain Vista Elementary School in Oracle, Arizona learned about life science, scientific processes, health and wellness and teamwork through creating a school garden and growing their own vegetables, herbs and flowers. The project was collaboration among three teachers, Julie Formo, Windy Messing and Chantel Sloan and the University of Arizona Pinal County Cooperative Extension. Representing Extension were Everett Rhodes, Extension Agent, School and Community Garden Coordinator Jim Jepson and volunteers from the SaddleBrooke Master Gardeners led by Laurie Bryant. An after school garden club was formed and over 30 students signed up to participate once a week. Throughout the year students worked with teachers and Master Gardeners to plant and grow vegetables and herbs, compost and develop a worm farm. They learned about bees, butterflies, insects and their relationship to the garden. Students used scientific tools such as magnifiers, rulers and thermometers to help them observe, measure and test. They learned about soil composition, composting, mulching and weeding all while working as a team. But the most fun was harvesting and eating! How often can you get a five or six year old to eat a spinach, kale, and lettuce salad with a side of radishes and cherry tomatoes and then come back for second and third helpings? One parent said that after eating real carrots from the garden her son no longer wanted those little smooth carrots that come in a plastic package. He wanted the real deal! These are positive impacts that can have a long-term effect on health and wellness.

The school garden will continue next school year with some returning students who will act as mentors to new students who elect to join this wonderful after school program. The project was recently given a thumbs up by the Oracle School Board. With the first year in the rearview mirror, the SaddleBrooke Master Gardeners are already developing lesson plans and projects for the upcoming year to make this an even bigger and better learning experience for these beautiful children.

Volunteers make a difference

Kathie Griffin

The SaddleBrooke Master Gardener Volunteers love gardening and can’t stop talking about the unique challenges in growing plants in the high desert. As a part of University of Arizona Pinal Cooperative Extension our mission is to provide the public with research-based, home horticultural information through educational programs and projects. We love to share our knowledge and experience with our neighbors in SaddleBrooke!

If you’ve ever wanted to become a Master Gardener, SaddleBrooke has one of the best training programs in the state. There is no wait list, no interview process, and our $130 fee is low compared to Phoenix at $275 and Tucson at $200. Your commitment upon completing your training is to give 50 volunteer hours on approved projects by the end of 2016. You’ll join a great group of volunteers and be able to choose from a variety of projects. We do everything from meeting with homeowners to identify plant issues, to sponsoring or giving horticulture lectures, to assisting with an after school garden project at Mountain Vista Elementary School in Oracle. If plant propagation is your thing, we do that, too. It’s not all work and no play either. We have frequent field trips to conferences, nurseries and botanical gardens just for fun as well as to expand our plant knowledge.

The only prerequisite is a love of plants and willingness to share your knowledge. No experience is necessary; we will train you. Reserve your spot in the next Garden and Landscape Course for Master Gardeners. It will begin on September 22, 2015, at The Preserve Clubhouse from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The course will be held on twelve consecutive Tuesdays through December 15, 2015. (No class Thanksgiving week.) To register or for more information contact Kathie Griffin at [email protected]