In the midst of Monterey County’s number-one industry – agriculture – amateur home gardeners will soon benefit from the seeds that have been planted for a demonstration and teaching garden in Salinas created by the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners. The all-volunteer group is seeking funds to turn their garden plans into a reality so they can help more people grow their own food and create sustainable landscapes.
There are over 20,000 master gardeners in California, trained through the University of California Master Gardener program, administered through UC Cooperative Extension. Volunteer gardeners go through extensive training in order to offer free advice about pest management, sustainable landscaping and related topics. The Monterey Bay Master Gardeners have about 60 volunteer gardeners in Monterey County, says Master Gardener Jan Fedor of Monterey.
Currently the closest demonstration and teaching garden is in Watsonville. “That’s a long hike” for many Monterey County’s home gardeners, Fedor says. Volunteers always longed for a more accessible space, but weren’t sure it would ever become a reality. “We didn’t even dream of this because you have to have some land to do it on,” she says.
More recently the director of Monterey County UC Cooperative Extension, Maria de la Fuente, worked in partnership with county Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales to make a plan to transform a vacant plot of UCCE land adjacent to the county ag office into the demonstration garden. “We’ve got a footprint. It’s a very, very rough piece of land,” Fedor says. She and other volunteers are going to transform it into an ADA-compliant space, where home gardeners, school children and future master gardeners can learn best practices.
Volunteers plan to offer classes in Spanish and English, as well as access to a shed and shade house, and an auditorium inside the ag office.
The Monterey Bay Master Gardeners are already available to those who need advice, even for growing a pot of tomatoes on a balcony. Besides fruits and vegetables, the experts can share best practices for landscapes, emphasizing native plants. “English gardens should stay in England,” Fedor says. People can submit questions at mbmg.ucanr.edu/hotline.