Later in life, I joined the Navy and became a medical laboratory technologist and blood bank specialist. Yet in a 20 year career, wherever I was stationed, I managed to grow a small garden. I retired to central Wisconsin and became a Master Gardener by training at the Hancock Research Station. What a tremendous amount of gardening information I learned! Sixteen years ago, I moved to the Twin Cities to work at Bailey Nurseries. Of course, we joined another great group of Master Gardeners in Saint Paul. Later I really retired, and now my wife and I do even more gardening and even more volunteer work.
Some people are in awe when they learn that I am in this program. “Then you know everything there is to know about gardening,” they say. I just smile, laugh a little, and reply “No, it is impossible to know everything about gardening. The only reason that I know so much about plants is that I have managed to kill many more than you have. I don’t know all the answers, but I certainly know where to find out.” I have made many dear friends in the Master Gardener Group, and I can call any one of them to find the answer. Although Master Gardeners learn about all aspects of gardening, I observe that everyone tends to become quite expert in one or two areas of gardening. I have a black thumb when growing houseplants and tend to kill them. I hate lawns and can mow my lawn with a pair of scissors in less than 30 seconds. When I receive a houseplant or lawn question, I know just who to call. I can also read the many well-written articles on the University of Minnesota Extension web site. I have access to a state wide network of talented Master Gardeners who will answer my every question by email. Extension educators and University faculty gladly share their knowledge and time to answer the especially difficult question. There is always someone available to help you. University experts and knowledgeable gardeners present exciting training sessions, where we learn even more.
When I see a volunteer work thousands of hours in a hospital, teaching ill children the joys of gardening-
When I see others start a community garden in an empty lot-
When I see display gardens and educational gardens throughout the state-
When I talk to a lady about a suspicious bug on a plant she doesn’t know the name of, and can convince her that she need not spray the heck out of it-
When I see “Beans on the Boulevard”-
When I see seed libraries springing up-
When I point out an orange butterfly on a coneflower to my seven year old granddaughter, talk about Latin names of plants, and then she tells her teacher about Monarch butterflies on the Echinacea plants-
When I see a child in the city hesitate, then eat his very own first tomato on a plant that he has grown himself (with just a tiny bit of help from a Master Gardener), and then he smiles-
When I see my Master Gardener wife Jennifer grow over 2,000 plants for 3 different charitable plant sales, while I do the dishes and cook-
When I see the hundreds of thousands of hours that the Minnesota Master Gardeners donate to their communities-
THEN, I know that world is OK, and is heading in the right direction. I love the volunteer aspect and friendship of Master Gardening and enjoy sharing my knowledge by writing articles, teaching, working hands-on with anyone - just helping old and new gardeners.
I know why I am a Master Gardener.
Joe Baltrukonis Ramsey County MASTER GARDENER