“Did You Eat Today? Thank a Master Gardener!”

— Written By and last updated by

This slogan captures the 2018 Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Caldwell County. From providing habitat for pollinators to growing all fresh produce, the Caldwell Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County have contributed a substantial amount to the know-how of Caldwellians who grow fruits and vegetables at home. Extension Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County undergo an intensive training program through N.C. Cooperative Extension and NC State University. As trained volunteers, they work in partnership with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center to extend horticultural information throughout the community.

We have approximately 25 active Master Gardener volunteers in Caldwell County. In 2018, these volunteers logged over 1,000 hours of service in Caldwell County. If service wasn’t enough, they additionally logged over 450 hours in pursuit of furthering their horticultural knowledge! They have made over 1,000 contacts with community members by offering classes and tabling at events such as the NC Blackberry Festival. The spring 2018 Caldwell-Alexander Master Gardener volunteer training class had 10 participants, 6 of whom were from Caldwell County. While a small group, the new volunteers have shown up regularly to participate in organized volunteer efforts and a couple have spearheaded their own educational projects.

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Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County install trellising for the pepper demonstration bed at Unity Park and Community Gardens.

Some of the more remarkable contributions from Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County this year took place at our community gardens in Lenoir. In early May, volunteers helped fill new beds at the Beall St. Garden so that the garden could be better utilized in 2018. At Unity Park and Community Garden, dedicated volunteers maintained and offered educational programming for the public. Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County Ellen Roberts and Lynda Campbell volunteered over 200 hours each in this effort, and several others were involved in maintaining the beds. One of the main demonstration beds was a “Square Foot Garden,” where the bed is divided by a grid into 1’x1’ squares, each containing a different edible plant. Depending on the space demands of that plant, there could be 1-16 plants per square foot. They were featured in several short films made by the City of Lenoir, available on the website.

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Participants learn what to grow in fall, and how to use the square foot gardening method at the Fall Gardening class.

They also led several well-attended gardening classes this fall, including a class on growing peppers, ginger and turmeric, and gardening in the fall. Participants sampled tasty treats made with garden fare, and took home plants, planting tips, and recipes. Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County Josie Varela and Karen Tolbert installed and maintained a pollinator border habitat at Unity Park and Josie organized a class for the public on the importance of pollinators and how to grow habitat for them in August.

Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwwll County support our N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center by assisting with events we host and setting up information tables at public events, where anyone can stop by with gardening questions. Several Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County assisted with plant distribution at the annual Edible Plant Sale we held here at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center. This year, volunteers set up information tables at community events including the

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Master Gardener volunteer of Caldwell County booth at the NC Blackberry Festival.

Blackberry Festival and the Smoking in the Foothills Barbeque Festival. Master Gardener volunteers have continued their work with the Caldwell County Seed Library, from which community members checked out over 3,600 seed packets in 2018.

Each year, Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County participate in the spring ‘Bloom Blast’ in Lenoir, where they fill the downtown planters with flowers and greenery. This year, several volunteers also assisted the City of Lenoir Planning and Public Works Departments, and Caldwell County Pathways, to install a landscaped area at the Future Blairs Fork Trailhead site in Valmead. This site will connect with the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, a section of which runs through Lenoir. It is a historic trail that is being developed with the National Park Service and cooperating municipalities to commemorate the route taken by patriot soldiers during the campaign of Kings Mountain in 1780.

The Master Gardener volunteers of Caldwell County are truly an asset to our community. We at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center are grateful for their support for our programs. If you or anyone you know would enjoy participating in these activities or furthering their horticultural knowledge, let them know about the upcoming 2019 Master Gardener Training. It will be a joint class between Caldwell, Alexander, and Wilkes Counties, with classes held on Wednesday afternoons, 1-4 p.m. The class runs February 13–-May 8, 2019. Class topics will include botany, tree and small fruit production, soils and fertilizer, landscape design, weed and lawn management, plant pest identification, and more. Classes will take place in one of the three counties, and will include field trips to farms and other sites for hands-on activities. Those interested in the class must first meet with Master Gardener volunteer Program Coordinator, Eli Snyder, at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center, before submitting an application.

For more information on the 2019 Extension Master volunteer gardener training, or to pick up an application, stop by the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center, Monday-Friday 8 a.m.–5 p.m., or give us a call at 828-757-1290.