Hoedown at the Farmers Market

by Jennifer Courser, EMGV

Extension Master Gardener Public Events went wild with Halloween Spirit at the Saturday, Oct. 28 South Durham Farmers Market. The team created a rootin’-tootin’ Old West trading post (complete with wildflower seeds and soil test kits!) to assist with consumer horticulture inquiries.

Team members included: EMG Interns Mike James, Jackie Knight, Jayne Boyer and Captain Jennifer Corser (Class of 2013). photo: Jennifer Courser

EMG Intern Jayne Boyer started the Western theme with her inherited cowgirl costume and Event Captain Jennifer Corser took it a step further by making a Trading Post out of the table and tent. “I just went through my husband’s junk in the garage and his kitchen junk drawer and found several rusty treasures,” she said. Among them were an Indian blanket, rusty gas can, powder horn, pioneer clothing irons, rusty potato masher and kitchen tools…you get the picture.” She created a chrysanthemum floral arrangement inside a cowgirl boot for the table and used other kitch-ey Southwest souvenirs as paperweights. “My favorite by far was the crochet cactus dish that EMG Emeritus Sharon Campen gave me years ago.”

The Ask a Master Gardener booth can be found at the Bahama Farmers Market at the Ruritan Club, 8202 Stagville Rd, Bahama, NC on November 5,  the Durham Farmers Market (November 18 is the last one of 2017), at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens (check https://durham.ces.ncsu.edu/ for dates and times), South Durham Farmers Market (the last Saturday of the month from April – October), and at other public events around the county.

Master Gardeners – Plant Detectives?

by Ann Barnes, EMGV

Did you know that Master Gardener Volunteers have office hours? If you have a question, you can email, call, or stop by the Cooperative Extension building at 721 Foster St. (See the sidebar of this blog page for contact information)

A shift in the office can be unpredictable. Sometimes all is quiet. Often, multiple callers are experiencing similar problems and volunteers are able to quickly provide answers. Occasionally, though, working in the Master Gardener office can be a bit like stepping into the plant version of a gritty detective novel.

Imagine the scene:

A citizen contacts the office with a grainy iPhone photograph of a plant in decline. The volunteer on duty knows a list of questions to ask, then researches the problem in the office library and on research based websites. Often, our intrepid volunteers have seen the problem before and can provide advice the same day. If the mystery isn’t easily solved, our volunteer may ask the citizen to provide additional photos or even bring a sample into the office for diagnosis. Sometimes it is necessary to look at the plant with a hand lens to search for tiny pests or signs of disease. Leaves, stems, roots, and even soil can hold clues. It may not always be easy, but Master Gardeners are trained to know what questions to ask, where to look for answers, and who to contact when the clues don’t add up to an easy diagnosis.

Does this sound like something you’d love to learn to do? 

The Durham County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program conducts a 15-week training program once every two years. The next program will be conducted January-April 2017. Classes are once a week, on Thursdays, from 9:00-12:30 at the Durham County Extension Office, 721 Foster Street. In order to apply to the program you must:

1. Attend one information session (dates listed below).

2. Submit your application by Monday, November 7, 2016.

3. If you are selected, pay the $120 registration fee by December 31.

The fee covers training materials.

Info Sessions

To begin the process, attend one required information session conducted at the Durham County Extension office at 721 Foster Street.

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2-3pm
  • Thursday, September 29, 10-11am
  • Wednesday, October 5, 2-3pm
  • Thursday, October 13, 6-7pm
  • Saturday, October 15, 10-11am
  • Wednesday, October 26, 2-3pm

To find out more about the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program visit http://www.ncstategardening.org. Or plan to attend an upcoming information session. Call 919-560-0525 to register for an information session.

Volunteer Spotlight -Public Events with Master Gardener Volunteers

by Ann Barnes

Durham Master Gardeners are looking for new volunteers! Our next training class begins in January 2017. in the next few months, this blog will spotlight some of the many ways our volunteers help our community. If you are interested in becoming an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) in Durham, please click the link below for more information:

Become A Master Gardener

The Public Events committee is responsible for marketing and coordinating activities where EMGVs are asked to provide research based assistance to the public directly. Volunteers can be found at many events and locations around Durham County, including at the Farmers’ Market, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the Festival for the Eno, as well as at corporate, school, and neighborhood events. Last month, two of our volunteers spent some time at the “Birds, Butterflies, Bees, and Blooms” event which was sponsored by the  Wildlife Habitat Council and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photos from Birds, Butterflies, Bees, and Blooms

This wonderful event brought a diverse group of professionals together with one purpose in mind—to provide information about the
critical importance of pollinators and what steps we can take to increase their chances for survival now and in the future.  From beekeepers to wildlife experts,
conservation groups, and plant experts, all were ready to share their passion for restoring and preserving habitats for pollinators and birds.
-Deborah Pilkington, EMGV

Deborah Pilkington volunteered along with Tina Falker. Both volunteers answered questions and provided research based gardening information to attendees, with a focus on pollinators and pollinator-friendly plants. As Event Captain, Falker was also responsible for transporting educational materials prepared for this event by the Public Events Committee.

This was a lively, well-attended event and we talked to 32 people. Many were interested in adding pollinator-friendly plants to their living space… which ranged from an apartment balcony to a house in the “country”.  – Tina Falker, EMGV

Both volunteers signed up for this event because, as Pilkington says, “I love to volunteer at these events because I have a real passion for pollinators and birds, and the gardens that sustain them. I also learn a lot from the other experts at events like these”. Plus, Falker pointed out “It was held indoors!”, which is always appealing on a hot summer day.

I enjoy talking with people about gardening… what are their latest successes? Challenges? Will this humidity ever end, and will it ever be cool again? I especially like to help “transplants” avoid the mistakes that I’ve made. I also like to encourage people not to give up if they’ve had limited gardening success in the past… even experienced gardeners kill plants, so don’t give up! Ask questions, learn from your mistakes, and be realistic when it comes to planning a garden. One or two potted plants may be just right for now! – Tina Falker

EMGVs who enjoy volunteering for public events often say that they love talking about gardening and answering questions – and some of us do so wherever we go. If this sounds like a volunteer opportunity you would love, consider joining the Durham EMGVs!

Here’s that link again: https://durhammastergardeners.wordpress.com/become-a-master-gardener/



Sarah P. Duke Gardens Fall Plant Sale

Master Gardener Volunteers will be available to answer your questions at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens fall plant sale, held this Saturday, 9/27/14, from 9am – noon.

Fall is a great time to plant. Plant roots have time to re-establish before the hot weather of next summer arrives.

That translates into much less maintenance for the gardener!

This plant sale will feature rare and unusual plants and bulbs, along with some standards that every southern garden should have. A wide selection of Duke Gardens propagated plants and hand-picked material from local suppliers will be offered.

Here, Master Gardener volunteers answer questions at the spring plant sale:

Marsha answering questions at Spring plant sale with Susanna looking on
Marsha answering questions at Spring plant sale with Susanna looking on

What We Do – Training



Master Gardener Volunteers attend a 15 week training course comparable to a university horticulture course. Sessions are taught by Extension Agents, university professors, and experienced Master Gardeners. New Interns work with Mentors while providing volunteer service. After completing the training, initial year’s volunteer hours, and continuing education, interns become certified as Extension Master Gardener Volunteers.

Interested candidates must attend one of the remaining required free information sessions in September or October (training starts in January) at the Durham County Extension office at 721 Foster Street:

  • September 18th, 10:00 am – 12:00 noon
  • September 23rd, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
  • October 2nd, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
  • October 7th, 10:00 am – 12:00 noon

Call 919-560-0525 to register. Training classes will be held on Thursdays, from 9-12:30, January 15 – April 30th (with May 7 & 14 as makeup dates) at the Foster Street office. Applicants must attend one information session, submit their application by November 1, 2014 and if selected, pay the $120 registration fee by December 31.