Unbelievably, the Cooperative Extension Service of Washington State University is funded generously enough to have not just an outstanding multi-faceted program of events for the public’s edification but a fine website and now this – a first-rate quarterly magazine with the tagline "Science-Based Garden Education." Not exactly sexy, like "24-Hour Makeovers" or "Sustainable Living" or whatnot, just a commitment to teach us how to grow plants – in environmentally responsible ways, of course – and inspire us to volunteer for the cause. The first issue is finally in hand and has lots to say:
- It’s this very Extension Service that STARTED the Master Gardener program that’s now widespread nationally and abroad, back in 1973. (You mean it didn’t really spring from the folksy and fertile mind of Master Hustler Jerry Baker?)
- Bonsai Bill Taylor, Master Gardener Class of 1973, holds the world record for years of volunteer service (34) and is still going strong.
- The highly regarded Linda Chalker-Scott, Extension horticulturist, calmly explains how a claim – for instance, that compost tea prevents disease or replaces fertilizer – is tested using scientific method (remember that? Apparently it still works!) And on this particular subject, "the science is not strong". But really, it’s much too complicated to explain in a single bullet item. (Dang science.)
- Okay, Yakima scientists, clear this up for me. In your article "Too Popular Peat" you clearly present the case against continued use of nonrenewable spagnum peat moss; it’s a problem worldwide. But then there’s this: "In contrast, the Canadian Spagnum Peat Moss Association, which represents producers, argues that peat is renewable and that peat accumulation is growing 70 times as fast as it is being harvested. They further state that new methods can restore peatlands to their most important ecological functions in 20 years and as new technology is developed, that time is being shortened still." But that’s bullshit and you’re too nice (and bureaucratically constrained) to say it, right?
- At the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, they’re seeing more eco-smart garden proposals than ever, although the one "stringent request" of participants is that displays contain plants that actually grow together. But not to worry; they’re still allowed to show plants flowering out of season (without which there would be no winter flower shows).
- Really good information like how to read and identify a winter twig, where insects go in winter, and lots more super-nerdy stuff we rarely find in the commercial gardening magazines.
- The story of Herbfarm and its Slow Food philosophy. Reminds me of a DC Master Gardener classmate of mine who just this week announced his new blog: TheSlowCook.com. You foodies out there might give it a look.
- And a great Valentine’s Day story on the back cover – this cute pair with their 50 years of "successful marriage," both Master Gardeners who volunteer at demonstration gardens and worm composting classes for kids. So couples that worm-compost together stay together – now you tell me.
Kudos galore to Washington State University for their commitment to good hort education for the public. Would that Cooperative Extension Services everywhere could follow suit. Here’s the link with information about subscribing.Posted by Susan Harris on February 22, 2007 at 4:30 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic.