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Do you know a UC Master Gardener of Napa County? You may and not even realize it. We are short, tall, thin and not so thin. We are older, younger, retired and still working. We live in Calistoga, Pope Valley and American Canyon and all points in Between.The one thing we have in common is a passion for gardening.

The Master Gardener program began in 1972 in Washington state. Now, almost every state has a Master Gardener program. Its purpose is to assist the county farm adviser in answering local home gardeners’ questions. The Napa County Master Gardener program graduated its first class in 1995.

Prospective Master Gardeners are interviewed to make sure that they are willing and able to complete the volunteer commitment. Those accepted attend a 10-week training program of weekly classes.

Master Gardeners are not trained to know everything about gardening, but we know where to find information and resources. We guide the public in becoming better gardeners. To that end, we rely on a mountain of research-based information from the University of California. We dispense only research-based information, not the folk wisdom learned at a grandparent’s knees.

There are many ways that Master Gardeners can earn their minimum number of volunteer and continuing-education hours. One of the main ways we educate the public is via office hours. This help desk is one of my favorite places to work. We have a small office in the UC Cooperative Extension office in Napa with a computer and many reference books. Master Gardeners hold office hours here and answer garden questions from Napa County home gardeners.

I once fielded a question about how to grow wasabi (horseradish). I searched everywhere for information and finally found it on a university website. Master Gardeners sometimes have to be detectives.

We also conduct public workshops throughout the year on seasonal topics. We staff garden-information tables at farmers’ markets, garden centers, health fairs and county and city events such as Earth Day. We partner with local waste-management agencies to host backyard-composting classes on both hot composting and vermicomposting (composting with worms). We maintain demonstration gardens to illustrate useful techniques and plantings. We recently completed a drought-tolerant planting in Calistoga and a pollinator-attracting garden at the St. Helena Library.

Our school garden task force helps parents and teachers manage local school gardens. Master Gardeners contribute weekly newspaper articles and operate a speakers’ bureau. If you belong to a group that needs a guest speaker on a garden topic, check our website (address below) for the speakers’ bureau request form.

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Master Gardeners of Napa County will also host two major events this spring. The annual tomato sale and education day on Saturday, April 8, and the “Discover Garden Magic” garden tour on Sunday, May 21. At the tomato sale, you can purchase a wide variety of tomato seedlings and learn how to take care of them. The garden tour showcases six splendid gardens owned and maintained by Master Gardeners. These gardens will inspire you and provide ideas for your own home garden. Proceeds from these events support our educational efforts in Napa County.

Visit our website (http://ucanr.edu/ucmgnapa) to find useful information on gardening, submit a garden question to our help desk, request a speaker or learn about upcoming events. A new group of Master Gardener trainees will graduate at the end of March, joining experienced volunteers working in the community on our many educational projects.

Workshop: UC Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Ten Things to Know about Fruit Trees” on Sunday, Feb. 12, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Yountville Community Center, 6516 Washington St., Yountville. Fruit trees want to produce fruit. Learn how home gardeners can nurture their fruit trees to be as productive and healthy as possible. Cost is $12 per person; free to Yountville residents. Register with Yountville Parks & Recreation or call 707-944-8712.

Workshop: UC Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Year-Round Citrus” on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10:30 to 11;30 a.m., at American Canyon Library, 300 Crawford Way, American Canyon. Interested in citrus? This workshop will focus on selecting and caring year-round for your trees, large or small. Learn about planting, pruning, watering, fertilizing and frost protection. We will also discuss citrus diseases and pests and some more unusual varieties you may want to grow. Register here or call 707-253-4221. The workshop is free but registration is preferred as seating is limited.

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