By Jan Tanner, Mobile County Master Gardener CoastalAlabamaGardening@gmail.com
I experienced my first quarantine fifty years ago, spending days alone for months behind the chain-link fence of my childhood home. Hours were passed nestled under a honeysuckle thicket with my rag doll, Becky. There, we made lifelong friends with bees, lizards, and toads, all while imbibing honeysuckle nectar. Time passed slowly, but the memories are sweet. The parallel cannot be ignored. Quarantined . . . hiding from Covid-19. For weeks now, hours are passed finding solace in the garden, alone. My same old friends share the time and bring a sense of connection. The toad wishes I would leave the broken clay pot where I found him napping; the lizard darts up the stem hoping I won’t follow; and the honeysuckle continues to grow where it does not belong. The connection from fifty years ago brings a knowing: knowing that it is going to be okay. Seasons change, but then they stay the same. Gardens--the space where things grow--offer connection, even if we are alone.
Sneaking out of hiding because I just had to get a new plant during this Covid-19 crisis, I learned that here, I am indeed not alone. Plant stores are busy and quickly selling out as people are forced into more time at home. I smiled at the prospect of a busy world finding the joy of dirt and stems and petals in their back yards.
Gardening success or failure never resulted from my lack of effort or funing. Stealing every minute I could with a shovel was the delight of my day. Dirty and sweaty were my comfort zones, much to the dismay of my mother. However, the effort was no guarantee of success. Plants continued to die, and weeds grew, and often the design was not appealing. Promises from the sales people in the plant stores were not realized. With hope yet in my heart, gardens were established anywhere space could be found in schools, churches, and friends’ and neighbors’ yards. During one such endeavor, a kind soul offered to assist in the installation of a butterfly garden for children. I had the motivation and energy. I know now that some knowledge was lacking. That garden, with her assistance, was a huge success, and she said to me, “You need to become a Master Gardener.” I smiled and thought to myself, “I am not smart enough to take that class. I’ve seen those Master Gardeners. I cannot do that.” But I tucked that advice away for future consideration.
It took some courage to walk through the doors at the Mobile County Cooperative Extension office to sign up for the Master Gardener class. I feared the people, the instructors, and the course work. What I found was a group of truly kind people, happy to help. This group of gardeners was young and old, from Ph.D. to drop-outs. They were quite a mixed bag of humanity who had one thing in common – a love of gardening in many forms. Turns out, the tests were simple, and the classes were fun and informative, including many field trips and highly educated instructors who appreciated our desire to learn. Now I know why many of those early plants died, and why the weeds persisted. My garden time is now more productive, and I find such joy in knowing garden friends who share my passion.
Since taking the MG Class, I bring a science-based understanding to my garden time so that my efforts are rewarded. Sharing knowledge with others so that their efforts are rewarded brings more satisfaction. The toads and lizards remain my garden friends, but now I can include a vast array of friends who share my gardening passion. They also share plants, hard times, and good times. Some years I have spent 20 hours a week doing Master Gardener projects; some years I have spent merely three hours. As a volunteer, I find great freedom and satisfaction in participating with the Mobile County Master Gardeners. I rank this group as one of the best things that I have had the privilege of belonging to. Gardens grow. They grow more than plants. They grow people and relationships. Gardens connect us to time and place, nature and people. Consider connecting with us.
Here is what you need to know:
What: Sign up for the 2020 Mobile County Master Gardener class
When: Wednesdays, 9 am to 2:30 pm, August 12 – Nov 11, 2020
Where: Mobile County Cooperative Extension Office, 1070 Schillinger Rd N, Mobile
For More information: Call 251-574-8445 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.mobilecountymastergardeners.org