Tom Schwartz


Today, I would like to talk to those of you who are convinced that you were not born with a green thumb. I have good news for you. No one was born with a green thumb. Green thumbs are earned through work and experience.

Gardening is a set of learned skills. When you look at a real gardener, you are seeing the result of years of learning. As we develop as gardeners, we learn “best practices.” We listen to experts who teach us that some things work well, and other things don’t work at all. Beyond those lessons, much of our gardening knowledge comes through trial and error. Any good gardener will tell you that he or she has killed lots of plants. On a bad day, we remind ourselves that in gardening there are no failures, only experiments. Some experiments don’t work out the way we had hoped. We take notes and we learn to treat failure as an opportunity to learn. I’ve always appreciated something Buckminster Fuller wrote: “If I ran a school, I’d give the average grade to the ones who gave me all the right answers, for being good parrots. I’d give the top grades to those who made a lot of mistakes and told me about them, and then told me what they learned from them.”

As you learn, the number of failures declines and the successes multiply. You lose fewer plants and more of your plants thrive. You also discover that there is great joy and health that comes from working in a garden. In walking through our gardens, we all enjoy those wonderful sensations that our American novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, described in his Mosses from an Old Manse: “I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a row of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.”

Gardening is a delight, and Master Gardeners take pleasure in sharing that delight with others. Every two years the Master Gardeners of Southern Idaho hold a public gardening symposium. This year, our sister organization, the Master Gardener Association of Cassia and Minidoka Counties, will be hosting the ninth Annual South-Central Idaho Garden Symposium on March 9. The title for this year’s event is “Find Your Green Thumb.” The venue will be Morey’s Steakhouse, 219 E. Third St. N. in Burley.

The Symposium will run from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be presentations on “Greenhouse Management,” “Nature Knows Best,” “Fertilizers and Garden Yields,” “Beneficial Insects,” and “New Fun Plants to Try.” Presenters include Andy West, our County Extension Educator in Horticulture, Rick Parker, Jason Thomas and other local gardening experts. There will also be a silent auction as part of the symposium. According to Nikki Polson, President of the Mini-Cassia Master Gardener Association, “The purpose of this symposium is to gather garden lovers and wannabe gardeners together to learn some basic skills and introduce new ideas to try in their gardens. We hope this will help people of all skill levels to ‘find their green thumb.’”

If you are new to gardening but would like to learn more about it, this is a wonderful opportunity. You will find that gardening is habit-forming but in a very healthy way. As Mark Twain’s friend, Charles Dudley Warner wrote in “My Summer in a Garden” back in 1870: “To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life — this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.”

General admission is $40 at the door. However, General Early Bird Registration is $30 ($25 for Master Gardeners and students with ID). To be eligible for early registration, your payment must be postmarked by March 1. Please send checks to Master Gardener Symposium, c/o Mitzi Ramsey, 85 East Baseline, Rupert, ID 83350. To pay with credit card, call Mitzi Ramsey at 208-436-7184. Registration includes lunch, snacks and “Goody Bags” for the first 100 people at the door. For more information, please contact Mitzi Ramsey (mramsey@uidaho.edu) or Nikki Polson 480-236-8336 (nikki.polson@gmail.com).

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Garden Wise is presented by the Magic Valley Master Gardener Association. We will try to answer questions of general interest submitted by the community. Email questions to gardenwise@cableone.net.


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