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Master Gardeners Celebrate Demonstration Garden

On Saturday, September 8th 2007, the Master Gardeners of Tuolumne County will be celebrating the Grand Opening of their demonstration garden located on the campus of Dario Cassina High School. Beginning at 10:00am, demonstrations will be held, hot dogs, chips and drinks will be served, and the first fifty visitors will receive a free gift, all courtesy of the Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners will be on hand to discuss the various areas of the garden as well as the gardening practices used in the garden.

Three years ago the Master Gardeners entered into a collaborative agreement with the Sonora Union High School District to provide gardening demonstrations for the community and develop instructional projects for the students at the District´s Alternative Education Campus [the ‘Dome´]. The garden was originally planted by Jim Johnson, a teacher at Cassina High, and his students. It was used by Mr. Johnson and fellow teacher Bob King for school projects. Containing several varieties of fruit trees, blackberries, grape vines, raised beds, a small rose garden, and shaded tables, the garden is also an ideal break area for students.

Master Gardeners´ initial involvement in the garden was to hold fruit tree and rose pruning, and composting demonstrations open to the community. These demonstrations have been held every year with an excellent response from the public participants. In 2004 the Forest Service donated Sequoia trees to replace a large redwood that had been removed from the campus. Working with Cassina High students, Master Gardeners transplanted the one-gallon size trees to larger 5-gallon pots and placed them where they could be watered by drip irrigation throughout the summer. The following year, students once again helped plant the trees in the ground. The trees were purchased as memorials to honor members of the community who were influential in working at Cassina High or in the garden. Proceeds from these memorials went to purchase supplies for the garden. Weeding, removing overgrown berries bushes, pruning ornamental trees and setting up compost bins were just some of the projects the Master Gardeners completed during the first two years. In 2005 the ROP construction classes built a storage shed and a greenhouse as well as an information board that contains educational material for each season. Art students were responsible for the graphics on the board.

In 2006, the garden committee decided to set up teams for each section of the garden. Master Gardeners could be involved in the area of the garden they enjoyed most. The fruit production team, along with help from Mr. Johnson, has revitalized the fruit trees, grape vines and blackberries. They have also added raspberries and blueberries. The rose garden team, with the generous donations by Don and Renee Paulsen, were able to double the size of the rose garden. Two of the raised vegetable beds were rebuilt, two new beds added, so the raised bed team has a healthy crop of veggies growing. A rock garden has been added to the garden and, while not completely finished, the team has a water feature and rocks from all parts of Tuolumne County. The native plant team has four areas where natives are currently growing. The team will be adding more plants this fall. And lastly thanks to the irrigation team, drip systems have been installed throughout the garden and a fabulous timer system helps keep the water usage to a conservative level. Master Gardeners are also involved with composting demonstrations, greenhouse growing, plant labeling, and historian activities as well as posting information on a public board.

To support the activities in the garden, in 2006 Master Gardeners compiled the first two years of this column´s material into a book and offered it for sale. We are happy to report that only a few copies remain. We have also had generous donations from many businesses and individuals in the community.

In May 2007, Master Gardeners began holding an Open Garden Day on the first Saturday of each month. Three demonstrations on each of these ‘open days´ are offered and have been publicized through posters and mailed postcards. Demonstrations have been on drip irrigation, herbs, planting in raised beds, planting native plants, building a water feature, and composting.

On September 8th, not only is it our Open Garden Day, but also it is the Grand Opening of the Garden. Vegetables are growing, fruit is ripe for the picking, native plants are blooming and the roses are scenting the air. Demonstrations will include, Winterizing Drip Systems at 10:00am, Extended Vegetable Growing at 11:00a, and Composting at noon. We will have tables set up with gardening information, University of California Cooperative Extension materials on deer, gophers, integrated pest management and much more. Come munch on a free hot dog while you stroll through the garden and sip a cool drink while listening to the demonstrations! Remember the first 50 visitors will receive a free gift! The address is 251 S. Barretta Street, Sonora…at the Dome. There is ample parking and restrooms are available.

See you at the Grand Opening!

Carolee James is the team leader for the native plant areas of the garden. She is busting her buttons on how well the natives are doing!!