The Joy of Master Gardeners
By Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardener
On January 14, 2023, orientation for the new Permian Basin Master Gardener (PBMG) class started. If you have not signed up, I would encourage you to do so. It isn’t too late! This year I will have been a PBMG for 20 years and I have never regretted the decision I made back in 2012. So why is that? Being part of the PBMGers changed my life on so many levels because of three reasons.
First, there was the training. I did not grow up in West Texas. I had previously gardened in rain rich areas. But when I moved to Midland, I could not grow anything! I felt like a gardening failure. PBMG training provides the skills and resources to make gardening dreams a reality in our arid lands. Today, in our sterile urban setting, my yard provides much needed habitat for native wildlife and year-round fruits and vegetables for me including bananas, figs, apples, peaches, blackberries,salad greens, artichokes, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. And the training I received was not just about plants. As I developed my gardens, I personally retrofitted the pop-up sprinklers to water saving drip irrigation saving money and lowering my water use. And then there are the yearly Texas or New Mexico Master Gardener meetings. I have attended both, made new friends, and learned so much.
Second, is the camaraderie of PBMGs. My best friends are former and current members of PBMG. So, why is that? In the beginning days, I always found someone to answer my questions and listen to my ideas. PBMGs share plants and seeds as freely as advice and taught me everything from how to plant native seeds to how to care for my backyard chickens. I know I can text, call, or talk to other Master Gardeners and get my questions answered.
Third, we all need gardens! Gardens are meditative places. I think that intuitively we know that gardens help one relax, unwind, and ponder new ideas.
In my garden, there are no lawn mowers, leaf blowers, electrical tools, or chemical smells. There is a calming rhythm to garden chores which focuses my attention and reveals details I might easily miss: swallowtail eggs on the parsley and larvae of ladybugs which look like miniature Gila monsters! I am surrounded by so much beauty that seems to spill out from one individual plant and then fills the whole garden. There are constant invitations for quiet reflection: watching a butterfly unfurl his wings as he struggles in the transition from larvae to adult, the taste of the first spring green after a long brown winter, the smell of chocolate daisies, and the sound of bumble bees and hummers going about their daily routine. When I am confronted by the stress of life, I prescribe myself garden therapy: a long period of time spent in contemplation and physical work in my garden. During the pandemic, I found that working in a garden is a form of release.
So, to make your garden dreams a reality, download your application form and come to the orientation. We look forward to meeting you.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.
Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.