Sitting at the Feet of the Masters
Food Gardening Specialists
By SCMG Sue Ridgeway
In Sonoma County, we are blessed by the vitality, variety and value of locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables. Our appreciation for the wide range, and steady supply, of year-long fresh produce also extends to those who grow, harvest, market and prepare this diverse bounty. In recent years, a shift in Sonoma County’s food consciousness has taken place; we want the satisfaction of growing our own food.
County residents are creating community gardens, school gardening projects, demonstration gardens, back and front yard edible landscapes and vegetable gardens in traditional row and raised beds. Even those without land, taking advantage of any sunny spot available to them, are growing container gardens on patios, decks, balconies and window sills.
The SCMG Food Gardening Specialists hail from all three microclimates of Sonoma County. In addition to their horticultural knowledge and interests, they are all passionate food gardeners – many with years of first-hand experience growing crops in their own microclimates. They successfully combine their personal food gardening expertise with advanced and continuing education.
The Food Gardening Specialists provide food gardening education: public outreach, workshops, and community garden consultation services. In addition to their spring and fall food gardening workshops, they consult with and provide advice to community gardens, church gardens and other neighborhood groups.
Sonoma County home gardeners can look forward to a number of free Fall Food Gardening Workshops beginning this month. The workshops are an A to Z approach to food gardening: garden location, options for planting beds, soil components and amendments, compost and fertilizers, working the soil, crop selection and planning, irrigation, garden maintenance, pest control and harvesting. Helpful seasonal handouts include planting dates for fall and winter crops, a sample garden layout and suggested vegetable varieties for Sonoma County. The workshop calendar on the SCMG webpage provides the dates, times and places of these workshops.
In retrospect, and through trial and error, I now realize that had I attended a few of the FGS workshops last year, I might have avoided so many pitfalls: the giant pumpkin vines that surreptitiously strangled my small community garden bed, the tomato cages that competed with “The Leaning Tower Of Pisa,” because I couldn’t bear to thin them, the twelve kale plants that turned into a shaded hedge and the bush beans, so numerous and prolific, that even my friends and neighbors grew tired of them.
This year, in my food garden, I will not let “whatever happens, happen.” I will plan, I will document, I will compost, I will attend more FGS workshops, I will read the food gardening articles on the SCMG website and I will continue to learn from the Masters – the SCMG’s Food Gardening Specialists.
INFORMATION FOR COMMUNITY GARDEN LEADERS: The Food Gardening Specialist group is interested in creating on-going relationships with community gardens. Garden leaders can send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Services provided to community gardens include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Consultation on new garden design, irrigation methods, weed control, integrated pest management, soil amendments, composting and seeds, transplants and plant variety selection.
- A Food Gardening Specialist information table at your garden’s opening event or work day.
- Monthly, bi-monthly, or seasonal visual inspection of community garden crops by FGS volunteers who would also be available to consult with community gardeners on specific issues they might be having.
- Classes for community garden groups on specific food gardening subjects