Master Gardener calendar is all about good eating

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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The cover photo of the 2011 Placer County Master Gardener calendar depicts a colorful display of vegetables, fruits and flowers. And it’s all edible, co-chairwoman Pauline Sakai said recently. “Everything on the cover is something we can grow in Placer County,” she said. The photo is the work of Lisa Mertz, a fairly recent master gardener and new to the calendar team. Titled “Edible Gardening — Have your garden and eat it too!” the calendar continues the theme of this year’s “Dollars and Sense Gardening.” It just seemed a logical choice. “This year, everyone is focusing on growing your own, from Michelle Obama to Maria Shriver,” Sakai said. “Everyone wants do to their own gardening.” It takes a lot of teamwork to plan and execute the calendar. “In the past, it has taken about 300 hours of volunteer time,” Sakai said. “This year’s team has 26 members including nine sales people.” About 80 percent of the volunteers are returning from previous years. “ We have a pretty loyal following with our team,” Sakai said. “Team members have said they are very proud to be part of the effort.” The work begins with a brainstorming session in February. Besides choosing a theme, writing the articles and selecting photos, the group also reviews and refines the day-to-day growing tips. We’re always refining it,” Sakai said. “We might make adjustments. We just do little refinements.” Each of the 13 months features an article with photo, as well as “What to plant” and “Did you know” boxes. “ “The whole calendar tries to be educational and give gardeners a little more information than they might have had before,” Sakai said. Among the articles for 2011 are “Beyond the Honey Bee,” “From Seed to Success,” “Who lives in your Garden,” and “What went wrong?” There’s even an article on gardening and pets. “The dog in the photograph belongs to co-chairwoman Peggy Peterson,” Sakai said. “It is one of the Great Dane rescue dogs.” Sakai, who coordinates the calendar and handles production, contributed two of the photos — both taken in her garden — a frosty geranium for December and squash blossoms for August. She said gardeners may find June’s photos of a ladybug on a leaf and an accompanying small shot of a ladybug larva particularly interesting. “Everyone knows what a ladybug is but a lot of people don’t know what a ladybug larva looks like,” she said. Peterson, co-chairwoman, has been a master garden since 1999 and has been involved in the calendar project for most of that time. “As the editor, what I really like about it is seeing the end product,” she said. “We start with a bunch of individual articles and seeing that come together is rewarding.” Peterson did some writing in the early years of her involvement, but now concentrates on editing. A lot of thought goes into every part of the process and she’s very proud of the finished product. “We try to be very topical in the focus on the calendar every year,” she said. Equally important is that the calendar is constantly evolving. “That’s the most wonderful thing about gardening,” she said. “We do learn something new all the time. Gardening changes all the time. That’s one of our goals in putting out this calendar. It provides information for every level of gardener so even the most experienced should be able to learn something from it.” This year for the first time the calendar will be available on the Internet, as well as at the Master Gardener offices in Placer and Nevada counties and at local nurseries. Master gardeners will also sell the calendars at this weekend’s Auburn Fall Home Show and at the Mandarin Festival in November. And they go quickly. Last year’s 1,400 had sold out by December, Sakai said. “People were asking through April for calendars. So this year we went up in quantity,” she said. “That’s one reason we decided to try online sales.” The calendar’s success reaches beyond the foothills. It took first place in the 2009 International Master Gardener Search for Excellence competition. And it is a source of inspiration for other master gardener programs. “In Butte County, they did their first calendar this year, inspired by ours,” Sakai said. “As well as Mariposa County, they were inspired by the Placer County calendar and produced their first one this year.” The impact has even reached the East Coast, with master gardeners in New Jersey producing a calendar for the first time this year after seeing the Placer County version, Sakai said. “This is also the calendar that Farmer Fred talks about on his radio show.” She said. In addition to producing the calendar, the master gardeners have composting workshops throughout the year. A speakers bureau schedules speaking engagements at garden clubs and numerous area events. Fundraisers include the Gardeners Gathering in March and the Mother’s Day garden tour. The calendar reflects the times, according to Kevin Marini, program coordinator for the Placer and Nevada county master gardener program, said the calendar mirrors “We’ve seen a huge increase in questions re growing food — vegetables, fruits, berries and other things,” he said. “We always try to align our publications such as the calendar with the interests of local community. The calendar is right on point. It’s all about tips on growing food. That‘s what people seem to be interested in at this point in time. It’s a great resource for residents and we hope people enjoy it and have bountiful gardens.” Reach Gloria Young at ----------- Placer County Master Gardeners’ calendar — Edible Gardening: Have your garden and Eat it too.! The 2011 calendar is $10 at the following locations: • The Master Gardener booth at local fairs and home shows • UCCE Placer County Master Gardener office, 11477 E Ave. (Building 306 in the DeWitt Center), Auburn • Online orders: $12 including shipping and tax Calendars are also be available at area shops, nurseries and other garden-oriented locations — call the Master Gardener hotline at (530) 889-7388 for a complete list (Prices may vary between locations.) The calendars will be available at the Auburn Fall Home Show Oct.1-3 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn and at the Mountain Mandarin Festival, Nov. 19-21 at the GOld Country Fairgrounds.