Master Gardening

Master Gardeners take master gardening quite seriously. They are masters, after all; and those who have earned merit badges usually insist that others endure a similar amount of torture to acquire theirs. Many of these fanny-packing, rubber-clogging, organic-everything conservationists log countless hours pulling weeds in public gardens and manning the HelpLine. I didn’t. I was content to remain a Master Gardening “intern” indefinitely. After completing the 13-week course with its myriad lectures and homework assignments and volunteer gardening shifts, I was content with my newfound knowledge, binder of notes, and soil testing results. I didn’t mind how my bright yellow intern badge contrasted with the forest green of “certified” gardeners or the venerated gold badge of “lifers.” This is just gardening… so… um… (very quietly)… does anyone really care?

Yes. Yes, they do. Yesterday I received a curt email informing me that my “status” was about to be switched to “archived” for my inability to log 60 volunteer hours since graduation. This, from a gang of reusable tote-toting, composting cat-lovers to whom I’ve devoted 48 hours of free work:

…sadly only 25 of them count towards the Certified collection– you can only use 6 of the Admin hours so the others are banked until you have your green badge. So you need:

12 hours HelpLine

11 hours of approved Outreach

3 hours of approved gardening

1 hour of Continuing Education

Plus 8 more hours of any combination of gardening and outreach

They were kind enough to honor my Big Cancer Excuse for failing to check all of these green badge-worthy boxes in a timely fashion.

If you are of this world, recognize an entity call The Internet and its effective little encyclopedia for the universe called Google, you might wonder why a HelpLine staffed by Master Gardeners exists. But it does. And three years ago, when graduation required we waste a certain number of hours replying to inane emails and fielding questions from bored elderlies, I wondered that, too. One morning, the only phone call was from an octogenarian requesting tips for freezing basil. Emails to the HelpLine are usually to-pull-or-not-to pull soliloquies, and include fuzzy pictures of overgrown common weeds. And every single scintillating exchange must be documented longhand in a gigantic binder as if some future historian might want access to Official Garden Emergencies of 2013. Another dozen hours in that cinder block cell is varsity level hazing of the nerdiest kind.

I’m less focused on completing an additional 35 hours of volunteer garden grunt work than learning which clickety-clack meeting-knitter ratted me out to the administration. Is there some seditious faction of sober gardeners who want me “archived?” It’s quite possible I don’t really fit in, being rather fond of fancier footwear, and being mostly indifferent to cats. But in order to earn the green badge of this lofty class of shear-wielders, I’ll have to follow their rules. Anticipating twelve hours addressing your most pressing plant problems with Girl Scout enthusiasm… just as soon as I run out of excuses (and master gardener stereotypes).

I may not be "certified," but I can grow a lovely flower.

No green badge required to grow this beauty.