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Hillsborough Master Gardeners Receive Two Awards of Excellence

SEFFNER, Fla. – Did you know we have more than 100 Hillsborough County residents who volunteer as Master Gardeners? These MGs (short for Master Gardener) provide gardening advice to fellow residents here at the Extension office and through community workshops.

This year, the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County Master Gardener program received two Awards of Excellence from the Florida Master Gardener Program. MGs won awards in two categories: Educational Materials Development and Florida Friendly LandscapingTM.

Although some spiders are venomous, this black and yellow argiope spider is considered a beneficial garden predator that feeds on other insects. Photo courtesy of Master Gardener Nanette O’Hara

A team of Master Gardeners won the Educational Materials Development award for their community presentation “Safety in the Garden: Snakes, Bugs and Garden Gloves.” This 45-minute educational program presents an overview of animals and plants that might harm gardeners as well as ways gardeners can stay safe when working outdoors.

 

The talk, offered at local garden clubs and libraries, teaches residents about plants, animals or situations that might be found in Central Florida. Topics include stinging and biting insects, noxious saps, protective clothing and dangerous wildlife.

Another team of MGs won the Florida Friendly LandscapingTM award for their work on a pollinator demonstration garden, located here at the Extension office. The team partnered with the Girl Scouts on this sustainable take-action project.

Pollinators are important because an estimated 1/3 of the food we eat comes from animal-pollinated plants. Fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, zucchini, citrus and blueberries depend on insect pollinators.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated bee-pollinated commodities accounted for $20 billion in annual U.S. agricultural production.

Pollinators, such as bees, wasps and flies are important because an estimated 1/3 of the food we eat comes from animal-pollinated plants. Photo courtesy of Master Gardener Nanette O’Hara.

The pollinator garden project teaches youth and their families the importance of pollinators and promotes Florida Friendly LandscapingTM principles to attract wildlife such as native bees, flies, wasps and hummingbirds, reduce stormwater runoff, conserve water and limit pesticide use and pollinator risk.

During a garden visit, children and their parents can check out pollinator backpacks from our receptionist. These kid-friendly backpacks contain insect and flower sketch plates, field identification cards, magnifying lenses and books.

Beth Alence, Master Gardener, advises “As a Master Gardener and docent who leads tours of several Hillsborough County Extension gardens, these gardens are living educational tools. Their ambiance and beauty provide examples of Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM (FFL), ideas for plant materials, maintenance techniques, mulch and pervious pavers.”

Pollinator gardens include a diversity of flower colors, shapes and bloom times. Starry rosinweed, a Florida native plant, makes a great addition to a pollinator garden. Photo courtesy of Master Gardener Nanette O’Hara.

“Groundcovers are showcased as potential alternatives for turfgrass. The importance of pollinator-attracting plants is explained with signage, and plant cuttings are provided to garden visitors. We have taught vision impaired youth who could identify changes in pavers, listened to the buzzing of bees and enjoyed smelling basil and salvia. The pollinator and other garden areas promote dialogue with the public on FFL, why the nine principles are important and how they can easily be implemented in landscapes at home.”

We are proud of Hillsborough County Master Gardener volunteers. Attend a program at a local library or stop by and visit our pollinator garden. If you let us know you’re coming, we’ll give you a cutting of African blue basil, a pollinator magnet!

Nicole Pinson, (813) 744-5519 X 54145, pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org