Master Gardeners LOVE to build demonstration gardens! For the past several years, MGEVs report volunteering at demonstration gardens with the highest frequency of any other project. I often receive questions about starting a demonstration garden, what to do with it, and how to handle certain aspects of managing a demonstration garden. These are indicators that demonstration gardens are a preferred outreach method among MGEVs.
MGEVs like demonstration gardens because, well, they like to garden! While nurturing plants and tending garden spots, the MGEV also gains a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience. There is a powerful emotional return and strong sense of accomplishment when we look back at the gardens and see the results of our labor.
Demonstration gardens are also valuable for our clientele, the people in our communities who look to us for education and guidance. Demonstration gardens are visual and tactile. They are living examples of what to do and what not to do. They are an effective teaching tool for all kinds of learners – people who prefer to learn by doing, hearing, seeing, or a combined experience.
In addition to being a teaching tool, a demonstration garden can be a visual asset to our communities. They can improve the appearance of a site, enhance an important location in the community, or create a space to bring people together. The community typically takes much pride and interest in the garden. Demonstration gardens can be prominent reminders to the community of Extension’s resources.
In our excitement about selecting plants, watering the babies, and defending our spaces against an onslaught of weeds, we must keep site of the purpose of our demonstration gardens. They are powerful, multi-dimensional educational tools. Use every part of the garden to teach our communities that care of the garden and landscape impacts our water quality and quantity, the health of our ecosystem, the vibrancy of the communities in which we live, and our individual health. Our demonstration gardens need to be more than pretty plants in weed-free beds.
We have a great opportunity to explore ways to maximize their educational return in our communities during the upcoming Advanced Training, “Teaching with Demonstration Gardens.” This is the last Advanced Training planned for 2014, and it will be held October 3, 2014, at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden in Savannah, GA, on the day before the GMGA fall conference. It will be an interactive training, with some activities out in the gardens and other activities drawing on existing MGEV demonstration gardens. I’ll send a reading list ahead of time, and also send participants a list of things to come prepared to work on. Agents have been sent the registration form and are sharing it with current, active MGEVs. Registration is already coming in, so if you are interested in attending, don’t delay! (If you are in need of a registration form, please contact your local agent.)
Hope to see you soon in Savannah!