Master Gardeners help spread Smart Gardening message to Michigan residents

Three Upper Peninsula Master Gardener trainees completed the Smart Gardening outreach training and are spreading the environmentally friendly soils, plants, lawns and vegetables message.

Cathy Starrett, Smart Gardening outreach volunteer, assists downtown Marquette, Michigan, farmer’s market attendees with Smart Gardening tip sheets. Photo by Linda Winslow.
Cathy Starrett, Smart Gardening outreach volunteer, assists downtown Marquette, Michigan, farmer’s market attendees with Smart Gardening tip sheets. Photo by Linda Winslow.

What is Smart Gardening?

Smart Gardening is a Michigan State University Extension initiative promoting earth-friendly, sustainable practices grounded in research for the home gardener. Master Gardener trainees identify an educational volunteer project in their communities to fulfill the 40-hour volunteer component to gain certification. Upper Peninsula Master Gardener trainees Cathy Starrett, Linda Winslow and Anna Sanford selected the Smart Gardening outreach program to educate attendees at the downtown Marquette Farmer’s Market, Negaunee Farmer’s Market and Munising Farmer’s Market.

What does a Smart Gardening outreach volunteer do?

Smart Gardening outreach volunteers represent MSU Extension at an informational outreach booth, set up with all 20 free Smart Gardening tip sheets, which are also available at the Gardening in Michigan website. They inform the public about the Smart Gardening messages of smart soils, smart plants, smart lawns and smart vegetables. They share bookmarks with the public about the toll-free garden helpline at 888-678-3464 that is available Mondays through Fridays, 9-4 p.m. EST, and the Ask an Expert widget on the Gardening in Michigan website that allows picture uploads with questions. Outreach volunteers assist in gathering emails from those who would like to receive more Smart Gardening information via quarterly e-newsletters and wouldn’t mind completing a future survey relating how they have used the Smart Gardening information.

In April, Starrett and Winslow also volunteered at the Smart Gardening outreach booth at the Garden Extravaganza in Marquette, Michigan. They are making a positive impact for MSU Extension as they reach more Michigan residents with the Smart Gardening message. In 2014, we reached 584 residents from all 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula. The goal for 2015 is to reach more and expand the total number of outreach events from 20 to 40. With outreach volunteers like Starrett, Winslow and Sanford, this is becoming a reality.

How can someone become involved in Smart Gardening outreach?

Only currently certified Master Gardeners or Master Gardener trainees may complete the additional training and provide Smart Gardening outreach to the public. If you would like to become a Michigan Master Gardener, check out the upcoming classes on the Michigan Master Gardener website.

What are the benefits to Michigan residents?

The Smart Gardening initiative aims to provide the smart messages that offer home gardeners earth-friendly techniques they can put into practice. These techniques include making intentional choices concerning pesticide and fertilizer use so that runoff into lakes and streams is reduced or eliminated, and having a soil test completed at least every three years so that actual nutrient needs of vegetables or other plants are determined instead of relying on guesswork and many others.

For more information on a wide variety of Smart Gardening topics, visit the Gardening in Michigan website at or contact MSU’s toll-free garden hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

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