Carrie Wiliamson is passionate about gardening.
A raised bed garden fills the front yard of her interstate-facing home. Family members contribute to feeding her extensive collection of composting worms, and she's looking forward to once again having a thriving Master Gardener cadre in Pulaski County.
"I'm interested in sustainability, creating a living space more in harmony with the environment and growing my own food," Carrie said during a meeting in Rolla.
Carrie knows what it takes to become a Master Gardener. She took the 30-hour core gardening class in 2006 and became a University of Missouri trained gardening volunteer teacher, working with about 20 other local Master Gardeners, before leaving the area to attend law school.
After graduating in 2010 from University of Missouri-Columbia, Carrie returned to her hometown to practice law and found a Master Gardener group that had dwindled down to a handful.
"I know there are people out there who want to learn and have fellowship about what we find to be important" so Carrie decided she could - well, grow her own.
Working with Phelps County Master Gardeners, Carrie organized a fall 2013 core Master Gardener training course and opened the course to anyone in the area interested in becoming a volunteer gardening teacher.
"These programs used to be specific to each county but now that University of Missouri Extension is organized into regions, it makes sense for each one of us to reach out to other groups and figure out how we can share resources and help each other."
Carrie has also been reaching out to local elderly, sharing extra produce and related homemade products once or twice a week.
"We can have an effect by sharing like that," Carrie said. "Each one of us can make a difference one person at a time."
Her husband, Mike, "watering engineer," also makes a difference. He provides invaluable "honeydo" support and engineering services, from building raised bed gardens to trellises for Carrie's favorite spring and fall gardens filled with lots of greens.
Her summer garden features tomatoes, okra, green beans, squash, cucumbers and aphids.
"The aphids ate the beans," she said laughing. "I'm kind of a lazy gardener. If something doesn't grow the first time, I try something else. My yard long beans didn't do well at all."
Carrie is also experimenting with cover crops, such as buckwheat, to see if she can regenerate mid-Missouri's almost non-existent soil. Undeterred, she is trying gardening methods from other countries, such as keyhole gardening from Africa and mound gardening from Germany, both practices that maximize productivity and minimize irrigation without additives such as fertilizers and chemicals.
"I would love to see more market gardens in Pulaski County, even if the soil is bad," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Once students complete basic gardening training, volunteers spend 30 hours their first year working on instructional community projects.
"There's so much we could do," Carrie said. "Armed Forces YMCA could use a composting demonstration. They need rain barrels to be able to water the existing garden close to the Extension office and, by helping out, we can also give back to our military families."
If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, you can download the application and other information at http://extension.missouri.edu/pulaski or contact Pulaski County Extension at 573-774-6177 or Phelps County Extension at 573- 458-6260. The deadline to register is Aug. 9.
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News - St. James Leader Journal - Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at email@example.com.