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Reflections of a Master Gardener Intern

After six weeks of lectures, hands-on instruction, and one long final exam, the 2019 Jefferson County Master Gardener Interns have been set loose to work on projects to beautify and educate our city. Attending classes was a very positive experience where passionate gardeners of all experience levels were able to hone their skills, and find new interests under the broad umbrella of what it means to be a gardener.

MG 2019 Intern Richie Goff
2019 Intern Richie Goff

The Master Gardener program is very much about community, and immediately I made friends and connections with my classmates and instructors. There is something inherently very cathartic about getting your hands dirty to make things grow. Getting to share that experience with others who understand this process binds you pretty quickly, and having an outlet to compare notes creates a unified, yet richly diverse group. Some of the best conversations are with people who take completely different approaches to gardening than you do, which in turn gives you extra tools in your tool box when dealing with difficult situations. 

Immediately I was connected with June Sandercock, who taught our first class on perennials, and was also a mutual acquaintance. I decided pretty quickly I wanted to work with her group, and weeks before classes ended I was working with them to remove weeds from Farmington Historic Plantation. 

Farmington is nestled behind Sullivan University, and though you can hear the cars from the nearby highway, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. The plantation was completed in 1816 for John and Lucy Speed, and was a thriving 550-acre hemp plantation where nearly 60 enslaved African Americans worked. Today, Farmington is raising hemp once again after being selected to be a participant in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Hemp Pilot Program, where they will be conducting research on growing different varieties.

Our first priority was to tame the poison ivy and the invasive honeysuckle along the creek bed, which we worked on during our first visit and made a noticeable difference. Though Farmington has Brian, groundskeeper of 19 years, it takes many hands to keep such a large chunk of land in order, and our group is excited to get it back to its former glory.

One of our priorities is to install a traditional kitchen garden, which will have a combination of edible flowers, vegetables, and herbs. A garden like this would have been planted by the separate kitchen building in centuries past, so that fresh ingredients could be picked just steps from the kitchen door. Before anything can be planted, however, we will have to face the daunting challenge of the thick patch of ivy which has overtaken the space.

Our other current priority is to get the formal garden weeded and brought back to a healthy state. While the garden does have some nice plants-- roses, peonies, lamb’s ear, Solomon’s seal, and plenty of lilies-- it is a tad overgrown, and maybe not as traditional in its plantings as it once was. We hope to revitalize it to its past splendor, so that visitors will have a sense of how not only the house would have looked, but all the grounds as well.

In the two months that classes have been finished, I have already accumulated over 10 hours of volunteer time. It’s easy to see why with so many exciting projects going on, including the upkeep of the fabulous Hildegard House Garden June’s team tackled in years past. A friend of mine who works for Hildegard House (an organization which cares for individuals at the end of life who have no home or loved ones to care for them) told me that one of her residents loves sitting out in the garden in the evenings and putting a flower behind her ear. This resident is 102 years old, and providing her with a little slice of heaven on earth is why being a Master Gardener is so rewarding.

Submitted by Richie Goff, 2019 MG Intern


Our Annual Fundraiser!

Master Gardener Training

The Jefferson County Cooperative Extension office and Jefferson County Master Gardener Association (JCMGA) are delighted to announce that we are accepting applications for the 2019 Jefferson County Master Gardener Certification Program. Please read the information below to help you decide if the program is right for you.

  • The total fee is $175 including a $20 background check fee. The fee covers the cost of classes and labs, written materials, your Master Gardener certificate and ID badge.
  • A background check is required. The $20 fee is payable at the time of application.
  • The classes will begin on March 27th and continue for 10 weeks through June 5th. Most classes will be on Wednesdays from 6-8 pm. You will be required to attend all classes unless you have received prior approval from the instructor to miss due to circumstances beyond your control.
  • You will be required to attend the two labs.  Labs may be held at various sites within the community and may be scheduled on Saturdays. There will be a third optional lab.
  • Classes will be held at the Louisville Nature Center located at 3745 Illinois Avenue, Louisville, KY. 40213.  A schedule, which is subject to change dependent upon venue availability, will be available to view at the information session(s).
  • Upon completion of all classroom studies and labs, you will be required to pass a final exam.  At that time, you will become a Master Gardener Intern for a period of one year.  During this year, you will be required to complete 40 hours of volunteer work in the community.  
  • Every year thereafter, Master Gardeners must complete at least 20 hours on JCMGA approved  projects and complete 10 hours of continuing education to maintain their certification.

The primary purpose of the JCMGA is to serve the community and spread knowledge of good gardening practices.  Volunteer hours are essential to our mission. Master Gardener certification cannot be used to advertise your expertise for promoting personal business ventures. Only those committed to continued service should apply.  We educate the public, so the willingness to present topics to groups is needed. The only qualification for being admitted to the program is that you have a fondness for nature and an eagerness to learn.  The Association offers you the opportunity to attend educational meetings and workshops, work alongside knowledgeable gardeners, and learn from their years of valuable hands-on experience.

Info Sessions are being held at the Louisville Nature Center on Monday, March 4 and Thursday, March 7 from 6:00-7:00pm. Please visit our Eventbrite page to register for one of the sessions:

We thank you for your interest and regret that, due to limited resources, we can only accept 50 candidates.  We look forward to a fun and educational season with those of you who are chosen.

Stephen Lewis, Extension Agent - Horticulture

Jefferson County Master Gardener Association Board  

What To Do With Leaves

You can hear it all over town:  folks raking leaves and putting them in bags to go to the Metro composting facility.  Yes, it’s good that they are being composted, but as Master Gardeners, wouldn’t it be better if we composted them in our own yards?  Or use them in ways that will help us avoid using pesticides that could be damaging the microbes in our soil?  For years, I have gathered leaves from all over my neighborhood and spread them all over my various garden plots in my native plant garden.  In addition to spreading leaves, I use them to cover cardboard when I am trying to get rid of invasive plants.

This year it’s euonymus; other years I’ve spread cardboard and leaves to get rid of Japanese Anemone, or start a few planting beds in the fall so it will be ready to plant when spring arrives.  At this time of year, leaves are free for the taking or raking.  Let’s be more specific:

    • To eliminate weeds or an invasive plant—instead of using Glysophate, which may damage soil microbes as well as bees, and damage water—cut the plants you want to eliminate to the ground with a string trimmer or mower. Spread 2 layers of cardboard or many layers of newspapers  over the area, and cover with leaves.  Water the area to keep the cardboard and leaves from blowing, and leave until spring.  Lift the cardboard and see if the offending plant is alive.  If it is, add another layer of cardboard or newspapers, plus more leaves or mulch, and leave for another season.  You may wish to put pots of annuals around the area throughout the season.  Usually, after another season, the weeds/invasive plants are gone after 1-2 seasons, and the soil is perfect for planting:  soft and pliable.  You don’t need to take up the cardboard—just plant through it.  Best of all, you’ve avoided pesticides and added free mulch.
    • To prepare a bed in the fall for next spring’s planting, use the method just described, adding cardboard/newspapers, plus leaves in the fall. Next spring, the soil will be perfect for planting, with no real digging.  The grass/weeds will be gone, and the soil looks beautiful.  Plant, mulch, and enjoy your new garden bed.
    • If you don’t need to kill weeds or create a new garden bed, start a compost pile/leaf pile back behind the garage. Dump leaves and grass clippings, water occasionally, and you have a free mulch.
    • If you really don’t want to deal with leaves, mow them with a mulching mower and be done with it.

Submitted by Master Gardener Phyllis Fitzgerald

The Sensory Garden at The Louisville Nature Center

The springs and summers at the Sensory Garden at LNC are always a busy time with many visitors enjoying its beauty and serenity.  There are neighbors who visit every day, out of town visitors on vacations, children on a field trip from schools coming by the bus loads, LNC Summer Camp attendees, mothers and dads with little ones in tow, all enjoying this beautiful space.

When the Master Gardeners and Master Gardener Interns volunteer here there is always a chance to interact with folks and answer the questions they may have. The MGs and MG Interns also have the opportunity to have educational programs for the kids and adults who are interested in learning something new. The unusual plants that we have always draw a lot of attention from the adults. We start several plants from seed each year.  Red Foliated Cotton, Irish Poet Tassel Flowers, Cardinal Basil, Elephant Ears Gigantea and the banana trees have always been favorites with the visitors. Children and parents alike enjoy doing LNC’s scavenger hunt in the SG. Sometimes they need a little help spotting one of the answers. The kids are always thrilled to see butterflies, tadpoles, lizards, and dragonflies in the garden.

The late summer, early fall, brings in a multitude of students and teachers. They are looking for that special leaf, or that flower that still has gorgeous bright colors, or the herb that has a fragrance enjoyed by all.  This garden is like an open book that draws you in to enjoy its many layers of beauty and wondrous creatures!

We don’t rest in the fall since there are still jobs that need to be done to put the garden down for its nice long nap.  The raised beds are cleaned out of all the veggies and annuals to help prevent diseases from rotting plants. The banana trees are cut back and mulched over to protect them from the freezing winter temperatures. The seeds on most of the plants are left for the overwintering birds in the garden.

This Sensory Garden is a learning place for all of us!  

Submitted by Janie Kanzler

In The Garden – Raising Chickens in Your Backyard/Home and Community Vegetable Gardening

Saturday, June 30, 2018  12 Noon to 3:00pm

7600 Tempsclair Road, Louisville 40220

Master Gardener Judy Buckler will share how to get started, as well as the day-to-day requirements, including growing vegetables in raised beds and community gardens.

Come see Judy's fancy chickens and their chicken mansion. Then join her for a tour of the Community Gardens at Hunsinger Lane Baptist Church.
This is a Free program but please RSVP to Judy at or 502.491.7560

Gardenaganza! April 29, 2018

Arbor Day Tree Giveaway!


Louisville Nature Center - 3745 Illinois Ave

     Master Gardeners will distribute 1000 bare-root trees and will be available to provide information about the trees and help select the right tree for the right location. Varieties of trees available include:
White Dogwood
Loblolly Pine
Blue Spruce
Red Maple
Black Gum
Sugar Maple

Limit of 3 trees per family - come early for the best selection! 

Questions? Contact


Happy Spring! Get Ready for the Hummingbirds!

Tax season is here! Even if you aren’t getting money back this year, tax day can still bring you joy.

This is the time of year that hummingbirds migrate north. Hummingbirds send out “scouts” to look for places where food is readily available and they are usually the first to arrive. If you’re wondering when the best time to put feeders out and attract scouts, let tax day, April 15th, be your reminder.

If you are interested in bringing hummingbirds to your yard, here are a few other tips, including an easy recipe for hummingbird food:

  • Hummingbirds have a great memory and will likely visit the same area from year to year.
  • Hummingbirds are territorial. Having multiple feeders in various locations can help to bring more of them to your yard.
  • Hummingbirds love red, so consider a red feeder or putting the feeder near some red plants such as cardinal flowers.
  • Rather than using the red hummingbird food sold in stores, try making the food yourself. It is simple to make and better for the hummingbirds. (See Recipe Below)
  • Consider hanging ant motes along with your feeders so that ants don’t get into the hummingbird food.
  • Hummingbird food can last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Before adding it to the feeder, it should be closer to room temperature. Thus, if you are taking it directly from the refrigerator, it is advisable to let it warm up before pouring it into the feeders.
  • Hummingbird feeders should be changed every 3-5 days. The sunnier it is, the quicker the feeder should be changed so the food doesn’t spoil.

Hummingbird Food Recipe:

  • One cup sugar to 4 cups of water.
  • Bring the sugar and water to a boil for 2 minutes.
  • Let it cool before putting it away or putting it into a feeder.

Submitted by Master Gardener Allison Foster

The Ralph Archer Woodland Garden at Whitehall Estate Gardens

The Ralph Archer Woodland Garden at Whitehall has been a Master Gardener project for many years.  The garden contains the largest regional collection of ferns thanks to long time Master Gardener, Ralph Archer.
On Saturday, June 24, Carolyn Waters, who has a masters degree in environmental education, led two tours through the garden to show how the garden is habitat for flora, fauna, and environmental processes beyond ferns. Carolyn pointed out trees of various ages and sizes which provide layers attractive to birds. Carolyn, who lives on the property, has seen Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, golden crowned kinglets, nuthatches, and many varieties of wrens in this garden.
She demonstrated forest succession by identifying trees that had come onto the property first after the site was cleared, and the trees that followed such as several species of oaks and hickories. In recent years, those trees were intentionally planted to speed up the evolution to a later succession woodland.
Carolyn explained how a naturalized garden like Whitehall's woodland garden expands biodiversity, giving a home to both native and exotic, but not invasive plants.  Retention of dead trees, decaying logs, wood mulch, and duff gives habitat for both animals and plants.
Future plans include diversion and retention of storm runoff and a water feature which collects rain water that will slowly drain into a small bog already in existence.
During the tour, Whitehall's new stone benches, collected from a local farm on the Ohio River, were used by the tour visitors and by one of Whitehall's resident cats, Grady.
Visit Whitehall Gardens at 3110 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY