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Master Gardeners Protect the Environment

The Issue

Environmental problems related to urbanization in California include rapid depletion of landfill capacity, excessive use of water resources and contamination of waterways from garden pesticide runoff.

What Has ANR Done?

In 1993, UCCE's Sonoma County Master Gardeners started a home composting project to teach urban gardeners how to make their own compost from yard wastes and kitchen scraps that were normally going into the local landfill. They also developed a special project called PURE (Pesticide Use Reduction Education) to teach the general public about alternatives to the use of garden pesticides. Another project promoted water-wise gardening techniques, including demonstration urban gardens to teach water conservation.

The home composting project was the first in the state to link UCCE Master Gardener volunteers and Waste Management Agency funds to teach home composting. In the last seven years, the home composting program reached 109,755 residents with composting brochures, bin distribution programs, educational booths at large public events, library talks, farmers market booths, seminars, and a resource desk for call-in questions in Santa Rosa and Sonoma. Last year, almost 2,000 children were contacted through school classroom presentations with worm composting programs. Through the PURE program, Master Gardeners created a unique demonstration garden at the county fair that introduced the public to environmentally friendly gardening. Reaching over 30,000 people in the last three years, the garden includes plants that attract beneficial insects and regionally-adapted plants that are less likely to have pest problems. The water conservation efforts have included distribution of thousands of UC fact sheets on proper water use techniques, alternatives to lawns, and a booklet on native drought-tolerant garden plants.

The Master Gardeners also developed two permanent public display gardens where they hold frequent seminars and workshops for the public. Small demonstrations, workshops and classes are held at the Sonoma County Fair, Harvest Fair, Spring and Fall Garden Shows, Celtic Festival, Herb Festival, regional libraries and at about 250 farmers markets throughout the year.

The Payoff

UC MG's help make Sonoma County gardeners green

Every year the home compost education program diverts about 12,000 tons of yard waste and kitchen scraps from the landfill. Compost made in the back yard reduces environmental pollution and provides a valuable additive to the garden soil. The PURE program has drastically reduced amounts of unwanted pesticides turned in at toxic materials roundups. Surveys of nurseries and businesses selling pesticides also have indicated public interest in alternatives to conventional pesticide usage. The water conservation educational efforts by UC's volunteers has helped to ceate a 20% reduction in average houshold water use over the last few years in many of Sonoma County's cities.


Supporting Unit: Sonoma County

Paul Vossen, UCCE, 2604 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95403 (707) 565-2621