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  • Writer's pictureBette Allen, MD

From Master Gardener to Mentor

Garden outside of a museum with adobe bricks and pergola
Photo of Bernalillo County Museum Garden, a joint project with SEMG

While I’ve always been a gardener, I ran into challenges trying to grow my favorite plants after moving from the temperate East Coast to the high desert Southwest. I joined the Sandoval County Master Gardener program as a way to learn about gardening in this region. The program connected me to a larger network of gardening pros and enthusiasts, and led me to learn many things, including that I, in fact, needed to pick some new favorites.

The Sandoval County Master Gardener program is part of the larger New Mexico State University Extension Master Gardener service. These exist in counties all across the state to provide information, education, and training on the plants, soils, and care that are appropriate for our desert environment. Each program provides 40 hours of classroom education and encourages interns to participate in 40 hours of volunteer service. These classes train volunteers who would like to be more about successful in the care of fruits and vegetables, as well as native and drought tolerant plants. With this training, participants enrich their gardens and their communities. In addition, there are many activities and workshops throughout the growing season which invite participation from community members.

The first time I was exposed to the Master Gardener program as a student, I was excited to get the answers to questions I had but overwhelmed by the depth of information. Fortunately, it is not necessary to understand everything. Every bit that you absorb makes your garden a little greener. With every year that passes I appreciate the depth and breadth of the class materials and the great support we receive from the NMSU professors.

This year I had the opportunity to become a Master Gardener Mentor. I get to review materials and learn even more as I help other aspiring Master Gardeners in our state. My group includes four mentors working with six interns. This allows us to get to know each other more personably. The 2024 classes started in January and will finish in May, with some continuing activities through the fall. Mentors work closely with interns to review weekly class materials, answer questions, distribute information about upcoming activities, and swap ideas and experiences.

I’m excited to share my enthusiasm with other gardeners and to provide encouragement and solutions to people who may be intimidated or frustrated by the challenges of growing plants in the high desert.

If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener in our area, I encourage you to check out the following:


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