Training Expands Sustainable Landscaping Knowledge

— Written By

Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteers in Watauga County Show Us How

volunteers looking at landscape plans

Master Gardener℠ volunteers discuss ideas for addressing landscape challenges.

From the NC coast to the mountains and everywhere in between, gardening looks different and the challenges gardeners face vary. Drought tolerant plants may be the focus for a homeowner in the sandhills, while miles away a different homeowner is in need of plants that can tolerate flooding.

Fortunately, the Extension Master Gardener℠ program operates in 84 of N.C. Cooperative Extension’s 101 local Extension Centers. This means there are trained volunteers all across the state to answer gardening questions specific to the growing conditions in their county. Master Gardener℠ volunteers in Watauga County have learned how to take these local concerns into account to provide residents with research-based expertise that saves both time and money while encouraging environmentally-responsible choices.

Watauga County is a popular location for retirement and vacation homes. Many landowners have relocated from other parts of the state or country and have little experience maintaining mountain properties. As a result, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Watauga County Center receives frequent requests for advice on overcoming landscaping challenges. Commonly asked questions include selecting appropriate plants, creating privacy, improving drainage and managing landscapes on hillsides.

New home surrounded by sloping lawn.

Many new residents don’t know how to deal with common landscape challenges such as slope.

To increase the center’s capacity to answer these questions, N.C. Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent Paige Patterson and Master Gardener℠ volunteer and retired landscape architect Jan Frazee trained a group of 21 Master Gardener℠ volunteers, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to effectively respond to these landscape-related calls. The training focused on sustainable landscaping principles such as understanding how the landscape will be used, assessing site conditions such as slope, drainage, and sun exposure, and taking maintenance needs into consideration.

Patterson knows offering the training was time well spent, “Watauga County’s advanced training in sustainable landscaping established a core group of Extension Master Gardener volunteers who are better able to address questions on plant selection and prepared them to teach others how to manage common landscape challenges in the High Country. These volunteers can now help me assist residents asking for advice on plant selection and landscape care.” 

Currently, Master Gardener volunteers are applying what they learned by developing a newcomer’s packet to help residents assess their site and address landscape challenges. They are also working on a factsheet that describes how to create a privacy border with plants that best suit the region.

Banner - Search for Excellence

To recognize their efforts to better respond to the needs of the public, the Extension Master Gardener℠ program in Watauga County has been awarded NC State Extension’s 2019 Search for Excellence Award. This award recognizes outstanding educational, Master Gardener volunteer-led group projects that result in significant learning. Special thanks to Master Gardener volunteer and retired landscape architect Jan Frazee and Extension Master Gardener program alumna and designer Lin Morris for sharing their time and expertise. 

To learn more about the Extension Master Gardener program in Watauga County, contact Paige Patterson, N.C. Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent in Watauga County, 828-264-3061.

ABOUT Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Master Gardener volunteers support the mission of N. C. Cooperative Extension by educating residents about safe, effective and sustainable gardening practices that grow healthy people, gardens, landscapes, and communities. Their vision is a healthier world through environmental stewardship.

To learn more about the NC State Extension Master Gardener program in your community, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center.