Who are those enthusiastic and hard-working people—mostly women—who can been seen in the Camarillo Ranch House gardens, pruning, planting, weeding and fertilizing?
They are yet another core of dedicated volunteers who help to make the ranch a success: Ventura County Master Gardeners.
Part of a nationwide network, local Master Gardeners volunteer throughout the county, at schools, colleges, farms, demonstration gardens, historic properties, in agricultural research, and at the Hansen Agricultural Learning Center, located at Santa Paula’s Faulkner Farm. In addition, they operate a helpline (645-1455) that the public may call on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 1 to 4 p.m., to get help with gardening problems.
The Camarillo Ranch House’s Master Gardeners, currently numbering about 20, adopted the ranch as their project in 2003 and since have logged almost 800 hours at the site, designing and planting a number of gardens, rehabilitating the rose and herb gardens, developing a school tours site, building the ranch’s own composter to recycle trimmings, lovingly pruning and nurturing the many plants, and offering friendly garden advice to both staff members and visitors.
Master Gardeners must go through an interview process to be accepted into the program and then must attend six months of classes taught by University of California Cooperative Extension advisors and area agricultural experts.
Included in the course of study are classes in botany, soils and fertilizers, plant pathology, plant propagation, grafting, entomology, backyard vegetables, Integrated Pest Management, tree pruning, native plants, weed control and turf management, sustainable landscaping, landscape design, thematic gardening, plant identification, composting, and school garden programs.
At the conclusion of the classes, the new Master Gardeners each must submit an original project and pass a rigorous and comprehensive written test. In the next six months, they then must complete 80 hours of volunteer service in order to graduate and receive Master Gardener certification. Once certified, they must contribute 40 hours of volunteer work, including 10 hours of continuing education, each year to remain in the program.
Anyone who is interested in helping with gardening at the Ranch House may call the office, at 389-8182. Those interested in becoming a Master Gardener should call the helpline number, 645-1455.