Master gardener offers advice to others interested

The Ohio State University Extension in Washington County is seeking more Master Gardener Volunteers, with new training sessions set to start in September.

After a lifetime of gardening on his own, Cutler resident Bob Rothwell finally became a Master Gardener in 2014, after retiring.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” he said. “It’s a big, big part of my life.”

Along with the ability to share his knowledge and learn more, he said he’s made incredible friends.

“There’s such good fellowship and camaraderie,” he said.

Question: How long have you been a Master Gardener?

Answer: Since I retired in 2014, so five years now.

Q: Have you always had an interest in gardening?

A: I’ve had a garden my whole life. We have a vegetable garden at home and and flower gardens. It’s something I’ve always wanted to share with the community.

Q: Was becoming a Master Gardener something you had wanted to do for a long time and just didn’t have the time for?

A: I wanted to do it but working took up too much time. I really wanted to share my gardening with other people.

Q: How long did the process take to become a Master Gardener?

A: There were 10 or 12 four-hour classes, at least. It took maybe 10 or 12 weeks.

Q: These were classes that really interested, you, though, right?

A: They were fascinating. A lot of stuff I thought I already knew, but there’s always something to learn.

Q: What do you actually do now as a Master Gardener?

A: My primary focus is working with some of the young men housed at (the Washington County Juvenile Center). We have a little garden and bring them every two weeks. When we started, they would basically come and weed the garden. We made a change and now, it’s their garden. They come in the spring and decide what they want to plant. We do guide them–they can’t plant pineapples, but it’s theirs. They plant, they harvest, they care for it. Some of the food they take to the juvenile center and they use it there. If there’s an abundance, we’ll donate it to a food pantry.

Q: What do you have in the garden now?

A: Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, green beans…a couple years ago we planted apple trees so now we have young apple trees that have apples on them. We have an herb garden and a flower garden. We like to introduce them to some new things, too. It may be something they’ve never heard of but they’re adventurous. They’ll wash it up and try it right there.

Q: Have you been able to see how taking ownership of the garden has been positive for them?

A: Absolutely. They feel like they own it and it’s kind of a privilege for them to come over. We keep records and show them how to keep records. Several have told me that once they got out, they plan to still come to the garden. One asked if he could bring his mom to show her.

Q: Are there other community groups you work with as a Master Gardener or is that your main focus?

A: It’s a loose thing but I do work with a group on a community garden at the Cutler Community Center. Other Master Gardeners work with others. We have a booth at the farmers market and the county fair, there are ladies who do an educational series through the summer, every August we do the Bring One, Take One, plant exchange. That’s really popular. We’re pretty active.

Q: What would you say to those considering becoming a Master Gardener?

A: There’s a word that people don’t use often enough: We’re Master Gardener Volunteers. The volunteer part is important. You have to want to share with the community and help others. And it’s not necessarily that we’re masters, although we have some knowledge. If we don’t know how to answer a question, we know how to find the answer.

Q: Is there any aspect of gardening that you really love to teach?

A: There’s a lot of hunger in the world. There are these food deserts, where people don’t have access to nutritious food. I find that to be unconscionable. We have all these backyards that could be growing good food. It’s really my passion to get more people to grow their own food.

Kate York conducted this interview.

Bob Rothwell

¯ Age: 74.

¯ Residence: Cutler.

¯ Occupation: Retired environmental scientist.

¯ Family: Wife Kathleen; Son Rob, of Columbus.

Source: Bob Rothwell.

For a full schedule of Master Gardener training sessions:

¯ go.osu.edu/MGClass