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Master gardeners to offer advice on plants, insects and diseases

By Jayme Grzebik

After more than 28 years of free public service to home gardeners in our communities, the University of Hawaii Master Gardeners will host its first statewide conference Oct. 15 to 17.

The Master Gardener Program in Hawaii started in 1982 with a group of 15 Oahu residents interested in learning about home gardening. It is part of the program found throughout the United States and Canada. The program, started in Washington state in 1972, is a public service to provide training to volunteers under the leadership of land-grant universities and the national Cooperative Extension Service.

To date, more than 94,865 people have become master gardeners nationwide. Local master gardeners answer home gardening questions on a plant help line and expand educational outreach efforts of the UH extension service.

For the conference, some of the top specialists in their fields will share new information about agriculture in Hawaii and backyard gardening ideas.

"Mastering the Aloha with Plants & Landscape Design," "Growing Tropical Fruits and Nuts in Hawaii," "Hawaii's Pollinator Crisis" and "Aquaponics for the Backyard Gardener" are just a few of the specialized educational sessions the conference will present.

On the first day, advanced training sessions at the Ala Moana Hotel will offer in-depth lectures and hands-on training. The sessions are:

Native Hawaiian plants, with Priscilla Millen from the UH Botany Department; Frani Okamoto, native plant shade house manager; and Rick Barboza of Hui Ku Maoli Ola native plant nursery.

Diseases and insect identification, detection and control with Hilo-based plant pathology and disease management specialist Scot Nelson of the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and Neil Reimer from the state Department of Agriculture Plant Pest Control Branch.

Organic gardening with two CTAHR specialists, Ted Radovich (sustainable and organic agriculture) and Jonathan Deenik (soil fertility and quality).

Pre-conference tours of the Urban Garden Center in Pearl City will be offered Oct. 14, with additional tours of Lyon Arboretum and UH facilities provided the following day. Oct. 17 tours include CTAHR's Waimanalo Experiment Station, Keanakamano Garden at Kamehameha Schools' Kapalama Campus, local nurseries and Waianu Farm in Kaneohe.

Conference fees are $160 for those in the Master Gardener Program and $225 for the public; for Friday afternoon and Saturday activities only, fees are $100 and $165.

Sponsors include Hawaiian Electric Co., Kona Brewery, Kokua Market, Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, Waimea Valley Botanical Garden, EM Hawaii, Johnny's Selected Seeds, UH-Manoa CTAHR and Hawaiian Earth Products.

Registration information and a full schedule are available at www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/sustainag/MG/conference/agenda or by calling 453-5059.

Jayme Grzebik is an urban horticulturist with the University of Hawaii at Manoa Cooperative Extension Service, part of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Reach her at .

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