2017 Workshop 3rd Place (tie) – The Sustainability Series of Workshops, Durham Region, Ontario, Canada

In response to questions asked at our advice clinics, the Durham Master Gardeners created a series of workshops linked around the theme of sustainability in gardening. Our goal was to stimulate interest and create awareness of sustainable concepts among Durham Region gardeners and demonstrate its relevance in everyday living. We worked closely with the community sustainability committees as well as with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Ontario Nature, the Legends Centre Community Garden group, the Oshawa Garden Club and Durham College.

Here are the workshops the Durham Master Gardeners developed:

Balcony Workshop: A presentation on growing vegetables from seed including the importance of soils, organic techniques and hygiene, natural fertilizers, small space gardening, and the culture and requirements of different vegetables.

Introduction to Vegetable Gardening: We discussed and demonstrated the planning of vegetable gardens. Categories of vegetables were discussed with when, where and how to grow, an introduction to soil and composting, and intensive gardening techniques such as square foot gardening and companion planting of commonly grown vegetables.

Xeriscaping Workshop: This workshop covered drought-friendly plants including ornamental grasses, bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees. We explained how to create a moisture friendly landscape including mulch, use of rain barrels, and rain gardens.

Native Plants and Invasive Species Workshop: We talked about the four types of native perennial gardens and the plants typically found in each one. We also discussed how to choose native plants for your garden, buying plants and growing from seed. We then introduced participants to invasive plant species found in Ontario using information published by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council.

Pollinator Workshop: In this workshop we wanted to raise awareness about the plight of our native pollinators and what individual gardeners can do to help them. We discussed plant species, which ones provide food for pollinators and demonstrated how to make bee nests out of common materials around the home. We distributed lists of appropriate plants, seeds for pollinator plants and a page with sample bee nests.

Composting Workshop: We talked about basic composting do’s and don’ts and how to build a pile. We discussed the pros and cons of different composters and various techniques including showing participants how to create a vermicomposter.

Seed Saving Workshop: This workshop was designed to introduce participants to the wonders of collecting and saving your own seed. Topics included what are seeds, selecting seeds to save, how to store seeds and how to check for viability. The activities included identifying and gathering seeds from a nearby park or garden, sorting and preparing seeds for storage.

Happy Gardener Workshops: In late 2015, we were asked to create a series of workshops to be run in partnership with Durham College’s Continuing Education program for the spring of 2016. We developed and delivered the Happy Gardener Workshop series, four, 4-hour sessions held over a month at the Durham College Whitby Campus. We utilized our existing presentations and workshops and combined them in this unique series. The curriculum for the 4 weeks was as follows:

  • Day 1 – Introduction to Soil (2 hours) and Starting Plants from Seed (2)
  • Day 2 – Introduction to Vegetable Gardening (2 hours) and Culinary Herbs (2 hours)
  • Day 3 – Balcony Gardening (2 hours) and Potscaping (2 hours)
  • Day 4 – Composting (2 hours) and Pollinators (2 hours)

Each of the workshop sessions was accompanied by hands-on activities such as seed planting, creating square foot garden designs, creating bee nests and worm composters, as well as demonstrations by the various master gardeners who participated.

The feedback from all of our workshop sessions was overwhelmingly positive. We felt that certain techniques helped to engage the participants. These included “hands-on learning”, “show and tell,” and Q. and A formats.

One of our greatest accomplishments was the formation of so many new partnerships and, as a result, a wider audience for these important issues. Nor were our audiences the only ones to benefit. The workshops were valuable training for our own members as well. They gained experience and confidence in both horticulture and public speaking while having fun and meeting new people in a relaxed environment.

Our program has raised the profile of the Durham Master Gardeners and the Master Gardeners of Ontario while we continue to educate the public in sustainable gardening practices. We believe we have made a significant contribution to the understanding of food and soil security, the importance of wildlife habitats and the application of those ideas in both backyard and balcony gardens.

We continue to offer the sustainability workshops to our community while keeping them updated and topical. We are a small group of 16 who strive to increase awareness of sustainability concepts in challenging times.

2017 Special Needs 1st Place – Gardening Through Life, Milwaukee & Waukesha Counties, WI


Love to garden?  We’ve got the tools.  For many of us, gardening is a weekend warrior activity.  We sit all week at our desks and then don our gloves and grab our shovels and head to the yard with a vengeance, only to pay the price Monday morning.  As we age, it gets harder or we quit all together.  Well there is a better way and gardening does not have to be a “no pain, no gain” hobby.


The Lifelong Gardening Committee (LLG) of Southeast Wisconsin Master Gardeners supports and assists UW-Extension in community horticulture programs, and our particular project is to educate the public on principles and methods that will enable you to enjoy gardening throughout your lifetime.  We are continually refining and developing our curriculum with input from research, UW-Extension resources and you, the public who participate in our presentations.  We have grown from an educational tool demonstration to providing interactive displays and presentations.  We think gardening for a lifetime is best accomplished in two ways:  (1) modifying the garden – accessibility and plant selection, and (2) modifying the gardener – techniques and tools.

History and Development

In 2010, a group of Master Gardener volunteers in southeastern Wisconsin received a small donation of adaptive tools and began the Lifelong Gardening Committee, whose focus was primarily ergonomic tools for joint protection and to prevent back injury.  We provided an opportunity to touch and hold and use different tools in various ways.  Our goal was to educate people in ways that allowed them to remain active and continue gardening for their entire lifetime without pain or injury.

Since then, we have greatly expanded our inventory and as additional members joined the Lifelong Gardening Committee with varying backgrounds, knowledge and experience, we expanded our presentations and displays to include information on gardening exercises and body mechanics, enabling tools, plant selection, joint safety, back safety, vertical gardening, and container gardening.  The presentations, displays, and unique hands-on opportunity has been extremely well received.

We encourage feedback from our attendees providing them with a survey form at each presentation.

Some of the comments received include:

“I have so many of these tools and now I know how to use them properly.”

“I learned the importance of standing up straight, reducing stress on the back.”

“I learned of great new tools I did not know existed.”

“I learned I am gardening wrong and I need to make changes in body position, tools, etc.”

Due to the positive responses and success of our project, requests for presentations began to exhaust our time and resources.  In order to meet requests throughout the state, we thought we could best accomplish this by adding the power of technology.  So we created the “Toolbox” to share our knowledge in a way that could be replicated by other master gardeners to present in their counties.

The Toolbox is available to everyone and includes:

  • Lifelong Gardening Mission Statement
  • Basic Information to Enable the Gardener
  • Easy Care Plant Selection for Southeast Wisconsin
  • Gardening Exercises and Body Mechanics
  • Tool Book/Inventory – includes descriptions, features, availability, and approximate cost
  • Tools Recommended Based on Budget
  • Tool Checkout Form (used by the LLG Committee)
  • Survey Form
  • Gardening for Life Video (3-part)
  • PowerPoint Presentations
    • Joint Protection
    • Back Protection
    • Vertical Gardening
    • Container Gardening

LLG Board Displayed at Presentations Panels include information related to:

  • Lifelong Gardening – About Our Mission and Us
  • Member Presentations and Plant Selection
  • Protecting your Back and Joints
  • Using the Proper Tools for the Job
  • Good Advice and Gardening on a Budget
  • Garden Up – Container and Vertical Gardening


Next Steps

We are proud of the work we are doing to share our information with the public and other Master Gardeners.  We are currently developing a Train-the-Trainer and Mentoring Program that will be delivered to any Master Gardener Chapters that would like to replicate this project.  We will stay up-to-date on adaptive tools and injury prevention so that we can share this information with gardeners, groups or associations who are interested in lifelong gardening practices.  As additional information or educational needs are identified, we will develop and include that new material in our Toolbox.

We think everyone can benefit from the Toolbox – Open it up – Dig around – See what you can find!
We wish everyone happy, healthy gardening for a lifetime

2017 Special Needs 2nd Place – Garden Smart – Garden Easy, Sussex County, DE

Entering its seventh year, the “Garden Smart – Garden Easy” program, designed and presented by the Delaware Master Gardeners – Sussex County, promotes and shares the joy of gardening while demonstrating how to make gardening available to individuals with age, mobility, space or time limitations.

The program is the result of Extension’s observation of a need in their local communities. Retirees are drawn to Delaware, specifically Sussex County, due to affordable housing and low property taxes, no sales tax, and a slower pace of living. With the aging population, more health-related organizations such as hospitals, physical and occupational therapy organizations have sprung up, thus the need for Sussex County Master Gardeners to respond with educational tips for aging gardeners.

Launched in 2010, Master Gardeners continue to share information with the public via hands-on and interactive presentations and information tables at community events, tours, local civic and gardening clubs, hospital events attended by patients, health care and other staff, seminars and support groups such as the Arthritis Foundation, and many University of Delaware/Extension-sponsored outreach events in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Information is also provided in news articles, tri-fold brochures, posters, and other handouts. The Garden Smart – Garden Easy program is easy for new master gardeners to participate in, good information for an aging population and their adult children, adaptable for children with physical limitations or adults with little time for gardening.

Since its inception, almost 6,000 gardeners or prospective gardeners have learned about ergonomically-designed tools or the benefits of adapting existing tools to accommodate gardeners with limitations, benches, kneeling pads, hoses, irrigation systems, planting flowers in container gardens and raised bed gardens, safetytips for working in the garden for those with strength or weaknesses, and designing garden paths accessible by wheelchairs, scooters, or walkers.


The “Garden Smart – Garden Easy” program is presented in several forms. First, in a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation that includes a Question and Answer session and a hands-on demonstration of tools. Involving the audience is important for this successful program One-on-one communication provides a valuable opportunity to address the attendees’ specific needs and concerns. Fact sheets and other handouts are also provided. While manning informational tables at events, the PowerPoint presentation is replaced with an instructional poster. Workshops held at the Sussex County Extension office include a garden tour of our demonstration garden where examples of raised beds and other tips can be seen and considered by the participants for their own benefit.

Master Gardeners feature many tips that can assist gardeners with physical challenges such as mobility, fine motor coordination, eye-hand coordination, decreased strength or stamina, vision impairment, flexibility challenges, poor balance, chronic pain, sensitivity to heat, sun or cold, as well as time and space limitations.

Highlighted in the interaction with participants are the physical/social/mental benefits of gardening: improved self-esteem, stimulated creativity and problem solving, friendship-inducing, preventing depression, helping to maintain/increase fine motor skills, increased physical ac

tivity and stamina, and promoting hand-eye coordination.

The entire program demonstrates:

  • the benefits of planting flowers and vegetables in container gardens and raised bed gardens as alternatives to in-ground gardening (light-weight – can be moved, wide edges so the gardener may sit),
  • placing them in appropriate positions (at eye level, in window boxes, in interesting containers), and
  • growing indoors (cleans inside air, brings color inside)
  • a simple plan to build a raised garden,
  • adapting existing tools to accommodate strengths and weaknesses, and
  • new ergonomically-designed, lightweight, sharper tools, benches, pads, hoses, irrigation systems, designed especially for gardeners with limitations.

Some featured tools and their benefits are:

  • Trowels with ergonomically-designed handles take the pressure from the wrist and spread pressure outwards over
  • the arm.
  • Gear-driven pruners and ratchet pruners are easier to use and require less hand strength.
  • Extension handles on trowels, rakes, and spreaders can make for less bending and reaching.
  • A kneeling bench can make getting up and down so much easier.       The seat can be used while working.
  • Placing pipe wrap on broom, rake, and shovel handles makes the grip a lot softer and easier to hold for someone with arthritis.
  • Using a simple long-handled grabber to reach behind plants to pick up yard waste avoids bending over.
  • A five-foot piece of PVC and a funnel can be used as a seed planter and prevents bending.
  • A light-weight hose, soaker hose, water kits, timers all make watering gardens easier.
  • Table gardens can be used on a deck or patio where garden space is not available.
  • Using a wheel barrow with two wheels provides better balance, or a lightweight garden cart with wide handles that is pulled instead of lifted like a wheel barrow is excellent for people with back problems.
  • Using empty milk bottles or plastic “peanuts” for the bottom of large containers saves soil and is lighter to lift or using light-weight potting soil keeps containers lighter.
  • Kneeling pads or benches help those with arthritic knees.
  • Using a tool carrier or carpenter’s apron for frequently-used garden tools.
  • Finally, gardeners are encouraged to design garden paths accessible by wheelchairs, scooters, or walkers; appropriate assistive canes; and tips for gardening safely.

Garden Smart-Garden Easy Handouts include:

  • Accessible Gardening Tips (tri-fold brochure used at multiple events to promote the program )*
  • Keep the Fun in Gardening – Coping with Physical Limitations*
  • Indoor Gardening: Houseplants*
  • Accessible Gardening in Containers*
  • Tools Make the Difference*
  • Easy Light Weight Potting Soil “Recipe” (used successfully by current master gardeners)
  • How to Construct a Raised Garden Bed (4’x8’x2’)*
  • Resources*
  • Grow Your Own Greens With Salad Tables™ and Salad Boxes™ – University of Maryland Cooperative Extension
    * Master Gardeners assisted in creation of these documents.

There is minimal start-up and continued costs: $600.00 for appropriate tools and $100.00 for a poster. Donations from businesses, master gardeners, and the county extension agent enhanced the collection of ergonomically-efficient tools used in the program. Printing of brochures, flyers, handouts, and posters, is provided by the Sussex County Extension office. Twenty Sussex County Master Gardener volunteers are active in the program.

For more information, visit the Sussex County Extension webpage at: http://extension.udel.edu/lawngarden/mg/sussex-county/ ; contact Garden Smart, Garden Easy Chairperson Bob Williams at boblynn@mchsi.com or Sussex County Extension Agent, Tracy Wootten, at wootten@udel.edu or 302-236-0298 cell; 302-856-7303.


Photos: To follow in sep