Getting help in the garden

Tracking down local resources

HELPING HAND Gardening can be hard work. Reach out to the various resources if you need help.

Gone are the days of barn raisings and community grain harvests, but that doesn’t mean you have to do all your garden work by yourself. 

Let’s face it—gardening is work. It’s work that we enjoy, certainly, but sometimes we need a helping hand. Knowing where to look and how to ask for help doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

For big jobs, like irrigation systems and tree work, call in the professionals. Tree work can be very dangerous. It requires special training and equipment. As a bonus, after the arborist finishes with your trees, be sure to ask them about a free load of wood chips. Arborist chips make an excellent mulch that retains moisture, reduces weeds, stabilizes soil temperatures, and ultimately feeds the soil and improves soil structure. Installing irrigation systems, ponds, and similar big projects require skills that many of us do not have. Ask friends and neighbors for local referrals.

If all you need is information, the Internet and your local library can be very helpful. Librarians are trained professionals who are very good at finding information and they can help you track down the books you need to become a better gardener.

When conducting an online search for gardening assistance, be as specific as possible. “What’s wrong with my tomatoes?” is too generic. Instead, try “tomato leaf black spots Gilroy” and you are sure to get helpful information about the fungal disease, Septoria leaf spot, and its prevention: remove infected leaves, provide good air flow, and avoid overhead watering. Just be sure to avoid the sensationalists and track down science-based information.

When you need more than information and less than a project manager, don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends and neighbors for help. All too often, we convince ourselves that no one wants to help us when, in fact, no one knows we need help. Simply by asking for a hand moving a heavy stone, digging a hole for a bare root tree, or figuring out a better way to trellis a grape vine, you just might discover that that casual [masked] neighbor has shared interests and provides good conversation, along with help in the garden. Scouts, 4H and other organizations may be able to help, as well. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Finally, there are billions of helpers just waiting for your invitation. They are ready, willing, and able to eat aphids, parasitize hornworms, and pollinate your crops. They are the insects. Just plant flowers and avoid chemicals.

Of course, Master Gardeners are another excellent resource. We know what’s going on in local gardens. You can call or email today for help.

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About Kate Russell
Kate Russell is a UCCE Master Gardener in Santa Clara county.