Skip to main content
All Posts By

Coletta Allen

Speakers Bureau Presentation to Jacksonville Garden Club Part I Soil Biology by Susan Koenig

By Beet 2022 10 October

During Susan Koenig’s Soil Biology Part 1 presentation to the Jacksonville Garden Club on Thursday, September 15th, there was a bit of scurrying about to get the audio-visual situation set up so that it worked for Susan. I want to mention to speakers and potential future speakers that you must know what your needs are in advance of your presentation. Make sure the venue you are in can accommodate your specific needs. At least know what you need to make your presentation work in their space. That is crucial to your success and your ability to deliver the information you have prepared for your audience comfortably and without undue anxiety for yourself.

I thought when we heard that her presentation would be given in the Jacksonville City Hall Council Chambers that the venue would have everything she would need. It did, but the configuration was totally backwards. The podium with sound and a placement area for a computer on the podium faced in a direction that had Susan not facing the audience. Fortunately, there were some cardboard boxes available. Susan grabbed them, stacked them appropriately, and oriented them in the direction she would face. She made the space work for her. She asked the audience to move to one side of the huge room which had ceilings so high it would make the moon envious.

Another thing was that the 48” TV screen that her presentation would be projected on was very high up at the far end of the room so that the printing on the slides was not readable although, the pictures were okay. If you are using PowerPoint or a similar program, be aware of the font size that you must use to make sure people can read it.

Susan did just fine, reading what the slide said and then giving them the information she wanted to pass along. I saw many very engaged people in the attendance scribbling like crazy to record the information.

When Susan wrapped up, she was right at the time limit for her presentation. Because of the time spent with boxes and reorienting her position to face her audience, there was no time left for Q & A. Her audience was not finished; they paid no attention to the clock and started their questions. Fifteen minutes later, Susan wrapped it up and received very hardy applause.

Susan is a seasoned speaker and turned that potential conundrum into a real success. The following day, this note from Heidi Elliot, the Jackson Garden Club Vice President arrived in our email.

Hi! It was so nice to meet you both today. The feedback I’m getting is wonderful. It seems everyone loved your presentation. Including me!!

I had several people tell me how pleased they were to learn new things that can be so helpful to us wanna-be Master Gardeners!

I hope you will consider joining us again with further knowledge in the future!

Many thanks,

There were lessons learned today by me, Susan, and Janine, one of our new speakers, who came to observe one of our Master Gardeners in action. I know that I will ask a lot more questions when receiving a request. I am sure any of the speakers going to present someplace they have never gone to before will also make sure they know the availability of equipment, the layout of the room, etc. Thanks, Susan, for turning this into a learning moment.

We will certainly go back. It was a very warm and friendly group obviously very interested in learning more from Master Gardeners. Heidi said she would send out a questionnaire and ask what subjects her club members are interested in. JCMGA might be able to provide some of them. We do have Lynn Kunstman scheduled for Native Plants on October 20th and John Kobal in 2023. The Club meets at the Jacksonville City Hall.

We have some new speakers and if any of them would like to share their ideas with the Jacksonville Garden Club, let me know. Heidi and I did speak about the situation Susan encountered and she will address this with the City Hall IT person and see what can be done so that the garden club presenter does not have to deal with this issue in the future. They meet every 3rd Thursday from 12:30 to 2:00 through June 2023.

Out in the Community

By Beet 2022 09 September

JCMGA Members Participating in the Annual OLLI Open House Share Their Insights


by Colet Allen

JCMGA participated in the OLLI Open House held at SOU’s Stevenson Student Union on Friday, July 23, 2022. John Kobal and Susan Koenig were asked to staff one of the instructor’s tables for Recreation. I was seated directly across from them at the Development Committee table. I almost never saw them as they constantly had three to seven people lined up with questions and folks eager to talk to about gardening. John and Susan now have their own OLLI following. They will be teaching an Ornamental Gardening in the Rogue Valley class on Wednesdays this fall from 9 to 10:30 a.m. For information on registration, go to the OLLI at SOU website.

You could tell that people were enjoying this event by the noise level and vibration in the huge room. The hustle and bustle of people going to and coming from the Heritage Organizations in the main entry hall and the fabulous, donated food from several of our retirement facilities who were set up in the cafeteria all added to this event. The Rogue River Room housed information tables for SOU, OLLI Instructors and the OLLI Committees.

It was a successful event partly because several past members returned and there were about an equal number of new members who signed up. Some of the new members had just moved to the Rogue Valley. It was a fun event, a great outing and wonderful to get together with good friends again. I heard that there were over 800 people in attendance.

From John Kobal:

A fun time was had by all at the OLLI Open House. OLLI has so many interesting courses – and one that covers Ornamental Gardening, too. Yup, Susan Koenig and John Kobal are at it again. They are co-hosting the Fall OLLI series of classes, as was done two years previously. OLLI (via Zoom format) affords attendees the opportunity to learn about gardening in the comfort of their own homes. With all the COVID-19 scares still abounding, we again opted for the Zoom format. In between each session, attendees can forward questions specific to their needs. John and Susan respond directly to the participant and share questions/responses with the class when deemed generally applicable. Questions during the class are also encouraged. OLLI has proven itself very valuable in concert with the Master Gardener Speakers Bureau. Many participants are simply after help with their own gardens and OLLI provides a great medium for obtaining information and access to Master Gardeners (Susan and John). OLLI also provides a forum for promoting Jackson County Master Gardener classes and the Association. It’s a win-win for everyone.

From Susan Koenig:

John and I were asked to staff the Recreation table at OLLI’S annual Open House. Six to eight hundred attendees were expected. The booths were staffed by instructors in each subject area. We were available to talk with attendees about our curriculum for Ornamental Gardening which will be held this fall and Vegetable Gardening, which is held in the spring. I brought both Garden Guide texts, an outline of each curriculum, and a laptop with one of the PowerPoint presentations that attendees could page through. I also had a signup sheet for those who wanted to be reminded of when the registrations for Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens and the Master Gardener Program open. We got 21 signatures for both! I’m not sure how many people stopped by the table, but I do know I was always busy talking to some delightful folks and the hour and one half went by very quickly. It reminded me of working in the Plant Clinic because I fielded several questions on plant problems and made recommendations on plant selection, too. All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon and I discovered that there is life after COVID-19 for the JCMGA with a new, enthusiastic group of volunteers waiting to join us.

Speakers Bureau: Red Wigglers Are Very Prolific in Home Worm Bins

By Beet 2022 06 June

Eisenia fetida, known under various common names such as manure worm,[2] redwormbrandling wormpanfish wormtrout wormtiger wormred wiggler worm, etc., is a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material. These worms thrive in rotting vegetationcompost, and manure. They are epigean, rarely found in soil. 

—Wikipedia® text; used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0

John Kobal’s fun, creative and educational presentation on Worm Composting at the Medford Library on Saturday, May 14, did not disappoint. John pointed out that the red wiggler works at the surface and is prolific. With just a few Red Wigglers to start, you can rapidly end up with a bin-full. 

John cautioned the audience to not confuse these surface dwellers with the earthworms who create tunnels and networks several feet down into the soil, taking nutrients and oxygen down with them. Other earthworms are not suitable for worm bins.

Those present could purchase the few items needed to make a worm bin and start raising red wigglers tomorrow. 

He brought several books, but mentioned one in particular as his personal go-to book: Worms Eat My Garbage, by Mary Applehof.

I am sure he had at least one convert in the room. After sharing his container full of red wigglers, John put them on a paper and demonstrated that they do not like light. We all went up to the table and looked at the pile of worms as they dove into the interior of the soil pile to get away from the light. He also had a container of worm castings which looked a bit like dried coffee grounds. He put the pile of worms and their soil back in the container and offered them to the participants. One young lady raised her hand and smiled brightly when John gave her the container of worms.

John was a brave soul to take on the first-time hybrid Zoom/in-person platform for a garden presentation. I am sure he made some last-minute adjustment to accommodate that this was new and being worked out. Originally, the presentation was to be in one of the library’s garden areas where soil and worms on the ground would not be an issue. The hybrid class was moved indoors to a room with new carpeting. Thanks, John, for flexibility and a pioneering spirit to take on new technology and for being neat and clean about relocation! This hybrid model will probably become the norm as we move away from COVID-19 and back to normal. After all, what gardener has not learned the lesson of flexibility? There will be changes as new techniques are explored and new equipment becomes available. 

There were six people on Zoom and seven in person. The in-person people did have the advantage of handling the worms and seeing what castings look like. One happy person left with her new “pets.”

Thanks again, John, for a very enjoyable and instructive hour.

Why Natives

By Beet 2022 05 May


Elle Anderson of the Ashland Library contacted JCMGA and asked if we would consider participating in the Jackson County Library System’s career development day. She was looking for a recommendation for a gardening topic that would have wide appeal to a broad range of interest. Lynn Kunstman responded immediately with her subject, “Why Native Plants.” Thank you, Lynn.

Based on my personal experience with Lynn’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and especially her power of persuasion about the use of native plants, I thought this was the perfect presentation for this event. It is scheduled for late April and will have JCLS staff from all branches as attendees.

Early in the pandemic, I went to Lynn’s driveway to purchase some plants that she was selling to keep some funds rolling in for JCMGA during these challenging times. This pop-up sale was an honor system arrangement and I did not expect to see her. However, she and her hubby drove up as I was looking over the offerings. Being new to the Rogue Valley, I was only slightly familiar with most of the plants. I was looking for milkweed as I did want to attract Monarchs. So, masked and at least six feet apart, we had a lively conversation. Like busy bees pollinating a large garden, we conversationally buzzed among many native plant topics. During the 30 to 40 minutes in Lynn’s driveway, along with her recommendation of watching Doug Tallamy on YouTube, I became a convert.

I am wondering how many converts she will create who would join me in their own gardens, bottoms up, and heads down, moving plants and making room for new natives such as those that I am now aware of and on the lookout for.

We can become a movement that finds ways to improve our environment and makes way for more birds and insects that can help move our planet back toward a healthier place for all life to thrive.


Susan Koenig and John Kobal were off to a grand start with OLLI class, “Vegetable Gardening in the Rogue Valley.” Their first class of the eight-week session had 39 participants and covered a deep dive into soils. John and Susan provided detailed information from testing to what it takes to create good gardening soils to how to keep it that way. Susan and John have created their own fan club in the OLLI World and I expect that their followers will continue to sign up for many more interesting gardening classes in the future.


The Winter Dreams Summer Gardens Symposium Is Coming This Fall

By Beet 2022 05 May



The leadership team for the 2022 WDSG is in place and busy. Barbara Low, Colet Allen and Susan Koenig are this year’s team leaders and will endeavor to keep you up to date with a monthly short report in The Garden Beet as we move forward.

So far, we have chosen Zoom as the format. The dates are Friday, October 28, and Saturday 29, and in November, Friday the 4th, and Saturday the 5th. There will be 4 sessions each day for a total of 16, each an hour and one-half long with 30 minutes between sessions. The cost will be $30 for all or as many sessions as you chose to watch.

We have created the Save the Day flyer and will need some volunteers to help distribute them in early May once we have finalized the locations where they will be posted and the number of flyers needed. Flyers will also go out to the JCMGA membership via Mailchimp, and we ask that each of you share them broadly with friends and family. Using Zoom makes location irrelevant with no barriers and requires only the Internet and a device on which to watch presentations on in the privacy of your own home.

Other volunteers are needed to help with this event. Its successful outcome is dependent on those volunteers that give so generously of their time and skills. We thank you in advance for helping bring about this achievement.

As we get the presentations and presenters on board, we will send out another flyer with the schedule, speakers, their subjects, and how to register. So, get the dates on your calendar and stay tuned.

JCMGA Speakers Are Off to a Great Start

By Beet 2022 04 April

I would like to thank Susan Koenig for her excellent and enlightening presentation on Caring for Roses via the Medford Library Zoom class on March 12th. She kept 21 attendees on Zoom for an hour and one-half. Q and A went into overtime with people wanting more information.

She taught us how to treat roses the way “they” want to be treated.  Her rose language ability has come through many years of trial and some errors. But she has certainly mastered it.  Her love, calm enthusiasm and respect for these beautiful flowers were evident throughout her knowledgeable talk.           

The JCMGA Speakers Bureau thanks Susan for being the first speaker for a new and hopeful season.

There is more to follow.  Next month, Monette Hoffmeister will lecture on Waterwise Gardening via Zoom through JCMGA’s collaboration with the Medford Library. Those of us lucky enough to have seen Monette in action recognized a star in the JCMGA galaxy last fall as one of the presenters in Susan Koenig and John Kobal’s Ornamental Gardening class through OLLI. Monette will be speaking on Saturday, April 23rd from 1:00 pm to 2:30 PM. Don’t miss this timely and informative talk on Waterwise Gardening. Call Carrie Tannehill at 541-774-6414 to sign up.

Then, in May, John Kobal will be doing a demonstration lecture (hopefully in person) on vermiculture. His presentation will be in one of the library’s outdoor gardens on Saturday, May 14th from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM. A treat for young and old, John’s enthusiasm is infectious and spreads like dandelion seeds in the wind.

Starting Thursday, March 31, from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, Susan Koenig and John Kobal will be teaching another OLLI class on Vegetable Gardening in the Rogue Valley over eight consecutive weeks. To take this course you must be an OLLI member and can find information by calling the OLLI office at 541-552-6048 or emailing

If you have a subject you love and would like to share it as a speaker, please contact Colet Allen, JCMGA Speakers Bureau Coordinator, at 425-941-7637.  We are looking for new and old ways to enlighten our community and by doing so, to discover that we are learning as much as we are teaching. Our Outreach Working Group is looking at ways that we can connect to smaller, under-served communities within the Rogue Valley.  If you have an idea, just want to find out what we are about, or want to talk about your love of a certain subject, send me a text or call. I would love to speak with you.


Master Gardeners Teach Vegetable Gardening at OLLI

By Beet 2022 03 March

Two of JCMGA’s outstanding gardeners, Susan Koenig and John Kobal, will again be teaching during OLLI’s (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) spring session. Their online Zoom class, REC112 Vegetable Gardening in the Rogue Valley, is open to all who register. There are eight, one and one-half hour classes on Thursdays from 9 to 10:30 AM. Classes begin on March 31 and finish on May 19. Reading assignments are based on the JCMGA text Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley: Year ‘Round & Month by Month – VegetablesBerriesMelons, 2017 Edition.Copies can be purchased at the Grange or OSU Extension Office at 569 Hanley Road, Central Point, telephone 541-776-7371.

You can find out more about the class and the instructors by going to l. To take this class or any other OLLI class, an OLLI membership is required. (You can browse classes without being a member.) Find out how to register at the OLLI homepage, call their office at 541-552-6048, or email


JCMGA Spring Garden Series at Medford Library

By Beet 2022 02 February

Three JCMGA Speakers Bureau participants are presenting a lecture series this spring in partnership with the Medford Library Adult Education. Dates, times, and information to register are listed below with each presentation.

Basic Rose Care with Susan on Saturday, 3/12/22 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm. Visit to register for this Zoom program


Waterwise Gardening with Monette on Saturday, 4/23/22 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm. Visit to register for this Zoom program.


Worm Composting with John on Saturday, 5/14/22 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm. This program will be a hybrid program with John presenting in-person at the Medford Library, but it also will be streamed so that people online can see the program. Visit to register for the program.


If you have an idea for a lecture that you would like, please go to the JCMGA website Fill out the request form. We will do our best to match your request to one of our speakers on the subject that you indicate on the form. If you do not find a match, just fill in the subject and we will try to find someone who is knowledgeable for your chosen request.