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Kunstman Lynn

Reelin’ in the Year

By Beet 2021 12 December


Fall has arrived with its gray mornings and rainy days.  As I struggle to get my “Dawn of the Dead” vegetable garden vines and shrubs into the compost pile, I am heartened by all the bird activity amongst the standing stalks and stems.  Even looking its worst, my garden is providing important food for birds and insects.  I have raked the leaves up off of sidewalks and paths and placed them gently under the shrubs and trees to provide overwintering sites for moths, butterflies and other insects.  The juncos, thrushes, robins and other birds will utilize this resource for winter sustenance.

Things are winding down on campus as well.  The gardens have been tucked in and are enjoying the rain after the long summer dry spell.  The gardens and grounds crew continues to place signs, and remove debris from paths — a year-round job.

In the Native Plants Nursery, volunteers working in Greenhouse 2 meet each Wednesday from 9 to noon to start seeds in stratification trays and pots.  Beginning in December, we will start planting our milkweed seeds in special pots for sale in the spring.  As always, I am looking for a crew to help with that.

The failure of the well is being addressed.  Our hope is that the winter rains will recharge the shallow well used to irrigate the orchards and gardens.  However, we are going forward with research on a rainwater catchment system to use as supplementary water.  Also, an old well site is being evaluated as another possible source of water for next summer’s irrigation needs.

Our JCMGA association election is complete and we are pleased that all positions have been filled.  I am thankful that we had members willing to step up and take on positions of responsibility to assure that the association could continue.

It has been both a challenge and a great honor to have served as president this past year, and I sincerely thank all those who guided and supported me in that effort.  If you are interested in becoming more involved with Master Gardeners, we welcome your attendance at our monthly meetings on the second Friday of each month.

Finally, we are looking forward with great hope to the coming year and the start of a new Master Gardener class.  Having students on campus is always such a joy.  And teaching new skills to gardeners is pretty much what we do this for.

Hope you will all come out, as the weather and your interests permit.  And remember to Garden for Life. 

Why Natives Part 4

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Why Native Plants?  Plant Choice Matters!

Part 4 of a four-part series

In past articles, I discussed the importance that native plants play in providing ecosystem services.  Part three of this series focused on their benefits in cleaning and managing water, providing food, and supporting pollinators.  The final two ecosystem services that native plants provide are addressed in this article.

Enriching and stabilizing soil: Long roots and drought tolerance allow native plants to penetrate the soil substrate much farther than non-natives. Natives demand much less water, and pull carbon deep into the soil, making plant tissues available to soil microorganisms and macroorganisms to feed upon. As the life forms in the soil grow, die and decompose, the soil becomes richer and more friable.  Native plants save you money on your water bills!

Sequestering carbon – Plants build their bodies from carbon that they take from the atmosphere. Using chlorophyll, plants harness energy from sunlight to combine carbon dioxide and water into long sugar chains. Oxygen is also made and released into the atmosphere.  

Yes, that is photosynthesis (photo=light, synthesis=building).  Plants are literally building their bodies using sunlight. Roots, stems, trunks, leaves – all plant parts rely on photosynthesis to combine CO2 with water to create the building blocks for plant life. Native plants can store carbon in the ground for a longer time than non-native plants! 

Quercus garryana – Oregon White Oak

One last important concept for folks wanting to grow the most beneficial native plants – use those that increase the ability of our birds to breed and increase their populations; that’s the idea of KEYSTONE PLANTS.  These are the plants that grow the most species of caterpillar.  In other words, keystone plants are the best bird feeders you can grow.  In Southern Oregon, the top three keystone plants are native willow, native cherry and native oak.  If you can plant any or all of these in your landscape, please do so.

Native plants are not always easy to find in local nurseries. Specialist nurseries and native plant societies are local sources. As more gardeners ask their garden to support insect and bird species, they can in turn ask nurseries to stock more native trees, shrubs and perennials. 

Prunus virginiana – Native Chokecherry

Down here in Southern Oregon, the Jackson County Master Gardener Association has undertaken a project to propagate native plants from cuttings and seeds. We’re fortunate to have native shrubs and perennials in our Demonstration Gardens which can serve as sources for the cuttings. We sell these at pop-up sales at our Extension site. To help folks envision how natives might fit into their own landscapes, we have a Native Plant Demonstration Garden and are expanding our use of native trees, an important contributor to insect support.

Home gardeners with the time and interest can propagate natives themselves. A great source for propagation how-to is Geoff Bryant’s book, Plant Propagation A to Z. Just be sure you are propagating an Oregon native plant.  Use the sources below to find plants suited to your location.

Oregon Flora

Native Plant Finder

Plant choice matters!  Garden for Life!

Congratulations Class of 2020!

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Greetings and congratulations, Graduates!  We have celebrated a momentous occasion, honoring your perseverance and determination to complete the Master Gardener Program. I welcome you all as fully certified Master Gardeners to our incredible organization:  Jackson County Master Gardener Association.  We hope you will remain with us, and continue to work, learn and teach with us as the years progress.  The best way to hone your gardening skills and help your community is to learn from the amazing group of volunteers who make up our association.

If you read the Garden Beet, you have seen me use our slogan GARDEN FOR LIFE at the end of all my articles.  This really is what we believe in.

In JCMGA, you will find community, friendship, support and a joy in learning and sharing knowledge that is unsurpassed.  We want all of you to stay involved and welcome you and the talents you bring.  Each of you has unique expertise and gifts and yours are needed now, more than ever.  

We are looking to the future with hope and need your help.  Come spring, we will need volunteers in our gardens on campus and in the Native Plant Nursery.   Our Board of Directors is always looking for new talent.  If you have experience in communications, fundraising, business, member services, community outreach, education or administration, please refer to the organizational chart in your directory and see where you might plug in.  Contact a board member or a Working Group chair and ask how you can get involved.   

Once we can meet in person without restrictions, we will need volunteers to help with the social events we hold on campus as well – picnics, meetings, banquets, work days.

Our Working Groups meet monthly and are happy to welcome new members.  Communications WG is responsible for our JCMGA website, Facebook, YouTube channel, the Garden Beet, document storage, membership database, and marketing and publicity. If you are a techie, we could certainly use your help. 

Membership Services WG is for you if you love planning and staging social events, field trips, the Garden Buds program and all things people related. 

Community Gardens WG oversees our community garden and school garden grants, scholarships, and runs our Speakers Bureau.  

Fundraising WG is in charge of making money to run our programs through fundraising, corporate and private donations, sales and grants.  

Program Support WG runs the MG class and the Plant Clinic and oversees Practicum and Seed to Supper. 

The Gardens and Grounds WG coordinates the demonstration Gardens, along with irrigation and garden enhancement projects.

Our two major educational events each year are Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens – coming to you virtually this November 5, 6 and 13, and Spring Garden Fair, hopefully live, the first weekend in May. Sign up for Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens now on our website.

As we go forward into 2022 and beyond, I want to reassure you that learning about gardening is not just a matter of taking a class or a course of instruction.  Gardening is a PRACTICE, and just as teachers and doctors get better in their “practices,” so will you.  JCMGA sees you as the newly-planted Master Gardeners here in the Rogue Valley.  We know you will need care, and food, and encouragement to grow, just like any young plant.  We are here to provide that for you so that you can grow and thrive and become the best gardener you can be.  If you want to attend this year’s Practicum, please let me and Erika know so we can get an idea of numbers.  And of course, you are always welcome to sit in on Master Gardener classes starting in January.  

Gardening, helping, learning and teaching about gardening is a great gift that we give to ourselves and others.  JCMGA pledges to support you.  We hope you will support us as we all GARDEN FOR LIFE.

Master Gardeners for the Win!

By Beet 2021 10 October

This time of year is always a busy one as we scramble to get all our summer produce processed for the winter. I have been canning, drying and freezing for weeks now, but the garden doesn’t seem to be done. I am running out of room in my pantry for all the jars of tomatoes, sauce, pickles, chutney, salsa and juice. As a Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver, this is one of the most satisfying aspects of a bountiful harvest.

If you have extra produce from your garden and cannot use it, please consider donating it to ACCESS Food Share ( The center takes donations of fresh produce and is located behind Hobby Lobby in Medford.

I was so pleased to see many of you at our All Member Meeting on September 10th. It was so nice to be able to let you know what the organization is up to, to answer questions you have had, and to catch up with folks we haven’t seen for some time. Some of you were even brave enough to stick around for the board meeting that followed. I encourage all members to attend at least one board meeting to see how JCMGA operates and plans for events.

Our Jackson County Master Gardeners have been working in the gardens at Extension when the air quality allows. Some of you may not know that in early September, our irrigation pump failed and we lost water to the gardens. We are working to get the pump repaired, but the actual well may need to be deepened, as the water tables in the valley are dropping. Though most plants in the gardens can go without extra water for a while, our nursery stock in the Native Plants Nursery and the Propagation Garden began to dry and die almost immediately. We were able, through a mobilization effort with members and community groups, to save most of the plants in containers. These were either taken by members to “foster” until they could come back to the nursery areas, or planted in individual yards. Much of the native plant stock was picked up by Valley of the Rogue State Park personnel, and will be used in restoration projects along the Rogue River and surrounding creeks. We were very fortunate to have saved almost everything.

As always, I am so grateful to be part of such a dedicated and caring group of volunteers. We are doing important work. Enjoy your abundant harvests and remember to GARDEN FOR LIFE!

A YEAR of UPs and DOWNs

By Beet 2021 09 September

Greetings Jackson County Master Gardeners.  

As we approach fall and cooler weather, I hope you are all staying well.  This has been a crazy summer as we joyfully reopened at Extension, then watched with dismay as COVID-19 raged through the county, causing us to slow and delay our many planned activities once again.

Despite all this, we were still able to accomplish much:  a quick yard sale and plant sale in late July which netted us over $3,000 in much needed income, installation of shelving units in our storage containers in the parking lot, and of course, garden clean-ups and maintenance, which is ongoing.

There is much more to share with you and to do this, we are inviting all of you to our SEPTEMBER ALL MEMBER MEETING.  This will take place via Zoom on September 10th, from 9:00 – 9:30 am, followed immediately by our regular board meeting.  Please plan to attend!  As always, all members are welcome to attend all board meetings, so you might consider staying with us after 9:30 to get a feel for how the association works. From 9:00 – 9:30 am, we will be reviewing our accomplishments over the past year and recruiting members for our various committees and working groups.  If you have an interest in becoming more involved with Jackson County Master Gardeners, please plan to attend the membership meeting.   The Zoom link to the meeting is below.  Just click on this link on September 10, between 8:45 – 9:00 am, and join us. Hope to see you all there! 

And remember:  GARDEN FOR LIFE! 

Join JCMGA Membership Zoom Meeting

Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 at 9:00 am PDT

Meeting ID: 815 4833 6872

Passcode: 826166

Why native Plants?  Plant choice Matters!

By Beet 2021 08 August No Comments

By Lynn Kunstman 

Master Gardener 2012 

Part Two of a four-part series

Vaccinium, Huckleberry fruit. Credit OSU

Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, Nature’s Best Hope, The Living Landscape, and The Nature of Oaks, is a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. He has written widely about the importance of choosing native plants for our gardens and encourages us to demand more from our yards and gardens.

Instead of just planting for decorative or aesthetic reasons, we must choose plants that provide the following ecosystem services:  soil enrichment and stabilization, water filtration, food production for humans and wildlife, carbon sequestration, weather moderation, habitat, and pollinator support.

NATIVE PLANTS provide ALL these services, while non-native plants do not.

Baby birds MUST eat soft food – meaning caterpillars. Insects specialize when they lay their eggs. Caterpillars, the larvae of butterflies and moths, develop from eggs laid on plants that have co-evolved with their insect partners who use them for host plants. Specialization allows the larvae to safely eat the leaves of a plant that might be toxic to other insects.

Ceanothus. Credit OSU

When we plant non-native plants in our landscapes, we grow fewer caterpillars. Fewer caterpillars mean a reduction in the numbers of birds. Recent research indicates that there are almost 3 billion fewer breeding birds in North America compared to 45 years ago. This is a 30% decline. Our butterflies and moths MUST lay their eggs on native plants.  Their caterpillars need to feed on the NATIVE plants with which they co-evolved.  Without native plants, we have no butterflies and moths, and our birds have NO CATERPILLARS to feed their young.  Caterpillars also supply food for reptiles, amphibians and small mammals.  They are a major component of all our food webs.

Choosing native shrubs for your yard will help support our declining bird populations. Some examples of shrubs you might choose are California lilac, serviceberry, and huckleberry.  These shrubs host 93, 81, and 130 species of butterfly and moth, respectively.

California lilac (Ceanothus sp.) likes full sun, has glossy evergreen leaves and brilliant blue flowers that open in early spring.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) can grow to 15 feet in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. It can be pruned to a small tree or leave it to spread into a thicket. Deciduous, with fragrant flowers in May and dark blue berries, it provides important summer food and cover.

Amelanchier alnifolia, Western Serviceberry, Pacific Serviceberry. Credit OSU

Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) will need more water than the others and will tolerate more shade.  A beautiful, glossy evergreen shrub, it provides extra early blooms for bees, shiny, tasty blue-black berries for you and the birds, and makes a lovely base understory planting in a moist, shaded woodland garden.

To learn more about native plants and how to use them as foundations for your landscape, visit

Oregon Flora

Native Plant Finder

Remember, plant choice always matters.  Garden for Life!

Happiness abounds!

By Beet 2021 08 August No Comments

Greetings Master Gardeners.  It is with great joy that we are able to return to the Extension campus and our Demonstration Gardens!

All of our Garden Education Mentors (GEMS) should be returning to campus on Wednesdays from 9 to noon. Our gardens need many helpers to get them back into shape for the public visitations that we encourage. If you want to volunteer in the gardens, please contact me or Marcie Katz, our GEMS coordinator, and let us know if you have a particular garden you want to work in. If you do not have a preference, we will get you lined up with a GEM who needs help. Be aware that some GEMS come in from 8 am to 11 am during the hottest part of the summer, but you can make arrangements for the hours you want. Please come and join us. I know that I personally need helpers to get nursery stock weeded, labeled, priced and transplanted for a native plant sale I hope to have in September.

There’s more exciting news too! Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 21st. We will be having an all-member meeting at 3 pm in the auditorium, followed by our annual “picnic” at 5:30 pm. Our all-member meeting was supposed to happen in June, but alas, COVID-19 again threw a wrench into the works – so August it is. I am sorry to report that also due to COVID-19 we were not even sure an in-person picnic would be possible this year. We did not budget for the normal picnic expenses. So, we are asking all members to bring their own picnic dinners. JCMGA will provide water, lemonade and iced tea, as well as ice cream sundaes for dessert. I hope all of you will attend both the meeting and the picnic. We have missed you.  We want you and we need you. We are all so ecstatic to be back on campus and hope to see you there soon!

Finally, if you are growing squash in your garden this year, please go out early in the morning and look for bees in your squash blossoms. These may be squash bees, Peponapis pruinosa, and OSU researchers want to know where they are in Oregon. Take a picture and send it with your location to the squash bee survey.

It is always fun to participate in Citizen Science and you can earn volunteer hours for doing it! 

Have fun and Garden for Life!

Why native plants? Plant choice matters!

By Beet 2021 07 July No Comments

By Lynn Kunstman

Master Gardener 2012

Part One of a four-part series

You may be aware of the nationwide movement to grow native plants in urban, suburban and rural landscapes. Why is choosing and growing native plants in our gardens important? Why should we care? Because, as gardeners, we have a responsibility to care for planetary and local ecosystem health.
Most of us are aware of the list of environmental problems facing our ecosystems and planet: water and soil pollution by pesticides and petrochemical run-off from streets, lawns and roads; seasonal changes in weather and climate; invasive species encroaching into wild lands; increased risks of fire and flood; a disastrous decrease in insects worldwide – particularly pollinators; and a precipitous decline in our North American birds. Monoculture in non-native lawns in America now covers more acreage than all our National Parks combined. Nature has been driven out.

I encourage all of you to invite nature back into your landscape. Traditionally, when planning a garden, we ask, what do we want to do in the garden, and what plants do we enjoy? These are important considerations, but today we need to ask more probing and important questions as well. Before you venture into your local nursery and buy the “eye candy” you see, ask yourself these questions: “Will this plant improve biodiversity and support our local ecosystem?” “How will this plant help save nature in MY yard and neighborhood?”

For instance, if you are looking for a small landscape tree that will be a centerpiece in your front yard, you might be tempted to plant a Crepe Myrtle – a flashy, (human) eye-catching Asian plant import.

They really are lovely. But you need to look beyond just the beauty of that organism to you, and consider what it offers in the way of ECOSYSTEM SERVICES. In other words, does this plant:

  • Enrich and stabilize soil;
  • Clean and manage water;
  • Produce food, for ourselves and wildlife;
  • Sequester carbon;
  • Moderate weather;
  • Provide habitat;
  • Support pollinators.

Native plants do all of these things and are uniquely adapted to our local environmental conditions. What is eye candy to you – like the crepe myrtle – may provide none of these services. Our native insects need to feed on native vegetation and our native birds need to feed on native insects.

You might choose instead a native chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), native hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), or native mountain ash tree (Sorbus sp.), as that specimen tree for your yard. Each of these have beautiful blooms for bees and other pollinators in spring and all produce berries in the fall as winter food for adult birds. Most importantly, each hosts a large number of caterpillar species that are the critical food for nestling and fledgling birds. No caterpillars, no birds. These three, small, yard-sized trees host 240, 80, and 42 species of moth and butterfly respectively. When you choose a NATIVE plant, you are planting a living bird feeder and growing next year’s butterflies.

Use these sites to choose native plants for your garden:

Oregon Flora

Native Plant Finder

Plant choice always matters! Garden for Life!