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Master gardener program helps sharpen skills

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POSTED April 14, 2014 12:12 a.m.

Some people are born with green thumbs. Others are made.
Avid gardener Sandi Larson is the product of the best of both possible horticultural worlds.
Her green thumb gene was courtesy of her mother. In the four-acre homeplace in San Lorenzo near San Francisco, her mom maintained “a huge vegetable garden” and planted “tons of roses.”
“I grew up with that,” said Larson, an award-winning Realtor and now a proud Master Gardener to boot.
She didn’t become a full-fledged gardener overnight with no effort though. She has dirt-clogged fingernails — not to mention the Master Gardener certificate she worked hard to obtain, and is working hard to maintain — to prove her green thumb mettle.
When she was in sixth grade, she and her sister honed their gardening skills and knowledge when their mother assigned them equal sections of the garden to mow, trim, weed, among other related chores. Getting the job done became a friently competition between the siblings, and one that Larson always managed to win given her age advantage over her younger sibling.
Inspired and influenced by her mother, Larson developed her own garden starting with house plants. Her first garden was truly and literally home-grown—  in her own bedroom.

Master Gardener’s

private Eden now

located at Del Webb

Today, Larson’s bedroom garden has metamorphosed into a private Eden at Woodbridge at Del Webb. She and husband Butch were among the very first to move into the age-restricted and master-planned community on North Union Road. In addition to their involvements in the community - Larson is a two-time president of the Manteca Garden Club besides working for Re/Max the last 10 years - she and her husband are among the movers and shakers at Woodbridge. Larson and a neighbor started the annual Garden Tour at Del Webb. She also writes a gardening Q&A column for the Del Webb newsletter. Her husband is currently president of the Del Webb Softball Association, among other involvements.
But outside of her full-time job with Re/Max — she received the highest sales award for 2012-2013 in San Joaquin County for posting over $6,000,000 in home sales during that period - being a Master Gardener has kept Larson constantly on her toes. After finishing the weekly intensive Master Gardener courses, and armed with a certificate of completion, a Master Gardener must perform 25 hours of community service in related fields, and 25 hours of continuing education the first year plus additional hours during subsequent years. Larson has fulfilled that requirement by giving gardening seminars at Del Webb and other venues. One time, she taught grape pruning at San Joaquin County’s Bogg Center. She has also volunteered at the Master Gardener Office located at the Robert Cabral Agricultural Center on Arch Road near the Metro Airport in Stockton. Her gardening column in the Del Webb newsletter falls under community service, too, and one that takes quite an effort due to all the research work she puts into it.
“I answer a lot of (gardening) questions” from readers, said Larson who worked in finance before she launched her career in real estate.

Plenty of things

to learn from Master

Gardener program

Enrolling in the San Joaquin County Master Gardener program offered by the University Extension Office showed Larson “how little I knew” about gardening.
“It stretches you to learn more. There’s a lot to learn from that program,” said Larson, mother of two and grandmother of seven.
She learned about the Master Gardener program during a Ripon garden tour, and has plenty of plaudits to say about it. For one thing, the classes are taught by highly trained professionals, many of them with doctorate and master’s degrees from educational institutions in the UC system. The program is subsidized by the University of California Extension Office and the San Joaquin Waste Management. So it’s tax dollars being put to good use, Larson said with a laugh — from “garbage to gardeners.”
The fee to sign up for a Master Gardener training program is $150 per person which covers books and other printed materials for participants.

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